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Shukla, P. (2015). Great Ancestors By Farida Shaheed and Aisha Lee Shaheed Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2011, 220 pp.. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 12(4):359-362.

(2015). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 12(4):359-362

Great Ancestors By Farida Shaheed and Aisha Lee Shaheed Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2011, 220 pp.

Review by:
Priti Shukla, M.S., Mch(plastic surgery)

There are 10 billion Muslim women living in 49 Muslim majority countries spread across continents and there are Muslim immigrant women in every corner of the world. Obviously there are huge social, cultural and racial differences among Muslim women. Only 20% of Muslim women live in Arab countries and yet the image of Arab women has occupied the conscience of the Western world as a benchmark of Muslim womanhood. Muslim women are thus portrayed in monolithic terms and perceived as family oriented, apolitical, financially dependent and passive. Such myths negatively impact the international policies of the West and ultimately the rights of Muslim women. This book attempts to debunk these myths by presenting the historical facts and broader perspective on this issue. Great Ancestors is about the lives of exceptional women throughout the history of Islam from the eighth to the twentieth century, who defied culturally defined gender norms and asserted their right to be different. The authors have introduced Muslim women to their mostly forgotten brave female ancestors in order to inspire and empower them. By connecting the contemporary women's movement with historic past the authors are establishing ownership and sense of continuity in Muslim women's fight for uniform gender rights.

Historically women under Islam have asserted themselves at three levels. Firstly, women fought individually for their personal rights - such as the right to not wear the veil, choosing a life partner, the right to refuse marriage and the right to educate themselves. Secondly, women joined hands to help other women in common issues. Thirdly, by their efforts to improve society through education, shelter, charity and as rulers. Here we find accounts of royal Muslim women of the eighth and ninth century who refused to veil and prevented their husbands from polygamy by a legal marriage contract. There were women saints, scholars and Sufis who followed the spiritual path, travelled widely and mingled with men. Several Muslim queens ruled in Cairo, Yemen, India, central Asia, and Nigeria. Women were scholars and educators in language, arts, sciences and jurisprudence throughout the Arab world from the eleventh century onwards.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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