Hadia MubarakFeb 17, 2023
Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands
Controversies in Modern Qur'anic Commentaries
Oxford University Press 2022
In the excellent expansive book, Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands: Controversies in Modern Qur'anic Commentaries (Oxford UP, 2022), Hadia Mubarak explores the many different interpretations of four Qur’anic verses: 4:128 on nashiz or neglectful husbands, 4:34 on nashiz or rebellious wives, 4:3 on polygyny, and 2:228 on divorce. She does this through a careful examination of four of the most influential Arab male Sunni Qur’anic commentators of the 20th century, namely Seyyed Qutb, Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Rida, and Ibn Ashur; she also compares their interpretations with several medieval, pre-modern commentators from the 9th
to the 14th centuries. A part of Mubarak’s conclusion is that interpretations of the Qur’an cannot simplistically be reduced to a monolithic assessment like either patriarchal or feminist but that they are an evolving, complex engagement with phenomena such as colonialism, nationalism, modernity, and the commentator’s own personal background.
In our conversation today, we discuss the individual modern exegetes on whom this study centers, their specific interpretations of the four verses, the unique ways in which they all depart from their predecessors’ interpretations of these verses, and the limits of the current genre of tafsir studies. For example, must we keep defining tafsir in such a way that it justifies our exclusion of scholarly interpretations of the Qur’an provided by those who have not written a complete commentary on the Qur’an? We also discuss whether the specific interpretations of the four verses are indeed diverse and if so, what exactly are those nuances that express diversity.
Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at email@example.com.