Meet Saleha Abedin, the mother of Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin

As the American election results are about to be finalized, Huma Abedin, Clinton aide and a Muslim of Indian origin, is in the spotlight

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As the American election results are about to be finalized, Huma Abedin, Clinton aide and a Muslim of Indian origin, is in the spotlight again.

Abedin, who’s estranged husband is former Jewish Senator Anthony Weiner, cannot be talked about without reference to her mother Saleha Mahmoud Abedin, a Pakistani who is the vice dean of president Suhair al-Qurashi and a sociology lecturer at Dar al-Hekma College in Jeddah.

Saleha Abedin and her husband Sayed Zainul Abedin, of Indian origin, were both interested in Islamic affairs and they both received their PhDs from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.

Following her husband’s death in 1993, Saleha became the president of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs in Britain which her husband established and she is currently the editor-in-chief of the institute’s journal.

The Arabic website of the Al Arabiya News Channel attempted to searched for Huma Abedin’s mother who, unlike her daughter, avoids media appearances. Besides rare exceptions, Saleha does not take photos with students at Dar al-Hekma College or during the college’s events.

Saleha Abedin’s writings and the master’s thesis she supervised at the faculty of arts and humanities at King Abdulaziz University are one of the ways observers can postulate her position on political matters.

Saleha Abedin’s writings tackled social affairs from an Islamic perspective and in the context of sharia laws. This can be seen in the works she wrote herself and edited as well as in the works of her students.

In 1977, the University of Pennsylvania published her research entitled “Islam and Muslim fertility: Sociological dimensions of a demographic dilemma” which addressed the importance of the demographic factor in explaining social phenomena and problems.

The aim of this research was to look into the reasons behind Muslims’ relatively high fertility rate by looking into the direct interpretation of this from a religious perspective. She also sought to present other interpretations, apart from the religious aspect, and based her work on comparisons between Muslims’ fertility rates and non-Muslims’ fertility rates.

This subject of fertility was of great concern to Saleha in her works as she later focused her research on Saudi fertility rates and pregnancy planning. In 1995, she published a study entitled “Knowledge and attitudes and practices related to reproduction and fertility regulation among Saudi women.”

Her research concluded that those who are less than 35 years old tend to know more about contraceptive methods, and she attributed that to the development of the Saudi kingdom and to the spread of hospitals and clinics and to media openness in the country.

This issue of reproduction and fertility is an important women-related topic and it has meant a great deal to Islamic movements and to the form of the Muslim family.

This matter remained of interest to Saleha. While in Jeddah, one of the master’s theses she supervised at the University of King Abdulaziz in 1996 was entitled: “Birth spacing and its relation to maternal health and the effects of some social and demographic factors.”
One of the most important books which Saleha helped to edit with author Fatima Umar Naseef, the sister of Abdullah Naseef who is the former secretary-general of the Muslim World League, was called “Women in Islam: A discourse in rights and obligations.”

The first edition was published in English in 1999 in Egypt by the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child which is linked to the Union of Muslim Scholars that is headed by Dr Yusuf al-Qardawi.

This book tells us more about Saleha’s opinions. It addresses a number of religious and Islamic affairs related to the rights and obligations of women and children in Islam. It also tackled the marriage of minors, execution, the punishment for adultery (stoning and lashing), the hijab and its conditions, mingling between men and women and women’s work.

It’s worth noting that Clinton includes women affairs in her agenda, according to Western liberal concepts.

Regarding the hijab, Saleha and Naseef based their analysis on Sayyid Qutb’s ideas in his book “In the shade of the Quran.” Qutb said women’s hijab is wise as they must not evoke the interest of men, other than their husband’s and must not provoke sexual desires. They also emphasized that women must not wear perfume when they go out.

Saleha was also an examiner during a student’s defense of a master’s thesis on the education of female students in Jeddah. This was at the faculty of arts and humanities where Saleha was a sociology lecturer. The thesis was published in 1995 and it was entitled “The impact of some social factors on delayed education: An applied study on intermediate female students in Jeddah.”

She also supervised another master’s thesis published in 2002 and entitled: “A study of the relation between selected social factors, the nature of work environment and job satisfaction among Saudi female teachers in high schools.”

*This article was first published in Al Arabiya.Net.

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