n Journal for Islamic Studies - Renegotiating gender : changing moral practice in the Tabl¥gh¥ JamŒ>at in The Gambia




Over the years, the Tabl¥gh¥ JamŒ>at has expanded into what is probably the largest Islamic movement of contemporary times. Despite its enormous influence, scholars have paid almost no attention to the movement in sub-Saharan Africa. This article focuses on The Gambia, which has grown into a flourishing centre of Tabl¥gh¥ activities in West Africa during the last decade. Whereas Gambian Tabl¥gh¥s understand Tabl¥gh¥ doctrine as a return to the original teachings of Islam, and as such to a traditional patriarchal gender ideology, the effect of their interventions is that they redefine prevailing divisions between female and male spheres of moral practice. By setting out on missionary tours (khur'j), Tabl¥gh¥ women have gained greater prominence in the public sphere, a sphere generally considered 'male'. In order to provide them with more time to perform missionary work, male Tabl¥gh¥s have taken over part of their wives' domestic workload. This reconfiguration of gender roles is studied as the outcome of a reorientation to a new form of piety as a means of realising a virtuous life that brings one closer to God.


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