According to Professor Hossein Kamaly, his new book, A History of Islam in 21 Women, is a historian’s way of looking at Islam through a new lens.
Professor Kamaly gave a presentation about the book on Dec. 3, 2019, and answered questions from a highly engaged audience of students, faculty, staff, and others.
“Since the 1980s, plenty of books have appeared about women and Islam,” he said. “What I wished to do is write a history from the 7th century to the present organized by women.”
To that end, Professor Kamaly chose the women included in his book very carefully. He starts with Khadija, the Prophet Muhammad’s wife and the first believer in the new religion.
“Khadija gave all she had to her last dying breath to support her husband,” he said.
The other women in the book range from Queen Arwa (1050-1138), who ruled Yemen for 50 years, to Tajul-Alam Safiatuddin Syah (1612-1675), a queen in Indonesia, to the final biography in the book, Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), a renowned Iraqi-born architect.
“Writing a history around women is bound to be controversial,” Professor Kamaly said, adding that he decided to let the stories — not the controversy — shape the narrative.