Muslim Women: Past and Present

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Throughout the ages, from the earliest days of Islam to contemporary times today, Muslim women have been and continue to be active leaders in their communities and countries across the world. This directory is a growing archive of leading Muslim women scholars, activists, writers, politicians, artists, religious and spiritual leaders, civil society leaders and more. Please contribute to this archive by suggesting Muslim women to be featured through our recommendation form.

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Huda Shaarawi

photo of Huda Shaarawi

Known For: Feminist /Women's Rights Advocate/Egyptian Nationalist/Author
Dates: 1879 - 1947
Country: Egypt

About

Huda Shaarawi was one of the first outspoken female activists in Egypt. Born in Cairo in 1879 to a wealthy family, Huda lived the early years of her life in a harem only to become a central figure in early twentieth century Egyptian feminism. At the age of thirteen she was married against her wishes, as a second wife, to her much older cousin Ali Shaarawi, himself a leading political activist. She agreed to the marriage to pacify her parents and, in the initial years, remained separate from her husband to pursue her education. Ultimately, the marriage proved to be a mutually beneficial partnership; Ali supported his wife’s aspirations and often sought her council on political issues.

Huda’s early marriage and childhood harem experience, which she would later recall in her book, “Harem Years,” ignited in her a strong sense of resentfulness toward the patriarchal system in which she was raised. Thus, her role in the enlightenment of Egyptian women began. In 1908, Huda created the first Egyptian Philanthropic Society by and for Egyptian women.  In 1910, she created a school for girls, whose primary focus was to teach academic rather than domestic subjects. As Huda’s passion and activism for women’s rights evolved over the years, so too did her political passion and involvement in Egypt’s national struggle against British colonial presence.  She openly challenged the traditional perceptions of women in Egyptian culture as well as the lack of women’s participation in public and political spheres. In 1919 Huda organized an anti-British demonstration which brought Egyptian women out the streets in a show of both women’s solidarity and nationalist protest against the colonial existence. Huda then joined and was elected head of the Wafdist Women’s Central Committee. She would, however, soon grow disillusioned with this political party for ignoring the needs of Egyptian women. With this, Huda left the Wafdist party to concentrate her efforts on the Egyptian Feminist Union, an organization which she founded and headed. The organization published l’Egyptienne (el-Masreyya), a feminist magazine which advocated for Egyptian women’s rights, and was the first of its kind in Egypt,

In 1922, after her husband’s death, Huda traveled to Europe and represented Egyptian women at European conferences for women.  Huda continued as a staunch advocate for Egyptian women’s rights until her death in 1947.  She died at the age of sixty-eight.

 

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This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women by their Country. We are actively building the archive of Muslim women leaders from the past, as well as from today, and we would welcome your recommendations of women to feature. Please complete our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.
This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women leaders by entering the keyword(s) of your choice. If you cannot find a particular woman that you are looking for, please let us know by completing our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.