Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Piety and Agency: Study of the Al-Huda Institute in Pakistan

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Wilson B, Mezzanine Level

This paper investigates the efforts of women within Al-Huda Institute in Pakistan to define Muslim women’s agency and social roles through a sophisticated interplay between the parameters of Islamic beliefs and feminist ideas. As such, the paper analyzes the seemingly feminist discourse of Al-Huda, carefully locating it within its respective historical and cultural narratives and context. In doing so, this research looks beyond Westernized notions of gender and feminism that would assess Al-Huda’s ideals from a moral absolutist standpoint as symbolizing and justifying patriarchal authoritarianism in its rhetoric. Instead, this paper claims that Al-Huda has managed to gain traction within the urban middle and upper middle class women precisely based on its engagement in da’awa (religious outreach) throughout the country. Its success is reflected in the members’ internalization of the normativity emanating from Al-Huda’s religious discourse. Through its pedagogical efforts, the women of the Al-Huda Institute make strong efforts of social affirmation by striving to create a unitary consciousness and definition of piety representing the ‘good woman’, or the ‘pious self’, to be embodied by the members. In particular, the research critically observes the institute’s affirmation of the hijab, abaya and niqab or the act of veiling as a manifestation of the ‘feminist self’ converging with the ‘pious self’. The contextualization of Al-Huda’s discourse also highlights the diverse modalities in which Muslim women define their agency and develop the ability to navigate within the boundaries of a hegemonic religious environment while actively constructing their roles. 

Sara Mahmood

Nanyang Technological University, Not Applicable, Singapore


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1 - Piety and Agency: Study of the Al-Huda Institute in Pakistan

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Send Email for Piety and Agency: Study of the Al-Huda Institute in Pakistan