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Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’ān, Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses by Karen Bauer (February 2015)

Gender Hierarchy in the Qur'ān, Medieval Interpretations, Modern (…)

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Bauer (Karen), Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’ān, Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses, Cambridge, ("Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization"), 2015. ISBN 9781107041523

The author

Karen Bauer is a Research Associate in Qur’ānic Studies at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. Her previous publications include Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qur’anic Exegesis (2nd/8th – 9th/15th Centuries) and articles on Islamic social and intellectual history and gender.


This book explores how medieval and modern Muslim religious scholars (’ulamā’) interpret gender roles in Qur’ānic verses on legal testimony, marriage and human creation. Medieval scholars developed increasingly complex laws and interpretations upholding a male-dominated gender hierarchy. Aspects of their interpretations influence religious norms and state laws in Muslim-majority countries today, yet other aspects have been discarded entirely. Karen Bauer traces the evolution of their interpretations, showing how they have been adopted, adapted, rejected or replaced over time, by comparing the Qur’ān with a wide range of Qur’ānic commentaries and interviews with prominent religious scholars from Iran and Syria. At times, tradition is modified in unexpected ways: learned women argue against gender equality, or Grand Ayatollahs reject sayings of the Prophet, citing science instead. This innovative and engaging study highlights the effect of social and intellectthe Qur’ān, Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses}



1. Women’s testimony and the gender hierarchy
2. Modern readings of women’s testimony
3. From a single soul: women and men in creation
4. Contemporary reinterpretations of the creation narrative
5. Who does the housework? The ethics and etiquette of marriage
6. The marital hierarchy today


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