The Rights of Women in Islam: An Authentic Approach

  • Book Title:
 The Rights Of Women In Islam
  • Book Author:
Haifaa A. Jawad
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As a Muslim woman born to a family which was Muslim in name but secular in practice, I never thought for a moment what Islam meant to me.

It was not until fate decided to turn savagely against me, by depriving me first of my sweet sister – with whom I shared all my hopes and dreams, especially at university when we were very close – then my dear loving father, who had defied all the pressures such as honour, shame and family pride to allow me to leave Baghdad and come to Britain to pursue my dream of gaining a higher education, and then my caring brother, who stood beside me when I was on the brink of giving in to social pressure.

All three departed so quickly – within the space of a few years – that I did not have enough time to grieve for them properly as individuals in their own right. The tragedy was so overwhelming that it shook me to my very foundations; my dreams in life were shattered, my hopes and ambitions vanished. I felt that I had lost my direction and began to become aware that I was going astray.

 It was at this particular point that I started seriously thinking about Islam. I needed refuge, peace and tranquillity, and it was Islam, especially spiritual Islam, that finally restored my faith and equilibrium.

But that conviction and equilibrium started to be disturbed by two conflicting messages: first, the attack on Islam launched by secular feminists who declared that the Islamic system is a curse on the status of women under its law, thus portraying Islam as an oppressor rather than as a libera- tor, and urging women to release themselves from the shackles and constraints of their religion by adopting Western secular alternatives.

Second, the message conveyed by fundamentalists, who although emphasising the importance of Islam and using Islamic rhetoric, nonetheless depicted Muslim women in images totally unappealing to my inquisitive mind.

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Troubled by the conflict between these views and convinced by neither, I set myself the task of embarking on a journey which would eventually lead me to discover what Islam has in store for me and my fellow Muslim women.

Hence the book is in reality no more than a personal enquiry to satisfy my spiritual and theological needs: a soul-searching attempt to understand my faith (as a woman) and preserve it in a more humane form in the face of increasing secularisation and westernisation.

 This personal drive was then further accentuated by the realisation, especially during my years of teaching, of the widespread ignorance – on the part of both Muslim and non-Muslim women – of the proper understanding of the position of women from the Islamic perspective. Hence my urge to meet this demand.

The book aims primarily to investigate some of the issues currently affecting the situation of Muslim women. It is therefore not an exhaustive study of all issues that are of interest to Muslim women: that is certainly beyond the scope of the present study. Rather it is a personal endeavour to examine matters most immediate and sensitive to them.

The book singles out neither a particular group of women nor a specific band of countries in the Muslim region. Indeed, it deals with common issues that are of utmost concern to all Muslim women irrespective of their geographical and cultural backgrounds.

The rationale behind this approach is that despite the huge diversity among Muslim countries, Islam has con- tinued to serve as a unifying factor between them, especially when it comes to women’s issues, where little has changed regarding the laws and regulations that are affecting their lives.

I would like to thank the British Academy for supporting my trips to Egypt and Yemen, without which I would not have been able to complete the study. Also, many thanks go to both Felicity Simpson Wright and Barbara Morris for typing parts of the work and showing sympathy and understanding when I needed it most. I am grateful for their support

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