1st Edition

'Muslim Woman'/Muslim women Lived Experiences beyond Religion and Gender in South Asia and Its Diasporas

Edited By Patricia Jeffery, Kaveri Qureshi Copyright 2025
    138 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book addresses South Asian Muslim women’s lived experiences, whilst questioning dominant concepts of agency.

    Negative, homogenising constructions of the ‘Muslim Woman’ are not the result of a knowledge deficit, but constitutive of Euro-American and Hindu nationalist forms of civilizational self-assurance. Portraying the richness and diversity of Muslim women’s voices and agency cannot, therefore, rectify discourses casting Muslim women as invisible or silent, so long as the vision of agency is shackled to dominant feminist precepts. Mindful of this problem, the book examines Muslim women’s legal agency with respect to the family, their claims-making upon the state, livelihoods, and the impact of male outmigration on ‘left-behind’ wives. Working across these domains of everyday life, contributors highlight how women’s vulnerabilities within their families dovetail with oppressions experienced in the local state, the labour market, and in the streets. Women’s economic locations continue to shape their agency in crucial ways, with upward mobility often entailing greater restrictions on women’s mobility and independence; yet the chapters caution against romanticising the ironic independence of poverty. Collectively, this volume showcases Muslim’s women’s diverse identities and desires that may be sidelined in dominant concepts of agency.

    This book will be beneficial for scholars and students of South Asian Studies interested in gender justice, politics and the intersection of religion, culture, and identity. The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of Contemporary South Asia.

    Introduction – ‘Muslim Woman’/Muslim women: Lived experiences beyond religion and gender in South Asia and its diasporas

    Patricia Jeffery and Kaveri Qureshi


    1. Muslim daughters and inheritance in India: Sharīcat custom and practice

    Sylvia Vatuk


    2. Courting agency: Gender and divorce in an English sharia council

    Kaveri Qureshi


    3. Muslim marriages, the South African state and the courts: Between limbo, liberation, and the spaces for contestation in-between

    Goolam Vahed


    4. Being seen: The political and bureaucratic entanglements of Muslim women in West Bengal

    Lexi Stadlen


    5. Gendering the everyday state: Muslim women, claim-making & brokerage in India

    Ayesha Ansari and Thomas Chambers


    6. Life, labour, and dreams: One woman’s life in Old Delhi

    Kalyani Devaki Menon


    7. Emotions, identity and the entrepreneurial self: Narratives of working Muslim women in rural India

    Syeda Asia


    8. Migration, patriarchy and ‘modern’ Islam: Views from left behind wives in rural northern Bangladesh

    Marzana Kamal



    Patricia Jeffery’s research focuses on gender politics in South Asia. Her publications include Frogs in a Well (1979) and Confronting Saffron Demography (2006). Routledge is publishing two further books that address demographic change, communal politics and ‘jobless growth’, based on her long-term research in a Muslim village in Uttar Pradesh, India.

    Kaveri Qureshi’s research is threaded by concern with intersectional inequalities and how gender, race/ethnicity, class, caste and religion shape experiences of health and intimate/personal life. Her publications include Marital Breakdown among British Asians (2016) and Chronic Illness in a Pakistani Labour Diaspora (2019). She works in the UK and Punjab.


    This is a welcome contribution to scholarship on Muslim women, highlighting the diversity of Muslim women’s experiences across multiple contexts. Rather than approaching Muslim women as victims, this collection foregrounds the resourcefulness of Muslim women in the face of growing Islamophobia worldwide. Each carefully researched chapter in this volume provides a window into the complex negotiations undertaken by Muslim women as they struggle to make their claims vis-à-vis the state, the family, and the economy. This is a rich resource for scholars and students interested in the intersections of religion, gender, politics, economics and the law.


    Nida Kirmani, Associate Professor of Sociology, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan




    Highlighting the diversity of lived experiences of Muslim women in South Asia and beyond, this collection of uniformly excellent essays expands our understandings of gender, religion and social location. These explorations have relevance for anyone interested in the intersection of gender with family, state, labour market and in the streets.

    Nazia Hussein, Senior Lecturer in Race, University of Bristol, UK