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Knowledge Building

Musawah works in four key areas: knowledge building, capacity building, international advocacy, and communications and outreach.

Musawah facilitates 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 tradition. Such lenses help to uncover women’s voices that for so long have been silenced in the production of religious knowledge, and to reflect their concerns and interests in the law and policy-making process.

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

We take a critical feminist perspective but work within Muslim legal tradition to invoke two main distinctions. The first, which underlies the emergence of the various schools of Islamic law and within them a multiplicity of positions and opinions, is between Shari‘ah and fiqh. The second distinction is between the two main categories of legal rulings (ahkam): ‘ibadat (ritual/spiritual acts) and mu‘amalat (social/contractual acts). These distinctions have given us the language and conceptual tools to argue for gender equality from within Muslim legal tradition.

Our main objective is to re-insert women’s concerns and voices, which were silenced by the time that the fiqh schools emerged, into the processes of the production of religious knowledge and law making. In this sense, what we are doing is part of the larger struggle for the democratization of production of knowledge in Islam and for the authority to interpret its sacred texts.

Two questions are at the centre of our work:

If justice and equality are values central to Islam, as we believe they are, why have women been treated as inferior to men in Muslim legal tradition and in Muslim societies?

And if equality has become inherent to conceptions of justice in modern times, as many Muslims now recognize, how can it be reflected in Muslim laws?