This year’s Research Seminar series kicked-off with a presentation from Birkbeck’s (UoL) Prof. Qudsia Mirza, presenting a paper entitled “Islam, Justice and Gendered Equality”. It was attended by participants from around the world on the interactive online platform, as well as being viewed live by audiences on Al-Mahdi Institute’s YouTube channel.
The presentation served as an overview of the epistemological tensions in the Islamic legal framework from different approaches to the question of gender. The paper began by exploring the possible conceptualisations of ‘justice’, on the premise that this ideal was one that the Islamic sacred texts espouse. In trying to situate the discussion of gender within Islamic law, Prof. Mirza continued to explore peripheral factors that continue to shape the conceptions of today’s jurists, including hermeneutical standpoints and the impact of colonialisation on Muslim-majority societies.
The latter parts of Prof. Mirza’s delivery highlighted the contributions of ‘Islamic feminism’, drawing attention to the heterogeneity within the approaches identified by this label. Admittedly coming from a reformulist standpoint, Prof. Mirza concluded her paper by emphasising the importance of having contending views in effecting progressive change to classical laws, which may be seen as patriarchal or misogynistic. The presentation was followed by a vibrant Q&A session, which allowed for specific terms and notions that were alluded to in the paper to be further unpacked and explored.
Qudsia Mirza teaches law at Birkbeck, University of London. After qualifying as a solicitor, Qudsia joined the University of East London and was Senior Lecturer in Law. On re-locating to the US, she taught at Washington and Lee University, University of Cincinnati and was the Kate Stoneman Professor of Law and Democracy at Albany Law School. She has held visiting Research Fellow positions at the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard Law School, Onati International Institute for the Sociology of Law and is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre on Human Rights in Conflict, University of East London. She has been appointed to executive and advisory positions for a number of organisations including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute, University of North Texas. She is currently appointed to the governance committee of the Law and Society Association and also elected to the Policy Council and to the Executive Committee of Liberty. She has been a member of the editorial boards of Muslim World Journal of Human Rights and Social and Legal Studies. She has published extensively in the area of Islamic Law with a focus on feminist perspectives of Islamic Law and is currently editing a collection entitled Islam, Feminism and Legal Cultures.