Islamic Traditions and the feminist movement - Confrontation or cooperation?

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society, Women Topics: Family, Feminism, Women Views: 16541

Whether living in the Middle East or Africa, in Central Asia, in Pakistan, in Southeast Asia, or in Europe and the Americas, Muslim women tend to view the feminist movement with some apprehension. Although there are some features of the feminist cause with which we as Muslims would wish to join hands, other features generate our disappointment and even opposition. There is therefore no simple or "pat" answer to the question of the future cooperation or competition which feminism may meet in an Islamic environment.

There are however a number of social, psychological, and economic traditions which govern the thinking of most Muslims and which are particularly affective of woman's status and role in Islamic society. Understanding these can help us understand the issues which affect male and female status and roles, and how we should react to movements which seek to improve the situation of women in any of the countries where Muslims live.

THE FAMILY SYSTEM: One of the Islamic traditions which will affect the way in which Muslim women respond to feminist ideas is the advocacy in Islamic culture of an extended rather than a nuclear family system. Some Muslim families are "residentially extended" - that is, their members live communally with three or more generations of relatives (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and their offspring) in a single building or compound. Even when this residential version of the extended family is not possible or adhered to, family connections reaching far beyond the nuclear unit are evident in strong psychological, social, economic, and even political ties. Mutual supports and responsibilities affecting these larger consanguine groups are not just considered desirable, but they are made legally incumbent on members of the society by Islamic law. The Holy Quran itself exhorts to extended family solidarity; in addition it specifies the extent of such responsibilities and contains prescriptive measures for inheritance, support, and other close interdependencies within the extended family.[1]

Our Islamic traditions also prescribe a much stronger participation of the family in the contracting and preservation of marriages. While most Western feminists would decry family participation or arranged marriage as a negative influence because of its apparent restriction of individualistic freedom and responsibility, as Muslims we would argue that such participation is advantageous for both individuals and groups within the society. Not only does it ensure marriages based on sounder principles than physical attraction and sexual infatuation, but it provides other safeguards for successful marital continuity. Members of the family provide diverse companionship as well as ready sources of advice and sympathy for the newly married as they adjust to each others' way. One party of the marriage cannot easily pursue an eccentric course at the expense of the spouse since such behavior would rally opposition from the larger group. Quarrels are never so devastating to the marriage bond since other adult family members act as mediators and provide alternative sources of companionship and counsel following disagreements. The problems of parenting and generational incompatibility are also alleviated, and singles clubs and dating bureaus would be unnecessary props for social interaction. There is no need in the extended family for children of working parents to be unguarded, unattended, or inadequately loved and socialized because the extended family home is never empty. There is therefore no feeling of guilt which the working parent often feels in a nuclear or single-parent organization. Tragedy, even divorce, is not so debilitating to either adults or children since the larger social unit absorbs the residual numbers with much greater ease than a nuclear family organization can ever provide.

The move away from the cohesiveness which the family formerly enjoyed in Western society, the rise of usually smaller alternative family styles, and the accompanying rise in individualism which many feminists advocate or at least practice, are at odds with these deep-rooted Islamic customs and traditions. If feminism in the Muslim world chooses to espouse the Western family models, it should and would certainly be strongly challenged by Muslim women's groups and by Islamic society as a whole.

INDIVIDUALISM VS. THE LARGER ORGANIZATION: The traditional support of the large and intricately interrelated family organization is correlative to another Islamic tradition which seems to run counter to recent Western trends and to feminist ideology. Islam and Muslim women generally advocate molding of individual goals and interests to accord with the welfare of the larger group and its members. Instead of holding the goals of the individual supreme, Islam instills in the adherent a sense of his or her place within the family and of a responsibility to that group. This is not perceived or experienced by Muslims as repression of the individual. Other traditions which will be discussed later guarantee his or her legal personality. Feminism, therefore, would not be espoused by Muslim women as a goal to be pursued without regard for the relation of the female to the other members of her family. The Muslim woman regards her goals as necessitating a balance with, or even subordination to, those of the family group. The rampant individualism often experienced in contemporary life, that which treats the goals of the individual in isolation from other factors, or as utterly supreme, runs against a deep Islamic commitment to social interdependence.

DIFFERENTIATION OF SEX ROLES: A third Islamic tradition which affects the future of any feminist movement in an Islamic environment is that it specifies a differentiation of male and female roles and responsibilities in society. Feminism, as represented in Western society, has generally denied any such differentiation and has demanded a move toward a unisex society in order to achieve equal rights for women. By "unisex society," I mean one in which a single set of roles and concerns are given preference and esteem by both sexes and are pursued by all members of the society regardless of sex and age differentials. In the case of Western feminism, the preferred goals have been those traditionally fulfilled by the male members of society. The roles of providing financial support, of success in career, and of decision making have been given overwhelming respect and concern while those dealing with domestic matters, with child care, with aesthetic and psychological refreshment, with social interrelationships, were devalued and even despised. Both men and women have been forced into a single mold which is perhaps more restrictive, rigid and coercive than that which formerly assigned men to one type of role and women to another.

This is a new brand of male chauvinism with which Islamic traditions cannot conform. Islam instead maintains that both types of roles are equally deserving of pursuit and respect and that when accompanied by the equity demanded by the religion, a division of labor along sex lines is generally beneficial to all members of the society.

This might be regarded by the feminist as opening the door to discrimination, but as Muslims we regard Islamic traditions as standing clearly and unequivocally for the support of male-female equity. In the Quran, no difference whatever is made between the sexes in relation to God. "For men who submit [to God] and for women who submit [to God], for believing men and believing women, for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for steadfast men and steadfast women, for humble men and humble women, for charitable men and charitable women, for men who fast and women who fast, for men who guard their chastity and women who guard, for men who remember God much and for women who remember - for them God has prepared forgiveness and a mighty reward" (33:35). "Whoever performs good deeds, whether male or female and is a believer, We shall surely make him live a good life and We will certainly reward them for the best of what they did" (16:97).[2]

It is only in relation to each other and society that a difference is made - a difference of role or function. The rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man, but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and identity are two different things, Islamic traditions maintain - the former desirable, the latter not. Men and women should therefore be complementary to each other in a multi-function organization rather than competitive with each other in a uni-function society.

The equality demanded by Islamic traditions must, however, be seen in its larger context if it is to be understood properly. Since Muslims regard a differentiation of sexual roles to be natural and desirable in the majority of cases, the economic responsibilities of male and female members differ to provide a balance for the physical differences between men and women and for the greater responsibility which women carry in the reproductive and rearing activities so necessary to the well-being of the society. To maintain, therefore, that the men of the family are responsible for providing economically for the women or that women are not equally responsible, is not a dislocation or denial of sexual equity. It is instead a duty to be fulfilled by men as compensation for another responsibility which involves the special ability of women. Likewise the different inheritance rates for males and females, which is so often sited as an example of discrimination against women, must not be seen as an isolated prescription.[3] It is but one part of a comprehensive system in which women carry no legal responsibility to support other members of the family, but in which men are bound by law as well as custom to provide for all their female relatives.

Does this mean that Islamic traditions necessarily prescribe maintaining the status quo in the Islamic societies that exist today? The answer is a definite "No." Many thinking Muslims - both men and women - would agree that their societies do not fulfill the Islamic ideals and traditions laid down in the Quran and reinforced by the example and directives of the Prophet Muhammad, salallahu alehi wasallam. It is reported in the Quran and from history that women not only expressed their opinions freely in the Prophet's presence but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet himself and with other Muslim leaders of the time (58:1). Muslim women are known to have even stood in opposition to certain caliphs, who later accepted the sound arguments of those women. A specific example took place during the caliphate of 'Umar ibn al Khattab.[4] The Quran reproached those who believed woman to be inferior to men (16:57-59) and repeatedly gives expression to the need for treating men and women with equity (2:228, 231; 4:19, and so on). Therefore, if Muslim women experience discrimination in any place or time, they do not and should not lay the blame on Islam, but on the un-Islamic nature of their societies and the failure of Muslims to fulfill its directives. More >>

SEPARATE LEGAL STATUS FOR WOMEN: A fourth Islamic tradition affecting the future of feminism in Muslim societies is the separate legal status for women which is demanded by the Quran and the Shari'ah. Every Muslim individual, whether male of female, retains a separate identity from cradle to grave. This separate legal personality prescribes for every woman the right to contract, to conduct business, to earn and possess property independently. Marriage has no effect on her legal status, her property, her earnings - or even on her name. If she commits any civil offense, her penalty is no less or no more than a man's in a similar case (5:83; 24:2). If she is wronged or harmed, she is entitled to compensation just like a man (4:92 - 93; see also Mustafa al Siba'i 1976:38; Darwazah n.d.:78). The feminist demand for separate legal status for women is therefore one that is equally espoused by Islamic traditions.

POLYGYNY: Although the taking of plural wives by a man is commonly called polygamy, the more correct sociological designation is polygyny. This institution is probably the Islamic tradition most misunderstood and vehemently condemned by non-Muslims. It is one which the Hollywood stereotypes "play upon" in their ridicule of Islamic society. The first image conjured up in the mind of the Westerner when the subject of Islam and marriage is approached is that of a religion which advocates the sexual indulgence of the male members of the society and the subjugation of its females through this institution.

Islamic tradition does indeed allow a man to marry more than one woman at a time. This leniency is even established by the Quran (4:3).[5] But the use and perception of that institution is far from the Hollywood stereotype. Polygyny is certainly not imposed by Islam; nor is it a universal practice. It is instead regarded as the exception to the norm of monogamy , and its exercise is strongly controlled by social pressures.[6] If utilized by Muslim men to facilitate or condone sexual promiscuity, it is not less Islamically condemnable than serial polygyny and adultery, and no less detrimental to the society. Muslims view polygyny as an institution which is to be called into use only under extraordinary circumstances. As such, it has not been generally regarded by Muslim women as a threat. Attempts by the feminist movement to focus on eradication of this institution in order to improve the status of women would therefore meet with little sympathy or support.


What can be learned about the future compatibility or incongruity of feminism in a Muslim environment from these facts about Islamic traditions? Are there any general principles to be gained, any directives to be taken, by those who work for women's rights and human rights in the world?

INTERCULTURAL INCOMPATIBILITY OF WESTERN FEMINISM: The first and foremost principle would seem to be that many of the goals of feminism as conceived in Western society are not necessarily relevant or exportable across cultural boundaries. Feminism as a Western movement originated in England during the 18th century and had as one of its main goals the eradication of legal disabilities imposed upon women by English common law. These laws were especially discriminatory of married women. They derived in part from Biblical sources (e.g., the idea of man and woman becoming "one flesh," and the attribution of an inferior and even evil nature to Eve and all her female descendants) and in part from feudal customs (e.g., the importance of carrying and supplying arms for battle and the concomitant devaluation of the female contributions to society). The Industrial Revolution and its need for women's contribution to the work force brought strength to the feminist movement and helped its advocates gradually break down most of those discriminatory laws.

Since the history and heritage of Muslim peoples have been radically different from that of Western Europe and America, the feminism which would appeal to Muslim women and to the society generally must be correspondingly different. Those legal rights which Western women sought in reform of English common law were already granted to Muslim women in the 7th century. Such a struggle therefore holds little interest for the Muslim woman. In addition, it would be useless to try to interest us in ideas or reforms that run in diametrical opposition to those traditions which form an important part of our cultural and religious heritage. There has been a good deal of opposition to any changes in Muslim personal status laws since these embody and reinforce the very traditions which we have been discussing. In other words, if feminism is to succeed in an Islamic environment, it must be an indigenous form of feminism, rather than one conceived and nurtured in an alien environment with different problems and different solutions and goals.

THE FORM OF AN ISLAMIC FEMINISM: If the goals of Western feminism are not viable for Muslim women, what form should a feminist movement take to ensure success?

Above all, the movement must recognize that, whereas in the West, the mainstream of the women's movement has viewed religion as one of the chief enemies of its progress and well-being, Muslim women view the teachings of Islam as their best friend and supporter. The prescriptions that are found in the Quran and in the example of the Prophet Muhammad, salallahu alehi wasallam, are regarded as the ideal to which contemporary women wish to return. As far as Muslim women are concerned, the source of any difficulties experienced today is not Islam and its traditions, but certain alien ideological intrusions on our societies, ignorance, and distortion of the true Islam, or exploitation by individuals within the society. It is a lack of an appreciation for this fact that caused such misunderstanding and mutual distress when women's movement representatives from the West visited Iran both before and after the Islamic Revolution.

Second, any feminism which is to succeed in an Islamic environment must be one which does not work chauvinistically for women's interest alone. Islamic traditions would dictate that women's progress be achieved in tandem with the wider struggle to benefit all members of the society. The good of the group or totality is always more crucial than the good of any one sector of the society. In fact, the society is seen as an organic whole in which the welfare of each member or organ is necessary for the health and well being of every other part. Disadvantageous circumstances of women therefore should always be countered in conjunction with attempt to alleviate those factors which adversely affect men and other segments of the society.

Third, Islam is an ideology which influences much more than the ritual life of a people. It is equally affective of their social, political, economic, psychological, and aesthetic life. "Din," which is usually regarded as an equivalent for the English term "religion," is a concept which includes, in addition to those ideas and practices customarily associated in our minds with religion, a wide spectrum of practices and ideas which affect almost every aspect of the daily life of the Muslim individual. Islam and Islamic traditions therefore are seen today by many Muslims as the main source of cohesiveness for nurturing an identity and stability to confront intruding alien influences and the cooperation needed to solve their numerous contemporary problems. To fail to note this fact, or to fail to be fully appreciative of its importance for the average Muslim - whether male or female - would be to commit any movement advocating improvement of women's position in Islamic lands to certain failure. It is only through establishing that identity and stability that self-respect can be achieved and a more healthy climate for both Muslim men and Muslim women will emerge.


[1]. For example, see Quran 2:177; 4:7,176; 8:41; 16:90; 17:26; 24:22.

[2]. See also Quran 2:195; 4:124,32; 9:71-72.

[3]. "God (thus) directs you as regards your children's (inheritance): to the male, a proportion equal to that of two females..." (Quran 4:11).

[4]. Kamal 'Awn 1955:129.

[5]. "... Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice."

[6]. It should be remembered that any woman who wants her marriage to remain monogamous can provide for this condition under Islamic law.


Kamal Ahmad 'Awn, Al Mar'ah fi al Islam (Tanta: Sha'raw Press, 1955)

Muhammad 'Izzat Darwazah, Al Dastur al Quran fi Shu'un al Hayat (Cairo: 'Isa al Babi al Halabi, n.d.).

Mustafa al Siba'i, Al Mar'ah baynal Fiqh wal Qanun (Aleppo: Al Maktabah al 'Arabiyyah, first pub. 1962).

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society, Women
  Topics: Family, Feminism, Women
Views: 16541

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
I am agree with the women should come out as they used to contribute their effort during the time of Mohammed (PBUH) to build the society. But at the same time I am strongly disagree with let a women leading Friday prayer with mixed sex people.



If my observation is correct this type of article generates one of the most heated responses. As for the subject of a feminist Muslim the ideal begin and ends at the feet of every Muslim Male. Sorry boys but much of Islamic culture and the actual practice based on the Koran are incompatible.

I have always stated- the feminist movement here in the West would have never come into fruition if the male-man had delivered more equality among all instead of silly junk-mail such as collecting, gathering and attempting to satisfying his own desire at the expense of females. Too much culture stands in the way of practicing Islam based totally and only on the Koran. The big delivery will come when we are able to evolve from the culture norms of the 14th century and live in a world of change based on the need for that period in time.

Nice article though. We need to keep talking, debating, contemplating, and praying until we learn to accept women as our equal based on the Koran.

Michael: It is unfair for you to single out Islam in the fashion that you have chosen. Why do you choose to say that the Prophet (pbuh) did not speak out against slavery; when, in fact, neither did the Christians. What is more, the Prophet was most magnanimous in his treatment of all beings, slaves included. Furthermore, and you may not know this, the US constitution itself draws much of its material from Islamic jurisprudence (did you know that the Kingdom of Morocco was the first nation to recognize the US as a soverign state?). Additionally, the Classical Islamic period which you so derisively refer to as "antiquated" (or whatever you said) was the very model of law, governance, fairness and justice. It provided such as for those who did not have it; it was remarkably progressive for its day. Indeed, many converted to Islam not at the point of the sword, but the point of the pen, for they read and knew the wisdom of the Quran, of Islam, of the Prophet (pbuh) and above all of Subhana Allah Wa Ta'ala. Insha Allah, you will see this for yourself some day. Mr. Hollified, I invite you as a rational human being to investigate Islam for yourself if you do not believe me.
Brother Abdur: Asalaamu Alaikum! I also live in Atlanta! My brother, I hope to see you at a masjid here sometime.

good stuff!!!
very intricately handled, and also point-blank.
There ware many aspects covered, it gets the message across that feminism in the present context is actually the other side of the "pendulum's swing", a reactionary force, with a mixed bag of justified, & miplaced emotions and passions. Secondly that it is mixed with many ideas that have never been tried out in the lab of the universe with any good results, some even with devastating consequences such as well travelled Qaum-e-Lut(gay) roadmap. There are some other new "experiments" which are eventually going to prove to be detrimental to society at large, and to women in particular & muslims can help all avert collision.
The very imporatant aspect of indivisualism and community is covered at the outset, but should have been covered in grater detail, perhaps by citing examples and figures, in modern society. this aspect can never be emphasised enough with reference to what the modern feminist as we know is developed, again it is the far side of the pendular course, and we as the Ummat-e-wastan (people of middle path) have to set the course right, just as when the course has to be repeatedly set out at sea or when navigating an aircraft either by computer or mannually, in response to changing circumstances. At the same time, carrying from that similie, we the umma need to on the one hand keep our source knowledge, and foundations sound and on the other hand, show dynamism, repeatedly setting course, with eyes peeled to both outside incoscious obstacles and changes, and malignant corrosive influences that may creep into our gauges and our guiding mechanisms. The uncorrugible sources of the Quran and then the sunnah are thus our GPS rather SGA, or Spiritual Guidance Apparatus. From that, sometimes the weather is really hazy, and we have to rely on our internal gyroscope, or our conscience, which brings me to the moral of story that we need to keen our minds that we may forecast and react sh

while i agree with the content of this article, i still believe that VERY LITTLE is actually done by muslims, especially muslim men, to give muslim women THEIR RIGHTS. polygamy in my country is largely practiced by muslim men who fancy a young wife when their first wives have grown old, and they marry again although the first wife has gone through much hardship in their early life together. islam frowns on this, but it happens. worse, the support that they must give equally to their families, are usually given only to the young wife, and the first wife has to beg, or demand, or get a court order to get her rights. this is also deeply against islam, and may these men be judged in the hereafter for it. however, these things happen, and NOT MUCH is done. often, the syariah court itself is biased in favour of these horrible men. you see the same pattern in india, pakistan, nigeria etc. in some places, the wife works to support the family while the husband does nothing. it is one thing to point out that Allah dislikes these injustices, but it is also important that this situation is reversed, and this needs the effort not just by the women but also by the men - these are your daughters, and mothers, when will you defend them?


Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
Ideally, a man as 'Qauwam' could have managed the balance which we all desired. But he has got to be a real muslim man who has understood the idealogy of Islam. Most of the exploitation of the women come from their own men. Some are far too liberal and some are too rigid, taking care of restricting the women by using Islam as an excuse and then not fulfilling the rights within the same limits. This results into suppression of women as humans and neglects them their human rights. Those who seem to accept the liberal western world don't see what disrespect their women are going through, taking all as the norm of the society.
What we need are men who give encouragement and support to their women as daughters, sisters and husbands. They have to prepare them to live in this very society with strong perceptions and courage to carry them selves in the society, institutions and respectable work places. A father who has trust in his daughter and gives her the right encouragement and guidance has achieved a great feat. Women are special in islam because they need to be given more care, inaddition to the long lists of don't do's they are only subjected to. "It is really the women who makes or mars this society".

M. Hollifield: First off you know nothing about me or my life experiences or how they shaped my belief in Islam. Second teen pregancy has been dropping, but still a whopping 85.6 girls out of 1000 age 15-19 become are becoming pregnant. And the age of the start of sexual activity is dropping. Third I do plan on leaving this country when I feel as though I have benefited myself and the Muslim community to the best of my ability. But it is not because I hate this country or its culture. Pointing out the faults of this country is simply a counter to all those who point fingers at Muslim countries in boastful pomposity. I was born and raised here and my observations are based on facts AND experiences. Why don't you go to SW Atlanta and see the conditions of those people. While I don't practice polygamy it is better than the infidelity which occurs here, estimated to occur in 1 out of every 2.7 marriages. Slavery still occurs everywhere, but the bonds now are often mental and/or social-economic.
Philosophy is a subjective soft-science. Rationalization is your crutch because if your feeble, finite mind can come up with a reasonable argument for something, you denounce it. You quote the positions of other limited human beings as if their opinion is sacred. Now I will issue you a challenge: Prove to me that there is no Allah or God. Prove to me that when I die that's it. Use whatever theory you want, quote as much text as you want, rationalize as much as you want. While admire you knowledge and your resolve to make people think, I detest your arrogance and denounce you disbelief. No useful dialogue will come from you and you are as useless to me as these crazed, delusional Muslims who make this beautiful religion look bad.
See you on the other side!

To Abdur Razzaq:

A collection of reactionary value judgments and unsubstantiated sociological assertions doesn't constitute much of a "counter" does it? And alleging bias in one person could hardly be used to justify the bias of another person or persons can it? That would only amount to two wrongs make a right, justifying nothing.

"Rationalization" means to provide the appearance of giving reasons for an action or belief, instead of actually giving them. If you meant by "rationalization," the use of reason, then I will happily plead guilty. Reason is hardly a crutch, but an epistemic tool as Aristotle first noted. Though religion, which is based in emotion and not reason, may sometimes be a crutch.

Why don't you provide some actual social scientific evidence for these exaggerated claims instead of merely asserting them? For example, teen pregnancy, as you would know if you bothered to read anything but the Koran and Islamicity, has dropped considerably in the last ten years.
And I find myself wondering why people such as yourself who hate Western culture and its values so much bother to remain in this country since you certainly will not succeed in overturning these values. (It is usually for the money that cannot be made in the economies of Islamic countries or the technical or scientific education that cannot be gotten there either.)

If the Prophet was so wise, and was the conduit through which God spoke, then why didn't he simply say "polygamy is wrong," full stop, instead of you can have four wives if you treat them equally. Why didn't he just state that slavery was wrong and should be abolished? Perhaps because Islam is the invention of a man who lived a long time ago and reflects the antiquated values of his time, place, and culture. Notice that we can recognize and have recognized the immorality of these practices by use of reason, and not some sacred text and hence abolished them here long ago. You will not succeed in bringing them b

M. Hollifield. I counter your claim that the people of this website are pre-biased by the Qur'an/ sunnah, with the fact that you are pre-biased by your synicism toward religion. If Islam is our crutch, rationalization is yours. I don't care about Philosophy, because it can be as fickle as the scripture you claim to be "undivine", and varies with time and place. This religion does not need my justification or anyone else's for that matter. Gender equality is nonexistent in the modern-day sense. Even in the US, females are not equal. Females are not paid equal accross the board, despite the fact that white females have benefitted more from affirmative action than anyone else. Women are used as sexual objectives in advertising, TV etc. whereas men are not used to nearly the same extent. The vanity of women is exploited economically far more than men. The cases of rape, teen pregnancy, in the West are astronomical as a result of the "freedom" women have. Our families are in shambles and our children are running wild without appropriate supervision and guidance. In addition, women suffer, in large numbers, from stress and depression as they attempt to balance work and family issues. This indicates to me that women are not equal to men - not to say that one is better than the other. Gender should not produce competition-Islamically it should promote cooperation as the roles of each have been clearly defined and perfected. By Allah, not by social-economic circumstances nor by tribal customs. Like the people on this website who hate, your presence is of no benefit if you do not seek to be of assitance to the Ummah of Muhammad in some shape, form or fashion. I do not care how educated you are, nor to I care for those who attack you foolishly. These posts should be for the desemination of knowledge and the betterment of Islam. May Allah love those who love him and guide those who do not.

To Salman:

The word "lying" in Enlgish means the intentional act of telling a falsehood(s). There is a difference, between disagreeing with an interpretation, or assessment and calling someone vicious names. So, I challenge you to identify a single straightforward falsehood in anything that I have posted here and demonstrate its falsity with clear evidence. "Verbose spin on clear realities" is about as awkward a sentence in English as one can construct, and I will match my verbal facilities against yours or anyone who posts or writes for this Website at any time. "Bias?" My comments are intended to counter the utterly pro-Islamic, anti-Western bias of everything that is presented on this Website.

What matters in rational discourse, if that is what you are interested in, is the giving of arguments and evidence. But sometimes one has the misfortune of encountering people who think that personal insult is a substitute for argument, that "telling people off" means that you have "won" an argument, or scored some point. Sometimes one encounters people that refuse to be reached by argument and their only ability is the ability to insult. People such as you and King that are possessed of such a distorted Worldview and invincible stupidity that they cannot be reached by argument. And that is a considered judgment and not just an insult.

Mr. Abdur Razzaq's response to my posts regarding the social and legal condition of women in the Middle East and its relation to Islam only added to my case. "Equality" has many meanings and applications but among te most central, in political liberalism, is equality before the law for all citizens irrespective of sex, class, religion, or race. (I thought it was obvious that I was speaking of this application of the concept of equality.) Unequal divisions of property, inequality in court testimony, divorce laws which discriminate against women and in favor of men, legal restrictions on travel confined to one sex, and polygamy, (especially if restricted to one sex) are all violations of this fundamental notion of equality. Mr. Razzaq defended these practices as deriving from the Koran, the life of Mohammed, and with some rather dubious arguments in support of their utility, such as the paternalistic "protection" of women in travel and the status of men as manager of household finances and other traditional gender role claims.

Non-Muslim men might be uncomfortable with the dress requirements of Muslim women, it depends on the person. But once again, the sexism is manifest in this claim, since it focuses on men's interests, and pays no regard to how women might feel about the practices of men they consider marrying, and how these practices might bear on their lives, and the lives of their future children. So, in they are simply proscribed from choosing whether to marry a man from another religion, or no religion, and men, on the other hand are allowed the choice. Once again, we see the incommensurability of Muslim values with those of political liberalism and the intrinsically chauvistic character of Muslim practices, openly argued for by someone who lives in the United States. The transparency of the sexism in Mr. Razzaq's response is simply too striking for words.

Firstly, we should identify what is 'feminist movement'.

Keeping in line with the discussion of feminism in Islam, why are we not establishing muslim women NGOs in non muslim countries. Why are we not discussing the protection of women and their children in non muslim countries. Today while I was watching a TV coverage about news in Russia my eyes froze on this picture in the background where I saw a muslim women in Russia wearing her hijab with her child sitting in a subway begging from passers by. What came into my mind immediately is that what are we doing for poor muslim women around the world. Why aren't we working with International NGOs who help poor women so that we can also target muslim mothers and their children who have an obligation on us to help them.

With the help of the technology available to us and Allah's help I am sure we can make changes for those needy women around the globe. The hadith below is an example on how we should help the needy around the globe and surely large percent of them are women.

Abu Hurairah reported that Allah's Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "On the Day of Judgment, Allah, the Exalted, will say: "O son of Adam! I asked you for food but you did not feed Me!" The son of Adam will say: "O Allah! How come You ask me for food even though You are the Lord of the worlds?" Allah said: "Did not My salve ask you for food and you refused to give it to him? Don't you know that if you had given him food, I would have rewarded you?" "O son of Adam! I asked you to give water to Me, but you did not give it to Me!" The son of Adam will say: "O Allah, How come You ask me for water even though You are the Lord of the Worlds?" Allah will say: "My slave asked you for water and you refused to give him. Don't you know that if you had given him water, i would have rewarded you?" [Note: Reported by Muslim in Al-Birr Wal Silah, (No.2569)]

This task is huge and men must reach out and work with women under the banner of humanity to help needy women and their children around the globe.

Rashad Al-Saddiq: You are right on point. May Allah bless you for your comments in this matter.
Jazaakallahu Khair

Muslim feminism would grow and have its role to play with International feminism. The author of this article has covered a lot of points. The shocking experience of the abuse of humanrights against muslim women in their own countries will also change Insha'Allah with time. The reason being we all are the product of our civilizations. Muslims will Insha'Allah regain their quest for knowledge. When we muslims ignored our civilizations and adopted other systems we experienced a collapse in how we treat our women. When knowledge and civilization which go hand in hand diminished it brought with it ignorance and systematic collapse of not only our women's rights but that of the whole society.

We should not also forget that for muslim women to exercise their rights the whole society needs to be educated. If you look at muslim nations since the beginning of this century there was a decline of knowledge due to external factors be it colonization or other external influences. Africa is one such continent that until now is suffering from that. That is where my roots are. I must say from devastations of wars due to the cold war we learnt that the best way to rebuild a nation is from its grass root level where women also have a key central role to play and basically say no to war.

Sisters will be always sisters as the saying goes in feminism but I think this sisterhood is one that brings humanity. For example mothers and grandmothers will always oppose war since they are the pillars of nation hood.

What will be important is how our brothers will help us reach our goals. My personal believe is no woman is free until she has education to a level that she can defend her rights. This means that girl education should play a key role in any society be it muslim or non muslim. Women are the pillars of a nation and when educated their children are educated hence the whole society. Knowledge is the cradle of civilization.

Feminism is not necessary in Islam. Under Shari'ah a man may marry People of the Book and women cannot because often times a man exerts more influence over his family than a women. In addition a non-Muslim man would be less comfortable with the obligations of a Muslim women in terms of dress, etc. Men receive twice the inheritance of women because men are commanded to spend on their families - even if the wife makes more money. The main focus of both men and women should be their family, but it is obligatory that men seek should the sustenance and provide while women do not have to. Therefore if a women does not have to work, and her family needs her to be home with children, etc. then maybe she shouldn't. However if she wants to and has an aptitude in whatever field, especially if she can benefit the society or other women, it is highly recommended that she work. Travel restrictions upon women in Islam are tough, especially in the West, but it is for their own protection. In the event something happens there should be someone with them to protect them. I do not think men and women are equal. Men surpass women in some things and women excel men in things. Mentally, men and women are 100% equal and we must use our strengths to progress Islam. A female workforce can be a staunch catalyst for development that must be utilized and it is a shame that many men oppress their wives and females family members. In the sunnah of the Prophet we see that he actually served his wives and treated them with emmense respect. If we praticed Islam the way it was meant, then we would have the correct balance with the roles being fulfilled and the society being progressive. May Allah return us to our deen and give us success - both male and female - in this life and the next.

The Islamity is a valuable site for the training and knowledge of new commers muslim, new born muslims also for those who are keen to learn more about islam. I really appriciate your efforts in this respecet but i find something very odd that You demands a minor membership fee for hearing Quran or somethings to learn islamic activities
Otherwise it will be understood that U are selling Quranic Verses to boom your shop thanks


eyah absolutely the only thing that is removing the feminist tradition is the world they see people with mini skirts and looks attractive to man and they want ot be attractive to man too forgetting that they would have done zinnah oh dear muslims be patient as the hadith says the world is a jail to the muumins and paradise to kafir

On the whole the article was pretty positive but both it and alot of the comments that have been made about it have highlighted the need to address alot of issues relating to women in Islam, especially in the Middle eastern countries. Of course I personally don't know the true extent of the situation in these countries, but judging by what I have seen some middle eastern countries allow their women to be very limited (to put it mildly!) just to promote male dominance in society. These women could contribute quite significantly to the working society of these countries and I think we all know that it is difficult to survive in most countries now with just one person working/providing for the family. But as one commentator noted, women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi, for example, so that rules them out of most jobs straight away. If muslims could come together and agree on a central, relatively mild form of Islam, instead of the harsh practices that they implement in an attempt to control people, especially the 'dangerous' female population, Islam could progress quite rapidly throughout the world as it is a perfect, very fair religion if only people would stop trying to use it as an excuse for their own badness, and treat people the way Islam really asks for them to be treated.

Religion evolves in a dynamic between interpretations of docrines and sacred texts, and the cultures which gave rise to those texts. Islam was generated out of a patriarchal culture, hence it is no surprise that its doctrines embody this, and its practices continue to reflect the chauvinist characer of the countries in which it is practiced. Whether it contains the internal resourcs to develop into a religion that cann accommodate feminism, even if only in the essential notion of equality between the sexes in all domains, remains to be seen. Christianity and Judaism in the West were reformed towards equality by external, i.e., secular intellectual and social movements. There is certainly room for improvement, but, as is the case in so many areas, substantially more progress has been made in the West than in countries remaining in the grip of Islam.

Let's look at some of the empirical evidence:

In Saudi Arabia the Shair'a court treats the testimony of one man as equal to the testimony of two women. Female participants in court proceedings, such as divorce and family law cases usually must deputize male relatives to speak on their behalf. While men may marry Christians and Jews, women are prohibited from such interfaith marriages. Daughters receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers. In the courts which treat them as unequal to men, women must show that they legally satisfy specified grounds for divorce, yet men may petition for divorce without cause. 49% of university graduates are women, yet women only hold 7% of the jobs and cannot even drive.

In Egypt women cannot travel without their husband's consent. In Kuwait married women must legally obtain permission from their husbands to apply for a passport and are subject to a 24-hour ban on travel if their husband requests it.

Do women have equal say with respect to the courts, or equal access to political power in Islamic countries? With few exceptions, no. And certainly not in the home of Islamic civilization.

In Nigeria we see the notorious sentences for adultery, the violent reaction to the holding of a beauty pageant, and the horrible practices of gential mutilation elsewhere in Africa.

In more "moderate" Islamic countries, courtship patterns, dress, free speech and movement, and occupational opportunity are all restricted with respect to women because of the archaic gender role teachings of Islam and the fear that Islamic men have of the expression of female sexuality.

Polygamy, merely a "Hollywood" stereotype? Hardly, it is sanctioned in the Koran and the Prophet himself had more than one wife. A bit inconvenient isn't it? (continued in the next post.)



Consider the following comments from a genuine scholar who now teaches at John Hopkins'
University regarding her life as a woman in Iran:

She returned to Iran in the late 1970's, just as the revolution was cresting, and by the time her
daughter was born several years later, ''the laws had regressed to what they had been before my
grandmother's time'': the age of marriage was lowered to 9, adultery and prostitution were to be
punished by stoning to death, and ''women, under law, were considered to have half the worth of
men.'' often after being warned, arrested or in some cases beaten and jailed -- that there were no
boundaries between the public and the private in the Islamic Republic of Iran: the government and
its morality police told people what they could read, what they could wear, how they should
behave. ''The colors of my head scarf or my father's tie were symbols of Western decadence and
imperialist tendencies,'' Ms. Nafisi writes.
''Not wearing a beard, shaking hands with members of the opposite sex, clapping or whistling in
public meetings were likewise considered Western and therefore decadent, part of the plot by
imperialists to bring down our culture.'' She adds that being accused of being Westernized in Iran in the 1980's could result in years in jail, even execution.

Review of
A Memoir in Books
By Azar Nafisi (N. Y. Times, 4/15/03)

This is a good program and website. Me and my friends get a lot of info off of it. Thanx

You speak of an ideal Islam. I have read many of the other excerpts in this list and although I am impressed at the objectivity with which your views are presented I have to say the real world is quite different. I certainly don't agree with your opinion that women in Islam have rights, men interpret and read what they want and consequently make their own rules. If women are equal in Islam then why does a man have to GRANT a woman a divorce, why does he get the kids, why does he have a choice to leave his wife whenever he pleases, or not support her if he thinks she was not a good wife. Why are women restricted in Islamic nations to not drive or walk where they please? Why can't women be the bread earners in the family? Why does a wife have to look after her husband and not vice-versa. Like I said I admire your view, but please come to the real world, things are quite different around here.


Nice article.

Unfortunately, there is no feminist movement within the Islamic ranks since our sisters are still living under pre-Islamic biases and rules.

Islamic society is VERY HYPROTICAL when it comes to this reality. We always argue that Islam is the ONLY RELIGION to define the role of the woman and give her specific protection and rights...which is VERY TRUE.

What is NEVER brought into the light is HOW OUR SISTERS ARE ACTUALLY TREATED.

Qur'an says that the Woman is the other half of the man....but visit any so-called "muslim" country and see how these opressors are treating our sisters.

Again, we are HYPROTICAL when it comes to what Islam says and what we actually practice and preach!

Of course, there are sisters out there who are blessed with husbands who treat them justly but that number is FAR TOO small.

The answer to Muslim problems are in Muslim hands.


i am wonderign if thsi comment is to Islamicity or the author or both. First i congratulate Dr. farouki for her ability to says so well in few pages . i have spent few years workign on my doctoral dissertation adreesing various issue in a muslim woman life context ,
this ncessiatated wide reading , yet this article said it so to the point and concise manner.
Finally i would like to establish an academic contact with the author via e-mail to discuss varoius issues , in other words i would be hnoured to connect with her deep insight and tap to her knowledge
allah alam and barakat to you

Speaking as a muslim woman who converted to Islam about 4 years ago, I found the article to be quite intelligently put together and fair. Having come from a 'Western' background, in a way I can see both sides of the story. I personally feel that feminism in the west was started to try to give women who had no rights practically at all, some say in society, especially when it came to themselves. I agree with that concept. I think however, that the movement became like a snowball and got slightly out of control and that is what we see today, something which appears to be as extreme as the ideas it is trying to fight against.

One thing I would say against the article was the section on polygyny, which I felt wasn't very well explained. Saying that having multiple wives is no worse than getting married and divorced several times is not a viable explanation for polygyny. This is one of the areas that I had a lot of difficulty accepting when I became a muslim and someone said to me that one possible reason for this verse being sent to us was that especially during that time there were lots of wars going on and alot of men were killed in action, and their wives were left with no husband, no money coming and children to feed. So, as there were less men and more women, it was allowed for men to take more than one wife at a time, if both parties agreed to it. Of course, we cannot attempt to second guess what Allah's plan was with regard to this, but that is one explanation that has helped me out when I am trying to explain Islam to my family and friends, because as you said that is an area where they like to attack Muslims, and I personally want people to see the beauty of Islam as I have seen.

One last thing before I conclude, is that it also says in the Quran that you cannot marry more than one woman if "ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal with them justly" and if people are really honest with themselves, then I think that these men will be very

I found this article to be quite informative. I applaud the wonderful insights into the Muslim religion you have provided. It was the main reason I came to your site -- wanting to have a better understanding of Islamic culture.

I really do believe that Muslim teachings have a lot to offer, and that Western culture could learn a lot. There is much to admire about Islam, particularly in what it offers for individual relationships.

However, there is still a great deal about the Islamic religion and Muslim culture I find baffling. For instance, the blurring of religion and government. I also have the impression that Muslim journalism has a long way to go to catch up to the journalistic standards of the West, although it seems the western media also is straying further and further from providing unbiased, accurate information (not in the way you think however).

For what its worth, I wish we could live together peacefully. It may seem paradoxical, but despite military conflicts my country has had with Iraq recently, I really have gained a greater appreciation for the Muslim culture. On the other hand, I have grown even more discouraged and skeptical about the political leadership that has arisen in the Islamic world. What we are learning in the aftermath of the war about Saddam and Islamic inspired terrorist groups is shocking. I don't think anyone comes to this conflict with clean hands.

although islam gave woman her rights centuries ago, but these right were largly confiscated by society. reasons for clasping feminism may be different between east and west but the goal was to fight for those rights taken away i think. muslim women may not completely agree with feminism but its a closer call to obtaining their rights.

Assalaamu alaikum
Jazakallah khair for this commentary. It bears great significance in our time. I have been concerned about this issue of Islamic feminism in that I see inherent danger in the prospect of Muslim women allowing themselves to be influenced by the secular feminist movement which in my view is the antithesis of an authentic Islamic approach to dealing with inequity. In fact, it is no surprise to me that these feminists are coming forward with efforts to exert influence with Muslim women in the aftermath of 911 and the diffusion of the Taliban governance when so much attention, both positive and negative, has been drawn on Muslims and the practice of Al Islam. Interestly, it should be noted that just as Muslim women are eyeing the feminist movement with suspicion, African American and other women of color have taken the same view leading one to the real conclusion that the feminist movement is not only a Western idea but is primarily a Euro/Caucasian, middle-class female phenomenon. My main concerns about the influence of the Western feminist movement is that it has the potential to create great fitna between the Muslim man and Woman and can lead to problems for the Muslim Family which must remain our major concern. If we study history, we will find that this country actively sought to put enmity between the male and female African American during slavery. It is for this reason that even today the Black woman is seen as the authority figure in the Black community. Moreover, this society actively sought to immasculate and dehumanize the Black man rendering him impotent with respect to leading his family and community. Allah knows best, but if we are not careful, the same strategy will be employed with us. As we witness discrimination against the Muslim Man while we see the Muslim woman being solicited for scholarship, leadership, friendship, etc we should be reminded of the history. Remember,"the believer male and female are friends of each othe

The women of Islam seem to be pleased with their religian, only outsiders seem to differ.

I think this article makes good points about how the Feminist movement is corrupt and Anti-Islamic, however I think he makes some mistakes by using the language of "Islamic Feminism" - As long as any organization of women seeks to try and accomplish things that are a reflection of Western societies they are going against Shariah and will fail. The important thing instead is to work on a full-scale rejection of Feminism and get the Western people out of Islamic countries - then to go about and develop laws that uphold SHARIAH - and nothing more. There is no place PERIOD for feminism in Islam - Islam is Islam and whatever we should do should reflect Islam not any off-shoot called "Islamic Feminism"... Case closed.

salam walaikum,

this article doesnt really make any sense. The author is only able to vaguely criticize the feminist movement without articulating what an islamic "feminist" movement should try and work for.
Does that mean that the author does not recognize the need for an islamic feminist movement ? The statement that women were granted their rights in the 7th century means nothing because muslim women still do not have those rights. It is a wonder that America can create a society where women have more actual rights than virtually every muslim society.
The author fails to address the retrograde views so prevalent amongst the ulema concerning the place of women in society. Forcing women to wear a burkha, not allowing them to drive, not allowing them to hold public office, not freeing them from honor killings, not allowing single women to travel freely without a mahrem. maybe these things should be addressed by an Islamic feminist movement.
The western feminist movement, by seeking to allow women a more prominent place in society, is ensuring men's rights.
The typical cliche of islam granting all rights to women in the 7th century is a hollow statement compared to the terrible suffering that millions of muslim women endure each day at the hands, not of western feminists, but of muslim men.
Let's have a sincere effort to look at all the opinions offered in our collected fatwa and see how the overwhelming number of male scholars' opinions were affected by cultural attitudes towards sex and gender.

For instance, why do some muslim scholars feel muslim womens voices are awrah and have to cover their faces but female slaves do not have to cover their chest, let alone their face. Why is there a difference in awrah when it comes to females? According the sexist views of many misinformed muslim men, women's beauty is a societal fitna. Yet scantily clad slave women were forced to submit to being raped by muslim men ?
No 1 wants to be a second clas


Excellent & Beautifully written...shows how we
can live in a non.challenging environment, with
firm ethics & strong but soft voices. Thank AllA U.

This is a great article and defines Islamic feminism in a positive way. Speaking from experience even in the Western context women are marginalised so this is not common to only muslim nations. Working as part of empowering communities through the use of ICT(Information, Communication Technology) I came across a lot of feminist websites where women expressed that empowering women be it western women or women in the third world countries it comes down to three points e.g. helping women learn basic literacy, domestic violence and teaching them how to earn a basic living so that they can live independently. Women from poor nations might suffer from all three. While in rich nations domestic violence might be the first one.

In an ideal Islamic society to be able to empower our women we need to work in partnership with other organisations, world leaders and individuals who are empowering women. A lot of muslim nations are lacking the resources and know how about muslim laws in treating women and it is our responsibility to reach out to them. We don't have online organisations and experts working to address these issues on a timely basis and in a coordinated way. Also it is very important t that men take a lion's share in tackling these issues. First one can start at home to make these changes. I hope with the help of Allah we can empower our women the pillars of society to lead mankind to the 21st century.

What a well-written excerpt! I have, for so long, had the suspicion that when mistreatment of women exists in societies which are primarily Muslim, that it is of cultural origin rather than a promulgation of Islam. How sad it is that the West mistakenly associates the persecution of women with the dictates of Islam, and although I am not Muslim, I do truly believe that Islam can flourish in the West, for its appeal is universal.

Islam did give women their rights and freedom long before any other society. How ever local traditions of the neo muslims all over the world userped those rights in favour of local customs snd some of those customs were allien to Islam. We neomuslims with held those rights either because those rights hurt our ego of our pockets.
For example we try all sorts of tricks to deprive them of their inharitance rights. To be honest we discriminate in favour of males. When it comes to preference we prefer males.In matrimoneal affairs our women suffer the most physically and financially.
We never listened or tried to help muslim women regain their respect granted to then by our Great Prophet(SAS) and Islam.In fact our selfishness has forced our women to seek help elsewere.In true sense we are guilty of forcing them into the present siyuation.
In the first instance we should our selves follow the Quran ans the Sunnah and help our women to gain the respect offered them by Islam. Let us first put our own house in order before blaming our wemen for looking for help in the west.

My Brothers and Sisters I am a supporter of this article and believe in its overall analysis of the feminist movement. Islam has much to be proud of. It was first to grant women equal rights under the law simply because Allah gave this law to us in the Koran. The time has come for us as Muslims to take a look at our way of life, where is it being led and has been led in these modern times and by whom. As the article properly states Islam is about the Ummah, the Islamic greater community. The faith has been delicately presrved by those that wish to see it serve the Ummah and those that unfortunately use it srve themselves and their vision of what they believe Allah wants. There is no need to look further than the words of the Holy Koran. Women are no where prohibited from participating nor contributing to modern society. Remember, we all were granted freedom of choice from our blessed God. He is the one and only judge yet he stillovides. Choice was God's gift to us. What we do with that gift is our gift to God. The time has come to move the world forward with the love for God that Islam has taught us. Beware of things that make themselves out to be Islam but in reality are man made in nature especially old customs (ie) tribal customs and other ethnic customs which were enhanced through Islam not the other way around.

If there is anything that a woman should ask for in so far as "Woman's Rights", it should be the right to where clothing, such as farming clothing for the farm, and nothing on the head, especially when doing heavy work, such as farming. I am a muslimiah, I try and do the right things according to the Quran, but, I can not work, doing heavy farming work in woman's clothing, I put my hair up, get it out of my face and where an old pair of man's work clothing for digging and planting my food. I think it is crazy to expect us woman who can do this type of work, to dress like a woman, in woman's clothing. I am a big, and strong woman who can do this type of work and I should be able to do the type of work that I am good at. At the same time, this type of work requires certain clothing. I am no longer married, my children are grown, and I definatly dress modest, but not feminine when I am doing men's work. I think that modesty should be the only requirement, because some of us woman must do heavy men's work, in fact, I am quite sure that all over the world many of us woman are faced with doing men's work in order to support ourselves. Because of this fact, we should be able to put on a pair of durable pants and shirts, and get our there in the proper clothing. Futhermore, we should not have to worry about what the Muslim man down the street thinks, especially if he is supporting his wife and she does not have to do what I have to do. Thank you.

Feminism is like racism, they both stink. Feminism leads to breakdown in marriages, racism leads to breakdown in society. They are both from arogance (shaytan) and not from worshipping Allah.

I found the article very interesting and well researched particularly on the foundations of the feminist movement in Britain. It is absolutely correct that the religious bodies (including the strict Protestants some of whom emigrated on the Mayflower to America in the early 1600's) had a huge impact on women's rights up until and even into Victorian times. Born in the UK but living in the Middle East now and with many Egyptian women friends, we all appreciate that dialogue and respect for one another's roots is how we can go forward and learn from one another, understanding each other in the fullest sense. Thank you for such an interesting piece - I look forward to reading more.

I am for it

The article is good. I just want to say that most kitaabs always refer to how women must behave and if she does not do this or that that she'll be cursed or the fragrance of Jannah will be haraam for her. When the wife is disobedient the husband must not share his bed and eventually must beat her lightly. But there is no where stated how a disobedient husband must be treated, what a wife must do or what happens to him. I know my deen and Creator is fair, but just for those who do right books to also remind men of their duties and the punishment for their wrong instead of just repremanding the female folk. I dont know whether it is because most books are written by men that they maybe just see it from that side. Anyway just a thought.

Jazakallah for your time.


This is a wonderful article and gives clear information about what Islamic feminism advocates and what it doesn't. Many people today see the horrible conditions imposed on women by the Taliban, and then believe that all Islamic nations treat the women as such. It is obvious that the condition for women in those countries is treacherous, but how can that condition be improved? This is what scares and hurts me, when people make generalizations about Islam based on the radial institutions imposed in Islamic countries.
To get back on topic, this is a wonderful article, and a follow-up could and should definitely be made. May I suggest the follow-up touch on the topics of the conditions of women in specific countries?

Salaam aleikum,
My concerns are only for the safety of women in Islam who are allowed to be beaten by they're husbands, are not allowed a basic or even college education, women who have been raped and then persecuted and condemed to death through no fault of they're own, while the man gets away with it through lack of witnesses.
I beleive that the ideal would be for a woman to stay home and care for the family if the man is able to work. However, if he is unable to work, without education the woman is then very limited in her choice of employment to support the family if she does not have support from other family members.
Thank you for listening to my concerns.
May Allah allways be with you,
Jan Browne

As a muslim woman struggling to understand the Quran and Sunna, I totally agree with you. Thank you for the article.

It is a balanced article overall, and gives a good basis for assessing feminism from an Islamic perspective. Thank you very much.

An excellent article! much needed for Feminists to understand the reason WHY we,Muslims, don't agree with their ideology.

In Islamic community men and women COMPLEMENT each other, where as in the Western/Feminist society men and women COMPETE each other. Any type of competition leads to distrust and lack of peace in the environment.

We Muslims accept the NATURAL order, on the other hand, feminists DEFY it. And we all know what happens when Nature is challenged :)

Once again thanks for posting this article.

Aisha :)


Assalaamu Alaikum,

I have not read your entire article so please forgive me if I speak too soon, but I came to this part and it struck me strongly:

"The goals of feminism as conceived in Western society are not necessarily relevant or exportable across cultural boundaries."

Excuse me, but I am WESTERN. I was BORN in the USA, I have ALWAYS been American and I believe in Prophet Mohammed (saws) and Allah(swt), and frankly, I see all the middle eastern hangups over clothing and traditional women's roles as really really anachronistic, like neanderthal throwbacks to some other time and place and I cannot relate to this.

This is a fair article.The western society was putting so much pressure on women in earlier time by misinterpreting christianity.The western countries came up with strange laws and put them in force to dominate women. For example a man was inheriting all the goods of his wife by just getting married to her in UK in earlier time. Many western women desired the islamic laws but Islam was only spreading in East during this time (except for Spain). Today, western socities moved from one extreme to another extreme in legislating laws for the socities. The western feministic movements are exceeding the limits sometimes and it is turning to a war between the genders. Neither christianity nor Islam injects any supremacy of gender when the verses are commented in the right way without distorting the meanings.However, today western women are attacking islamic rules and exceeding the limits and trying to inject these unislamic rules to the islamic women as well. For example they want to free islamic women from turban.Turban is mentioned in bible and other monotheist religions as well(Corinthians 11:5. When a sister or nun covers her body and hair she is seen as a holy character but when a muslim woman does that they think she is doing it under pressure.Head covering was being done by western society as well but these feministic movements changed the system but they did not consider christianity while they are changing their systems. Islamic women need to understand that today's feministic movement in western is full of doubtfull ideas for Islamic women.They should always search if it contrevenes with Qur'an. Every law is changing in western society to protect the illegal. In UK, you can not do anything to a thief when he breaks in to your place(because thief has his rights and let him stab you.). Christianity has lost it's effect in western civilization and these new feministic movements are not even christianity based approches. May Allah guide all of us!

I would like to know what do you mean by Islamic traditions.
thank you

asalamu aleikum. this is for sister shirley thomas.alhamdulillah for ALLAH has truely guided us all to alislam.i agree with the writer as muslim women (&men)we all have our roles to play.this is the beuty of islam it doesn not ommit a single thing, here is where i agree with sister shirley as well that if the quran is followed properly by all perties non should fear and i pray you get the rightly guided husband who will complete your deen.people tend to see or feel what is advantagous to them and i can see how this can become a problem to the woman but we as muslim women also have our rights ALHAMDULILLAH!and we should never feel unloved by ALLAH for HE will judge both men and women according to their deeds and not their gender.

I appreciate the points raised by the Dr. I found myslef in agreement with the flow of the article and thank the Dr for the effort.
I respectfully request a recommendation or suggestion about how to move forward, how to progress or what steps to take to bring about a version of Islamic "feminism" that improves the awful conditions of Muslim women living in the world today.
I'm married to a feminist and find that the article addresses a lot of the issues that she and I often discuss amongst ourselves as a team trying to reach better understanding and more depth in our relationship.
Did the Dr do any other works. I would be interested to read them given the insight shown in this article.
May Allah swt reward the Dr and other Muslim thinkers to make an effort to reconcile the differences that some Muslims feel are present between Islam and the world we live in today. JAK

where do I begin? There is a lot of ground covered her in this article.I will say as an american woman that has newly become muslim and still learning all the ways here,i have had freedom in my marriage and in my society to be who i am all my life and it was important to me, In regard to "is it always the best thing to have absoloute equality with men in all things?", i will say this:many times the equality given to women is then abused here in america, and now in the last 20 years or so,many wives mothers are now expected to work as many hours as their husbands and all, ive been lucky,had the choice and choose to be home for the biggest part of all these years to raise my children, i can see in socitey where that is a good thing for the children. i also believe many women that wanted to work and be equal so much, now wish they had the opportunity to stay home and be mothers and wives. This doesnt mean to say that im against a woman learning and being the best they can be, lets just be very careful that ,then, it isnt abused by us. likewise because we are in submission to our husbands , i think we should be treated fairly by them always,id only hope to Allah that if a husband was chosen for me, that he would follow the true compassionate ways of Qur'an where the marriage is mentioned, because if not, i could see where,then the system could be against a woman, if a man wanted to be cruel, thanks, i do realize my opinion wont be the same as all peoples,but im only one voice, do we have any other differing opinions? i d like to hear some agreement with me here ,Ha Ha or whatever viewpoints ,if presented in the correct manner id like to hear, thanks again