Partners of Zaynab
A Gendered Perspective of Shia Muslim Faith
Religious scholars have tended to devalue women's religious expressions, confining them to the periphery of a male-centered ritual world. This viewpoint often assumes that women's ritual behaviors are the unsophisticated product of limited education and experience and even a less developed female nature. By illuminating vibrant female narratives within Shia religious teachings, the fascinating history of a shrine led by women, the contemporary lives of dynamic female preachers, and women's popular prayers and rituals of petition, Partners of Zaynab demonstrates that the religious lives of women are not a flawed approximation of male-defined norms and behaviors, but a vigorous, authentic affirmation of faith within the religious mainstream.
D'Souza questions the distinction between normative and popular religious behavior, arguing that such a categorization not only isolates and devalues female ritual expressions, but also weakens our understanding of religion as a whole. Partners of Zaynab offers a compelling glimpse of Muslim faith and practice and a more complete understanding of the interplay of gender within Shia Islam.
"Drawing on twenty years' residence in India, Diane D'Souza provides a closely observed analysis of Shia ritual as lived and practiced by women in the city of Hyderabad. Particularly appealing is how the author gives ample space for Hyderabadi women to describe their spirituality and religious self-understanding in their own words. This is original and compelling research, of interest not only to scholars in Islamic ritual and women's studies but also to general readers who want some sense of what it means to be a member of a devout Shia community. A sympathetic and highly readable account."—David Pinault, Santa Clara University, author of Horse of Karbala: Muslim Devotional Life in India and The Shiites: Ritual and Popular Piety in a Muslim Community
"South Asians are the largest ethnic group among the world's Muslims, and women hold up half of the sky. Unfortunately those lives and religious identities are often overlooked, or worse, ignored. This lovely book serves as a marvellous corrective, helping us to understand better the lives of Shi'i women in India."—Amir Hussain, Amir Hussain, professor of theological studies, Loyola Marymount University, and editor, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Other Titles from Studies in Comparative Religion