February’s ABA Journal ran an excellent article by Kristin Choo about Muslim women practicing law in the United States and abroad.
These women are looking to their interpretations of Islamic scripture and tradition to fight inside and outside: inside to justify their work to Muslims who do not agree that women should have a voice in the legal tradition, and outside to be taken seriously by a mainstream culture that makes many harmful assumptions about Muslims and especially Muslim women’s roles.
Azizah al-Hibri (who wrote “My Muslim Ancestor Hagar” for Lilith in 1997) is a law professor who founded Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. “The chief mission of Karamah is to develop new Islamic jurisprudence from a women’s and human rights perspective, looking with fresh eyes at Islamic religious texts and traditions, re-examining passages and translations, and researching the historical context in which they originated to uncover a faith stripped of patriarchy…the development of new Islamic jurisprudence and the development of a network of jurists trained to apply these new ideas.”
As a Jewish lawyer, feminist, and student of Jewish law, I found this article and the spirit conveyed fascinating and exciting. I wonder whether the idea of developing a new Islamic jurisprudence feels as tremendously ambitious to al-Hibri as the idea of a new Jewish jurisprudence sounds to me. I do not know enough about Muslim law to know whether the idea itself is as groundbreaking and potentially destabilizing in Islam as it promises to be in Judaism, but I am inspired.