Global Resources

Predator and prey: Islamic feminism and the discourse of female-authored novels in northern Nigeria

Author: K. A. Ayoola, F. Hunsu
Publisher: The African Symposium
Publication Date: Dec 2014

NIgeria has a rich history of women writers who have used literature to challenge societal contradictions and discrimination. Now a new generation of writers is emerging. Muslim women’s writing from northern Nigeria has attracted feminist critical attention, but the exploration of this tradition through a blend of feminism and critical discourse analysis has not been explored. Seeking to address this knowledge gap, this study, published in The African Symposium online journal and authored by Kehinde A. Ayoola and Folasade Hunsu, examines Asabe Kabir Usman’s Destinies of Life, and Saliha Abubakar Abdullahi Zaria’s Edge of Fate.

In Destinies of Life, Usman tells the story of Aisha, a young Muslim woman whose parents divorced when she was young. Having lost one fiance in a car accident, Aisha marries, and after twenty years her husband takes a second wife. Subsequent conflict leads Aisha to leave. The story ends with Aisha’s husband falling from grace, alone, and begging Aisha for forgiveness on his death-bed. 
Edge of Fate meanwhile concerns an educated Muslim woman, Salmah, whose mother died when she was young. Unable to marry her first love due to the wealth gap between his rich family and hers, she marries a former army officer. The marriage breaks down when, after four years, it becomes clear Salmah cannot conceive. The story ends “happily” as Salmah is welcomed into her first loves polygamous home.

This study employed Ruth Wodak’s discourse-historical theoretical framework for the elicitation of perspectives on ideology and dominance, and the binaries of inequity in heterosexual relationships in the selected literary works, and the socio-cultural milieu that produced them. It discusses contemporary perspectives on Islamic feminism, from its inevitable existence to the inevitable controversy, and the important distinction that comes from Islamic feminism wishing to retain its Islamic conviction, and emphasise the egalitarian ethics of Islam.

The study shows how these writers use their prose to describe women’s negotiations of feminist ideology, religion, culture and Western education. Also highlighted are the perspectives shared regarding the binaries of Islamic religion and culture, particularly as it relates to the desire of contemporary northern Nigerian Muslim women to extricate themselves from a patriarchal web of inequity and injustice. The authors analysis highlights the dilemma and creative impulse of the contemporary northern Nigerian Muslim woman as she attempts to overcome the forces that inhibit her self-expression without overtly upsetting the applecart of Islam and patriarchal ideologies.