Muslim chaplaincy and female religious authority in North America

Authored by: Sajida Jalalzai

The Routledge Handbook of Islam and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815367772
eBook ISBN: 9781351256568
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter analyses female religious authority in North America by examining an emergent form of leadership, Muslim chaplains. While chaplaincy affords Muslim women new leadership opportunities, the role simultaneously reinscribes socially constructed notions of ‘femininity’, while at the same time expanding and complicating traditionally held notions of Muslim masculinity. This chapter offers an examination of historical constructions of authority and gender in Islam, and provides an analysis of the relationship between both. While Muslim chaplaincy certainly provides new public leadership roles for Muslim women, it also reveals that gendered discourses in the field of chaplaincy do little to problematize the historical essentializations of women. At the same time, Muslim chaplaincy has the power to complicate existing essentializations of masculinity. New forms of religious authority, such as chaplaincy, thus invite reconsiderations of Islamic gender constructions, norms, and relationships.

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