“When I was young, I used to think of feminism as like – ‘ye to kafir log karte hain, hamari cheez nahi hai’ – and I knew feminists (in Pakistan). A lot of people think of feminism as meaning ‘no Islam’, or they are complete opposites. Even in America, you’ll hear much about feminism but also the anti-feminist sentiment and misogyny is quite strong. Every society has a concept of ‘hate against women’ – for example, we often see this in Pakistani dramas – “auratein buraayi ki jarr hain” (women are the root of evil). So feminism just means that women are human beings, and equal (to men). It’s not strange or otherworldly.
The other thing is that there are many different types of feminism. Historically, there are the 3 waves of feminism, there is liberal feminism, radical feminism, leftist feminism, black feminism, etc. There is also Islamic feminism, which is what I identify with more in many ways.
There has always been a strong feminist movement in Pakistan, but a lot of it is often represented by people more on the secular side. What Islamic feminism means is I follow the traditions represented by Hazrat Aisha (ra) and Hazrat Rabia Basri. These are exemplars for me, even on their devotion to God, and not just for women but for all Muslims.
There is a good example of Hazrat Asiya – the wife of Firaun (the Pharaoh). Firaun claimed to be god and asked his wife how she could leave his religion, and he tortured her, but she did not listen to him. Many times we are told of “majazi khuda” – “shohar mujazi khuda hota hai” (a husband is like a god), whatever a husband says you should listen to, even if he tells you to stop praying – but no ! Hazrat Asiya started a rebellion against her husband and made a dua to God, ‘build for me a house in Paradise near you’.”