Islamic Feminism and Hegemonic Discourses on Faith and Gender in Islam

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
Farah Shahin Research Scholar, Centre for West Asian studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi India

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Islamic feminism is characterised by a debate, a practice enunciated within the Islamic values and frame. Muslim women brought their experiences to the forefront and challenged the traditional and post-classical interpretation of the Qurʾan and Sunna. They claimed interpretations of the religious text as totally biased and based on men’s experience, questions that are male-centric, and the overall influence of the patriarchal society and culture. According to Islamic feminists, Islam has guaranteed women’s rights since its inception, confirming the notion of egalitarian ethics within Islam. However, the original message of Islam has been hindered by the hegemonic interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence; a product of existing patriarchy in the long passage of Islamic history for over several centuries. The rights of women as prescribed in Islam are not in practice anymore, even the demand for women’s rights is seen by many as going against the basic principle of Islam. Islamic feminists give their justifications from the Qurʾan and Hadith, and they called for re-opening the door of ijtihād (reasoning). This paper captures the significant works of feminist discourses and analyses different perspectives by the Islamic feminists who challenged the dominant discourses in Islam. It deals with the dominant discourse of Islamic feminists such as feminist hermeneutics of the Qurʾan, and includes a discussion on how feminist hermeneutics or new gender-sensitive interpretation of the Qurʾan tries to assert gender equality in the Qurʾan. There are two ways in which Muslims read patriarchy in the Qurʾan: first from the verses and the other from the different treatment of the Qurʾan on issues including marriages, divorce, inheritances, and witness. Islamic feminists reject anti-women elements, present in the Muslim umma and consider them as unethical and against Islam.

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