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A Jihad for justice : honoring the work and life of Amina Wadud

  • Book Title:
 A Jihad For Justice
  • Book Author:
Juliane Hammer, Kecia Ali,, Laury Silvers
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Hear our song, and when the words become familiar, sing along, for ours has too often been the silence that sustained and nurtured the background.

It all started with a workshop fittingly titled: “Constructing Muslim ‘Feminist Ethics: Gendered Power Relations in the Qur’an and the Prophetic Example.” in October 2010, the three of us, Kecia Ali, Laury Silvers and Juliane Hammer, along with Fatima Seedat, invited a group of Muslim women scholars to George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, to discuss our shared and longstanding interests in questions of Qur’anic hermeneutics, gender roles, and the ethics of rethinking both.

We invited Hina Azam, Aysha Hidayatullah, and Saadia Yacoob. Amina Wadud was our guest of honor. Our conversations were honest, wide-­ranging, and productive. And it was at the end of the workshop that the idea for this volume was born.

We wanted to find a way to honor Amina’s influence on our ideas and trajectories and her important and lasting contribution to Qur’anic hermeneutics, gender studies, and the academic study of Islam. But hers was a contribution that did not fit into existing molds as it explored new frontiers of Qur’anic exegesis, advanced and nuanced gender conscious approaches to the Text, and provided a model for women scholar activists in and far beyond our fields of study.

It was Laury Silvers’ idea to create a new mold for an old concept and tradition: the (German) Festschrift, historically, and occasionally still published, a collection of academic essays by students of a significant scholar upon his (more often than her) retirement from the academy.

Ours would not only invite a much broader range of friends, students, colleagues and fellow activists to contribute text or art, but it would also transcend the traditionally narrow and well-­guarded boundaries of knowledge production and access to publications still common in academia.

The volume at the end of the collecting and editing process, this volume, would be accessible online, as a “Webschrift” to all those with an interest in Amina Wadud’s impact and legacy. This alternative range of contributors, the format, and the accessibility of the volume set it apart from the traditional Festschrift. This e-­book thus reflects both the reach of Amina Wadud’s work and honors her commitment to expanding and transcending the boundaries that separate scholarship from activism, ideas from politics, and women’s experiences and perspectives from male normativity.

In this volume, 33 contributors -­-­ who in diverse and profoundly different ways have been touched and affected by Amina -­-­ share their reflections and thoughts on her work, both activist and scholarly, and the many ways in which she has left an imprint on their own endeavors. The volume includes academic essays, personal reflections, letters, poems and one piece of visual art, all written for and dedicated to Amina Wadud with respect, admiration, and love.

 The contributors come from within and outside of academia, from North America, Egypt, Spain, Malaysia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. There are those who were inspired by Amina’s courage and ideas, those who have taken and carried her ideas further in their intellectual and academic endeavors, and those who have applied her wide-­ranging thoughts to their equally wide-­ranging activist projects and commitments.

The volume reflects, in a small way, that the efforts, seat, and energy, not to mention heart and soul, Amina has poured into her writings, lectures, speeches and conversations, as well as her actions, have already secured her a lasting place in the history of the struggle for justice in its many forms.

Part 1 -­ Readings

Juliane Hammer situates Amina Wadud’s thought and activism in “Painful, Personal, Particular: Writing, Reading, and Representing Her(self)” by asking about the role of personal experience in a critical analysis of gender. She argues that women’s articulation of experience does more than make these stories available for women to share and develop a critical consciousness;

they act as sources for scholarly analysis and as scholarly analysis itself and encompass and nourish the struggle for gender justice. Mohammad Fadel writes in “Amina Wadud: A Guide to the Perplexed and a Model of Engaged Scholarship” about the transformative effect that Wadud’s encounter with the Qur’an had on his life, its lasting impact in bringing to light the internal coherence of the Qur’an’s development toward a more gender-­neutral vision in the Medinan period, and its proof of the necessity of female voices in the interpretation of the Qur’an and islamic jurisprudence.

 in “Building and Destroying,” Michael Muhammad Knight describes how Wadud’s generative ethics of tawhid destroys not only sexual hierarchies but all imaginations of difference in Muslim and non-­Muslim communities through the extraordinary humility of equal service to God. Starting with Wadud’s observation about the human responsibility of interpretation, Abdennur Prado offers a feminist ethics of interpretation, in “Qur’anic Feminism: The Makers of Textual Meaning,” that is rooted in the fundamental principle that the Qur’an does not justify patriarchy. in “Owning Terms of Leadership and Authority:

Toward a Gender-­Inclusive Framework of American Muslim Religious Authority,” Zahra Ayubi reflects on Wadud’s “tawhidic paradigm” as an empowering framework for religious authority that moves beyond classical models of charismatic leadership and religious scholarship that exclude or marginalize women’s participation on the whole.

Part 2 -­ Inspirations

Debra Majeed opens Part 2 with her piece “Amina Wadud and the Promotion of Experience as Authority” which explores Wadud’s insistence that debates about and struggles for social justice are meaningless without recognizing the authority of experience. Majeed explains how Wadud has changed her sense of the legitimacy of women’s experience in speaking to the Qur’an both in her own life and in her work on women’s diverse experiences of plural marriage in North American islam. in “Amina Wadud and Sisters in islam:

 A Journey Towards Empowerment,” Zainah Anwar and Rose ismail recall how Amina Wadud led them in learning to read the Qur’an through their own concerns for the first time demonstrating to them that women are legitimate interpreters of the Qur’an and thus agents of their own change through it. in “Why Masculinity Matters in the Study of islam and Muslims,” Amanullah De Sondy reflects on the need to study not only women but men’s subjectivity in the struggle against gender and sexual injustice

. In honor of Wadud’s role in this struggle he offers her a famous nazm by Faiz Ahmed Faiz written for the illustrious Noor Jehan on the loss of idealized love in the face of the harsh realities of male-­female relationships.

Rabia Terri Harris dedicates “Permission to Think” to Wadud and makes an impassioned call for American Muslim scholars to serve the needs of justice by breaking through the boundaries of the unthinkable in their work and so in the world. Celene Ayat Lizzio draws on Amina Wadud’s insights into “double-­talk” in her piece “Courage at the Crossroads” where she critiques the paternalism of gender equity in difference so often found in popular Muslim literature.

Part 3 – Continuations

Riem Spielhaus opens Part 3 with “Gender Justice as a Common Value? Configurations between Victim and Authority,” a discussion of the paradoxical effect the 2005 woman-­led Friday prayer had in Germany where the overwhelmingly negative responses to the event only served to demonstrate the incompatibility of Islam and gender equality thus reinforcing the victimhood of women and the religious authority of men.

in “The Emergence of islamic Feminism in the Euro-­Mediterranean Region” M. Laure Rodriguez writes the theoretical and practical steps that brought together continental feminist thought and engaged Muslim gender critique to in turn not only develop Islamic feminism but see it become an intellectual and activist movement with influence in the political and social spheres.

 in her essay, “Just Say Yes: Law, Consent, and Muslim Feminist Epistemology,” Kecia Ali looks for a space in which partners might say “yes” to one another in the discussion of consent to marriage, and thus sex, that by necessity began with an affirmation of a woman’s right to say “no.” Hina Azam questions the marginalization of women from legal procedure-and by the fact of her own work, women’s marginalization from legal interpretation itself-through a constructive intervention into the rulings concerning women’s ability to give evidence in “The Exclusion of Women’s Testimony in the Hudud: Toward a Rethinking.” in “Seismic Shifts from Patriarchy to Equality: Amina Wadud on Reading the Qur’an and Revolution,” Margot Badran finds echoes of Amina Wadud’s revolution in reading the Qur’an in the ongoing struggle of the revolutionary youth in Egypt in fighting the injustices sustained by patriarchy.

Part 4 – Imprints

Opening Part 4, Sarah Eltantawi reflects on the transformation of Wadud’s thought over time in “Finding ‘Yes’ by saying ‘No’: A Tribute to Amina Wadud,” and thanks her for being a model of the courage to change with one’s convictions as she moved from a qualified “no” to verse 4:34, which rationalized

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