Azza Soliman

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2011
Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA Foundation)


This profile was prepared when Azza Soliman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Azza, a lawyer and women’s rights activist, is changing how fatwas (religious edicts) are made and produced; from exclusively depending on the opinion of a religious leader and his understanding of the religion, to a participatory and multidisciplinary approach whereby fatwas are based on a keen understanding of the modern socioeconomic and legal context within the flexible and wide framework of religion. Though non-binding and non-sacred, fatwas are highly influential, particularly through their affect on state laws and their widespread use and proclamation.

Azza aims to promote a new religious discourse by structuring and organizing the process of producing a fatwa with a focus on the interpretations related to women’s rights and their position within Islam. She created Religious Reform & Renewal Forum (RRRF) for social scientists, lawyers, politicians, and religious leaders to regularly meet to discuss and produce informed public statements about relevant issues and causes related to women in Islam. To date, Azza has managed to influence a number of laws in Egypt, namely, providing rights for children born out of wedlock—such as requiring DNA testing in a paternity suit, as well as including the mother’s name on all birth certificates.

Azza is bridging the gap between Sharia (Islamic religious law) and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence offering religious interpretations complementing sharia) on women’s issues, by changing the current single faceted religious discourse to a new, multi-dimensioned one, working to produce fatwas that are both based on the original purposes of sharia and are able to meet society’s current needs.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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