• Category Category: S
  • View View: 390
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

SHA’AWI, HUDA (June 23, 1879 – December 12, 1947), Egyptian feminist leader. Born in Minya in Upper Egypt to Sultan Pasha, a wealthy landowner and provincial administrator, and Iqbal Hanim, a young woman of Circassian origin, Nur al-Huda Sultan (known after her marriage as Huda Sha’rawi) was raised in Cairo. Following her father’s death when she was four, Huda was raised in a household headed by both her mother and a co-wife. Tutored at home, Huda became proficient in French (the language of the elite) but, despite efforts to acquire fluency in Arabic, was permitted only enough instruction to memorize the Qur’an. Through comparisons with her younger brother, Huda became acutely aware of gender difference, the privileging of males, and the restrictions placed upon females. At thirteen, she reluctantly acquiesced to marriage with her paternal cousin, `Ali Sha’rawi, her legal guardian and the executor of her father’s estate. At fourteen she began a seven-year separation from her husband. During this time (the 1 890s), she attended a women’s salon, where through discussions with other members, Huda became aware that veiling the face and female confinement in the home were not Islamic requirements, as women had been led to believe. (Such critical examination of customary practice vis-a-vis religious prescription was part of the Islamic modernist movement initiated by Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh in the nineteenth century.) In 1900 Sha’rawi resumed married life. She gave birth to a daughter, Bathna, in 1903 and a son, Muhammad, in 1905. In 1909 Sha’rawi helped found the secular women’s philanthropy, the Mabarrat Muhammad `All, bringing together Muslim and Christian women to operate a medical dispensary for poor women and children. That same year she helped organize the first “public” lectures for and by women, held at the new Egyptian University and in the offices of the liberal newspaper, Al-jaridah. In 1914 she participated in forming the Women’s Refinement Union (al-Ittihad al-Nisa’I alTahdibl) and the Ladies Literary Improvement Society (Jam’iyat al-Raqy al-Adablyah lil-Sayyidat al-Misrlyat). Sha’rawi was active in the movement for national independence from 1919 to 1922. An organizer of the first women’s demonstration in 1919, she became the president of the Women’s Central Committee (Lajnat alWafd al-Markaziyah lil-Sayyidat) of the (male) nationalist Wafd party. Sha’rawi led militant nationalist women in broadening the popular base of the party, organizing boycotts of British goods and services, and assuming central leadership roles when nationalist men were exiled.

In 1923, the year after independence, Sha’arawi spearheaded the creation of the Egyptian Feminist Union (al-Ittihad al-Nisa’i al-Misrl; EFU) and, as president, led the first organized feminist movement in Egypt (and in the Arab world). That same year, while returning from the Rome Conference of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (which she attended as an EFU delegate), she removed her face veil in public in an act of political protest. Sha’rawi generously donated her personal wealth to the work of the Egyptian Feminist Union, while also supporting other organizations and individuals. She opened the House of Cooperative Reform (Dar al-Ta’awun al-Islahi), a medical dispensary for poor women and children and a center for crafts training for girls, in 1924 under the aegis of the EFU, and the following year founded L’Egyptienne, a monthly journal serving the feminist movement. Several years later, in 1937, she established the Arabic bimonthly Al-mifriyah (The Egyptian Woman).

The feminist movement of which Sha’rawi was a leader brought together Muslim and Christian women of the upper and middle classes who identified as Egyptians. Although a secular movement, its agenda was articulated within the framework of modernist Islam. The feminist movement supported women’s right to all levels of education and forms of work, called for full political rights for women, advocated reform of the Personal Status Code, pressured the government to provide basic health and social services to poor women, and demanded an end to state-licensed prostitution. Along

with these woman-centered reforms, Sha’rawi stressed the nationalist goals of the feminist movement, calling for Egyptian sovereignty, including an end to British military occupation and the termination of the capitulations, which extended privileges and immunities to foreigners. In 1937 she created three dispensaries, a girls’ school, and a boys’ school in villages in the province of Minya, and later a short-lived branch of the Egyptian Feminist Union in the city of Minya. As a nationalist feminist, Sha’rawi was active in the international women’s movement, serving on the executive board of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (later called the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship) from 1926 until her death. In 1938 she hosted the Women’s Conference for the Defense of Palestine. Sha’rawi played a key role in consolidating Pan-Arab feminism, which grew out of Arab women’s collective national activism on behalf of Palestine, organizing the Arab Feminist Conference in Cairo in 1944. She was elected president of the Arab Feminist Union (al-Ittihad al-Nisa’i al-`Arabi), created in 1945. Shortly before her death in 1947, the Egyptian state awarded Sha’rawi- its highest decoration.

[See also Feminism.]


Works by Huda Sha`rawi

“Discours de Mme. Charaoui Pacha, Presidente de I’Union Feministe Egyptienne.” L’Egyptienne (December 1933): 10-14. Speech given at a ceremony honoring the first women to graduate from university in Egypt, dealing with the evolution of Egyptian women with a focus on education.

“Asas al-Nahdah al-Nisa’iyah wa-Tatawwuratiha fi Misr” (The Foundation of the Feminist Renaissance and Its Evolution in Egypt). Majallat al-Shu’un al-Ijtima’iyah (Cairo) (August 1941): 16-24. Broad overview.

Mudhakkirdt Hudd Sha’rawi, Rd’idat al-Mar’ah al-`Arabiyah alHadithah (The Memoirs of Huda Sha’rawi, Pioneer of the Modern Arab Woman). Introduction by Aminah al-Said. Cairo, 1981.

Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist. Translated, edited, and introduced by Margot Badran. London, 1986. English translation of the Mudhakkirdt.

Other Sources

Badran, Margot. “Dual Liberation: Feminism and Nationalism in Egypt from the 1870s-1925.” Feminist Issues 8.1 (Spring 1988): 15-34.

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.

Subki, Amal al-. Al-harakah al-nisa’iyah ft Misr ma bayna althawratayn 1919 wa 1952. Cairo, 1986.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/shaawi-huda/

  • writerPosted On: August 2, 2017
  • livePublished articles: 768

Most Recent Articles from S Category:

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Translate »