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Female Leadership in Muslim Societies: Theological and Socio-Cultural Debates in Contemporary Literature


For centuries, Muslim women have been considered legally unqualified for judicial, political, and other highest leadership positions in the public domain. The contemporary debates range from constructing and reconstructing theological contestation to identifying and analysing various socio-cultural realities around Muslim women’s lives which made it more challenging for them to claim leadership. Today, in one hand, a growing number of literatures are challenging conservative religious interpretations that disfavour female leadership and calling to reread religious source texts. On the other hand, many literatures are raising voices on social gender perceptions and cultural biases which create barriers for women leadership. The recent inauguration of hijab-clad Muslim female presidents in Tanzania and Singapore also manifests a positive paradigm shift in collective Muslim consciousness to female leadership. To understand this change, this paper looks into both theological and socio-cultural aspects to outline the different positions and new developments in contemporary literature in identifying the burdens on Muslim women’s shoulders that curtail their aspirations for leadership participation. This study argues that contemporary literature reveals a complex and formidable development in the debate that demands more careful attention to accommodate the changing environment and attitudes in Muslim societies regarding the permissibility and plausibility of female leadership.


Female leadership, Islam, Hadith, Culture, Muslim societies



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