Women, the Koran and International Human Rights Law

The Experience of Pakistan


Religion plays a pivotal role in the way women are treated around the world, socially and legally. This book discusses three Islamic human rights approaches: secular, non-compatible, reconciliatory (compatible), and proposes a contextual interpretive approach. It is argued that the current gender discriminatory statutory Islamic laws in Islamic jurisdictions, based on the decontextualised interpretation of the Koran, can be reformed through Ijtihad: independent individual reasoning. It is claimed that the original intention of the Koran was to protect the rights of women and raise their status in society, not to relegate them to subordination. This Koranic intention and spirit may be recaptured through the proposed contextual interpretation which in fact means using an Islamic (or insider) strategy to achieve gender equality in Muslim states and greater compatibility with international human rights law. It discusses the negative impact of the so-called statutory Islamic laws of Pakistan on the enjoyment of women’s human rights and robustly challenges their Koranic foundation. While supporting the international human rights regime, this book highlights the challenges to its universality: feminism and cultural relativism. To achieve universal application, genuine voices from different cultures and groups must be accommodated. It is argued that the women’s human rights regime does not cover all issues of concern to women and has a weak implementation mechanism. The book argues for effective implementation procedures to turn women’s human rights into reality.
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Biographical Note

Niaz A. Shah is a Visiting Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge.

Review Quotes

Shah's work is original, well written and easy
to follow. The interpretive approach seems practical and may contribute what Shah wishes, that is greater compatability between Islamic and International Human Rights, norms and values
.Khurshid Iqbal, Religion and Human Rights 2 (2007) 189–193.
’Niaz A. Shah’s book is a work of exceptional merit for its thoroughly researched analyses, its balanced views, broad outlook and intellectual integrity. It is a must read for those who wish to have a sound perspective on women’s rights issue in Pakistan.’
Mushir Anwar, Dawn, Pakistan, 2007

Table of contents

Part I: Islamic Reforms and the Evolution of Islamic Law:
Chapter 1 The Position of Women in Pre and Post Islamic Arabia;
Chapter 2 The Equality of Men and Women in the Koran;
Chapter 3 The Evolution of Islamic Law and Ijtihad;
Part II: Women and the Legal System of Pakistan:
Chapter 4 The Role of Islam in the Constitution Making;
Chapter 5 Gender Equality and the 1973 Constitution;
Chapter 6 Islamisation of Criminal Laws;
Chapter 7 Women’s Rights and the Family Laws;
Part III: Women’s Rights Systems: A Comparison;
Chapter 8 Towards an International Women’s Human Rights Regime;
Chapter 9 Universality of Human Rights: Its Challenges;
Chapter 10 The Koranic, Pakistani and Human Rights Standards: A Comparison; Conclusion; Glossary of Islamic Terms;

Index Card

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