The Newsletter 70 Spring 2015

Female Islamic authority in comparative perspective: exemplars, institutions, practices

David KloosMirjam K√ľnkler

International workshop, Leiden, 8-9 January 2015.

Funded by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), the Asian Modernities and Traditions Research Program (AMT), the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS), and the Leiden University Fund (LUF).

The significant role of women participating in, and shaping, Islamic scholarly traditions through the centuries is still hardly reflected in either Western scholarly or public perceptions. Nearly all classic accounts of religious authority in Islam proceed from the assumption that this authority is male. The possibility that women might exercise various aspects of religious authority is usually not discussed. Yet, when we dissect religious authority into its various manifestations (leading prayer, preaching, providing religious counselling, issuing fatwas, transmitting hadith, judging in court, shaping the Islamic scholarly tradition), nuances emerge that call the exclusively male character of religious authority in Islam into question.