Skip to main content
  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2022

No Truth Without Beauty

God, the Qur’an, and Women's Rights

Palgrave Macmillan
  • Presents an account of the Qur’anic God as a relentless advocate for women’s rights

  • Explains how culture, via patriarchy and interpretative custom, have managed to overturn such messages

  • Offers careful and contextualized readings of the Qu'ranic text

  • Provides tools to restore Qur’anic verses on women’s rights to their original meaning

Part of the book series: Sustainable Development Goals Series (SDGS)

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 29.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (21 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xxxiii
  2. First the Qur’an, then Islam

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 1-1
    2. A Spiritual Journey

      • Leena El-Ali
      Pages 3-10Open Access
    3. Hadith Corpus

      • Leena El-Ali
      Pages 11-17Open Access
    4. Hadith Content

      • Leena El-Ali
      Pages 19-31Open Access
    5. Women and the Development of hadith Literature

      • Leena El-Ali
      Pages 33-35Open Access
  3. Back Matter

    Pages 37-41
  4. Back Matter

    Pages 99-103

About this book

In this comprehensive open access book, written for readers from any or no religious background, Leena El-Ali does something remarkable. Never before has anyone taken on every last claim relating to Islam and women and countered it not just with Qur’anic evidence to the contrary, but with easy-to-use tools available to all. How can a woman’s testimony be worth half of a man’s? How can men divorce their wives unilaterally by uttering three words? And what’s with the obsession with virgins in Paradise? Find the chapter on any of the seventeen topics in this book, and you will quickly learn a) where the myth came from and b) how to bust it. 

The methodology pursued is simple. First, the Qur’an is given priority over all other literary or “scriptural” sources. Second, the meaning of its verses in the original Arabic is highlighted, in contrast to English translations and/or widespread misunderstanding or misinterpretation. 


  • Open Access
  • Qur'an
  • Koran
  • Quran
  • niqab
  • hijab
  • Islam


“With enviable clarity and perspicuity, Leena El-Ali has written a very personable and highly readable book on what the Qur’an has to say about women. She does not shy away from any topic, and does it with remarkable strength, grace, and dignity. She brings an honest and brave voice and with admirable integrity and transparency, she analyzes what God’s book has to say. I submit that millions around the world will not only agree with her analysis, but feel enlightened and inspired by her intellectual and ethical example.”
—Khaled Abou El Fadl, Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

“Readers who think they know all there is to know about Qur'anic verses that supposedly deny women's equality with men will derive enormous pleasure from Leena El-Ali's work. She reads the Qur’an both intra-textually and contextually, juxtaposing verses so as to yield a more comprehensive understanding of a specific subject. On a personal note, her book allows us to see how her own spiritual journey shaped her encounters with the Qur'an. The writing is terrific.”
Asma Barlas, Professor Emerita of Politics, Ithaca College, USA and author of “Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an

“Much ink has already been spent on “Islam and women.” But in this honest, witty, and erudite book, Leena El-Ali presents something really new and important: a brave overview of all the thorny issues, with sharp insights and even new interpretations. With sincere faith in the Qur’an, as well as reverent criticism toward the religious tradition, she shows how gender justice is foundational to a truly Islamic worldview. A must-read.”
Mustafa Akyol, Senior Fellow in the Center for Global Security and Prosperity, Cato Institute and author of Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance

“This is a book the world needs. Everyone in the diplomatic corps and international affairs at large will want to read it.”
—Aud Lise Norheim, Norwegian Ambassador to Iceland and former Ambassador to Iran (2014-2017), Lebanon (2007-2010), and Bangladesh (2003-2006)

“Outside Muslim communities not many have heard the multitudes of Muslim voices, women and men, calling for equality. The author of this book is a lively representative of these muted voices. Based on years of work in organizations developing international and interreligious understanding, Leena El-Ali now turns her attention to what it means to be a Muslim woman in a modern society. She finds and builds on the extensive literature which takes the classical tradition to task. She shows that conservative interpretations favouring men do so because they were written by men in male-dominated cultures. The book is formulated in a language which is clear and unencumbered by excessive jargon or Arabic formulations. It will be a useful learning tool for young people facing these issues as they grow up. Book clubs and discussion groups in communities religious or not will find it a text worth studying and discussing.”
—Jorgen Nielsen, Professor Emeritus of Contemporary European Islam in Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham, UK and Affiliated Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

“In this unique book, Leena El-Ali weaves her cumulative experience as a development professional with her diligent review of Islamic jurisprudence and history to produce a tapestry of grounded, well-informed perspectives on women’s issues, guided by the universal principles of justice and equality, which are the essence of Islam. A must-read for those seeking Islamically-enlightened worldviews.”
—Amr Abdalla, Professor Emeritus, University for Peace, Costa Rica

“Leena El-Ali’s book is an absolute page turner. El-Ali leads us through complex linguistic, historical and geographical conundrums uncovering hidden gems, decoding centuries old symbolism, always presenting diverse perspectives with deep knowledge, sincerity and humility, and in the end leaving us with a collective “aha” moment: The equality of women and men is a central principle in the Holy Quran!” 
Vasu Mohan, Senior Global Advisor for Conflict, Displacement & Minority Rights at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems

“Based on the primary Islamic texts, Leena El-Ali offers a critique of misreadings and skewed interpretations regarding Muslim gender relations that have been perpetuated down the ages. Her book is an invaluable resource both for those working in this field and for laypeople too. The personal and highly readable style of Ms El-Ali’s presentation will make it widely accessible.
No Truth Without Beauty is a much needed and very welcome contribution to dispelling commonplace misconceptions and factoids about the status of women in Islam.”
Farhana Mayer, Senior Teaching Fellow and Lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, UK (2010-2012) and Lecturer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, UK (2010-2015)

“Leena El-Ali has done a great service by correcting many misinterpretations of the Qur'an and showing how strongly the Qur'an supports equality between women and men.  In stark contrast to the grim reality too many Muslim women suffer, the Qur'an conveys deep respect for women.  This book is a joy to read.”
—Daniel Calingaert, Executive Vice President of Freedom House (2012-2017)

No Truth Without Beauty is a monumental work perfectly suited for our times. It should be read by everyone. El-Ali’s work helps to redeem the reputation of the Muslim world, which is so disproportionately informed by radical ideology. You will learn, as I did, about the nature of the Qur’an. The author’s loving treatment and respect for it shines a much-needed light on the misconceptions we have absorbed from patriarchal and radical interpretations.  The world owes a debt of gratitude to El-Ali for the dedication, tenderness and love it took to birth No Truth Without Beauty.” 
—Theresa Joseph, founder of the Global Peace Movement and author of Everyday Mystic: Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

“A rare combination of a scholarly/activist take on gender justice in Islam. No Truth Without Beauty has a compelling narrative which takes the reader on a thrilling journey with loads of information and interesting facts to engage, educate and rethink women’s place in Islam.”
Daisy Khan, founder of Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) and author of Born with Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman

“The world needs this book and it needs it now. No Truth Without Beauty brings to light the truth about women and Islam through a painstaking verse-by-verse analysis and comparison between the words in the Qu’ran attributed to God and the interpretations of those words proffered by men. Whether as part of a school curriculum or on the "required reading" list for anyone interested in bringing about a new world, this book has the potential to educate and to transform perceptions about the Qur’an and Islam across cultures and faith traditions. It is a beautifully and lovingly written text by an author whose courage, scholarship and commitment to Truth is inspiring. Leena El-Ali has opened my heart and my mind. I was brought to a place of joy, a deeper appreciation and understanding of Islam, God’s beauty and the power that we all have within our hearts to transform the world.”
Linda Fallo-Mitchell, Ph.D

No Truth Without Beauty is powerful, compelling and highly relevant in today’s world at a time of great confusion and misunderstanding. Combining profound knowledge on the subject with existing translations, scholarly works and personal stories, Leena El-Ali dismantles – point by point – the harmful myths about women in the Qur´an and in Islam to convey one of the most important messages of our time: the need for love, tolerance, peace and inclusiveness. The need for truth.”
Carlota Nelson, Writer and Director of the film Brain Matters: Putting the First Years First

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arlington, USA

    Leena El-Ali

About the author

Leena El-Ali is an international affairs, development, and investment professional with three decades of experience in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, and emerging market finance.

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 29.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)