Al-Huda International

How Muslim Women Empower Themselves through Online Study of the Qur’an

in Hawwa
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Al-Huda International was founded in Islamabad in 1994 by Farhat Hashmi and has since spread across several continents. Its rapid spread has been considerably aided by the online classes in English and Urdu from its headquarters in Canada. Its goal is to teach the Qur’an in Arabic to as many women as possible so they can access the sacred text directly without mediation and live in greater harmony with Qur’anic values. One might argue that Al-Huda uses a very “modern” technology, the Internet, to promote “traditional” religious values. But online students’ mastery of Arabic and intensive study of Islamic history and theology, my study argues, simultaneously gives them voice and a sense of empowerment, thereby challenging both traditional Islamic authority structures and Western representations of Muslim women. In this study, based on research grounded in participant observation as a former online student at Al-Huda, I provide an ethnographic portrait of the online learning experience.

Hawwa

Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World

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References

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2

Author’s online class notes (2010).

5

On the Ahl-i Hadith, see Metcalf 1982: 268–96. On the Jama‘at-i Islami, see Ahmad 2010. I should add that in the view of an Al-Huda teacher who has close connections with the founders, the Ahl-i Hadith have been a far more important formative influence in an intellectual sense than the Jama‘at-i Islami.

6

But see Irfan Ahmad (2010) who argues that the Jama‘at-i Islami in post-independence India no longer has this goal.

8

Maimuna Huq, “Reading the Qur’an in Bangladesh: The Politics of ‘Belief’ among Islamist Women”, in Modern Asian Studies 42, nos. 2/3 (2008): 457–88.

12

See Hirschkind (2006) on the importance of “ethical listening”. Also see Ong 2002.

14

Mushtaq (2010b) describes the reasons why Al-Huda has been criticized both by the Pakistani ‘ulama (primarily Deobandis) and by Western-educated, secular, liberal Pakistanis. See paragraphs 29 to 38.

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