Women, Jurisprudence, Islam. By Sedigheh Vasmaghi. Translated by Mr. Ashna and Philip G. Kreyenbroek. Gottinger Orientforschungen III, Reihe: Iranica, Neue Folge, vol. 11. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014. Pp. 162. 38 [euro] (paper).
Women, Jurisprudence, Islam is a translation of Zan, Feqh, Eslam, published in Iran in 2008. It is Sedigheh Vasmaghi's first work to appear in English, and it is important, for other reasons that will become clear, to know something of the author and the circumstances in which she wrote the book.
Vasmaghi studied at a women's seminary for three years in the 1980s, then took a B.A. in the Faculty of Theology at Tehran University before going on to obtain her Ph.D. in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and Islamic law and joining the faculty in 1991. She is also a well-known published poet, and was a major voice of the reform movement that emerged in Iran in the aftermath of the 1997 presidential election that brought Mohammad Khatami into office. Among the first measures of Khatami's government was to hold local elections for the first time. In 1999 Vasmaghi was elected to the first Islamic City Council of Tehran and served as its speaker; she did not stand for re-election in 2003, by which time the hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had become mayor of Tehran; he was elected president two years later. After President Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June 2009, Vasmaghi joined the voices of protest, published a number of poems and articles, and signed open letters that appeared on reformist websites. That summer, faced with its biggest challenge so far, the Islamic Republic's hardline conservative elements brutally suppressed reformist protests and demonstrations. Many reformists were killed, or arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. Vasmaghi's law office became the headquarters for the team appointed by the two main reformist opposition leaders--Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi--to investigate cases of detention, torture, and alleged rape of protestors by government agents. Mousavi and Karroubi were put under house arrest--where they remain at the time of writing (January 2016)--after they called for a gathering in February 2011 in support of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Along with many other prominent reformists, Vasmaghi chose to go abroad; she became a visiting professor at Gottingen University in 2011 and later at Uppsala.
In Women, Jurisprudence, Islam, Vasmaghi critically engages with fiqh, whose...