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The Empowerment of Women in Islam



"The Empowerment of Women in Islam" (a revised edition of the earlier book, "Marriage and Divorce in Islam") demon-strates the Qur'an's address to some of the more flagrant gender inequities of the pre-Islamic period. On the basis of the Quranic thesis, henceforth, new regulations dispelled older disabilities. The work further reveals that such disparity has evolved greatly as an artifact of the preferences and actions of patriarchal authorities after the Prophet Muhammad's demise. These have, however, been challenged by modernists, ,including a number of nineteenth and twentieth-century political leaders, government bureaucrats, intellectuals, leaders of women's movements and some jurists who believe that such categorical claims cannot be supported by Islam.

Closely examining women's issues, particularly those relating to the legal understanding of marriage-divorce, this work discloses the effort within Muslim societies to reform family law through the doctrine of ijtehad (creative reinterpretation) are other juristic means.

This work further through a methodological and historical investigation demonstrates the equality between women and men granted by the Qur'an exposing the androcentric readings that have created a patriarchal construction of Islam which pre-suppose the relation of dominance and submission. It is such that sustain the ethnicity of the pre-Islamic Arabs perspectives. The Qur'an on the contrary reveals the post-patriarchal view.


             In recent times Muslim women as independent agents have consistently tried to redefine their own lives as women, countering patriarchal hegemony and striving for more egalitarian gender arrangements in families, communities, and nations.

The central concern of this study is the conflict in the old pre-industrial feudal structures and the post-modern era. Although Islam was able to disseminate an urban culture within a nomadic environment and asserted a universal claim that it was not confined to any particular ethnic group, yet at some point of its historical development, pre-Islamic ethos prevailed. This is where women's roles were carved in conjunction with dominating patriarchal system and gradually lost both space and authority.

In the course Muslim women insisted on the equality of women and men as citizens in the public sphere and complementarity of roles in the family sphere. Feminist* thinking consequently emerged in Muslim societies undergoing post-industrialization, urban expansion, modern state formation, national independence movements, and democratization. Highly visible independent organized movements surfaced in some countries only after national independence or the consolidation of modern nation-states permitting free expression.


*By Feminism, I mean the right of women to autonomy, democracy and dignity: a condition where both sexes enjoy equal opportunities and mutual self-respect. It does not, for me, constitute a militant stand against men.


                 DR. ZEENAT SHAUKAT ALT has been awarded a Ph.D. degree in Islamic Studies (1984) by the University of Bombay. She pursued her course of studies for the Bachelor as well as her Master's Degree through St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. Some of her chief interests comprise in religious, legal, and philosophical thought. The nourishment for religious thought was provided by her involvement with Quranic Studies which she seriously pursued from the age of sixteen. The Quran not only literally introduced her to all religions of the world but taught her to respect them all. It also revealed to her that all human beings are born with a free spirit to choose their path —as the Quran says, "Let there be no compulsion in religion, Truth stands clear from Error". (H.Q. 2:256) At present her designation is Professor, Islamic Studies, St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. Her published works include: Book entitled "Marriage and Divorce in Islam" 1987 (Released by Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma — June 1987) and various articles published in important journals, magazines and newspapers. She is attached to several prestigious organizations and has attended and participated in some important seminars, concerning Muslim women, nationally and internationally. Some of these have been held at Aligarh, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Calcutta, Baghdad, New York (United Nations), San Francisco, U.S.A., Pakistan, Bangkok and Oxford. She has also won National and International acclaim.

Comments of Eminent Personalities

"The author in her book seeks to knock on the doors of Islamic Jurisprudence to secure gender justice for Muslim Women. It is path breaking in the sense that it is a bold endeavour to show how social reform can be introduced in Muslim Society through traditional strategies .... It is a well-researched and thought provoking work revealing deep insight into Islamic history and tradition .... It will raise a healthy debate and I whole-heartedly commend the book to the readers".

Justice A. M. Ahmadi

Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India


"This is a treatise of Marriage and Divorce in Islam .. . for the understanding of the ethical bases of the rules on these two subjects, this book will prove a treasury of information. Written in a scholarly way it will illumine these difficult subjects alike for lawyers, teachers and students. I whole-heartedly commend the book."

 (M. Hidayatullah)

Former Chief Justice and Vice President of India


"Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali .... is a known protagonist of the cause of Muslim women in India ......"

 Dr. B. N. Pande

Vice Chairman, Gandhi Smriti & Darshan Smriti & Former Governor of Orissa






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