This page was inspired by the request of a friend (Saadia Sultana) for fictional works that might be identified as Muslim feminist – basically with a strong, empowered Muslim female lead. What’s listed below is the collective work of all those who responded to her with recommendations, although Saadia sent me the compiled list; I did not find them on my own. Feel free to recommend whatever other material you come across that you’d like to see here. (For Muslim feminist non-fiction material, please click here; for Muslim feminist blogs, see here.)
The categories are created by Saadia.
P.S. Needless to say, this is not intended to be comprehensive. Readers/viewers are encouraged to share more recommendations.
P.P.S. The word “feminist” is very loosely used – roughly any critical takes on patriarchal Muslim practice and doctrine as well as critical takes on orientalist projections on Islam.
Muslim Feminist Literature
(listed by author’s last name)
- Leila Aboulela’s Minaret
- Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big In This? (teen fiction)
- Rukhsana Ahmad’s We Sinful Women: Contemporary Feminist Urdu Poetry
- Rajaa Alsanae’s Girls of Riyadh
- Hanna al-Shaykh’s I Sweep the Sun Off Rooftops
- Hanna al-Shaykh’s Women of Sand and Myrrh
- Anita Amirrezvani’s Equal of the Sun
- Erendiz Atasu’s The Other Side of the Mountain
- ZP Dala’s What About Meera
- Assia Djebar’s Far from Madina: Daughters of Ishmael
- Mohja Kahf’s E-mails from Scheherazad
- Sumayya Lee’s Maha Ever After
- Deena Mohamed’s (webcomic) Qahera the Superhero
- Bahiyyih Nakhjavani’s The Woman Who Read Too Much
- Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream and Selections from The Secluded Ones
- Marjane Satrapi’s Embroideries
- Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis (but see this on how Persepolis is orientalist)
- Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 (several volumes of comic books where the superheroine is a character is a Pakistani-American Muslim girl)
- Rafia Zakaria’s The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan
- Jennifer Zobair’s Painted Hands
Muslim Feminist Videos/Movies/Films/Documentaries
- Feminism in the Somali Community – Debate
- Feminism InshAllah: A History of Arab Feminism
- 3-Seconds Divorce, a documentary on triple talaaq (divorce) in India
- A Separation
- Bol (Pakistani film)
- Burka Avenger
- Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Wajda
- Hidden Faces (Egypt)
- Hidden Hearts (documentary on Muslim women’s marriage to non-Muslims in the UK)
- Iran’s “Sex-Change” Solution
- Kartini (a film in the honor of Raden Adjeng Kartini (1879-1904), an Indonesian feminist activist who founded the first school for girls in Indonesia)
- The Light in Her Eyes
- Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini’s Divorce Iranian Style (more Iranian movies here)
- Me and the Mosque
- Mustang, on the story of five Turkish sisters transgressing social gender norms.
- Nadia Manzoor’s Shugs and Fats
- The Noble Struggle of Amina Wadud
- The Scream, by Yemeni film-maker Khadiija al-Salami
- Shaikha (a documentary on the leaderships of three women; not yet completed)
- She’s My Son: Afghanistan’s Bacha Posh, when girls become boys
- Tales of the Waria (documentary on transgender women in Indonesia)
- Transgenders – Pakistan’s Hidden Secret
- Zahra Noorbakhsh and Tanzila Ahmad’s Good Muslim Bad Muslim
- Hassan al-Turabi’s Interview on women in Islam
- Shirin Neshat’s Women Without Men (available on YouTube: Trailer; Part 1; Part 2)
- Facing Mirrors (trailer)
- Women of Turkey: Between Islam and Secularism
Muslim Feminists on Social Media
- Muslim Feminists on Twitter
- Brown Girl Magazine (South Asian feminism )
Muslim Feminist Blogs
- See here.
Muslim Feminist projects
- Girls at Dhaba
- Kolektif Betina, Indonesian feminist group / Unrest Collective, Indonesian feminist zine in English
- Side Entrance
- The Women’s Mosque
- Men Against Rape and Discrimination (#MARD)
Muslim Feminist Songs/Music
- Aryana Sayeed’s Zan Astam (“I’m a Woman”)
- Aryana Sayeed’s Lady of the Land of Fire
- Cheb Khaled’s Aicha
- Hip Hop Hijabis
- Hush (this isn’t a feminist song but worth a feminist analysis)
- Majed al-Esa’s Hawages (see here for details/translations)
- Mashrou’ Leila’s Roman (see here for an article on the song & video)
- Mona Haydar’s Wrap My Hijab
- Mona Haydar’s Dog
- No Woman No Drive (parody)
- Poetic Pilgrimage’s Silence is Consent
- Poetic Pilgrimage’s Bigger Than
- Kamla Bhasin a song for men and boys
- Kamla Bhasin’s feminist nursery rhymes (Urdu)
- Saba Mubarak and Ala Wardi’s Worth 100 Men (fiction series in Arabic on women’s struggles & solutions to them)
- Tubuhku Otoritasku, an Indonesian song calling for women to embrace the uniqueness of their bodies
- Creep Qawwali (this is just too much fun!)
- ‘Cos I’ve Vagina Re (on patriarchy in Bollywood, by All-India Bakchod)
- Voice of Braceprot, Indonesian all-girl metal band (report on NPR)
Muslim Feminist Visual Art(ists)
- Ghada Amer
- Aysha Durrani
- Indonesian feminist artists / Merayakan Murni
- Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art and Voices
- Pashtun Women Artists
- Shirin Neshat (see, also, Iftikhar Dadi’s article on her “Transaesthetics in the Art of Shirin Neshat” in The Migrant’s Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora (ed. Saloni Mathur), Iftikhar Dadi’s “Shirin Neshat’s Photographs as Postcolonial Allegories”; and Aphrodite Désirée Navab’s “Unsaying Life Stories: The Self-Representational Art of Shirin Neshat and Ghazel”)
I think you watched this movie, but still forget to mention.
Wadjda (Saudi Movie)
Oh, yes, wonderful addition! Thank you! Added in.
Hi! I think the book “Headscarves and Hymens” by Mona Eltahawy might belong with the other non-fiction books. The book is definitely non-fiction. It’s about the real experiences of women with misogyny in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s somewhat based on her own life and thoughts, but also on news articles, statistics, interviews, articles, etc. It doesn’t tell a story-like narrative.
You know, I have to read Mona’s book before I can include it in the list. I find her to be one of the more problematic Muslim feminists (like Asra Nomani – I’m not a fan of Asra’s, either), and I’m hesitant to include her book in a list of feminist Muslim literature/scholarship that challenges either a) traditional Muslim claims/expectations about gender issues, or b) orientalist/western/reductionist claims/expectations/portrayals of Muslim women and/or gender issues in the Muslim world or Islam. I find her to be more in line with orientalist attitudes towards Muslim women/Islam/female sexuality, and since that kind of stuff is already too popular, I don’t see her as contributing anything new.
Yup, she isn’t really a scholar of any sort. I’d consider the book maybe more like investigative journalism. Like, you’re a journalist writing stories about China, who writes a book on China, you know?
As a side note, I’m reading “Faithfully Feminist” right now and it’s amazingly inspiring. Honestly, one of the most awesome books I ever read. I found it for free through my school. Also, found a new book about Sisters in Islam.
I haven’t read Faithfully Feminist yet! Now I’m excited to do so. Would you be interested in sharing more thoughts about it (I can post something abt it on my blog here)?
Feel free to share any details about the SIS book!
I love the huge variety of perspectives the book represents. I didn’t even recognize the potential to identify as a feminist in some of these traditions. There’s a Mormon feminist, a mennonite feminist, catholic feminists, Orthodox Jewish feminists, reconstructionist Jewish feminist, gay rabbi feminists, hijabi feminists, and so on. I didn’t really think starting to read this that there were going to be multiple, religiously-observant Jewish feminists. The diversity is amazing. There are also a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Some of the women are LGBT as well.
A dichotomy I noticed throughout the book was engaging in your parent’s religious tradition despite the misogyny verses choosing a new religion or sect altogether. Some women had strong ties to their native religious tradition of their parent’s even if they weren’t wowed by the sexism in them. This was true,off the top of my head, for two Baptist women, a Mennonite woman, a Catholic woman, a Mormon, and many of the Jewish women. On the other hand,some of the Christian women’s stories revolve around finding a new place to be a Christian feminist. Several women are converts to Islam from Christianity. Two of them converted to Judaism.
Another thing I noticed was the variety of beliefs. One Jewish woman was raised in an Orthodox environment. In orthodox Judaism, women cannot be Rabbis, women don’t count in a prayer quorum, women don’t wrap teffilin or wear tallit, and so on. She sought out a more egalitarian environment but was disturbed by the trend to do whatever men do, so she re-orthodoxed. Another woman loved the egalitarian nature of her form of Judaism where women could wear tallit, be in a minyan, be a rabbi, and so on.
One orthodox Jewish woman observed the tradition of wearing a head-covering, but felt uncomfortable with the idea of wearing it as she is complicit in helping men control their sexual desires according to the ideas behind it. A Muslim woman felt her rida (Bohra veil, right?) allowed her control over her own body and who viewed it.
A common trend among the Muslim women is thinking Islam, at its origins,is a feminist faith. A lot of them invoke Khadijih as a role model. Many of the Jewish and Christian women cited female authority figures in their own life as their inspiration. This is opposed to some of the Christian and Jewish women who saw their traditions as patriarchal by default, and this patriarchy to be something to break free from. They wanted to reform their traditions, and the Muslim women wanted to return to what they saw as the original traditions. Another common theme was the desire of Jewish and Christian women for more female clergy and leadership, but none of the Muslim women really honed in on female leadership or being an imam or what not. Even some of the Orthodox Jewish women were clergy (a maharat) or had studied in a yeshiva. I related most to Jennifer Zobeir’s story and Amanda Qureshi’s.
Now, that was very long, lol.
Oh, wow! Thanks, Em! This is really helpful! I know some of the authors in this book, and I’ll let them know you liked their works. Or, wait – you can find them on Twitter, too.
Also, you might also thoroughly enjoy this other book that’s ordinary people’s engagements with their religions and with their feminisms. It’s called “Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak.” I have a piece in there ❤ 😀
Wow, I hadn’t heard of that one. I’ll look it up.
The (non-fiction) Sisters in Islam book is called, “Humazing the Sacred: Sisters in Islam and the Struggle for Gender Justice in Malaysia” by Azza Basaruddin.
You know, I think about this sometimes, and I don’t know if you knew this already or it’s relevant to whether the book should be included, but Bahiyyih Nakhjavani is a Baha’i and Tahirih, who is the protagonist of her novel, was a Muslim who became a Babi. Tahirih is cool though, lol.
I thought you might want a comment not about white people complaining about other people pointing out white people being racist. 😉
You’re fabulous! I appreciate the comment and the distraction from the white hypocrisy nonsense that was going on a while back! Thank you for being so thoughtful and wonderful.
Let me look into the suggestion. Maybe I can have a category for this list and then include “Muslim-ish” literature in it, or stuff influencing or influenced by Muslim cultures/civilizations, etc.
Did you know there’s a women’s rights organization named after Tahirih? It assists women legally who are victims of violence like rape, FGM, forced marriage, and domestic abuse. I just remembered this after I wrote that comment, sorry, lol.
I’ve been trying to make my own blog so my name has changed, btw (from Em).
Didn’t know that, but that sounds wonderful! And delighted to hear you’re creating your own blog! Omg!! What’s the link? (If you’d like to share it whenever, if at all.)
So I tried and then messed up the formatting so bad I decided to start over, lol.
Em! ❤ There's no such thing as messing up when you're blogging, I promise! Please forgive me for the delays. I don't really have a legit excuse – just avoiding the blog because I have *so* much to write but am avoiding so as not to be distracted.
Very much looking forward to your blog! I've just followed it! Happy Blogging!
Everything seems to be sorted now. I’ve changed my name back to my desired name. I’ve got my menu bar working. I’ve already posted and have another post in the works.
Thank you for this – am going to digest and share!
Salam jan, you should add Warsan Shire and Mona Eltahawy, IMO.
Hey Orbala I was just wondering why you listed Marjane Satrapi’s books under Muslim feminist literature I thought she was Zoroastrian (might be wrong though)
I’m not familiar with her religious background (tho she describes herself as Zoroastrian AND Muslim), but the idea is to highlight literature where the main character is a Muslim woman who challenges the non-sense she’s subjected to.
THANK YOU for this entire website- what an enormous bank of knowledge and a brilliant resource I will keep coming back to. Thanks also for this page, cannot wait to enjoy some of these recommendations and support other women in the creative industries.
I was surprised to find Shirin Neshat here though- as a visual artist myself I have always found her work problematic, re-inscribing orientalist tropes rather than challenging them. I appreciate her work is misunderstood as representing the ‘Muslim world’ (like one homogenous Muslim world even exists *eye roll*) when indeed it is about her personal relationship with her home country, Iran. But in the context of history/ visual culture/ lack of representation of Muslim diversity in general, and the recurring ‘Muslim symbols’ she adopts, I find it difficult to accept. Having said this, I may be not be looking at her later works objectively, only seeing it with the ‘Women of Allah’ series in mind… would love your thoughts!