Promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of
justice, equality, freedom, and dignity within a democratic nation state

by Heba Raouf Ezzat

Can a feminist reinterpretation of Islamic sources be set in the context of Islamic theology? In other words: Can there be a feminist interpretation of Quran and Sunna? Was there one in the past, and if not…can we initiate one in the future?

These questions have appeared on the agenda of women’s debates in the Muslim world in the past two decades… stressing the “feminist” as different… currently absent and …urgently needed. (Why so many full stops?)

Introductory issues

1- Women’s contribution to Islamic sciences dates back to early Islam, and has not seized through the centuries, with interruptions here and there in history due to different reasons in each case. This history of women’s involvement in ‘Ilm and Fiqh was recorded by male scholars themselves in books of history of Islamic sciences. The issue is not initiated by contemporary Western feminism but has its roots in our culture. This is important to clarify that the liberating potential of Islam is inherent in Islam itself and its history and is not a result of forces outside the culture and civilisation of Islam or as a result of the contact with the West in the colonial era. The issue is not necessarily “feminist” and other terminology can – and sometimes should - be used instead of the confusion and the enforcement of the concept “feminist” on the Islamic concepts and their semantic field as a key concept.

2- The text dealt with in Christianity (the Bible) differs substantially from the Book (Quran) in Islam regarding the status of the text, its origin, its legacy, and its position in the religion. While Jesus is the Logos of the Christian faith, Muhammad is not the Logos in Islam, but the revelation…the Book…the Quran. This gives the text - as well the Sunna that put it into action - a centrality in the process of jurisprudence and legislation that is quite unique. This raises the question whether one can talk about an international cross-cultural and cross-religious, unified or common agenda for women in this matter.

3-While the Western discourse on the matter is only related to the text, in Islam the interpretation cannot be completed without the complex interaction with the Sunna, a thorough understanding and critical reading of the fiqh, and a continuous process of Ijtihad and Tajdid to place the divine and absolute within the relative and present. The knowledge of related Islamic disciplines and methodologies is a must, along with profound updated knowledge of the social and political contexts. Not only average Muslims are required to study carefully the Islamic sciences, but Islamic scholars are also required to know the realities of life - a strict condition of Fatwa and Ijtihad that is known to everyone.

4-Contemporary Muslim women have been involved in studying and teaching the Islamic sources, and Islamic Universities have distinguished women scholars…the most prominent Bint Al-Shati - the professor of Tafsir in Egypt and Morocco who died recently, as well as many female professors at Al-Azhar and in all Islamic Universities. It has been neglected in recent writings that started giving attention to the role of women within the Islamic movements in transmitting and studying the Islamic sources that they, too, contributed to the knowledge and Ijtihad. Ann Sophie Roald (In K. Ask & M. Tjomsland 1998) for example studied Bint Al-Shati, yet forgot Zainab A-Ghazali - the leading Egyptian Muslim activist of the Muslim Brotherhood - who published an interpretation of the Quran 1994. Though published by the famous Dar Al Shorouk publishers, and forwarded with  praise by a (male) professor of Tafsir at Al-Azhar University, Karam who did not even refer to that volume when studying Ghazali’s “feminist” ideas. (A. Karam, 1998) Women’s reading and interpretation of the Islamic sources is then an ongoing process in the Islamic as well as Islamist circles.

5-Taking the awareness about women’s problems and the unjust treatment of women in Islamic societies with different Islamic pretexts as the criteria according to which one classifies writings as “feminist” or not (sometimes regardless of the sex/gender of the author), one can find indeed that male scholars have been more outspoken and “revolutionary” than women scholars. Hence insisting on “feminist” as description for the reading or interpretation, places feminism as a frame of reference and a basically secular paradigm to be the point of reference. Within the Islamic circle, adjectives such as: “fair” , “just", “methodologically correct” and “nearer to the general aims of Islam (Maqasid)” are more accurate.

Methodological reflections

Established Islamic methodology to approach the Islamic sources has been challenged lately by secularist writings, either generally as a whole, or focusing mainly on the issue of women. In this respect Fatima Mernissi (Morocco) can be considered to be the most sophisticated one. Her work discusses –among other things - the compatibility of some narrators of the Hadith and their hostile position towards women that affected their integrity and credibility, deconstructing by that some crucial Hadith on women(?) that were narrated in Al-Bukhari and accepted as authentic Hadith. (Merrnissi, 1996)

Her work was attacked by many Islamic scholars, not because of its feminist nature but because it challenges the established, widely accepted, methodology. Others such as Nawal Saadawi (Egypt) or Farida Banani (Morocco) are more general in their arguments. These writings state that Ijtihad is needed to initiate new ideas and perspective that are more compatible with the modern notions of human rights, while at the same time accepting and advocating intellectually Western notions and concepts on “gender” and “patriarchy” without much revision or criticism.

A researcher with a secular paradigm when dealing with the Islamic sources rejects established Islamic sciences’ methodology and usually bases his/her analysis on approaches that deal with “texts” regardless of the origin of these texts - revealed or human. Any contribution will always be classified as a secular critique to the transcendental and will hence be rejected and refuted by the mainstream Islamic schools of thought and jurisprudence - even if insightful and worth discussing.

The political situation and polarization is dominant in a lot of discussion spaces. The arguments of secularists are not read and understood by Islamic scholars, while any effort or new Ijtihad on the Islamic side is usually accused of being for propagandist, not serious, for political purposes and temporary. Especially in the issues of women the political side is very much linked with the methodology, the selection of topics and the way these are addressed from both sides according to the hot issues on the political agenda. The lack of a real intellectual environment for dialogue blocks change on the grassroot level for the best of the majority of women.

A second point is that attempts to bridge the gap between social sciences and Islamic sciences have been going on in many academic circles in the Muslim world. Disciplines like economy were given more attention than other disciplines such as political science and sociology.

It is very important to realize that any reform in women issues by combining a contemporary reading of the sources with knowledge of social sciences requires Ijtihad on both sides. Till now only attempts to reform the reading of the text have been in process, while the Ijtihad on the social sciences level has been almost non-existent. A simple example for that is the attempt to seek new fatwas allowing women to participate in politics by voting as well as becoming political representatives. Little has been done to introduce a new political theory that would revise the centrality of the state major actor, or revise the whole issue of political representation and its problems.

Democracy, as people have to be constantly reminded of, can take many forms, not necessarily representative democracy, and not necessarily in a party system. Authoritarianism or totalitarianism are not the only options to the former statement, but a variety of forms for political governance that are definitely NOT the simple non-sophisticated talk about an “Islamic State” that is always more of a State than it is …Islamic. The Ijtihad has to be on all tracks, otherwise one will end up defending just and equal women participation in a political system that is not just nor fair or equal itself –structurally speaking.

When discussing the issue of women and politics, one finds different approaches.  The first is called the selective anti-Sunna method as it is based on the selection of the source (reference), denying and refusing the whole of Sunna and Hadith. It is short and brief as it saves itself the path of Ijtihad and argumentation.

The selective anti-Sunna Method

“Can a woman take the leadership role? Is it prohibited? The answer will be different if you look at the Quran, or if you look at the the Hadiths, that most of them were written about 200 years after the Prophet's death. When God tells us a story in the Quran, He does not do so just for entertaining us, but to teach us a lesson.

"We narrate to you the most accurate history through the revelation of this Quran. Before this, you were totally unaware." 12:3. "In their history, there is a lesson for those who possess intelligence......" 12:111.

The role of an important woman in the history of the old world, as much as Muslims are concerned, is shown in the story of Belquees, the Queen of Sheba. See 27:22-44. God mentioned her history in the Quran to let us know that a woman in a ruling position is not offensive as far as God is concerned. She represented a democratic ruler who consulted with her people before making important decisions, See 27:29. She visited Solomon, talked to him, made decisions for herself and her people, did not hide behind walls, or shy behind another man. After witnessing what God gave Solomon, she became a submitter (Muslim), while still the Queen of Sheba. "She was told, "Go inside the palace." When she saw its interior, she thought it was a pool of water, and she (pulled up her dress) exposing her legs. He said, "This interior is now paved with crystal." She said, 'My Lord, I have wronged my soul. I now submit with Solomon to God, Lord of the universe".

Here we witness one of the first Muslim women in charge of a nation, ruling them as a queen of Sheba. Can we learn a lesson from the Quran? We should. The lesson is that, God in the Quran never put restrictions on a woman in a ruling position. Contrary to what the traditional Muslim scholars and Hadiths teach, a woman in a leading political position is not against God's system or against the Quran. It might be against the chauvinistic views of the men who wrote the corrupted history of Hadiths.

What did the books of man, the Hadith books, teach about women in leadership positions? Completely the opposite, and then they claim that Hadiths do not contradict the Quran. Of course the reason is that, the Prophet Muhammed would have never contradicted the Quran, but those who invented these stories about him did.

In one of the most famous Hadiths that is often raised in the face of any Muslim woman seeking higher education or a higher position in her career is one by a man called Abu Bakra who narrated a Hadith reported in Bukhary that states that any community ruled by a woman will never succeed. The fallacy of this Hadith is not only proven in history but in the fact that Abu Bakra himself was reported in the Muslim history books to be punished publicly for bearing false witness. Despite this known story of his bearing false witness, Bukhary did not remove his Hadith from among his collected Hadiths according to the rules that Bukhary himself claimed to follow. Such a bearer of false witness should never be allowed or accepted as a witness ever, according to the Quran (24:4).

The tajdid method

Access to political positions is dealt with in the dominant feminist discourse as a gain that women should target for power and influence. “Power” is also the reason why Islamists deny them that right so they would have no authority over the supposedly wiser males. It is usually forgotten that political positions are not gains to be sought but rather responsibilities to be carried. They necessitate specific competence which, according to Ibn Taymiyya, is based on two factors: strength and integrity. Strength is dependent on the nature of the jurisdiction. Strength in judgments is based on the knowledge about the Qur’an and the Hadith and the ability to implement them. Personal integrity all depends on the fear of God.

It is also neglected that whoever takes that power is obliged to abide by the laws of the Shari’a - be that person a man or a woman. Their decisions concerning the public law and the codes of ethics should be issued through the mechanisms of Shura. They are obeyed in as far as they do; otherwise, there is no obedience to those who disobey God and “Obedience is conditioned by the virtues” and “If the ruler judges unfairly or in contradiction to the established rules, his judgment is rejected.” Reading literature on the topic reveals that the disagreement arises in Fiqh from the different readings and interpretation of the Islamic sources that we can discuss as follows:

Scholars disagree on the possible meaning of the verse, which goes, “Men are in charge (qawwamun) of women, because of what God has graced some of them over the others and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).” (IV:34). Some interpretations argue that being “in charge” is exclusive for men since they possess superior attributes over women with respect to the management of affairs, the physical and psychological strengths, etc. To them, this makes it unfeasible that a woman takes over any public jurisdiction that can make her “in charge” or even let her share such responsibility. In their view, the text states explicitly that responsibility is given to men.

It is also argued that even if the responsibility stated in the above-mentioned verse is meant to be in the specific family context, the argument is still valid, since a woman is necessarily then incompetent in managing wider public affairs.

Other scholars maintain that the relationship between men and women in general is based on equality and that the Qur’an here only refers to the family in a regulative manner not to the human nature or the competence of women in general. This does not indicate that women are less competent, but rather suggests the more appropriate party who can be replaced by the other if necessary in cases of the absence of the father due to any reason.

Views are at variance concerning the Prophet’s Hadith narrated by al-Bukhari in the authority of Abu Bakra who said, “When the Prophet was informed that in Persia, the daughter of the King (Kisra) succeeded to the throne, he said, ‘No success is destined for a folk whose ruler is a woman’.” Some literature debate that this includes all women in all public jurisdictions. The statement is seperated from its context and taken as a divine rule. Other opinions see that, in general, this is exclusive to the caliphate - the highest position in an Islamic political system.

Some contemporary scholars deny the authenticity of the hadith altogether, describing it as “fake”, maintaining that it is at best a “Hadith Ahad” - a Hadith narrated by a sole narrator, a case which excludes it as a source of Sharia’ in serious matters of legislation and constitution. The first party had done no attempt to interpret the above-mentioned Hadith in the light of the other relevant Qur’anic verses (the simple next step in interpretation that is usually forgotten here!), or the other Prophetic tradition on the issue(?). The second group basically adhered to the same approach except that they made it specific and had not associated it with competence but with certain positions.

The following remarks can be given about the Hadith discussed:

-It has to be interpreted in the light of the other Hadiths on Persia and King Kisra. It was reported in the context of a narration reported by Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani quoted in Sahih al-Bukari. It was reported that Kisra tore off the message sent to him by the Prophet and that the Prophet accursed him. Then the Kisra’s son first killed him and then his brothers and the killer was ultimately poisoned himself. Therefore, Poran prohibited. Otherwise, how can women manage to perform their religious obligations without necessarily mixing with men? Alleged resulting “Fitna” cannot thus be taken as an argument since the legitimate rulings are established on the Qur’an and the Sunna.

To sum up, public jurisdi(?) and political po(?) require special competence in both men and women. They remain at the end the full occupation of a minority of people and some women among them are definitely eligible. Arguments to the established rules of interpretation.(Sentence came from nowhere) It is my conclusion that few women can practically manage both the responsibilities of family and jurisdiction at the same time. If they have the compatibility or can gain it they have full choice  –even a responsibility - to participate on these political levels in a Muslim society.


by Prof. Abdur Rahman I. Doi Professor and Director, Centre for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira, Nigeria.

In Islam there is absolutely no difference between men and women as far as their relationship to Allah is concerned, as both are promised the same reward for good conduct and the same punishment for evil conduct. The Qur'an says:

And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women. (2:226)

The Qur'an, in addressing the believers, often uses the expression 'believing men and women' to emphasize the equality of men and women in regard to their respective duties, rights, virtues and merits. It says:

For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (33:35)

This clearly contradicts the assertion of the Christian Fathers that women do not possess souls and that they will exist as sexless beings in the next life. The Qur'an says that women have souls in exactly the same way as men and will enter Paradise if they do good.

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Inheritance and Testament by Khurram Chaudhry
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1. It is enjoined upon every Muslim to make a testament as regards his bequest before he dies. The last will ought to cover the entire property and all persons to whom he wants to give something without any distinction of heir or non-heir:

(2:180) "It has been enjoined upon you that when you approach death and you are leaving behind your personal property, make a testament according to law for your parents and others close to you. This has been enjoined upon Muttaqeen as a duty from Allah. (The distribution of leftover property shall take place after the provisions of the 'will' have been fulfilled (4:11)."

Note that this verse starts with the words "you are commanded" and ends with the words "that it has been made incumbent upon those who guard the Divine Law". Moreover the 'will' shall be for the entire property. The verse also clarifies that the 'will' can also be made for parents and near relatives and also for non-relatives; whom the testator considers nearer to himself.

2. The Quran has given so much importance to the making of the will that even (minute) details for it have been prescribed. The following verses of Surah Al-Maaidah (5th Chapter of the Quran) invite pondering:

(5:106-108) "O you who believe! When death approaches any of you, take witnesses amongst yourselves while making testament; two just men of your own (brethren); or others from outside, if you are journeying through the land and your own men are not available and the chance of death befalls you.

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Law No.4320 on the Protection of the Family, 1998,Turkey
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Full Text of Law No. 4320

Clause 1- If a spouse or child or another member of the family living under the same roof is subject to abuse, and notification is made either by the victim or by the Public Prosecutor, in addition to the provisions of the Turkish Civil Code, taking into consideration the specific circumstances, a Justice of the Peace can pass one or more of the following rulings or take any other measures that are deemed appropriate.

The accused spouse can be ordered:

a. Not to use violence or threatening behavior against the other spouse or children (or another member of the family living under the same roof);

b. To leave the dwelling shared with the spouse or children if there are any and not to approach the dwelling occupied by the spouse and children or their place of work.
c. Not to damage the property of the spouse or children (or of others living under the same roof);

d. Not to cause distress to the spouse or children (or others living under the same roof) using means of communication;

e. To surrender a weapon or other similar instruments to the police;

f. Not to arrive at the shared dwelling while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances nor use such substances in the shared dwelling. The above-mentioned measures can be applied for a period not exceeding six months and, if the accused does not abide by the rulings, s/he shall be warned that s/he is liable to arrest and confinement. The judge shall take into account the standard of living of the victim and rule on maintenance payments accordingly.

Under the first paragraph of the statute, no fee is charged for applications.

Clause 2- A copy of the protection order is entrusted to the Public Prosecutor by the court. The Public Prosecutor monitors the application of the order through the police. In the event of the order being implemented, the police, without the need for the victim to submit a written application, will themselves conduct an investigation and transfer the documents to the Public Prosecutor within the shortest possible time. The Public Prosecutor can file a suit at the Magistrates Court against the spouse who does not abide by the order. The location of the case and the avoidance of loss of time in its expedition are governed by Law No 3005 on the Criminal Courts. The spouse who has not abided by the protection order can be sentenced to a prison sentence of three to six months.

Clause 3- This law comes into effect from the date on which it is promulgated.

Clause 4- The provisions of this law are implemented by the Council of Ministers.


Clause 1- The first clause of the draft provides for a member of the family who suffers abuse within the family, notification of which is either made by the victim or the Public Prosecutor, to secure one or more protective rulings, in addition to the provisions of the Turkish Civil Code. For example; if a husband arrives home under the influence of alcohol and abuses his wife and children the court can pass a ruling that he is "not to arrive home under the influence of alcohol" or, if the husband needs to be kept away from the home, it can issue more than one ruling, such as "not to approach the wife's house or workplace", "not to damage the wife's possessions", "to inform the accused spouse's superior at work or his employer" or "to forbid the accused spouse from coming to their shared home". In extraordinary circumstances the court can also pass other similar rulings in addition to those enumerated. If the Magistrate's Court considers that there is a possibility of the victim again being subject to abuse then it can pass an order immediately after the application without need for witnesses or hearing from the other side. Those who have suffered abuse are not responsible for proving to the court the possibility of being subjected to abuse. The court can issue rulings for a period of up to six months and if the accused does not abide by the court rulings s/he is warned that s/he is liable to arrest and confinement. The presiding judge can make a maintenance order so as to prevent the victim from becoming impoverished. In order to set the amount of maintenance, an expert is required to conduct an investigation and determine the standard of living of both the plaintiff and the defendant. In order for the victim not to incur any financial expense, no charge shall be made for applications to the Magistrates Court.

Clause 2- According to the second clause of the draft, a copy of the protection order shall be forwarded to the Public Prosecutor by the Magistrates Court and the responsibility for ensuring that the order is complied with shall be delegated to the police. In the event of the protection order not being complied with, the police shall conduct its own investigation, without need for the victim to submit a formal application, and forward the documents to the Public Prosecutor in the shortest possible time. The Public Prosecutor shall open a case at the Magistrates Court in the name of the state against the spouse who is not complying with the protection order. The aforementioned case shall be conducted in the manner and with the speed foreseen by the law on Criminal Courts. At the conclusion of the trial, if the spouse who has not complied with the provisions of the protection order is guilty of another crime then s/he is liable to a prison sentence of three to six months. The passing of the prison sentence foreseen in this clause is based upon the accused being previously warned by the court of the consequences of his/her failure to abide by the protection order and the persistent endangering of the unity of the family. The aim of the setting of a six month upper limit for the prison sentence is to act as a deterrent and to ensure that the sentence does not fall within the scope of the punishments foreseen in the 119th clause of the Turkish Criminal Code.

Clause 3- The law will come into effect on its promulgation.

Clause 4- The implementation of the law is the responsibility of the competent authority.
What is Our Share? A look at the laws of inheritance -Zainab Chaudhry
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Azizah Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 3, Aug 2004

Four sources of Islamic law are accepted by most schools of jurisprudence the Qur'an, the Sunnah, ijma' and qiyas. The Qur'an is the divine word of Allah and the Sunnah are the sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him. Ijma' is a consensus of opinion and signifies agreement of jurists on a rule of law and qiyas, or analogical reasoning, and is used to apply the textual rule provided for a specific situation to another situation not specified, by identifying a common underlying cause (`illah) for the law between them. Since the ultimate source of Islamic law is Allah alone, ijma' and qiyas are actually principles used to derive the law from the Qur'an and Sunnah.

Qur'anic verses define heirs as several classes of kin that were previously unable to inherit most notably women such as wives, daughters, mothers and sisters and distributed the estate in an equitable way that was a drastic improvement from the pre-Islamic scheme. The Qur'an specifies three main classes of heirs: (1) the Qur'anic heirs called "Sharers", (2) agnatic heirs called "Residuaries", and (3) uterine heirs called Distant Kindred. Not all possible heirs always inherit; some classes may exclude others, and some heirs within a class may exclude others within the same class. However, the spouse, parents and children of the deceased cannot be excluded, although their shares may be decreased by the existence of more heirs.

When no son is present, a daughter or daughters are defined Sharers. A daughter who was an only child would receive one-half of her father's or mother's estate. If there are two or more daughters, they divide two-thirds of the estate equally. In the presence of a son, the daughter becomes a Residuary, taking one-half of the portion of the son's. In the absence of any living sons or daughters, son's daughters would be Sharers of the same proportions. If son's sons were also present, the son's daughters would take one-half of their share as Residuaries. If only one daughter and one son's daughter were present, the daughter would take her one-half, and the son's daughter would take one-sixth to complete the two-third distribution.

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Applying the Concept of "Limits" to the Rights of Muslim Women By: Dr. Mohammed Shahroor
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December 2000

Within the Islamic thought, one would come across slogans such as "Islam is sound for all places and times", and "Islam is the solution". At the same time we have serious contemporary problems like: human rights, democracy, constitutional authority, and the rights of women. In solving these problems, several trends surfaced in the Muslim/Arab world, such as the following:

1- One Islamic approach is based on Arab-Islamic Legacy, represented by slogans like "Islam is the Solution" and "The Domain (hakemeyah) of God". This approach uses the principles of Islamic legal theory that stopped developing at the end of the third and fourth centuries (Hijri). However, this approach cannot solve the problem of democracy. It assumes that women obtained their rights during the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW) and hence any new idea like the right of women to travel alone, to have proper dress (fashion), and the right to vote and to be elected, would not be tackled. Unfortunately, such legacy had not provided any original solution to modern problems since it focuses on past contexts.

2- The liberal approach argues that all main issues of freedom and democracy, human rights at large, and the rights of women in particular, have been solved by many nations through human experience and reason. This approach separates religion from public life in pursuit of creating a secular state. The core issue of this human experience becomes the creation of civil society, in which the rights of women are secured. This approach has the problem of relating with Islam, since Islam is the central normative force for the people, standard of values, including political ones.

The people of the Middle East (Arab-Islamic States) have lived for centuries under political oppression, and they still do. Women have also been subject to political and social oppression sustained by the traditional understanding of Islamic legacy. Therefore, this legacy gives no help in solving the above-mentioned problems. That is to say, if we want to adhere to an Islamic solution we must formulate new Islamic Legal and Theological theories, which give room for pluralism, human rights, democracy, self-determination, abolishing predetermination and fatalism. In order to do so, I have tried to make a new contemporary reading to the Holy Scripture. In order to start this reading I have differentiated between Islam and Islamization.

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The Challenges of Islamic Law & Muslim Societies, Abdulkader Tayob interviewed Muhammad Khalid Masud
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Brief notes:

AK: You've been working on many different topics, in many different areas. How would you describe your work as a whole?

MKM: Law has always been with me. I started working at the Islamic Research Institute in Pakistan, which was involved with the legal question. Islamic law, moreover, is a source for all types of questions, whether you are talking about society or human rights or culture.

AK: A theme that I picked up in your writing is the notion of change. How have you dealt with this notion, and more particularly within the context of modernity or modernization?

MKM: When I embarked upon my M.A. in Islamic studies, the questions that we were dealing with, the discussions that we had, always presumed a question of change. I have come to understand change, I think, gradually. In the beginning my own attitude was to be critical. For instance, questions about whether you should learn English or you should go to college, were my life questions which I had to debate on when I was young. My father was not keen on my going to college; he wanted me to go either to Nadwa or to Deoband. When I was at university, I would come home and sometimes mention certain issues. For instance, one question that bothered me at that time was that according to the al-Hidayah, the testimony of non-Muslims may not be accepted. And the authority for that view came from the Qur'anic verse that God is not going to grant authority to non-Muslims over Muslims. The context in the Qur'an was the war of Badr, and I thought that that was not proper evidence. So I mentioned this and my father was so angry that I was critical of al-Hidayah.

AK: Was your father schooled in Islamic law himself?

MKM: No, he had no formal education in Islam. He was a qualified tabib (traditional medic), but he never went to a madrasa. During the freedom struggle, he spent months and years in jail with scholars like Mufti Kifayatulla. So by staying with them, he knew of all these discussions and religious debates.
A Muslim Woman's Reflections on Gender by Omaima Abou-Bakr
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How valid or appropriate is it for Muslims -women and men- to adopt a so-called gender-sensitive perspective or approach to the study of religious, cultural, and historical texts? Or, we can reverse the question: can we study gender issues from a Muslim woman's perspective? In attempting to answer such a question, we can refer to three incidents related in the authenticated Traditions, two of them are in the context of the "occasions for revelation" of two particular Qur'anic verses.

(a) It was related that Um Salama, a wife of the Prophet (PBUH), was in her room with her maid combing her hair, when she heard the Prophet calling for a community gathering for an announcement in the mosque: "O people!" Her maid says, "You don't have to go; he is calling for the men, not the women." Um Salama replies: "Indeed, I am one of the people."

(b) Um Salama went to the Prophet and wondered: why are the men being praised for their sacrifices in the hijra and not the women? Hence, the revelation of verse 195 of chapter 3: "And God has heard them and responded: verily, I suffer not the work of any worker of you, male or female, to be lost, you are one of another…."

(c) Narrated is the incident of a group of women complaining to the Prophet that the Qur'an only mentions the wives of the Prophet and not women in general: "Men are mentioned in everything and we are not; is there any goodness in us to be mentioned and commended?" Hence, verse 35 of chapter 33: "Verily, Muslims, men & women, believers, men & women, obedient men & women, truthful men & women, patient men & women, humble men & women, charitable men & women, fasting men & women, chaste men & women, those who mention and remember God - men & women--, for all those God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward."

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Women's Dress Code in Islam
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God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, insists on making His religion easy, practical and enjoyable for His true believers. God also told us that those who reject Him or His books are making life miserable for themselves and for their loved ones who follow in their footsteps. He reminds us in the Quran that He has placed no hardship on us in practicing our religion (see 22:78).

"You shall strive for the cause of GOD as you should strive for His cause. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in practicing your religion - the religion of your father Abraham..." 22:78

God established also several rules in His book, the Quran, for His TRUE believers. Breaking any of His rules or refusing any of them means loss, misguidance, misery and eternal suffering. To understand a topic like the DRESS CODE for Muslim Women, we need to review quickly some of these rules established by our Creator, God Almighty, to whom we will be responsible for our deeds. Every rule is important and every rule is meant to be.

(1) Quran is a complete book, See 6:19,38,114, 115, 12:111 and 50:45. Remember that when God says that His book is complete, it means 100% complete.

"..........We did not leave ANYTHING out of this book." 6:38

"The word of your Lord is COMPLETE, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient." 6:115

(2) Quran is perfect; no mistakes, no falsehood, no nonsense.

"No falsehood could enter it (Quran), in the past or in the future; a revelation from a Most Wise, Praiseworthy." 41:42

".......All ruling belongs to God, and He has ruled that you shall not worship except Him. This is the PERFECT RELIGION, but most people do not know: 12:40 (see also 30:30, 30:43 and 98:5).

(3) Quran is detailed, and when God says He detailed His book it means FULLY detailed. God does not do half jobs.

"Shall I seek other than GOD as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? Those who received the scripture recognize that it has been revealed from your Lord, truthfully. You shall not harbor any doubt." 6:114, See also, 7:52, 11:1, 41:3, 10:37 and 12:111

(4) God does not need any addition to His book. God teaches us in the Quran that He does not run out of words and that if He so willed He could have given us hundreds, thousands or millions of books besides the Quran (see 18:109). Since the Quran is complete, perfect and fully detailed, God did not give us any more books.

(5) God calls His book, the Quran, the BEST HADITH. HE called on His true believers to accept no other hadiths as a source of this perfect religion. See 7:185, 31:6, 39:23, 45:6, and 77:50.

"Have they not looked at the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all the things God has created? Does it ever occur to them that the end of their lives may be near? Which HADITH, besides this (Quran) do they believe in?" 7:185

(6) God calls on His true believers to make sure to not fall in the trap of idol-worship by following the words of the scholars instead of the words of God (see 9:31).

(7) God calls those who prohibit what He did not prohibit, aggressors, liars and idol-worshippers. Idol-worship is the only unforgivable sin, if maintained till death. See, 5:87, 9:37, 7:32, 6:119, 6:140 and 10:59.

"O you who believe, do not prohibit good things that are made lawful by God, and do not aggress; God dislikes the aggressors." 5:87

"Say, "Did you note how God sends down to you all kinds of provisions, then you render some of them unlawful, and some lawful?" Say, "Did God give you permission to do this? Or, do you fabricate lies and attribute them to God?" 10:59

(8) Muhammed is represented only by the Quran. The Prophet Muhammed was the last Prophet and a messenger of God (33:40). He was not the messenger of God because of who he (Muhammed) was, but because he was given the Quran (the message) to deliver to the world. The religion of Islam is a religion of God, not about Muhammed, who was blessed by God with the delivery of the message of the Quran. He did not have an agenda of his own.

His job was to deliver to the world what God was giving him, the Quran. See 42:48, 13:40, 5:99-100, Muhammed cannot prohibit things, or make lawful things on his own. When he tried to do that God admonished him publicly, 66:1, 66:1 reminds us that God is the only ONE to prohibit or make things lawful.

NO ONE can attribute to Muhammed a prohibition that God did not give him in the Quran. Anyone who tries to do so is admitting his/her refusal of God's words and commandments in the Quran.

(9) The TRUE believers KNOW that when God says something, He means it, and when He does not, he means it as well. Everything given to us in the Quran was done deliberately and everything left out was also left out deliberately.

God does not forget. See 19:64. We are not to add to this religion what God deliberately left out and claim it to be from Him or His messenger. His messenger has only ONE message, the Quran. God already told us He does not run out of words. 18:109

(10) God does not need us to improve on His book, the Quran, but we very much need Him for every aspect of our lives. Those who think they have some improvement on the Quran are but asking for recognition of their idols as gods besides the ONE and ONLY GOD. Fabricated hadiths tried to add to Islam (Submission) what the disbelievers thought God forgot to mention in the Quran.

(11) God calls on His TRUE believers to verify every piece of information they see, hear or read, see 17:36.

"You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them." 17:36 So, VERIFY.



[7:26] "O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of GOD's signs, that they may take heed."

This is the BASIC rule of DRESS CODE in the Quran. This is the first rule in WOMEN DRESS CODE in Islam (Submission).


The second rule can be found in 24:31. Here God orders the women to cover their bosoms whenever they dress up. But before quoting 24:31 let us review some crucial words that are always mentioned with this topic, namely "Hijab" and "Khimar"


"Hijab" is the term used by many Muslim women to describe their head cover that may or may not include covering their face except their eyes, and sometimes covering also one eye. The Arabic word "Hijab" can be translated into veil or yashmak. Other meanings for the word "Hijab" include, screen, cover(ing), mantle, curtain, drapes, partition, division, divider.

Can we find the word "Hijab" in the Quran??

The word "Hijab" appeared in the Quran 7 times, five of them as "Hijab" and two times as "Hijaban," these are 7:46, 33:53, 38:32, 41:5, 42:51, 17:45 & 19:17.

None of these "Hijab" words are used in the Quran in reference to what the traditional Muslims call today (Hijab) as a dress code for the Muslim woman.

God knows that generations after Muhammed's death the Muslims will use the word "Hijab" to invent a dress code that He never authorized. God used the word "Hijab" ahead of them just as He used the word "Hadith" ahead of them.

Hijab in the Quran has nothing to do with the Muslim Women dress code.


While many Muslims call "Hijab", an Islamic dress code, they completely ignore the fact that, Hijab as a dress code has nothing to do with Islam and nothing to do with QURAN.

In reality "Hijab" is an old Jewish tradition that infiltrated into the hadith books like many innovations that contaminated Islam through alleged Hadith and Sunna. These in reality, came from Jewish origin. Any student of the Jewish traditions or religious books will see that head cover for the Jewish woman is encouraged by the Rabbis and religious leaders. Religious Jewish women still cover their heads most of the time and especially in the synagogues, weddings, and religious festivities.

Christian women cover their heads in many religious occasions while the nuns cover their heads all the time. This religious practice of covering the head was established from traditions thousands of years before the Muslim scholars claimed the Hijab as a Muslim dress code.

The traditional Arabs, of all religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims used to wear "Hijab," not because of Islam, but because of tradition. In Saudi Arabia, up to this minute most of the men cover their heads, not because of Islam but because of tradition. Thank God this tradition has not been counted as Islamic dress code yet.

North Africa is known for its Tribe (Tuareg) that have the Muslim men wearing "Hijab" instead of women. Here the tradition has the hijab in reverse. If wearing Hijab is the sign of the pious and righteous Muslim woman, Mother Teresa would have been the first woman to be counted.

In brief, hijab is a traditional dress and has nothing to do with Islam or religion. In certain areas of the world, men are the ones who wear the hijab while in others the women do.

Mixing religion with tradition is a form of idol-worship, because not knowing (or not trying to find out) what God asked you to do in His book, the Quran, is a sign of disregarding God and His message. When tradition supersedes God's commandment, the true religion takes a second place. God never accepts to be second, God has to be always the FIRST and to HIM there is no second.


"Khimar" is an Arabic word that can be found in the Quran in 24:31 While the first basic rule of Dress Code for the Muslim Women can be found in 7:26, the second rule of the DRESS CODE FOR WOMEN can be found in 24:31. Some Muslims quote verse 31 of sura 24 as containing the Hijab, or head cover, by pointing to the word, khomoorehenna, (from Khimar), forgetting that God already used the word Hijab, several times in the Quran.

Those blessed by God can see that the use of the word "Khimar" in this verse is not for "Hijab" or for head cover. Those who quote this verse usually add (Head cover) or (veil) after the word Khomoorehenna, and usually between ( ), because it is their addition to the verse not God's.

Here it is 24:31;

"And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, (with their Khimar) and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to GOD, O you believers, that you may succeed." 24:31

Here is Yousuf Ali's translation, but the word KHIMAR was put back in place instead of (veils), so the verse would look as it should have been before adding Ali's own interpretation:

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments ... that they should draw their KHIMAR over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands.." Y. Ali's translation, with the word khimar put back in place.

"Khimar" is an Arabic word that means, cover, any cover, a curtain is a Khimar, a dress is a Khimar, a table cloth that covers the top of a table is a Khimar, a blanket can be used as a Khimar.. etc. The word KHAMRA used for intoxicant in Arabic has the same root with Khimar, because both covers, the Khimar covers (a window, a body, a table . etc.) while KHAMRA covers the state of mind. Most of the translators, obviously influenced by Hadith (fabrications) translate the word as VEIL and thus mislead most people to believe that this verse is advocating the covering of the head.

In 24:31 God is asking the women to use their cover (khimar) (being a dress, a coat, a shawl, a shirt, a blouse, a tie, a scarf . . . etc.) to cover their bosoms, not their heads or their hairs. If God so willed to order the women to cover their heads or their hair, nothing would have prevented Him from doing so. GOD does not run out of words. GOD does not forget.

God did not order the women to cover their heads or their hair. He was not waiting for a Scholar to put the words for Him.

The Arabic word for CHEST, GAYB is in the verse (24:31), but the Arabic words for HEAD, (RAAS) or HAIR, (SHAAR) are NOT in the verse. The commandment in the verse is clear - COVER YOUR CHEST OR BOSOMS, but also the fabrication of the scholars and most of the translators is clear by claiming- cover your head or hair.

The last part of the verse (24:31) translates as, "They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies." The details of the body can be revealed or not revealed by the dress you wear, not by your head cover.

Notice also the expression in 24:31, "They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary." This expression may sound vague to many because they have not understood the mercy of God.

Again God here used this very general term to give us the freedom to decide according to our own circumstances the definition of "Which is necessary". It is not up to a scholar or to any particular person to define this term. God wants to leave it personal for every woman and no one can take it away from her.

Women who follow the basic rule number one i.e. righteousness, will have no problem making the right decision to reveal only which is necessary. The word "zeenatahunna" in this verse refers to the woman's body parts (beauty) and not to ornaments and decorations as some people interpret it or translate it.

At the end of the verse, God told the women not to strike with their feet to show their "zeenatahunna". You do not need to strike your feet to show your ornaments but the way you strike your feet while walking can expose or shake certain parts of the body that do not need to be emphasized.

Accepting orders from anybody but God, means idol-worshipping. That is how serious the matter of Hijab/ khimar is. Women who wear Hijab because of tradition or because they like it for personal reasons commit no sin, as long as they know that it is not part of this perfect religion. Those who are wearing it because they think God ordered it are committing idol-worship, as God did not order it, the scholars did. These women have found for themselves another god than the One who revealed the Quran, complete, perfect and FULLY detailed to tell them they have to cover their heads to be Muslims.

Idol-worshipping is the only unforgivable sin, if maintained till death, 4:48.


The first regulation of DRESS CODE for Muslim women is in 7:26, the second is in 24:31 and the third is in 33:59.

"O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall LENGTHEN their garments. Thus, they will be recognized and avoid being insulted. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful." 33:59

In 33:59, God sets the other regulation for the dress code for the Muslim women during the prophet's life. Although the verse is talking to the prophet which means this regulation applies to the time of the prophet, just like the order in 49:2, the description fits the spirit of Islam, and can teach us a great deal.

If you reflect on this verse and how God ordered the prophet to tell his wives, his daughters and the wives of the believers to lengthen their garments, you would understand the great wisdom of the MOST WISE, the MOST MERCIFUL. In this verse, God, DELIBERATELY, (and all the TRUE believers know that everything GOD says, does, or did is DELIBERATE) said, tell them, to lengthen their garments, and never said how long is considered long.

God could have said tell them to lengthen their garments to their ankles or to their mid-calf or to their knees, but HE DID NOT. He did not, OUT OF HIS MERCY, not because HE FORGOT as God does not forget. God knows that we will be living in different communities and have different cultures and insists that the minor details of this dress code will be left for the people of every community to hammer for themselves.

It is clear from the above verses that the DRESS CODE for the Muslim women (Submitters) according to the Quran is righteousness and modesty. God knows that this modesty will be understood differently in different communities and that is why He left it open to us to decide for ourselves.

Decide, after righteousness what is modesty. Modesty for a woman who lives in New York may not be accepted by a woman who lives in Cairo, Egypt. Modesty of a woman who lives in Cairo, Egypt may not be accepted by a woman who lives in Saudi Arabia. Modesty of a woman who lives in Jidda in Saudi Arabia may not be accepted by a woman who lives in a desert oasis in the same country.

This difference in the way we perceive modesty is well-known to God, he created us, and He put NO hardship on us in this great religion. He left it to us to decide what modesty would be. For any person, knowledgeable or not to draw a line and make conclusions for God about the definition of modesty is to admit that he/she knows better than God. God left it open for us and no one has the authority to restrict it, it has to stay open.


In the family setting, God put no hardship on the women, and permitted them to relax their dress code. If you reflect on the verses, 33:35 and 24:60, you will see that God did not give details of what this relaxation is, because every situation is different. A woman may relax her dress code in front of the four-year-old son of her brother but not as much in front of the 16-year-old son.

[33:55] "The women may relax (their dress code) around their fathers, their sons, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, the other women, and their (female) servants. They shall show reverence for GOD. GOD witnesses all things."

[24:60] "The elderly women who do not expect to get married commit nothing wrong by relaxing their dress code, provided they do not reveal too much of their bodies. To maintain modesty is better for them. GOD is Hearer, Knower."


[7:31] "O children of Adam, you shall be clean and dress nicely when you go to the masjid. And eat and drink moderately; Surely, He does not love the gluttons."


God, the MOST GRACIOUS, MOST MERCIFUL decided that those who will reject His complete book and look for other sources for guidance will suffer in this life and in the HEREAFTER by their choice. God never put any hardship on the believers, but the scholars did, they invented their own laws in defiance of God, to regulate everything from the side of bed you sleep on, to which foot should step in the house, to what to do with a fly in your soup, to what to say when having intercourse with your spouse.

Those who believe God and believe that His book is COMPLETE, PERFECT AND FULLY DETAILED, will have everything easy for them as God promised, See 10:62-64, 16:97 while those who could not believe God and have been seeking other sources than the Quran will have all the hardship of this life and the life to come. In the Hereafter they will complain to God, "we were not idol-worshippers," but God knows best, He knows they were. See 6:22-24

"On the day when we summon them all, we will ask the idol-worshippers, "Where are the idols you set up?" Their disastrous response will be, "By GOD our Lord, we never were idol-worshippers." Note how they lied to themselves, and how the idols they had invented have abandoned them." 6:22-24


God, the Most Merciful, gave us three basic rules for the Dress Code for Women in Islam (Submission),

(1) The BEST garment is the garment of righteousness.
(2) Whenever you dress, cover your chest (bosoms).
(3) Lengthen your garment.

While these three BASIC rules may not sound enough for those who do not trust God, the TRUE believers know that God is ENOUGH. God could have given us more details to the point of having graphs, designs and color rules, but He, the Most Merciful, wants to give us exactly these very basic rules and leave the rest for us. After these three basic rules every woman is more aware of her circumstances and can adjust her dress for her situation. Any addition to these basic Quranic rules is an attempt to correct God or improve on His merciful design.

We have no obligation to follow but God's rules. Innovations and fabrications that added thousands of rules to the women dress code are nothing but idol-worship and should be refused.


Muhammad Khalid Masud (Ebrahim Moosa)

Legal vocabularyLiteral MeaningJoseph Schacht: An Introduction to Islamic LawILT Notes
`adl Straightness, impartiality Of good character In a general sense, ‘adl refers to ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ and impartiality. Islamic law requires a witness in the court to be ‘adl, to be just and impartial. The criteria for impartiality are defined often in terms of good character and general reputation. Declaring someone to be fit as a witness is called tazkiya al-shuhud. Justice in Islamic legal thinking has been defined in terms of order and hierarchy; focus on fairness and right has been marginal. Modern Muslim thought stresses a wider sense of justice to include notions of social and economic justice
ahliyyaabilitycapacityLegal capacity is enjoyed only by a person who is adult and sane. Adulthood in Islamic law obtains on puberty. In modern times, adulthood is defined more in terms of age than puberty.
Al-ahkam al-khamsaFive valuesThe five legal qualificationsThese five categories are: 1. Obligatory (wajib/fard), 2. Recommended/ commendable (mandub/mustahabb) 3. Neutral, Indifferent/permissible (mubah/ja’iz) 4. Reprehensible/disapproved (makruh), 5. Forbidden (haram, mahzur). This categorization suggests Muslim jurists’ effort to define the wide range between halal and haram (the lawful and the forbidden), the basic categories used in the Qur’an.
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