The Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council

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Vision, Mission and Objectives

We, members of the Global Muslim Women's Shura Council, declare gender equality to be an intrinsic part of the Islamic faith. As Muslims, we affirm our conviction that the Muslim woman is worthy of respect and dignity, that as a legal individual, spiritual being, social person, responsible agent, free citizen, and servant of God, she holds fundamentally equal rights to exercise her abilities and talents in all areas of human activity. Furthermore, we insist that these rights are embedded within the Qur’an and six objectives of Shari’a—the protection and promotion of religion (al-din), life (al-nafs), mind (al-‘aql), family (al-nasl), wealth (al-mal), and dignity (al-‘ird). As the Shura Council, we embrace our collective and individual responsibility to work towards building a unified change movement of Muslim women – driven by compassion and justice – that will enable Muslim women to realize their full potential as individuals and in relationship to family, community, nation, and globe.

Vision
To generate a space in which Muslim women actively dialogue, debate, and collaborate on pressing issues of social justice, in order to articulate an ethical and egalitarian Islam.

Mission
To serve as a global and inclusive council of Muslim women scholars, activists, and specialists that will:

  • engage with issues of social injustice against Muslim women through critical review and interpretations of legal and religious texts and practices;
  • disseminate these interpretations around the world and, in doing so, re-establish women’s authority in religious discourse;
  • as supported by the pluralism inherent in Islam, to enable women to make dignified and autonomous choices;
  • develop a variety of training programs, both short-term intensive and long-term, in order to equip women with expertise in the Islamic legal and ethical traditions.

Basic Objectives
The Shura Council will fulfill four primary needs for the WISE community, Muslim women, and society at large:

  1. Educate women and men, Muslim and non-Muslim, on the principles of gender equality and social, economic, and political justice in Islam.
  2. Challenge unjust interpretations of the law and Islam’s primary texts by offering analyses that are simultaneously faithful to Islamic jurisprudence and a vision of women’s empowerment.
  3. Employ extensive expertise in the Islamic legal traditions, humanities and social sciences, and local contexts, in order to connect and apply the Islamic legal traditions to the most pressing issues facing Muslim women today and develop strategies for creating constructive social change.
  4. Promote Council positions and members’ scholarship through the global media.

Background Top

The Shura Council is generating a space in which Muslim women can actively dialogue and collaborate on pressing issues of social justice, in order to articulate an ethical and egalitarian Islam. Comprised of Muslim women scholars and activists, the Council aims to promote equality for Muslim women by conducting research, providing Islamic positions on relevant issues, and disseminating this information to the media and WISE network. Operating under the framework of justice, the WISE Shura Council is creating a crucial space for scholarship and activism that contributes to Muslim women’s struggle for justice and a broad vision of acting in public spaces.

The Council networks and promotes the work of Muslim women that are articulate in the language of Islamic law and are capable of communicating their demands for women’s rights within an Islamic framework. To increase the influence and efficacy of these women’s efforts, the Council acts as convener, providing an institutionalized platform for their scholarship and activism. By distilling complex, sophisticated research into simplified, easily-disseminated forms and through its large network, it gives existing work a larger platform via the media, governments and NGOs.

Drawing upon its members’ expertise in both Islamic jurisprudence and fields like history, political science, theology, sociology and the arts, the Council will issue informed and religiously-grounded opinions on controversial issues of particular relevance to Muslim women in their personal, familial and societal lives. By advocating a constructive conception of women’s status, rights and responsibilities, these opinions will function as legitimate alternatives to oppressive religious arguments. Thus, the Council is providing members of the WISE community, as well as Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide, with comprehensive information and vital analysis from Islamic law and other fields of scholarship, in addition to proposing strategies for affecting positive and sound change.

Furthermore, in order to augment women’s ability to speak within an Islamic legal framework, the Council will establish a diverse range of training programs in the Islamic legal traditions, creating a critical mass of Muslim women equipped to more effectively advocate within their communities.

History Top

November 2006: During the 2006 WISE Conference, WISE women expressed their frustration at the lack of women’s participation in the discourses on Islamic law. During one conference workshop, attendees were divided by region and asked to suggest the basic aims and structure for a body capable of addressing this need. They recommended a global, all-women’s Shura Council.

July 2007: A number of WISE members reviewed the WISE participant recommendations and feedback from 2006. They discussed the fundamental goals of the Shura Council and outlined a framework for its establishment. They determined, for example, the Council’s basic organizational, operational and programmatic structures, as well as the principle of scholar-activist collaboration.

February 2008: Shura Council members met in order to finalize the Council’s vision, mission and objectives, and delineate its organizational form and operational structure; furthermore, they began preparations for its first project.

December 2008: After polling the global WISE community on the issue(s) it would like the Shura Council to study (religious authority and domestic violence drew equal interest), Council members defined its initial project, “Jihad against Violence.” This combined study of violent extremism and domestic violence will address Muslim women’s religious authority by tackling an issue of immense social prominence.

March 2009: Building on the December meeting, Shura Council members further defined the “Jihad against Violence” project, including delineating Council operations and research, determining respective Council members' responsibilities, and beginning initial work on the project.

July 2009: At the 2009 global WISE Conference, the Council’s statement of Vision, Mission, and Objectives was presented and the “Jihad against Violence” project was launched. Track sessions with the WISE community followed.

June 2010: At its 2010 meeting, Shura Council re-visited its Vision, Mission, and Objectives, instituted processes for membership expansion and statement production, considered applicants from the 2009 WISE conference and expanded its membership globally by an open vote. The Council also selected the next issues of concern: “Female Genital Cutting,” “Adoption and the Care of Orphans,” “Women’s Religious Leadership,” “Honor Crimes and Killings,” “Stigmatization and Criminalization of Rape Victims,” “Child Marriages,” and “Education.” The Council reviewed the curriculum draft for the Muftiyyah Program and made recommendations for its development. The Muftiyyah Program plan is scheduled to be presented at the 2010 global WISE Conference.

Members Top

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Fawziah al-Hani
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Nadia al-Sakkaf
Yemen

Sumbul Ali-Karamali
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Laila al-Zwaini
Netherlands

Gonca Aydin
Germany

Laleh Bakhtiar
United States

Amina Rasul Bernardo
Philippines

Ayesha S. Chaudhry
Canada

Sheeba Aslam Fehmi
India

Mufuliat Fijabi
Nigeria

Naish Hasan
India

Moliah Hashim
Singapore

Samah Helmy
Egypt

Ivana Hrdlickova
Czech Republic

Sidra Humayun
Pakistan

Fatma Hyder
Kenya

Afra Jalabi
Canada

Naziema Jappie
South Africa

Ayisha Jeffries
United States

Zeinaba Kane
Senegal

Adriana Kaplan
Spain

Farheen Kapra
India

Daisy Khan
United States

Zakia Mahasa
United States

Santanina Rasul
Philippines

Nevin Reda
Canada

Sabeeha Rehman
United States

Fatima Sadiqi
Morocco

Tayyibah Taylor
United States

Homayra Ziad
United States

   

Jihad against Violence” Top

Violence is a human phenomenon that exists across diverse cultures and faith communities. It remains an ever-present reality in the lives of millions of Muslims, preventing entire societies from flouishing in religious, cultural, political, and economic spheres. Throughout the world, violence destroys the ability of Muslim women to thrive within their families, communities, and nations. Violent extremism and domestic violence, in particular, continue to devastate individual lives, families and societies. This is a clear injustice to those who suffer such indignities, as well as a violation of the teachings of Islam, whose mantle is wrongly used to justify such violence.

“Jihad Against Violence: Muslim Women’s Struggle for Peace” is the first statement of the global Muslim women’s Shura Council, an all women’s advisory council that promotes women’s rights within an Islamic framework. A combined study and condemnation of violent extremism and domestic violence, “Jihad against Violence” addresses two critical issues that are typically assumed to be separate. Thus, the Shura Council is studying violence in its larger context, offering connections and links rarely made, and taking a stand against all types and manifestations of violence. Because of the tremendous import of violent extremism and its prominence within public discourses surrounding Islam, studying this topic – in tandem with domestic violence – will register a strong statement that women can pronounce on all societal issues, not merely those traditionally limited to them.

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Shura Council StatementsTop

Drawing upon its members’ expertise in both Islamic jurisprudence and fields like history, political science, theology, sociology, and the arts, the Shura Council issues informed and religiously-grounded opinions on controversial issues of particular relevance to Muslim women in their personal, familial and societal lives. By advocating a constructive conception of women’s status, rights and responsibilities, these opinions function as legitimate alternatives to oppressive religious arguments. Thus, the Council is providing members of the WISE community, as well as Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide, with comprehensive information and vital analysis from Islamic law and other fields of scholarship, in addition to proposing strategies for affecting positive and sound change.

Issues are selected yearly through a Council vote, with consideration of the worldwide WISE community and activists on the ground. Some of the selected issues include “Female Genital Cutting,” “Adoption and the Care of Orphans,” “Women’s Religious Leadership,” “Honor Crimes and Killings,” “Stigmatization and Criminalization of Rape Victims,” “Child Marriages,” and “Education.” Shura Council statements are constructed through a consultative process, including input from organizational and individual allies and several cycles of edits. All statements culminate in a Council vote and are disseminated through the WISE portal, where the WISE community can weigh in via polls, comments, and suggestions.

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Muftiyyah Program Top

The Muftiyyah Program is a world-class graduate program, which will train contemporary Muslim women jurists and religious scholars. Currently being developed by WISE and the Shura Council, it is intended to be collaborative project with institutional and educational partners worldwide. Targeting the best and brightest Muslim women globally, the program will unite classical fiqh study with top-notch secular, interfaith, and women’s studies education, matriculating leaders empowered with full Islamic legal authority and an exceptional ability to address the most critical issues of our time. The Muftiyyahs will eventually form the first-ever global, all-women’s “Ifta Council,” acting as forces for change locally and globally.

Origins and Need

From the very first Shura Council planning meeting at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Pocantico Retreat Center (July 2007), Council members and advisors agreed to the long-term goal of forming a women’s Ifta Council, which would consists of jurists authorized to issue fatwas, non-binding legal opinions. Fatwas issued from an Ifta Council bear particular authority for Muslims (more than those issued by individual jurists). As an Ifta Council comprised exclusively of women, this would represent the first-ever global, institutionalized body of Muslim female scholars: an authority for Muslims around the world and an extraordinary instrument for positive social change.

There are more than five hundred million Muslim women in the world today, many in Muslim-majority countries in which the median population is under 25-years-old, and many who live in zones where (almost exclusively male) authorities use distorted and disingenuous interpretations of Islam to legitimate political agendas. At the July 2009 WISE conference in Kuala Lumpur, 74% of those polled selected “harmful religious interpretation” as the biggest barrier to women’s advancement in their country. 93% of those polled stated that it is important or very important for women to take leadership role in religious interpretation and spirituality. In this time of widespread interest in social progress and Islamic ethics, especially among young Muslims, the need and the opportunity for a generation of comprehensively educated Muftiyyahs to affect positive social change cannot be overstated.

Currently, no program matriculates Muftiyyahs who are comprehensively educated in both classical Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and relevant contemporary disciplines, with a critical, methodological, social-justice oriented focus. Thus, WISE and the Shura Council have begun to develop the first-ever comprehensive graduate program for 21st century Muftiyyahs.

Educational Goals

Following a rigorous but flexible educational program, combining the best in classical fiqh education and the secular social sciences and humanities, the Muftiyyahs will receive both a professional doctorate in Islamic Law and the traditional Ijaaza al-Ilmiyyah. As terminal degrees, these represent the highest level of education currently available on this subject. Consequently, the Muftiyyahs will be highly qualified to speak on and offer solutions to contemporary issues, from both an academic and Islamic perspective.

Following a rigorous but flexible educational program, combining the best in classical fiqh education and the secular social sciences and humanities, the Muftiyyahs will receive both a professional doctorate in Islamic Law and the traditional Ijaaza al-Ilmiyyah. As terminal degrees, these represent the highest level of education currently available on this subject. Consequently, the Muftiyyahs will be highly qualified to speak on and offer solutions to contemporary issues, from both an academic and Islamic perspective.

Because the Muftiyyahs must be adequately prepared for their future roles as trailblazers and leaders, they will also take courses focused on developing critical skills (such as academic writing; dealing with diversity; negotiation/conflict resolution, etc.) and courses on gender studies and analysis (such as gender and Islam; Muslim women leaders past and present; women and leadership; etc.). The work of Muslim women scholars (both classical and contemporary) will be incorporated into the curriculum as much as possible.

The Muftiyyahs will also receive additional career training and partake in media-training and public speaking courses. Their educational development will be supplemented with weekly sohbat meetings designed to foster sisterhood and spirituality and may lead to spiritual guide (murshidah) status for those who choose to follow that path. Women studying in the Muftiyyah Program will be encouraged to attend local women’s meetings, giving sermons and leading prayers at those meetings. They will also be encouraged to get involved with local community issues during their education and as well as following matriculation.

The Muftiyyahs educated through this comprehensive graduate program will also have the Islamic legitimacy and international savvy to design and implement social change strategies in their societies.

Backed by Islamic authority, critical proficiency and meaningful networks in fields such as international affairs, national and international law and religious studies, the graduates will also be able to issue authoritative rulings on today’s most pressing issues, forming the first global, all-woman’s Ifta council.

Program Development

WISE and the Shura Council are currently developing the blueprint for the Muftiyyah Program, finalizing the curriculum, engaging allies worldwide, and officializing institutional partnerships. We are also working on short-term programs in conjunction with the Muftiyyah Program to facilitate access to vital information on Islam and social justice. Please check this site for future developments.

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