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The Perplexity of a Muslim Woman

Over Inheritance, Marriage, and Homosexuality

Olfa Youssef - Translated by Lamia Benyoussef

Using the methodology of modern scholars in the fields of Arabic lexicography, linguistics, and psychoanalysis, Tunisian feminist scholar Olfa Youssef investigates the rulings about inheritance, marriage, and homosexuality in the Qur’anic text itself and compares them with the interpretations provided by male Muslim theologians and legal scholars from medieval times to the present. In this book, she makes five central arguments: (1) There is a discrepancy between the layered signification in the Qur’anic text itself and the sutured explanations by religious scholars which have been enacted into law in many Muslim countries today; (2) the plurality of meanings is the quintessential essence of the Qur’an as evidenced in the absence of any sura over which there was unanimous agreement among Muslim scholars; (3) when male privilege was at stake, male legal scholars, to protect their own interests, ignored the divine text and based their rulings on human consensus; (4) Muslim medieval views on gender and homosexuality were more tolerant than contemporary ones; and finally (5), preferring indetermination and perplexity over the finality and certainties found in the judgements of male theologians, Youssef argues that only God knows the Qur’an’s true meaning. Her job as a Muslim female scholar is only to raise questions over those human interpretations that many Muslim societies mistake for divine will. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 164Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-4169-5 • Hardback • March 2017 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-4985-4170-1 • eBook • March 2017 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
Olfa Youssef is distinguished professor of Arabic, gender studies, and applied Islamology at the University of Manouba.

Lamia Benyoussef (translator) is assistant professor in Arabic studies in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at Birmingham-Southern College.
Translator’s Preface

Chapter 1. Perplexity over Inheritance
Perplexity One: Inheritance: Between Divine Compulsion and Human Choice
Perplexity Two: Who Are They Who Inherit?
Perplexity Three: Does the Male Get Twice the Share of the Female?
Perplexity Four: Do Grandchildren and Grandparents Inherit?
Perplexity Five: Agnatic Inheritance (
Al Ta’seeb)
Perplexity Six: Disinheritance
Perplexity Seven:
Al Kalāla
That Which Lies After Perplexity

Chapter 2. Perplexity over Marriage
Perplexity One: Is the Dowry a Marriage Requisite?
Perplexity Two: Is the Dowry a Payment for a Woman’s Sex?
Perplexity Three: The Obedience to the Husband in Bed
Perplexity Four: The Marriage of Pleasure
Perplexity Five: Anal Intercourse
Perplexity Six: Child Marriage
Perplexity Seven: Polyandry and Polygamy
Perplexity Eight: The
Perplexity Nine: Sex with One’s Hand
That Which Lies After Perplexity

Chapter 3. Perplexity over Homosexuality
Perplexity One: Bisexuality in the Qur’an
Perplexity Two:
Sihāq stories, or why did the Qur’an remain silent over sihāq?
Perplexity Three:
Sihāq in Qur’anic Rulings
Perplexity Four:
Liwāt Stories
Perplexity Five:
Liwāt in Qur’anic Rulings
Perplexity Six: Why Was Lot’s Wife Punished?
Perplexity Seven: Punishment for
Sihāq and Liwāt
Perplexity Eight: Are the
Ghilmān of Heaven for Sexual Service?
That Which Lies After Perplexity

Chapter 4. Conclusion

Appendix A. Index of Qur’anic Verses
Appendix B. Index of Hadiths
Provocative, insightful, and rigorous best describe Lamia Benyoussef’s translation of Perplexity of a Muslim Woman, the first Arabic work in Islamic Studies by a woman scholar to be translated into English. The work explores the nuances on marriage, inheritance, and homosexuality within Islam. This text goes against the grain as it offers a woman’s interpretation of fundamental issues that have entirely been extrapolated by a male-dominated religious institution that has given itself the right to theorize such matters. At last a Muslim woman’s voice comes to us in a beautiful translation that has brought together content and meaning to the Western world. Without this work, Olfa Youssef’s voice on the perplexity of a Muslim woman would have not reached the Anglophone world. A must-read for anyone interested in discovering what a Muslim woman theorizes when she interprets the Qur’an in matters pertaining to marriage, inheritance, and homosexuality. Do Muslim women inherit half of what men do? Is homosexuality condemned in the Qur’anic text? Reading this work will answer these questions and more.
Douja Mamelouk, Le Moyne College

In a world context of terrorism where inhumane crimes are systematically blamed on the teachings of Islam and the classic interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah, Olfa Youssef opens the eyes of both Muslim and non-Muslim readers to new possibilities of textual interpretation that aim to keep up with the expectations of modernism and the principles of universal human rights. One of the indubitable merits of Youssef’s book is the very serious and up-to-date debate that it provokes. Apart from Arab innovative thinkers, Islamic scholarship in English has seldom tried to question or to rewrite tradition. This study actually explores areas that have always been thought inaccessible or unchangeable; it questions unanimous beliefs that almost no one else has dared to question from inside the Islamic paradigm.
Wassim Jday, University of Monastir, Tunisia