Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Women in the Discourse of Sayyid Qutb

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Women in the Discourse of Sayyid Qutb

Article excerpt

THIS IS A STUDY OF THE THEORETICAL bases and philosophy of modern Islamic fundamentalist discourse as they relate to women's rights and duties and their role in society in general. Many questions will be dealt with, specifically those pertaining to the origin of women's rights, the dialectical and religious justifications for such practices as well as the framework within which they would fit in the fundamentalist overview of society.

Two tendencies are historically identifiable: an earlier movement that is socially highly conservative going beyond the traditional Muslim views of women; and a more recent one that may be regarded as more liberal vis-a-vis women's social and political roles within fundamentalist society. The first movement is represented by such authors as Abu al-A'la al-Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb, and the second by Hasan al-Turabi and Rashid al-Ghannoushi. The following is an examination of the discourse of Sayyid Qutb concerning the role he envisages for women in the development of Islamic society and civilization to evaluate the measure of consistency in his views within his general philosophical framework. Special attention will be directed at textual bases of his views as well as the historical and political factors that may have helped in shaping his views on women.

The study of Qutb's views on women is important not only because of his privileged place in modern Islamic thought, but more importantly to reveal the glaring dichotomy of his views which appear progressive and liberal in the political and religious fields but ultra-conservative and even regressive regarding the status of women, revealing a paradox within the general framework of his thought: the dynamism of his political versus the stasis of his family views.

The term, fundamentalism, began to be used in the 1970s, in reference to the movement of Islamic revivalism, but was soon replaced by the terms revivalism and resurgence because of its inherently illusory nature. [1] Fundamentalism refers to the induction of radical changes in previously accepted modalities and traditions with the express purpose of purifying Islam to re-emerge as a vital, dynamic force. It, thus, advocates the literal interpretation and application of scriptural texts to arrive at a total reconstruction of Islamic society at the political, social, and moral levels. In so doing, it has to face and overcome the threats of scholasticism and Westernism, factors that had, hitherto, been difficult to deal with by a Muslim society that had become ossified and unwieldy, unable to challenge the modern Western customs and ideologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Muslims, for the first time in their history, found themselves subjugated and ruled by the alien West. [2] This challenge, c oupled with the failure of the 'ummah due to its dependence on the West and the disastrous Arab-Israeli wars, created, simultaneously, an identity crisis and a political purpose. In their search for solutions, men like Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Mohammad Abduh and Rashid Rida sought to re-establish classical doctrines in order to bring about political, legal and intellectual reform, and in assimilating Western advances in science and technology, became known as modernists, while others such as Hasan al-Banna, Abu al-A'la al-Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb, rejecting everything that was Western, became known as "fundamentalists." Islam, thus, came to provide a practical political, economic, social and legal life. To this end, the ideals, values and principles of Islam had to be reshaped through 'ijtihad (independent analysis or interpretation) to cope with the modern world and replace existing forms of nationalism, secularism and capitalism. [3]

The modern revitalization of Islam was engineered by two major Muslim organizations in the 1930s and 1940s: The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, and the Islamic Society organized in Pakistan by Mawlana Abu al-A'la al-Mawdudi in 1941. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.