Women's rights in Islam, two reformist approaches: Abdullahi An-Na'aim and Khaled Abu El Fadl

Mohamed Sultan


The papers examines two different reformist approaches to Islamic law in general and women's rights in particular. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im and Khaled Abou El Fadl are chosen as the focus of this study because of their respective innovative approaches to a historically controversial issue. The focus is on the Qur'anic verses and various definitive texts in Qur'an or al-nas qati al-delalah. Discussed is the historical context of the scholars interpretation of the Qur'anic verses; the relationship between the historical context of the Qura'nic verses and the occasions for which the Quranic verses were revealed to the Prophet; any differences between their methodologies on this issue; how the traditional Qur'anic texts are used in their interpretations; and finally, the problems which they are to incorporate. this is then applied to the questions of women's rights. The medthodologies of the reformist approaches make a case for a fuller understanding of the restrictions arising out of reform, definitive text, and the methodologies that seek consensus while avoiding conflict and integration of Sharia with human rights. The methodologies presented appeal to the elite, and those who are interested in the reform of Islamic law and the Islamic discourse. The average Muslim is not exposed to such theories the discourse in the media tends to be outside much of the reformist debate.