n Journal for Islamic Studies - Mystic states, motherly virtues, female participation and leadership in an Egyptian Sufi milieu

Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0257-7062



Sufi rituals have historically been more open to women than other Islamic religious practices such as prayer in the mosques, legal scholarship, and preaching. While the past decades have seen some, albeit modest, opening of the latter fields for female participation, even leadership, in the Sufi milieu, the participation of women has been subjected to strong criticism and pressure at the same time. Two interrelated yet contradicting trends, one of a moralist opposition to women's public participation in religious rituals, and another of increasing female presence in the professional and public sphere on the condition of a moral and civic discipline, shape the possibilities of action for Sufi women. Highlighting the importance of class distinctions for the relationship of gender and religious practice, this article traces the styles of leadership and participation that make a significant presence of women possible, the factors that make it precarious, and the strategies that women in position of authority employ to justify their role.

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