Women of this nation share many of the problems bedeviling their sisters around the world, but feminism in an Islamic welfare state has some twists all its own.

Where else do women feel that working is a luxury? Where else can a working woman count on a staff of domestic servants? Where else do women prefer as a matter of course to work for the government rather than private business because the hours are shorter? And where else does the election of a parliament trigger fears that women's rights perhaps where better served by a government which had suspended parliament for four years?

Although pleased by the restoration of an elected national assembly last month, many women are worried that resurgent Islam will threaten their further emancipation and try to cut back on the considerable progress they have made.

Deprived of the rith to vote or hold public office -- which is constitutionally guaranteed all citizens regardless of sex -- women seem convinced their best hope lies with the government taking the initiative.

Specifically, they fear that Islamic fundamentalists, who emerged as the election's big winners, will refuse to enfranchise them or may even push through personal statues further limiting their rights.

For example, Lulwa al-Gatami, who in 1952 became the first Kuwaiti women sent abroad for university studies, notes that a Kuwaiti man marrying a foreigner confers citizenship on her, but that a Kuwaiti woman marrying a foreigner loses hers.

Yet on the job front, especially in the large civil service, Kuwaiti women have made impressive strides in a country where equal pay for equal work makes sense because 70 percent of the work force is made up of foreigners.

"That issue -- whether a woman should work and at what -- is ancient history," said Badriva alAwadhi, at 35 the dean of Kuwait University's law faculy. Badriya's parents were uneducated; her mother is illiterate.

Part of the early Kuwaiti generation educated abroad, she was named law dean two years ago and reappointed for another two-year term. lshe concedes that her colleagues, especially the men in the Islamic law department, resent her pre-eminence in a previously all-male field.

They snub her invitations to social events and have backed a strike called after she withdrew credit from an Islamic law course she considered unworthy of Kuwait University's curriculum.

For Badriya and Lulwa, their devotion to excellence and the realization they're providing a pioneering model for other Kuwaiti women led them to renounce marriage.

"Here, you just don't just marry a man," Badriya said, "you marry his whole family, and I wanted to be a professor and write books and attend international conferences.

"If I fail, other woman will get hurt," she added. And in a phrase many another feminist of the early generation has claimed as her own, she said, "You have to work twice as hard as men to prove to them you're capable."

Badriya is concerned about what she fears is a trend among educated young Kuwaiti women to eschew feminist battles.

"Sometimes I think they're only interested in having fun or going to the horse races or the sauna at the Hotel Hilton," she said. "Some of my friends tell, 'Why do you bother worrying about women's rights? We're happy, we have a husband, a car and we travel abroad a lot.'"

At the arts faculty for women where she is administrative director, Ms. al-Gatai, who is president of the local women's rights organization, said one of her biggest concerns is day care centers for the third of her students who are married.

Such are Kuwait's welfare provisions that many students do not have to work to make a living, but want to study to improve and fulfill themselves.

Day care centers are important because they would provide an Arabic environment for children now often left by working mothers with their domestic help, which is often from the Indian subcontinent. They don't speak Arabic and the children risk losing their cultural identity.

"The family is starting to break up," she said. "In the old days the extended family lived in the same complex and everyone took care of everyone else, but no more."

For just such reasons, 31-year-old Salwa Razzuki stays at her job as director of the finance ministry's European and Asian investement-department rather than work in more lucrative private business. The advantage of government work is that her six-hour day ends at 1 p.m., allowing her to spend the afternoon with her three young children.

Salwa, a no-nonsense executive with a computer terminal on her cleared desk, is married to a banker and has four servants to help her at home. "For me work is a luxury which also makes me feel I'm doing something useful when I wake up in the morning," she said.

Salwa was education at the American University of Beirut and acknowledges that most of the women in top jobs are daughters of the upper middle class. Daughter of the first ambassador to the United Nations after Kuwait was granted independence in 1961, Salwa considers Kuwaiti women only "partly liberated" since "ours is a traditional society where the man rules the home."

She makes no secret of the fact that her husband "could make me leave my work."

Her sister, Siham, two years her junior, only two weeks ago became the third woman promoted to the next-to highest civil service rank. She is an assistant under secretary in the oil ministry.

She doesn't think a career precludes marriage but, "I would never marry a man who would even think of telling me what to do," she said.

A good Moslem comvinced that "nothing in Islam prevents women from working," she is willing to be patient when it comes to obtaining political rights.

Had she her career to start over again, she said she might be tempted by the private sector, which 10 years ago was virtually closed to women. "I just want to avoid being bored," she said.