Muslim and Arab Women

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Dr. Nimat Hafez Barazangi's forty years of combined scholarly active work with Arab, Muslim, and non-Muslim organizations and individuals in North America and the Muslim/Arab world has mainly focused on the development and education of Muslim/Arab women in the primary sources of Islam; the Qur'an and the Hadith (Prophet Muhammad's narrated traditions). She published about 25 research articles and book reviews, and a monograph on this subject.

Her monograph Woman's Identity and the Qur'an: A New Reading (The University Press of Florida, 2004) was labeled by an anonymous reviewer as "the most radical book in the last 14 centuries of Islam." The monograph was translated in 2007 into Arabic under the title: Qira'a Jadida lil Qura'n: Al Huwiya al Dhatiya lil Mar'a.

To access Nimat Hafez Barazangi's latest lecture in Arabic, click here.

To access Nimat Hafez Barazangi's latest lecture in English, click here.

Her latest research work is The Absence of Muslim Women in Shaping Islamic Thought.
A lecture presented on this topic at Hamline University School of Law, October 2008, .

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 20
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    Why Muslim Women are Re-interpreting the Qur`an and Hadith: A Transformative Scholarship-Activism
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Ashgate Publishing series, Gender in Law, Culture and Society, 2013., 2013)
    In order to challenge and transform the un-Islamic views of women as secondary in the structure of Muslim societies, women have retaken their principal role and reinterpreted the primary source of Islam, the Qur'an. As changes in the global political landscape were coupled with the Muslims' elevating the Prophetic tradition to the level of the Qur`an, Muslims women's scholarship-activism is progressing into more radical steps and they are declaring themselves as authority in Qur`anic and Prophetic sciences. Such transformative solutions represent the only hope for a meaningful reform in Muslim societies.
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    Foundations of Muslim Extremism and the Marginalization and Violence Against Women
    Barazangi, Nimat; Research Fellow Feminist; Gender, & Sexuality Studies; Cornell University (2015-11-19)
    In this presentation I argue that Muslim women issues are symptoms of the widespread crisis in understanding Islam. I also argue that these issues, being the consequences of extremism on all fronts, are the active drive to understand the foundations of Muslim extremism. To better understand this crisis, we need a radical shift in discourse to be able to analyze the mind-set of these extremist Muslims, the majority of whom are males. They may claim to adhere to Islam, yet they are violating the basic principle of Islam by coercing people to follow their own rules under threat of force or rape. They call for the rule of shari’a, but the meaning of “shari’a” has been largely abused for many centuries. Their behavior is mainly based on few Islamic texts that are either taken out of context or fabricated to justify their violent acts. For example, Muslim extremists use some of the reported narratives (Hadith) on the authority of the Prophet Muhammad (also known as his tradition or sunnah) to enforce social structure that negatively affect Muslim women, like issues of modesty, leadership, and testimony. This abuse of the reported narratives, I argue, is the main cause of the crisis in understanding Islam because some of these narratives are not corroborated by the Qur`an. Muslim women, therefore, need to rethink the Hadith because it is still being used as a source for applying the Qur`an, or as the primary source before the Qur`an, even when the contents of some narratives are not corroborated by the Qur`an. Hadith narratives must be carefully evaluated and should not replace Qur`anic guidance, the only divine and binding text of Islam.
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    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez; Traducción: Jolanda Guardi (Athenea Digital, 2014-12)
    Este texto quiere ser una investigación pedagógica estructurada históricamente sobre la condición de la mujer árabe y musulmana, y tiene como objetivo el de explicar cómo las primeras mujeres musulmanas y las contemporáneas están lejos de la operación de interpretar el texto coránico, aunque la mayor parte de este texto sugiere el desarrollo de las relaciones entre géneros, en las sociedades musulmanas, para la realización de la justicia y la equidad entre hombre y mujer. Por ejemplo, ¿por qué Aisha y Hafsa (que Dios esté satisfecho con ellas) no son mencionadas entre los comentaristas del Corán, y no buscamos un comentario escrito que las cite, a pesar del hecho de que la primera vivió durante el descenso del Corán y la vida del Enviado de Dios, para orientarlo en su vida cotidiana y política, y a pesar de que la segunda, Hafsa, ha sido una de las primeras lectoras del Corán y de los que lo aprendieron, y conocía todo el texto y la pronunciación perfectamente, y por qué estas dos mujeres quedaron detrás de los primeros compañeros del Profeta cuando se trató de decidir sus sucesores?... La razón, en mi opinión, es que no se ponía confianza en ellas, a pesar de las muchas indicaciones de precisión, en particular en los hadices,2 porque eran mujeres, porque aun los primeros musulmanes no eran inmunes al problema del machismo bajo la presión social tribal que permanece aun hoy día.
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    The Absence of Muslim Women in Shaping Islamic Thought: Foundations of Muslims’ Peaceful and Just Co‐existence
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Journal of Law and Religion, 2008-11)
    This paper explores the ethical and legal pedagogy of the current debates on “reforming” Muslim societies, whether they claim to reform social and legal systems, reform educational institutions, or liberate Muslim women. Since these debates claim to achieve balance in global or domestic conflicts, I address the foundations of these debates by answering three questions: (1) Are the rationales for American and/or European governments’ interventions justified?; (2) Can the discipline of civil law help in rethinking Islam for Muslims; and (3) Are Muslims themselves ready to critically address the use and misuse of Islam’s primary sources (the Qur’an and particularly the Hadith) in their rethinking of Islam? I argue that rather than seeking to “reform others,” in this case Muslims with an elitist attitude and sometimes violent interventions, we scholars of law and religion, scholars of Islam, policy-makers, and social justice researchers would be better off if: (1) we thought of Islam as a religio-moral rational worldview, rather than a set of laws, (2) we recognized Muslims as subject to historical transformation, like any other religious groups, and understood how they developed their present views of Islam, and (3) we considered our own real responsibilities to address the forms of global injustices as powerful shapers of world politics, particularly the politics of difference—the view that the “other” is inferior, and women’s role as mostly complementary to men. These arguments will be developed by addressing (a) the limitations on “reforming” Muslim societies if one only continues the common debates and practices of what is known as “Islamic law” or “shari’a law,” (b) the deficiencies in confusing Islamic guidelines with current customary and legal systems in Muslim societies, (c) the problems resulting from confusing Islamic principles in the Qur’an with their extrapolations in the Prophetic tradition (the Sunnah or Hadith) and especially with jurisprudence rulings (Fiqh) or customary practices (‘Adat or ‘Urf), and (d) the effects of Muslim women’s absence in shaping Islamic thought, from the time of the first Muslim community about fourteen centuries ago.
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    The Absence of Muslim Women in Shaping and Developing Islamic Thought
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Dialogue of Truth for Life Together, 2013-10)
    It is fair to claim that the true message of Islam concerning women has rarely been practiced throughout Islamic history and for the past 14 centuries. Muslim women have remained a passive force in changing the prevailing unjust practices of Islamic thoughts concerning women, and the reality of the 700 million Muslim women. This is the case today despite what we read in the UN Development Agency reports—that the majority of university students in most Muslim countries are females. Recently, during the past two decades, North American Muslim female scholars, for example, have significantly contributed to the reinterpretation of the Qur’an and particularly to the study of Muslim women. Yet, rarely does an American or any Western educational institution, including the Muslim Umma, acknowledge and mainstream such contributions for the reconstruction of new knowledge of Islam (that is, what is known as shari`a or `urf), or in rethinking Islam. In this article I will discuss why these negative images and practices, as well as the sad reality in keeping women away from Islamic thought and the decision- making process, and how to rethink the future of Muslim women that is fundamental to rethinking of Islam.
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    Muslim Women in North America
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (1991)
    Barazangi discusses the challenges facing American Muslim women in search of identity. Her lecture was part of the Series on "National Conversions and Social Diversions," Organized by the Western Societies Program at Cornell University in 1991.
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    American Muslim Women Challenging Conventional Understanding of Islam
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Cornell University, 2009-09-28)
    Muslim women all over the world have been mostly viewed as secondary and/or complementary in the structure of all Muslim societies. In order to challenge and transform these un-Islamic views, women needed to retake their principal role and reinterpret the primary source of Islam, the Qur’an. In doing so during the past two decades, some American Muslim women, including myself, are challenging the conventional understanding of Islam in the hope to implement a fundamental aspect of the social justice contract between Muslims and Islam. Indeed, this was the first essential step toward accomplishing the comprehensive human rights for ourselves, as well as challenging the unwarranted authority, the hijacked Islamic authority, by Muslim men for about 14 centuries. Although the conditions during the last decade of the 20th century were right for Muslim women peaceful revolution that is firmly grounded in the Qur’an, the drastic change in the global political landscape since 2001 reversed these conditions for the majority of Muslim women. There is no simple solution, and there is no hope for any meaningful reform in the near future. Both Muslims and Westerners are to blame.
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    Why Muslim Women Are Re-Interpreting the Qur'an: A Transformative Scholarship-Activism
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Cornell University, 2010-09-16)
    Muslim women all over the world have been mostly viewed as secondary and/or complementary in the structure of Muslim societies. In order to challenge and transform these un-Islamic views, women needed to retake their principal role and reinterpret the primary source of Islam, the Qur'an. In doing so during the past two decades, some American Muslim women, including myself, are transforming the conventional understanding of Islam in the hope to implement a fundamental aspect of the social justice contract between Muslims and Islam. Indeed, Muslim women are challenging the unwarranted authority, the hijacked Islamic authority by Muslim men, and moving toward accomplishing the comprehensive human rights for themselves. This event was part of the CAPE Lecture Series.
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    Why Muslim Women Must Reinterpret the Qur'an
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (Commonwealth Club, 2010-07-19)
    Nimat Hafez Barazangi, Ph.D. '88, a research fellow in the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies program at Cornell, suggests it's time for Muslim women to have a peaceful, silent revolution firmly grounded in the Qur'an. Barazangi works to improve attitudes and conditions for women in Islam. She is the author of "Woman's Identity and the Qur'an." The lecture, moderated by National Public Radio correspondent Laura Sydell, was recorded in front of a live audience at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on July 19, 2010. A podcast is included and a video can be accessed from the link below.
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    Vicegerency and Gender Justice in Islam
    Barazangi, Nimat Hafez (University Press of Florida, 1996)
    This chapter summarizes Islamic view of life as a system and analyzes some implications of this system for family and male-female relationships. It is necessary, therefore, to replace the conceived notion that Islam is a religion limited to the ritual acts of worship (the five pillars) with the affirmation that Islam is a system designed for a purpose, and that this system is either accepted as a whole, understood within its ontological worldview, and acted upon within its components, or its practice may not be total. It is as important to understand that one cannot be operating partially within this system and still claim it as the base of operation. That is because whenever something is not accomplished according to what the system was designed to achieve one cannot discredit the system for not fulfilling its goals. One might understand the reason(s) that have lead to the unexpected results, rather, by exploring the steps that may have been missed during the application. I am proposing that Islam as a system or an ideology has a central concept (or an essence) around which certain principles (or secondary and tertiary concepts) are built. These principles vary in their priority depending on their closeness to objectifying the central concept. The closer they are, the higher value they should be given and the more consideration they should receive in application of the system. Then on the outer circle (of the imaginary diagram) there are the auxiliary hypotheses (or the manifestations) which, if were appropriated within the framework of the central concept and with the essence of the principles as the base, will achieve the intended results (or the outcome) of the system. The focus of this paper is on the Islamic principle of al-Khilafah (vicegerency of human beings to Allah as the Only God and the Supreme Guide), its social implications for the family, and where and how its manifestations may have been mistaken for its essence. Al-Khilafah is the purpose of the Islamic system, that is, fulfilling the purpose of creation and the will of Allah through human morality. The first part of the argument is that the principle of al-khilafah has been generally understood by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and has been practiced by the majority of Muslims on its manifestation level and not at the essence level of the principle. Furthermore, the perception (conception and practice) of this principle has been generally outside the Islamic ontological view and without consideration of the central concept of Islam, Tawhid (the Oneness of God and humanity). The second part of the argument will be stated as follows. Unless scholars, Muslims or non-Muslims, who are concerned with the study of Islamic family realize the different conceptual levels of the Islamic system, understand the variation in the implications of the different conceptualizations, and use the central concept as the epistemological base, their attempt to understand or prescribe solutions to injustice in male-female relations in the Muslim family will fail. Also, as long as Muslims are practicing the principle of al Khilafah and its social and political implications on the manifestation level only, they will not fulfill that principle nor the central concept of Islam, Tawhid.