JANUARY 30, 2012
Scholars in the field of women/gender in Islam: Afsaneh Najmabadi, Amina Wadud,
Lila Abu-Lughod, Saba Mahmood, Judith Tucker, Liela Ahmed, Beth Baron, Heba
Raouf, Islah Jad, etc.
They write on topics such as reinterpreting the Qur’an through the lens on gender,
“the politics of piety,” the women’s mosque movement in Egypt, women in specific
cultures (Bedouin, Egyptian, etc.), the family and feminism, are more.
Cairo and Alexandria in the 1940s and 1950s was an elite world and a women’s
world. Her suburb was very elite (Ain Shams, next to Heliopolis, another elite
suburb), and her home is surrounded by one of the town’s legendary gardens
(symbolic of her protected world).
She talks about the summers in Alexandria as being constricting, because she was
stuck at home with Nanny while her siblings as cousins went out with her Aunts into
She attended the English school in Heliopolis (significant British influence on her
childhood) → Jewish, Muslim and Christian students attend this school but she
realizes that she was being treated differently because she was a Muslim. This was
her first encounter with British racism which she would encounter further when she
went to England for University.
The World of Women? Women’s culture and women’s understanding of Islam were
distinguished from the Islam of men. Religion was an essential part of how women
understood their own lives and pondered why things happened and how they
should take them. Ahmed said that Islam was gentle, generous, pacifist, and
mystical. What was important about being Muslim was how you conducted yourself
and your attitude towards others. Women passed this along to each other through
their presence and conveying their beliefs. (Description on page 120-122).
The textual tradition of Islam is seen as “men’s Islam”→ there are two quite different
types of Islam (page 123).
Muslim feminists critique this→ they think that Ahmed’s claim about different types
of Islam is a result of her class and a particular time in history, not a fact (her
personal experience, not representative of all Muslim women). The Egyptian
women’s mosque movement (according to Saba Mahmood) transpired as an
attempt to respond of problems of