Women need to play a role in ‘restoring’ Saudi Islam
In a wide-ranging interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. "MBS") discussed, among other topics, the recent anti-corruption drive and liberalization of Saudi society. Call it a kinder, gentler form of authoritarianism – with a progressive touch. Notably, MBS refused to address his country's interference in Lebanese politics or its unconscionable scorched-earth policy in Yemen.
Nonetheless, Mr. Friedman was effusive of MBS's plans to veer Saudi Islam to a "moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples." The Prince calls it a "restoration" of the faith to its origins – namely the Prophetic period in the early 7th century. This has the potential to reverse the puritanical strain (Wahhabism) currently at the heart of Saudi society, where, for example, a woman is under male guardianship from cradle to grave.
The late Sunni scholar Abdul Halim Abu Shaqqa chronicled in his comprehensive study of the Koran and authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim women were far more engaged in society during the Prophetic era. They had more rights and opportunities to build a vibrant society, in partnership with men, than many contemporary Muslim cultures (including Saudi Arabia).
Mr. Friedman believes this "restoration" project "would drive moderation across the Muslim world." In fact, most of the Muslim world has soundly rejected Wahhabism. Yet, the deeply entrenched patriarchy of Saudi society finds parallels in many Muslim countries.
While MBS has promised to grant Saudi women more liberty, his top-down approach towards "restoration" of Islam raises a number of questions.
Will the man who allowed women to drive, allow them a place to drive the "restoration" as well? Or will it be a vehicle steered exclusively by men, with women seated as passengers, while men alone navigate women's role in society?
Women's voices and perspectives will be essential if there is to be any meaningful reform of contemporary Muslim cultural practices.
Pakistani Women Seize Film Dispute as Chance to Discuss Rape and Injustice
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani film about a rape victim who fights to bring her politically powerful attacker to justice has rankled Pakistan’s censors but emboldened women to speak out about sexual assault in a country where the discussion of such topics is discouraged.
The film — which overcame an initial ban imposed because of its subject matter — has inspired Pakistani women to tap into the spirit of the viral #MeToo campaign to expose sexual harassment and create their own public platform for victims and their supporters.
With the Pakistani film industry struggling to survive and wary of issue-oriented projects, the film’s release has provided a timely opportunity to talk about a difficult topic.
In the film, “Verna,” Pakistan’s most popular and highest-paid actress, Mahira Khan, plays a teacher who is abducted and raped repeatedly by the son of a regional governor. After failing to get justice from the police or the courts, the teacher takes matters into her own hands.
Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Censors banned the film for its “edgy content,” which the board said was “maligning state institutions.” But a public outcry, fueled by extensive news coverage and a social media campaign, #UnbanVerna, bore fruit when an appellate board lifted the ban. The film opened on Nov. 17 and has done moderately well at the box office.
Iran and Saudis’ Latest Power Struggle: Expanding Rights for Women
BEIRUT, Lebanon — They call each other meddlers, warmongers, religious hypocrites, zealots and sponsors of terrorism. Now Iran and Saudi Arabia, the archrivals of the Middle East, are competing in a surprising new category: gender equality.
They appear to be vying over who can be quicker to overhaul their repressive rules for women.
Tehran’s police chief announced this week that the so-called morality police who patrol the capital would no longer automatically detain and punish women seen without the proper hijab head-covering in public, an offense commonly called “bad hijab.” They will be given counseling instead.
In Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women, the authorities this week allowed female contestants at an international chess tournament to play without the full-body garb known as an abaya. That decision is the latest in a string of liberalizing moves by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young Saudi ruler, which includes letting women drive.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are on opposite sides in many ways — in their divergent branches of Islam, the wars in Syria and Yemen, Lebanese politics and relations with the United States, for example. They have clashed over oil production, religious pilgrimages and who is a terrorist. But both countries are responding to domestic and international pressure over women’s rights.
Over a century ago, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah had an unprecedented vision for the region of South Asia: to provide exceptional, educational opportunities to students, particularly girls, to help spur development.
When Nusrat Nasab looks back at her achievements, she marvels at how the history and vision of the Ismaili Imamat facilitated her own success. Nasab comes from Gulmit, a small town in northern Pakistan known both for its absolute beauty and extreme isolation.
Laying the foundations of what would become the Aga Khan Development Network’s education system, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah launched the establishment of Aga Khan Schools, the first of which began in 1905 in Mundra and Gwadar in South Asia. In the 1940s, the proceeds from the 48th Imam’s Diamond Jubilee were mobilised to establish a number of additional schools — in the remote, mountainous areas of northern Pakistan and in western India. Today, there are more than 200 Aga Khan Schools and educational programmes operating across a network of 10 countries around the world, including Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. These schools, operated by the Aga Khan Education Services, have an enrolment of over 75,000 students and employ some 3,000 teachers.
Nusrat is a graduate of the Diamond Jubilee middle school in Gulmit. But at the age of six, her life changed — she lost her left arm in an accident. She wanted to continue her education at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, a residential institution for girls in Hunza, which was 30 miles away.
“My family was against sending me to a residential school thinking that I would not get the appropriate care,” said Nusrat. But a community leader gave assurance to Nusrat’s father, advising that “the Imam has established this school for girls like your daughter”. This was a life-changing experience for her. “All along, I kept thinking that if I do well, more girls will get such opportunities. We became ambassadors of the school.” Nusrat was part of the first graduating class. Now, almost three decades later, thousands of other girls like her have since graduated and assumed leadership and entrepreneurial roles in their communities.
Nusrat persisted in her dedication to learning. After securing scholarships from the Aga Khan Education Service and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, Nusrat was awarded a Master’s degree in Development Economics from the University of East Anglia in the UK.
“My daughter was only two years old when I got the scholarship to pursue my Masters. My mother insisted that I leave my daughter behind (with her) and concentrate on my studies. The immense support that I had from my family helped me achieve my goals,” Nusrat said.
Having served as the Executive Officer for Focus Humanitarian Assistance in Pakistan for many years, Nusrat now works as the Head of Emergency Management at the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat based in Tajikistan.
Nusrat’s journey from a small town in northern Pakistan to taking on leadership roles in various Jamati and AKDN institutions truly reflects the impact of the work undertaken by the Network in this region to help women achieve their true potential.
The Keys to the Kingdom: Saudi Women Learn to Drive
It is hard to overstate how much the right to drive will change the lives of Saudi women. Women were long kept out of public life in Saudi Arabia, segregated from men in most settings, limited to a small number of professions or encouraged to stay home, and forced to rely on private drivers or male relatives to pilot them around.
But much has changed for Saudi women in recent years as they have been allowed to work in new fields and appointed to high-profile positions, and have graduated in ever-increasing numbers from universities. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, has spoken of the importance of increasing women’s role in the work force as part of his effort to diversify the economy away from oil.
Today, the 8th of March, is International Women’s Day. Since 1975 the day has been designated by the UN as
a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. (http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/)
To mark the day, Archnet highlights the role of women in Islamic architecture and in the built environment of Muslim societies more generally.
Click around the sliding tiles on our homepages to see monuments of Islamic architecture that were built through the generosity of female patrons; projects by pioneers such as Yasmeen Lari, the first female architect in Pakistan, addressing contemporary problems such as refugee housing; mosques designed by women, and much more.
Most of these materials can be found in the Women in Architecture project. In 2013, Directors Shiraz Allibhai of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Sharon C. Smith, Program Head of the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT, launched the project shortly after the roll out of the redesigned Archnet in 2013. A documentary video produced by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment on “Arab Women in Architecture” was the kernel from which the project grew. Consistent with Archnet’s mission, the focus was soon expanded beyond the Arab world to focus on Muslim societies in the broadest sense. Today it contains projects from all corners of the world.
In 2016 the collection was greatly expanded by the addition of resources on Women in Turkish Architecture complied by Meral Ekincioglu. In addition, collection is continually enriched by the archives of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. In the most recent cycle, women led or played a significant role in four of the six projects to receive the award, a pattern consistent with the prominent role of women throughout all 13 cycles of the Award.
A growing number of countries have designated the entire month of March as “Women’s History Month,” so Archnet will continue to highlight to role of women on the site and in our social media throughout this period.
We invite you to explore our resources, and to send us your feedback. Watch this space to find out when new resources are added. Should you wish to contribute resources to this project, please see the “How to Contribute” page.
RABAT, Morocco — Last month, Asma Lamrabet, a well-known Moroccan feminist, resigned from her position at the Mohammedan League of Scholars, where she headed a center of women’s studies in Islam. She was pushed to resign, she explained in a statement, by the backlash over her support for a demand that remains controversial in the Arab and Muslim world: an equal share for women.
In Muslim countries, laws governing inheritance are derived from verses in the Quran; men generally receive larger, sometimes double, the shares that women get. Distant male relatives can supersede wives, sisters and daughters, leaving women not just bereaved but also destitute.
Raising the issue of inheritance and inequality has long been considered blasphemous. When Tunisia’s modernizing first president, Habib Bourguiba, did so in 1974, he was targeted by a fatwa from a Saudi cleric and forced to backtrack.
Shenila Khoja-Moolji – Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia
An Islam and the Humanities lecture and book talk, in Forging the Ideal Educated Girl, Shenila Khoja-Moolji traces the figure of the ‘educated girl’ to examine the evolving politics of educational reform and development campaigns in colonial India and Pakistan. She challenges the prevailing common sense associated with calls for women’s and girls’ education and argues that such advocacy is not simply about access to education but, more crucially, concerned with producing ideal Muslim woman-/girl-subjects with specific relationships to the patriarchal family, paid work, Islam, and the nation-state. Thus, discourses on girls’/women’s education are sites for the construction of not only gender but also class relations, religion, and the nation.
To commemorate International Day of the Girl Child, we look back at the Skate Girls of Kabul photography exhibition, created by artist Jessica Fulford-Dobson, and curated by Marianne Fenton. The exhibit was showcased at the Ismaili Centre Toronto, Aga Khan Museum, and Aga Khan Park in Autumn 2017, and at the Ismaili Centre Dubai in Spring 2018.
Today, 11 October marks International Day of the Girl Child. First declared by the United Nations in 2011 to support and empower young women across the world, the occasion provides an opportunity to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance the rights and possibilities for girls everywhere.
The Prophet prescribed a prayer to his daughter to help her in times of difficulty
Posted by Nimira Dewji
One of the most important female figures for the roles of women is Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadija. She was born around 604 CE in Mecca, the youngest of three sisters: Zaynab, Ruqayya, and Umm Kulthum.
Fatima was reportedly close to her father. When the Prophet emigrated (hijra) to Medina in 622 CE initiating the first year of the Muslim calendar, Fatima joined him shortly thereafter. She is revered not only as the Prophet’s daughter, but also the source of transmission of a number of hadiths. Fatima reportedly “dedicated herself to justice and service for the happiness and security of others” (Suleman). She is also depicted as “pious, ascetic, and, in Shia spirituality, as a benevolent and compassionate intercessor imbued with spirituality” (Hermansen).
Known as al-zahra (the radiant), Fatima’s name, or her titles, are found in coins and other objects, and were reportedly mentioned in the blessings of the Ahl al-Bayt that were included in the khutba (a sermon delivered in a mosque at Friday prayers) upon the Fatimid conquest of Egypt. Al-Azhar University was named after her by the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Muizz (d.975), who founded it in 972.
Clay plate with calligraphic inscription “Ya Fatima al-Zahra.” Photo: Wikipedia.
The Fatimids were a major dynasty of Ismaili Imam-Caliphs in North Africa (from 909) and later in Egypt (973–1171) who derived their name from the Prophet’s daughter, tracing their ancestry to Fatima and Ali.
Fatima married the Prophet’s cousin, Ali, the first Imam of the Shia. Qadi al-Numan (d.974), the Fatimid jurist and chief missionary, reported that the union of Fatima and Ali was divinely ordained to the Prophet through Angel Gabriel. Al-Nu’man also reported a number of hadiths in which the Prophet named Fatima as ‘the foremost lady of the whole community of believers’ or ‘the first of the women of Paradise.’
Several documents attest to the hardship of Fatima’s domestic life as the daughter of the Prophet and wife of Ali. A few writers mention her blistered hands from grinding corn and tending to her children. Whenever the Prophet visited her at home, he kissed her hands. On one occasion, Fatima asked her father for domestic help to ease her burden, but the Prophet denied her a housemaid. Instead he prescribed a prayer to recite.
The Prophet said:
Tasbih“O Fatima, I shall give you something better than that…After every prayer, declare God’s greatness [Allahu akbar] thirty-three times; and praise him [al-hamdu lillah (Praise be to God)] thirty-three times; and extol Him [subhana ‘llah (Glory be to God)] thirty-three times. Thereafter end by saying la ilaha illa’llah (there is no deity other than Allah).”
(Published in People of the Prophet’s House p. 183)
Fatima recited this tasbih after every prayer, which subsequently was named after her. The recitation of the tasbih Fatima is practised today by both Shi’i and Sunni Muslims, often for the purpose of alleviating personal difficulties.
Suleman notes that the “Tibb al-a’imma, a manual of Islamic medicine compiled in the ninth century and attributed to the early Shi’i Imams, also prescribes the recitation of Fatima’s tasbih, together with specific Qur’anic verses, for the treatment of the weakness of the body, and cites the authority of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (d. 765).”
Marcia K. Hermansen, “Women, Men and Gender in Islam,” The Muslim Almanac Ed. Azim A. Nanji, Gale Research Inc. 1998
Delia Cortese and Simonetts Calderini, Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam, Edinburgh University Press, 2006
Fahmida Suleman, “The Hand of Fatima: in search of its origins and significance,” People of the Prophet’s House Ed. Fahmida Suleman, Azimuth Editions in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, 2015
As we slowly get ready to wrap 2018 away, Bare Epitome decided to honour two young women as the Faces of the Year. It took us over a year to find the perfect faces for bare Epitome. Faces who have shown strength, commitment and power to dream. Faces that are motivating and inspiring thousands. Faces that are revolutionizing women football in Pakistan. Less known compared to other celebrities but they are working day in and day out for the betterment of women in Pakistan, enmbracing the true essence of empowerment.
We are proud to present, our faces of the year, the founders of the Gilgit Baltistan Women's Football League Karishma Inayat and Sumaira Inayat!
The sisters that have taken Pakistan and the world of Football by storm!
#BareEpitome #BE #BYAB #BecauseYouAreBeautiful #FacesofTheYear #GBWFL #womenempowerment #football
A unique project in Pakistan’s Hunza Valley to renovate and maintain the Altit Fort in a sustainable manner, using locally grown timber, has led to the employment of women as carpenters as an essential part of the work
The 800-year-old Altit Fort perches high above Pakistan’s Hunza Valley, while the River Hunza flows peacefully below. The fort was in danger of toppling off the cliff altogether before its owner donated it to the Aga Khan Cultural Service-Pakistan (AKCSP) in 2001. The non-profit organisation carried out extensive repairs and the restoration, which was funded by the Norwegian government, was such a success that the fort won a Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award in 2011.
Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro takes us to the tombs of Sindh’s female mystics from the Kalhora and Talpur eras
Mai Shahar Bano, the daughter of Mian Noor Muhammad (1719-1753) and sister of Ghulam Shah Kalhoro (1757-1772) held Abdul Hameed Buchari in great in veneration. Mai Shahar Bano also built the shrines of Abdul Hameed Buchrai and his son Muhammad Sharif and the mosque at Makan Sharif.
She was a pious and generous woman who built many mosques, madrasahs and tombs over the graves of Sufi saints in Sindh. Not much has been written and researched on the role of women in Sufism in Sindh. Many royal women from the Kalhora and Talpur dynasties were known for their devotion to Sufism, welfare and philanthropy. Mai Khairi, the mother of Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur, the founder of the Talpur dynasty, built many mosques and madrasahs in Sindh. She was a devout follower of Syed Ishaque Bokhari. She built an impressive mosque in Nasarpur town for his murshid Syed Ishaque Bokhari. Mai Khairi’s mosque was one of the most imposing structures of the Talpur period (1783-1863) in Nasarpur town. The mosque was decorated with Nasarpur ceramics. Both the interior and exterior were tastefully decorated. It is believed that Mai Khairi commissioned the most celebrated Kashighars of Nasarpur. But unfortunately, the ceramics and other forms of decoration were lost when the mosque was renovated one decade ago.
Mai Jaman, a wife of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro was also renowned for piety and built a number of mosques in the Sanghar district. She was believed to have commissioned eight mosques in different villages in Sanghar district. All the mosques carried her name and are locally called ‘Mai Jamanjun Masjidoon’(the mosques of Mai Jaman).
Apart from royal women, there is a long list of those women who belonged to the middle class but their devotion to Sufism was unmatched. They built mosques near the shrines of sufi saints. Some women enrolled themselves as disciples of eminent Sufis and became famous female Sufis themselves, later on. In the main bazaar of Nasarpur is located the shrine of Bibi Nurbhari who belonged to Dabgaran caste. This is still a popular shrine in Nasarpur town. Almost in every district of Sindh, there are two or three popular female shrines. In the purlieus of Karachi, there are most popular female shrines which belong to Mai Garhi and Mokhi respectively.
Sindh is a land of Sufis, saints, mystics, myths, mysteries and heroes (soorma). Many tales of generosity and bravery of men are narrated by roving minstrels in different towns and villages of Sindh. But equally, there is a long list of generous, brave, patriotic and pious women whose names are still preserved in the memories of oral historians, poets and sometime even painted on walls of funerary monuments in Sindh.
In Tharparkar, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan and many other districts of Sindh, one hears the names and tales of many brave women.
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Tamimi, Malala and Rahaf — icons of freedom
Pervez Hoodbhoy Updated January 19, 2019
NEW forms of resistance to old systems of oppression; three girl-children of near impossible courage have captured the world’s imagination. Ahed Tamimi, Malala Yousafzai and Rahaf Mohammed are iconic symbols from the West Bank to London and from Toronto to Tokyo. None is celebrated in Pakistan although one is our very own. Why? And what does this say about us?
Tamimi, who turned 18 this month, has fought Israel’s occupation of Palestine since she was 11. At 16 and still tiny, a hard slap on a fully armed Israeli soldier’s face bought her eight months in prison. She spent jail time educating other incarcerated youngsters in legal methods to confront their oppressors. In the Palestinian territories, she is revered. In Israel, she is reviled, the sentence considered too light.
Tamimi knows occupation firsthand. Her father had been beaten into a coma, her brother is still in jail. Her aunt died, pushed down the stairs by a soldier at a military court. Today, large crowds gather to hear her speak against Israel’s theft of land and water. Meanwhile, the authorities hover around, ready to send her back to jail for ‘incitement. Unfazed, she hopes to go to college and someday confront Israel in international courts.
In a Jew-hating country like Pakistan that’s heavy in rhetoric against the ‘Zionist entity’, is Tamimi a heroic figure? Not so! Urdu columnists have barely mentioned her. Just a thin sliver of English-adept liberals recognize her name, as they do Rachel Corrie’s. But they too are ambivalent. A student recently wrote to me that Tamimi’s strain of activism was “self-serving and superficial”.
These young women must be celebrated for what they did and not judged by how the West sees them.
Good girls are supposed to be obedient and passive, so this doesn’t surprise. Female activism — even for the right cause — is deplored by entren-ched patriarchies. Who knows when some tiny wisp of a girl might turn upon you? Tamimi’s father recounts with amusement that when Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan told her he stood with the Palestinians, she duly thanked him and then asked why she had to have a visa for Turkey when Israelis don’t. Erdogan’s face went red.
I sometimes wonder if our coldness to the photogenic Tamimi comes from her blue eyes, light skin and flowing golden curls. Does the Pakistani identification mechanism get upset if a Muslim girl is blonde? Does blondness put her on the side of the West? Or is our reticence because she flatly refuses to wear a headscarf, although her mother does?
Take a look: ‘Malala hate’ is still real in Pakistan
Malala Yousafzai does cover her head but remains unpopular. She’s no militant feminist and her message is boringly monotonous — the right of girls to education. With thousands of girls’ schools across our cities, many urbanites are not impressed. But in Swat under Taliban occupation it earned her a bullet in the head, one that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan gladly owned.
As though resenting her survival, many Pakistanis ask: what has Malala done to earn her Nobel Prize except get herself shot and show us in a bad light? The answer is: plenty! With intelligence and conviction she has deftly used the West’s good impulses to further her single goal — education for girls everywhere. Her impact grows as large donors, such as Apple and the Gates Foundation, pour money into the Malala Foundation for schools in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey.
That so many Pakistanis should question Malala’s Nobel bespeaks their small-mindedness, poverty of thought, and an unhealthy fixation on the West’s failings and political prejudices. Sure, the West’s humanitarianism is selective — that’s clear as day. Malala received a rapturous welcome in Western capitals and the United Nations. On the other hand, in 2016, the United States denied the ‘terrorist’ Tamimi a visa for her speaking tour, ‘No Child Behind Bars/Living Resistance’. Only the European left celebrates her.
Pakistan’s treatment of Malala has been shabby. Countless conspiracy theorists love to believe that her shooting was faked and she is propped up by powers hostile to Islam. Correspondingly, Arab conspiracy theorists describe Tamimi as an invention of Zionist intelligence and media.
Such stupidities must be set aside. Malala and Tamimi must be judged by what they did, not how the West or anybody else sees them. For different reasons, both properly deserve Nobels. Malala laid bare the barbaric nature of the Taliban who, two years later, went on to massacre Army Public School children in Peshawar. Tamimi fearlessly challenges the age-blind and gender-blind brutality of Palestine’s occupiers.
Rahaf Mohammed, born into the world’s most woman-hating nation, is of an entirely different kind. She fought just for herself, not for others. Her cause was to exercise choice, to live her life the way she wanted to and not be forcibly dictated to. But why denigrate that? Every individual cherishes freedom but just a few dare fight for it.
Life had been tough for this independent-minded girl. After she cut her hair short, she was house-imprisoned for six months. Her mother and brother beat her until she bled. Kept like a camel in a shed, she dreaded being married off one day, perhaps to become some Saudi prince’s third or fourth wife. Instead, she dreamed of a career, freedom to wear what she wanted, freedom to marry who she might choose, and freedom to keep or renounce the religion of her birth.
Now safely in Canada, the teenager’s dramatic escape from her conservative family riveted the world last week. Tweeting desperately for help from a barricaded airport hotel room in Bangkok, she feared being deported back home. What would her influential father, the governor of a Saudi province, have done in the name of family or national honor? Would her fate have been better than that of Jamal Khashoggi?
In conclusion: Tamimi fights settler colonialism, Malala concentrates on empowering the girl child, and Rahaf fled to live the life she wants. Their stories are extraordinary and inspiring. Of course, countless other stories won’t ever make it into the open. But so what? Crucially important is for us to realize that in honoring each of these iconic figures, we honor human dignity and every person’s right to freedom.
The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.
Most able-bodied men leave the poverty-stricken former Soviet country of Tajikistan to seek employment in Russia, where they can earn eight times as much as at home. This leaves the small, mountainous landlocked country's tough-as-nails women to eke out a living tending cattle in the mountains. Join RTDoc as we explore the lives of these women as they work collectively to take care of cows, make dairy products and look after children. We'll also meet men who have been compelled to work abroad but whose hearts remain with their families and simple pastoral lives.
Afghan Women Fear Peace With Taliban May Mean War on Them
KABUL, Afghanistan — When Rahima Jami heard that the Americans and the Taliban were close to a peace deal, she thought about her feet.
Ms. Jami is now a lawmaker in the Afghan Parliament, but back in 1996, when Taliban insurgents took power, she was a headmistress — until she was forced out of her job and told she could leave her home only in an ankle-length burqa.
One hot day at the market, her feet were showing, so the religious police beat them with a horse whip until she could barely stand.
Horror stories at the hands of enforcers from the Taliban’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice are a staple for any educated Afghan woman over age 25 or so. Now those women have a new horror story: the possibility that American troops will leave Afghanistan as part of a peace deal with the Taliban.
Six days of talks ended Saturday with a promise they would soon resume, bringing the parties closer to a deal than at any time in the 17 years since the Taliban were ousted from power. The mere possibility of concrete progress on peace inspired a wave of enthusiasm and hope among many Afghans on all sides that four decades of nearly continuous war could actually end.
Among many women, though, the hopes raised by a possible end to the fighting are mixed with an undeniable feeling of dread.
“We don’t want a peace that will make the situation worse for women’s rights compared to now,” Robina Hamdard, head of the legal department for the Afghan Women’s Network, said. The organization is a foreign-funded coalition of prominent women’s organizations.
No one needs to sell Afghan women on the need to bring an end to the bloodshed. They have buried far too many husbands and sons and brothers. But they fear that a peace that empowers the Taliban may herald a new war on women, and they want negotiators not to forget them.
Authors of a new illustrated title on Islam explain why the history of the religion is incomplete without its women
While Hirji is a social historian of Muslim societies and cultures and is currently an associate professor of anthropology at York University in Toronto, his co-author, Daftary, is the co-director of the department of academic research and publications at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.
Apart from the descriptions of men who shaped the history of the religion, the book also mentions the contributions of several women who were key patrons and political leaders. "When you read the general histories of Islam, it tends to be written as a series of histories about men as rulers or religious clerics. But there were women, too. We made a very conscious effort to tell those stories and show the ways in which women were absolutely present in all societies and what they meant to the overall history of Islam," Hirji says.
One example here is Khadija, the Prophet's wife; she was one of the first to embrace Islam and played an important role in comforting the Prophet. Citing another example, Hirji mentions the Sultanate of Women during the Ottoman empire. "Some of the men in the Ottoman court were weak rulers and it was the women who carried the dynasty forward by developing international relations, participating in state craft and patronising civic institutions. They were absolutely instrumental in ensuring the longevity of the Ottoman dynasty. Writing a history without women would have been telling half the story," he says.
When asked why misogyny continues in certain Islamic countries, Hirji says this problem is not unique to Islam. He feels the position of women is often based on the reading of texts from a male perspective and also societal norms and customs, which people find difficult to shed.
Hirji says that the Quran, however, addresses Muslim men and women as equal and distinctive entities. "The Quran, in Arabic, says, 'O believing men and believing women'. It actually addresses women directly and specifically in their own right."
She’s a Force of Nature, and She Just Declared War on Peace With the Taliban
KABUL, Afghanistan — The driver of a car that was stopped in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, was shocked when a passing motorist rolled down the window and shouted at him, “Dirty donkey.”
He was even more surprised when he looked up to see that the insult came from a woman. A woman driving a car. A woman driving a car without wearing the obligatory hijab.
That was Laila Haidari, who runs a popular cafe in Kabul that allows men and women to dine together, whether married or not, with or without a head scarf, and uses the profits to fund a rehabilitation clinic for drug addicts.
Nearly everyone addresses Ms. Haidari, 39, as “Nana,” or “Mom,” and her supporters describe her as the “mother of a thousand children,” after the number of Afghan addicts she has reportedly saved.
Now, Ms. Haidari plans to start a popular uprising against the continuing peace talks with the Taliban.
“Guys, the Taliban are coming back,” she said one day recently to a mixed group of diners at her restaurant, Taj Begum, which has been subjected to virulent attacks in the local media that have all but compared it to a brothel.
“We have to organize,” she told her customers. “I hope to find 50 other women who will stand up and say, ‘We don’t want peace.’ If the Taliban comes back, you will not have a friend like me, and there will be no restaurant like Taj Begum.”
Her nearly always crowded restaurant, on the banks of the sewage-drenched Kabul River, is named after a 15th-century warrior princess from Herat who helped rule a vast kingdom, a rare example of female power from that time.
Ms. Haidari is as unusual in her own age.
While most women’s activists in Afghanistan have been Western-financed and supported, she has insisted on organizing her political activity herself, and on her own terms.
Op-Ed: Why The World Owes Education to an African Woman﻿
How Harvard or Oxford might not have existed without an African woman - and what that means for you today.
When we think of where the University came from, most of us probably think back to the oldest institutions we know – perhaps Oxford in England. Or perhaps we think of the top Universities of the world, like Harvard. We think of how a group of men had a passion for education and began these amazing institutions. We think of how much we need to thank the Western world for the University. Certainly the University is one of the most groundbreaking and important innovations of all time.
But was it a Western innovation? Actually, as the facts show, the innovation of the University comes from Africa. Morocco, to be exact. The story of Fatima al-Fihri (Al-Fihriya), a Moroccan Muslim woman from Fez, who was born in 800 A.D., is one practically no one hears about. When her father passed away he left money to both her and her sister. She used this inheritance to establish the University of Al Qarawiynn in 859 C.E., which is still existent today – 1160 years later.
It is, as a result, the oldest continually operating educational institute in the world – the first institution to award degrees for different levels of study. The original courses offered were in Islamic Studies, mathematics, grammar, and medicine. It is one of the largest tertiary institutions in North Africa and includes a library with over 4000 manuscripts.
Pakistan's First female MMA fighter from Hunza breaking stereotypes
Anita Karim, a 22 year-old from Karimabad, Hunza, is the first female Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter to represent Pakistan at an international level. Anita won her second international match at the One Warrior Series (OWS) in Singapore, against Indonesia’s Gita Suharsono, where she dominated all three rounds of the fight.
Expressing her feelings before going into the fight, Anita stated, “I had one thought on my mind - I have to win, not for myself, but for other women. They are considered weak in our society; I want to tell everyone that this sport is for men and women alike. We are strong and can defend ourselves by learning this sport.”
Competing at Islamabad’s Fight Fortress, she has also procured three gold medals and a silver medal last year at the Pakistan Grappling Challenge (PGC) 5 and 6. Known as “the arm collector,” Anita became inspired by her brothers Ehtisham Karim, Uloomi Karim, and Ali Sultan, who themselves are professional MMA fighters. She started her training under their guidance and supervision two years ago.
Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, is an extremely combative sport that combines techniques of grappling, striking, and wrestling. It has recently become very popular in Pakistan, boasting a large talent pool of fighters. Comparatively however, MMA is still a new sport which is widely dominated by men. Anita, now a prominent contender, is a prime example that women too can compete and be successful.
“I want to become an example for girls. I want to inspire them to keep moving towards their goal, to achieve whatever they want, and prove to everyone that girls can do anything,” said Anita with pride.
The Shimshal Diamond Jubilee Women’s Band, in collaboration with Women’s Volunteers and Girl Guides, held band training sessions for women across the four Jamatkhanas of Shimshal.
The training sessions took place over the course of a month. They culminated in a final session, which was attended not only by participating women but also by Jamati leadership and the general public. The purpose of the event was to encourage young women of the Jamat to learn a new skill and participate in Jamati events taking place in their communities. The final session was organised to show their progress to the leaders of the Jamat.
At Khizerabad Jamatkhana, which was visited first, the Jamat attended in large numbers to welcome the band and hear them perform. Honorary Secretary Ismaili Council for Khizerabad thanked the instructors and participants for their diligence. On the same day, a session was held at Central Jamatkhana Shimshal as well. Following these performances, the next day began with a visit to Farmanabad Jamatkhana and ended at Aminabad Jamatkhana, where the closing ceremony was held. The Jamati leaders thanked the instructors and handed out gifts as a token of their appreciation. The Diamond Jubilee Band performed for an appreciative audience.
Fatimid women owned land, property, jewelry, and textiles, one of the most prized commodities of the period. Made in Egypt in the 11th century, this lustre-painted dish depicts a richly-attired female figure holding a cup. The vegetal scroll-like patterns of her sleeves are mirrored in the dish’s overall decoration.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2019, we celebrate the achievements of notable Muslim women - historical and contemporary - who have inspired and continue to inspire people of all faiths, backgrounds, and fields of endeavour.
International Women’s Day is commemorated on 8 March every year, and has become a contemporary recognition celebrating the accomplishments of women throughout time, as well as an occasion for renewing efforts towards achieving equality of opportunity and justice in society. The day was first marked in North America and Europe, as a result of women’s rights movements in the early 1900s, and was adopted by the United Nations in 1975.
The occasion also provides us an opportunity to look back in history and recall the women who have played a central role in the formation of the Muslim ummah and its development over time. Around time of the revelation of Islam in seventh-century Arabia, the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family) made efforts to improve the social status of women of the time. The Holy Qur’an’s recognition of women as being rightful inheritors of their family estate alongside men, granted them legal status which they had lacked previously; and the Prophet’s regard for women, and his reputed consultation with them, reflect what we may today refer to as Islam’s ethic of inclusiveness.
The Holy Qur’an states,
“Lo! men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember - Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.” (33:35)
Before and during the early days of Islam, the Prophet’s wife, Bibi Khadija, had been a successful trader, who managed a caravan business in Mecca, and used her wealth for the benefit of others. After receiving his first revelation, the Prophet confided in her, and she became the first person to acknowledge him as Allah’s final messenger.
Their cherished daughter Bibi Fatima, who was married to Hazrat Ali, was regarded as being hard working, determined, and ever helpful. She is referred to as Fatima al-Zahra, the radiant one, while her designated descendants from among the ahl al-bayt symbolise the continuation of the Prophet’s message, epitomising her unique status in Shi‘i interpretations of Islam. Similarly, Hazrat Zaynab, the third child of Hazrat Ali and Bibi Fatima is highly regarded by Shi‘a Muslims for her resistance to oppression and insistence for justice. Her courageous outlook set an example to the community of the time, and she was considered a source of wisdom to other women.
As the Muslim community grew and spread geographically, many more women would make significant contributions to the societies of their time, often with a lasting impact.
In the eighth century, Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiyya was born into a poor family and orphaned during a time of famine, which led her to be sold into slavery. After her master freed her for being staunchly devoted to God, she lived in solitude outside of Basra, Iraq. The idea of divine love inspired Rabi‘a, and she became known as the first female Sufi saint. She is noted for her passionate love of God and her expression of this through poetry. Her views on divine love were adopted by later Sufi masters and philosophers. Reflecting on Hazrat Ali’s teachings, she stressed that this love had to be free of seeking reward or avoiding punishment:
“O My Lord! If I am worshipping you from fear of fire, burn me in the fires of hell;
and if I am worshipping you from desire for paradise, deny me paradise.
But if I am worshipping you for yourself alone,
then do not deny me the sight of your magnanimous face.”
During the period of the Umayyad caliphate in al-Andalus (711 - 1031 CE), groups of women engaged in the thriving cultural life of Cordoba, Spain. Some of these include the poet Princess Wallada; the intellectual and mathematician Lubna; and the librarian Fatima, who bought books for the royal library. During this time, some women also worked as the caliph’s officials while others devoted time to studying the Qur’an and hadith. Princess Wallada shows her independence in a poem where she writes:
“By God, I am fit for greatness and I walk along in great pride”.
At the time of the Abbasid caliphate (750 - 1258 CE), greater opportunities were provided to learn and participate in the pursuit of knowledge during the so-called Golden Age of Islam. In striving to learn more about Allah’s creation, the notable female astronomer Mariam al-Ijliya advanced and fine-tuned Greek instruments such as the astrolabe in 10th-century Syria. The astrolabe helped to establish time, measured the movement of planets and stars, and determined position when travelling, thus making a significant contribution to what would later become known as space science.
In the Fatimid era (909 - 1171 CE), when the Ismaili Imam-Caliphs reigned across the Southern Mediterranean coast, including present day Tunisia, Egypt and parts of Syria, women found representation in several walks of life. When seven-year-old Imam al-Zahir became the Imam, his aunt Sultana Sitt al-Mulk, who had served as a trusted advisor to Imam al-Hakim, was appointed to serve as regent. She generously used her wealth towards charitable purposes and also engaged in diplomatic negotiations with representatives of the Byzantine Empire.
Islam encourages believers to fulfil their responsibilities as best as they can in the time they have been given. In contemporary times, there are also many stories of Muslim women who have created a strong and positive impact on a global scale.
Anousheh Ansari, for example, an Iranian-American entrepreneur and engineer, was the first Muslim woman to explore space, and is the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station. The Queen consort of Jordan, Rania al-Abdullah, has actively contributed her time and resources towards global education, youth and community empowerment, microfinance, and cross-cultural dialogue. For her work, she has been awarded various decorations by numerous governments. Malala Yousafzai has been advocating for girls’ education from a young age. After surviving an assassination attempt in her native Pakistan in 2012, she has since continued her activism all over the world. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and founded the non-profit organisation, the Malala Fund.
Within the Ismaili community, there are countless women who are today making a significant contribution to society, and in the process have risen to the top of their chosen professions, in fields as varied as business, media and broadcasting, academia, and public service.
In a speech made in London in December 2014, Mawlana Hazar Imam remarked that “... women’s participation in society is vital to ensure an improved quality of life. From education to health, participation in local governance to leadership in business, we have witnessed the potential for women and men to work alongside each other, while respecting the ethics of Islam, to build their communities.”
Today, as the global community becomes ever more connected, it continues to be important to see value in diverse societies. International Women’s Day is a reminder of the role of us all in practicing inclusiveness and to further strive for equality in our everyday lives, setting a solid foundation and example for the coming generations.
One suffers in Iran, the other in Saudi Arabia. But Trump cares about human rights only in the country he despises.
This is a dispiriting epoch of strongmen and bullies, yet side by side with the worst you find the best. So today let’s find inspiration in two heroes.
They are women who bravely challenged misogyny and dictatorship, one in Iran, the other in Saudi Arabia. Those two nations may be enemies, but they find common cause in their barbaric treatment of women — and since they are trying to squelch and smother these two women, we should shout their names from the mountaintops.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, 55, is a writer and human rights lawyer who for decades has been fighting for women and children in Iran. Her family reports that this week she was sentenced to another 33 years in prison, on top of a five-year sentence she is now serving, plus 148 lashes.
Loujain al-Hathloul, 29, a leader of the Saudi women’s rights movement, went on trial Wednesday after months of imprisonment and torture, including floggings, sexual harassment, waterboarding and electric shocks.
During a recent interview with a Pakistani TV channel, organisers of the ‘Aurat March’ noted that they were marching against ‘patriarchy’. Many of them have since then received considerable backlash, including abuse on social media.
They seem to have hit a nerve.
Why this visceral reaction? What exactly did the marchers contest? What is patriarchy?
Patriarchy is the name given to a dynamic web of ideas, policies, laws, and social practices that bring male domination and privilege into effect. It manifests in constrained opportunities for women.
To understand patriarchy, we have to also understand that gender is not a given or a natural expression of the body. Instead, gender is how we, as a society, organise, categorise, and demarcate bodies. In doing so, we often place these bodies in a hierarchy.
This means that women are not naturally subordinate to men due to any inherent biological proclivities or divine design. Instead, women are made subordinate through concrete practices that propagate through the state, family, and religious and societal institutions.
KARACHI, Pakistan — On International Women’s Day in Pakistan last month, thousands of exuberant young feminists staged their second Aurat (women’s) March. Intended to build on the success of a well-received march last year, it was designed to be inclusive, peaceful and raucously joyful. It had women from all walks of life, some in Western clothes, others in full veils, head scarves and burqas. Women from cities and villages. Female health workers and teachers. Trans women and male allies.
Then came an ugly backlash that still simmers — a sign that the feminists’ goal of breaking the hold of patriarchy is still a long way away.
Recalling the joys of the 2018 march, the activists and volunteers had gone to low-income neighborhoods and rallied women there. They bused women from rural villages. They printed fliers with artwork by young female artists, and drew posters that expressed their frustration, anger, hope and courage. On March 9, perhaps 6,000 women marched peacefully in Karachi, and another 3,000 in Lahore. Smaller groups walked in smaller locales: Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, Faisalabad and Chitral. The marchers made headlines all across Pakistan.
But the backlash was immediate, and it grew uglier day by day. First came threats of violence: Anonymous groups of young men searched Instagram for pictures of women who participated in the march and sent them threats of rape and murder. A Muslim cleric declared on television that the march’s slogan — “My body, my choice” — encouraged women to be promiscuous, which allowed men to rape them. Two weeks after the march, a resolution in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was proposed by a female legislator from a right wing religious party. It condemned the march and its slogans as “shameful” and “obscene.” The resolution was unanimously adopted.
The narrative of the creation of the first humans is one essential point on which the Isma‘ili doctrine differs radically from that of the mainstream Sunni and Imami Shi‘is. The Qur’an does not mention the method or substance of the creation of the first woman; but in pre-modern Sunni exegesis (tafsir), the creation of Adam and Eve follows the basic Biblical narrative: Eve (Hawwa’) is created from Adam’s rib while he is sleeping. Pre-modern Imami Shi‘i authors of tafsir works mention the rib interpretation; they also include an interpretation that Eve was created from the soil left over after Adam’s creation. Many Sunnis and Imami Shi‘is indicate that they see Eve’s creation as secondary to Adam’s, and that this secondary creation has implications for all women’s status in the world, and for the laws governing their behaviour.
According to al-Qadi al-Nu‘man, the creation of Eve from Adam is a creation of spiritual hierarchy, not a physical creation. In the Fatimid Isma‘ili cosmology, each era has a law-giving prophet (natiq), followed by an executor (wasi). In addition, each natiq has several hujaj, who act as his representatives in the world. Al-Qadi al-Nu‘man clearly states that the mainstream interpretation is false, and that the creation of Eve from Adam is not physical; instead, it is a spiritual fashioning of her as Adam’s hujja, a rank attained by the knowledge she gains through spiritual discipleship:
God, Exalted and Almighty, created Eve from Adam, and that is known from His words created from it its mate [Q. 4:1], and that is the creation of the discipleship (ta’yid), not a bodily creation. That is to say God ordered Adam to undertake the discipleship (ta’yid) of Eve, and her education, and her spiritual enlightenment; and he made her attached to him, and he made her his wife, and she was his ‘proof’ (hujja), which God had given to Adam in place of Iblis. [It is] not as the general populace claims, that God Almighty delivered Adam unto sleep, and he slept, and then He extracted one of his ribs, and created Eve from it.
In Kabul’s Liberating Cafes, ‘Women Make the Culture Here, Not Men’
KABUL, Afghanistan — On some days, life as a young woman in Kabul can feel suffocating for Hadis Lessani Delijam, a 17-year-old high school senior.
Once, a man on the street harangued her for her makeup and Western clothes; they are shameful, he bellowed. A middle-aged woman cursed her for strolling and chatting with a young man.
“She called me things that are so terrible I can’t repeat them,” Ms. Delijam said.
For solace, Ms. Delijam retreats to an unlikely venue — the humble coffee shop.
“This is the only place where I can relax and feel free, even if it’s only for a few hours,” Ms. Delijam said recently as she sat at a coffee shop, her hair uncovered, and chatted with two young men.
Trendy new cafes have sprung up across Kabul in the past three years, evolving into emblems of women’s progress.
The cafes are sanctuaries for women in an Islamic culture that still dictates how they should dress, behave in public and interact with men. Those traditions endure 18 years after the toppling of the Taliban, who banned girls’ education, confined women to their homes and forced them to wear burqas in public.
These days, conversations at the cafes often turn to the Afghan peace talks in Doha, Qatar, between the United States and the Taliban. Many women worry their rights will be bargained away under pressure from the fundamentalist, all-male Taliban delegation.
“We are so frightened,” said Maryam Ghulam Ali, 28, an artist who was sharing chocolate cake with a friend at a coffee shop called Simple. “We ask each other what will happen to women if the Taliban come back.”
She Was Burned Alive For Reporting Assault. Now, Charges
News 2 Hours Ago
Newser — Evann Gastaldo
Protesters hold placards and gather to demand justice for an 18-year-old woman who was killed after she was set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school's principal, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, April 19, 2019.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi was burned alive after reporting that her school headmaster had groped her. Now, 16 people have been charged in the Bangladesh teen's murder, the BBC reports.
That includes the headmaster, Siraj Ud Doula, who police say ordered the hit on Rafi from prison after she refused to drop her allegations against him.
Rafi, 19, filed a police complaint on March 27 and Doula was arrested. On April 6, police say she was lured to the roof of her Islamic school, bound and gagged when she once again refused to recant her accusations, doused with kerosene by a group of assailants wearing burkas, and set on fire.
She died four days later, but was able to give a statement to police first.
The others charged include students at the school and two local politicians who are in positions of prominence at the school.
Police say a dozen of the accused, including Doula, have admitted their involvement, but the politicians have not. Investigators say they will pursue the death penalty, Al Jazeera reports.
Rafi's brother says the family is hoping for a quick trial, per the Guardian: "We want all the culprits to be hanged to death." Rafi filed the report after, she said, Doula called her into his office and started touching her inappropriately; she ran out of the office and reported the incident that same day.
Rafi's murder shocked the nation, and led to mass protests.
This article originally appeared on Newser: She Was Burned Alive for Reporting Assault.
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