by ELLIOTT BAZZANO for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on NOVEMBER 12, 2015:
In Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’an: Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Dr. Karen Bauer tackles one of the foremost hot-button questions of the day: What is the role of gender in the Qur’an?
Dr. Bauer’s adroit study will leave the reader informed but perhaps also disrupted, given the vast spectrum of competing, sometimes contradictory, interpretive paradigms that she explores. A key strength of the text, moreover, is that in addition to its meticulous investigation of primary texts from medieval and modern traditions of Qur’anic exegesis, Dr. Bauer also conducts numerous in-person interviews with prominent scholars across the Muslim world, including Iran and Syria. Thus, from a literary perspective, the text presents the reader with a compelling style seldom found in Qur’anic studies publications, seamlessly weaving together close textual analysis and ethnographic fieldwork. Notably, Bauer also gives attention to Sunni as well as Shi’i perspectives on her study, thus offering provocative comparison and breadth of analysis.
Given the careful scholarship of the book combined with its equally careful presentation, Bauer’s masterful monograph will almost certainly become standard reading for anyone interested in questions related to the Qur’an and gender. It will also interest scholars, more broadly, in the fields of Qur’anic studies, gender studies, law, political science, and the history of Islamic thought.
LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH BAUER