A new Article of ProMosaik e.V. on MintPress about Political Rights of Women in Islam

The Political Rights of Women In Islam

Women pray dressed in a hijab and another in a niqab.

Pakistani Shiite Muslims pray at the shrine of famous saint Shah Chun
Chirag during the Shiite 
mourning month of Muharram in Rawalpindi,
Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

On a new English translation of the essay by Prof. Abdulhamid al-Ansari

“The Political Rights of Women in Islam” is a provocative essay
written by Prof.  Abdulhamid al-Ansari, former Dean of the Faculty of
Islamic Law at the University of Qatar about political rights of women
in Islam. Using this work, I would like to show the relation between
politics and Muslim women from an interpretive and open perspective.
In the introduction to our presentation of Prof. al-Ansari’s essay, I
mention a relevant aphorism by the French author of the “Petit Prince,”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery who says:

Quand tu veux construire un bateau, ne commence pas par
rassembler du bois, couper des planches et distribuer du travail, mais
réveille au seine des FEMMES le désir de la mer grande et large.

With this adaptation of the aphorism to women in general, and Muslim
women in particular, I would like to negatively show how the unrights of women existing
in today’s Muslim societies are not Islamic at all even if, without
contradicting myself, I would like to involve in this discussion also
scholars who exclude women from Muslim politics.

They are part of a tradition of exclusion and segregation which
started in Muslim history to ban women from social and political
activism, and to simultaneously make them disappear from social and
political life. I would like to name this tradition of exclusion as a
folklore forced on women in history by making them believe that this is
the true message of Islam. The true message of Islam is not female
submission to a male-dominated world, but the submission of both men and
women to Allah, the Creator of the world, and as it says in the Quran,
the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.

Why is al-Ansari’s essay so important for us as politically engaged
Muslim women? This is the first question I asked myself when I wrote to
the author to get his permission to publish this essential essay about
women and politics.

In his essay, Prof. al-Ansari presents three different views on the
participation of women in politics and society: from the total exclusion
of women from politics by ultra-traditional Muslims, who state that if a
woman is not responsible for the financial matters in the household,
she cannot rule a State, to a partial and an almost complete
participation of Muslim women in political and social life in an Islamic

The research method of Prof. Al-Ansari is rational and scriptural,
because he introduces different deductions made by Muslim scholars in
history starting from exactly the same sources — which for all Muslims
are the Holy Book of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet, called
Sunnah. By reading Prof Al-Ansari’s essay, in the end I came to the
conclusio, that this presentation of these different approaches teaches
us not to judge internal differences in Muslim scholar community, but to
reconsider the importance of “ikhtilaf” according to what the Jewish
Austrian convert Muhammad Asad says when he mentions the following
Quranic verse 5:48:

And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in
truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a
criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and
do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the
truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah
willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He
intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is]
good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform
you concerning that over which you used to differ.

My personal opinion about ikhtilaf is the following: if in our political action we do not start to rediscover this “minhaj,” i.e.
this open path of Islam and its creative, interpretive movement within
the Islamic doctrine, we will lose the central them of original and
authentic Islam. And this open-minded approach means also the acceptance
of very narrow-minded opinions which are part of Islam, even when they
are not our own positions or preferred approach as Muslim feminists.

I am convinced that the three views Prof. Al-Ansari presents in his
essay to show the main opinions about female participation to Islamic
politics essentially represent the entire Muslim community and that this
rational division of approaches can help to improve the dialogue
between these three different groups if they learn to respect one
another and start understanding that all three points of view are
respectable within Islam, but must not be forced on anybody in the whole
Muslim ummah. The definitive truth will be revealed by Allah
when we will return to Him all together in the end, as the final
sentence of Quran verse 5:48 suggests.
If we approach the matter using the methods of Enlightment Philosophy
(which has strong methodical similarities with the German
“Aufklärung”), based on rational research and enquiry, I am convinced we
will be able to achieve a positive dialogue within Islam concerning
political women’s rights and/or unrights. According to the Quranic Verse
5:48, Islam is a religion which supports diversity, and open-minded
discussion about all religious, social and political matters. So we have
not to judge the others’ opinion if it is different from ours, but
didactically discuss it. This rational approach is the contribution
Islam can make to dialogue and acceptance of diversity today, to leave
the culture of hatred as Prof. al-Ansari calls it, in order to achieve a world made of justice, dignity, respect, empathy, and in particular of peace.
Political rights of women are an important aspect of this peaceful
and just world, accepting diversity: and diversity means gender,
cultural, social, and political diversity.

The association I work for, ProMosaik e.V.,  stands for the message
of a colourful world made of tolerance which is also the core message of
Islam if we understand it properly. And gender justice is part of this
correct interpretation of Islam according to Quran and Sunnah. But, from
my point of view — as contradictory as this may sound — people standing
for the exclusion of women from politics should be also involved in the
debate about female participation in Islamic politics, because without
them we will never be able to understand their diversity. Without
talking to them, we will also never have to change to make them
understand our approach. Prof. Al-Ansari shows us the way by stressing
on the importance of talking and introducing opinions, without judging
them, or putting them down as being in arrears. If the three positions
do not start working together for the progress of the Muslim world,
there will never be a constructive change and improvement of Islamic

And to achieve positive results in Muslim politics, women’s
contributions are urgently needed. In conclusion I would like to mention
a quotation by Benazir Bhutto who, day by day, gives me the force to go
on fighting for female participation in Islamic politics:

It is the tradition of Islam that has allowed me to
battle for political and human rights, and this same tradition
strengthens me today.

If you are interested in reading the book you can find it on Amazon here.