Muslim Female Religious Authority in Russia: How Mukhlisa Bubi Became the First Female Qāḍī in the Modern Muslim World

In: Die Welt des Islams
Rozaliya Garipova Kennan Institute, Wilson Center, Washington, D.C.

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On 11 May 1917, the participants of the All-Russia Muslim Congress elected a woman, Mukhlisa Bubi, as a qāḍī (a Muslim judge) to the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Inner Russia and Siberia. Granting legal authority to a woman at a central religious institution was unprecedented in the Muslim world. This article explores how this election was possible in Russia and suggests that it was the outcome of several factors. First, Muslim women of the Volga-Ural region already occupied a well-established place in traditional Muslim education, and many women were part of the Islamic scholarly culture. Second, modernist (Jadīd) religious scholars and intellectuals had brought up the issue of women education and female schooling, and supported the formation of a network of young women who made new claims about women’s education, rights, and active public stance in serving the nation. Among these were Bubi’s brothers. Third, the Russian revolutionary atmosphere worked as a catalyst for promoting the claims of women activists and provided the Jadīds the opportunity to take over the authority at the Central Spiritual Administration. Finally, Mukhlisa’s election seems to be a compromise between conservative and feminist/liberal groups in the society, and seems to have therefore been acceptable to most male congress delegates.

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