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Gendered Morality

Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family, and Society

Zahra M. S. Ayubi



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Columbia University Press
30 July 2019
Islamic scriptural sources offer potentially radical notions of equality. Yet medieval Islamic philosophers chose to establish a hierarchical, male-centered virtue ethics. In Gendered Morality, Zahra Ayubi rethinks the tradition of Islamic philosophical ethics from a feminist critical perspective. She calls for a philosophical turn in the study of gender in Islam based on resources for gender equality that are unlocked by feminist engagement with the Islamic ethical tradition.

Developing a lens for a feminist philosophy of Islam, Ayubi analyzes constructions of masculinity, femininity, and gender relations in classic works of philosophical ethics. In close readings of foundational texts by Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, Nasir-ad Din Tusi, and Jalal ad-Din Davani, she interrogates how these thinkers conceive of the ethical human being as an elite male within a hierarchical cosmology built on the exclusion of women and nonelites. Yet in the course of prescribing ethical behavior, the ethicists speak of complex gendered and human relations that contradict their hierarchies. Their metaphysical premises about the nature of the divine, humanity, and moral responsibility indicate a potential egalitarian core. Gendered Morality offers a vital and disruptive new perspective on patriarchal Islamic ethics and metaphysics, showing the ways in which the philosophical tradition can support the aims of gender justice and human flourishing.
Imprint:   Columbia University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm, 
ISBN:   9780231191333
ISBN 10:   0231191332
Pages:   368
Publication Date:  
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
List of Figures and Tables Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Epistemology and Gender Analytics of Islamic Ethics 2. Gendered Metaphysics, Perfection, and Power of the (Hu)man's Soul 3. Ethics of Marriage and the Domestic Economy 4. Homosocial Masculinity and Societal Ethics Conclusion: Prolegomenon to Feminist Philosophy of Islam Glossary of Persian and Arabic Terms Notes Bibliography Index

Zahra Ayubi is assistant professor of religion at Dartmouth College.

Reviews for Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family, and Society

Well-suited for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, Gendered Morality makes a monumental intervention to debates in philosophy, feminist studies, and Islamic studies. -- Joud Alkorani, University of Toronto * Religious Studies Review * I recommend this book to advanced undergraduates, postgraduates, and academics working in the broad field of Islam and Gender, Gender and Religion and more specifically feminist approaches (philosophy) of religion or Islam. * Reading Religion * Gendered Morality, Zahra Ayubi's first book, is a substantial contribution to the study of Islamic ethics, law, and philosophy. -- Benjamin P. Beames * Bustan: The Middle East Book Review * Zahra Ayubi's Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family, and Society represents a major feminist intervention in the field of Islamic ethics (akhlaq). -- Samuel Kigar Religion Department, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, USA * Journal of Islamic Ethics 4 * In revealing the deep-rooted gendered and hierarchical cosmology prevailing in the classical Islamic world view, the author provides a realistic pathway to her goal of establishing a feminist philosophy of Islamic ethics...Recommended. * Choice * In Gendered Morality, Ayubi explores Muslim masculinity as imagined by influential medieval scholars. Her turn to ethics-understood not as a vague catch-all phrase for right living but as a rigorous and exacting genre within Muslim thought-represents a significant contribution to scholarship. She also offers a constructive feminist account of what might be retrievable for Muslim philosophical ethics. This is an essential and innovative book. -- Kecia Ali, Boston University Turning the lens of gender analysis to the study of Islamic ethics, Zahra Ayubi interrogates the most formidable texts of the Persianate philosophical tradition. The result is a persuasive demonstration of feminist scholarship and a welcome contribution to Islamic studies. -- Carl W. Ernst, William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill In this brilliant and wonderfully creative book, Zahra Ayubi combines a sophisticated analysis of Islamic ethics with a strikingly original feminist critique. Her work is a major achievement in the fields of medieval Islamic philosophy as well as feminist theory. Indeed, this is one of the most important and innovative works in the field of feminism and religion. -- Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College Zahra Ayubi presents compelling evidence to show how medieval Islamic scholars created a philosophical system of ethics that is inherently gendered. The insights she provides as to how truth and virtue were cast in masculine, paternal terms and how those terms shaped beliefs about human agency and happiness are profound. Her concluding vision of a 'feminist philosophy' based on justice promises to render Gendered Morality a tour de force in the field. -- Kathryn Kueny, author of <i>Conceiving Identities: Maternity in Medieval Muslim Discourse and Practice</i>

  • Commended for AMEWS Book Award, Association for Middle East Women's Studies 2020
  • Commended for Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion: Historical Studies, American Academy of Religion 2020
  • Commended for Fatema Mernissi Book Award, Middle East Studies Association 2020

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