The Light In Her Eyes
The Light In Her Eyes
The Light In Her Eyes

The Light In Her Eyes

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A surprising cultural shift is under way—women are claiming space within the mosque.

In a courtyard off a busy street in Damascus, Syria, boisterous girls run and play before class starts in the women’s side of Al-Zahra mosque. Inside the mosque, preacher Houda al-Habash teaches the Qur’an, educating women and girls about their religion, and their rights, within their faith.  

Houda’s school was founded in Damascus 30 years ago and is well-organized and energized—filled with women and girls supporting each other in their studies.  Every summer, her female students immerse themselves in a rigorous study of Islam.  A surprising cultural shift is under way—women are claiming space within the mosque.

Shot right before the uprising in Syria erupted, The Light in Her Eyes offers an extraordinary portrait of a leader who challenges the women of her community to live according to Islam, without giving up their dreams.

Cultural Significance

Most people don’t associate Islam with women’s rights, and that’s exactly what we found interesting about Houda's Qur'an school for girls at Al-Zahra Mosque. Inside this community, we uncovered a lively debate about women’s roles as mothers, teachers, wives, workers, sisters and daughters. Houda insists that secular education is an integral part of worship, because it gives her students the tools to make decisions about their futures. However, the school also emphasizes the importance of modesty and piety. These women and girls are following “the straight path” of Islam, as many women are across the Middle East, because they want to live according to its structure, rules and ethics. —Julia Meltzer & Laura Nix

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