Zaynab al-Ghazālī (1917-2005) is regarded as a pioneering figure in the field of women’s preaching and religious teaching in Egypt. Her story, however, remains largely undocumented. In Western scholarship, al-Ghazālī has often been framed in terms of a contradictory figure, whose own choices flagrantly undercut her statements on the role of women in Islamic society. Trying to go beyond this type of appraisal,
her writings are analyzed in order to question whether or not Zaynab al-Ghazālī’s intellectual genealogy should be understood within the context of her considerable exposure to a well-developed discourse of women’s rights at the turn of the twentieth century. Indeed, she made available to Muslim women a particular field of arguments, while foreclosing for them certain possibilities for action. Overall, her statements and choices in life need to be read as a function of her historical and geographical context and her positioning needs to be framed within the consciousness on the role women had come to play in the public domain.
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