Advocates refer to the observation that Muslim majority countries produced several female heads of state, prime ministers, and state secretaries such as Lala Shovkat of Azerbaijan, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Mame Madior Boye of Senegal, Tansu Çiller of Turkey, Kaqusha Jashari of Kosovo, and Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia. In Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia was elected the country's first female prime minister in 1991, and served as prime minister until 2009, when she was replaced by Sheikh Hasina, who maintains the prime minister's office at present making Bangladesh the country with the longest continuous female premiership .
There are substantial differences to be noted between the terms 'Islamic feminist' and 'Islamist'. Any of these terms can be used of men or women.
Islamic feminists interpret the religious texts in a feminist perspective. They can be viewed as a branch of interpreters who ground their arguments in Islam and its teachings, seek the full equality of women and men in the personal and public sphere, and can include non-Muslims in the discourse and debate.
During recent times, the concept of Islamic feminism has grown further with Islamic groups looking to garner support from many aspects of society. In addition, educated Muslim women are striving to articulate their role in society.
Islamists are advocates of political Islam, the notion that the Quran and hadith mandate a caliphate, i.e. an Islamic government. Some Islamists advocate women's rights in the public sphere but do not challenge gender inequality in the personal, private sphere. Su'ad al-Fatih al-Badawi, a Sudanese academic and Islamist politician, has argued that feminism is incompatible with taqwa (the Islamic conception of piety), and thus Islam and feminism are mutually exclusive.
During the early days of Islam in the 7th century CE, reforms in women's rights affected marriage, divorce and inheritance. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam states that the general improvement of the status of women in Arab societies included prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women's full personhood (see Islamic ethics). Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a status but rather as a contract, in which the woman's consent was imperative.[full citation needed][full citation needed][full citation needed] "The dowry, previously regarded as a bride-price paid to the father, became a nuptial gift retained by the wife as part of her personal property"[full citation needed][full citation needed] (see also Dower). "Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives."[full citation needed]