Unscripting Piety: Muslim Women, Pakistani Nationalism, and Islamic Feminism
Hasan, Nadia Zafar
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This dissertation analyzes Muslim womens processes of pious subject formation and the intersection of these processes with discourses of Pakistani nationalism and Islamic feminism. Drawing primarily on interviews and participatory observations with Pakistani women in Karachi, Islamabad, and Mississauga associated with two Sunni Muslim groups, Al-Huda International and the Jamaat-e-Islami, I examine how women comprehend and inhabit their piety in and through the spiritual, social, and political milieu of their everyday lives. I argue that taking up piety while understanding the spiritual as epistemological reveals contradictory and relational dimensions of Muslim womens subjectivities, including complicities with structures of power and relationships with the secular. By taking up religiosity as a way of knowing, this dissertation intervenes in the normative secularity of knowledge production about Muslim women that renders the epistemic dimension of their pious subjectivities unintelligible. To explicate what analytical openings are enabled by taking up the spiritual as epistemological, I look at how the women I conducted research with conceptualize their piety and how their Islamic discourse coalesces, contradicts and co-exists with dominant discourses of Islam, religio-nationalism, and universal rights-based feminism. I begin with an exploration of the spaces created for Muslim women through Al-Huda and the Jamaat and what these spaces meant to the women I met. I juxtapose my respondents Islamic praxis with a discourse analysis of Pakistani religio-nationalism and rights-based Islamic feminism that also stake a claim on defining the relationship between women and Islam. These discursive structures of nationalism and feminism anchor analyses of Muslim womens piety in secular epistemologies that render practices such as veiling or the qawwam (authoritative status) of men, for example, in secular terms. Focusing on how the women I interviewed conceptualize qawwam, I elucidate the paradoxical processes by which they implement an ostensible gendered hierarchy, often in face of resistant men, in their everyday lives. I then turn to how their piety is complicit with structures of power by examining how the focus on scripture in their literalist Islamic praxis secures a rational subject of piety.