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Wadud, Amina

By:
Hibba Abugideiri
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The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

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Wadud, Amina

Amina Wadud (b. 1952) is an American Muslim female academic, theologian, and activist of African descent. Trained in Islamic studies and Arabic at the University of Michigan, her scholarship and international activism center on “gender jihād,” an expression she adopted to denote a struggle for Islamic gender equality. In her pioneering book, Qurʿan and Woman, which has been translated into Arabic, Dutch, Spanish, Malay, Persian, Turkish, and Indonesian, Wadud creates a female-inclusive hermeneutical approach to reading the Qurʿān. She eschews both the traditional and the reactive interpretive approaches that have yielded patriarchal Qurʿānic interpretations of women, relying instead on a holistic model based on tawḥīd (absolute monotheism). By using a “tawḥīdic paradigm” to reinterpret gender, she rethinks the legal, ethical, and spiritual relations between women and men on the basis of their singular appointment as God's moral agent (khalīfah) on earth. Qurʿan and Woman simultaneously recovers the requisite female voice in rereading scriptural sources.

Furthering her tawḥīdic paradigm in Inside the Gender Jihad, Wadud continues to advocate for gender justice in the wider pursuit of an “Islamic justice tradition.” Her objective is to demonstrate how Islam can be re-informed by its own egalitarian principles as a dynamic system whose practices fulfill the goal of justice at the same time that its concepts of justice are adaptable to actual historical and cultural situations. She hopes, using a flexible interpretive approach, to illustrate that the legal system can be responsive to the myriad forms of oppression, gender and otherwise, that pervade the Muslim world. Wadud's scholarship powerfully critiques the male reformist practice of silencing women's voices or marginalizing their roles and experiences; this, she argues, has ultimately left the Muslim historical record, and therefore Islamic law, asymmetrical and patriarchal.

Wadud led a mixed congregational prayer in New York that spawned a global controversy in March 2005; this act is in tandem with her ongoing gender jihād. Friday prayer has traditionally been led by men; however, following the historical precedent of Prophet Muḥammad's appointment of Umm Waraqah, a respected early follower, to lead prayer in her domain, Wadud's role as the imāmah (Friday prayer leader) was intended “to break the gridlock of gender disparity in Islamic public ritual” by reconstructing Islamic leadership as female inclusive. To include women's experiences as a khalīfah in a collective ritual is to integrate their reality into the normative Muslim identity, and therefore public space. Wadud's aim is to question and transform the hegemonic nature of leadership as normatively male, given that primary Islamic sources permit alternative legitimate meanings premised on women's full moral agency. She argues that without women's contributions to general public discourse, they are left without their God-given agency and full humanity.

Wadud's latest research project involves reinterpreting traditional Islamic ethics and ethical theory in pursuit of a more gender inclusive, faith-oriented formulation. A global activist and lecturer, the recipient of prestigious grants and awards, and the mother of five, Wadud contributes a theological intervention that permits the development of interpretive possibilities that redress Islamic androcentrism.

See also QURʿāN, subentry on THE QURʿāN AS SCRIPTURE; TAFSīR; and WOMEN AND SOCIAL REFORM, SUBENTRY AN OVERVIEW.

Bibliography

  • Wadud, Amina. Inside the Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam. Oxford, 2006. Find it in your Library
  • Wadud, Amina. Quʿran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective. 2d ed. New York and Oxford, 1999. Find it in your Library
  • Wadud, Amina. “Towards a Qurʿanic Hermeneutics of Social Justice: Race, Class and Gender.”Journal of Law and Religion12, no. 1 (1995–1996): 37–50. Find it in your Library
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