A Review of a Muslim Woman’s Dilemma
Olfa Youssef is a controversial writer. Her book A Muslim Woman’s Dilemma deals with heritage, marriage, and homosexuality from an Islamic perspective. Youssef’s purpose from this book is to shed light on some of the most sensitive topics in the Arab society by revisiting the Quran using different approaches. Throughout the book, she attempts to explain some of the Quranic verses related to the discussed topics. In fact, she tackles these matters from a feminist point of view, as she believes the Quran tries to silence some of the women’s legitimate rights.
This book can be considered as a book of criticism and as an Islamic study. It is a book of criticism since it criticizes the current situation of Arab women in Arab society, and it also criticizes the way Islamic scholars interpret the Quran to fit their own interests. A Muslim Woman’s Dilemma is intended for the Arab audience in general and the Arab women in particular. To guarantee a full understanding of her arguments, she uses certain Quranic verses in order to create some sort of familiarity for the target audience. The language used in the book is formal since she is dealing with a holy book and targeting an intellectual audience. In addition, the use of some scientific terms and sexual words in the book is strong, since she focuses more on the topic of marriage and homosexuality.
As a reader, the first thing one must look at is the table of contents, because it gives an idea on the way this book is organized. The book is divided into three main parts: heritage, marriage, and homosexuality. Each part is divided into different sections that are categorized by their degree of importance. Before reading the book, I was storing many questions in my mind related to the topics discussed by the author. When it comes to homosexuality, in particular, it is known that Islam and science are against it. But still, the position of the Quran on this matter has been a blur. Personally, I had a certain stand on this matter from a scientific point of view and wanted to know God’s saying on homosexuality.
To my surprise, homosexuality is actually mentioned in the Quran, whether through some Quranic verses or through the story of Lut. My original stand on this matter made me question every argument Youssef made as a supportive of the homosexuality case. She tries to refute some of the clear and direct verses that show clearly the stand of Islam on homosexuality and its bad effects on humanity. Actually, the author is criticized for relying merely on the Quran, as it conveys different interpretations and neglecting the sayings of science. This is why I, as a person first and as a Muslim second, must strongly disagree with the outcomes of Olfa Youssef on homosexuality.
Concerning heritage, Youssef tries to give women their full rights by making them inherit equal shares as men. In fact, heritage has been under the discussion of many countries. Tunisia announced its attempt to equalize the shares of both men and women in heritage, in order to guarantee the rights of both parties. Taking into consideration the many cases the Arab society witness every year of women’s exclusion from their legitimate heritage, it makes it important to take such actions. As for marriage, she tackles the types of marriages, as well as the marriage of minors and different aspects of obedience of both the husband and the wife.
The reason why this review focuses on the manner in which homosexuality is dealt with is because of its sensitive nature. Homosexuality was and still a forbidden topic to discuss, and any attempt to shed light on it must be followed by waves of criticism. Arab society is a conservative society, and nowadays, it is being replaced by a western mindset concerning certain matters. Every person has a set of questions on his mind about certain topics. It is good to read and search for answers, but one must not accept everything as the ultimate truth and must question every little detail given by people portrayed as intellectuals.