Research framework Muslim Women

Research Framework:

For the last few decades, Muslim women decided to regain their Muslim identity and freedom under the paradigm of Islam. They tried to obtain knowledge of their faith and feminist awareness simultaneously. The realization of these two divergent forms creates “two major feminist paradigms referred to as secular feminism and Islamic feminism” (Badran 6). These two binaries elevate the politics of feminist defiance (Saadallah 216). Susan Muaddi Darraj (2003) presents this tussle between Western feminism and Islamic feminism in these words that Arab feminism “generally elicits such comments from American feminists as “That sounds like an oxymoron!” (190). Western feminists consider the third world women as “powerless”, “exploited”, “backwards”, “illiterate”, and “sexually harassed” (Mohanty 338-339). Western feminists considered their supremacy of religion and culture over others. They tried to colonized them by presenting them “as a singular monolithic subject” (Mohanty 333). They did not understand the geographical, cultural, religious and traditional differences of the Muslim world. A colonial history also reshaped the image of Muslim women as Leila Ahmed (1989) explains that colonial forces “explicitly set out to undermine Islam through the training and remoulding of women” (144). The Muslim women from the third world also faced hostility in terms of the fulfilment of their religious obligations. Fran Hosken (1981) states “Rape, forced prostitution, polygamy, genital mutilation, pornography, the beating of girls and women, purdah (segregation of women) are all violations of basic human rights” (15). After all these Islamophobia, Islamic feminists tried to clear their position as Muslim women. Ziba Mir Hosseini tries to clarify the position of Islamic feminism and explains that all kinds of unfairness faced by Muslim women are due to the misinterpretation of Islam. She further elaborates that the gender inequalities “were not granted to them by God but by Muslim male jurists” (642). Third world feminists acknowledge their rights and “they are trying to retain them through their own channels” (Al-Sarrani, Alghamdi 10) Hosseini has generated new debates for the rights of Muslim women under Islamic Sharia. She proclaims that the patriarchal laws create hindrance in the life of Muslim women as “Muslim jurists have misconstructed the Prophet’s message of egalitarianism” (3). She accepts that after globalization, the Islamic discourse does not remain inside the Muslim world. She classifies writings under two categories; one is “shari’a-based”, and other is “feminism-based” and the writers from both sides create “new gender awareness” and “equality in society” (5). Finally, she states that Islam and feminism are no more contradictory and divergent because a feminist reading of sharia is now inescapable (7). Hosseini, in one of her articles, (2006) clearly creates a distinction between sharia and fiqh, and states that “the sharia is sacred, universal, and eternal, fiqh is human and —like any other system of jurisprudence— subject to change” (632).
Asma Barlas in Believing Women in Islam (2002) rejects the teachings of gender difference and inequity under the Islamic sharia and states that “there is nothing innately Islamic about misogyny, inequality, or patriarchy” (2). As the teaching of gender discrepancy is derived from the Tafsīr and the Ahādith, there is a need “to reinvestigate” the religious teachings (Barlas 4). She stresses the equalitarian study of Islam. Qur’anic interpretation through male’s perspective limits the role of women, so there is a need to reinterpret Islam through women’s point of view. Similarly, Amina Wadud in Qur’an And Women (1999) stresses on the “identity formation” of Muslim women (xi). Traditional exegesis has some limitations, so a new framework helps to generate “a systematic rationale for making correlations and sufficiently exemplifies the full impact of Qur’anic coherence” (xii). Wadud wants the reinterpretation of the Quran from the female perspective. Wadud in Inside the Gender Jihad (2006) asserts that “The text is silent. It needs interpretation and has always historically and currently been subjected to interpretation. We make it speak for us by asking of it” (197).
Veil is another important factor in Muslim societies, and Islamic feminists try to deal with it through different prospects. According to Fatima Mernissi, (1991), the word hijab has three dimensions; one is visual, second is spatial, and “the third dimension is ethical” which is a “forbidden space” (93). In Sufism, the term mahjub is associated with a man who does not gain a divine light. According to her, the term hijab weakens its validity when it is just related to a piece of cloth (95). At one place, the hijab gives respect and at another place, under Sufism, it is “an obstacle that prevents one from seeing God” (96). Mernissi believes that hijab is the segregation of public life from the private one which ultimately creates division of sexes (101). Mariam Cooke in Women Claim Islam (2001) establishes that the veil becomes the identity of Muslim women. Their physical images overthrow their different identities as Cooke claims that “Images of covered women epitomize Islam” (132). For some people, this veil creates negativity while for others it is an empowering tool.
Diaspora and origin in terms of globalization are among the issues prominent in the discourse of Islamic feminism. Immigrant confines himself in two places “each of which is home and is at the same time, not home” (Cooke 24). Moghissi in the Muslim Diaspora (2007) suggests that in the diaspora, the identity is related to the relationship with others. The unwelcoming attitude of the host country increases the “diasporic consciousness” (xv). Migration not only intensifies their realization of the self but also increases their uncertainty about the loss of originality (xv). This uncertainty leads them towards the process of revisiting their religion. Muslim women in the diaspora have “multiple identities”; at one level, they are Muslims and at another level, they have their national identity (Moghissi 33). But the most important identification which they face in the diaspora is their new global identity in the host country. A modest Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan in Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (2004) proposes the adequacy of the ijtihad that gives a new interpretation of the Quran with the background of the Muslim diaspora (4). Globalization becomes a source of self-definition for the Muslim community and it “gives some Muslims a sense of power, might, and legitimacy in Otherness” (Ramadan 5). Cooke (2001) also mentions that by relocating themselves from local to global, Muslim women are negotiating new transnational realities that cut across local and familial identifications” (xi). According to her, Islamic feminism tries to balance Islamic loyalties with other commitments to create new discussion which she terms as “multiple critiques” (Cooke 177). So Islamic feminism “relocate their inhabitants from the margins to the centre of the community and belonging” (Ball 125). Amina Wadud in her famous work, Inside the Gender Jihad (2006) stresses to all men and women to “took part in interrogating textual meaning to build a global community of balance or equilibrium – a just society” (205).

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