Knowledge Building

Musawah is a knowledge building movement promoting equality in the Muslim family.

Musawah provides advocates and academics access to existing knowledge and creates new knowledge about women’s rights in Islam. We seek to apply feminist and rights-based lenses in understanding and searching for equality and justice within Muslim legal traditions. Such lenses help reveal the tension between the egalitarian and hierarchical voices in the tradition, and uncover women’s voices that were for so long silenced in the production of religious knowledge, so that their concerns and interests can be reflected.

We believe that the production and sharing of knowledge should be participatory, should recognise non-traditional forms of expertise, and should begin from contexts rather than texts. In this way, the knowledge produced will be grounded in the lived realities of women and men. These realities then inform the approach to the issues and the questions being asked.

Focus Areas 

  • Conduct a multi-faceted research project on the concepts of qiwamah (male authority over women) and wilayah (male guardianship of women and children) that includes four main components:
    • Papers covering jurisprudential (Qur’an, fiqh, hadith), historical, philosophical, sociological, and ethical aspects of qiwamah and wilayah that have been commissioned from experts from a variety of disciplines.
    • An understanding of how qiwamah and wilayah are manifested in laws and policies, and how this relates to national constitutions and international treaty obligations.
    • Socio-economic realities, based on quantitative data.
    • Life stories of women collected by Musawah Advocates using a qualitative research documentation process.


  • A new understanding of qiwamah and wilayah in line with contemporary notions of justice, equality, ethics, individual freedoms, and dignity, as well as the lived realities of Muslim families today.


Musawah Knowledge Building Briefs provide you with an accessible understanding of key concepts and ideas related to the Muslim legal tradition and family laws.

The first issue seeks to address the differences between Shari’ah, fiqh and state laws, while the second sheds light on what makes reform from within the tradition possible, the third addresses the issue of Islam and the question of gender equality and the fourth unpacks the arguments of those resisting CEDAW implementation in Muslim contexts and shows that CEDAW can provide a useful mechanism for countries on their path towards gender equality. 

Arabic and French versions are also available:

First Issue: Arabic, French.

Second Issue: Arabic, French.

Third Issue: Arabic, French

Fourth Issue: Arabic, French

Compilation of resources

The Compilation of Resources Related to Women’s Rights in Muslim Family Laws is a tool designed to help activists, human rights experts, and policy makers access resources from the academic and policy arenas.

It outlines and brings together resources from the four corners of Musawah’s holistic framework – Islamic teachings, universal human rights, national and constitutional guarantees of equality and the lived realities of women and men – broken down according to specific topics related to women’s rights in Muslim family laws.

This compilation is not comprehensive and is a work in progress that is intended to be collectively and regularly updated. It is focused primarily on sources that are available in English. Musawah invites individuals and organizations to provide feedback and suggest additions by contacting us at:


Knowledge Building Videos

Musawah knowledge Building videos provide you with an accessible understanding of key concepts and ideas related to the Muslim legal tradition and family laws.

The first video on “Shari’ahFiqh and State Laws” highlights why it is essential to distinguish between these terms in order to set the divine and eternal apart from the human and temporal, which is open to change.
With Arabic subtitles

With French subtitles


The second video on “Muslim Family Laws: What Makes Reform Possible?” highlights concepts and tools from Muslim Legal Tradition that can be used to pave the way for family laws that are more in line with contemporary Muslim realities, justice and gender equality.

With Arabic subtitles

With French subtitles

Researching Muslim women's rights? Access the Musawah Resource Library.



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