Feminism in Islam: A Critique of Polygamy in Mariama Ba’s Epistolary Novel So Long A Letter

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  • 1 Arizona State University

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Abstract

This paper calls for an understanding of feminism in Islam as a unique approach to feminism with potential contributions to world feminism. The paper analyzes Mariama Ba’s epistolary novel So Long A Letter within the context of a feminist approach in Islam. This paper’s primary focus is Ba’s critique of polygamy and her celebration of female bonding in the face of male oppression. Ba explores her themes through an epistolary exchange between two intimate friends who both suffered the abuse of their polygamous husbands and highlights the contrasting reactions of the two women in regard to the mistreatment by their husbands. Within a distorted misinterpretation of religion, the analysis reflects on how Islamic teachings are exploited by some Muslim men in order to gratify and justify their base desires under the guise of a transcendent sanction.

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  • 3

    Fernea, Elizabeth W., In Search of Islamic Feminism: One Woman’s Global Journey (New York: Doubleday, 1998), 414–422.

  • 4

    Badran, Margot, “Independent Women: More Than a Century of Feminism in Egypt,” in Arab Women: Old Boundaries, New Frontiers, ed. Judith Tucker (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 129.

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  • 11

    Frank, Katherine, “Women Without Men: The Feminist Novel in Africa,” in Women in African Literature Today, vol. 15 (London: James Currey, 1987), 18.

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  • 12

    Violi, Patrizia, “Letters,” in Discourse and Literature: New Approaches to the Analysis of Literary Genres, ed. Teun A. Van Dijk (Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company, 1985).

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  • 21

    Quoted in Abdel Kader, Soha, Egyptian Women in a Changing Society: 1899–1987 (Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publisher, 1987), 53–54.

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  • 30

    Ogundipe-Leslie, Molara, “The Female Writer and Her Commitment,” in Women in African Literature Today 15 (London: James Currey, 1987): 5.

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  • 52

    Minai, Naila, Women in Islam: Tradition and Transition in the Middle East (N.Y.: Seaview Books, 1981), 4.

  • 53

    Badran, Margot, “Feminism and the Qur’an,” in The Encyclopedia of the Qur’an 2, ed. Jane Dammen McAuliffe (Leiden, the Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill N.V., 2002): 199–203.

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