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Islamic feminism

Islamic feminism

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Islamic feminism is a form of feminism
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

 concerned with the role of women in Islam
Women in Islam
The study of women in Islam investigates the role of women within the religion of Islam. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by Islamic texts, the history and culture of the Muslim world...

. It aims for the full equality of all Muslims, regardless of gender, in public and private life. Islamic feminists advocate women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

, gender equality
Gender equality
Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

, and social justice
Social justice
Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. The term and modern concept of "social justice" was coined by...

 grounded in an Islamic framework. Although rooted in Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, the movement's pioneers have also utilised secular
Secularity
Secularity is the state of being separate from religion.For instance, eating and bathing may be regarded as examples of secular activities, because there may not be anything inherently religious about them...

 and European or non-Muslim feminist discourses and recognize the role of Islamic feminism as part of an integrated global feminist movement.

Advocates of the movement seek to highlight the deeply rooted teachings of equality in the religion, and encourage a questioning of the patriarchal interpretation of Islamic teaching through the Qur'an (holy book), hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 (sayings of Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

) and sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 (law) towards the creation of a more equal and just society.

Muslim majority countries have produced several female head of states and prime ministers: Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was a democratic socialist who served as the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan in two non-consecutive terms from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996....

 of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Mame Madior Boye
Mame Madior Boye
Mame Madior Boye was Prime Minister of Senegal from 2001 to 2002. She was the first and so far only female holder of that position.Boye was born in Saint-Louis...

 of Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, Tansu Çiller
Tansu Çiller
Tansu Penbe Çiller is a Turkish economist and politician. She was Turkey's first and only female Prime Minister.- Early career :She is the daughter of a Turkish governor of Bilecik province during the 1950s. She graduated from the School of Economics at Robert College after finishing the American...

 of Turkey, Kaqusha Jashari
Kaqusha Jashari
Kaqusha Jashari born 1946 in Prishtina, Kosovo. She is a Kosovo Albanian politician and engineer and a member of the Assembly of Kosovo on the Democratic Party of Kosovo list since 2007. She is of Montenegrin descent on her mother's side....

 of Kosovo
Kosovo
Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

, and Megawati Sukarnoputri
Megawati Sukarnoputri
In this Indonesian name, the name "Sukarnoputri" is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given name "Megawati"....

 of Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

. Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 was the second country in the world (after Mary and Elizabeth I in 16th century England) to have one female head of state follow another, those two being Khaleda Zia
Khaleda Zia
Begum Khaleda Zia is the former First Lady of Bangladesh , and then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, having served from 1991 to 1996, becoming the first woman in the country's history and second in the Muslim world to head a democratic government as prime minister. She served again from 2001 until...

 and Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina is a Bangladeshi politician and current Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She has been the President of the Awami League, a major political party, since 1981. She is the eldest of five children of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh and widow of a reputed nuclear...

.

Early reforms under Islam


During the early days of Islam
Muslim history
Muslim history is the history of Muslim people. In the history of Islam the followers of the religion of Islam have impacted political history, economic history, and military history...

 in the 7th century CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, reforms in women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

 affected marriage, divorce and inheritance. Women were not accorded such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam states that the general improvement of the status of women in Arab societies
Women in Arab societies
Women in the Arab world, as in other areas of the world, have throughout history experienced discrimination and have been subject to restrictions of their freedoms and rights. Some of these practices are based on religious beliefs, but many of the limitations are cultural and emanate from tradition...

 included prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women's full personhood (see Islamic ethics
Islamic ethics
Islamic ethics , defined as "good character," historically took shape gradually from the 7th century and was finally established by the 11th century...

). Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a status but rather as a contract, in which the woman's consent was imperative. "The dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

, previously regarded as a bride-price
Bride price
Bride price, also known as bride wealth, is an amount of money or property or wealth paid by the groom or his family to the parents of a woman upon the marriage of their daughter to the groom...

 paid to the father, became a nuptial gift retained by the wife as part of her personal property" (see also Dower
Dower
Dower or morning gift was a provision accorded by law to a wife for her support in the event that she should survive her husband...

). "Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives."

Annemarie Schimmel
Annemarie Schimmel
Annemarie Schimmel, SI, HI, was a well known and very influential German Orientalist and scholar, who wrote extensively on Islam and Sufism. She was a professor at Harvard University from 1967 to 1992.-Early life:...

 states that "compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work." William Montgomery Watt
William Montgomery Watt
William Montgomery Watt was a Scottish historian, an Emeritus Professor in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh...

 states that Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women's rights and improved things considerably. Watt explains: "At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible - they had no right to own property
Property
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...

, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons." Muhammad, however, by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards." Haddad and Esposito
John Esposito
John Louis Esposito is a professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University...

 state that "Muhammad granted women rights and privileges in the sphere of family life, marriage, education, and economic endeavors, rights that help improve women's status in society."

Islamic Golden Age


Whilst in the pre-modern period there was not a formal feminist movement, nevertheless there were a number of important figures who argued for improving women's rights and autonomy. These range from the medieval mystic and philosopher Ibn Arabi
Ibn Arabi
Ibn ʿArabī was an Andalusian Moorish Sufi mystic and philosopher. His full name was Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī .-Biography:...

, who argued that women could achieve spiritual stations as equally high as men to Nana Asma’u
Nana Asma’u
Nana Asma’u was a princess, poet, teacher, and daughter of the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman dan Fodio. She remains a revered figure in northern Nigeria...

, daughter of eighteenth-century reformer Usman Dan Fodio
Usman dan Fodio
Shaihu Usman dan Fodio , born Usuman ɓii Foduye, was the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1809, a religious teacher, writer and Islamic promoter. Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic Fulani living in the Hausa States in what is today northern Nigeria...

, who pushed for literacy and education of Muslim women.

Education


Women played an important role in the foundations of many Islamic educational institutions, such as Fatima al-Fihri
Fatima al-fihri
Fatima al-Fihri was the daughter of Mohammed al-Fihri, with whom she migrated to Fes, Morocco from Qairawan, located in present-day Tunisia and came earlier from west Arabia of Fihrids family origin...

's founding of the University of Al Karaouine
University of Al Karaouine
The University of Al-Karaouine or Al-Qarawiyyin is a university located in Fes, Morocco which was established in 1947. Its origins date back to 859, when it was founded as a mosque school or madrasa...

 in 859 CE. This continued through to the Ayyubid dynasty
Ayyubid dynasty
The Ayyubid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Kurdish origin, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt. The dynasty ruled much of the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries CE. The Ayyubid family, under the brothers Ayyub and Shirkuh, originally served as soldiers for the Zengids until they...

 in the 12th and 13th centuries, when 160 mosque
Mosque
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

s and madrasah
Madrasah
Madrasah is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious...

s were established in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, 26 of which were funded by women through the Waqf
Waqf
A waqf also spelled wakf formally known as wakf-alal-aulad is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, typically denoting a building or plot of land for Muslim religious or charitable purposes. The donated assets are held by a charitable trust...

 (charitable trust
Charitable trust
A charitable trust is an irrevocable trust established for charitable purposes, and is a more specific term than "charitable organization".-United States:...

 or trust law
Trust law
In common law legal systems, a trust is a relationship whereby property is held by one party for the benefit of another...

) system. Half of all the royal patrons
Patronage
Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings or popes have provided to musicians, painters, and sculptors...

 for these institutions were also women.

According to the Sunni scholar Ibn Asakir
Ibn Asakir
-Name:His full name was Ali ibn al-Hasan ibn Hibat Allah ibn `Abd Allah, Thiqat al-Din, Abu al-Qasim, known as Ibn `Asakir al-Dimashqi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari.-Works:...

 in the 12th century, there were opportunities for female education
Female education
Female education is a catch-all term for a complex of issues and debates surrounding education for females. It includes areas of gender equality and access to education, and its connection to the alleviation of poverty...

. He wrote that girls and women could study, earn ijazah
Ijazah
An ijazah is a certificate used primarily by Sunni Muslims to indicate that one has been authorized by a higher authority to transmit a certain subject or text of Islamic knowledge...

s (academic degree
Academic degree
An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree...

s), and qualify as scholars (ulema
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

) and teachers. This was especially the case for learned and scholarly families, who wanted to ensure the highest possible education for both their sons and daughters. Ibn Asakir had himself studied under 80 different female teachers. Female education in the Islamic world was inspired by Muhammad's wives: Khadijah, a successful businesswoman, and Aisha
Aisha
Aisha bint Abu Bakr also transcribed as was Muhammad's favorite wife...

, a renowned scholar of the hadith and military leader
Battle of Bassorah
The Battle of Bassorah was a battle that took place at Basra, Iraq in 656 between forces allied to Ali ibn Abi Talib and forces allied to Aisha , who wanted justice on the...

. Muhammad is said
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 to have praised the women of Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

 for their desire for religious knowledge: "How splendid were the women of the ansar
Ansar (Islam)
Ansar is an Islamic term that literally means "helpers" and denotes the Medinan citizens that helped Muhammad and the Muhajirun on the arrival to the city after the migration to Medina...

; shame did not prevent them from becoming learned in the faith."

While it was not common for women to enroll as students in formal classes, they did attend informal lectures and study sessions at mosques, madrasahs and other public places. Although there were no legal restrictions on female education, some men did not approve of this practice. For example, Muhammad ibn al-Hajj (d. 1336) was appalled at the behaviour of some women who informally audit
Audit
The general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product. The term most commonly refers to audits in accounting, but similar concepts also exist in project management, quality management, and energy conservation.- Accounting...

ed lectures in his time:
('awra
Awrah
Awrah or Awrat is a term used within Islam which denotes the intimate parts of the body, for both men and women, which must be covered with clothing. Exposing the awrah is unlawful in Islam and is regarded as sin...

 refers to the parts of the body that should remain covered; see also hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 for the rules of modesty governing both men and women.)

On the question of women in medieval Islam, Abdul Hakim Murad writes

the orientalist Ignaz Goldziher showed that perhaps fifteen percent of medieval hadith scholars were women, teaching in the mosques and universally admired for their integrity. Colleges such as the Saqlatuniya Madrasa in Cairo were funded and staffed entirely by women. The most recent study of Muslim female academicians, by Ruth Roded, charts an extraordinary dilemma for the researcher:

'If U.S. and European historians feel a need to reconstruct women's history because women are invisible in the traditional sources, Islamic scholars are faced with a plethora of source material that has only begun to be studied. [ . . . ] In reading the biographies of thousands of Muslim women scholars, one is amazed at the evidence that contradicts the view of Muslim women as marginal, secluded, and restricted.'

Stereotypes come under almost intolerable strain when Roded documents the fact that the proportion of female lecturers in many classical Islamic colleges was higher than in modern Western universities.


In the 15th century, Al-Sakhawi
Al-Sakhawi
Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman al-Sakhawi was a reputable Shafi'i Muslim hadith scholar and historian who was born in Cairo. "Al-Sakhawi" refers to the village of Sakha in Egypt, where his relatives belonged. He was a prolific writer that excelled in the knowledge of hadith, tafsir,...

 devotes an entire volume of his 12-volume biographical dictionary
Biographical dictionary
Biographical dictionaries – a type of encyclopedic dictionary limited to biographical information – have been written in many languages. Many attempt to cover the major personalities of a country...

 Daw al-lami to female scholars, giving information on 1,075 of them.

Civil and military work


The labor force
Labor force
In economics, a labor force or labour force is a region's combined civilian workforce, including both the employed and unemployed.Normally, the labor force of a country consists of everyone of working age In economics, a labor force or labour force is a region's combined civilian workforce,...

 in the Caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 came from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economic activities
Islamic economics in the world
Islamic economics in practice, or economic policies supported by self-identified Islamic groups, has varied throughout its long history. Traditional Islamic concepts having to do with economics included...

. Women were employed in a wide range of commercial activities and diverse occupations in the primary sector (as farmers for example), secondary sector (as construction workers, dyers, spinners, etc.) and tertiary sector (as investors, doctors, nurses, presidents of guild
Guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

s, brokers, peddlers, lenders, scholars, etc.). Muslim women also held a monopoly over certain branches of the textile industry
Textile industry
The textile industry is primarily concerned with the production of yarn, and cloth and the subsequent design or manufacture of clothing and their distribution. The raw material may be natural, or synthetic using products of the chemical industry....

, the largest and most specialized and market-oriented industry at the time, in occupations such as spinning
Spinning (textiles)
Spinning is a major industry. It is part of the textile manufacturing process where three types of fibre are converted into yarn, then fabric, then textiles. The textiles are then fabricated into clothes or other artifacts. There are three industrial processes available to spin yarn, and a...

, dyeing
Dyeing
Dyeing is the process of adding color to textile products like fibers, yarns, and fabrics. Dyeing is normally done in a special solution containing dyes and particular chemical material. After dyeing, dye molecules have uncut Chemical bond with fiber molecules. The temperature and time controlling...

, and embroidery
Embroidery
Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with needle and thread or yarn. Embroidery may also incorporate other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins....

. In comparison, female property rights and wage labour
Wage labour
Wage labour is the socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer, where the worker sells their labour under a formal or informal employment contract. These transactions usually occur in a labour market where wages are market determined...

 were relatively uncommon in Europe until the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the 12th century, the famous Islamic philosopher
Islamic philosophy
Islamic philosophy is a branch of Islamic studies. It is the continuous search for Hekma in the light of Islamic view of life, universe, ethics, society, and so on...

 and qadi
Qadi
Qadi is a judge ruling in accordance with Islamic religious law appointed by the ruler of a Muslim country. Because Islam makes no distinction between religious and secular domains, qadis traditionally have jurisdiction over all legal matters involving Muslims...

 (judge) Ibn Rushd
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

, known to the West as Averroes, claimed that women were equal to men in all respects and possessed equal capacities to shine in peace
Peace In Islamic Thought
As in other religions, peace is a basic concept in Islamic thought. The Arabic term "Islam" itself is usually translated as "submission"; submission of desires to the will of God. It comes from the term aslama, which means "to surrender" or "resign oneself".The Arabic word salaam has the same...

 and in war, citing examples of female warriors among the Arabs, Greeks and Africans to support his case. In early Muslim history
Muslim history
Muslim history is the history of Muslim people. In the history of Islam the followers of the religion of Islam have impacted political history, economic history, and military history...

, examples of notable women who fought during the Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 and Fitna (civil wars) as soldiers or generals included Nusaybah Bint k'ab Al Maziniyyah, Aisha
Aisha
Aisha bint Abu Bakr also transcribed as was Muhammad's favorite wife...

, Kahula
Kahula
Kahula bint Azwar was a Muslim Arab warrior, sister of Zirrar ibn Azwar, the legendary Muslim soldier and commander of the Rashidun army during the 7th century Muslim conquest. She fought side by side with her brother Zirrar in many battles, including a decisive Battle of Yarmouk in 636 against the...

 and Wafeira.

Property, marriage, and other rights


In terms of women's rights, women generally had fewer legal restrictions under Islamic law (sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

) than they did under certain Western legal systems until the 20th century. For example, under traditional interpretations of sharia, women had the right to keep their surnames upon marriage; inherit and bestow inheritance; independently manage their financial affairs; and contract marriages and divorce. In contrast, restrictions on the legal capacity of married women under French law were not removed until 1965. Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, notes:
In contrast to the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, during the 15th century and upward, where divorce was relatively uncommon until modern times, divorce (talaq
Talaq (Nikah)
In Islam there are separate rules for divorce for men and women under the terms of Islamic law . When a man has initiated a divorce the procedure is called . When a woman has initiated a divorce it is called khula ....

) was a more common occurrence at certain points during that era in the Muslim world
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

. In the Mamluk Sultanate
Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)
The Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt was the final independent Egyptian state prior to the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in 1805. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid Dynasty until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, Arabised...

 and early Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, the rate of divorce was higher than it is today in the modern Middle East, atleast according to one study. In 15th century Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Al-Sakhawi
Al-Sakhawi
Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman al-Sakhawi was a reputable Shafi'i Muslim hadith scholar and historian who was born in Cairo. "Al-Sakhawi" refers to the village of Sakha in Egypt, where his relatives belonged. He was a prolific writer that excelled in the knowledge of hadith, tafsir,...

 recorded the marital history of 500 women, the largest sample
Sampling (statistics)
In statistics and survey methodology, sampling is concerned with the selection of a subset of individuals from within a population to estimate characteristics of the whole population....

 on marriage in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, and found that at least a third of all women in the Mamluk Sultanate
Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)
The Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt was the final independent Egyptian state prior to the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in 1805. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid Dynasty until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, Arabised...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 married more than once, with many marrying three or more times.

Nineteenth century



The modern movement of Islamic feminism began in the nineteenth century. The Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian poetess Táhirih
Táhirih
Táhirih or Qurratu'l-`Ayn are both titles of Fátimih Baraghání , an influential poet and theologian of the Bábí Faith in Iran. Her life, influence and execution made her a key figure of the religion...

 was the first modern woman to undertake Qur'anic exegesis
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

. Born and raised in a traditional Muslim family, she would later become a prominent member of the Bábí Faith, during which time she openly denounced polygyny
Polygyny
Polygyny is a form of marriage in which a man has two or more wives at the same time. In countries where the practice is illegal, the man is referred to as a bigamist or a polygamist...

, the wearing of the veil and other restraints put upon women. One of her most notable quotes is her final utterance prior to her execution, "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women."

Egyptian jurist Qasim Amin
Qasim Amin
Qasim Amin born on 1 December 1863 Alexandria died April 22, 1908 Cairo was an Egyptian jurist and one of the founders of the Egyptian national movement and Cairo University. Qasim Amin was considered by many as the Arab world’s “first feminist”...

, the author of the 1899 pioneering book Women's Liberation (Tahrir al-Mar'a), is often described as the father of the Egyptian feminist movement
Feminism in Egypt
Feminism in Egypt has involved a number of social and political groups throughout its history. Although Egypt has in many respects been a forerunner in matters of reform particularly "in developing movements of nationalism, of resistance to imperialism and of feminism" its development in fighting...

. In his work, Amin criticized some of the practices prevalent in his society at the time, such as polygyny
Polygyny in Islam
In Islam, polygamy is allowed and practised under certain restricted conditions. Muslim men are allowed to practise polygyny, that is, they can have more than one wife at the same time, up to a total of four...

, the veil
Islam and clothing
Adherents of Islam are concerned with clothing in two contexts: clothing for everyday wear, inside and outside the house; and clothing required in specifically religious contexts....

, and purdah
Purdah
Purdah or pardeh is the practice of concealing women from men. According to one definition:This takes two forms: physical segregation of the sexes, and the requirement for women to cover their bodies and conceal their form....

, i.e. sex segregation in Islam
Sex segregation in Islam
Islam discourages free mixing between men and women when they are alone but not all interaction between men and women. Interaction between men and women is prescribed to be maintained at a healthy and modest level, to the extent where they can socialize in order to know each other as ordained by...

. He condemned them as un-Islamic and contradictory to the true spirit of Islam. His work had an enormous influence on women's political movements throughout the Islamic and Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

, and is read and cited today.

Despite Qasim Amin's effects on modern-day Islamic feminist movements, present-day scholar Leila Ahmed considers his works both androcentric and colonialist. Muhammad 'Abdu, an Egyptian nationalist, could easily have written the chapters of his work that show honest considerations of the negative effects of the veil on women. Amin even posed many male-centered misconceptions about women, such as their inability to experience love, that women needlessly (when they had very good reason to) talk about their husbands outside their presence, and that Muslim marriage is based on ignorance and sensuality, of which women were the chief source.

Less known, however, are the women who preceded Amin in their feminist critique of their societies. The women's press in Egypt started voicing such concerns since its very first issues in 1892. Egyptian, Turkish, Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese women and men had been reading European feminist magazines even a decade earlier, and discussed their relevance to the Middle East in the general press.

Twentieth century


Aisha Abd al-Rahman
Aisha Abd al-Rahman
Aisha Abd al-Rahman was an Egyptian author and professor of literature who published under the pen name Bint al-Shati .-Life and career:...

, writing under her pen name Bint al-Shati ("Daughter of the Riverbank"), was the second modern woman to undertake Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

ic exegesis
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

, and though she did not consider herself to be a feminist, her works reflect feminist themes. She began producing her popular books in 1959, the same year that Naguib Mahfouz
Naguib Mahfouz
Naguib Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature, along with Tawfiq el-Hakim, to explore themes of existentialism. He published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie...

 published his allegorical and feminist version of the life of Muhammad. She wrote biographies of early women in Islam
Women in Islam
The study of women in Islam investigates the role of women within the religion of Islam. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by Islamic texts, the history and culture of the Muslim world...

, including the mother
Aminah bint Wahb
Aminah bint Wahb was the mother of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.-Biography According to Islamic History:The daughter of Wahb ibn 'Abd Manaf ibn Zuhrah ibn Kilab ibn Murrah, Aminah was born in Mecca. She was a member of the Banu Zuhrah clan in the tribe of Quraysh who were descendants of Ibrahim ...

, wives and daughters
Family tree of Muhammad
-Family tree:* Note that direct lineage is marked in bold.* * indicates that the marriage order is disputed-Genealogy:Wathilah ibn al-Asqa narrated the Prophet Muhammad said;-Muhammad to Adnan:...

 of the Prophet
Prophets of Islam
Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

 Muhammad, as well as literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

.

Recently Islamic feminists have begun advocating for equality in the mosque and equality in prayer, as you can see in the "Equality in the Mosque" and "Equality in Prayer" sections further down in this article.

Personal law


One of the major areas of scholarship and campaigning for Islamic feminists are aspects of sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 (Islamic law) known as Muslim personal law (MPL) or Muslim family law. Some of the thorny issues regarding the way in which MPL has thus far been formulated include polygyny, divorce, custody of children, maintenance and marital property. In addition, there are also more macro issues regarding the underlying assumptions of such legislation, for example, the assumption of the man as head of the household.

Muslim majority countries that have promulgated some form of MPL include Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

, Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, and Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

. Muslim minority countries that already have incorporated MPL into their own law or are considering passing legislation on aspects of MPL include India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, and South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

.

Islamic feminists have objected to the MPL legislation in many of these countries, arguing that these pieces of legislation discriminate against women. Some Islamic feminists have taken the attitude that a reformed MPL which is based on the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 and sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

, which includes substantial input from Muslim women, and which does not discriminate against women is possible. Such Islamic feminists have been working on developing women-friendly forms of MPL. (See, for example, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women for argument based on the Qur'an and not on what they call medieval male consensus.) Other Islamic feminists, particularly some in Muslim minority contexts which are democratic states, argue that MPL should not be reformed but should be rejected and that Muslim women should seek redress, instead, from the civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

s of those states.

Sexuality and marriage


Despite the taboo status of sex and sexuality
Human sexuality
Human sexuality is the awareness of gender differences, and the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality can also be described as the way someone is sexually attracted to another person whether it is to opposite sexes , to the same sex , to either sexes , or not being...

 in many Muslim societies, some Qur'anic scholars
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

 have argued that the Qur'an itself discusses these subjects openly and positively, and that Islam is one of the most sexually accepting of the major world religions.

The University of Southern California Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement has published the official Arabic translation of Surah 4:34 to justify wife-beating: Qur'an 004.034 YUSUFALI: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).

As for Surah 4:34 of the Qur'an, which has been used to justify wife-beating, many Islamic feminists claim it was never meant to do so. In 2007 Laleh Bakhtiar
Laleh Bakhtiar
Laleh Mehree Bakhtiar is an Iranian-American Muslim author, translator and clinical psychologist.-Biography:...

 published a translation of the Qur'an, with her translation of Surah 4:34 substituting "go away" for "beat" (they are the same word in Classical Arabic). Her translation of Surah 4:34 reads: "Men are supporters of wives because God has given some of them an advantage over others and because they spend of their wealth. So the ones who are in accord with morality are the ones who are morally obligated, the ones who guard the unseen of what God has kept safe. But those whose resistance you fear, then admonish them and abandon them in their sleeping place, then go away from them; and if they obey you, surely look not for any way against them ; truly God is Lofty, Great"."

There is debate over the interpretations of the Qur'anic verses that have been cited to outlaw homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, principally the verse relating to the story of Lot (see Qur'an verses: 11:69-83, 29:28-35). Qur'anic verses appear to relate specifically to male homosexuality. Contemporary interpreters and campaigning organisations are working to reinterpret texts to allow for a wider spectrum of sexual relationships, including homosexual and bisexual, but there is much resistance from the mainstream Muslim community.

Dress codes



Another issue that concerns Muslim women is the dress code expected of them. Islam requires both men and women to dress modestly; this concept is known as hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 and covers a wide interpretation of behavior and garments. In some countries such as Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 women are expected to wear the all-covering burqa
Burqa
A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic religion to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman's loose body-covering , plus the head-covering , plus the face-veil .-Etymology:A speculative and unattested etymology...

 or abaya
Abaya
The abaya "cloak" , sometimes also called an aba, is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world including in Turkey, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula....

; in others such as Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 and Turkey they are forbidden to wear even the headscarf
Headscarf
Headscarves or head scarves are scarves covering most or all of the top of a woman's hair and her head. Headscarves may be worn for a variety of purposes, such as for warmth, for sanitation, for fashion or social distinction; with religious significance, to hide baldness, out of modesty, or other...

 (often known as the veil) in public buildings. There is mixed opinion among Muslim feminists over extremes of externally imposed control.

A number of Islamic feminists, including Fadela Amara
Fadela Amara
Fadéla Amara, also known as Fatiha Amara is a French feminist and politician, who began her political life as an advocate for women in the impoverished banlieues. She was the Secretary of State for Urban Policies in the conservative Union for a Popular Movement government of French Prime Minister...

 and Hedi Mhenni support bans on the hijab, for various reasons. Amara explained her support for France's ban of the garment in public buildings: "The veil is the visible symbol of the subjugation of women, and therefore has no place in the mixed, secular spaces
Laïcité
French secularism, in French, laïcité is a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of...

 of France's public school system
Education in France
The French educational system is highly centralized, organized, and ramified. It is divided into three different stages:* the primary education ;* secondary education ;...

." When some feminists began defending the headscarf on the grounds of "tradition", Amara saw red. "It's not tradition, it's archaic! French feminists are totally contradictory. When Algerian women fought against wearing the headscarf in Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, French feminists
Feminism in France
Feminism in France has its origins in the French Revolution. A few famous figures emerged during the 1871 Paris Commune, including Louise Michel, Russian-born Elisabeth Dmitrieff, Nathalie Lemel, and Renée Vivien .-French Revolution:...

 supported them. But when it's some young girl in a French suburb
Banlieue
In francophone areas, banlieues are the "outskirts" of a city: the zone around a city that is under the city's rule.Banlieues are translated as "suburbs", as these are also residential areas on the outer edge of a city, but the connotations of the term "banlieue" in France can be different from...

 school, they don't. They define liberty and equality
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "Liberty, equality, fraternity ", is the national motto of France, and is a typical example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third...

 according to what colour your skin is. It's nothing more than neocolonialism
Neocolonialism
Neocolonialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control a country in lieu of direct military or political control...

." Mhenni also expressed support for Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

's ban on the veil: "If today we accept the headscarf, tomorrow we'll accept that women's rights to work and vote and receive an education be banned and they'll be seen as just a tool for reproduction and housework."

Sihem Habchi
Sihem Habchi
Sihem Habchi has been the presiding president of Ni Putes Ni Soumises since June 2007, and is a member of the High Authority of the Battle against Discrimination and for Equality .- Biography :Born of Algerian immigrant parents, Sihem Habchi followed a course of study in secondary school and...

, Muslim feminist and director of Ni Putes Ni Soumises
Ni Putes Ni Soumises
Ni Putes Ni Soumises is a French feminist movement, founded in 2002, which has secured the recognition of the French press and the National Assembly of France. It is generally dependent on public funding...

, expressed support for France's ban on the burqa in public places, stating that the ban was a matter of 'democratic principle' and protecting French women from the 'obscurantist, fascist, right-wing movement' that she claims the burqa represents.

The Qur'an does state that both men and women should be dressed modestly (33:59-60, 24:30-31; in translation by Ali, 1988, 1126–27). It however does not use the words veil, hijab, burka, chador, or abaya. It uses the words jilbab meaning cloak and khumur meaning shawl. These do not cover the face, hands or feet. Furthermore until the third through the ninth century women prayed in the mosques unveiled. The whole body covering with the burka, chador, and other items of clothing is a tradition and cultural manifest from a conservative reading of the Qur'an by Mullahs; men. It is not what the Qur'an itself states. The Qur'an, 2:256, states "Let there be no compulsion in religion". However, body covering with clothing are historically based in the teachings and the customs of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.

Equality in the Mosque


A survey by the Council on American Islamic Relations showed that two of three mosques in 2000 required women to pray in a separate area, up from one of two in 1994 http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/. Islamic feminists have begun to protest this, advocating for women to be allowed to pray beside men without a partition as they do in Mecca http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052104253.html http://www.womensenews.org/story/religion/100222/protesters-break-prayer-rules-at-leading-mosque. In 2003, Asra Nomani challenged rules at her mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, requiring that women enter through a back door and pray in a secluded balcony http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/. She argued that since in the 7th century the Islamic prophet Muhammad didn't put women behind partitions, that the barriers were just sexist man-made rules http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/. The men at her mosque put her on trial to be banished http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/.

In 2005, following public agitation on the issue, Muslim organizations, including CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America, issued a report on making mosques "women-friendly", asserting women's rights in mosques, including the right to pray in the main hall without a partition http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/.

American Muslim Fatima Thompson and a few others organized and participated in a "pray-in" in 2010 at the Islamic Center of Washington in D.C. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/. Police were summoned and threatened to arrest the women when they refused to leave the main prayer hall and continued their protest against being corralled in what they referred to as the "penalty box" of a prayer space reserved for women http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/. A second protest staged by the same women on the eve of International Women's Day in 2010 resulted in calls to the police and threats of arrest again http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/. However, the women were not arrested on either occasion http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-women-pray/.

Furthermore, in May 2010 five women prayed with the men at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque, one of the Washington region's largest Islamic centers http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052104253.html. After the prayers, a member of the mosque called Fairfax police, who asked the women to leave http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052104253.html. However, later in 2010 it was decided that D.C. police would no longer intervene in such protests http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/D_C_-police-won_t-intervene-to-remove-women-from-mosques-96758814.html.

Equality in leading prayer


According to currently existing traditional schools of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, a woman cannot lead a mixed gender congregation in salat (prayer). Some schools make exceptions for Tarawih
Tarawih
Tarawih refers to extra congregational prayers performed by Muslims at night in the Islamic month of Ramadan. They are not compulsory; however, many Muslims pray these prayers in the night during Ramadan...

 (optional Ramadan
Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

 prayers) or for a congregation consisting only of close relatives. Certain medieval scholars—including Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

 (838–923), Abu Thawr
Abu Thawr
Abu Thawr , in full Ibrhim bin Khalid Abu Thawr, was an early scholar of Islam. He taught that women could serve as Imams.A personal school was built of the followers of Abu Thawr.-Sources:**...

 (764–854), Isma'il Ibn Yahya al-Muzani (791–878), and Ibn Arabi
Ibn Arabi
Ibn ʿArabī was an Andalusian Moorish Sufi mystic and philosopher. His full name was Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī .-Biography:...

 (1165–1240) considered the practice permissible at least for optional (nafl) prayers; however, their views are not accepted by any major surviving group. Islamic feminists have begun to protest this.

Definitions


There are subtle yet substantial differences to be noted between the terms 'Islamic feminist', 'Muslim feminist' and 'Islamist'. Any of these terms can be used of men or women.

Islamic feminists


Islamic feminists ground their arguments in Islam and its teachings, seek the full equality of women and men in the personal and public sphere, and can include non-Muslims in the discourse and debate.

Islamic feminism is defined by Islamic scholars as being more radical than secular feminism
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

, and as being anchored within the discourse
Discourse
Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication". The following are three more specific definitions:...

 of Islam with the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 as its central text.

In recent times the concept of Islamic feminism has grown further, with Islamic groups looking to garner support from as many aspects of society as possible, and educated Muslim women striving to articulate their role in society..

In her 2010 book Paradise Beneath Her Feet, Isobel Coleman
Isobel Coleman
Isobel Coleman is senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of CFR’s Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Initiative. She is also director of CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program...

 explores the rise of Islamic feminism across the Muslim world, in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

.

Islamists


Islamists are advocates of political Islam
Political aspects of Islam
Political aspects of Islam are derived from the Qur'an, the Sunna , Muslim history, and elements of political movements outside Islam....

, the notion that the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 and hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 mandate a caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

, i.e. an Islamic government. Some Islamists advocate women's rights in the public sphere
Public sphere
The public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action...

 but do not challenge gender inequality
Gender equality
Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

 in the personal, private sphere
Private sphere
The private sphere is the complement or opposite to the public sphere. The private sphere is a certain sector of societal life in which an individual enjoys a degree of authority, unhampered by interventions from governmental or other institutions. Examples of the private sphere are family and home...

.

See also

  • Women in Islam
    Women in Islam
    The study of women in Islam investigates the role of women within the religion of Islam. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by Islamic texts, the history and culture of the Muslim world...

     and Sex segregation and Islam
  • Rights and obligations of spouses in Islam
  • Female figures in the Qur'an
  • Sisters in Islam
    Sisters in Islam
    Sisters in Islam is an organization of Muslim women in Malaysia which seeks to articulate women's rights in Islam by emphasising the need to interpret the Qur'an and the hadith in their proper historical and cultural contexts. It also advocates for the right of women to hold public office...

  • Role of women in religion
    Role of women in religion
    - Specific religions :*Women in Christianity*Women in Judaism*Women in Islam*Women in Mormonism*Women in Hinduism*Women in Sikhism*Women in Buddhism- Religious roles :*Ordination of women*Women as imams*Women as theological figures...

  • Asra Nomani
  • Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque
    Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque
    The Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque is a list of rights for Islamic women in the mosque written by Muslim author and feminist Asra Nomani....

  • History of feminism
    History of feminism
    The history of feminism involves the story of feminist movements and of feminist thinkers. Depending on time, culture and country, feminists around the world have sometimes had different causes and goals...

  • Rada (fiqh)
    Rada (fiqh)
    Radāʿ or ridāʿa is a technical term from Islamic jurisprudence meaning "the suckling which produces the legal impediment to marriage of foster-kinship". The term derives from the infinitive noun of the Arabic word radiʿa or radaʿa...

  • Tynetta Muhammad
    Tynetta Muhammad
    Tynetta Muhammad is a longtime member and columnist for the Nation of Islam . Known as Tynetta Muhammad, she writes the weekly column, Unveiling the Number 19 in the NOIs official newspaper The Final Call. She was a speaker at the Million Man March in October 1995 in Washington, DC. A former NOI...

  • List of Muslim reformers


Other countries:
  • Sex segregation in Iran
    Sex segregation in Iran
    -Reza Shah Era:Reza Shah was against sex-segregation and he ordered Tehran University to enroll its first woman in 1936. Reza Shah forcibly unveiled women and promoted their education in the model of Turkey's Ataturk.-After the Islamic Revolution:...

  • Women's rights in Iran
  • Women's rights in Saudi Arabia
    Women's rights in Saudi Arabia
    Women's rights in Saudi Arabia are defined by Islam and tribal customs. The Arabian peninsula is the ancestral home of patriarchal, nomadic tribes, in which purdah and namus are considered central....

  • Women's rights in Kuwait
    Women's rights in Kuwait
    Women in Kuwait are considered to be among the most emancipated women in the Gulf region. Women in Kuwait can travel, drive, and work without their fathers' or husbands' consent and they even hold some senior government positions...

  • Feminism in Egypt
    Feminism in Egypt
    Feminism in Egypt has involved a number of social and political groups throughout its history. Although Egypt has in many respects been a forerunner in matters of reform particularly "in developing movements of nationalism, of resistance to imperialism and of feminism" its development in fighting...

  • Feminism in India
    Feminism in India
    Feminism in India is a set of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for Indian women. It is the pursuit of women's rights within the society of India...

  • Women in Lebanon


Afghanistan:
  • Taliban treatment of women
    Taliban treatment of women
    While in power in Afghanistan, the Taliban became notorious internationally for their treatment of women. Their stated aim was to create "secure environments where the chasteness and dignity of women may once again be sacrosanct," reportedly based on Pashtunwali beliefs about living in purdah.Women...

  • Golden Needle Sewing School
    Golden Needle Sewing School
    The Golden Needle Sewing School was an underground school for women in Herat, Afghanistan, during the rule of the Taliban. Because women were not allowed to be educated under the strict interpretation of Islamic law introduced by the Taliban, women writers belonging to the Herat Literary Circle set...

  • Gender roles in Afghanistan
    Gender roles in Afghanistan
    Afghan society is consistent in its attitudes toward the underlying principles of gender. It is the application of these principles that varies from group to group; and there is a wide range of standards set for accepted female behavior, as well as differences in male attitudes toward correct...

  • Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
    Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
    The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan is a women's organization based in Quetta, Pakistan, that promotes women's rights and secular democracy...


Further reading

  • Alya Baffoun "Women and Social Change in the Muslim World" (Women's Studies International Forum, V, 1982, 227-242).
  • Baffoun, Alya (1994) "Feminism and Muslim fundamentalism: the Tunisian and Algerian cases" in Valentine M. Moghadam (ed.) ISBN 0 8133 8692 6.
  • Baffoun, Alya. 1989 African women participation for research and development : roles and functions of AAWORD. Tunis University publication n:7.
  • Baffoun, Alya (1980) "Some remarks on Women and Development in the Maghreb" in The Changing Middle Eastern City. State University of New-York.
  • Baffoun, Alya (1984) "Critical Methodological Approach to the problem of Sexual Asymmetry" in Social Science Research on Women in the Arab World. UNESCO.

Further reading