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MUSA, NABAWIYAH (1886-1951), feminist and pioneer in women’s education. Born in Zagazig, Egypt, the daughter of Musa Muhammad, an army captain who died before her birth, Nabawiyah was raised in Cairo by her mother. Beginning her education at home with the help of her older brother, Nabawiyah entered the girls’ section of the `Abbas Primary School, receiving her certificate in 1903. She began teaching at `Abbas in 1906, after completing the Teachers’ Training Program at the Saniyah School. Musa resolved to obtain a secondary school diploma when she discovered that male teachers with this degree received higher pay. But, in the absence of government secondary school for girls, Musa prepared at home for the state baccalaureate examination. Overcoming objections from colonial education officials, she successfully completed the exam in 1907. She became the first woman to teach Arabic in the state school system, incurring the wrath of religiously trained shaykhs, who monopolized Arabic instruction. In 1909 she was appointed principal of the Girls’ School in Fayyum, an oasis west of Cairo, the first Egyptian woman to hold such a post. The following year she became principal of the Women Teachers’ Training School in Mansfirah. In 1915, Musa was principal of the Wardiyan Women Teachers’ Training School in Alexandria. Nine years later she was appointed chief inspector of female education in the Ministry of Education. She incurred numerous adversaries as an efficient and strongwilled administrator who enforced a strict moral code among teachers and students, and was dismissed from the ministry in 1926. She then founded and ran two private schools for girls, al-Tarqiyah al-Fatah primary school in Alexandria and Banat al-Ashraf secondary school in Cairo.
Musa’s feminism and nationalist aspirations were expressed in her everyday life. Discreetly unveiling around 1909, in full awareness that concealing the face was not an Islamic prescription, Musa remained fastidious about covering her hair and wearing modest clothing. When the Egyptian University opened in 1908 Musa was refused enrollment, but the following year was invited to lecture in the university’s special extracurricular program for women. During the Egyptian national independence movement of 1919-1922, Musa maintained the operation of her school, rather than demonstrating and risking closure, considering this a political act in itself and insisting that education was the strongest weapon against colonial domination. In 1920 she published Al-mar’ah wa-al-`amal (The Woman and Work), promoting education and work for women as a means of individual and national liberation within the framework of Islamic modernism. In 1923, the year after Egyptian independence, Musa joined the Egyptian Feminist Union, attending the Rome Conference of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance as a member of the union’s delegation. However, Musa soon rejected movement feminism, preferring the mode of everyday activism within the context of her profession as an educator. She also sustained advocacy through her writings, including Al-dyah al-bayyinah ft tarbiyat al-bandt (The Clear Model in the Education of Girls), Diwdn al -fatah (The Young Woman Collection of Poems), and Riwdyah Nabhutub (Nabhutub: A Novel). In 1937 she founded Majallat al -fatah (The Magazine of the Young Woman), which published through 1943.
Musa’s educational career came to an end in 1942 when she was imprisoned for publicly protesting the Egyptian government’s conciliatory policy regarding national sovereignty in the face of British pressure. She died in retirement in 1951. Four decades later the Egyptian state honored her by stamp. Musa is claimed as and Islamists alike.
[See also Feminism.]
Badran, Margot. “Expressing Feminism and Nationalism in Autobiography: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Educator.” In De/Colonizing the Subject, edited by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, pp. 2’70293. Minneapolis, 1992.
Badran, Margot. “From Consciousness to Activism: Feminist Politics in Early Twentieth-Century Egypt.” In Problems of the Middle East in Historical Perspective, edited by John P. Spagnolo, pp. 27-48. London, 1992.
Badran, Margot. Feminists, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton, 1995.
Kazim, Safinaz Muhammad. “AI-Rd’idah Nabawiyah Musa wa-In’ash Dhakirat al-Ummah” (The Pioneer Nabawiyah Musa and Reviving the Nation’s Memory). Al-hildl (January 1984): 116-119.
Musa, Nabawiyah. Dhikrayati (Memoirs). Serialized in Majallat alfatah (The Magazine of the Young Woman) from 1938 to 1942. Other works by Musa are cited in the text.

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/musa-nabawiyah/

  • writerPosted On: September 29, 2014
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