Perceptions of Islamic Scholars towards Women’s Political Empowerment in Pashtun Society (A Case Study of District Mardan)
The aim of this study is to provide an in-depth insight into the perception of Islamic Scholars regarding women political empowerment in Pashtin society that ultimately plays a big role in shaping the public opinion on grass root level that either encourages or bars women from participating in political affairs. Being an important agent of public opinion not only in religious affairs but social issues as well, beliefs and estimation of Islamic scholars are powerful voices in shaping the narratives in communities and society including emancipation of women in the largely conservative, patriarchal and comparatively religious Pashtun society particularly in the rural areas. The study was qualitative in nature and data was collected through in-depth interviews from respondents selected on quota sampling technique in the absence of a sampling frame. Data was collected from 30 respondents including 15 Deobandis, 5 Islamic studies lecturers and professors, 10 Barelvis , 2 Shiites and 3 Ahle Hadith Ulema via semi-structured in-depth interviews including 5 female Ulema to represent the major sects of Islam in the region. It was found that Ahle Hadith and Deobandis were comparatively more conservative while academics and Shiites were the most progressive group of the sample regarding female political empowerment. It was revealed that this is a sensitive subject with no clear consensus. The most conservative Ulema who opposed women participation in politics cited the example of Shura consisting of only males to decide the Caliphs (Muslim rulers) where as the most progressive of them cited examples of equality derived from the Koran and the leadership of Aisha (the widow of Prophet Muhammad SAW) especially in rebellion against Caliph Ali (R.A). There was considerable diversity of views as well as levels of tolerance and support for women political empowerment. While most scholars accepted the political rights of women in principle, some contested this by citing other negative social consequences of women participation in the current political set up; others thought of women emancipation as necessary for the progress of the community, society, country and humanity.
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