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Female Mourning in Islam: Historical Precedents and Contemporary Diasporic Perspectives

Talk by Alistair Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Policy, University of Glasgow.

2019.01.25 | Jon Bendixen

Date Wed 15 May
Time 14:00 16:00
Location 1481-264, Nobelparken

This presentation asks how the socio-legal precedents pertaining to female mourning in early Islam have been interpreted in the contemporary period by Muslims in diaspora. Specifically, it examines the role of women, primarily of South Asian and North African heritage, at Muslim funerals in Britain and France respectively. In both regions of origin, women engage in rituals of mourning centred on the home of the deceased prior to burial. However, doctrinal sources recommend that women do not participate in burial rites, as ‘emotional’ manifestations of grief at the graveside may disturb the deceased. Yet in a migration context these conventions are disrupted. This has led women to demand the contested ‘right’ to participate in burials. At stake is the tension between facilitating a ‘good death’ for the deceased and, conversely, enabling the living to properly grieve, as revealed in data from around 50 interviews with male and female Muslim undertakers, imams, male and female members of mosque boards, and cemetery managers. I will argue that Muslim women confront two paradigms of ‘good death’, a western secular version and an orthodox Islamic version, both of which serve to constrain the forms and spaces in which female grief can occur.

Lecture / talk