n Journal for Islamic Studies - Piety's manifold embodiments : Muslim women's quest for moral renewal in urban Mali

Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0257-7062



This article takes the Islamic moral renewal in contemporary Mali as a starting place to examine the paradoxical repercussions that Muslim women's involvement in this movement yields for them. Women play a leading role in publicly formulating and enacting a notion of personal piety and religious responsibility through feminized symbolic and material forms of public piety. Their concern is to renew society and self in accordance with the authentic teachings of Islam, yet their endeavour to extend to others their invitation to move closer to God yields deeply contradictory results. In spite of their appeal to unity and shared moral concerns, the particular activities and forms of public presence that Muslim women choose opens up multiple venues for the reassertion of difference not only between leaders and their followers, but also among members of a Muslim women's group. Moreover, Muslim women's emphasis on the significance of proper ritual to collective well-being leaves them in a double bind. Their public performance of ritual allows them to push the limits of conventional understandings of political practice. Simultaneously, however, this very insistence on public ritual makes them vulnerable to criticism by other Muslim groups and to marginalisation in public debate.

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