Beyond Preaching Women: Saudi Dāʿiyāt and Their Engagement in the Public Sphere


in Die Welt des Islams
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A prevalent notion among researchers working on gender politics in Saudi Arabia is that women’s engagement in the public sphere is restricted by the official interpretation of Islam, which only allows women to engage in issues presumed to be “feminine.” Based on an anthropological fieldwork exploration of al-dāʿiyāt al-muthaqqafāt (traditional female preachers belonging to the intellectual sphere in Riyadh), this article challenges this common assumption. It seeks to understand in what ways these women are a part of the public sphere and how this came about. One key factor is how the religious concept of “commanding right and forbidding wrong” has been expanded to adapt to changing circumstances, circumstances that have necessitated women’s presence in the public sphere. Examples from prominent intellectual female preachers such as Nawāl al-ʿĪd and Ruqayya al-Muḥārib demonstrate how leading dāʿiyāt in Riyadh engage in issues affecting Saudi society beyond gender-specific issues and encourage women to take a greater part in the public sphere.


Die Welt des Islams

International Journal for the Study of Modern Islam

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References

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 Lacroix, Awakening Islam, 211-15. In a course seminar I attended on how to become a preacher, the audience was taught that one of the most important tasks for a preacher is to be obedient to the ruler, whereupon one of attendees exclaimed that obedience to the ruler is [the same as] obedience to God (ṭāʿat walī al-amr, ṭāʿat Allāh). Dāʿiya A, “Kayfa takūnīna dāʿiya”, seminar, Riyadh, 1 December 2015.

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 Interview by author, 30 August 2016.

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 Interview by author, 30 August 2016.

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