“Looking at the world as if women matter” – Feminism and Islam

The Mosque in Morgantown has several interesting articles on the topic Feminism and Islam which includes women led prayer, interpreting the Quran, women’s rights, pluralism, social change, female authority, and so on.

The Global Islamic Feminist Movement

by Yvonne Haddad

Islamic feminism has been applied to the work of a group of scholars in the American academy who seek to address the role of women from within the heritage of Islam. They include Amina Wadud, Riffat Hasan, Amira Sonbol, Asma Barlas and Nimat Hafez Barzangi. They also include the first woman to translate the Qur’an into English, Laleh Bakhtiar. Their efforts fall in contrast to the activism and advocacy of other Muslim women who seek change through recourse to secular ideas as well as those who attack the faith as misogynist at its core. Asra Nomani and Irshad Manji are seen by some as representatives of the former category, Ayan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan as examples of the latter. Instead, the Islamic feminists have sought to reconcile the religion with feminism. They do not question the validity of the Qur’anic text as eternally valid guidance for all humanity, but have reservations about the patriarchal interpretations characteristic of traditional societies.

Their discourse requires a re-examination of the Qur’anic text, which had been the private domain of male scholars. They have scoured the narratives of the life of the Prophet Muhammad for parallels to be promoted as models of liberation. They have challenged Islamic jurisprudence derived from patriarchal readings of the Qur’an, examining legal precedents and court decisions in order to reconstruct history. Some have focused on reinterpreting Qur’anic verses used by traditional scholars to formulate laws that discriminate against women, especially in a marriage context. Their revised interpretations affirm the grounding of women’s rights in the immutable Qur’an, rendering it a divine mandate for humanity, impervious to misogynist attacks. They have dubbed their efforts a “gender jihad.”

Looking at the World As If Women Matter

by Tayyibah Taylor

“Looking at the world as if women matter” is just one of the many ways feminism is explained. Some definitions are more academic and others are less generous, but searching through the philosophical pile of feminist theory and movements, one will discover first-wave and second-wave feminism, post colonial feminism, Western feminism, Black feminism, radical feminism, Islamic feminism and more, all with varying solutions to the issues women face.
Islam is more than a religion and it’s more than a way of life; Islam is a state of being. When we truly live our lives in the state of Islam, that is in a state of wholeness, serenity and in alignment with the laws of the universe, every second of existence, and every fiber of self is centered on connecting to the Divine. In that state, the flame misogyny has no oxygen. In that state, a world is created where women, and all humanity, matter.

Real Indicators of Female Empowerment: Women’s Space and Status in American Mosques

by Hadia Mubarak

Refusing to accept the status quo, I and five of my friends registered as members and attended the general body elections. We sat in the main prayer hall, which had been partitioned into two sections that day, a large section for the men and a smaller one for the women. Citing the mosque’s Constitution and religious textual sources, we demanded the right to vote like everyone. Our demands incited a heated and emotionally charged debate. Although it was clear that the majority of the men were on our side, the small minority of men who were against us, including the chair of the elections committee, dominated the debate. Exploiting his position, the elections committee chair took up a motion that put in his own hands the power decide whether or not women should vote — without subjecting the motion to a general vote.

I and my five friends left the mosque that day without voting for the men who would manage our mosque, make decisions on our behalf and represent us within the larger community. We left feeling disgusted, isolated and enraged. But we never for a second questioned the status that Islam accorded women or our God-given right to elect the leaders of our community. We knew that Islam was on our side and that ignorance was on theirs.

As a woman, I feel empowered by God’s laws — laws that I know with absolute certainty are for my own spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. At the same time, I refuse to rely on the interpretations of men to understand the laws of God. Women must engage the Islamic tradition themselves in order to restore rights that they were granted as early as the seventh century. When armed with knowledge of our God-given rights, then no human being can stand between us and our prerogative to exercise those rights.

The Real Feminist Leaders

by Kari Ansari

Islam teaches that men and women are equally capable of attaining the highest level of spirituality, and that both will be judged on equal terms by God. The teachings of Islam protect and defend the rights of a woman; she has the right to demand dignified treatment by all people — men included. She has the right to voice her opinion, and the value of that opinion is judged upon the same merits and criteria afforded to men.

The above-mentioned women are examples of leadership displayed all across the country by Muslim women of every ethnicity, age, and socio-economic background; we just don’t see them on television, or the New York Times Bestseller List. They are women who are changing the status quo at American mosques; they are working behind the scenes to establish domestic violence support services for immigrant women, they are running food pantries in the inner cities, they are teachers in Islamic schools–teaching tolerance and love for their neighbor. These Muslim women are homemakers and engineers, they are doctors and lawyers, and they are bankers and nurses. These women do not seek notoriety or fame; instead they are integrating into a society that often misunderstands them, and even sometimes pities them unnecessarily. Still, Muslim American women persevere, having faith in God and faith in the future of the American Muslim society as it matures and grows.

Useful links mentioned in the articles:
Sisters in Islam – Home

Women Living Under Muslim Laws

WLUML: Publications –

Warning Signs of Fundamentalisms
Edited by Ayesha Imam, Jenny Morgan & Nira Yuval-Davis (Published: December 2004)

The papers relate to a variety of contexts and global issues: Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Gambia, India, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Palestine, Rwanda, South Africa, USA, Yugoslavia, Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender identities, multiculturalism, the Internet, as well as fundamentalisms in Catholic, Hindu and Jewish contexts.

Fundamentalist movements are political movements with religious, ethnic, and/or nationalist imperatives. They construct a single version of a collective identity as the only true, authentic and valid one, and use it to impose their power and authority. They usually claim to be the representatives of authentic tradition, and they speak against the corrupting influence of modernity and ‘the West’. However, fundamentalists are far from pre-modern. To promote their project, they use all modern technological means available, from the media to weaponry. Furthermore, the vision they conjure up is a constructed and selective vision, rather than a revival of something in the past. Since 2000 the popular appeal of fundamentalisms has been growing across the world and different communities.

Feminists have particular concerns when it comes to fundamentalist movements. Although many women take part in fundamentalist movements, overall fundamentalist politics tend to constitute a threat to women’s freedom and autonomy and often their lives. Gender relations in general, and women in particular, are often used to symbolize the collectivity, its ‘culture and tradition’, its boundaries and its future reproduction.

WSF: Preface (Jenny Morgan)
WSF: Introduction (Ayesha Imam and Nira Yuval-Davis)
WSF: The lesson from Iran: How the ‘warning signs of fundamentalism’ were ignored (Ziba Mir-Hosseini)
WSF: The rise of fundamentalism and the role of the ‘state’ in the specific political context of Palestine (Nahda Younis Shehada)
WSF: Attacks against lesbian, gay and bisexual people: Warning signs of fundamentalism? (Anisa de Jong)
WSF: Education in Afghanistan: A gendered ideological terrain (Niloufar Pourzand)
WSF: Jewish fundamentalisms and women (Nira Yuval-Davis)
WSF: America’s mission of saving the world from Satan: Christian fundamentalism in the USA (Elfriede Harth)
WSF: Catholic fundamentalism, right wing politics and the construction of womanhood: The case of Austria (Michaela R Told)
WSF: Two cheers for multiculturalism (Gita Sahgal)
WSF: Hindu fundamentalism in India: Ideology, strategies, and the experience of Gujarat (Chayanika Shah)
WSF: Islamisation and its impact on laws and the law making process in Malaysia (Zainah Anwar)
WSF: Fundamentalist groups and the Nigerian legal system: Some reflections (Sanusi Lamido Sanusi)
WSF: ‘Apostates’, Ahmadis and advocates: Use and abuse of offences against religion in Bangladesh (Sara Hossain)
WSF: The rise of the religious right in Bangladesh: Taslima Nasrin and the media (Tazeen Murshid)
WSF: The media and signs of fundamentalism: A case in the Gambia (Amie Bojang Sissoho)
WSF: Revelation and religion: Representations of gender and Islam (Gabeba Baderoon)
WSF: Women’s struggle against Muslim fundamentalism in Algeria: Strategies or a lesson for survival? (Louisa Ait-Hamou)
WSF: Fighting the political (ab)use of religion in Nigeria: BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, allies and others (Ayesha Imam)
WSF: The Model Parliament for family law reform: A signi?cant step towards linking women’s issues with national concerns (Nahda Younis Shehada)
WSF: Sisters in Islam: Advocacy for change within the religious framework (Nora Murat)
WSF: Secular women’s activism in contemporary Egypt (Nadje Al-Ali)
WSF: Religious fundamentalisms and repression of reproductive and sexual rights (Stasa Zajovic)
WSF: The far right and the religious right on the world wide web: Some snapshots and notes (Harsh Kapoor)
WSF: Biographies of conference participants and contributors

III International Congress on Islamic Feminism

Junta Islámica » ¿Quiénes somos?

ILDC – Women’s Involvement

MSA National – Home

Faculty Profile of Ingrid Mattson

Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Director of Islamic Chaplaincy Program, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Edina Lekovic: Communications Director – MPAC Staff & Board

As MPAC’s Communications Director, Edina acts as a spokeswoman for the American Muslim community to media outlets, government officials, interfaith leaders, academic institutions, and community groups.

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