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Literature, Islam and feminism in the works of Fadia Faqir and Leila Aboulela: a comparative literary study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Areej Bashammakh
Publication date2018
Number of pages221
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Department of English Language, College of Social Sciences, Umm Al Qura University, Saudi Arabia
  • Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Britain, Saudi Cultural Bureau
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis focuses on Muslim literature, a diverse literature that includes literary works produced in English by Muslim authors of different ethnicities and cultural heritages. Uniquely, it approaches this literature from a religious perspective and concentrates on the religious domain, which has been usually avoided by postcolonial studies examining Muslim literature. Muslim literature is usually analysed from a secular perspective that focuses on highlighting cultural diversity among Muslim authors but sheds limited light on their religious diversity. This secular approach dominates partly because of the limitation of postcolonial theory in relation to Islam, and partly because of the conflict created between Islam and literature by Muslim critics, both secular and religious.
In focusing on the religious rather than the cultural domain, I limit the scope of my examination to include only contemporary Muslim writers who have the same ethnicity and similar cultural backgrounds. To be precisely, I concentrate on contemporary British Arab Muslim writers, specifically, Fadia Faqir (1956–, of Jordanian origin) and Leila Aboulela (1964–, of Sudanese and Egyptian origin). I also select Islamic feminism itself as a site of religious diversity. My main objective is to compare and contrast Islamic feminist consciousness as revealed by Aboulela and Faqir, whether explicitly or implicitly, in their fiction that they produced from the 1990s to the 2010s. My aim in comparing and contrasting the Islamic feminism of Aboulela and Faqir is to illustrate my argument that their Islamic feminism varies enormously from a religious perspective. Faqir focuses on giving her female Muslim protagonists a voice and power in order to withstand patriarchal Arab cultural and social traditions and an inherited legal system and doctrinal rules that subvert Muslim women, whereas Aboulela makes the Islamic faith a source of spiritual emancipation that strengthens her female Muslim protagonists internally.
This thesis is important because it contributes to expanding existing literary criticism in relation to Muslim literature, which is achieved by exploring the feminist consciousness of Aboulela and Faqir, two contemporary British Arab Muslim authors who emphasise the centrality of Islam in their postcolonial feminist fiction. It is also achieved by using Islamic feminism as a key methodology that provides a better understanding of how Aboulela and Faqir use Islam as a framework for their feminism, what challenges they face in doing so and how they manage to overcome these challenges.