Cover image for Islam and gender : the religious debate in contemporary Iran
Islam and gender : the religious debate in contemporary Iran
Mir-Hosseini, Ziba.
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Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 305 pages ; 24 cm.

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HQ1735.2 .M55 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the re-introduction of Sharica law relating to gender and the family, women's rights in Iran suffered a major setback. However, as the implementers of the law have faced the social realities of women's lives and aspirations, positive changes have gradually come about. Here Ziba Mir-Hosseini takes us to the heart of the growing debates concerning the ways in which justice for women should be achieved. Through a series of lively interviews with clerics in the Iranian religious center of Qom, she seeks to understand the varying notions of gender that inform Islamic jurisprudence and to explore how clerics today perpetuate and modify these notions.

Mir-Hosseini finds three main approaches to the issue: insistence on "traditional" patriarchal interpretations based on "complementarity" but "inequality" between women and men; attempts to introduce "balance" into traditional interpretations; or a radical rethinking of the jurisprudential constructions of gender. She introduces the debates among the commentators by examining key passages in both written and oral texts and by narrating her meetings and discussions with the authors. Unique in its approach and its subject matter, the book relates Mir-Hosseini's engagement, as a Muslim woman and a social anthropologist educated and working in the West, with Shii'i Muslim thinkers of various backgrounds and views. In the literature on women in Islam, there is no account of such a face-to-face encounter, either between religion and gender politics or between the two genders.

Author Notes

Ziba Mir-Hosseini, a social anthropologist, works as a freelance researcher and consultant.

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Choice Review

Mir-Hosseini, "a Muslim woman and a social anthropologist educated and working in the West," presents a study of Islamic law (shari'a) and the ways it relates to the position of Shi'i Muslim women in postrevolutionary Iran. Basing her work largely on oral and written texts and on interviews in Tehran and Qom (Iran's theological center) with clergymen and others, Mir-Hosseini discusses the relationship between official and unofficial discourses on women's rights and the ways these discourses have changed since the 1978-79 revolution and the formation of the Islamic Republic, which she states was a catalyst for a new kind of indigenous feminism. Addressing the relationship between feminism and religious politics, the author presents information about three dominant gender perspectives in Muslim seminaries in Qom: the prerevolutionary perspective, the perspective coming from the new seminary system, and the new discourse in the 1990s. Varying notions of gender inform Islamic jurisprudence, to which Shi'i Muslim clerics relate differently. The author's comparative study of Islamic family law in Morocco and Iran, Marriage on Trial (CH, Apr'94), helped to prepare her for this research. Notes. Graduate, faculty. L. Beck Washington University

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xxi
Note on Languagep. xxiii
Introductionp. 3
Gender in Islam: The Need for Clarityp. 3
Perspectives on Women in Post-Revolutionary Iranp. 7
Narrative and Debate in Ethnographic Writingp. 10
Religious Authority and Knowledge in Post-Revolutionary Iranp. 11
Ethnography of Gender Debates in Qom: The Organization of the Bookp. 17
Part 1 The Traditionalists: Gender Inequalityp. 21
Introduction to Part Onep. 23
1 Women Ignored: Grand Ayatollah Madanip. 26
"The Way of Rulings on Marriage and Divorce"p. 30
"Newly Created Problems"p. 31
Ayatollah Madani in 1997p. 47
2 Women Politicized: Ayatollah Azari-Qomip. 49
"Women's Image in the Islamic Order"p. 51
"The Personality of Woman in Comparison to Man"p. 58
"Duties of Wives and Husbands toward Each Other"p. 63
The "Culture of Hejab"p. 65
"Response to Your Questions"p. 71
Ayatollah Azari-Qomi in 1997p. 78
Part 2 The Neo-Traditionalists: Gender Balancep. 81
Introduction to Part Twop. 83
3 Women Represented: Discussions with Payam-e Zanp. 86
The Discussion Beginsp. 88
A Visit to the Shrine in Qomp. 110
4 Equality or Balance: Redefining Gender Notions in the Shari'ap. 112
The Second Session with Payam-e Zanp. 115
5 Women Reconsidered: Ayatollah Yusef Sane'ip. 144
Discussion with Ayatollah Sane'ip. 147
After the Meetingp. 168
6 Agreeing to Differ: Final Meeting with Payam-e Zanp. 170
The Final Sessionp. 172
A Second Visit to the Shrinep. 207
Payam-e Zan in 1997p. 208
Part 3 The Modernists: Toward Gender Equalityp. 211
Introduction to Part Threep. 213
7 Challenges and Complicities: Abdolkarim Sorush and Genderp. 217
Sorush's Lectures on Womenp. 222
Sorush in Londonp. 237
8 Gender Equality and Islamic Jurisprudence: The Work of Hojjat ol-Eslam Sa'idzadehp. 247
Sa'idzadeh in 1997p. 268
Conclusionp. 273
Glossaryp. 281
Bibliographic Essayp. 283
Bibliographyp. 287
Indexp. 303