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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,

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.


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, adapting to life in England, and marrying.  Excellent on Islamic attitudes about family and courtship and about reforms within Muslim communities.

Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, Sabeeha Rehman.    A valuable memoir about the shift from traditional Islam to American Muslim life.

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.

Guests of the Sheik: Ethnography of an Iraqi Village, Elizabeth Warnock Fernea.  A 1950s account of women’s lives in a remote village by an American woman who lived there.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.  A journalistic story about women’s lives under the extremism of the Taliban.

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

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.



Marriage on the Street Corners of Tehran: A Novel based on True Stories of Temporary Marriage, by Nadia Shahram.

Women of Algiers in Their Apartment,  Assia Djebar.

Distant View of a Minaret,  Alifa Rifaat.

Of Noble Origins, Sahar Khalifeh.

So Long a Letter,

Sweetness in the Belly,  Camilla Gibb.

The Sweetness of Tears,  Nafisa Haji.

Secret Son,  Laila Lalami.

The Moor’s Account, Laila Lalami

The Upstairs Wife,  Rafia Zakaria.

Segu,  Maryse Conde.

Ancestor Stones,  Aminatta Forna.

Alif the Unseen,  G. Willow Wilson.

Looking for Palestine,  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.






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