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Malak Hifni Nasif (25 December 1886 – 17 October 1918)

NASIF, MALAK HIFNI (25 December 1886 – 17 October 1918), feminist and writer known as Bahithat al-Badiyah (Searcher in the Desert). Daughter of a scholar and litterateur, Nasif entered the `Abbas Primary School when the state opened a girls’ section in 1895. Receiving her diploma in 1901, she began to teach while enrolled in the Teachers’ Training Program at Saniyah School, where she received her certificate in 1905. She left her teaching post two years later upon marriage to `Abd al-Sattar alBassal, a bedouin chief, and settled with him in Fayyum oasis. Although obliged by the Ministry of Education as well as personal circumstances to stop teaching after marriage, Nasif continued to write, publishing under the name Bahithat al-Badiyah. She spoke in the women’s lecture series begun in 1 909 and held at the Egyptian University and in the offices of the liberal newspaper, Al -jaridah. Her essays, newspaper articles, and speeches were collectively published in Al-nisd’iyat (Women’s/”Feminist” Pieces), a pioneering feminist book.

A reformer in the Islamic modernist tradition focusing on gender, Nasif inveighed against men’s abuses relating to divorce and polygamy. Appropriating a male Muslim nationalist forum, the Egyptian Congress meeting in Heliopolis in 1911, she sent a list of feminist demands insisting specifically that women be allowed to participate in congregational worship in mosques, to study in all fields, and to enter all occupations and professions, and, more generally, that women be permitted to develop themselves (as enjoined by Islam upon all believers) and to contribute to the welfare of the ummah (the community and nation). She also called for reform of the Muslim Personal Status Code. Unswerving in her goals but cautious in her methods, Nasif did not advocate uncovering of the face (although she knew this form of veiling was not ordained by Islamic religion) until society was better prepared to accept this change. Following the Italian invasion of Libya in 1911, Nasif initiated a program in Cairo to train women as nurses. In 1914 she participated in founding the Women’s Refinement Union (al-Ittihad al-Nisa’i al-Tahdhibi) and the Ladies Literary Improvement Society (Jam’iyat alRaqy al-Adabiyah lil-Sayyidat al-Misriyat). When Nasif died in 1918 at the age of thirty-two, women and men alike paid her homage. In commemorating the life and work of Malak Hifni Nasif, future feminist leader Huda Sha’rawi publicly pledged to continue her struggle on behalf of women.

[See also Feminism and the biography of Sha`rawi.]


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, 199.

Badran, Margot. Feminists, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton, 1995.

Nasif, Malak Hifni. Athar Bahithat al-Badiyah Malak Hifni Ndsif, 1886-1918 (Works of Bahithat al-Badiyah). Edited by Maid al-Din Hifni Nasif. Cairo, 1962.

Ziyadah, Mayy. Bahithat al-Badiyah: Dirdsah naqdtyah (Bahithat alBadiyah: A Critical Research) (1920). Beirut, 1983.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/nasif-malak-hifni/

  • writerPosted On: May 27, 2017
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