Contesting Justice: Women, Islam, Law, and Society
Description: Contesting Justice examines the development of the laws and practices governing the status of women in Muslim society, particularly in terms of marriage, polygamy, inheritance, and property rights. Ahmed E. Souaiaia argues that such laws were not methodically derived from legal sources but rather are the preserved understanding and practices of the early ruling elite. Based on his quantitative, linguistic, and normative analyses of Quranic texts—and contrary to the established practice—the author shows that these texts sanction only monogamous marriages, guarantee only female heirs’ shares, and do not prescribe an inheritance principle that awards males twice the shares of females. He critically explores the way religion is developed and then is transformed into a social control mechanism that transcends legal reform, gender-sensitive education, or radical modernization. To ameliorate the legal, political, and economic status of women in the Islamic world, Souaiaia recommends the strengthening of civil society institutions that will challenge wealth-engendered majoritism, curtail society-manufactured conformity, and bridle the absolute power of the state.
Reviews: “This is the first study I have seen in which the author combines expert knowledge of highly technical aspects of shari`ah, Islamic hermeneutics, human rights, and social justice. Souaiaia speaks with authority to a specialist Islamic sholar, while making his argument and analysis clear and accessible to a general reader. This is an informative and engaging book.” — Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na‘im, Emory University School of Law
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