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March 28, 2016


With the United States awash with hatred and misunderstanding of Islam, “Women and Islam” is an important topic and one I have been exploring on my blog.  Some Muslim women have attacked their faith and urged George Bush and friends to attack their country in “save” the women. Many more Muslim women continue to find solace and meaning in Islamic practices.  Although the details differ, Islam resembles the other patriarchal religions, Christianity and Judaism, in its painful treatment of women.

These are some of the best books about women and Islam that I have read and reviewed in recent years.  Links will take you to my reviews and sometimes my summaries of their information.

I am including this post as a permanent page of my blog.


Leila Ahmed is a scholar specializing in Women and Gender and teaching at Harvard University’s Pluralism Project. She was born in Cairo, educated in England, and previously taught in the Arab world.  For me she is the most authoritative voice on Muslim women.

Women and Gender in Islam  is her scholarly history of these topics, well researched and comprehensive.  She argues that Islam, has create problems for women, but has within in practices and beliefs that affirm women.

A Border Passage: From Cairo to America is her fine autobiography, including the gentle, peaceful Islamic practices of her mother’s family.

The Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence  traces the raise of Islamism in recent years and the place of women in it.  Ahmed analyzes women’s use of the veil for other reasons than commitment to radical versions of Islam.

Love in a Headscarf, by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. A memoir about what it means to be an articulate young Muslim woman seeking to deepen her faith, adapt to life in England, and marry.  Excellent on Islamic attitudes about family and courtship and about reforms within Muslim communities.

Excellent Daughters, by Katherine Zoepf.  Contemporary journalistic account of young women in varied places in the Middle East. Uneven, but interesting.

The Butterfly Mosque, by G. Willow Wilson. A young American woman’s story of her attraction to Islam and Cairo and the Muslim man she marries.

Searching for Islamic Feminism: One Woman’s Global Journey, by Elizabeth Fernea. A scholar of Islamic women tours the Middle East in the 1990s learning about women’s activities.

Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, by Sabeeha Rehman.  The autobiography of a Muslim woman from Pakistan and her efforts to be active in her faith in the United States.

Leila Aboulela is a novelist from Suddan who writes about Islam as a major theme in women’s lives.
The Translator
The Kindness of Enemies
Lyrics Alley.  Describes the conflict between a traditional and a modern wife.

Nawal El Saadaw.  Classic books by one of the first to declare herself a Islamic feminist.

The Hidden Faces of Eve
Woman at Point Zero


Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, by Assia Djebar.

Distant View of a Minaret, by Alifa Rifaat.

Of Noble Origins, Sahar Khalifeh.

So Long a Letter

Sweetness in the Belly, by Camilla Gibb.

The Sweetness of Tears, by Nafisa Haji.

Secret Son, by Laila Lalami.

The Moor’s Account, by Laila Lalami

The Upstairs Wife, by Rafia Zakaria.

Segu, by Maryse Conde.

Ancestor Stones, by Aminatta Forna.

Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson.

Looking for Palestine, by Najla Said.


Arab & Arab American Feminisms. Edited by Rabab Abdulhadi and others.

The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women’s Rights, Edited by Minky Worden.


Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Muslim Eyes, by Tamim Ansary.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2016 7:04 pm

    Here’s another one for your list:)
    It’s Nine Parts of Desire, the Hidden World of Islamic Women by Australian author and Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. Brooks spent six years as a journalist in the Middle East during the fundamentalist revolutionary period but as a woman often found herself denied access to what was going on. So she went indoors, with the women, and found out about their daily lives. You should be able to get it in the US because Brooks lives in America now.


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