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Great Ancestors : Women Asserting Rights in Muslim Contexts

Tuesday 20 November 2018, by siawi3


Great Ancestors
Women Claiming Rights in Muslim Contexts

Farida Shaheed and Aisha Lee Shaheed

Oxford University Press Pakistan

ISBN: 9780195476361
published 2011
258 pages

This book breaks the myth of Muslim women being passive, oppressed, and apolitical. It retrieves the mostly forgotten lives and voices of women from the eighth to the early twentieth centuries in Muslim countries and communities who asserted rights for themselves and for other women, promoting justice in the home and in the public sphere. These narratives from East and South Asia to the Middle East and West Africa, bring to life the rich history of women’s resistance and engagement for rights, effectively overturning the misconception that the roots of women’s activism lie exclusively in modern-day Europe and North America. Women acted in their individual capacity and undertook collective actions in the public sphere. Not all the women assembled in Great Ancestors were famous or powerful, but they all exercised their agency for empowerment, challenging power structures, and opening new avenues for women. The issues of identity, Muslim-ness and women’s rights from a contemporary perspective and the importance of reclaiming this history are discussed in an introductory essay.

Authors Description

Farida Shaheed, Director of Research at Shirkat Gah—Women’s Resource Centre, is the first United Nations Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights. Previously a Visiting Fellow at the City University of Hong Kong, between 2006 and 2010, she co-directed an Asia-based multi-country research project: ‘Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts: Gender, Poverty and Democratization from the Inside Out’. Farida has also written extensively on women’s rights, governance and identity, and the interface of politics, gender and culture. Her most recent article: ‘Gendered Politics, Gendered Religion in Pakistan’, appeared in the Third World Quarterly journal. A recipient of several awards including the International Women’s Human Rights Award, Farida was amongst the 1000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She received the Prime Minister’s Award for her co-authored book Two Steps Forward One Step Back? Women of Pakistan.

Aisha Lee Shaheed is a researcher in the field of women’s rights whose passion is to bring history alive for contemporary audiences. She has written on women’s histories, dress codes, and the rights of vulnerable social groups. Originally from Canada and Pakistan, she currently resides in the UK and has been involved in various transnational women’s rights groups and social initiatives around healthcare.



Great Ancestors : Women Asserting Rights in Muslim Contexts

by Farida Shaheed and Aisha ee Shaheed

Published 2005 by Shirkatgah

ISBN: 0195476360

ISBN13: 9780195476361

There is a widespread myth both outside and within Muslim contexts that women’s struggles for rights is alien to those societies that embraced Islam and a misconception that the contemporary women’s movement is exclusively rooted in Western concepts and struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Muslim contexts, this myth discredits women’s rights advocates and their cause and, when taken as fact, discourages women’s assertions for their rights and justice. Great Ancestors explodes this myth by profiling women who defied and changed the contours of women’s lives from the 8th century to the mid-1950s and provides a very different picture of the past. Far from the commonly held impression of silenced, cloistered and acquiescent women, these ’great ancestors’ are strong, determined women, whether famous and powerful or not. These are women who fought for personal rights and bodily integrity, who extended solidarity to women and other downtrodden people, and who improved their societies as scholars, saints and political activists. Many of the ’great ancestors’ led by example: by the live-choices they made for themselves, these women defied, and so challenged, existing structures and norms and in doing so, they provided an opening for other women (and men) to either follow in their footsteps or to emulate them by creating another path, another choice. Their lives are as inspiring today as they were in their lifetimes