Dr. Celene Ibrahim, a teacher in Groton’s Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy, is taking on gender stereotypes in the Qur’an with a pioneering new book that she hopes will refute broadly held stereotypes about women in Islam.
In mid-October, Dr. Ibrahim released her first monograph, Women and Gender in the Qur’an. A pillar in Muslim circles from whom people frequently seek religious advice, Dr. Ibrahim brings both a traditional, pious approach and an academic perspective to her work.
The author said she strove to “bridge these two domains and write a comprehensive analysis of all the female figures mentioned in the Qur’an, focusing on their sexuality, their voice, their political roles, and their roles in the family.”
Although women play an essential role in Islam’s holy book, Women and Gender in the Qur’an is one of only a few major works on the topic. “There is a whole genre of commentary about the Qur’an,” Dr. Ibrahim said, “but it is not until we get to a fairly modern period that we start to hear women’s voices.”
She emphasized the importance of imbuing her work with spirituality to appeal to an extensive audience. “I wanted Muslims who are not necessarily in an academic department of religion to be able to read the book and find it enlightening because it unpacks the stories that they are familiar with in a new light,” she said.
The book originally stemmed from the doctoral dissertation Dr. Ibrahim defended in 2018. She said she always wanted to turn her research into a book with both scholarly and popular appeal. “I enjoyed every moment of the process of writing,” she said. “Because I was working on subject material that I love so much, there was never a point in the project where I wanted to put it down.”
After spending countless hours writing, Dr. Ibrahim says she is glad to have finally distilled her work into a book that will sit in libraries across the world. She is now working on a new book with Cambridge University Press that looks at the concept of monotheism in Islam.—Leah Pothel '21