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Women in Muslim Societies: Diversity Within Unity

Herbert L. Bodman and Nayereh Tohidi, editors
ISBN: 978-1-55587-578-7
1998/312 pages/LC: 97-40395

"This volume will be of great use to both scholars and undergraduate students.... is highly recommended and is sure to be the mainstay of any course that deals with Muslim women."—Beverly B. Mack, African Studies Review

"All the articles in this fascinating book [are] first-rate."—Nancy E. Gallagher, Digest of Middle East Studies

"A welcome corrective to the picture of uniform, obedient Muslim women lacking in self-interest and individual interpretation and practice of their religion.... Well-contextualized and historicized, these case studies document how much local cultures, politics, economics, and individuals influence Islamic interpretations and practices.... The holistic, historicized approach, lack of jargon, and gripping case studies based on pioneering field research will make the book appealing to specialists and undergraduate students alike."—Mary Hegland, American Anthropologist

"Offer[s] new information and insights ... on the variety and variability of religio-cultural arrangements across Muslim societies.... Recommended for undergraduate classes in women's studies and Islamic studies."—Valentine Moghadam, Journal of Developing Areas

"This is a very useful volume ... counter[s] the Western media's stereotypes of "Islam" and "Muslim Women" by using 12 case studies from Africa and Asia to explore the factors that profoundly shape the lives of Muslim women."—Erika Friedl, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"The articles are gripping and readable enough to be appropriate for undergraduate students, yet provide newly available information and nuanced analysis that will appeal to graduate-level students, professors, and researchers.... Appealing, provocative, and highly informative.”—Mary Hegland


Study after study of women in the Muslim world has focused primarily on Middle Eastern societies, usually emphasizing the sexual ideology of a reified Islam. This book rounds out that view, exploring the status, roles, and contributions of Muslim women not only in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia, including post-Soviet Central Asia.

The authors, many of them from the countries they examine, stress the importance of historical context, local customs, and policies in defining the status of Muslim women, the extent of their power, and the opportunities or constraints they may experience.


Herbert L. Bodman was emeritus professor of Islamic History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is author of Women in the Muslim World: A Bibliography of Books and Articles Primarily in the English Language. Nayereh Tohidi is professor of gender and women's studies at California State University, Northridge.


  • Introduction—H.L. Bodman.
  • Gender and Religion in Hausaland: Variations in Islamic Practice in Niger and Nigeria—B. Cooper.
  • When Modernity Confronts Traditional Practices: The Case of Female Genital Cutting in Northeast Africa—N. Kassamali.
  • Cultural Diversity Within Islam: Veils and Laws in Tunisia—M. Charrad.
  • Power, Ideology, and Women’s Consciousness in Postrevolutionary Iran—H. Nakanishi.
  • Persistent Contradictions: Muslim Women in Syria—B. Shaaban.
  • From Two States to One: Women’s Lives in the Transformation of Yemen—L. Boxberger.
  • "Guardians of the Nation”: Women, Islam, and the Soviet Legacy of Modernization in Azerbaijan—N.E. Tohidi.
  • Between the Word of Lenin and Allah: Women and Ideology in Tajikistan—S. Tadjbakhsh.
  • Kazak Women: Living the Heritage of a Unique Past—P.A. Michaels.
  • Taslima Nasreen and Others: The Contest over Gender in Bangladesh—D.M. Siddiqi.
  • Urban Minangkabau Muslim Women: Modern Choices, Traditional Concerns—L. Whalley.
  • Muslim Women in India:A Minority Within a Minority—S. Lateef.
  • Conclusion—N.E. Tohidi.