Vivienne Stacey discusses how the various leadership roles of Muslim women historically. This includes both religious and political leadership.

These lectures were given at Columbia International University in partnership with the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies. The Zwemer Center was founded in 1979 and exists to offer comprehensive courses on Islam, facilitate research, foster dialogues, offer seminars, conduct training, and provide resources for effective witness and ministry among Muslims. We also have a course study guide for these lectures that you might find helpful.

Here starts the auto-generated transcription of Vivienne Stacey’s Lecture on the leadership roles of Muslim women historically:

This session, is going to is going to be on women in leadership and leadership roles. Shall we pray? Help us, oh lord, as we study this subject. Guide us as we reflect and discuss and learn. We need thy help and the help of thy spirit.

We commit the whole session to thee. In the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit, ever one God. Amen. Women in leadership. I want to mention first women sufi saints and, the fact that in Sufism, the mysticism of Islam or the mystics of Islam who may be Shia or may be Suf Sunni may come from either major of of those two branches of Islam.

They may come but they they are there are saints from both groups, Sufis. And in Sufism the whole question of male and female is not very important to the Sufi. It’s quite interesting that probably in this in you could say in there is neither male nor female. It it isn’t quite that far but there is a significant, input and part that women play And probably certainly Rabia, was probably one of the most famous of all the Sufi saints. She was a remarkable, mystic, a remarkable woman. And, just to just illustrate that, what about this is a prayer that she wrote. It’s on page 62 of my book, submitting to God. We find this. She died incidentally in 801 AD. My lord, eyes are at rest, the stars are setting, hushed are the movements of the birds, of the monsters in the deep. And thou art the just who knoweth no change. The equity that swerveth not. The everlasting that passeth not away. The doors of kings are locked and guarded by thy by their henchmen. But thy door is open to whosoever calleth on thee.

My lord, each lover is now alone with his beloved, and I am alone with thee. So she’s a a very famous mystic who speaks to many outside her own faith, I think. But she had some associates. So it wasn’t just the sort of one off sufi, Muslim saint. And we are greatly indebted, I think, to Margaret Smith in her doctorate. She studied this whole subject and she’s made it a life study. Her doctor was published in, written in 1928, so a long time ago. But she’s writing about the past and she did very good research. So she says her her book is called Rabia the Mystic and Her Fellow Saints together with some account of the place of women saints in Islam. So if you want to find more material on that, you’ll find it in this third section of her book. But I think I can I have also got here, an article which would interest anyone going to Morocco? There’s an article on in, Lois Beck book and Lois Beck and Nikki Kedde wrote a well known book which was published in 1978, Harvard University Press, but and republished in 1982. But this 29th chapter, page 585, starts this way. The heading is women, sufism, and decision making in Moroccan Islam. And I I’ll just quote 1 or 2 sentences.

The aspect of Islam on which women have had the greatest impact in Morocco is the mystical or Sufi tradition in which saintly personages are venerated and supplicated. Women, like men, party take of this tradition in numerous ways. There’s an Italian, who is called, Skatelonin. And then he wrote an article in Encounter, the magazine that you now know, for October 1993, and it’s number 198. His article was on women in Islamic Mysticism. And he writes that usually, Sufi women are rarely mentioned in the common manuals on Sufism except for Arabia. However, ibn al jazazi in who died in 1200 AD, recorded in his sifatul Safavar, so you can tell I haven’t studied Arabic very much, the names of more than 200 ascetic and Sufi women. And, Abdulrauf ul Manawi, who died in 16/21 AD, in his book, gives the biographical account of 20 35 of them. Most of these Sufi women belong to the 1st and second generation of Islam in which ascetic Sufism was prevalent. The majority of these Sufi women were also endowed with supernatural powers and miracles or karamat.

Karamat, supernatural miracle. And became respected and recognized teachers and even leaders of religious communities. So here is a role. Sometimes they may not have formal leadership, sometimes they might in Sufism, leading a whole community and in which there would be men and women. But, the role is recognized because Sufism tends to be that kind of association or that kind of movement.

It’s a movement, not a sect, in which it’s not particularly important as to whether someone is male or female. It reminds me of Saint Paul saying, in Christ, there is neither male nor female and bond nor free and so on. So this is women in religious leadership. I could provide other examples, but I think that here you’ll have enough material to delve in if you want to pursue this. And then the question of women in political leadership in Islam.

It’s come to be a debating point particularly because, they’re heads of states, who are Muslim who are Muslim women. In 1964, Fatima Jina, sister of the late Qaida Yazam, Muhammad Ali Jina, founder of Pakistan, was the candidate of the combined opposition parties opposing president Ayub Khan who was campaigning for reelection. So the combined opposition parties, he was, the press Ayub Khan, was his party was the Muslim League. So this means every other political party in Pakistan clamped together for this combined they made a combined opposition party for this particular election. And, so Jamaait e Islami, very fundamentalist, headed up by Muldudi.

Muldudi was the leader of the Muslim brotherhood in the Indian subcontinent. You’ve heard of the Muslim brotherhood. It was founded in the Arab speaking world, but it had a version in the Urdu speaking world. And maldudi was a kind of lead well, he was the leading light, and he actually founded the, Jamaat e Islami, the equivalent of the Muslim brotherhood for the subcontinent. So he agreed to support bay this, Jina’s sister, Fatima Jina.

He changed his mind later on, but, she didn’t stand the hope of being elected. But from this point of view, it doesn’t matter. The point is that they supported the woman candidate. And this is in Pakistan, the 20th century nation created in the name of Islam. It’s the political, it’s a political laboratory in a sense.

One of the Pakistani outstanding Pakistani thinkers who died about 10 years ago, Khulam Ahmed Mirza, said that Pakistan is the laboratory of Islam. It’s, to see because it’s created in the name of Islam, it’s a 20th century experiment to see how an Islamic state functions. And for this reason, I think, Saudi Arabia and various other wealthy countries pour money into Pakistan because they don’t want this experiment to fail. So we have, Turkey has had a woman prime minister. Bangladesh has had a woman prime minister, Muslim.

Turkey Muslim. And there’s another turkey, Bangladesh. I think there’s one other that I can’t remember. But, it’s quite a question. So this has been debated in in the Muslim world in recent months, recent years. And, let me just quote 1 or 2, theologians Muslim theologians here. At the time of the combined opposition parties, candidate in 1964, Fatima Jinna, some Pakistani Muslim theologians, ulama, we call them, made a pronouncement, a fatwa. You know fatwa. Everybody knows fatwa because there’s one against Salman Rushdie. That a man that a woman can be head of state in an Islamic state.

Maulana Maududi, having agreed with the pronouncement, later changed his view and stated that a woman could not occupy a position of responsibility. This statement can be interpreted as denying to a woman the right to hold the office of a minister of state or the headship of an institution or even the right to vote. Now Pakistan, all there’s a total right for women to vote. In support of the opposition view, Kausani Yazzie pointed out in his book, Modern Challenges to Muslim Families, that ibn Hasan, who died in 10/64 AD, considers that a woman can hold all posts except that of caliph or Khalifa, except of being head of the Muslim community. She can now be head of a Muslim state as the caliphate is defunct.

The Ottoman Empire came to its end in the twenties, and the caliphate became I was gonna say extinct, but defunct is a better word. When Bayn Azir became prime minister of Pakistan in 1988, she was acclaimed the first Muslim woman head of state. And then Bangladesh in Turkey also elected women Muslim prime ministers. But professor Mirenisi, a Moroccan sociologist, published her book, entitled, well, the translated title is Forgotten Sultanas, Women Heads of State in Islam. It was published in French. And it was published first in Paris in 1990 and this is the English translation. And I put this on the reserve shelf so that you can look at it at least and, get an idea. She describes women who played a prominent prominent role in Islamic history, referring to Sultana Radia who ruled in Delhi after overthrowing her despotic brother in the 13th century. Yemen had several women queens including Malika, that’s queen, Erewa, who ruled for nearly 50 years in the 11th century. There are at least 4 queens in Indonesia in 17th century, and, there were queens also in the Maldive Islands.

Several. I think there were 5. Professor Mernissi, in her extensive researches, has unearthed details of other Muslim queens which have been ignored by most Arab male historians. So that’s the bottom line, that the Arab male historians, whether they are considering Sufis or whether they are considering, leadership, if state leadership, write it from a male angle naturally, but this don’t include material, which is very clearly available if you look for it. And so the story has become a rather unsatisfactory and perhaps very rather unhistorical in a sense. So here’s a long book by Miranissi. She she has the introduction. Was Bayn Nasir Bhutto the first? Or she the first head of state. I don’t know, says Mira Nisi. And she goes in a eventually to back at the very end to the conclusion to the Medina democracy. She goes back to the surahs of the Quran describing the Medina situation and to the famous lives of the prophet. Anyway, so she argues that the wives of Mohammed had a considerable influence on him in when he was, leading the community. They he consulted them and they gave their input. Not all of them, but some of them.

So she goes back to the Quran, to sort of support her thesis, but she is very convincing with the material that she comes up with about queens and about sovereignty is in Islam, 1 chapter, 15 queens, and then she deals with Arab queens, the Shiite dynasty of Yemen. That’s that’s Malika Arawas. And, I have one page, which I will also put on the reserve. I can give you these afterwards. Just a page, just as a write up on that particular queen. And then in the little queens of Sheba, and then she has one on the Lady of Cairo. But, it’s all backed up by evidence, which is, I would think, indisputable. Just that there were many histories written, the men wrote the histories, but they omitted something. So you can have sins of omission as well as sins of commission. Now maybe you’ve got a question or 2 about this, but I want to emphasize women in political leadership here and in various other leadership roles, I I lived, as you know, for in Pakistan, I lived there from 54 1954 to 1991, and I’ve been back every year except one since.

For 1 year I went twice. In Pakistan, we’ve had we’ve got we’ve got a woman jet pilot. We have women serving in minority, mind you, but serving in the air force. Prime we’ve got we’ve had from early on in its history, the white the widow of Liaquat Ali Khan, who was a early prime minister of Pakistan and who’s assassinated. She became an ambassador for Pakistan.

We’ve got several women ambassadors. Women in quite significant places in society. So that is the Islamic experiment for country, in this century and certainly in every level there there can be women or there are women.