Dr. Rampoldi’s Article about Women and Politics in Islam on MintPress

Interpreting Islam To Support Women’s Involvement In Politics

Three Muslim women in hijabs gather under the watchful eyes of NYPD at a rally.

photo: Three Muslim women together on a plaza at a gathering in front
of New York City Police Department headquarters, Tuesday, June 18, 2013.
(AP/Richard Drew)

Critics very often accuse Islam of misogynist tendencies that are
often promoted in Muslim societies, although they deeply contradict the
essence of Islam. Therefore, misogyny in Muslim folklore and tradition,
and Islamophobia clash in the contemporary Western world. Even if it
sounds contradictory, the misogynist tendencies in Muslim societies
alienate Islam from itself by favouring Islamophobic intellectual
positions and courses of actions.

The theologian of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdulhalim Abu Shaqqa
(1924-1996) clearly shows us real Islamic women’s rights in his
six-volume work Liberation of Women in the Age of the Revelation.
In my opinion, an important area of female rights in Islam is
socio-political rights and the female involvement in socio-political
issues in Muslim society.

Given the modernisation of the Egyptian Brotherhood in recent years, I
am convinced of the importance of involving women in Islamic society
and politics on the basis of the texts of Abu Shaqqa in an innovative
yet traditional way, as, according to the Egyptian author’s approach,
ensuring women’s socio-political education reinforced women’s
socio-political rights in the Islamic community in the Prophet’s era

Without any doubt, these considerations can contribute to
reconsidering feminist movement in Islam from an innovative angle and
while recognizing that originally Islam involved emancipating women in
all social areas.
As the well-known Egyptian Islamic theologian Muhammad al-Ghazali
al-Saqqa (1917-1996) writes in the introduction to Abu Shaqqa’s book: This book brings Muslims back to the authentic Sunna of their Prophet, without adding or omitting anything.

As a Muslim woman, I think that with the aid of texts like those of
Abu Shaqqa, modern Islam will be able to build up a comprehensive and
egalitarian interpretation veering away from hierarchic, monistic, and
sexist positions.

Of course, the path to there is steep and full of hindrances, but
with an interpretation of this kind, you can definitively fight against
slavery, oppression, genital mutilation, and physical and psychological
violence against women. Only with the aid of female involvement in Islam
as a whole will Islam be able to peacefully reconcile with itself,
since without female contribution Islam does not express its authentic

As the Quranic verse 4:1 mentions:

O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and
created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and
women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs.
Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.

In order to both traditionally and innovatively shape Islamic
feminism today, we should openly debate different approaches from
feminist movements and consider them without eliminating our Islamic
thinking or any approach from the Muslim community.

Three approaches to feminist Islam

I think it likely that, on the basis of Abu Shaqqa’s considerations
about the life of the Prophet (sas) and the women’s liberation of that
first Muslim community, Islamic feminism can meet this methodical
challenge. Unless you work in a holistic way, you lose the plot and
start with monistic and selective hadith repetitions as has been the
case for centuries in Muslim societies.

I am convinced that in the area of female activity in Islam today you can effectively combine three approaches:

1)  The biographic approach as found for instance in the work
of the Turkish historian and Islamic theologian Bahriye Üçok (1919-1990)
and in the tragedy of the Egyptian author Mahmud Badawy (1908-1986)
about the Egyptian sovereign Shajarat al-Durr in the Islamic Middle
From here you delve into historical reconstruction of the career and
destiny of ruling women in Islamic history by identifying their
leadership characteristics and inspirational potential for the political
work of women in Islam today; this approach can also be found in
particular in Princess Kadriye Hüseyn’s (1888-1955) work “Büyük Islam
Kadinlari“ (Famous Islamic Women) and the Moroccan sociologist and
feminist Fatima Mernissi (*1940) in her well-known book “Les Sultanes

2)  Interpretive discourse, as expressed in the essay by Prof.
Abdulhamid al-Ansari from Qatar, ”Huquq al-siyasiya lil mara‘ fil
Islam” (Political Rights of Women in Islam) where the author analyses
how different positions about women’s political rights in Islam have
been shaped and why.
This is an approach towards the reconciliation and acceptance of
different points of view concerning female political involvement in
Muslim community; an approach which can intensively develop
inner-Islamic dialogue — because men also are involved in Islamic
feminism — to reach a political Islamic utopia which is
cross-gender-shaped by essentially involving women in social and
political life and activity. In my opinion, Prof. al-Ansari is primarily
noted for explaining and commenting instead of judging.
Another very interesting interpretive work about the female reading
of the Quran was written by the Afro-American convert and feminist Amina
Wadud (*1952), who in her great book “Qur’an and Woman, Rereading the
Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective“ opened the doors for
reconciliation and gender equity.
The same can be said about the Egyptian-Canadian Islam expert Jamal
Badawi who works interpretively to prove gender equity in Islam.

3)  The Sira-oriented approach by Abu Shaqqa who
innovatively revaluates the life of the Prophet (sas) inside Islamic
sciences to show how innovative and liberating to women Islam was in its
original core and during its first era.

Abu Shaqqa on the rights of women

There follows a summary of a book by Dr. phil. Milena Aziza Rampoldi,
entitled “Die Frau in der islamischen Gesellschaft und Politik nach
Abdul Halim Abu Shaqqa,” published in Berlin (2014), in which the author
introduces Abu Shaqqa’s biography based on Arabic sources and then
translates and analyses important parts of his encyclopaedia about the
socio-political rights of women in Islam.

In the first chapter, Dr. Rampoldi describes the biography of Abu
Shaqqa and his world vision. In the second part, she presents sections
taken from the Encyclopaedia of the author in which he talks about the
social and political rights of women in Islamic society. Those who
eliminate woman from Muslim society and politics do not act in the sense
of the Prophet (sas) during its era. As Abu Shaqqa shows with countless
examples, women played a central role in social life, politics and also
in military affairs during peace and war.

The book features three stories within a story: one about a khariji
woman and her participation in politics and the conduct of war; one
about the Syrian Muslim Brother Mustafa as-Siba’i and his contradictory
search for women’s “rights” he does not find in the era of the Prophet
(sas). A third story presents an article by the American convert Musa
Furber about the relation between rape and forced marriage: a tradition
that is absolutely un-Islamic and is practised in some Muslim societies,
which press the victim to make her marry her rapist.

The oppression of women I would like to name as the phenomenon of the
so-called horizontal segregation of the female in numerous Muslim and
un-Islamic societies, and I blame it on manipulated interpretations and
monistic explanations of numerous androcentric Muslim groups. They are
so deep-seated in the heads of so many Muslims that we still urgently
need texts like those of Abu Shaqqa today. However, Abu Shaqqa does
nothing else than remind Muslims of the Qur’an, Sunna, and Sira.

It is needless to ask whether Muslim women have rights in politics
and society: in Islamic understanding, women are an essential pillar of
Islamic society, they have political and social rights. The first
Muslims lived these rights in their daily life inside the Muslim
community. And these rights must be recognised by Muslims all over the
world today. On the way to this goal, Abu Shaqqa passes from
pedagogy into socio-political awareness raising, which he reminds us
must be the pillars of Islamic politics and ethics for socially oriented
and politically engaged Muslims.