I have been asking questions such
as “What is the Islamic view of women?” and “What does it mean to be a Muslim
woman?” for a long time. I was born female to a Muslim family living in Lahore,
a Muslim city in a Muslim country, Pakistan. Not until 1974, however, did I
begin my serious study of women’s issues in Islam and — I am still shocked to
reflect — this happened almost by accident.
I was, at that time,
faculty adviser to the Muslim Students’ Association chapter at Oklahoma State
University in Stillwater.
There is widespread
research and information available about the huge labour migration to the Oil
rich countries in the Gulf. In the past few years, we received reports about
housemaids being very officially exported from Sri Lanka to the Gulf countries
of the Middle East.
On 7th June 1988, the members of
the controversially elected parliament of Bangladesh passed the Constitution
(8th Amendment) Bill imposing Islam as the state religion of the country which
broke away from another religious-based country - Pakistan - only 17 years ago.
The four pillars of the Constitution of Bangladesh originally were nationalism,
democracy, secularism and socialism. Secularism and socialism were dropped from
the Constitution in 1977 to be replaced by ‘total faith in Allah’ and ‘social
Most commentary on the condition of
women in the Middle East assigns a central place to the role of Islam. In fact,
there have been important variations, as well as persistent similarities, in
women’s conditions in Muslim societies. To make sense of the varieties of
women’s real, concrete historical experience, we must avoid confusing analytic
and polemical goals.
Current writing on women in
the Middle East exhibits two equally vigorous, but so far divergent trends.
An Egyptian man had been very
strict with his daughter, only permitting her to work outside the home on
condition that she be completely isolated from men. She found that ‘ideal’ job.
Many months later, in the spring of 1988, this same man brought his daughter to
the office of Nawal Al Saadawi to see her in her capacity as a psychiatrist. The
following is based on the young woman’s true story.
History reveals that sexual
oppression of women, in one form or another, exists in every society in the
world. Nevertheless, it has been achieved by different methods, economically,
intellectually, physically and psychologically. The control of women’s bodies,
or in other words physical mutilation, was raised with the rise of
With the rise of
patriarchy, many customs and traditions were developed. Of these customs and
traditions, many have disappeared or were gradually abandoned, while some
Female circumcision (the partial or complete removal of the
external female genitalia) is widely practised in the Sudan. It has persisted
for centuries because of lack of awareness and knowledge about its adverse
physical and psychosocial consequences and because of a firm belief in its
supposed benefits of ensuring female chastity and securing marriage and
subsequent harmonious family life.
Why are women circumcised? These operations are medically unnecessary, agonisingly painful and extremely
dangerous. Some girls die from shock and loss of blood. Others develop
psychiatric problems from the trauma. Many have chronic infections lasting a
lifetime and there are numerous troubles with childbirth, intercourse and
Most of the estimated 70 million circumcised women and girls live in certain parts of
Africa and the Middle East. There the practice thrives for a variety of social
The Muslim's Women's Research and Action Front considers the appointment of a
committee to examine Muslim Personal Law in the light of reform as a positive
step in the socio-legal and cultural upliftment of the community.
MWRAF as a group of committed and concerned Muslim women wishes to suggest a basis
for reforms, though we would like to reiterate the fact that our framework is
within the Qur'an and Sharia and the proposed changes would in effect be
implementation of not only the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law-
in other words the essence of the Qur'an