Islam and the question of gender

Authored by: Joseph Hill

Routledge Handbook of Islam in Africa

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367144234
eBook ISBN: 9780367144241
Adobe ISBN:


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Although long ignored, gender issues have gradually become a central focus of the study of Islam in Africa. Earlier feminist accounts discussed how Islamic teachings led to women’s marginalization in their communities. Numerous studies explained women’s participation in spirit possession rituals, which Islamic authorities generally consider heterodox, as a means to resist and cope with patriarchal Islamic strictures. More recent studies, however, have detailed more complex relationships between Islam and spirit possession. Other studies have shown women to be active participants and even leaders in Islamic life. Numerous African women have served as Islamic teachers, spiritual guides, activists, and writers, both in Sufi orders and Islamic reform movements. Researchers have also studied masculinity, examining the changing meanings of what it takes to be a Muslim man. For example, some have described the emergence of a softer masculinity among the conservative reform movement Tablighi Jama’at. A smaller but growing literature has examined sexual and gender diversity, which has always existed in Muslim societies but has become newly politicized with the rise of modern Islamic activism and LGBTQ+ rights movements.

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