Islamic Feminism and Reforming Muslim Family Laws
Title: Islamic Feminism and Reforming Muslim Family Laws
Author: AL-SHARMANI, Mulki
Series/Report no.: EUI RSCAS; 2011/29; Mediterranean Programme Series
In this paper, I will engage with some of the recent literature that attempts to define, map out, analyze, categorize, and critique a growing body of academic scholarship that has emerged in the late 80s and early 90s and which has been termed as Islamic feminism. I will examine three contestations around Islamic feminism. The first is related to its conceptualization and categorization. The second contestation concerns the relation of Islamic feminism as an epistemic project to classical Islamic knowledge such as exegesis and jurisprudence. And the third revolves around the relation of Islamic feminism to other kinds of feminism and the limits of the former in delivering equality to Muslim women Notwithstanding the above-mentioned contestations, I argue that there are two main and systematic interpretive projects within Islamic feminism. The first project focuses on the exegesis of the Qur’an such as the work of Amina Wadud and Asma Barlas. The second engages with Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). It is best exemplified by the work of scholars such as Mir-Hosseini, and Kecia Ali. It is my contention that it is the combination of these two projects, both in their methodologies, theoretical frameworks, and their knowledge outputs that can establish sound foundations for Islamic feminism and pave the way for its further development. Most of all, current efforts to reform Muslim family laws are best served by drawing on comprehensive understanding of the important links between these two interpretive projects within Islamic feminism. This is because on the one hand, Qur’an-oriented Islamic feminism has emphasized Qur'anic worldviews that foreground justice in God’s relation to humans and in human being’s relations to one another, and see patriarchy and patriarchal relations as irreconcilable with the Islamic concept of believing in one God (tawhid). Such insights give intellectual and moral force to Islamic feminists’ quest for gender equality and justice within an Islamic framework. Furthermore, the historical and epistemological deconstruction of the assumptions as well as some of the methodologies and doctrines of classical Islamic jurisprudence, which is being carried out by Fiqh-oriented Islamic feminists can greatly strengthen current efforts on the part of women’s rights activists to counter Fiqh-based arguments that oppose gender-sensitive Muslim family laws. I will conclude with some examples from Egypt to explicate the above-mentioned arguments.
Subject: Islamic feminism; women's rights; religious knowledge; legal activism; Muslim family laws
Type of Access: openAccess