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Islamic Studies Women in Islam
by
Marcia Hermansen, Barbara von Schlegell

Introduction

The study of women in Islam has expanded rapidly in recent decades. Reviewing normative Islamic injunctions about gender roles often provides a framework for situating specific and particular practices within diverse regions and societies and at differing historical epochs. At the same time, increased academic attention has focused on what can be known about actual Muslim women. New texture and complexity in the field has been achieved, for example, in the case of historical studies through the examination of documents such as court records. In anthropological, sociological, and development-oriented studies, scholarship on gender increasingly exhibits greater cultural knowledge and lived field work experience on the part of researchers, many of whom are themselves Muslim women. During the colonial period, the depiction of Muslim women as confined and oppressed was used to support an imperialistic project of changing and controlling Muslim cultures. The persistence of such attitudes and rationales has subsequently been critiqued by a number of scholars. In addition, certain works on women and gender in Islam may reflect apologetic or reformist trends within contemporary Islamic thought, or analyze these trends from an academic perspective. The development of Western feminist activism inspired similar approaches and methods among Muslims. Theorizing gender as culturally constructed has also led to studies of many elements of Muslim contexts including masculinities, queer theory, and other dimensions of sex roles as represented and enacted in Islamic thought and societies. Postmodern and postcolonial theories have similarly generated critiques of how Muslim women have been represented in both popular and academic settings and have attempted to expose the power relations and ideological agendas driving and sustaining such constructions.

General Overviews

Despite the complexity and diversity of Muslim women’s situations and issues, a number of studies attempt an overview of normative pronouncements about and the historical contexts of Muslim women. The multivolume Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures features articles on many specific topics and regions. The historical overview of Ahmed 1992, while focusing on the Arab lands, is still the best introduction to the topic. Schimmel 1997 provides a basic overview of female spirituality, including a summary of female participation in classical Sufism.

  • Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

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    The classic study that situates Muslim women’s history within a broader Near Eastern context. Ahmed argues against the normativity of practices such as seclusion and veiling and brings out the role of Western prejudices in the portrayal and treatment of Muslim women in colonial and current times. The focus is on the Arab world, especially Egypt.

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  • Bodman, Herbert, and Nayereh Tohidi, eds. Women in Muslim Societies: Diversity within Unity. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998.

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    A collection of articles on contemporary topics organized by region and country.

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  • Falah, Ghazi-Wali, and Caroline Nagel, eds. Geographies of Muslim Women: Gender, Religion, and Space. New York: Guilford, 2005.

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    A collection of articles on contemporary Muslim women from the perspective of cultural geography. Changes in experiences of “space and place” due to development and migration are highlighted rather than elements of religious discourse.

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  • Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock, and Basima Qattan Bezirgan, eds. Middle Eastern Muslim Women Speak. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977.

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    A groundbreaking collection of articles, translated sources, and vignettes.

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  • Suad, Joseph, Afsaneh Najmabadi, and Jane Smith, eds. Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. 6 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2003–2007.

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    A six-volume set, also in an e-version, featuring scholarly articles and resources dealing in great detail with themes, regions, and methodologies in the study of Muslim women in all times and contexts.

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  • Nashat, Guity, and Judith E. Tucker. Women in the Middle East and North Africa: Restoring Women to History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

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    As part of the series Restoring Women to History, this volume is a useful resource guide for teachers and provides an overview of research from the perspective of historians of women in the Muslim world. Covers the ancient world to the 17th century with a focus on the interactions of Islam with local cultures.

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  • Roded, Ruth, ed. Women in Islam and the Middle East: A Reader. London: I. B. Tauris, 1999.

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    Translated selections and excerpts from seminal sources. A useful teaching tool.

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  • Schimmel, Annemarie. My Soul Is a Woman: The Feminine in Islam. Translated by Susan H. Ray. New York: Continuum, 1997.

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    A scholar of religion and literature traces representations of the feminine in Islamic texts and poetry from a wide variety of regions and epochs.

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  • Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary, ed. Beyond the Exotic: Women’s Histories in Islamic Societies. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

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    A collection of articles organized around women’s history as documented in various sorts of records (Qur’an, Awqaf documents, archives, textbooks) as well as examples from material and popular culture.

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Bibliographies

The study of women and gender issues in Islam is a vast and rapidly increasing area of research interest. Although a few bibliographies have attempted comprehensive overviews, increasingly one finds regional and topically specialized lists of works. The most comprehensive bibliographies are Roper, et al. 2003, Offenhauer 2005, and Kimball and von Schlegell 1997, with the latter having the benefit of more annotation. Aftab 2008 is especially valuable for the study of South Asian Muslim women, while Haddad 2005 focuses on Muslim women living in the West.

The Normative Sacred Texts of Islam (Qur’an and Hadith)

The authoritative religious texts, the Qur’an and hadith, provide a basis for the rulings of Islamic law and other elements that establish normative and legal aspects of women’s social and ritual lives. Most recently Qur’anic feminists have sought to reinterpret previous androcentric rulings and perspectives derived from these sources. Wadud 1999 and Barlas 2002 provide the most influential Muslim feminist engagements with the Qur’an. Stowasser 1994 presents the biographies of early Muslim women as paradigmatic as well as analyzing the female figures in the Qur’an. Mernissi 1991 addresses misogynistic interpretations of women’s status and roles in the historical religious tradition.

Apologetic Treatments

The debate about the status of women in Islam is often responded to defensively by colonial and postcolonial Muslims, who react to many varieties of criticism of Islam. However, the subject that generates the largest volume of defensive writing is “the role of women in Islam.” The noted Islamist Abul A’la Mawdudi and his follower, American convert Maryam Jameelah, take an offensive stance—contending that women in the secular West are more exploited and oppressed than women in the Muslim world. Apologetic works, if they acknowledge any problems with the status of women in traditionally Muslim societies, may argue for a return to accurate interpretations of the Islamic sources as the solution. Thus Jawad 1998, while acknowledging problems with the status of women in traditionally Muslim cultures, argues that an accurate interpretation of the Islamic sources is the solution to these problems. Metcalf 1990, a translation of Thanawi’s classic work for Muslim females, Bihishti Zewar, provides an example from colonial India of both textually based and practical rules for being a proper Muslim woman. More recent Muslim apologist views such as Badawi 1995 and T. J. Winter’s “Boys Will Be Boys” take the position that secular feminist ideas of “equality” are unnatural since “gender complementarity” is part of the divine plan and cosmic order.

  • Afzal-ur-Rahman. Role of Muslim Woman in Society. London: Seerah Foundation, 1986.

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    A highly apologetic and woman-unfriendly reading of the tradition.

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  • Badawi, Jamal A.Gender Equity in Islam. Plainfield, IN: American Trust Publications, 1995.

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    A basic and influential apology for Islamic “equity” in areas of public participation, roles, dress, and family life by a popular spokesperson for the American Muslim community. Advances the theory that gender “complementarity” rather than equality of the sexes is natural. Available online.

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  • Jameelah, Maryam. Islam and the Muslim Woman Today: The Muslim Woman and Her Role in Society, Duties of the Muslim Mother. Lahore, Pakistan: Mohammad Yusuf Khan, 1976.

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    Apologetic tract from a female Western convert to Islam and follower of Maududi.

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  • Jawad, Haifaa A. The Rights of Women in Islam: An Authentic Approach. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1998.

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    Drawing mainly on conservative Muslim interpretations, this book argues for the high status of women in Islam if the sources of the tradition are interpreted accurately.

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  • Maududi, Syed Abul A’la. Purdah and the Status of Woman in Islam. Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications, 1972.

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    A conservative classic by the founder of the Jama’at-i Islami written in the 1930s, and hence somewhat dated, that argues for the merits and rationales of gender segregation (purdah).

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  • Thanawi, Ashraf Ali and Barbara Daly Metcalf, trans. Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi’s Bihishti Zewar. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

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    An annotated and contextualized translation of major portions of an influential early-20th-century work by a conservative South Asian Muslim male scholar.

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  • Winter, T. J. (Abd al-Hakim Murad). “Boys Will Be Boys.”

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    An argument by a contemporary British Muslim scholar and public intellectual for the scientific (largely biological) proofs of gender distinctiveness and hence the inherent wisdom of Sharia in legislating gender asymmetry in social and religious practice.

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Muslim Women and Islamic Law

This section contains some works that inform the reader about the classical schools of law (madhahib) and their rulings on women in diverse situations, especially marriage, divorce, witnessing in court, illicit sexuality, and personal status. Islamic law (Sharia) covers daily life and worship; punitive measures form a relatively small proportion of it. The process of reaching a legal decision (fiqh) allows for great flexibility in the legal schools’ rulings on matters of importance for women such as child custody. In addition to descriptive studies, some items in this section challenge existing legal stances and advocate reform. Doi 1990 is at the most traditional end of the spectrum. Doi argues that the Sharia as it stands protects and promotes women’s best interests. In contrast, Ali 2006 addresses some of the most contentious rulings in classical law concerning women from a Muslim feminist perspective. A good introduction to basic classical and contemporary law and women, Esposito and DeLong-Bas 2001 is perhaps the most accessible book on the subject for undergraduates. Two works, one medieval Sunni (al-Ghazali 1984) and one on Shi’i “temporary marriage” (Haeri 1989) show the ways in which, within the boundaries of marriage contracts, Islamic law promotes sexual fulfillment for women. A valuable historical study, Peirce 2003, gives life to women’s experiences with Islamic courts in the premodern era. In addition to a thorough investigation of the Qur’anic verse (2:282) that equates two women’s testimonies in court with one man’s, Fadel 1997 provides material about women who were active in the legal profession. The “two women equals one man” rule is also contested by Sachedina’s “Woman Half-the-Man? Crisis of Male Epistemology in Islamic Jurisprudence.” Abou El Fadl 2001 provides an authoritative backdrop to the author’s progressive views on women’s rights and criticisms of literalist interpretations of the Qur’an and hadith.

  • Abou El Fadl, Khaled. Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. Oxford: Oneworld, 2001.

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    A sophisticated argument by a contemporary Muslim legal scholar about the construct of legal authority, its crystallization in authoritarianism, and the detrimental effects on Muslim women of taking certain misogynistic hadith at face value.

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  • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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    Chapters treat the classical and modern dimensions of central and controversial issues of sexual ethics in Islam, including constructions of marriage, divorce, concubinage, illicit sexual relations, same-sex unions, female circumcision, and others. A good starting point for university-level classes on women and gender in Islam.

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  • Doi, ’Abdur Rahman I. Women in Shari’ah. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A. S. Noordeen, 1990.

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    A book popular with conservative Muslims who agree with the author’s positive assessment of the “freedom through obedience” view of women’s roles, which comes from a strictly literal interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

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  • Esposito, John L., and Natana J. Delong-Bas. Women in Muslim Family Law. 2d ed. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001.

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    In addition to reviewing the ideal Sunni view of Sharia on general issues such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance for women, the authors highlight contemporary laws in Egypt and Pakistan. This new edition also points to ways family law might be reformed.

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  • al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Marriage and Sexuality in Islam: A Translation of al-Ghazali’s Book on the Etiquette of Marriage from the Ihya’. Translated by Madelain Farah. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1984.

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    The great legist/Sufi scholar of the 11–12th century expounds on legalities and manners of relations between men and women.

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  • Fadel, Mohammad. “Two Women, One Man: Knowledge, Power and Gender in Medieval Sunni Legal Thought.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 29.2 (1997): 185–204.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020743800064461Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An article examining medieval jurists’ interpretations of Q 2:282, the verse requiring the testimony of two women as equal to that of one male. Looks for contexts in the law where women’s authority was acknowledged and argues for complexity in the past and by extension present applications of this verse.

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  • Haeri, Shahla. Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage in Shi’i Iran. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1989.

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    Situates the practice of mut’a in Shi’a legal theory and discusses cases in contemporary Iran from an anthropological perspective.

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  • Peirce, Leslie. Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab. Berkeley: University of California, 2003.

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    A study of gender and legal culture in a provincial city located in northern Syria (today a part of Turkey). This book uses court records, one of the few avenues to recover women’s voices of this period, and deals with issues of justice, negotiation, and coercion, as well as center periphery relations.

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  • Sachedina, Abdulaziz. “Woman Half-the-Man? Crisis of Male Epistemology in Islamic Jurisprudence.”

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    A liberal Shi’a scholar based in the United States challenges patriarchal readings of Islamic law that weigh a woman’s testimony as worth half that of a man.

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Female Sufis

As in other areas of women and gender studies, scholarly attempts to recover classical voices of Sufi women and to document and analyze their ongoing participation are expanding. Because of Sufism’s popular appeal and incorporation of local traditions and practices such as shrine visitation, scope for female participation and, in some cases, religious leadership, is enhanced. Smith 2001 is the classical study of the most famous early female Sufi, Rabi’a of Basra. R. Cornell’s translation (Sulami 1999) of Sulami’s early biographical work on female Sufis demonstrates qualities such as asceticism that defined female sanctity. Murata 1992 investigates the ideal Islamic “feminine” as part of philosophical complementarity presented in classical Sufi works. Abbas 2002, Fleuckiger 2006, Hutson 2004, and Raudvere 2002 study female participation in Sufism from contemporary and anthropological perspectives in diverse contemporary regional contexts.

Islamic History to 1800

Because historians and authors of biographical dictionaries—our main sources for the lives of prominent Muslims in the premodern period—were men, it has been assumed that restoring women to Islamic history would be a nearly impossible task. Because of the quantitative study of Roded 1994, however, we find that in some cases, nearly one-fourth of the entries memorialized women. Selections from this work are well suited to undergraduate courses. Keddie and Baron 1991 is an excellent volume for teaching, both from the standpoint of content and the authors’ analyses of how Muslim women have been portrayed in academic studies. Meriwether and Tucker 1999 and Keddie 2006 also explore the views of Muslim women in theoretical, especially feminist, studies. Content-based histories (Spellberg 1994, Peirce 1993, Roded 1994, Keddie and Baron 1991) are useful for learning about women in particular time periods. Mernissi 1993 proves that Muslim women have ruled as heads of state throughout history. A useful reader for students is Hambly 1998 because of its historical breadth.

  • Hambly, Gavin R. G., ed. Women in the Medieval Islamic World: Power, Patronage, and Piety. New Middle Ages 6. New York: St. Martin’s, 1998.

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    Variety of source materials in translation and scholarly perspectives useful for learning about medieval Muslim women’s lives.

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  • Keddie, Nikki R. Women in the Middle East: Past and Present. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

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    Many layers of history and historiography by the trailblazer Keddie. In addition to a narrative history of Middle Eastern women, the author critiques the field of Middle Eastern women’s history.

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  • Keddie, Nikki R., and Beth Baron, eds. Women in Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

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    The first half of this collection of articles deals with early and medieval Islam, including women as property holders, educators, and targets of criticism for participating in public religious life.

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  • Meriwether, Margaret L., and Judith E. Tucker. “The State of Historical Studies of Middle Eastern Women.” In A Social History of Women and Gender in the Modern Middle East. Edited by Margaret Meriwether and Judith Tucker, 3–8. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999.

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    Helpful chapter on the development and current state of writing about women in Islamic history.

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  • Mernissi, Fatima. The Forgotten Queens of Islam. Translated by Mary Jo Lakeland. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

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    Discovers and reports the history of multiple female rulers in the premodern Islamic world.

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  • Peirce, Leslie P. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    Explores the relative autonomy and power struggles that shaped public life as located in the sultanic harem.

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  • Roded, Ruth. Women in Islamic Biographical Collections: From Ibn Sa’d to “Who’s Who.” Boulder, CO, and London: Lynne Reinner, 1994.

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    Surprising numbers of prominent women scholars and Sufis from the time of the Prophet to the modern era as drawn from over forty primary sources. Demonstrates a dramatic decline in attention to female biographies over time.

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  • Spellberg, Denise A. Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of ‘A‘isha Bint Abi Bakr. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

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    A study of the reception of the figure of ‘A‘isha in various strands of Islamic tradition.

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  • Zilfi, Madelein C., ed. Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Era. The Ottoman Empire and Its Heritage 10. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1997.

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    Because they are based on the extensive documentation system of the Ottomans, the detailed chapters treating women’s experiences in the premodern era make this edited volume unique in the field of Middle Eastern women’s studies.

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Muslim Women Under Colonial Rule

The role of gender in the imperial project and the position of Muslim women under colonial rule have been treated in a number of studies, especially with the rise of postcolonial criticism. The participation of women in anticolonial struggles is also relevant to this topic. In terms of specific regions, Burton 1994 focuses on British India, Melman 1992 on the Arab world, and Clancy-Smith and Gouda 1998 is the best source for comparing French and Dutch colonialisms’ impact on women.

  • Burton, Antoinette. Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women and Imperial Culture, 1865–1915. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

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    How British feminists of the period perpetuated imperial views of Indian women in order to argue for their own emancipation.

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  • Clancy-Smith, Julia A., and Frances Gouda, eds. Domesticating the Empire: Race, Gender, and Family Life in French and Dutch Colonialism. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998.

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    Essays focusing on French and Dutch colonialism with a view to illustrating the complexity of women’s roles and participation.

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  • Melman, Billie. Women’s Orients: English Women and the Middle East, 1718–1918—Sexuality, Religion, and Work. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1992.

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    Argues, based on these women’s narratives, that Orientalism needs to be considered in more complex and gendered ways and that English women’s views of the period may demonstrate a self-critical and nuanced representation of Eastern Muslim women.

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Modern History

Many positions in the study of contemporary Muslim women are contested. For example, one approach to the large numbers of women participating in Islamist or conservative movements seeks to understand how females could find such ostensibly patriarchal identification meaningful and in some sense empowering. In post-revolutionary Iran, especially, engaged scholars are divided as to how to interpret the effects of the Islamic revolution on Iranian women. Some see the effect as almost completely negative and oppressive; others find a creative reinterpretation occurring among scholars of Islam, since gender cannot be ignored in a modern nation-state where women participate in elections. In other areas of the traditional Muslim world, the intersection of women’s issues with nationalist, liberal, socialist, and other sorts of ideological and political discourses is studied, which is engendering diverse conclusions.

Early Feminism

Within Muslim societies, both women themselves and sympathetic male supporters began to call for greater autonomy for women in the late 19th century. Two early feminist works are Hossain 1988 from South Asia and Amin 2000, which is the pioneering work in this genre in the Arab world. Writings of early Egyptian activist Hoda al-Shaarawi are translated by Badran (al-Shaarawi 1987). The best source for early Egyptian feminism is Badran 1995.

  • Amin, Qasim. The Liberation of Women and The New Woman: Two Documents in the History of Egyptian Feminism. Cairo, Egypt: American University in Cairo Press, 2000.

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    The early classic (1899) by a sympathetic male.

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  • Badran, Margot. Feminists, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

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    A study of the Egyptian feminist movement in the first half of the 20th century by a feminist historian that demonstrates how this movement advanced the cause of both women and the nation while working within the parameters of Islam.

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  • Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat. Sultana’s Dream and Selections from “The Secluded Ones.” Translated by Roshan Jawan. New York: Feminist Press, 1988.

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    Translation of an early (1905) feminist work of utopian fantasy by an Indian Muslim woman.

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  • al-Shaarawi, Huda. Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist (1879–1924). Translated and edited by Margot Badran. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1987.

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    A translation of the memoirs of an important early Egyptian woman activist. Al-Shaarawi recalls her childhood and early adult life in the seclusion of an upper-class Egyptian household, followed by involvement in Egypt’s nationalist struggle and subsequent feminist activism.

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Writings by Muslim Feminists

El Saadawi 1982 and Mernissi 1991 are the most well-known advocates for feminism, activist and theoretical, from the Arab world. Riffat Hassan, a Pakistani American professor, is one of the most prominent female Muslims writing in a theological mode and addressing the normative religious sources. Hassan 1999 summarizes her approach. Badran and Cooke 1990 is the best source for an overview of Arab feminist writings.

  • Badran, Margot, and Mariam Cooke, eds. Opening the Gates: A Century of Arab Feminist Writing. 2d ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

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    An important anthology of Arab feminist writings from the 1860s to the present.

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  • Hassan, Riffat. “Feminism in Islam.” In Feminism in World Religion. Edited by Arvind Sharma and Katherine K. Young, 248–278. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

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    An overview, now somewhat dated.

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  • Mernissi, Fatima. Women and Islam: An Historical and Theological Enquiry. Translated by Mary Jo Lakeland. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

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    Fatima Mernissi, Moroccan feminist, is also an important representative of second-wave feminist thought in the Muslim world. Following earlier sociological critiques of practices in her society, Mernissi became more engaged in historical rereadings of Islamic history and religious sources from a feminist perspective in her later works.

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  • el Saadawi, Nawal. The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World. Boston: Beacon, 1982.

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    A groundbreaking work by el Saadawi, a novelist, feminist, and medical doctor. El Saadawi’s novels and books are often used in women’s studies courses to represent the Muslim world and women’s issues. She is more critical of “Arab” and patriarchal practices and does not mount a theoretical critique of normative religious discourses in their own terms.

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Scholarly Examinations of Muslim Feminist Thought or Movements

The scope and theory of feminism have developed from what are termed “first-wave” or early feminist concerns such as female suffrage and basic rights, to a “second-wave” theoretical critique of patriarchy as embedded not only in social institutions but in the very ordering and construction of categories of knowledge. “Two-thirds” of world women and other women of color further criticized the overwhelmingly white and privileged nature of previous feminist agendas resulting in “cultural” or “third-wave” feminism that recognized the distinctive concerns of non-Western, nonprivileged females. Theoretical and theological writings by women of color hence generate their own “womanist” or mujerista approaches to religion and culture. As part of this third wave, the category of Islamic (as opposed to primarily secular) “Arab” or other feminisms emerged in the 1980s among Muslim women who embraced their religion and did not want to be seen as imitating Western norms. Islamic feminists seek to combine Islamic understandings with liberatory readings of classical Islamic sources, religious or historical. We therefore find within this category historical approaches to the various women’s movements that emerged in Muslim societies over the 20th century as well as documents that are generated within these movements that seek to achieve or enhance women’s rights through activism, theoretical reconstruction, and so on. Margot Badran is the preeminent source for defining “Islamic feminism” (see Badran 2002, Badran 2009). Fernea 1998 draws on the author’s rich and diverse experience across Muslim societies. The comparative volume of Haddad and Esposito 2001 contains a survey chapter useful for teaching undergraduates. Moghissi 1999 is critical of fundamentalism’s impact on women. Cooke 2007 features theoretically sophisticated stances that interrogate prevalent popular and academic stereotypes of Muslim women while elucidating how these women find religion empowering and meaningful.

  • Abu-Lughod, Lila, ed. Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

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    A volume of chapters by experts in this field arranged chronologically from the late 19th to the late 20th century. Considers the role of modernity, colonialism, and nationalism as framing elements in projects to mobilize women for a range of activities.

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  • Badran, Margot. “Islamic Feminism: What’s in a Name?.” Al-Ahram Weekly On-line 569 (17–23 January 2002).

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    A brief and accessible article that defines Islamic feminism as feminist writing and activism within an Islamic paradigm. Provides a historical introduction to the main methods, issues, and women involved from a global perspective.

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  • Badran, Margot. Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences. Oxford: Oneworld, 2009.

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    This accessible overview by a leading scholar of Islamic feminism describes the common objectives of secular and Islamic feminism.

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  • Cooke, Miriam. “The Muslimwoman.” Contemporary Islam 1.2 (2007): 139–154.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11562-007-0013-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Critical theory of how the post-9/11 role of being a “Muslim woman” erases individual identity. Topics such as veiling, commodification, and political dimensions of the “muslimwoman” identity are treated by Cooke.

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  • Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock. In Search of Islamic Feminism: One Woman’s Global Journey. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

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    One of the earlier female scholars to study Muslim women in Iraq and Morocco, Fernea is able to draw on historical memory to situate current developments in societies such as Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Turkey, the Gulf, and Central Asia.

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  • Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and John L. Esposito, eds. Daughters of Abraham: Feminist Thought in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

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    An overview of feminist thought across the three faiths that is often used in undergraduate “women and religion” courses. The chapter on Islam is written by Amirah Sonbol and provides a good basic overview along with the author’s views on the subject that have little sympathy for Muslim male perspectives.

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  • Moghissi, Haideh. Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis. London: Zed Books, 1999.

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    Critical perspective on women and fundamentalist movements from a secular feminist.

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  • Moghissi, Haideh, ed. Women and Islam: Critical Concepts in Sociology Vol. 3, Women’s Movements in Muslim Societies. Vol. III. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2005.

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    The third in a set of three edited volumes collects articles by well-known experts in Muslim-world women’s studies organized around themes of politics, national liberation movements, women and fundamentalism, and diaspora—across various societies and nations. The second volume treats social conditions, obstacles, and prospects and the first volume addresses “images and realities.”

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  • Yamani, Mai, ed. Feminism and Islam: Legal and Literary Perspectives. Reading, UK: Ithaca, 1996.

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    An edited volume of articles by prominent scholars organized under the rubrics of history language, interpretation, and law. The book is concerned with emergent “Islamic” feminism as empowering Muslim women within a rethought Islam.

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Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation (FGM)

The practice of female genital mutilation, cutting or female circumcision, while not a specifically Islamic one, is still current in a number of Muslim communities, especially African ones. It is practiced in varying forms and is often believed to be sanctioned by Islamic law, particularly in the Shafi’i and Maliki schools. Works on the topic include both advocacy against it and anthropological treatments of it as a rite enacted within sociocultural contexts. A further issue is its persistence in immigrant communities in Europe in North America. Berkey 1996 provides historical and legal context for the practice. Anthropological perspectives are featured in Gruenbaum 2001 and Sheel-Duncan and Hernlund 2000. Oboler 2001 is a good, concise piece for teaching: after describing the details of the procedures, Oboler raises awareness about the effectiveness of strategies for eliminating FGM in cultures where such a change would involve major shifts in people’s thinking and actions.

  • Berkey, Jonathan P. “Circumcision Circumscribed: Female Excision and Cultural Accommodation in the Medieval Near East.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28.1 (1996): 19–38.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020743800062760Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of how the medieval practice of female excision was given stronger juridical proofs in its favor in areas where it was normative during the pre-Islamic period. Explores connection between ritual purity, male control of female passion, and excision in Arabic writings.

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  • Gruenbaum, Ellen. The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

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    An anthropologist who works in Sudan attempts to provide a more culturally nuanced understanding of the practice with the goal of improving strategies to reform it.

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  • Oboler, Regina Smith. “Law and Persuasion in the Elimination of Female Genital Modification.” Human Organization 60.4 (2001): 311–318.

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    Covers the practice in Africa, including Muslim societies and countries.

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  • Shell-Duncan, Bettina, and Yvla Hernlund, eds. Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy and Change. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner, 2000.

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    An edited volume featuring papers by sociocultural as well as bio-cultural anthropologists and participation by African scholars.

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Films on FGM

The online bibliography of the Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project features films aimed at eliminating the practice of FGM. Mayer-Hohdale 1998 is a documentary, while Sembene 2004 is a feature film. Each highlights negative impacts of the practice.

Seclusion, Dress, and Veiling

With the rise of Islamic movements and a return to traditional practices among many Muslim young women since the late 1970s, the subject of veiling has received increased attention. Early approaches viewed the veil as oppressive and retrograde, but many scholars, beginning with Papanek 1982, began to suggest positive functions of veiling and even seclusion practices for women in individual cultural circumstances. Descriptions of sartorial practices among Egyptian women and their social significance are undertaken by El Guindi 1999 and Rugh 1986. Lindesfarne-Tapper and Ingram 1997 considers dress in the broader Middle East from anthropological perspectives. The political and culture valence of veiling as a symbol of resistance and identity is theorized by Hoodfar 1997 and Shirazi 2003. For the ideological implications of the veil as enforced in post-revolutionary Iran, its banning by modernizing reformers such as Reza Shah and Ataturk in the 1930s, and more recently, its restriction in public spaces in France and the West and the implications for citizenship, Hoodfar 1997 and Alvi, et al. 2003 are the best sources. Tarlo and Moors 2007 features articles considering Muslim women’s dress from the perspectives of cultural and fashion theory.

  • Alvi, Sajida Sultana, Homa Hoodfar, and Sheila McDonough, eds. The Muslim Veil in North America: Issues and Debates. Toronto: Women’s Press, 2003.

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    A collection of articles from various perspectives that treats veiling in the United States and Canada.

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  • Gole, Nilufer. The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1996.

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    A seminal study of the veiling movement in Turkey with important theoretical insights about women’s agency in negotiating choices among symbols of nation, Islam, and the modern.

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  • el Guindi, Fadwa. Veil: Modesty, Privacy and Resistance (Dress, Body, Culture). Oxford: Berg, 1999.

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    Treats forms of Islamic veiling in Egypt as a contemporary practice with an emphasis situated within the anthropology of dress. Examines the multiple meanings veiling has for different sectors of the society.

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  • Hoodfar, Homa. “The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: Veiling Practices and Muslim Women.” In The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital. Edited by Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd, 248–279. Post-Contemporary Interventions. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.

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    Explores the veil as a powerful symbol, including a historical overview of veiling practices and specific discussion of forced unveiling in Iran under Reza Shah and forced veiling after the Islamic revolution. Also discusses the Canadian context in which women’s choice to veil may provoke racist responses in a supposedly liberal Western society.

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  • Lindisfarne-Tapper, Nancy, and Bruce Ingram, eds. Languages of Dress in the Middle East. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 1997.

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    Social and religious meanings of women’s clothing in a variety of Middle Eastern settings.

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  • Papanek, Hanna. “Purdah: Separate Worlds and Symbolic Shelter.” In Separate Worlds: Studies of Purdah in South Asia. Edited by Hanna Papanek and Gail Minault, 3–53. Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1982.

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    An important early discussion of gender segregation in South Asian contexts.

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  • Rugh, Andrea B. Reveal and Conceal: Dress in Contemporary Egypt. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986.

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    Discusses and illustrates the social and symbolic significance of various forms of Egyptian women’s clothing.

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  • Shirazi, Faegheh. The Veil Unveiled: The Hijab in Modern Culture. Gainesville: University of Florida, 2003.

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    A look at veiling and projections on it from literary and cultural studies perspectives.

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  • Tarlo, Emma, and Annelies Moors, eds. Special issue on Muslim women. Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body, and Culture 11.2 (2007).

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    Articles on the theory and practice of dress in various Muslim contexts.

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Politics

Works on Muslim women in politics treat issues of women’s activism and leadership, human rights, and the role of gender in contemporary political ideologies, as well as the involvement of various nation-states in regulating gender. Afkhami 1997 and Bayes and Tohidi 2001 highlight Muslim women’s struggles for rights in the aftermath of the 1995 Beijing conference. In terms of regional focus, Callaway and Creevey 1994 focuses on West Africa, Paidar 1995 on Iran, and Shaheed 1998 on Pakistan. Kandiyoti 1991 and Joseph and Slyomovics 2001 consider women and politics in comparative contexts.

  • Afkhami, Mahnaz, and Erika Friedl, eds. Muslim Women and the Politics of Participation: Implementing the Beijing Platform. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

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    Chapters by activists who equate women’s rights with human rights as laid out in the “Platform for Action” that emerged from the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995. Contributions address women who are marginalized by extremist religious regimes, as well as the general struggle by women for power in Muslim societies.

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  • Allen, Carolyn, Judith A. Howard, and Therese Saliba, eds. Gender, Politics, and Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

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    Questions whether Islam and feminism must be at political odds with each other, especially when considered by anthropologists working on a wide variety of women’s practices in particular geographical contexts. Articles originally from Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

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  • Bayes, Jane H., and Nayereh Tohidi, eds. Globalization, Gender, and Religion: The Politics of Women’s Rights in Catholic and Muslim Contexts. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave, 2001.

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    Chapters on gender politics in Muslim societies—Iran, Egypt, and South Asia—and in Roman Catholic countries of Europe and Latin America during the age of globalization. The book is largely in response to the alliance that formed during the Beijing Conference on Women in 1995 between religious Catholic and Muslims groups on issues of sexuality.

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  • Callaway, Barbara, and Lucy Creevey. The Heritage of Islam: Women, Religion, and Politics in West Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994.

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    A volume on the impact of industrialization, modernity, and nationalism on Muslim women in Nigeria and Senegal by two authors who have worked for decades in the field.

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  • Kandiyoti, Deniz, ed. Women, Islam, and the State. Women in the Political Economy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.

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    Rather than viewing women and the family as subjects of unchanging religious law, the authors in this edited volume analyze women in the specific political circumstances of modern nation-states that emerged out of their particular histories. The book treats Muslim women and the state in a broad geographical stretch over the Middle East and South Asia.

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  • Mayer, Tamar, ed. Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change. International Studies of Women and Place. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    The 1967 victory of Israel over Palestine led to the “invisibility” of the Palestinians, which, though it is doubly felt by Palestinian women in and outside of the occupied territories, paradoxically gave them a political voice. Israeli Jewish women have been marginalized by Israeli militarism; a significant number joined with Palestinian women in peace activism. The contributors are about evenly spread among Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

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  • Paidar, Parvin. Women and the Political Process in Twentieth Century Iran. Cambridge Middle East Studies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    Analyzes women as central in the political discourse of 20th-century Iran.

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  • Shaheed, Farida, Asma Zia, and Sohail Warraich. Women in Politics: Participation and Representation in Pakistan. Lahore, Pakistan: Shirkat Gah, 1998.

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    Written by advocates for women’s inclusion in the political process in Pakistan, the book is an accounting of the plans and accomplishments made by rights groups such as Shirkat Gah (Women’s Resource Centre in Lahore) and several NGOs. Includes “update 1993–1997.”

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  • Suad, Joseph, and Susan Slyomovics, eds. Women and Power in the Middle East. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

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    A collection of clear and concise chapters dealing with women both as agents of change and as symbols for either modernization or tradition in countries from Iran to North Africa.

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Islamist (Fundamentalist) Movements

Studies in this area must first define Islamism and fundamentalism and then indicate how women and gender roles and issues play out in societies where rising religious and social conservatism has been the trend since the late 1970s. Afary 1997 is a useful overview of scholarly approaches to Islam and women’s issues. Mir-Hosseini 1999 is a detailed sociological and textual analysis of the ways in which certain clerics and women’s movements in Iran are advancing women’s rights in the context of the Islamic republic, and Abu-Lughod 1998 is a valuable historical and contemporary survey of developments in the Middle East. Deeb 2006 offers important theorizing on Shi’i Hizbollah women as modern agents, while Mahmood 2005 is a pioneering study of women’s empowerment through grassroots Islamic piety movements in Egypt.

  • Abu-Lughod, Lila, ed. Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1998.

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    Includes articles on women and women’s movements in many Middle Eastern countries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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  • Afary, Janet. “Feminism and the Challenge of Muslim Fundamentalism.” In Spoils of War: Women of Color, Cultures, and Revolutions. Edited by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting and Renée T. White, 83–102. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.

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    Looks at three ways in which Islamism’s effects on women are interpreted by feminist scholars—in the light of economic and political pressures, as a response to the disruptive effect of modernity on the family, or by consideration of practices such as veiling—as being potentially empowering in certain ways for Muslim women.

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  • Ahmad, Sadaf. “Identity Matters, Culture Wars: An Account of Al-Huda (re) Defining Identity and Reconfiguring Culture in Pakistan.” Culture and Religion 9.1 (2008): 63–80.

    DOI: 10.1080/14755610801963236Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The al-Huda phenomenon, in which middle-class Pakistani women follow the Islamic female preacher Farhat Hashimi, inspires critical analysis. Is Hashimi an empowering innovator or a regressive force? Al-Hoda women often adopt the face veil (niqab), and with the relocation of the leader to Toronto, further complications of global female Islamism (not covered in this article) are arising.

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  • Afkami, Mahnaz, ed. Faith and Freedom: Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995.

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    Articles on the quest for Muslim women’s rights in a range of societies in the wake of concerns that Muslim countries were withdrawing consensus on the notion of universal human rights.

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  • Ask, Karin, and Marit Tjomsland. Women and Islamization: Contemporary Dimensions of Discourse on Gender Relations. Oxford: Berg, 1998.

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    Describes how, through their political, educational, and recreational activities, Muslim women are setting agendas of their own and are actively redefining the role of women in Muslim society.

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  • Deeb, Lara. An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi’i Lebanon. Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

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    As the title indicates, this study of Shi’a Hizbollah women in Beirut argues against Weber that rational modernity, rather than leading inevitably to secularism, can empower women to be self-consciously “authenticated” Muslim subjects participating in a “pious modern” that embraces both spiritual and material progress.

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  • Mahmood, Saba. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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    Based on fieldwork among Islamist women in Egypt, Mahmood argues for the autonomy and empowerment that is achieved by female participants in the mosque movement in terms of their own Islamic values.

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  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

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    An important textual and ethnographic study of perspectives on women’s issues in post-revolutionary Iran. The author, a social anthropologist, examines the discourses of and meets with traditionalists, neotraditionalists, and modernists in the Islamic republic. She also looks at the role played by women’s magazines such as Zanan and the new forms of Islamic feminism that are emerging.

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  • Mojab, Shahrzad. “Women and the Gulf War: A Critique of Feminist Responses.” In Spoils of War: Women of Color, Cultures, and Revolutions. Edited by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting and Renée T. White, 59–82. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.

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    Discusses the impact of the first Gulf War on women in surrounding Muslim countries. Provides an overview of organized feminist responses in a number of the Western societies involved in the war. Criticizes the fragmented nature of responses among feminists to such events.

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Critical Treatments of the Representation of Muslim Women

With the rise of Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, postcolonial theory, and new investigations of the role of power dynamics in representation, the Occidental fascination with Muslim women and exoticizing forms of representing them were increasingly subjected to theoretical scrutiny. Alloula 1986 analyzes the images of North African women featured on colonial-era postcards. Kahf 1999 and Kabbani 1994 perform theoretical excavations of the way in which the West represented the Muslim female in literary sources from the medieval to modern periods. Rustomji 2007 focuses on recent fascinations with the Houris of paradise in Western media, while Fiorenza, et al. 2008 is a collection of state-of-the-art articles by leading scholars in the field, including Badran and Cooke.

Documentaries

Among documentary films, Percival 1993 is one of the best to use for an introduction to the world of Muslim women in broad cross-cultural terms. Issues of the veil are treated in Nasrallah 1995, Gaunt 1982, and Umar 2004. Other choices offer specific regional content.

  • Applewhite, Nathalie, dir. Picture Me, An Enemy. VHS. New York: Women Make Movies, 2003.

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    Biography and day-to-day life of a Bosnian-American Muslim wife and mother, whose career in the American Friends’ Service Committee takes her to the Middle East on a regular basis.

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  • Gaunt, Marilyn, dir. A Veiled Revolution. DVD. New York: Icarus Films, 1982.

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    Discusses the modern (1980s) Egyptian Muslim woman’s question of whether to wear modest dress and the veil or Western dress. Also discusses the proper role of women in a contemporary Islamic society, with specific attention to the recent practice of women entering mosques to hold study meetings. Dated but useful in generating classroom discussion.

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  • Nasrallah, Yousry, dir. On Boys, Girls, and the Veil. DVD. Seattle, WA: Arab Film Distribution. 1995.

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    Realistic look at why many Egyptian young women are wearing the hijab. Though seen through the daily life of a young man, many women are interviewed and observed in their school and work lives.

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  • Nawaz, Zarqa, dir. Me and the Mosque. DVD. Montreal: National Film Board of Canada, 2005.

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    Zarqa Nawwaz, a Canadian Muslim woman visits North American mosques and debates the role of women in Mosques and the space allotted to them.

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  • Percival, John, prod. Living Islam. Vol. 4, Paradise Lies at the Feet of the Mother. VHS. New York: Ambrose Video Publishing, 1993.

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    This program looks at the role of women in Islam and demonstrates diverse social contexts and issues across Muslim societies in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Recommended for undergraduate classes.

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  • Rached, Tahani, dir. Four Women of Egypt. VHS. New York and Canada: National Film Board of Canada, 1997.

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    Conversations among four Egyptian women having varying perspectives on religion and women’s issues but remaining friends through decades of social and political transformation.

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  • Sumar, Sabiha, dir. Don’t Ask Why. VHS. New York: Women Make Movies, 1999.

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    An intimate look at the life of a young Pakistani woman who shares her dreams of education as well as her conflicts with her Muslim religion and her father.

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  • Umar, Farheen, dir. Women of Islam: Veiling and Seclusion. DVD. Seattle, WA: Arab Film Distribution, 2004.

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    Farheen Umar travels throughout Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and the United States to interview Muslim women about Western assumptions about the practice of wearing veils. Confronts common misconceptions about the tradition of covering in Muslim society.

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Feature Films

A diverse array of feature films portray the lives of Muslim women in varied contexts and the challenges facing them in spheres of social expectations and regulations, poverty, and political upheaval. While these films dramatize some of the problems and challenges facing actual Muslim women, their fictionalized representations invite discussion and complication. For example, each representation of the Afghan girl (Majidi 2002, Barmak 2003) portrays the pressure to masquerade as a male under dire economic pressure. While the lead character of A Door to the Sky (Yazid 1989) is wealthy and privileged, the heroines of Dreams of Hind and Camilla (Khan 1989) face poverty in Egypt. Despite difficulties, in general the women exhibit strength and resilience in the face of adversity, sometimes triumphant and sometimes tragic.

  • Barmak, Siddiq, dir., Osama. DVD. Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment, 2003.

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    An Afghani mother disguises her daughter as a boy so the girl can find work under the Taliban regime. Although fictionalized, the film’s documentary style portrays the worst sort of abuses under the Taliban regime.

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  • Khan, Muhammad, dir. Dreams of Hind and Camilla. VHS. Seattle, WA: Arab Film Distribution, 1989.

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    Abused as housemaids and mistreated by the men in their lives, two young Egyptian women decide to start a new life together.

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  • Khleifi, Michel, dir. Wedding in Galilee. DVD. New York: Kino International, 2004.

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    Groundbreaking Palestinian drama about a wedding party that the Israeli authorities will allow only if their officers are invited. Famous for its dramatic representation of the bride responding to the groom’s impotence by taking matters into her own hands. Originally released as motion picture in 1987.

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  • Majidi, Majid, dir. Baran. DVD. Tehran, Iran: Surush, 2002.

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    An Afghani young woman pretends to be a boy to earn a living for her extended family as a worker on an Iranian construction site. An Iranian man on the site discovers the ruse and falls in love with her.

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  • Mehrjui, Dariush. Leila. DVD. New York: First Run Features, 1996.

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    A young Iranian wife who is not able to have children consents to her husband’s family’s pressures for him to take a second wife. The second wife abandons the child she had with Leila’s husband. Leila and her husband are reunited as loving parents to the little girl.

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  • Riklis, Eran, dir. The Syrian Bride. DVD. Port Washington, NY: Koch Lorber Films, 2004.

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    On different sides of the valley that separates the Golan Heights under Israeli control from Syria, a bride waits in her wedding dress for the promised documentation to pass from Israel to Syria to marry her groom. Features insights into Druze culture and the absurdities of bureaucracy.

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  • Yazid, Farida bin, dir. Bab al-Sama’ Maftuh (A Door to the Sky). VHS. Seattle, WA: Arab Film Distribution, 1989.

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    Nadia, a young Moroccan emigrée, struggles between her Sufi heritage and her adopted French culture.

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  • Zbanic, Jasmila, dir. Grbavica (Esma’s Secret). DVD. Sarajevo, Bosnia: Coop 99 Filmproduktion, 2006.

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    Heart-wrenching story of Bosnian mother and her daughter, a child of rape. The mother was held in one of the Serbian camps for the systematic rape of Bosnian women.

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Contemporary Popular and Controversial Literature

Information, for those curious, about the “exotic” lives of Muslim women, or colonial stereotypes of oppressed Muslim women needing to be rescued, form the basis for a number of fictional or testimonial works that have achieved popularity and promotion at a mass level. These are not to be confused with critical academic studies of Muslim women’s lives. After 9/11, the genre of works by female “Islam deniers” or “native-informers”—Muslim women whose mission was to single-handedly reform tradition (Manji 2004) or who had rejected it and wanted to expose its dark side (Hirsi Ali 2006)—also achieved prominence. Such works have increasingly been subjected to political and literary academic critique, as indicated below.

  • Brooks, Geraldine. Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1995.

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    As a journalist, Brooks chronicles her encounters with a broad range of Muslim women, most of whom seem to be in oppressive situations that the author sees as arising from Muslim faith and culture.

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  • Goodwin, Jan. Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.

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    Journalist interviews Muslim women in ten diverse situations and countries and highlights diverse instances of their repression and victimization due to religious, social, and political factors.

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  • Hirsi Ali, Ayyan. The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. New York: Free Press, 2006.

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    Hirsi Ali, the controversial ex-Dutch parliamentarian of Somali origin, writes a biographical reflection on her ultimate emancipation from the horrors of her cultural and religious background.

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  • Mahmoody, Betty, with William Hoffer. Not without My Daughter. New York: St. Martin’s, 1991.

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    An “autobiographical” account of an American woman whose Iranian husband refuses to allow her and their young daughter to leave Iran, necessitating their escape through other channels. This was made into a popular feature film in 1992. First edition copyrighted in 1987. A film by the author’s ex-husband contradicting her claims, Without My Daughter, was released in 1991.

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  • Manji, Irshad. The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. New York: St. Martin’s, 2004.

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    A Canadian Muslim woman stridently criticizes Islamic religious and political positions and calls for rejection and/or reform.

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  • Sasson, Jean P. Princess: A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. Van Nuys, CA: Windsor-Brooke, 2001.

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    A “true” story of a purported member of the large clan of Saudi royals that plays on many stereotypes of what goes on behind the veil.

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Critiques and Response

Attempts to disclose the problematic nature of the above representations, such as the political implications of much of the popular literature on women in Islam, including native informant narratives of liberation from the oppression of the religion, include Dabashi 2006 and Lalami 2006, which investigate political motivations, and Bilici and Khalil 2007, which analyzes the genre of such writings.

LAST MODIFIED: 12/27/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195390155-0092

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