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An Ottoman Feminist

Fatma Aliye

"Since Cenab-i Allah (the Almighty), who is the possessor of virtue and knowledge bestowed to all of its subjects, male and female, (then) is it within the power of men to deny it to women?"

(Fatma Aliye)

One prominent Ottoman women's activist and writer was Fatma Aliye (1862-1936), daughter of the reformer Cevdet Pasha. Aliye argued that the oppression women faced when participating in civil life, including the strict dress codes, stemmed from social customs and traditions, not from Islam itself. Fatma Aliye also wrote a book, Namdaran-i Zenan-i Islamyan (Famous Muslim Women, 1892) about women who played an important role in Ottoman history, the first history book in the Ottoman Empire written by a woman. On the issue of polygamy she engaged in a lively polemic with a conservative writer at the time, Mahmut Esat Efendi.

"If we believe that Islam has universally valid principles, we ought to declare that the monogamous marriage is the one enjoyed by Islam and that the verse of the Kur'an enjoining man to remain with one wife is in accordance with civilisation."

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