About this guide

Welcome to your Cornell University Library research guide: Women in Islam!woman on camel

Here you will find general background and also in-depth information sources on a broad range of topics covering women’s issues in Islam and the Muslim World. Click on the tabs above for links to resources and specific information on the religion and its ideology dealing with issues such as feminism, dress code, family and marriage, women’s legal status, etc. This Guide aims to provide links to selected sources, which offer diverse, objective, balanced and rational perspectives of the topics. Your first point of contact with these resources should be the Library Discovery Tool (online catalog). This is where you will find information on all types of materials and how to get them. You will also find information on your loans, opening hours, and subject specialists who can answer your questions.

Disclaimer of Endorsement:  The University does not necessarily agree with assertions and opinions expressed in the resources listed in this guide. These are provided for the researcher to discover, contrast and compare.

Terms & Concepts

What is Islam? Check the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary for a definition and the Encyclopedia Britannica for information on the history, principles and practices of Islam.

Sunnis and Shia: Islam's ancient schism - BBC, UK.

Crescent (symbol of Islam) WHAT is the origin of the crescent moon symbol seen throughout Islamic cultures? Source: theguardian.com

Islam - Muslim - Moslem - Islamist

Ten Things Everyone Needs to Know about Islam - Excerpts from Esposito, John L. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies - Taylor & Francis Concepts in Islamic Studies series spans a number of subject areas that are closely linked to the religion.

Intro to Islam Research Paper Lynette White, Jessica  Alsobrooks, et al.

Women's Rights

Women, Gender, Islam and Feminism | Source: Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures

The Rise of the Islamic Feminists | Source: The Nation

The reality and future of Islamic feminism | Source: Al Jazeera English

Muslim Women's Quest for Equality: Between Islamic Law and Feminism | Source: Critical Inquiry 32 (Summer 2006) 2006 by The University of Chicago [pdf]

Women and Islam - Oxford Islamic Studies Online

“The Secret Slaves of the Middle East”

The story of how poverty leads unprivileged women from developing countries to be deceived and trafficked into slavery.

What it's like to be Muslim in America

Presented at an official TED conference, February 2016


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Women in Islam: Introduction to the Topic

This guide highlights resources that are part of the discourse on Islam and women, including some that are useful for background information and others that provide research, analyses and opinions considering various social, political, historical and cultural frameworks. The scope encompasses women and Islamic cultures in every region where there have been significant Muslim populations. “Islam” comprises close to half of all Africans, one-third of Asians and growing numbers of Europeans and Americans, representing a wide diversity of cultures, races, ethnicities and languages.

In Muslim majority countries, where Islamic beliefs and cultures are prevalent, complex relationships between women and Islam are generally defined and influenced by Islamic texts, as well as by the historical, cultural and social contexts.

Pew Research article

It is often difficulty to draw a clear delineation in attempting to identify what is a culture-bound custom and what is truly an Islamic provision as found in the canons of the Qur’an (Oxford ISO), Islam’s holy book.

An examination of roles established both for and by Muslim women relies on Islam’s foundational sources.

Historically, the interpretation of Islam has been largely a male endeavor. Although the first convert to Islam was a woman (Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah), and women played an important role in the transmission of Hadith (transmission of prophetic sayings and deeds) and the development of Sufism.

For Muslim women there are four legal sources of influence (in matters of personal law): The first two, the Qur’an and Hadith, are considered primary sources, while the other two are secondary and derived sources that differ between various Muslim schools of legal thought. The secondary sources of influence include Qiyas(deduction of legal prescriptions), Ijma'(consensus or agreement) and, in forms such as Ijtihad“independent reasoning,” as opposed to Taqlid(imitation) and Fatwa(authoritative legal opinion given by a mufti or legal scholar). [More: On the Sources of Islamic Law and Practices Journal of Law and Religion].

File:Use of Sharia by country.svgUse, by country, of Sharia for legal matters relating to women:

Sharia plays no role in the judicial system

Sharia applies to Muslims in personal status issues only

Sharia applies in full, including criminal law

Regional variations in the application of sharia

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'Women in Islam’ is an issue that engenders widely varying opinions, interpretations and beliefs. Literature on this subject should be used with caution, as sources, especially on the Internet, range in authority and quality from rigorous research to deliberate misinformation.

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pointing handGreat women in Islamic History: a forgotten legacy - FUNCI

pointing handWorld Hijab Day Organization, Inc. (Non-Profit)

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Spotlights*Current Interest Topics

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America’s most famous statue was Muslim [woman] before she became Lady Liberty

Statue of Liberty

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Women Living under Muslim Law WLUML is an international solidarity network that provides information, support and a collective space for women whose lives are shaped, conditioned or governed by laws and customs said to derive from Islam.

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book cover: the muslimah sex guide


Olin Library BP190.5.S4 U46 2017

Halal sex - The Independent

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Why Does China Have Women-only Mosques? / Michael Wood (WORLD RELIGION NEWS - 28 Jun 2017)

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Indonesia's Women Ulamas How a growing number of Muslim women clerics are challenging traditional narratives / Rachel Rinaldo. June 6, 2017.

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Voices above the chaos: female war poets from the Middle East ... [The Observer]

Voices above the chaos: female war poets from the Middle East.The carnage in Turkey and Syria has led to a blossoming of poetry – with women at the forefront. Here, two of them, one Syrian and one Kurdish, tell their stories.

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Women lead Friday prayers at Denmark's first female-run mosque

Sherin Khankan

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China's proud 300-year history of female-led mosques

female led mosque

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Reinventing Moroccan Traditions: Women in Tbourida

Iran's Narges Mohammadi wins 2023 Nobel Peace Prize

“Zan – Zendegi – Azadi”
“Woman – Life – Freedom”

Featured. New/Current Interest Themes

A video of a woman in a skirt sparks outrage in Saudi Arabia

After the video appeared on Snapchat, some Saudis called for the woman's arrest because her skirt stops above her knees and she is wearing a top that shows her midriff.

“Zan – Zendegi – Azadi”
“Woman – Life – Freedom”

Woman, Life, Freedom Movement of Iran web archive. This web archive preserves material on, about, and from the Woman, Life, Freedom movement of Iran, which emerged in the wake of the 2022 police killing of Mahsa Jîna Amini. Her arrest by the morality police, on alleged grounds of non-compliance with the compulsory Hijab Law, ignited a series of protests that began in Kurdistan, spread across all levels of Iranian society, and reached other marginalized regions like Sistan-Baluchistan. This movement garnered international solidarity, with the Iranian diaspora and global activists demanding accountability from the Iranian government.


Saudi Arabia women hail end of driving ban - BBC News [27 Oct., 2017]

book cover: Women and driving

al-Sādis min Nūfimbir, al-marʼah wa-qiyādat al-sayyārah, 1990 M / ʻĀʼishah Muḥammad ʻAbd Allāh al-Māniʻ, Ḥiṣṣah Muḥammad ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Āl al-Shaykh.[6 November 1990 : Woman & driving * A book (Arabic) about the first women's protests for the right to drive, includes many documents]

[Also: Joyriding in Riyadh by Pascal Menoret]


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Great women in Islamic History: a forgotten legacy - FUNCI


An Early Feminist: Al-Kahina, 7th Century North African Queen--Fact or Fancy?

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Female lion tamer

Women of the Islamic State : Amanifestoon womenby the AlKhanssaaBrigade/Translation and analysis by Charlie Winter

Middle East & Islamic Studies Curator

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Ali Houissa

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