Published On:02 February 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

INTERVIEW WITH MS. UZMA NAHEED: ‘Women should get their due’

By Mrudu Naik

Muscat: Women should be given their due if societies and nations are to progress, says Uzma Naheed, founder director and trustee of Iqra Education Foundation, Mumbai, a subsidiary of IQRA International Educational Foundation, Chicago (USA), and founder and president of IIWA (IQRA International Women Alliance).

A well known name in India, Uzma has been engaged in various social, economic and educational activities for the last two decades. Her commendable work in the field of education and economic uplifting, particularly of Muslim women, has been lauded by religious scholars.
She is the daughter of Moulana Mohammed Salim Qasmi, vice chancellor of Darul Uloom 
(Waqf) Deoband University in India.

In an interview with Times of Oman Uzma said, “If women know their rights and status in the society, they can do wonders.”

She commended the importance given to women in the Omani society. “I feel immensely happy that women here are given their due. Other countries should learn from Oman,” she averred.

Uzma, who refuses the ‘feminist’ tag, calls herself a reformist who works within the framework of Islamic laws. “I convince women that everything I ask them to take up or do is within the Islamic law. Besides, I am not against men. They are an important part of the society.”

“If we look at the history of Islam, we find that women have been very much involved in social, economic and religious activities. It is sad that despite very clear understanding of the position of women in Islam, Muslims have generally adopted various customs and traditions regarding the position and treatment of women, which were quite discriminatory in nature,” she said.

IIWA (Iqra International Women’s Alliance) was launched to help Muslim women become active members of the society. “It was formed to empower women by building capacities through education, health and skill-based development,” she said.

“Besides, IIWA provides a platform to Muslim women to come forward, express their views and work positively for the Ummah strictly within the framework of Shariah.”

IIWA also came out with a novel idea of interest-free micro finance scheme for poor women through which raw material is supplied on credit to poor women who make creative products.
IIWA has trained over 3,000 women in fields like fashion designing, textile designing, interior designing, cooking, beauty culture, computer skills, journalism, photography, handicrafts, candle making and soft toys making.

“We have also helped them with marketing for their products. The money they earn goes directly to them. When a woman is economically empowered, she will not feel suppressed,” she said.
Uzma believes women across the world should unite to support each other. “IIWA is present in all major cities of India. We help women from all religions. We are now concentrating on South East Asia. We hope to work in Oman too. Omani women’s arts and crafts products can be sold in India and vice versa. With the support of the authorities, we can think of cooperating with women’s groups here,” she said.

Adopting a slum

IIWA has also adopted a Muslim dominated slum area called Ambujwadi near Malad in Mumbai, which was in extremely bad shape. “We are still in the process of rebuilding it,” she informed.

Uzma has been a social activist for the last 25 years. She is a senior member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board and has worked hard to introduce a model Nikahnama (marriage contract).
“With the help of Ulema, I discussed the concept and introduction of a conditional Nikahnama to protect women from people who take undue advantage of Shariah and go scot-free. I initiated discussions and arranged meetings of Ulema with scholars, advocates and social activists and arranged for drafting a model Nikahnama. Fiqh Academy sent this issue to hundreds of Ulema all over the country and their opinion were published as Ishteraat Fin Nikah. After heated discussions and deliberations, the Muslim Personal law Board adopted the Nikahnama, which is being used in India”, she explained.

It was victory for her when all sects agreed that women can put conditions at the time of marriage.

She has authored four books on Islamic perspective on family planning, polygamy, equality of men and women, and the concept of divorce in Islam.

Being the founder of its branch in India, Uzma is actively involved in IQRA International Education Foundation, “which is a non-profit Islamic educational establishment (waqf) instituted for sound Islamic instruction in the modern world.”

IQRA is made up of educators, scholars and community workers who together possess vast knowledge of the Islamic faith as well as up-to-date educational theories and teaching methods.
“IQRA’s school curriculum is followed in 40 countries across the world and this has been translated into 13 languages. The US chapter is handling Europe and we are handling South East Asia. I am keen to discuss about IQRA’s educational material in Oman since the curriculum is designed with great depth and has received many awards in the world,” noted Uzma.

“We have introduced IQRA to 200 schools in India,” she added.

She is also proud that IQRA believes in the importance of establishing positive interfaith dialogue in order to cultivate peace, harmony, social justice and initiatives across a broad spectrum of communities.

Uzma has faced many challenges to accomplish the body of work she has undertaken. “Despite the family background I came from, I went through hardships like a common woman could go through, to get my point across. Since I was clear with my thoughts it was easy to convince people,” she said.

Uzma continues to be an inspiration for women worldwide. Contact: iqraindia@hotmail.com for details.

(Courtesy: Times of Oman)

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