The study of women in Islam was the focus of a recent academic exchange between Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) and the University of Tubingen in Germany.
Over the course of two days, a group of primary researchers and graduate students from the German university’s Center for Islamic Theology (ZITH) came to GU-Q to attend lectures and take part in strategic meetings with local partners as part of a newly launched joint research project between the two universities.
The project, titled ‘Exploring the Feminine within Islam’, is a multi-year initiative funded by a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service and spearheaded by GU-Q Associate Professor of Theology, Dr Sohaira Siddiqui, with the aim of establishing an international network of female scholars, theologians, and practitioners, to discuss how gender, Islamic law, and theology is taught in university classrooms and studied as a topic of research.
“The study of gender in Islam is predominantly approached from anthropological, sociological, and historical lenses,” explained Dr Siddiqui.
“While these are all important methods of studying gender, through this project, we hope to peel back our layers of understanding to reveal the legal and theological assumptions that underpin the social manifestations of gender issues we see today. By doing so, we can better understand the role theology and Islamic law can play in addressing some of the challenges women face today.”
The long-term goal, she added, includes making materials available online “to assist syllabi design so that it is more inclusive on issues of gender. Inclusive means different perspectives, different geographic locations, and highlighting the voices of practitioners, not just academics.”
During their visit, the ZITH delegation attended a lecture on ‘Singlehood in the Arab Family’ delivered by GU-Q Professor of History, Dr Amira Sonbol, and a presentation on ‘Qatar and the Gulf’ by GU-Q Professor of Government, Dr Rory Miller.
They also took part in a roundtable discussion with Dr Amal al-Malki, founding dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at HBKU.
“Context is very important in studying gender, so we wanted the visiting delegates from Germany to understand how religion, society, and culture in the Qatari context relate to the larger questions we are asking,” explained Dr Siddiqui.
The next step in the project is a workshop in December, hosted by the German counterparts, and includes the participation of a GU-Q graduate currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the American University in Cairo.
“Researchers and practitioners will be coming from at least four continents and representing a variety of perspectives,” said Dr Siddiqui. “There is concerted effort to ensure that the majority of the voices at the workshop are of Muslim women from the Muslim world who service various communities.”
Previously, six GU-Q students and alumni flew to Germany as part of the exchange programme. The German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD (German: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) is the largest German support organisation in the field of international academic co-operation.
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