We are proud to launch our new Series “Women in Islam”. As an introduction to this series we are pleased to present a talk by Shz. Dr. Tahera baisaheba entitled, “The Experience of Being a Muslim Woman: Spiritual, Social and Intellectual Aspects.”

This talk was presented in March 2013 at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, on the place women in the context of Islam.  Shz Dr. Tahera Baisaheba was invited to this talk by the Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, Dr. James Toronto. The talk was very well received. In their coverage of the event, on a BYU-student-produced-newssite, The Digital Universe, described Tahera baisaheba as, “the Muslim woman that no “Islamophobe” would ever want you to meet.” (http://universe.byu.edu/2013/03/22/life-according-to-a-muslim-woman/). 

Her paper addresses four keys areas: spirituality, education, veiling, and a woman’s role in the family and in public life. For each of these areas, Shz. Dr. Tahera baisaheba presents scriptural and legal pronouncements, historical and contemporary examples, and her own personal experience as a Muslim woman.

The first part published this week presents the introduction and the sections on Spirituality and Education. The second part will be presented in an upcoming issue of Sijill inshaallah. 

Dr. Tahera baisaheba begins by contextualizing the issue of Women in Islam by highlighting the reality that Islam is not monolithic. “Hailing from different parts of the world, Muslims come from disparate linguistic, socio-economic, historical, and ethnic backgrounds…. It is important to remember that the life experience of Muslim women (and Muslim men too) is not a set, monolithic one, but rather, that it differs from place to place, from time to time, and from individual to individual. We need to recognize that there are other factors, in addition to the religious one, that determine the life a Muslim leads. One of the most important of these other factors is local culture, expressed in the practices, customs, traditions, and rituals of a particular place in a particular time.”

Addressing the aspect of Spirituality, Dr. Tahera baisaheba states: “The Holy Book of the Muslims, the Qur’an, puts women on an equal spiritual footing with men. [It is important to define “spirituality” versus “worldly” or “secular”, where women have separate roles than men.] In terms of their spirituality, women are addressed as beings with souls, just like men, as beings who have the potential to obtain nearness to God through worship and good deeds, just like men.” She also draws attention to the women that are held in high spiritual regard by all Muslims such as Maryam AS and Maulatuna Fatema AS. 

Dr. Tahera baisaheba begins her discussion of the Education of women in Islam by quoting Rasulullah’s SA Hadith that “Seeking knowledge is a mandatory duty for every Muslim man and woman”. She concludes that, “The need of the hour among Muslims generally, both male and female, is education. Many Muslims live in developing countries where levels of literacy are low, even among men. As Muslim societies become more educated, and more exposed to different cultures and ideas, one can hope that it will help cultivate more open-minded and rational societies. I am hopeful that modern technology can go part of the way in achieving these aims, and that in the case of women from more conservative families, or those with fewer means, remote education and working from home will provide some workable options. Universities such as Harvard, MIT, UCLA, and the University of Chicago are beginning to offer on line courses, even degree programs, to worldwide student bodies. In Kashmir, India, where both security and tradition keep women at home, several software companies have set up remote offices where women can program from their home or from local offices. This is not an end solution, but as intermediate steps, they can aid us in getting to the final goal.”

To read the full text of Part 1 of this talk (Introduction, Spirituality, Education) please visit Fatemidawat.com. Part 2 (Veiling, Women’s Roles in the Family and in Public Life and Conclusion) will be posted in upcoming issues inshaallah.