Feminism in Islam: The History and Society’s Acceptance

When we heard the word “feminism” and “feminist”, most of us would instantly think of women’s empowerment or their fight against misogyny. Some people would consider the word “feminist” and “feminism” bad words. These people might not know the purpose and the reasons they are fighting for. Although there have been countless efforts and exposure made, there are still quite a number of people who choose to be ignorant. 

Let’s take an example from our very own country. On social media such as Instagram and Twitter, when a feminist voices her opinion, most people would despise her and her actions. What is the reason behind this? Why can’t a woman express her opinion? This is one of the examples of misogyny, which could be done by men and even women themselves. 

The History of Feminism

Feminism in Islam

Let’s go back to the olden days when women were considered burdens and the causes of calamity. The main purpose was to seek equal rights for women. Depending on the timeline, country, and culture, most feminists had their own goals, but the main goal is just the same which is to aim for equal rights. An English author writer and philosopher named Mary Wollstonecraft is believed to be the founder of feminism. Her book titled “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, in which she argued for women’s education is one of the reasons why she is believed to be the first to start feminism, hence obtaining the title “mother of feminism”. As for the origin of the term feminism, in 1837, a French philosopher and a utopian socialist named Charles Fourier coined the word “féminisme” and he was credited for that. 


As for the modern western feminism movement, there are four waves of feminism that we need to know about. The first-wave feminism started in the 19th century and early 20th century. The main focus at that time was on inequality, to be exact, on the rights of women to vote especially in political elections. The second-wave feminism, which started in the 60s until the 80s was to voice out about women’s roles and rights in a society, cultural inequalities, and gender norms. From the 90s until the 2000s, third-wave feminism began and was seen by the feminists to be the continuation of the previous wave. The most recent wave is fourth-wave feminism, which is believed to have started in 2012 and aims to seek justice for women and to stop sexual harassment and violence toward women. 

Feminism and Islam

Feminism in Islam

Islam is known to be a religion that teaches believers to protect and respect all women, no matter their religion or status. There have been numerous proofs from the Quran that show how much Islam truly protects their women from any kind of unjust. From Surah An-Nisa:34, 

“Men are the caretakers of women, as men have been provisioned by Allah over women and tasked with supporting them financially. And righteous women are devoutly obedient and, when alone, protective of what Allah has entrusted them with. And if you sense ill-conduct from your women, advise them first, if they persist, do not share their beds, but if they still persist, then discipline them gently. But if they change their ways, do not be unjust to them. Surely Allah is Most High, All-Great”. 

This verse shows the role of men in a marriage and how they should treat their wives if any disloyalty happens from the wife’s side. To be precise, Islam itself is perfect enough, hence most people think that there is no need for Muslim women to fight for whatever the Western feminists are fighting for. However, the bitter truth is there are still many women out there who are being considered disgraced due to their customs and traditional beliefs. 

While some feminist movements usually do not click with Islamic teachings, some of them can actually be considered as long as they are not against the Quran and Hadith. Islamic feminism has started a long time ago in the 19th century. Aisha Taymur, who was an Egyptian novelist and poet is one of the social activists that was very loud in expressing her opinion regarding male domination of women and most of her writings are focused on advocating for women’s rights. She is best known as the “ mother of Egyptian feminism”. 

Muslim Feminist Activists and Movement

Women have never failed to amaze us. They can be independent, they are stern in making their decisions and they are very persuasive in order to reach their goals. These are a few of the groups and activists that have been very firm with their stands:

  • Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
Feminism in Islam

Based in Quetta, Pakistan, this organisation was founded by Meena who was a student at Kabul University. She alongside other intellectuals founded the organisation to promote both equality and education for women in Afghanistan. RAWA’s main goals were to get women involved in society, especially in political and social activities. Women at that time were not allowed to fully engage in those activities, making it difficult for them to seek human rights. 

  • Sisters in Islam (SIS)
Feminism in Islam

This fact might be shocking for some of us. Sisters in Islam (SIS) is a Malaysian organisation currently based in Petaling Jaya. It is committed to encouraging women’s rights which are based on Islamic teachings. Zainah Anwar was one of the founders of this organisation in 1988, which later was registered in 1993. Alongside her, there are another 6 women who co-founded SIS and one of them is the famous Amina Wadud who is an American theologian. SIS has received multiple criticisms due to their questions and movements that seem to be opposed to Islamic teachings. 

The Acceptance in Society

Being a Muslim and a feminist sounds unacceptable to most of us. But for those who really are fighting all the prejudices, sexism, and misogyny faced by women, you should go on with that. People ought to think that by being a feminist, she would instantly ditch the Islamic teachings to fight for the Western feminist rights that are completely opposite to Islam. Until today, there are still many women who have to face injustice and inequality in society. 

Feminism women's right

In my opinion, it is not wrong to be a feminist. Be a feminist who sticks with the Islamic pillars and fights for women’s rights such as our right to be free from sexual harassment and violence. Islam is perfect enough. The way Allah obligated men to protect and respect us is enough to prove that. Being feminists does not mean that they hate men or despise men. They despise the horrible acts and treatment women have been receiving, not only from men but also from women themselves. Internalised sexism too, is one of the obstacles that need to be faced by women. 

To be honest, it is a hard pill to swallow with the fact that some of us are still against women. Men, to be exact, some of them, still think that they are superior to women. But the fact is, they wouldn’t have been here without a woman. All the hardships that women have gone through are unbearable, but the strength that they have is magnificent. 

Feminism in Islam

This is why we, women should be respected and given our freedom to speak. Listen to what we have to say and do condone our opinions. As long as they are within the teachings from the Quran and Hadith, and none of them is opposing or questioning the contents of the Quran, I believe that we can have a chance to get better treatment in society. 

Nurul Azira
Nurul Azira
A big simp and loves listening to music 24/7







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