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Maidservants of Allah: The Spirituality of Muslim Women*
In this class we will explore the spirituality of Muslim women past and present. We will begin with a study of the lives of female companions of the Prophet Muhammad. How did their concerns and perspectives affect the process of revelation and the spiritual development of the early Muslim community? Over the centuries, what roles did women play in the establishment of religious institutions and spiritual orders? What challenges have Muslim women faced in fulfilling their spiritual needs? What forms does female spiritual leadership take across diverse Muslim societies and cultures? Wise scholars, Medieval saints and contemporary Qur’an reciters will be our guests in chronicles and in person as we share in the spirituality of Muslim women.
Monday, June 4 – Saturday, June 9, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- To know what the Qur’an says about women and gender
- To understand how different hermeneutical approaches to the Qur’an and Hadith and various legal methodologies impact women
- To be able to identify at least a dozen prominent Muslim women religious leaders in history or contemporary society
- To be able to identify the ways that Muslim women’s spirituality is the same or different as men’s spirituality
- Participation: Students are expected to respond in class to required readings and engage in discussions. Students will be graded for participation and will lose points for unexcused absences from class.
- Presentation: Each student will make a 15 minute presentation in class about a historical or contemporary Muslim woman religious or spiritual leader, religious scholar or activist who expresses herself through Islamic religious discourse. The presentation should be accompanied by a one-page handout and will be scheduled by the instructor on the first day of class once we see how many people are in the class. Most presentations will take place Thursday-Saturday. You must request approval for the subject of your presentation from the instructor. A list of possible subjects is below, or you may suggest your own subject. No Sahabah or women in the Qur’an will be approved as subjects.
- Book report: Students will submit one 800-1000-word book report on a book approved by the instructor. A list of possible books for review is below, or you may suggest your own title. The book review is due July 10, 2012.
- Research paper or project: The research paper must be on a topic approved by the instructor. In addition to any monographs the student may find on the paper topic, he or she must also consult the Index Islamicus, the Religion Index or another source to search for relevant scholarly articles. The student is encouraged to submit a draft of the paper before the final due date. Students should follow Hartford Seminary guidelines for writing research papers. A copy of these guidelines are available from the course instructor or the Dean’s office. In lieu of a paper, students may develop projects in which they integrate and apply what they have learned in the course. Examples of possible projects include: a presentation designed for and delivered to a community group, writing a piece of historical fiction, interviewing Muslim women on a specific topic etc. All projects must be approved in advance.
Final paper/project due: July 24, 2012.
Book report 20%
Research paper/project 50%
NO LATE PAPERS, PROJECTS OR BOOK REVIEWS WILL BE ACCEPTED
*Note: D. Min. students need to contact the instructor for their assignments.
*Students must inform themselves about the definition of plagiarism and the sanction that will be applied to those who plagiarize, including by copying text from internet sites.
The following books must be purchased. Other readings (many articles) will be available in the library on the reserve shelf.
- A copy of a Qur’an translation. I recommend Muhammad Asad or Muhammad Abdul Haleem’s translation. If you know any Arabic, make sure you have the Arabic Qur’an handy as well.
- Khaled Abou El Fadl, Speaking in God’s name: Islamic law, authority and women (Oxford: Oneworld, 2001).
- Asma Barlas, Believing Women in Islam: Unreading patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002).
Women for In-Class Presentations (confirm selection with instructor)
- Asma bint Talha the Successor (only Arabic sources available)
- Rabia al-Adawiyya of Basra
- Female hadith scholar, legal scholar or preacher (using the Arabic tabaqat works)
- Nana Asma’u of West Africa
- Fatima al-Yashrutiyya of Palestine
- Zaynab al-Ghazali of Egypt
- Munira al-Qubaysi, religious leader of Syria
- Fatima Meer, activist of South Africa
- Mukhtar Mai, activist of Pakistan
- Amina Wadud, scholar of the USA
- Sharifa Ahmad Alkhateeb, activist of the USA
- Mohja Kahf, poet and author of USA and Syria
- Tawwakul Kirman, activist of Yemen
- Ayesha Iman, activist of Nigeria
- Amina Rasul-Bernardo, activist of the Philippines
Books for Review (check with instructor for final selection)
Abbas, Shemeem Burney. The Female Voice in Sufi Ritual: Devotional practices of Pakistan and India. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.
*Abbott, Nabia. Two Queens of Baghdad: mother and wife of Harun al-Rashid. University of Chicago Press, 1946.
‘Abd al-Halim Abu Shuqqah, Tahrir al-mar’a fi ‘asr al-risalah (Kuwait: Dar al-Qalam, 1990).
*Afsaruddin, Asma, ed. Hermeneutics and Honor: negotiating female “public” space in Islamic/ate societies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Ahmed, Leila. A Quiet Revolution: the Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America. Yale University Press, 2011.
Ahmed, Leila. The Veil and the Male Elite: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. Yale University Press, 1993.
Ali-Karamali, Sunbul. The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media and that Veil Thing.
*As-Sulami, Abu ‘Abd Ar-Rahman. Early Sufi Women: dhikr an-niswa al-muta ‘abbidat as sufiyyat. Edited and translated with introduction and notes by Rkia Elaroui Cornell. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999.
*Bullock, Katherine. Rethinking Muslim women and the veil : challenging historical & modern stereotypes. Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2002.
Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender. Eds. Kristen E. Kvam Linda Schearing and Valerie Ziegler. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Fuller, Jean Overton. Madeline: the Story of Noor Inayat Khan, George Cross, M.B.E., Croix de Guerre with a Gold Star. London, 1952.
Gehrke-White, Donna. The Face Behind the Veil: the Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America. New York: Citadel Press, 2006.
Heath, Jennifer. The Scimitar and the Veil: Extraordinary women of Islam. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004.
Helminski, Camille Adams. Women of Sufism: a hidden treasure. Boston: Shambhala, 2003.
*Jaschok, Maria and Shui Jingjun. The History of Women’s Mosques in Chinese Islam: a mosque of their own. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 2000.
Kahf, Mohja. Western Representations of Muslim Women: from termagant to odalisque. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.
Mack, Beverly B. Muslim Women Sing: Hausa Popular Song. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.
Mahmood, Saba. Politics of Piety: the Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton University Press, 2004.
*Murata, Sachiko. The Tao of Islam: a sourcebook on gender relationships in Islamic thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 1-19; 203-222; 249-288.
Raudvere, Catharina. The Book and the Roses: Sufi Women, Visibility and Zikr in Contemporary Istanbul. I.B. Taurus, 2003.
Schleifer, Aliah. Mary: Blessed Virgin of Islam. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1998.
Semerdijian, Elyse. Off the Straight Path: Illicit Sex, Law and Community in Ottoman Aleppo. Syracuse University Press, 2008.
Smith, Margaret. Muslim Women Mystics: the life and work of Rabi’a and other women mystics in Islam. Oneworld, 2000.
Sonbol, Amira El Azhary, ed. Beyond the Exotic: Women’s Histories in Islamic Society. Syracuse University Press, 2005.
Stowasser, Barbara Freyer. Women in the Qur’an: traditions and interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Thanvi, Ashraf ‘Ali. Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi’s Bihishti zewar: a partial translation with commentary by Barbara Daly Metcalf. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
Wikan, Unni. Behind the Veil in Arabia: women in Oman. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1982.
Women in Middle Eastern History History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender, eds. Nikki R. Keddie and Beth Baron. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.
Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East). Ed. by Amira El Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse University Press, 1996.
A copy of a Qur’an translation. I recommend Muhammad Asad or Muhammad Abdul Haleem’s translation. If you know any Arabic, make sure you have the Arabic Qur’an handy as well.
Khaled Abou El Fadl, Speaking in God’s name: Islamic law, authority and women (Oxford: Oneworld, 2001). Buy now
Asma Barlas, Believing Women in Islam: Unreading patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002). Buy now