Review of the English translation of Asma Lamrabet’s book, Le Coran et les femmes: une lecture de liberation.
I want to start this review of the English translation of Asma Lamrabet’s book, Le Coran et les femmes: une lecture de libération, by putting my cards on the table. First, I know the author well, and have a great deal of respect and affection for her, as a scholar and a friend. Second, I have read the book in its original French version as I have read several others of Lamrabet’s excellent books. Third, my primary reason for buying the English translation of the book (available at Amazon) was to assess the quality of the translation before recommending it to English language readers.
I started reading the rather long introductory chapter (24 pages in the French version, 19 in the English) with both versions in hand, paragraph by paragraph, always starting with the French. When I finished, I re-read the chapter in its entirety, in both French and English. Afterwards, I continued with the English translation, but going back to the original French, as needed.
The translator, Myriam François-Cerrah, has done a remarkable job translating a somewhat difficult book to capture, and I applaud her efforts. In my view, the English version would have been much stronger had Ms. Cerrah tried to convey the essence of the text rather than seeming to be primarily concerned with the transmission of the meaning of just about every word, resulting in the book appearing rather repetitive at times, especially to the English-language ear. Having said that, the English translation of this important book is not only worth reading but is a must read for Anglophones interested in the position of Women in Islam as portrayed by Islam’s holiest book, the Qur’an.
Herself a devout Muslim, Dr. Lamrabet is among the most knowledgeable contemporary Muslim scholars, the majority of whom are men. With remarkable skill and delicacy, Dr. Lamrabet discusses the status of women in Islam, held a hostage by two opposing but equally extreme perspectives – one rigid conservative Islamic, the other western, ethnocentric, islamophobic – pointing out that despite their great differences, they always end up at the same impasse, generated by each side’s equally impaired vision, thus rendering a meaningful dialogue between the two camps virtually impossible.
Rather than being satisfied with criticizing the West for its poor portrayal of Muslim women, Dr. Lamrabet, in a radical departure from what she refers to as centuries-old, unchallenged parochial interpretations of the Qur’an, interpretations that have become almost a part of the “sacred,” hence absolute, thus copiously sheltered from critical examination and reflexion, she urges learned Muslims, men and women, to differentiate the “Sacred” from the “interpretation of the Sacred.”
Dr. Lamrabet laments the inclination of Muslims and non-Muslims alike to embrace human, hence forcibly subject to error interpretations that have contributed to the thriving of a culture that devalues women, rather than staying steadfast to the meaning of the Divine. She affirms that, as believers, Muslims, women and men, are entitled to question the common assertion that only men have the authority and the right to interpret the pronouncements of God. This leads her to probe the logic behind the absence of even a single exegesis (tafseer) by a Muslim woman, throughout the long history of Islam! Here, she promptly stresses that the endgame of her book is not the promotion of an exclusive feminine interpretation, at the expense of centuries-old classical exegesis, or to deny the extremely rich legacy of classic exegesis, essential for any in-depth study of the Text, or to marginalize it. Rather, it is to unveil the historical preconceptions and discriminations against women, instituted by flawed human interpretations of the Sacred Text.
Referring her readers back to the Sacred Text, Dr. Lamrabet questions deep-rooted understandings in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, including the assertion of woman’s inferiority in relation to man, using as evidence the understanding that Woman was created from Adam’s rib, that Eve is the leading cause of Adam’s expulsion from heaven, and that Woman was created for his pleasure. Dr. Lamrabet argues that there are no verses in the Qur’an that support such interpretation.
As I said above, Dr. Lamrabet’s book is essential for a better understanding of the role of women in the Qur’an. For Anglophone readers, Myriam François-Cerrah’s translation of Le Coran et les femmes: une lecture de libération is a very good facilitator of such understanding.
- Paperback: 177 pages
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1847740820
- ISBN-13: 978-1847740823
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 259 g
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