Sabiha Hussain


Women’s rights face an uncertain future throughout much of the Islamic world. The fate of women’s rights throughout the Islamic world crucially hinges upon the outcome of debates on reforms of family and penal codes including new understandings of Islamic law and teaching. It requires mention that there is no monolithic trend of women’s struggle for gender justice even in Islamic countries. It varies with the cultural setting, the political structure of the state and the location of the community. In the Islamic world, the question of gender justice often becomes a struggle to be fought at two levels: against the forces of conservatism in society and against its anti-democratic effects on the political structure of the country. There is growing tension between gender justice and rising conservatism. Fundamentalist forces try to impose greater control over women, even though this approach may or may not have to do anything with religion. In such a context, Muslim women face several new dilemmas. Do they stand with their community under attack and hold in abeyance their struggle against the fundamentalist leaders or do they foreground their critique of Islamic conservatism at a time when imperialism uses women’s unequal status under Islamic law to garner ideological support for their imperial project? A similar dilemma is faced by Muslim women in India as members of a minority community faced with majoritarian communalism. A significant challenge before Muslim women is to find ways to overcome the dilemma and question the foundations of Islamic law where it is incompatible with democratic rights without compromising their sense of solidarity with their community. What must be done to overcome the practical hurdles that stand in the way of reconciling Islam with universal principles of women’s rights? How can Muslim feminists win the interpretive struggle against the conservatives?

Author Biography

Sabiha Hussain is currently working as fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CDWS), New Delhi India.