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Female Archetypes in the Qur'an

A Presentation from Dr. Celene Ibrahim

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Dr. Celene Ibrahim discusses her thematic approach to the topic of women in the Qur’an in her October 13, 2019 presentation at Zaytuna College, as a preview to her forthcoming book, Female Archetypes in the Qur’an (Oxford University Press).

What is the significance of female speech in the sacred history the Qur’an relates? How does the speech of pious women compare to that of pious men? How should we—as readers, listeners, and reciters—understand and experience the expression of female emotion in the Qur’an?

A principal theme Dr. Celene explores is the metaphysical concept of “partners,” or azwāj, which puts men and women in relationship to one another in a way that illustrates parity and complementarity, as in the case of Adam and Hawwā'.

She also looks at female kinship roles, and she highlights the myriad familial positions of women in the Qur’an, who appear as mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, and wives, and explains what those roles mean for us.

Another theme that emerges in the presentation is the speech of women in the Qur’an, particularly their speech to God as in the case of Maryam, Hawwā' and Bilqīs. “One of the beauties of being Muslim doing research in Islamic Studies is that you can use the research as a spiritual quest,” Dr. Celene, who teaches religion and philosophy at Groton School in Massachusetts, says. 

Watch the entire lecture to learn about Dr. Celene’s approach to researching the Qur’an, the insights she gleaned, and her advice for students.