Banu A. L. Khan


The ‘woman question’ in Islamic discourse and history is perhaps one of the most emotive and contested issues for Muslims and non-Muslims. In the western imaginary, nourished by vivid media images of shadowed, black-cloaked silent women coupled with sensational stories about honor killings and stoning, domestic oppression, political and legal disenfranchisement, women are symbols of the east-west civilizational conflict. In international politics, the idea of culture has gained prominence and Muslims are presented as a homogenized and troubled culture and Muslim women represent how alien this civilization is. For some Muslims, a patriarchal interpretation of the ‘rib of Adam’ narrative asserts that a woman is secondary to a man as a human being. Yet, in the course of Muslim civilizational history and tradition, women were heads of states in Muslim societies, philosophers, preachers, intellectuals and freedom fighters. This paper examines this disjuncture and argues that one needs to re-think the ‘woman question’ not only in the Quran and hadith literature but to re-visit Islamic history and civilization to reclaim the place of women in contemporary Islam and its imaginaries.


woman; Islamic civilization; Islamic history; tradition;

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