Women, Islam and Familial Intimacy in Colonial South Asia


Women, Islam and Familial Intimacy in Colonial South Asia highlights the rich tradition of protest and defiance among the Muslim women of colonial India. Bringing together a range of archival material including novels, pamphlets, commentaries and journalistic essays, it narrates a history of Muslim feminism conversing with, and confronting the dominant and influential narratives of didactic social reform. The book reveals how discussion about marriage and family evoked claims of women’s freedom and rights in a highly charged literary and cultural landscape where lesser-known female intellectuals jostled for public space alongside well-known male social reformers. Definitions of Islamic ethics remained central to these debates, and the book illustrates how claims of social obligation, religious duty and freedom balanced and negotiated each other in a period of nationalism and reform. By doing so, it also illuminates a story of Muslim politics that goes beyond the well-established accounts of Muslim separatism and the Pakistan movement.

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Asiya Alam is assistant professor of history at Louisiana State University. She has published articles on women and Islam in South Asia in Modern Asian Studies, and in edited volumes.
List of Illustrations
A Note on Transliteration

1 Women, Islam and Social Reform
2 Ethics and the Question of Family
3 Urdu Public Sphere
4 Gender and Nationalism
5 Structure of the Book

1 Familial Ethics and the Critique of Social Reform
1 Nineteenth Century Debates on Akhlaq: Ethics as Relationships
2 Reformist Censorship and the Battle for Women’s Voice
3 Fatherhood and Contentious Advice
4 Disruption of Social Reform: ‘Respectability’ as Oppression
5 Parent-child Relations, Rights and Social Authority
6 Conclusion

2 Marital Consent and the Discourse of ‘Women’s Freedom’
1 Coercive Marriage and the Vision of Compatibility
2 Marital Compatibility as Social Practice
3 Marital Consent in Urdu Magazines
4 Pardah: Seclusion and/ or Participation
5 ‘Women’s Freedom’
6 Conclusion

3 Conjugal Sexuality and the Politics of Reproduction
1 Bodily Health and Conjugality
2 Masculinity and Global “Anti-Vice” Campaigns
3 Sexual Pleasure, Female Sexual Desire and Reproduction
4 Eugenics and Family
5 Niyaz Fatehpuri: Colonial Knowledge and History of Sexuality
6 Conclusion

4 Polygyny
1 Sexuality and ‘Legitimate Polygyny’
2 Social Reform and Its Advocacy of ‘Legitimate Polygyny’
3 Critiques of Polygyny
4 Muslim Women’s Conference, 1918, Lahore
5 Polygynous Marriage of Saiyid ?Abid Husain and Saliha ?Abid Husain
6 Conclusion

5 Marital Annulment and Separation of Family
1 Talaq (Divorce)
2 Divorce and Male Authority
3 Respectability, Equality and Marital Annulment
4 Debating Strategies for Change
5 Women’s Freedom, Female Apostasy and Marriage
6 Two Men on Divorce: Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939
7 Mahr and the Economy of Marriage
8 Ethical Dilemmas: Non-Legal Familial Conflict
9 Conclusion

1 Saiyida Bano Ahmad: Intimacy outside Marriage


Anyone interested in the history of feminism in Muslim societies; will be valuable for libraries, specialists, students as well as lay readers.
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