Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32586
Religion versus Secularism on Women’s Liberation: The Question of Women Liberation and Modern Education

Authors: Kinda AlSamara


The nineteenth century was characterized by major educational reforms in the Arab World. One of the unintended outcomes of colonization in Arab countries was the initiation of women liberation as well as the introduction of modern education and its application in sensitizing people on the rights of women and their liberation. The reforms were often attributed to various undercurrents that took place at different levels within the Ottoman Empire, and particularly the arrival and influence of the Christian missionaries were supported by the American and European governments. These trends were also significantly attributed to the increase in the presence of Europeans in the region, as well as the introduction of secular ideas and approaches related to the meaning of modernity. Using literary analysis as a method, this paper examines the role of an important male figure like the political activist and writer Qāsim Amīn and the religious reformer Muḥammad ʻAbduh in starting this discourse and shows their impact on the emancipation of women movement (Taḥrīr), and how later women led the movement with their published work. This paper explores Arab Salons and the initiation of women’s literary circles. Women from wealthy families in Egypt and Syria who had studied in Europe or interacted with European counterparts began these circles. These salons acted as central locations where people could meet and hold discussions on political, social, and literary trends as they happened each day. The paper concludes with a discussion of current debates between the Islamist and the secularist branches of the movement today. While the Islamists believe that adhering to the core of Islam with some of its contested position on women is a modern ideology of liberation that fits the current culture of modern time Egypt; the secularists argue that the influence that Islam has on the women’s liberation movement in Egypt has been a threat to the natural success and progress of the movement, which was initiated in the early nineteenth century independent of the more recent trends towards religiosity in the country.

Keywords: Educational model, crisis of terminologies, Arab awakening, nineteenth century.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 524


[1] Engelberg, "Modern Orthodoxy in Post-Secular Times," Journal of modern Jewish studies, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 126-139, 2015.
[2] E. Nurlaelawati, "Muslim Women in Indonesian Religious Courts," Islamic Law and Society, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 242-271, 2013.
[3] A. Donadey, "Voices And Veils: Feminism And Islam In French Women's Writing And Activism," Contemporary Women's Writing, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 257-258, 2011.
[4] J. Hiddleston, "Voices And Veils: Feminism And Islam In French Women's Writing And Activism," Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 130-131, 2012.
[5] R. Ouartsi, "Muslim Women In French Cinema: Voices Of Maghrebi Migrants In France. By Leslie Kealhofer-Kemp," French Studies, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 303-304, 2017.
[6] L. B. Y. Zayzafoon, The Production of the Muslim Woman: Negotiating Text, History, and Ideology, Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005.
[7] R. Pepicelli, "Rethinking Gender in Arab Nationalism: Women and the Politics of Modernity in the Making of Nation-States. Cases from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria," Oriente Moderno, vol. 97, no. 1, pp. 201-219, 2017.
[8] M. Booth, "Women in Islam: Men and the Women's Press Turn-of-the-20th-Century Egypt," IJMES, 33, no. 33, pp. 171-201, 2001.
[9] B. Baron, The Women's Awakening in Egypt: Culture, Society, and the Press, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
[10] J. Guardi, "Reassessing Algerian Arab Modernity: Aḥmad Riḍā Ḥūḥū'S Ġādat Umm Al-Qurà," Komunikacija i kultura online, vol. 7, no. 7, pp. 38-54, 2016.
[11] S. Salem, "On Transnational Feminist Solidarity: The Case of Angela Davis in Egypt," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 245-267, 2017.
[12] Q. Amīn, Taḥrīr al-Marʼah, Cairo: Dāral-Maʻārif, 1899.
[13] U. Ryad, Islamic Reformism and Christianity: A Critical Reading of the Works of Muhammad Rashīd Ridā and His Associates (1898-1935), History of Christian-Muslim Relations, Leiden: Brill, 2009.
[14] L. Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1993.
[15] Q. Amīn and M. ʻImārah, al-Aʻmāl al-Kāmilah, Cairo: Dār al-Shurūq, 2006.
[16] H. Ansari and S. Schmidtke, "Philosophical Theology among Sixth/Twelfth-Century Twelver Shīʿites: From Naṣīr Al-Dīn Al-Ṭūsī (D. after 599/1201-2 or 600/1202-3) To Naṣīr Al-Dīn Al-Ṭūsī (D. 672/1274)," Shii Studies Review, vol. 1, no. 1-2, pp. 194-256, 2017.
[17] G. Mejdell, "Et Dukkehjem In Arabic Translation," Ibsen Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 28-53, 2017.
[18] M. Fadel, "Islamic Law Reform: Between Reinterpretation And Democracy," Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law Online, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 44-90, 2017.
[19] T. Delva, "The Abbasid Activist Ḥayyān Al-ʿAṭṭār as the Father of Jābir B. Ḥayyān: An Influential Hypothesis Revisited," Journal of Abbasid Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 35-61, 2017.
[20] F. Chiabotti and M. Nguyen, "The Textual Legacy of Abū L-Qāsim Al-Qušayrī: A Bibliographic Record1," Arabica, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 339-395, 2014.
[21] P. Larcher, "Deserts Songs of the Night: 1500 Years of Arabic Literature, Written by Suheil Bushrui et James M. Malarkey (Éds)," Arabica, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 106-109, 2017.
[22] T. El-Hibri, "The Abbasids and the Relics of the Prophet," Journal of Abbasid Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 62-96, 2017.
[23] B. Kuzudişli, "Sunnī-Shīʿī Interaction in the Early Period – The Transition of the Chains of Ahl al-Sunna to the Shīʿa," Ilahiyat Studies, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 7-45, 2015.
[24] B. Michaelle, "Fadlallah and the passing of Lebanon's last Najafi generation," Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 25-46, 2012.
[25] Q. Amīn, al-Marʼah al-Jadīdah, Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Shaʻb, 1911.
[26] ʻI. A. I. al-Sāʻī, J. Bray and S. M. Toorawa, Consorts of the Caliphs: Women and the Court of Baghdad, New York: New York University Press, 2017.
[27] R. Stanfield-Johnson, "From One Thousand and One Nights to Safavid Iran: A Persian Tawaddud," Der Islam, vol. 94, no. 1, pp. 158-191, 2017.
[28] K. Simonen, "Authorized Interpreters of Islamic Law the Shhha View," SSRN Electronic Journal, p. 98, 2017.
[29] W. Madelung, "Scripturalist Islam: The History and Doctrines of the Akhbari Shilhringi School * by Robert Gleave," Journal of Islamic Studies, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 398-400, 2008.
[30] M. Tillier, "Qadis and Their Social Networks: Defining the Judge’s Neutrality in Abbasid Iraq," Journal of Abbasid Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 123-141, 2017.
[31] J. F. Powers, "Judicial Combat in Medieval Iberia during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries: Evidence In Law and Image," Viator, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 123-153, 2015.
[32] M. U. Syed, "Mālik and Medina: Islamic Legal Reasoning in the Formative Period, written by Umar F. Abd-Allah Wymann-Landgraf," Islamic Law and Society, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 301-307, 2015.
[33] I. Weismann, "A Perverted Balance: Modern Salafism between Reform and Jihād," Die Welt des Islams, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 33-66, 2017.
[34] L. Amzi-Erdogdular, "Alternative Muslim Modernities: Bosnian Intellectuals in the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires," Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 59, no. 4, pp. 912-943, 2017 10 01).
[35] C. Adams, Islam and Modernism: A Study of the Modern Reform Movement Inaugurated by Muhammad 'Abduh, Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 2010.
[36] ʻM. ʻAqqād, ʻAbqarī al-Iṣlāḥ wa-al-Taʻlīm, al-Imām Muḥammad ʻAbduh, Cairo: Dār Miṣr lil-Ṭibāʻah, 1960.
[37] S. Bektovic, "Tradition and Modernity in Contemporary Islamic Philosophy," Tidsskrift for Islamforskning, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 16, 2017.
[38] Y. Haddad, Muḥammad 'Abduh: Pioneer of Islamic Reform, in 'Alī Rahnama (ed.), Pioneers of Islamic Revival, London: Zed, 1994.
[39] M. 'Abduh and M. 'Imārah, al-A'māl al-Kāmilah, Cairo: Dār al-Shurūq, 1993.
[40] M. ʻAbduh, al-Manhaj al-Iṣlāḥī lil-Imām Muḥammad ʻAbduh, Alexandria: Alexandria Library, 2005.
[41] J. V. Spickard, "Rethinking Secularism," Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 155-157, 2013.
[42] N. M. A. S. Lack, "Colonial Legacy, Women's Rights And Gender-Educational Inequality In The Arab World With Particular Reference To Egypt And Tunisia," International Review of Education, vol. 57, no. 3-4, pp. 397-418, 2011.
[43] E. Augis, "Religion, Religiousness, and Narrative: Decoding Women's Practices in Senegalese Islamic Reform," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 429-441, 2012.
[44] L. Deeb and J. Winegar, "Anthropologies of Arab-Majority Societies," Annual review of anthropology, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 537-558, 2012.
[45] C. M. Jacobsen, "Troublesome Threesome: Feminism, Anthropology and Muslim Women's Piety," Feminist Review, vol. 98, no. 1, pp. 65-82, 2011.
[46] A. N. Ahmad, "Is There A Muslim World?" Third Text, v24 n1 (2010): 1-9, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 1-9, 2010.
[47] M. M. Charrad, "Gender in the Middle East: Islam, State, Agency," Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 37, pp. 417-437, 2011.
[48] O. E. Shakry, "History without Documents: The Vexed Archives of Decolonization in the Middle East," The American Historical Review, vol. 120, no. 3, pp. 920-934, 2015.
[49] F. Seedat, "When Islam and Feminism Converge," The Muslim World, vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 404-420, 2013.
[50] M. Zeghal, "Competing Ways of Life: Islamism, Secularism, and Public Order in The Tunisian Transition," Constellations, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 254-274, 2013.
[51] N. Mahomed and F. Esack, "The Normal and Abnormal: On the Politics of Being Muslim and Relating to Same-Sex Sexuality," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 85, no. 1, pp. 224-243, 2016.
[52] M. Al-Rasheed, "Sectarianism as Counter-Revolution: Saudi Responses to the Arab Spring," Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 513-526, 2011.
[53] R. Hollis, "Introduction: Feminism In The Arab World: Four Perspectives," Contemporary Arab Affairs, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 71-73, 2013.
[54] N. Mellor, "Who Represents the Revolutionaries? Examples from the Egyptian Revolution 2011," Mediterranean Politics, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 82-98, 2014.