[This article has been authored by Farhan Zia, student at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat. This article attempts to examine the reforms in the Muslim Personnel law from a feminist perspective from the lens of intersectionality.]
India has witnessed great changes in its Muslim personal law, which much like other personal laws has not been just towards women. But the feminist legal reforms that have occurred through legislative or judicial means have largely been from outside the paradigm of religion. This leads to Muslim women being governed by personal laws which are largely created by male interpretations and/or state interference, implicitly condoning (and at times supporting) an illegitimate hierarchy of sexes, which under the guise of protection of religion, greatly impacts the identity of the Muslim woman. Feminist jurisprudence operates exclusively by reforming social and legal norms, while excluding religious norms entirely.
This article, therefore, undertakes an examination of the reforms in and feminist jurisprudence on Muslim personal law through the lens of intersectionality. It will provide a brief introduction to the sources of Muslim personal law and the judicial and juristic trends that have led to its patriarchal nature. Subsequently, a theoretical examination of feminism will be undertaken to highlight its exclusion of religious Muslim women from its subjects. This creates a conundrum where Muslim women are caught between either being Muslim or being women. Islamic feminism, a transnational discourse and movement which has emphasized on injecting women’s voices into hermeneutics and the critical study of Islamic jurisprudence will then be described in brief. The article thus concludes, that Islamic feminism serves as a method that is both intersectional as well as important for creating legal change that preserves the religious autonomy and identity of the Muslim woman.