Women in pre-Islamic Arabia Costumes of Arab women, fourth to sixth century. They were sold into marriage by their guardians for a price paid to the guardian, the husband could terminate the union at will, and women had little or no property or succession rights. Using evidence from the ancient Arabian kingdom of Nabataea , she finds that Arab women in Nabataea had independent legal personalities.
She suggests that they lost many of their rights through ancient Greek and Roman law prior to the arrival of Islam and that these Greco-Roman constraints were retained under Islam.
Moghadam analyzes the situation of women from a marxist theoretical framework and argues that the position of women is mostly influenced by the extent of urbanization, industrialization, proletarization and political ploys of the state managers rather than culture or intrinsic properties of Islam; Islam, Moghadam argues, is neither more nor less patriarchal than other world religions especially Christianity and Judaism.
In the prosperous southern region of the Arabian Peninsula , for example, the religious edicts of Christianity and Judaism held sway among the Sabians and Himyarites.
In other places such as the city of Makkah Mecca -- where the prophet of Islam , Muhammad , was born—a tribal set of rights was in place. This was also true amongst the Bedouin desert dwellers , and this code varied from tribe to tribe. Thus there was no single definition of the roles played, and rights held, by women prior to the advent of Islam. In some tribes, women were emancipated even in comparison with many of today's standards.
Pakistani lawyer Sundas Hoorain has said that women in pre-Islamic Arabia had a much higher standing than they got with Islam. She describes a free sex society in which both men and women could have multiple partners or could contract a monogamous relationship per their will. She thus concludes that the Muslim idea of monogamy being a post-Islamic idea is flawed and biased and that women had the right to contract such a marriage before Islam.
She also describes a society in which succession was matrilineal and children were retained by the mother and lived with the mother's tribe, whereas in Shariah law, young children stay with their mother until they reach the age of puberty, and older children stay with their father.
Hoorain also cites problems with the idea of mass female infanticide and simultaneous widespread polygamy multiple women for one man , as she sees it as an illogical paradox. She questions how it was possible for men to have numerous women if so many females were being killed as infants. The motives were twofold: According to Islamic studies professor William Montgomery Watt , Islam improved the status of women by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce.
Women in Islam A page from an Arabic manuscript from the 12th century, depicting a man playing the oud among women, Hadith Bayad wa Riyad. Islam was introduced in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century, and improved the status of women compared to earlier Arab cultures. As the Qur'an states: You proceed one from another". It is true that Islam is still, in many ways, a man's religion. It appears that in some parts of Arabia, notably in Mecca , a matrilineal system was in the process of being replaced by a patrilineal one at the time of Muhammad.
Growing prosperity caused by a shifting of trade routes was accompanied by a growth in individualism. This led to a deterioration in the rights of women.
At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible - they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons. Muhammad improved things quite a lot. By instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, he gave women certain basic safeguards. Set in such historical context the Prophet can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women's rights.
Early reforms under Islam During the early reforms under Islam in the 7th century, reforms in women's rights affected marriage, divorce and inheritance. Madrasah This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this article by introducing citations to additional sources.
In the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th and 13th centuries, mosques and madrasahs were established in Damascus , 26 of which were funded by women through the Waqf charitable trust or trust law system. Half of all the royal patrons for these institutions were also women. According to Sunni scholar Ibn Asakir in the 12th century, women could study, earn ijazahs academic degrees , and qualify as scholars and teachers.
This was especially the case for learned and scholarly families, who wanted to ensure the highest possible education for both their sons and daughters. According to a hadith attributed to Muhammad , he praised the women of Medina because of their desire for religious knowledge. Islamic economics in the world Sabat Islambouli right , a Kurdish Jew and one of Syria's earliest female physicains; picture from 10 October The labor force in the Arab Caliphate were employed from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economic activities.
Nadia YousaF, an Egyptian sociologist now teaching in the United States, states in a recent article on labor-force participation by women of Middle Eastern and Latin American Countries that the "Middle East reports systematically the lowest female activity rates on record" for labor. This certainly gives the impression that Middle Eastern women have little or no economical role, until one notes that the statistics are based on non-agricultural labor outside the home.
Islambouli was one of the first Syrian female physicians. In the modern era there have also been examples of female leadership in Muslim countries, such as in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey. However, in Arabic-speaking countries no woman has ever been head of state, although many Arabs remarked on the presence of women such as Jehan Al Sadat , the wife of Anwar El Sadat in Egypt, and Wassila Bourguiba , the wife of Habib Bourguiba in Tunisia, who have strongly influenced their husbands in their dealings with matters of state.
In , the International Parliamentary Union said that 6. In Tunisia, nearly 23 per cent of members of parliament were women. However, the Arab country with the largest parliament, Egypt, had only around four per cent female representation in parliament. Although just one female candidate — from Abu Dhabi — was directly elected, the government appointed a further eight women to the seat federal legislature, giving women a Dr Rola Dashti , a female candidate in Kuwait's parliamentary elections, claimed that "the negative cultural and media attitude towards women in politics" was one of the main reasons why no women were elected.
She also pointed to "ideological differences", with conservatives and extremist Islamists opposing female participation in political life and discouraging women from voting for a woman. She also cited malicious gossip, attacks on the banners and publications of female candidates, lack of training and corruption as barriers to electing female MPs. The idea of "politics of invisibility", was introduced by Amira Jarmakani, in the book Arab and Arab American Feminism: Jarmakani explains that Arab American Feminists are placed in a paradoxical frame-work of being simultaneously invisible and hypervisible.
Jarmakani argues that because of the dominant representation of Arab women given by the Bush administration many individuals in western societies have an orientalist point of view, have Islamophobia and believe that Arab feminism cannot exist. The reason for this is because the Bush administration led the, "invasion of Afghanistan, as a project of liberation meant to save Afghan women from the oppression of the Taliban," this did not allow for the idea that there could be Arab feminism.
This coupled with the invasion led to, "reify stereotypical notions of Arab and Muslim womanhood as monolithically oppressed. They depend on a set of U. Because the mythologies are so pervasive, operating subtly and insidiously on the register of "common sense," Arab American feminists are often kept oriented toward correcting these common misconceptions rather than focusing on our own agendas and concerns.
The argument that is being made is that because of these symbols it is hard to talk about anything else that is currently taking place in the lives of Arab and Arab American women. These symbols make it difficult to focus on other important issues, however Jarmakani states that because of this hypervisibility Arab feminists can take advantage of it.
She builds her argument off of Joe Kadi from her essay, "Speaking about Silence" where Joe argues that those who are silenced or being forced into being silent can break this silence by speaking out. Jarmakani argues that unlike Joe who said one should speak out, Jarmakani is stating to use the silence, meaning that Arab women should use the hypervisibility that is being given by the symbols of invisibility. Jarmakani ends with, "Simply advocating for a rejection of current stereotypical categories and narratives would inevitably lead to the establishment of equally limiting categories of representation, and spending energy to create a counterdiscourse will perhaps unwittingly reify the false binary that already frames much of public understanding.
The work of Arab American feminists, then, must continue to encourage a fruitful fluidity that constantly forges new possibilities for understanding and contextualizing the complex realities of Arab and Arab American women's lives.
In solidarity with social justice and liberation projects worldwide, we must mindfully utilize the tools of an oppositional consciousness in order to support the urgent work of carving and crafting new spaces for the expression of Arab American feminisms.
Rather than simply resisting the politics of invisibility that have denied us a full presence, we must mobilize it, thereby reinventing and transforming that invisibility into a tool with which we will continue to illustrate the brilliant complexities of Arab and Arab American women's lives".
Israel-Palestine conflict[ edit ] Women in Arab societies experience discrimination from the western world based upon many misconceptions and a lack of knowledge about the realities of their lives.
The conflict occurring Israel and Palestine is a prime example of how these misconceptions create an incorrect understanding of the circumstances and experiences that women in this area encounter in their daily lives. In the article "Arabiya Made Invisible"  Noura Erakat illustrates how the concepts of anti-zionism and antisemitism are conflated to vilify and silence Arab women who support Palestine or denounce the occupation.
She says, "The equation of anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism is systematically used as a silencing tactic. Anti-Semitism refers to the historic oppression and vilification of Jews that led to such tragedies as the Nazi-engineered Holocaust. Zionism is the theoretical notion that global Jewry should have a homeland, and in its practical application, Zionism has meant the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
A Jewish student wrote an op-ed for the school paper complaining that people should not be protesting Israel because Israel is accepting of homosexuals and gives women equal rights.
She pointed out that it was ironic that women and gay men were at this vigil, while the places they were showing support of do not respect their rights as much as Israel does. At this point, Erkat gets to the meat of her argument. She says, "This student asserts that misogyny and gender inequality are inherent to Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. According to her, "the Israeli occupation has nothing to do with Arab oppression of women and gays.
Moreover, she swiftly disregards the nexus of colonial occupation and patriarchy In a critique of Erakat's Students for Justice in Palestine group, a fellow student claims to be concerned as to whether his Palestinian peers at Berkeley would be comfortable exercising the freedoms they enjoy in Berkeley on the streets of Ramallah or Jerico. Erakat illustrates how this critique uses false concern to invalidate the real concerns that Palestinians living outside the occupied territories hold for their homeland, despite their differences in living situations and freedoms.
She writes in response, "whereas the author wonders whether I would be able to comfortably walk around in tight jeans in Palestine, I wonder, if this man is truly concerned with my personal freedom, then why isn't he protesting the twenty-five-foot Apartheid Wall built between my village of Abu-Dis and Jerusalem? If he really cares whether I can read Lolita comfortably, then shouldn't he be more concerned that Palestinian children are denied a roof over their heads because of consistent home demolitions?
His concern with my personal liberation seems disingenuous in light of the fact that he fails to mention Israeli military occupation as a significant, if not the most significant, factor contributing to the subjugation of Palestinian women's rights.
Instead, he uses the lack of gender equality in Palestine as a justification for its continued colonization. It is easy to draw the conclusions that some of Erakat's peers drew in these stories she tells, because they lack the insight into how the occupation of the Palestinian territories actually impacts the daily lives of women living in these areas.
By assuming that their limited knowledge is sufficient, it leads to limited understanding of this extremely complex issue. Many of these women work with family businesses and are encouraged to work and study outside of the home.