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Tensions between the Study of Gender and Religion

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The Case of Patriarchal and Non-Patriarchal Interpretations of the Islamic Tradition

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In this article, I discuss the tensions between patriarchal and non-patriarchal interpretations of the Islamic tradition and some of the factors which contribute to the engendering of both. In order to contextualize the main discussion in the first part of the article, I outline the historical tensions between the study of religion and gender in general. The question of whether the culturally organizing function of gender is to be inevitably linked to the formation and perpetuation of patriarchal religion in general, and Islam in particular, is explored, or whether religion, including the case of Islam, can be a source of non-patriarchal values and ethics. In the second part, I discuss some of the most prominent factors which contribute to patriarchal interpretations of the Islamic tradition by grouping them, from the perspective of the individual interpreter, into those which pertain to personal opinion regarding the nature of two genders, Sitz im Leben, and interpretational methodology (manhaj). In the context of non-patriarchal interpretations of the Islamic tradition, I discuss its main delineating features and show, by using the work of a contemporary reformist Iranian scholar, H. Y. Eshkevari (b. 1949/1950), how the contemporary non-patriarchal interpretations of the Islamic tradition are sensitive to how both patriarchy and gender influence the process of interpretation.

Affiliations: 1: Griffith University


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