Dr Hassan Turabi
The essay ‘Women between Islam and customs of Muslim society’ was first
published in 1973 – using a ‘Gestetner’ printer - with the title
‘Al-marra bayn al-talim wal-Islam wa adaat Muslimeen’ by the Islamic
Movement of Sudan (later renamed the Islamic Charter Front). The author
was named as Hassan Abdullah Dafa’Allah, in reality Dr Hassan Turabi,
then undergoing one of his first prison spells that had begun in 1969
(and to end in 1977).
It was written in a period when Sudanese society was contesting the
issue of women’s right to vote and be elected to parliament. This essay
was a contribution to the debate of that epoch. The Islamic Movement
took a progressive stand, no doubt influenced by the decision of the
Jamaat Islami in Pakistan to support the candidature of Fatima Jinnah,
in preference to General Ayub Khan, in the country’s presidential
elections of 1965. The traditional Sudanese religious circles were in
tune with such developments, with the Chief Qazi, Mohammed el-Gizouli
himself appointing a woman justice in a Shari'a legal system in 1972.
The Bashir-Turabi concordat held true to these progressive values,
leading to the appointment of Ihsan Al-Ghabshawi as Minister of Health
in 1990 and three women judges in 1992. A military parade in 1992 also
included a female contingent on horseback – creating some grumbling by
the visiting delegation from Afghanistan.
In April 2006, Dr Turabi was at the centre of a controversy after a
speech to the Umma Party in which he called on women to play a greater
role in the creation of a just society and also explained his ijtehad on
various matters, including the validity of a Muslim woman to remain
married to someone belonging to the ‘People of the Book’, testimonies,
and donning of the scarf (views he clarified in an interview with the
London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat (21 April 2006).
Dr Turabi remains a leading contemporary Islamic thinker and politician.
After a traditional Islamic education from Sudan he completed a Ph.D
from Sorbonne. He has served Sudan as Speaker of the parliament,
Attorney General, Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and
Deputy Prime Minister.