Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
April 2012


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Guest Reviewer: 
Lisa Worthington

Although each of these books cover different genres (a memoir, a sociological novel and an academic text) they all have something in common. Each has been instrumental in opening up a new range of concepts and ideas to me. I read these books either in the time just before my conversion, or in the first year of being Muslim. Today I would list these among my favourite books.

Into the Wadi is the compelling and intensely personal story of an Australian woman and the Jordanian family into which she marries. Michèle Drouart writes about marriage, female friendship, and the preciousness of culture and community.
(Fremantle Press)

Far from the stereotypical tale of patriarchal-dominated angst, Drouart presents an in-depth account of her attempt to understand a new way of life and bridge the cultural gap to become part of a new community.

‘As a child in a Harem, I instinctively knew that to live is to open closed doors. To live is to look outside. To live is to step out. Life is trespassing.’

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood is a memoir by Fatima Mernissi that describes her youth in a Moroccan harem during the 1940s. The young Mernissi narrates her childhood in a walled harem in Fez. She tells us of her grandmother who warns that the world is unfair to women and, in the end, the young girl decides that sensuality must be a part of women's liberation. With much folk wisdom, Mernissi weaves her own memories with the dreams and memories of the women who surround her in the courtyard of her youth—women who, deprived of contact with the world outside, recreated it in their imaginations.

My first introduction to gender studies in Islam, Qur’an and Woman by Amina Wadud, contributes a gender inclusive reading to one of the most fundamental disciplines in Islamic thought – Qur’anic exegesis. I remember reading this book in one sitting in the university library, transfixed by its structure and logic. Wadud breaks down specific texts and keywords that have been used to limit women's public and private roles, even to justify violence toward Muslim women, revealing that their original meaning and context defy such interpretations. Her analysis clarifies the lack of gender bias, precedence, or prejudice in the essential language of the Qur'an.

Despite much Qur’anic evidence about the significance of women, gender reform in Muslim society has been stubbornly resisted. Wadud's reading of the Qur’an confirms women's equality in Islam and constitutes legitimate grounds for contesting the unequal treatment that women have experienced historically, and continue to experience legally, in Muslim communities.