Rauf Ezzat, Heba (1965–)

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Rauf Ezzat, Heba

Heba Rauf Ezzat (also Hiba Ra'uf Izzat) is an Egyptian political scientist and Islamic thinker and activist.


Rauf Ezzat was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1965. She was educated in German Catholic schools and received a Ph.D. in political science from Cairo University, where she now teaches. In 1995–1996, she was visiting researcher at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom, and at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in 1998.


Rauf Ezzat has become a prominent spokesperson on gender issues in Egypt and on the Internet. From 1992 to 1997 she wrote a weekly column, "Women's Voice," for al-Sha'b, the Islamist-leaning newspaper of the Egyptian Labor Party. She supports change from within to counter what she sees as secularization of the (Muslim) family. Conceptualizing the Muslim family as outside of history, she criticizes Western feminists for analyzing it within the framework of the rise of bourgeois and patriarchal social structures. Yet she gives more centrality to gender than do many Islamic activists, such as her mentors, Zaynab al-Ghazali and Safinaz Kazim. Arguing from central texts of Islamic jurisprudence, she finds strong precedent for women's participation as leaders in public life as long as they are Islamically qualified.

She has written Women in Politics: An Islamic Perspective (1995) and Religion, Women and Ethics (2001). In May 2005, she called on Egyptians to wear black to protest the assault on women protesters a week earlier while they were protesting during a national constitutional referendum.


Although knowledgeable about Western political philosophy, in her polemics Rauf Ezzat nevertheless expresses common misperceptions about European and American society. She tends to support monolithic notions of "Islamic" and "Western" societies as inevitably dichotomized. She rejects the label of "feminist" and sees feminism as a diversionary and unnecessary practice, irrelevant to those who work within an Islamic framework.


Still active on the Egyptian scene, it is too early to assess Rauf Ezzat's ultimate legacy, but she is sure to play a continued role in Egyptian women's dialogues about gender issues.


Name: Heba Rauf Ezzat (Hiba Ra'uf Izzat)

Birth: 1965, Cairo, Egypt

Family: Married, three children

Nationality: Egyptian

Education: Ph.D., political-science, Cairo University


  • 1992–1997: Writes weekly column for al-Sha'b
  • 1995: Visiting researcher, University of Westminster; writes Women in Politics: An Islamic Perspective
  • 1998: Visiting researcher, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies
  • 2001: Religion, Women and Ethics is published


Gawhary, Karim, el-. "An Interview with Heba Ra'uf Ezzat." Middle East Report 191 (November-December 1994): 26-27.

Karam, Azza. Women, Islamisms and the State: Contemporary Feminisms in Egypt. London: Macmillan, 1998.

Rauf Ezzat, Heba. "Women and the Interpretation of Islamic Sources." In Islam 21. Available at http://www.islam21.net/pages/keyissues/key2-6.htm.

                                               Marilyn Booth

                           updated by Michael R. Fischbach