Women in Egypt are finding their voices in a new way – singing in a choir. (Credit: Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons)

Music is undeniably powerful. A group of Muslim women is harnessing that power in a bid to reclaim their own.

In Egypt, an all-women’s Islamic choir called Al Hur took form five years ago, and continues to press on today, according to Al Jazeera.  That’s no easy task, as their repertoire consists of religious music, which is normally performed by men and boys only. But Al Hur’s female membership wants to break taboos about women’s public singing and give new life and sound to sacred songs.

Nema Fathi, the founder of Al Hur, told Al Jazeera that “having women in the Muslim religious chanting field not only breaks social stereotypes about female chanters — it also gives a new, distinctive style to an art that has long been dominated by only men.”

She and other ensemble members have faced significant backlash since forming the group in 2017, in part because women musicians are considered to be promiscuous by conservative practitioners of the faith. 

In fact, Fathi said to Al Jazeera, “since the choir’s founding, we’ve faced widespread attacks by some leading Muslim chanting figures who discouraged us from taking this step.” Worse, those who oppose the choir’s existence have even told her that “the voice of a woman is dishonourable. ‘How can girls sing religious songs?’ they said.”

But, she added, “we challenged ourselves to make this band a success.”

The costs — both social and financial, as it can get expensive to travel to rehearsals and book practice space — have whittled Al Hur’s membership down from its original 30 members to just 10. Still, Al Hur is determined to press on, and is rehearsing for an upcoming religious music festival, among other goals.