Study Guide

A Border Passage Woman as Bearer of Firewood

By Leila Ahmed

Woman as Bearer of Firewood

When Ahmed thinks about being a woman in Abu Dhabi (and in the entire Arab world, really), she has a classic Wife of Bath "who-painted-the-lion?" moment.

How did it happen that women got a bad rap in the Quran as the cursed "bearer of firewood"? Seriously? How?

How exactly had it come about, I wondered, that these words, this curse—a curse in some sense attaching itself forever to woman, bearer of firewood—was judged to be part of the Quran, part of the sacred eternal word of God? (289)

She points out that the Prophet himself was non-literate and wouldn't have chosen or written down the contents of the holy book himself. So, once again: how did it happen?

Ahmed doesn't have an answer for this, but this moment—the encounter with an actual woman carrying firewood on a path in Abu Dhabi—is a true epiphany. She understands then that she needs to find out more about the role of women in Islam.