Book Talk: “Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands” by Hadia Mubarak

Moderated by Dr. Roshan Iqbal

Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at 12 pm EST

Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands: Controversies in Modern Qurʾanic Commentaries (Oxford University Press, 2022)

Despite the proliferation of scholarship focused on women and gender in the Qurʾan, there remains a gap in scholarship that situates the analysis of gender within the genre of Qurʾanic commentaries (tafsīr). This book brings into conversation the distinct fields of women’s studies and tafsīr studies by exploring significant shifts in modern Qurʾanic commentaries on the subject of women against the backdrop of broader historical, intellectual and political developments in early twentieth-century North Africa. Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands compares three influential, modern, Sunni Qurʾanic commentaries—authored by an Islamic Modernist, an Islamist, and a Neo-traditionalist—with medieval commentaries spanning the 9th to 14th centuries on polygyny, divorce, sexual neglect, and marital hierarchy. Rather than pit a seemingly egalitarian Qurʾan against an allegedly patriarchal exegetical tradition, this book identifies critical shifts in modern Qurʾanic interpretations on the subject of women, capturing a pluralistic, complex, and evolving exegetical tradition.

The book’s main features include the following:

  • It is the first in existing scholarship on Qurʾanic commentaries to address the direct impact of colonial and western discourses on modern exegetes’ gendered interpretations of the Qurʾan.
  • It provides a comparative overview of influential twentieth-century Qurʾanic commentaries with medieval Qurʾanic commentaries through the lens of gender.
  • It sheds light on new interpretations regarding women and gender in the Qurʾan.
  • It offers a critical reassessment of tafsīr (Qurʾanic exegesis) in Muslim’s contemporary efforts to recover the Qurʾan’s gender ethics.

As Muslim women are caught in a polarity of interpretations regarding their position and rights within Islam in the 21st century, this book engages significant theological questions that are not simply theoretical, but influence the trajectory of Muslim women’s lives in religious-based communities. Does the Qurʾan, Islam’s primary scripture, endorse patriarchy and male privilege, as reflected by the actions and interpretations of some extremists? Or is the Qurʾan fundamentally egalitarian and empowering to women, as a new wave of Muslim activists and scholars have argued? What are Muslim women’s ethical and legal rights within marriage and divorce? Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands intervenes in these questions by capturing a breadth of interpretations spanning from the ninth to twentieth centuries on the meanings of Islam’s most authoritative text.


HADIA MUBARAK is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Queens University of Charlotte, where she teaches courses on Islam, comparative scriptures, women and gender in Islam, and the history of Islam in America, among other courses. She previously served as Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Guilford College (2018-2020) and as a Research Fellow at New York University-Abu Dhabi (NYUAD)’s Institute in the Humanities (2017-2018). Mubarak completed her Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Georgetown University, where she specialized in modern and classical Qurʾanic exegesis, Islamic feminism, and gender reform in the modern Muslim world. She currently serves as a scholar-in-residence with the Muslim Community Center of Charlotte (MCC) and a scholar with the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). Her new book, Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands: Controversies in Modern Qurʾanic Commentaries, was published by Oxford University Press in 2022. You can find her publications at  Click the book flyer to get the promotion code.


ROSHAN IQBAL hails from a small hamlet of 20 million–Karachi, Pakistan. She received her PhD in Islamic Studies from Georgetown University.  Prior to this she read for her MPhil at the University of Cambridge. She has studied in Pakistan, the US, Morocco, Egypt, Jordon, the UK, and Iran. Her research interests include gender and sexuality in the Qur’an, Islamic Law, Film and Media Studies, and modern Muslim intellectuals. Her forthcoming book is titled, ‘Marital and Sexual Ethics in Islamic Law: Rethinking Temporary Marriage.’ As an associate professor at Agnes Scott College, she teaches classes in the Religious Studies department and also classes that are cross-listed with Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Film Studies. When she is not working, she loves talking to her family and friends on the phone (thank you, unlimited plans), tracking fashion (sartorial flourishes are such fun), watching films (love! love! love!), reading novels (never enough), painting watercolors (less and less poorly), and cooking new dishes (sometimes successfully).

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