There are hundreds of definitions about ‘Life,’ but none gives me its true meaning, than this quote by author Nawal El Salaawi, “Life is very hard. The only people who really live are those who are harder than life itself.” But who is this woman?
Nawal El Saadiaw has been pilloried, censored, imprisoned and exiled for her refusal to accept the oppression imposed on women by gender and class.
In her life and in her writings, this struggle against sexual discrimination has always been linked to a struggle against all forms of oppression: religious, racial, colonial and neo-colonial.
In 1969, she published her first work of non-fiction, Women and Sex ; in 1972, her writings and her struggles led to her dismissal from her job.
From then on there was no respite; imprisonment under Sadat in 1981 was the culmination of the long war she had fought for Egyptian women’s social and intellectual freedom. A Daughter of Isis is the autobiography of this extraordinary woman.
Author Nawal El Salaawi
In 1968 she founded Health magazine, which was shut down by Egyptian authorities several years later, and in 1972 she was expelled from her professional position in the ministry of health because of her book Al-marʾah wa al-jins (1969; Women and Sex), which was condemned by religious and political authorities.
El Saadawi was jailed in September 1981, and during the two months of her imprisonment she wrote Mudhakkirāt fī sijn al-nisāʾ (1984; Memoirs from the Women’s Prison) on a roll of toilet paper using a smuggled cosmetic pencil.
In 1982 El Saadawi founded the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association (AWSA) and later served as editor of the organization’s publication, Al-nūn. In 1991 the government closed down Al-nūn and then, several months later, AWSA itself. Due to her outspoken views, El Saadawi continued to face frequent legal challenges from political and religious opponents, including accusations of apostasy.
In 2002 a legal attempt was made by an Islamist lawyer to forcibly divorce her from her husband, and in May 2008 she won a case that had been brought against her by al-Azhar University, the major centre of Islamic learning, that included charges of apostasy and heresy.
El Saadawi’s novels, short stories, and nonfiction deal chiefly with the status of Arab women, as inMudhakkirāt tabībah (1960; Memoirs of a Woman Doctor), Al-khayt wa al-jidār (1972; The Thread and the Wall), Al-wajh al-ʿarī lī al-marʾah al-arabiyyah (1977; The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World), Al-ḥubb fī zaman al-nafṭ (1993; Love in the Kingdom of Oil), and Al-riwāyah (2004; The Novel).
The oppression of women by men through religion is the underlying theme of El Saadawi’s novel set in a mental institution, Jannāt wa Iblīs (1992; Jannāt and Iblīs). The female protagonists are Jannāt, whose name is the plural of the Arabic word for paradise, and Iblīs, whose name refers to the devil.