Female Leadership in Public Religious Space : An Alternative Group of Women in Tablighi Jamaat in Bangladesh <Article>Female Leadership in Public Religious Space : An Alternative Group of Women in Tablighi Jamaat in Bangladesh <Article>AN10482914
The worldwide trend of emerging women-led religious reformist movements create the opportunity for Muslim women to emerge as religious leaders, the positions that have historically been held by men. This study has focused on a women’s group, named the Group of Four Companions (GFC), working for renewal of faith among the Muslim women in a community in Bangladesh. The group claims a wing of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ)―an Islamic missionary movement originated in the 1920s, the largest Islamic piety movement with its global operation. However, GFC is not endorsed and recognized by the mainstream TJ for its relaxed gender restriction that enables women be organizers, leaders, and activists of the movement without men’s presence. The ethnographic account of this study entails how the female Tablighis of GFC working as Islamic preachers, teachers, and guide within the womenfolk of a community are creating their own religious space and institution where they can reshape their personal understandings of Islam. This enables the emergence of new forms of female religious leadership not just on the basis of Islamic scholarly authority but also of the roles they play in mobilizing women in religious spheres outside of their domestic space. Although such women-led religious activity does not envision establishing an equal leadership opportunity for women like men, it places them in an unintended negotiation process with the restricted gendered norms of TJ and patriarchy in society.