Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 522
Performance of Piety: Lived Experiences of Muslim Women
A ‘Muslim woman’ in India is an ambiguous concept when it comes to understanding agency. The dominant discourse that has been the basis of most narratives on Muslim women has been of someone who is faceless, voiceless and devoid of any agency. The lived experiences of Muslim women show that they exercise agency on an everyday basis. Negotiation and bargaining with the dominant patriarchal norm are a part of their lived experiences. Be it exercising one’s choice for working outside the home, in deciding the field of education, wearing or not wearing the burka, marrying someone, Muslim women are not entirely voiceless subjects. Within their own social and cultural environment, Muslim women are exercising their will and making their presence felt. They have been continuously doing this within the ambit of religious prescriptions. Some have taken on a higher level of piety, while others have taken the Prophet’s teachings as the basis of their actions, to justify these actions not only to themselves, but also to others around them. Through their narratives, this paper discusses the nuances of agency that are part of the daily lives of Muslim women.