Voices from the Past- Huda Shaarawi

Huda Shaarawi
Huda Shaarawi

This post is a Tribute to the late Muslim Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi.

Huda is a woman who helped organize the largest women’s anti-British demonstration in Egypt. A woman who helped organising the historic Muhammad Ali’s hospital, known as Mubarrat Muhammad Ali. Huda is most famous for creating the first philanthropic society run by Egyptian women, offering social services for needy women and poor children.Born in the Egyptian town Al-Minya, Shaarawi fought for Egyptian women to claim their rights as individuals of equal worthiness as men. Daughter of Muhammad Sultan, the first president of the Egyptian Representative Council. Huda learned the Quran and other studies. She received education in various languages and wrote poetry. At a relatively young age, Huda got married to her cousin Ali Shaarawi, who was a leading political activist.

She held to the view that women-run social service projects were crucial as engaging in such projects would encourage women explore new horizons and acquire essential knowledge let alone employ their potential. She also thought that such projects would challenge the misconception that women were mere objects of pleasure and are not to be involved in public work as active members of the society deserving of equal rights and respect as men.

Huda Shaarawi led Egyptian women protests at the opening of Parliament in January 1924, submitting a list of feminist demands, which were challenged by the Wafdist government. This has caused Huda to submit her resignation from the Wafdist Women’s Central Committee, to later continue leading the Egyptian Feminist Union and serving it till her last breath.

Among her notable achievements is the feminist magazine called l’Egyptienne (and el-Masreyya).

Huda represented Egypt at women’s congresses in Graz, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Marseilles, Istanbul, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Interlaken, and Geneva.

Shaarawi advocated peace and disarmament.

Among the widespread misconception about Huda is that she took off her Hijab, Islamic Headscarf as a statement of her rejection of it. But this is not true. Credible information sources show that Huda only revolted against the Full-face veil, and not the headscarf (Hijab) as some claim. And this was to encourage Egyptian women engage in the public well-fare and take active role in the development of their nation, at a time Egyptian women’s role was limited to the house work, confined in their houses with no public influence whatsoever.

Huda was keen to educate herself about Islam, which helped her gain knowledge about her religion without any culturally imposed view, but rather with an open and independent mind. She learned that the full- face veil was not obligatory in Islam, and thus she kept the Hijab, the head-scarf, and took off the face cover.

Huda Shaarawi, a pioneering Muslim Feminist in Egypt, had strong sense of identity. She didn’t copy any foreign or western-imposed view of feminism and held Islam in high esteem.



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