Male scholars are everywhere. But where exactly are the women? The question leaps from the pages of yet another major study of the Islamic tradition. This one is by Muhammad Qasim Zaman, the highly regarded scholar and professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion at Princeton University. Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age examines, the blurb tells us, ‘some of the most important issues facing the Muslim world since the late nineteenth century’. It deals with major shifts in educational and political structures, transformed patterns of religious learning, and pervasive, endemic violence toward women, especially in the Indian subcontinent.
The index entry for ‘women’ has fifteen sub-headings; ‘marriage’ has ten. Yet in that same extensive index, actual women are virtually absent. Of nearly 250 named individuals, from formative-period scholars through medieval luminaries to contemporary pundits and academics, a scant three – barely more than one per cent – are women, all teaching in Western universities and none writing as a Muslim.