We Muslim feminists view it as a struggle that taps Islamic theology, thinking and history to reclaim rights granted to women by Islam at its birth but erased by manmade rules and tribal traditions masquerading as divine law....
To many, we are the bad girls of Islam. But we are not anti-sharia (Islamic law) or anti-Islam. We use the fundamentals of Islamic thinking — the Koran, the Sunnah, or traditions and sayings of the prophet Muhammad, and ijtihad, or independent reasoning — to challenge the ways in which Islam has been distorted by sharia rulings issued mostly by ultraconservative men.
What we are wrestling with are laws created in the name of Islam by men, specifically eight men. The Muslim world of the 21st century is largely defined by eight madhhabs, or Islamic schools of jurisprudence, with narrow rulings on everything from criminal law to family law: the Shafi, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools in the majority Sunni sect; the Jafari and Zaydi schools, for the minority Shiite sect; and the Ibadi and Thahiri schools among other Muslims. But the first centuries of Islam's 1,400-year history were quite different — characterized by scores of schools of jurisprudence, many progressive and women-friendly. It is not Islam that requires women to wear a headscarf, but rather the scholars in the contemporary schools.
December 16, 2005
Asra Q. Nomani disagrees: