Thirteenth-century Sufi poet, mystic, and legal scholar Muhyi
al-Din ibn al-'Arabi gave deep and sustained attention to gender as
integral to questions of human existence and moral personhood.
Reading his works through a critical feminist lens, Sa'diyya Shaikh
opens fertile spaces in which new and creative encounters with
gender justice in Islam can take place. Grounding her work in
Islamic epistemology, Shaikh attends to the ways in which Sufi
metaphysics and theology might allow for fundamental shifts in
Islamic gender ethics and legal formulations, addressing
wide-ranging contemporary challenges including questions of women's
rights in marriage and divorce, the politics of veiling, and
women's leadership of ritual prayer.
Shaikh deftly deconstructs traditional binaries between the
spiritual and the political, private conceptions of spiritual
development and public notions of social justice, and the realms of
inner refinement and those of communal virtue. Drawing on the
treasured works of Sufism, Shaikh raises a number of critical
questions about the nature of selfhood, subjectivity, spirituality,
and society to contribute richly to the prospects of Islamic
feminism as well as feminist ethics more broadly.