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Contribution of Muslim Women to Islamic Studies in India

(With special reference to Dr. Zeenat Shoukat Ali and Dr. Fardia Khanum)

By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef(Shahbaz Nadwi)*


(Abstract of the paper)

Muslims in India are the first largest minority community. Although in the aftermath of partition they
have perpetually been living under severe constraints and have been facing very unsuitable and hard
times, however they are coping with the situations and slowly progressing ahead. As far as their
contribution to Islamic studies is concerned, they have done very well in some areas and their
achievement was very remarkable especially in Sirah writing, Hadis legacy and ,Fiqh literature etc.
Along with Muslim men there are some Muslim women too, who made considerable contribution in
deferent fields related to Islamic studies.

Muslim women scholars’ contribution in this area ,though was limited, however a few of women
scholars did marvelous things in different areas related to Islam and Muslims. A few name are shining
models in this arena, for example Dr. Zeenat Shoukat Ali director general of The World Institute of
Islamic Studies for Dialogue and Organization of Mediation and Gender Justice (Wisdom Foundation)
and professor Farida Khanam an ex faculty member in the department of Islamic studies Jamia Millia
Islamia New Delhi and a noted writer and Dawa activist. Both of them are distinguished and prolific
writers. They generally write on problems faced by Muslim women, women rights in Islam, Muslim
women’s historical contribution, gender equality, women education and related issues. Both are public
speakers and active in building peace, communal harmony and interfaith dialogue. To their credit both
of them have several books, research papers and monologues. In this humble paper I shall try to shed
some light on both these Muslim women’s academic activities , scholarly work with evaluation of their
views and approaches.

1-We start with Dr. Zeenat Ali.

Dr. Zeenat Shoukat Ali got educated in St Xavier college Mumbai .She has done her B.A as
well as Masters in this college of repute in English literature and Islamic Studies. She earned her
PhD in Islamic Studies from the Mumbai university on the topic :Marriage and Divorce in Islam:
An appraisal. She was awarded a PhD degree in 1984.
Dr. Zeenat has been conducting an Honors course on Islamic Studies a St Xavier's College
since 1987 till now. She is a noted Islamic scholar and is the director general of World Institute
of Islamic Studies for Dialogue, Organization of Mediation and Gender Justice (WISDOM
Foundation at Mumbai), Her main interest was in religious, legal and philosophical thought. The
nourishment for religious thought was provided by her involvement with Quranic studies which
she seriously pursued from the age of sixteen. The Quran not only literally introduced her to all
the religions of the world, but showed her that all human beings were born with a free spirit to
choose their path. "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error:
whoever rejects Evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never
breaks." (H.Q. 2:256). Dr.Zeenat is a free thinker and her thoughts on some issues are in
difference with the majority of Muslim Ulama and clergy’s opinions. Dr. Ali has been very
active in academic, social and community concerns, peace studies and specially in women
empowerment initiatives as an active Member of many Organizations.(1)1 She has so far
attended more than 52 national and international conferences and seminars and presented her
important peppers in them.)2General, Wisdom Foundation, Mumbai, India.-Founder Director 2(

1
1_1. Founder Director-General, Wisdom Foundation, Mumbai, India.

2. Member, Central Wakf Council, New Delhi

3. Member of governing Body: Heras Society of History and Culture, St Xaviers College, it was her Alma matter
also

4. Member of governing Body of K. R. Kama Institute of Oriental Studies.

5. Member, Maharashtra State Women Council.

6. Member of governing Body of Department of Religious Studies, St. Xavier's College, Mumbai.

7. Life Member, Anjuman-I-Islam, a very old and historic institution and community welfare organization of
Muslims in Mumbai.

8. Life Member, Bazm-e-Niswan

9. Member of General Body, Center For Study of Society and Secularism.

10. Board Member, Begum Khalsikar Girls School, Mumbai a Muslim educational institution.

11. Board Member, Anjuman-i-Islam, Begum Sharifa Kalsekar Girls' School (English), Mumbai.

12. Charter Member, United Religions Initiative, San Francisco, California, USA.

2
2 Among some important conferences and seminars she attended and presented papers in them include:

1- Institute of Islamic Studies and Inter-faith Dialogue on Religious, 1989, Bombay.

2. National Seminar on "Muslim Women Problems And Prospects", Aligarh Muslim University, February (Resource Person) 24-
26, 1990 (Paper presented)

3. International Women's Meet, Organized by International Women Forum World-Karachi. July 1990.

4. lndo-Arab Islamic Youth Association Hyderabad, All India Conference on Palestine Rights, 7- 15, December, 1991

5. Indo-Arab Islamic Youth Association Delegate NGO United Nation H. Q., New York, USA, February 21-23, 1992

6. Muslim Intelligentsia Meet, Resourse Person, Convention The Triple Talaq, August 8, 1993 at New Delhi .

7- She attended Workshop on "Modern Challenge Asian Youth and Islam" at Bangkok organized by Asian Muslim Action
Network, 21-24, February 1997 as Resource Person. Presented Paper on "Islam and The Dilemmas of Modernism" .

8- Delegated : as one of the 100 leaders of the World Religious to a Conference by "United Religious Initiative" Standford
University, San Francisco, U. S. A. June 23-27, 1997.

9- Delegated to "Inter-faith Religious Conference" on Muslim/Christian Relations—August 7-9, 1997, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Presented Paper on "Status of Women in Islam”.
As we can see from her writings , papers and deliberations Dr.Ali has developed a keen interest
in Islamic studies regarding interfaith dialogue, understanding among different cultures and
civilizations ,and relevant issues such as the triple talaaq, cultivation of knowledge and learning
in Islam, Islam and modernism, status of women in Islam, women empowerment, Islam and
democracy, Religion and violence and war and peace in Islam. She has been a relentless warrior
for Muslim women rights. She has been active to save secularism and Muslim minority rights in
India. As well as she fights for Palestinian rights. She also wrote about Muslim diversity in India,
terrorism, democracy and responses of civil society, non violence and Islam etc. She has been
very active participant on news channel debates too. To her credit Dr. Ali has several books most
important among them are :
1( Marriage and Divorce In Islam "(Published , 1987, Jaico Hufications Mumbai , (India)
Released By Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma , Governor, Maharashtra, Government of India ,on June
1987 . Forwarded by Justice Hidayatullah, Acting Vice President of India. It was based on her
doctoral research paper: Marriage and Divorce In Islam — An Appraisal: and is an analysis of
the revival of interest in Islamic jurisprudence relating to the institution of marriage and divorce,
particularly in regard to the position of women. To her, most Muslim countries in the world
today have adopted the dynamic principle of ljtehad forming independent judgments on legal
questions in relating to the aforesaid subject.
2) Empowerment of Women in Islam "( Published, in 1997 by Vikils, Feffer and Simons Ltd.
Mumbai, India ) Released by Dr. Rafiq Zakaria in September 1997 and forwarded by A. M.
Ahmadi, Chief Justice , Government of India.
3) Winning The Peace - A Quest: edited by Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali, (Published by Wisdom
Foundation, Mumbai, India in December 2011 ). Forwarded by Salman Khursheed Minister of
Water Resources and " Minority Affairs , Government of India, and released by him in
December 2010.
Now we should study some of her views presented in her papers and writings.

On Veil:

10-She was also a Delegate to : Conference on "Imam Khomeni" organized by the Culture Centre of Iran on 3 — 4,
June, 1998. Read a Paper on "The Role of imam Khomeni in Women's Activities" (Paper to be published).

11. She was also a Delegate: one of hundred leaders at Standford University to a Conference organized by "United
Religious — Initiative" 21-26 June, 1998

12. Delegated to : New York by G. 0. P. I. 0. to address Intellectuals on "Empowerment of Women", 19th June,
1998.

13. Delegated to : Cairo Interaction of dignitaries, academicians, writers in connection with The Egyptian
Experience concerning women. June 5-12, 1998.

14. Dr. Zinat had Visited Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities to meet scholars in connection with the new
book entitled 'Alternatives in Islam" July 2-10, 1998.
Hisjab is obligatory on Muslim women yet there is a heated debate among scholars that whether
hijab entails a mandatory veil or only scarf would do. The majority of the ulema of subcontinent
is in the favor of veil being necessary while a few of scholars and specifically from mid east say
that veil is not necessary and scarf can be sufficient. Dr. Ali being a champion of free thought
and women freedom is totally against veil, she opines:

‘There is no suggestion in the Quran where women are asked to lead a cloistered existence or be
kept apart from world affairs. On the contrary the Quran references to the participation of women
in all respectable enterprises and professions are clear. It is often forgotten that in early Islam
women were political activists, went to war, defended the nation, nursed the wounded, gave
sanctuary to men, participated in debates, were scholars and legalists contributing to society as
their male counterparts. Undoubtedly modesty of both outlook and appearance is recommended
in the Holy Quran. Hence, with regard to gender one verse of the Quran speaks of both men and
women to be modest. It should be noted that the first verse on modesty of outlook is addressed to
men. “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty
(sexuality) that will make for greater purity for them. Such moral and formal requirements for
both men and women are intended to enable both to mix together for individual and social
purposes comfortably, and to communicate and co-operate through the human intellect without
being distracted by physical charms. It would be meaningless to require such precautions if
segregation was the social rule of the Islamic society as some may think.”(3)3
It is to be noted here that Dr. Ali vehemently opposed triple talaq in one sitting ,termed it anti
Quran and expressed this view on Indian TV channels boldly going against all the clergy. This
practice now has been banned in India.
On Democracy.

“While the new literature on democratization is increasing, in one of her article on this subject
says Dr. Ali; a growing number of specialists have sought to identify developments that signal
the early phases of, a transformation of state, society and democratic patterns gaining visibility in
the Muslim world. Based on studies relating to different regimes and institutional settings,
political analysts suggest that, although important changes have occurred in some parts of the
Muslim world, democracy lags behind. One reason for this seems to be that we inherit a
historical legacy that encourages a mutually hostile mirror image in the interaction between
Islam and Western democracy. Hence some Islamic thinkers equate Western democracy with
extreme social permissiveness and moral dissolution, while others conceive this, ‘alien import’,

3- see the whole article on : The wisdom foundation www.wfindia.org


as a neocolonialist ploy to subvert the social fabric of Muslim society. Similarly, a dominant
Western reduces the image of Islam to an autocracy or an exclusive monarchy.’’
According to the Qur’an, She adds ;the state is governed through the means of consultation or
counsel (Shura). This being the foundation stone of government resembles any modern day
Parliament .The key is the principle that all business relating to the community needs be
transacted through mutual consultation and requires transparency. It cannot be arbitrary. This
dictum is extended to the Holy Prophet himself: “And take counsel with them in all matters of
public concern; then when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God”
(3:159). Hence the injunctions, implying that government by consent, council, must be regarded
as one of the fundamental clauses of the Quranic legislation relating to statecraft. The pronoun
‘them’ relates to the whole community – while the word al-amr , occurring in this context, as
well as in the much earlier revealed phrases amru hum shura bayanaham ‫( امرهم شورى بينهمم‬42:38),
denotes all affairs of public concern, including state administration.”(4)4
On Non violence and Islam.

Now on various reasons it is generally believed especially among non Muslims that Islam is a
violent religion, though it is a false notion, yet how Dr. Zeenat deals with this issue is worth
considering ,she says:“The efforts and instruction of the Qur'an to resist provocation and
aggression in a society engulfed in conflict, to speak of patience (sabr) or gentleness (rifq), to
actively reject violence (unf) and disruption of the social system causing losses in life and
property (fasad), to protect the sacredness of human dignity and engage peacefully in resisting
oppression (zulm) through plausible means, to engage in peace making, confidence building,
avoiding confrontation or conflict is reflected in the Qur'an and the life of Prophet Muhammad.
It is important to understand that non-violence in Islam does not spell surrender or passivity but
the active rejection of violence; it entails peaceful engagement in overcoming injustice. social ills
or conflict without causing injury, in other words without violence or war.

What are the reasons of this misunderstanding of Islam? Answering to this question she rightly
observed: A complex intricate set of factors has given rise to the discourse on violence or the use
of force in Islam. Two of these need special mention. One is the religious legitimization of
political hegemony soon after the passing away of the Prophet Muhammad and second the
misconceived notion (giving subsequent rise to animated political controversy) of the word Jihad
as signifying the elimination of non—Muslims and their civilization.” (5)5

On women empowerment:

Islam brought to women their dignity, freedom, justice and equality. It infused in them a sense of
self confidence and a seeking sprite of truth and a hunger for knowledge .That is why in early
Islam a woman was seen participating in all the vibrant social activates, say, learning knowledge,

4
see: Her article Democracy In Islam: Perceptions, Challenges and Implications of The Arab Spring 1st March
2011 Revised 1st April 2012 published by K. R. CAMA ORIENTAL INSTITUTE, MUMBAI
5
See for more details her article Non-violence and Peace building in Islam
The Concept of Non-violence in Islam on : The wisdom foundation www.wfindia.org
propagating it even teaching men for that matter, participating even in war zone and in political
matters. Yet the situations are completely changed now. On this issue being a relentless
campaigner for women empowerment herself Dr. Zeenat Ali has written extensively. Here we
will cite some examples of her rather detailed paper published in book form also:

Stating her goal by her paper she says: One major objective of this paper is to provide a fair
evaluation of what Islam contributed towards the restoration of education in general and the
education of women in particular. It review how women were in the forefront in different fields
of endeavor including both education and establishment of educational institutions.”(6)

“When Imam Zuhri,a famous scholar of Sunnah, she writes, indicated to Qasim ibn Muhammad
(a scholar of the Quran)a desire to seek knowledge, Qasim advised him to join the assembly of a
well known woman jurist of the day Amara bint Al-Rahman. Imam Zuhri attended her assembly
and later described her as “a boundless ocean of knowledge” in fact Amara instructed a number
of famed scholars,sucha s Abu Bakar Muhammad ibn Hazam and Yahya ibn Said.(7)

“Islam neither confined nor restricted its space to a particular gender, she continued, Nor did it
sanction its monopolization or marginalization by any section of society.”(8)

“In his article “In recognition of women” Khalid Abou el Fadl notes that more than 2,5oo
women scholars, jurists, and poets alone can be found in the history of Islam including some who
issued religious licenses to men. Islam neither limited women to the private sphere, nor gave
men supremacy over the public and private life. One notices that the Greek and Roman cultures
which preceded Islamic civilization did not produce a single eminent woman philosopher or
jurist. Likewise Europe failed to produce a single female social, political, or legal jurist. Islam
did exactly the opposite to every respect, so much so that huzrat Umer bin Alkhattab used to
entrust Shaffa bint Abdullah as an inspector over the market in Madina. Moreover Islamic
history is replete with examples of female professors who tutored famous jurists.”)9(

Stating what Islam introduced and promoted in general education Dr. Zeenat said:“Girls were
welcome to all the instructions. The attention to female education increased with time. Women
vied with men in various branches of learning. In Damascus a manuscript of the Sahifah of
Hammam, was well known. There is a mention made of a lady teacher ,who for a certain
generations served as the transmitter of this work. This lady ,Ummul Fadl Karimah (daughter of
Abu Firas Najmuddin )maintained a school of Hadith in her house.( 10)

Citing prophetic era Dr. Zeenat made her argument and said:“Ibn Hisham’s biography of the
prophet, Al-sirah al –Nabawiya, describes the lives of women disciples (sahabiyat) actively
interwoven in their historical context and vigorously involved in the prophet’s preaching, battles
and debates.(11) In this respect Dr. Zeenat believes that:“The central contribution, is that
women appear as major builders of the faith. (12) She observed:“It is interesting to learn that
female education formed a component of the Prophet’s household. His wives, daughters and
extended family were key figures in early Islamic history. hazrat Khadija was the first to learn of
the revelation and believe in it and supported the prophet throughout his life. Hazrat Ayesha
besides being politically active, transmitted two thousand religious traditions and tutored many
scholars, Umm Salmah advised the prophet during the Huddaibiyyah crisis. Hazrat Hafsa held
with her the complete compilation for the Quran long before its publication. Hazrat Fatima
played an active role on discussion relating to succession. Hazrat Asma, daughter of Abu Bakar
was known as “Zatunnitaqain”(one with two belts)as she used one to tie a bag carrying food and
documents for the prophet during his migration.)13(

Canonical records, she cites, demonstrate women’s contribution in early Muslim society . For
Instance the incident of a woman, Khawla bint Saliba, corrected the authoritative ruling
(fatwa)of Caliph Umer Ibn Al-Khattab on the issue of dower (mahar). The fact that women
prayed in mosques and were involved in the transmission of hadith (Ibn Sa’d,the famous
biographer records 700 case of women who performed this important function).Women were
known to give sanctuary (jiwar) to men and their involvement and interaction in public matters
are expressed in history and traditions.

In the political arena the Quran refers to women who independently of their male relatives,
pledged the oath of allegiance (bayah)to the prophet “o, prophet whenever believing women
come to thee to pledge their allegiance to thee…..then accept their allegiance” Quran:60:12)
Well known examples of women making such pledges to the prophet occurred at al-Aqabah, al –
Al Ridwan and Al-Shajarah”.In essence bayah is the acknowledgement of a leader, for without
Bayyah a leader has no legitimacy and thus cannot be the Head of state” Undoubtedly Muslim
women were natural part of the political process in Islam. The Hnbali jurist Ibn Taymiyah of
Syria lists two women among his teachers and some women descendents of the prophet such as
his granddaughter Zayanb and in a latter generation Nafisha.(14)

In a manner of cases distinguished women became Muslims before their men did, again
contradicting the traditional patriarchal view that women were incapable of independent action.
As regards public posts, Caliph Umer appointed a woman Shafa bint Abdullah to serve as an
official (muhtasib) in the market of Medina, and Hanbali jurisprudence upholds the
qualifications of women to serve as judges.(15)

Women in Political and social Activism in Early Islam: In this respect Dr. Zeenat averred and
cited many examples from prophetic era and of early centuries of Muslim history.

“Responsibility relating to different fields of activities lies with both genders equaly, as the
Quran states: And as for the believer men and women, they are friends and protectors of one
another: they enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong. And are
constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto God and His apostle”.
Quran 9:7) Therefore we find that early Islamic history is filled with women who undertook
various forms of political- social -economic-educational activism. The first martyr in Islam was a
woman, Sumaya zoujat ‫ زوجة‬Yasir. Sumaya was tortured and killed in the early period of Islam
because of her belief in Prophet Muhammad and the message he brought. A woman who also
received praise from the Prophet was a woman traveler named Asma bint Umais who traveled by
sea and immigrated to Abyssinia when the Muslims were being persecuted in Makkah. It is
significant to note that Asma bint Umais and her travels in search of religious freedom appeared
to be common knowledge and was noteworthy to receive praise from the Prophet”)16(

Women like men, she adds, fought in battles to defend Islam. Umm Amara defended the prophet
during the battle of Uhad after the Muslims suffered losses. Umar ibn al-Khattab said:“I heard
the prophet ( PBUH)saying ‘on the day of Uhad ,I never looked right or left without seeing Umm
Amara fighting to defend me”.(17 )

Another famous warrior was Nasiba bint Kaab who fought with the prophet in the battle of
Uhad(625A.d/3/,A.h)and later on with caliph Abu Bakar in the Ridda wars (32A.d,/10/A.h) she
was known as such a courageous and dedicated warrior that Abu Bakar himself attended her
reception upon her return to Medina.(18) Umm Salma ,the wife of the prophet was instrumental
in advising the prophet during the crisis at Hudaybiya in 628 A.d,(6A.h)her advice prevented
disunity amongst the Muslim after the treaty of Hudaybiaya and her opinion prevailed over that
of many men, including Umar ibn al Khattab .Umm Salma was also an inquisitive student of
Islam. She asked the prophet why men were more mentioned in the Quran and in response God
revealed Surah 33 verse 35 (19 ). Dr. Zeenat continued in her narration:“Umm Hani offered
refuge to two non Muslim men who sought protection after the opening of Mecca. After she
offered them refuge she went to the prophet and told him what she had done. He said to her:“we
offer refuge to whomever you offered and we guarantee the safety’’. Thus in essence, Umm Hani
bint Abitalib performed a significant political function, one often reserved only for the ruler,
when she granted political asylum to these men.(20)

Hazrat Aisha was also politically active influential leader. In the year 658AD(36A.h)she played
a major role in the armed resistance against Hazrat Imam Ali, the fourth successor after the death
of prophet Muhammad .Hazrat Aisha was the only woman on the battlefield, who led thousands
of men into the battle of the Camel or Jamal(21 )Fatima bint Qais tenaciously argued with
Hazrat Ummar and Hazrat Aisha over a legal point and refused to change her opinion. And there
was Umm Yaqub, who on hearing Abdullah Ibn Masud explain a legal point, then confidently
told him:“I have read the entire Quran but have not found your explanation anywhere in
it”(22)Arwa bint Ahmad served as governor of Yemen in the late 5th and early 6th centuries.
Zubaidah bint Jafar Al-mansur ,a wealthy benefactress funded the construction of Mecca’s water
supply system and the establishment of a pilgrimage route from Baghdad to Mecca in the late 8th
and early 9th centuries. Muslim women played a significant role in the establishment of many
educational institutions from early times. Fatima al –Fihr founded the university of Al-
Karaouine ‫ جامعة لقرةيون‬in 859 c e. This process continued to the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12thand
13th centuries, when 160 mosques and madrasas were established in Damascus, several were
funded by women through the Wakf system. Half of all the royal patrons for these institutions
were women.(23)
Abdul Hakim Murad says:“The oriantalist Ignaz Goldziher showed that perhaps fifteen percent
of medieval Hadith scholars were women, teaching in the mosques and universally admired for
their integrity’’. Colleges such as Saqlatunia Madrsa in Cairo were funded and staffed entirely by
women.(24) According to Ibn Asakar, a scholar in the 12thcentury,there existed a range of
opportunities for female education in what is popularly termed as the medieval Islamic world. He
illustrates how women could study ,earn ijazahs (academic certificates)and qualify as scholars
and teachers. This was particularly true for learned and scholarly families, who sought to ensure
the highest possible education for both sons and daughters.(25 )

Muslim women’s contributions throughout the ages are well documented. This is not a new
theory or an imagination of an intellectual innovative mind as many of our ulema and religious
scholars assume it. As it is evident from Dr. Zeenat’s references. For she cited prominent
Muslim historians, distinguished Sirah writers and well versed scholars of Hadith ,Fiqh and
Asmaur Rijal. So she cited these savants starting from Ibn Hisham, Ibn Saad to Hafiz Ibn
Hajar,Ibn Abdul Barr,Hafiz Zehbi, Tabri, Ibn Aseer, Ibn Asakar to Al-sakhawi who had written
exclusively about women scholars, Muhaddisat, Faqihat, women writers ,teachers, poetesses and
women scholars of literatures and other religious sciences and arts etc. One volume of his work
(the eleventh volume) of his work Al-zouul Lame was exclusive to women scholars. So these
are very prominent figures in Islamic history of knowledge and Islamic sciences. With their
references Dr. Zeenat made her point very strong that Muslim women had been very active in all
kind of social, political and religious activities down the ages. So it is hoped that they would
once again revive their historical and traditional role to promote Islamic values of learning and
gender equality and human dignity and to advance its message to mankind.(26)

An evaluation note on Zeenat Ali

Dr. Zeenat Shukat Ali is a free thinker and most of the times she relies on her own reading,
especially when it comes to family life and domestic affairs related to legal or jurist’s views and
fatawas. As she does when she talks on veil, triple Talaq etc. So for her it is sufficient to bypass
or overlook jurists’ opinions and exegeses of Islam’s savants of the past and present, simply
making their views anti Quranic sprit and out rightly rejecting them in one go. To me it is her
lacking and an absurdity for a scholarly work.

2-Professor Farida Khanum.

Professor Farida Khanum is the daughter of noted scholar and Islamic thinker Moulana
Wahiduddin Khan. She earned her master’s and PhD from Jamia Millia Islamia new Delhi.
where she had been a professor of Islamic studies for a decade (now retired) Dr. Farida Khanam
has devoted her life to the mission of Dawah. She is the chairperson of C.P.S international a
Dawa Mission centre. She has translated Maulana waheeduddin Khan’s books in English and
she herself written several books four in English and one in Urdu. Her English books are as follows:
1-Sufi ism an introduction
She introduces this work in the following words :Islamic spiritualism has come to have two
schools of thought. One may be called the original Qur’anic school of thought, according to
which the spiritual quest is a means for the creature to contact his Creator. The other school of
thought is commonly known as Sufism or Tasawwuf or the form which mysticism has taken in
Islam. The term Sufism embraces the philosophy and practices in Islam that aim at direct
communion between God and man. Sufism: An Introduction is a historical study of Sufism
(Tasawwuf) with specific reference to its spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. It deals with
the major Sufi orders, their distinguishing features and the ideology and method of Sufism.
Generally, religious scholars regard it(meditation) as a deviation from the real Islam, but the
Sufis do not subscribe to their views. They think that meditation facilitates the attainment of the
higher stages of Tazkia, (purification of the self) Ihsan (excellence in worship) and Maarifah
(realization of God)—the goal of Islam.(taken from the preface of the book,p:8)

2-A Simple Guide to Islam


Dr. Farida introduced her book in following words:“Islam” is an Arabic word which means
“submission, surrender and obedience to God.” In religious terms, this means that the individual
who embraces Islam as his religion must put the Almighty first and foremost in his life, bowing
to His wishes in all matters. Divine provision was made for man from the beginning of creation.
He took Adam, the first man— whom He had made not just an ordinary mortal but also a
prophet— and taught him everything that He wanted from man, so that human beings would be
given proper direction and guidance. From time to time thereafter, God sent large numbers of
prophets to the world— the last of these being the Prophet Muhammad— so that human beings,
who tended to stray, could be recalled to the path of virtue……When Prophet Muhammad came
in the 7th Century AD, paper was available. The message sent to him thus became preserved in
the form of the Quran, the Sunnah and the life of the Prophet. Islam, meaning submission to the
Almighty, is the preserved version of the same religion sent by God to guide mankind throughout
history. A Simple Guide to Islam presents these teachings in a simple manner.(from the
introduction of the book P:5-6)

3-Life and Teachings of the Prophet Muhammad

Books on Seerah or the life of the Prophet exist in great numbers. These are no doubt valuable
books in their own right. However, one aspect of Seerah still remains to be highlighted. And that
is, the relevance of seerah in the modern world. It is a subject which, despite its great
importance, has yet to be treated with sufficient thoroughness. Life and Teachings of the Prophet
Muhammad has been written with the aim of addressing the mind of the modern man. A thing
becomes understandable to the modern man only when it is presented within the framework of
reason rather than beliefs. The book, therefore, aims to fulfill modern intellectual requirements,
focusing on the relevance of the Prophet of Islam in contemporary global context….. With
curiosity about Islam having arisen in people, there is an urgent need for an objective, in-depth
study of Islam in the light of Prophet’s life and teachings, which this book aims to fulfill.(see the
preface of the book,Page:5-6).

4-Islam and Human Values: Dr. Farida says in her introduction of this book published by Sai
International Center for Human values New Delhi: A book like this is important to clear the
misconceptions about Islam that have been emerging for many years. So much so that people
have started thinking that Islam and Human Values are not synonymous. I have planned my book
keeping in view this most urgent, present day requirement. I want to present a book which is not
just a repetition of books already written, but one whose aim would be to fulfill modern
intellectual requirements, bringing out the importance of Human values in Islam.” Page: 8)

5- Dr.Farida Khanum has to her credit a book in Urdu namely: ‫موالىةاموووو شخصة لوتحرينة لنة‬
‫علمة جةاه‬It is her major academic work written as a doctoral thesis, on which she was awarded
her Ph.D degree from Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi.

In this book Dr. Farida thoroughly studied Maulana Maududi’s thought. She critically examined
the merits of Maududi’s ideology in the light of Quran, hadith and views of distinguished
Muslim scholars contemporary to him and like Abulhasan Ali Nadwi and Manzoor Numan et.al.
She also tested this ideology on the anvil of thoughts of old Ulama in general and some exegetes
and Mufassirun like Qurtubi in particular. Dr. Farida based her critical analysis of Mududi’s
book ‫ قةين ية جاتيا ةاو لحةن‬his exegesis of Quran, the Tafhim, his book ‫ لقجهةاو ية لالمة‬and
some other related books. She concluded that the methodology applied by Moududi to construct
his ideology and inferring the great inferences by it, is necessarily wrong. To say precisely and
summarily Moududi’s theory for example based on the fact that the word Deen occurred in the
Quran in many meanings but the core idea it gave could be referred as state. Thus the
connotation of ‫ أق موللقةين‬would be; try to establish Deen that is Islamic state. Mududi inferred his
ideology from the four words ‫رلقةعرعداو‬،‫ ونة رت‬he termed them as especial religious terms. Whose
meaning had been absent from the Muslim mind throughout the ages. Dr. Farida observed that
the different uses of a quranic word say, Deen, suggests that it was used in different contexts. So
the basic criteria to infer a core idea from Quran is the context in which any word was used. She
observed that the methodology of Mududi in this regards was primarily flawed one, that is why
many Muslim scholars termed Moududi’s ideology as a political interpretation of Islam. She
further observed that the grim situations in which the whole Muslim world was passing through
in twentieth century especially in aftermath of demolition of Ottoman caliphate paved the way
for this interpretation, because Muslims had lost all their political strength and clout in the world
arena, and this new theory was giving them a motive for a struggle to gain political power. These
external conditions gave a quick impetus and huge popularity to political interpretation of Islam
among Muslims in Arab world and Indian subcontinent alike.(27)

Dr. Farida is a spiritual leader also so she wrote a book on Sufiism and a lengthy article on
spirituality, her spirituality is in deference with most of the spiritual schools of thought. She
writes: “The two major constituents of man’s personality –body and soul-both need sustenance
for their continued well –being and progress. While material things such as food and water
provide sustenance to the body ,it is spirituality that provides sustenance to the soul. What is
spirituality? It is elevation of the human condition to a plane on which the mind is focused on the
higher, non –material realities of a godly existence.For her: spirituality is not a series of rituals.
And one does not become a spiritual person by any mere accident of birth or by belonging to any
particular group. These are all external factors with no relevance to the true essence of
spirituality. Spirituality in actuality is an internal realization that surpasses all outward things.

Her spirituality is based on certain things among them she very lucidly described Contemplation,
Tazkia(purification, deconditioning, gratitude to God, purpose of life, God realization, Tafakkur
and Tadabbur(contemplation and remembrance of God)Tawaasum or observation of phenomena
of the universe in order to learn lessons from them,as the necessary tools to gain the spirituality.
This spirituality teaches you how to take inspiration from the signs of Allah Almighty and how
to live a God oriented life. This spiritual journey should have a purpose of life.(28)

Dr. Farida concludes her article with these bright lines.“According to Islam, spirituality is an
intellectual activity, as also a matter of inner development to which material things make an
indirect contribution. In fact ,worldly life is made more meaningful by the role effectively played
by spirituality in the refinement of the intellect and the consequent progress of humanity .
Spirituality does not, as some may imagine, arrest the thinking process, but rather enhance
intellectual activity in every possible way….. In effect, spirituality makes a man a
superman………When man purifies himself through the process of tazkia, when he discovers
God and worships Him, when he remembers, Him ,when his mind is fully focused upon Him,
when he makes a request or a plea, he establishes a contact with his maker-thus receiving
rabbaniyat or spirituality from Him. According to Islamic spirituality ,this is the start of a God
oriented life and the development of a positive personality.(29 )

On Burqa or Naqab

In sub continent it is an orthodox tradition for Muslm women to wear burqa or Naqab most of the
people regard it as a part of religious duties for Muslim women, yet Dr. Farida differ in this
regard. For her the burqa is not a part of Islam but an element of Muslim culture and the
distinction is important. She elaborate this in a detailed way:“These days the burqa, or purdah, is
in the news. It is generally looked upon as an integral part of Islam, but this is not so. In reality,
the burqa is a part of Muslim culture and not a part of Islamic teaching. There is a great
difference between Muslims and Islam…… The source of Islam is the Quran rather than Muslim
culture. Muslim culture is a social phenomenon, while the Quran is the Book of God as revealed
to the Prophet of Islam. She traces the history of the word burqa:

“According to linguistic history, the word 'burqa' was in use in Arabia before the advent of Islam
in the first quarter of the seventh century. At that time the word 'burqa' meant a piece of clothing
that was used as a protection, especially in winters. The well-known Arabic dictionary Lisan al-
Arab gives us two examples of its use during the pre-Islamic period: the first, as a cover for
animals during the winter season and the second, as a covering chaadar, like a shawl for village
women. Although the word 'burqa' existed in the Arabic vocabulary at that time, the Quran did
not use the word 'burqa' for women's purdah…..Hijab' is used in the Quran seven times, but not
in the sense that is prevalent among the Muslims today, that is, it is used in its literal sense of
'curtain'. Regarding women's purdah, two words have been used in the Quran: jilbab (33:59) and
khimar (24:31). But again these words are not used in their present connotation. It is a fact that
both words have a similar meaning, that is, chaadar or duppatta, that covers the body of a woman
and not her face. So it is very clear that the present 'burqa' or 'hijab' are not Quranic terms; both
are part of Muslim culture and not part of Quranic commandments. According to the Hanafi and
Maaliki School of fiqh, three parts of a woman are exempted from satr (body covering ). These
three are wajh, kaffain, and qadmain. That is, face, hands and feet. According to the Shariah,
women are required to cover their body with clothing which is not tight fitting and not meant to
attract others. (Chapter 24, verse 31, Tafsir Usmani)
She further strengthen her point citing a contemporary Hadith scholar:“ It is noteworthy that the
well-known Arab scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Naasiruddin al-Albani , clearly endorses the
above-mentioned position of the Shariah in his book on this subject, Hijab al-Mar'ah al-
Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah (The Veil of a Muslim Woman). He goes on to say that it is
clear from the Quran, the Hadith and the practice of the companions and the tabiun (companions
of the Prophet's companions) that, whenever a woman steps out of her home, it is incumbent
upon her to cover herself completely so as not to show any part of her body except the face and
the hands’’.( 30)
Interfaith understanding:
Today there are bitter relations among all the Semitic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
But there are so many similarities among all these three world religions, so there is a dire need
for these religions to come to a platform. Dr. Farida advocate fervently for understanding
between Semitic religions saying:“Among the 12 major religions of the world, there are three —
Judaism, Christianity and Islam — which represent the Semitic branch of religion. All three
originated in the Middle East and each one acknowledges Abraham as its Patriarch…..All the
three religions are monotheistic. The word ‘Semitic’ denotes those peoples, mainly Jews and
Arabs, who belong to the Middle East. The name derives possibly from Sem, Noah’s son, from
whom these people are descended. Abraham was a member of this same ethnic group. …..All
three share the common concept of God, who is called Jehovah, or Yahweh in Judaism, God in
Christianity, and Allah in Islam…….
Jews, Christians and Muslim are in agreement that God is One and is the living, merciful,
omnipotent Creator of the universe.The Quran says: “Those who believe, and the Jews,
Christians and Sabaeans — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and acts uprightly — will
be rewarded by their Lord; they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62) The concept of
Resurrection — the belief that the soul is immortal and that the dead will be brought to life again
— is central to the tenets of all three. The object of Resurrection is to bring human beings after
death into the court of God where they will be judged, based on their good or bad deeds, and
accordingly rewarded… …….. “Love your enemy.”The Quran teaches: “Do good deeds in
return for bad deeds and you will find that one who was once your enemy has become your
dearest friend.” (41: 34)( 31)

On triple Talaq:
Triple Talaq in India is has become a flash point between Muslms and BJP the ruling party in the
country. Which is using this issue for beguiling Muslim women victims of Triple talaq in one
sitting to make them rise up against traditional Muslim bodies who are opposing vehemently
government moves on this issue and thus going entrapped by the BJP , who wants to cash this
and the similar issues to polarize Hindu vote bank for political benifites. Some Muslim
intellectuals who are in minority ,see this as a trap so they advocate that Muslim clergy should
avoid clear confrontation with right wing forces at this juncture of their history in which they
find themselves in utmost weakness and come up with reform in Muslim personal law from
within. Farida one of them as she says: “The early period of Islam, called ‘Quroon Salaasa’ or The
Three Periods, is held to be the golden age in Islam. It covers the time of the Prophet, his
Companions and the Companions of the Companions. In these three periods, people followed the
Quranic method of divorce.The first caliph Abu Bakr followed the same practice. Only in certain
exceptional cases did Umar, the second caliph, take the extreme stand of accepting as final the
utterance of three talaqs on a single occasion. He did so only in those cases where he felt that the
husbands were seriously misusing the permission to divorce. The permission to divorce granted by
the caliph in such cases was actually intended as a form of punishment, and the outcome was
foreseen as a deterrent to others. But it should be understood that no executive order of any caliph
enjoys the status of a law of the shariah. No such executive order, no matter who makes such a
decision, can overrule the law of the Quran, which is clearly spelt out in specific terms.

An executive order can never become a permanent rule of the shariah. In later periods, when
social and spiritual degeneration had set in, greater emphasis began to be attached to the form of
religion rather than to the spirit. It must be clarified that going by spirit, even if talaq is
pronounced three times (in succession) in an outburst of anger, it would be treated as one
utterance only. This is because when one is in a rage, it was likely that one would not be able to
control oneself enough to pronounce the word only once.There is an illustrative incident in this
regard. One such case came to the notice of the Prophet where the person said, “I have
announced my intention to divorce my wife three times on a single occasion, but now I want to
take her back, although I have uttered the word talaq three times.”The Prophet replied,“Yes, I
know you have said it three times, but it will be taken as one utterance. For talaq is to be said
over a period of three months. So treat it as just one occasion and take your wife back.” (Musnad
Ahmad) Talaq may be resorted to only in exceptional cases. The executive order issued by the
second caliph (of pronouncing talaq three times in succession, at once) should remain a
suspended practice for no Muslim ruler followed suit. (32)

Peace-Building through Learning: The Islamic Perspective

The fact is that the whole world wants peace. No right thinking person would deny that Yet there
are many areas of the world which are strife-torn, many areas which are slowly and partially
recovering from the ravages of war, and yet there are many areas where the imminence of war is
diverting many countries to negative ends such as the development of more and more
sophisticated weaponry and the building of nuclear arsenals. Violence is seen as a way of settling
matters quickly and decisively, although there is much evidence to the contrary. And it is more
evident in many Muslim and Arab lands. For building peace Dr Farida has a suggestion that it
should be achieved through learning and going Islamic way to gain this desire goal as she says:
“Peace-building is one of the greatest imperatives of our times. Peace-building is a term
frequently uttered by speakers on national platforms and in international forums. But,
lamentably, these speakers offer no viable methods for achieving this. To this situation, Islam
has a major role to play. For Islam is a religion of peace. Islam lays emphasis on both peace and
learning, the latter being a means of bringing individuals to embrace the culture of peace. It is
my firm belief that education is the key factor in fostering peace, because through it the root
cause can be effectively addressed.
Peace in Islam :Islam deriving from the root word silm, which means peace, is a religion of
peace. The Quran puts on record the many names or attributes of God, one of them being As-
Salam, that is, Peace. God loves peace and security so much that He chose Peace as one of His
names. That is to say, that God Himself is the embodiment of peace.
One cannot do better in one’s efforts to ensure peace than to follow the example set by the
Prophet of Islam in every facet of his life right throughout his career from beginning to end.
The golden rules for the carrying of the ideal of peace into effect are set forth with the greatest
clarity in the Quran and these rules are brilliantly illustrated by the thoughts, words and deeds of
the Prophet of Islam, as recorded in the Hadith.(33)
A note of Dr. Farida’s work and thought:
With reading thoughroughly the writings of Dr. Farida in general and in her book ‫موالىةاموووو ية‬
‫ شخصة لوتحرينة لنة علمة جةاه‬one can’t help to observe that she in her critique of Moududi’s
ideology basically and heavily relies upon the books and ideas of her father Maulana
Waheeduddin Khan. All her ideas are borrowed from him with the exception of her work on
Sufiism . Though in her PhD work she ventured to read many writers and scholars, yet
unfortunately when this monograph was published in book form all the references very foolishly
were removed from the book. So now it is very hard for a scholar to cross check her references
and results and judge its research merits and demerits. Though I do agree with what she inferred
the net result from her study.
References and foot notes:
1_1. Founder Director-General, Wisdom Foundation, Mumbai, India.
2. Member, Central Wakf Council, New Delhi

3. Member of governing Body: Heras Society of History and Culture, St Xaviers College, it was her Alma matter
also

4. Member of governing Body of K. R. Kama Institute of Oriental Studies.

5. Member, Maharashtra State Women Council.

6. Member of governing Body of Department of Religious Studies, St. Xavier's College, Mumbai.
7. Life Member, Anjuman-I-Islam, a very old and historic institution and community welfare organization of
Muslims in Mumbai.

8. Life Member, Bazm-e-Niswan

9. Member of General Body, Center For Study of Society and Secularism.

10. Board Member, Begum Khalsikar Girls School, Mumbai a Muslim educational institution.

11. Board Member, Anjuman-i-Islam, Begum Sharifa Kalsekar Girls' School (English), Mumbai.

12. Charter Member, United Religions Initiative, San Francisco, California, USA.

2 Among some important conferences and seminars she attended and presented papers in them include:

1- Institute of Islamic Studies and Inter-faith Dialogue on Religious, 1989, Bombay.

2. National Seminar on "Muslim Women Problems And Prospects", Aligarh Muslim University, February
(Resource Person) 24-26, 1990 (Paper presented)

3. International Women's Meet, Organized by International Women Forum World-Karachi. July 1990.

4. lndo-Arab Islamic Youth Association Hyderabad, All India Conference on Palestine Rights, 7- 15, December,
1991

5. Indo-Arab Islamic Youth Association Delegate NGO United Nation H. Q., New York, USA, February 21-23,
1992

6. Muslim Intelligentsia Meet, Resourse Person, Convention The Triple Talaq, August 8, 1993 at New Delhi .

7- She attended Workshop on "Modern Challenge Asian Youth and Islam" at Bangkok organized by Asian Muslim
Action Network, 21-24, February 1997 as Resource Person. Presented Paper on "Islam and The Dilemmas of
Modernism" .

8- Delegated : as one of the 100 leaders of the World Religious to a Conference by "United Religious Initiative"
Standford University, San Francisco, U. S. A. June 23-27, 1997.

9- Delegated to "Inter-faith Religious Conference" on Muslim/Christian Relations—August 7-9, 1997, Jakarta,


Indonesia. Presented Paper on "Status of Women in Islam”.

10-She was also a Delegate to : Conference on "Imam Khomeni" organized by the Culture Centre of Iran on 3 — 4,
June, 1998. Read a Paper on "The Role of imam Khomeni in Women's Activities" (Paper to be published).

11. She was also a Delegate: one of hundred leaders at Standford University to a Conference organized by "United
Religious — Initiative" 21-26 June, 1998

12. Delegated to : New York by G. 0. P. I. 0. to address Intellectuals on "Empowerment of Women", 19th June,
1998.

13. Delegated to : Cairo Interaction of dignitaries, academicians, writers in connection with The Egyptian
Experience concerning women. June 5-12, 1998.

14. Dr. Zinat had Visited Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities to meet scholars in connection with the new
book entitled 'Alternatives in Islam" July 2-10, 1998.

(For more details visit : The wisdom foundation www.wfindia.org

3- see the whole article on : The wisdom foundation www.wfindia.org


4- see: Her article Democracy In Islam: Perceptions, Challenges and Implications of The Arab Spring
1st March 2011 Revised 1st April 2012 published by K. R. CAMA ORIENTAL INSTITUTE, MUMBAI
5 See for more details her article Non-violence and Peace building in Islam
The Concept of Non-violence in Islam on : The wisdom foundation www.wfindia.org

6 - see her articles related to the topics women education and Islam and contribution of women in Islam
on: The wisdom foundation www.wfindia.org

7 : The Cultivation of Knowledge and Learning in Islam (with Special Reference to the Education of
Muslim Women) in J.S Rajput Education of Muslims Shipra2014

8: Ibid

9: Ibid, also the huge research project on Muhaddisat conducted by Oxford sholar Dr. Akram Nadwi
running into41 volumes could be cited as great evidence of this point. Whose summary now has been
published in one volume.

1o The Cultivation of Knowledge and Learning in Islam (with Special Reference to the Education of
Muslim Women) in J.S Rajput Education of Muslims Shipra2014

11: Ibid

12: Ibid

13: Ibid

14: Zeenat Shoukat Ali,The Empowerment of Women with reference to Marriage and
Divorce,Vikils,Feffr and Simon Mumbai,1997 PP:40-41

15: Op cit page:42

16: Op cit page:43

17: The Cultivation of Knowledge and Learning in Islam (with Special Reference to the Education of
Muslim Women) in J.S Rajput Education of Muslims Shipra2014

18: Ibid

19: Ibid

2o: Ibid

21: Ibid

22: Ibid

23: Ibid

24: For details see: S. Ameer Ali,The Sprit of Islam London, Leiden P:393

25: vide: J.S Rajpute Eduation of Muslims in Indian perspective Shipra

26: Ibid, we can add to this list of works on Muslim women’s contributions the gigantic research project
conducted by Oxford scholar Dr. Akram Nadwi named :Muhaddisat running into41 volumes ,whose
summary now has been published in one volume.
27: ‫لوتحرين لن علم جاه‬ ‫ موالىا موووو شخص‬Good Word,1,West Nizamuddin New Delhi,2005
28: Spirituality in Islam By Farida Khanam in J.S. Rajput : Education of Muslims Op cit p:51

29: Op cit p:74

30 The burqa is not a part of Islam but an element of Muslim culture and the distinction is important, ,
January 30,2010 Crest Edition Times of India
31The Three Semitic Religions The Speaking Tree December 20 2015Times of India
32: Talaq Talaq Talaq The Speaking Tree, Delhi November 06,2016 ,Times of India
33=This paper was presented in a conference on “Peace-Building through Learning and Understanding”
organized by World Buddhist Culture Trust (WBCT) and Osmania University Centre for International
Programmes (OUCIP), at Osmania University, Hyderabad on November 29, 2013) Farida Khanam |
October 29, 2013 | WBCT-OUCIP
*Research associate in Centre for Promotion of Education and Cultural Advancement of
Muslims of India, Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh.