Partners of Zaynab A Gendered Perspective of Shia Muslim Faith

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Partners of Zaynab: A Gendered Perspective of Shia Muslim Faith
Partners of Zaynab.jpg
AuthorDiane D'souza
PublisherUniversity of South Carolina Press

Since scholars, both in the field of Shiism and in Western academies, have paid very little attention to the role of women in history, D'Souza in book Partners of Zaynab A Gendered Perspective of Shia Muslim Faith has taken an important step in filling this important gap in the social studies of Shiites and Shiism.

About the author[edit | edit source]

Diane D'Souza directs the Mission Institute, a faith-based initiative that inspires and accompanies congregations and groups to dismantle racial inequities and build communities with courage to confront the effects of racism within and around us. She is published in the fields of gender, religion, inter-religious dialogue, and peace building. D'Souza lived and worked in India for nearly twenty years, where she taught Islam and Christian-Muslim relations, conducted research on Muslim women's religious practices, and founded a vibrant conflict transformation initiative at the Henry Martyn Institute. She holds a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

She has several popular papers: Islam and its Impact on the Status of Women, The Figure of Zaynab in Shî'î Devotional Life, In the presence of the martyrs: The Alam in popular Shi’i piety, Evangelism, Dialogue, Reconciliation: A Case Study of the Growth and Transformation of the Henry Martyn Institute, Report from the Workshop - Women‛s Journey to Peace: Strengthening the Next Steps, Reflections on the Women's Interfaith Journey, Gendered Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, Creating Spaces: Interreligious Initiatives for Peace, A White Lens on Dismantling Racism.

About the book[edit | edit source]

The present book published in University of South Carolina Press; Illustrated edition (August 27, 2014), has 240 pages and best sellers rank of 2029477 in Books.

This book provides an overview of Muslim faith and practice and a more complete understanding of gender interaction in Shiite Islam. It examines the religious narratives that make up the spiritual life of women. In the book, the author has tried to show the active role of women in Shiite rituals by referring to the living religion of the Twelve Imams of Southeast Asia.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

The book consists of an introduction, six main chapters and a conclusion.


In this part the author takes a look at the religious life of Shiite women in the urban context of South Asia (India). Her focus is on unique Shiite rituals performed by women communities; Women who form the identities and alliances of the Hyderabad Shiite community and help us to have a better understanding of central and marginal Muslim beliefs.

Chapter 1: Foundations of Shia Faith

In this chapter the author examines the characters and ideas that form the basis of religious meaning such as the leadership struggle after the death of Prophet Muhammad in Shiite history, the martyrdom of Hussain and his partners, and the events related to the battle of Karbala. She tells the stories related to effective women such as Fatima, Zaynab and Hend (Yazid's wife) and states that conservative Muslim societies view women as their nature; natural, supportive, emotional, sensitive, caring, and compassionate, and do not consider the fact that women can be decisive and take rational action against injustice.

Chapter 2: A Sacred Community Space

In this chapter, D'Souza introduces spaces and places for religious gatherings of Shiite women in Hyderabad. It is believed that the presence of women is necessary for masculine acts and rituals in the Shiite religion, but in return for the performance of the female religion, no male witness is required. Even the absence of men is part of the pain experience of Muhammad's family.

Chapter 3: Remembrance Gatherings

This chapter deals with the establishment of various celebrations and mourning ceremonies for the family of the Prophet. These ceremonies, whether mourning or the feasts related to Muhammad's family, are common religious communities in the Shiite community.

Chapter 4: The Female Face of Religious Leadership

In this chapter, the author discusses the power of women to strike and challenge their husbands, pave the way for revolt in the Umayyad rule, and bring about changes. She also introduces people known as Zakira who are responsible for keeping alive the memory of the martyrs of Karbala and taking the audience to the past and helping them to experience the sorrow and happiness of the Prophet's family.

Chapter 5: The Alam, A Symbol of Presence

D'Souza in this chapter examines the symbolic role of in the religious ceremonies of Shiite women. Alam is a symbol of presence and war over the lack of compromise between right and wrong. Shiite women leaders use Alam as a framework for communication and use its symbolic meaning to explain specific aspects of male religiosity.

Chapter 6: Rituals of Intercession and Blessing

In this chapter, the author introduces the ritual of intercession and blessing in Pakistan. These rituals are specific to women and revolve around prayer, vows, and mediation. Shiites mediate and seek help from the Prophet's family in times of crisis and need for divine help.


In this part, the author addresses three major questions about the role of women, gender-belief currents, and religious behaviors. Then at the end of the book, she points that there is a supposed standard principle, although everyone may accept it as a source, but their ideas about its meanings and access to those meanings are different. Quran is a true example of this claim.

Source[edit | edit source]