In our world today, many Muslim women still don’t know that the concept of Muslim feminists exists. This is due to a lack of awareness or selfish interests from notable leaders who debunk the notion as being un-Islamic.
Since I turned 16, I often challenged the narrative of men-only and women-only activities. I never understood what it meant and why it was necessary, e.g., why it was an issue for a Muslim woman to be a speaker in an Islamic gathering. Before you oppose me, you will, at least, agree that the average Muslim man believes a Muslim woman should only be seen and not heard. This imbalance became of interest to me and led to my exploring feminism.
What is feminism?
the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.
Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes.
Basically, feminism means equality of all sexes. No man is a hunter and no woman a gatherer.
What is Muslim/Islamic feminism?
Like every movement that stems from personal struggles, the combination of Islam and feminism has been described as “a feminist discourse and practise articulated within an Islamic paradigm” by Margot Badran in 2002. Islamic feminists support their argument with Islamic teachings, highlighting the fact that the Quran and sunnah expect Muslim men and the general ummah (society) to treat their partners with respect, equality, fairness and justice.
This sounds basic and straightforward, right?
This is where it gets interesting. Due to whatever selfish gains of scholars and those in places of “authority”, the true definition of feminism has been misconstrued. Thus destroying the movement and the advocacy carried out by many women before our time.
Such people go about telling their followers that feminism is a term developed by the West to push “satanism or haram”. Apparently,
- It is haram for a woman to be treated fairly and equally
- It is haram for a woman to be seen and heard
- It is haram for a woman to carry out “tasks” because she’s fragile.
Muslim men tend to take the Quran and the teachings of the prophet (PBUH) in its literal form. Often forgetting that every event that was discussed in the Quran or the sunnah has a significant context to it. For example, when the conversation of women in leadership positions comes up, Muslim men are quick to refute the theory that women make the best leaders.
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other…” [al-Nisa’ 4:34]. It is also clearly indicated by the hadeeth of Abu Bakrah who said that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) heard that the Persians had appointed the daughter of Chosroes as their Queen, he said, “No people who appoint a woman as their leader will ever prosper.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 13/53).”
I am not saying these verses are not right; neither am I saying they are not “authentic”. My point is that most Muslim men have taken these conversations out of context.
The most prominent Muslim female leaders are:
- Former Prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto (served 1988-1990 and 1993-1996);
- Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri (became president 2001);
- Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller (served 1993-1995);
- Former Senegalese Prime Minister Mame Madior Boye (appointed 2001);
- Bangladeshi Prime Ministers Khaleda Zia (served 1991-1996 and 2001-2006) and Sheikh Hasina Wajed (served 1996-2001 and 2009-present);
- Former Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar (served 1997-2005);
- Former Malian Prime Minister Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé (served 2011-12);
- and current President of Singapore Halimah Yacob (elected in 2017).
These nations are prosperous in their own right and can argue fewer wars, as opposed to their male counterparts.
Another example is my very favourite – Ms Angela Merkel, who opened her borders to refugees from Northern African countries and citizens of Syria who were fleeing from the Syrian war (whom other MALE leaders turned away). Also, Ms Merkel has been German’s chancellor 5 times!
To conclude, the concept of Muslim feminism needs to be mainstream and accepted by Muslim women, and shouldn’t be seen as the enemy or an agenda by the “West”, but a necessary libration tool for us all.
*All posts on Noami’s Parlour are edited by Ife Agboola.