Religion and Muslim Women: Trajectories of Empowerment

The report is based on a two‐year research project which looked at women’s everyday engagement with religion. It aimed to gain insights into how women conceptualize religion, the norms and concepts through which they understand what it means to be religious and the manner in which these concepts and ideals are brought to bear on the construction of the feminine self. The research focused on three arenas of women’s understanding of themselves as women and Muslim. These arenas are purdah, sexuality ‐ which mean male-female relations ‐ and freedom and rights. The research findings argue that women have moved towards a textually‐based learning and interpretation of Islam, as opposed to engaging with Islam as a form of knowledge passed down from earlier generations. It also found that, in line with the need to “authenticate” beliefs, women express much respect for taleem ‐ spaces where women congregate to learn about the Quran and other exegetical material as well as ideal Islamic comportment. From the findings, it is visible that the role of religion in women’s lives cannot be understood through the binary of religious/conservative versus secular/liberal. Rather, by investigating the norms through which women understand religion and deploy corporeal and noncorporeal capacities to engage with those norms in “living” Islam, it is possible to shed light on larger nuances that underpin religious engagement.

Authors: Huq, Samia; Khondaker, Sahida Islam
Type: Working Paper
Year: 2011