Wrapping Authority: Women Islamic Leaders in a Sufi Movement in Dakar, Senegal

Joseph Hill

© 2018

Since around 2000, a growing number of women in Dakar, Senegal have come to act openly as spiritual leaders for both men and women. As urban youth turn to the Fayḍa Tijāniyya Sufi Islamic movement in search of direction and community, these women provide guidance in practicing Islam and cultivating mystical knowledge of God. While women Islamic leaders may appear radical in a context where women have rarely exercised Islamic authority, they have provoked surprisingly little controversy. Wrapping Authority tells these women’s stories and explores how they have developed ways of leading that feel natural to themselves and those around them.

Addressing the dominant perceptions of Islam as a conservative practise, with stringent regulations for women in particular, Joseph Hill reveals how women integrate values typically associated with pious Muslim women into their leadership. These female leaders present spiritual guidance as a form of nurturing motherhood; they turn acts of devotional cooking into a basis of religious authority and prestige; they connect shyness, concealing clothing, and other forms of feminine “self-wrapping” to exemplary piety, hidden knowledge, and charismatic mystique. Yet like Sufi mystical discourse, their self-presentations are profoundly ambiguous, insisting simultaneously on gender distinctions and on the transcendence of gender through mystical unity with God.

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Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Addressing the dominant perceptions of Islam as a conservative practise, with stringent regulations for women in particular, Joseph Hill reveals how Sufi women integrate values typically associated with pious Muslim women into their leadership.

Wrapping Authority: Women Islamic Leaders in a Sufi Movement in Dakar, Senegal

Joseph Hill

© 2018

Since around 2000, a growing number of women in Dakar, Senegal have come to act openly as spiritual leaders for both men and women. As urban youth turn to the Fayḍa Tijāniyya Sufi Islamic movement in search of direction and community, these women provide guidance in practicing Islam and cultivating mystical knowledge of God. While women Islamic leaders may appear radical in a context where women have rarely exercised Islamic authority, they have provoked surprisingly little controversy. Wrapping Authority tells these women’s stories and explores how they have developed ways of leading that feel natural to themselves and those around them.

Addressing the dominant perceptions of Islam as a conservative practise, with stringent regulations for women in particular, Joseph Hill reveals how women integrate values typically associated with pious Muslim women into their leadership. These female leaders present spiritual guidance as a form of nurturing motherhood; they turn acts of devotional cooking into a basis of religious authority and prestige; they connect shyness, concealing clothing, and other forms of feminine “self-wrapping” to exemplary piety, hidden knowledge, and charismatic mystique. Yet like Sufi mystical discourse, their self-presentations are profoundly ambiguous, insisting simultaneously on gender distinctions and on the transcendence of gender through mystical unity with God.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "This is a much-needed book. A widespread assumption among scholars has been that leadership in Sufism is restricted to men. Wrapping Authority is a thoughtful and sensitive ethnography that sheds light on a largely ignored dimension of Sufism. It carefully probes into the lives of women leaders, offering a rich and nuanced account of how muqaddamas exercise religious authority."


    Adeline Masquelier, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Tulane University

    "Joseph Hill provides a groundbreaking study of the emergence of Muslim women as Islamic authorities in the urban public sphere of Dakar since 2000. Wrapping Authority is an insightful account of female spiritual agency, and Hill admirably highlights the significant leadership roles of women Islamic leaders through their social and economic investment in the global cosmopolitanism of Tijāniyya Sufi."


    Ousseina D. Alidou, Professor, Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

    "Well mobilized, and clearly argued, Wrapping Authority sketches the life trajectories of several female leaders, exploring the dimensions of their lives that intersect with spiritual performances."


    Janice Boddy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto
  • Author Information

    Joseph Hill is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta.
  • Table of contents

    1. An Emerging Urban Youth Movement

    2. The New Muqaddamas

    3. Wrapping

    4. Motherhood Metamorphosis Metaphors

    5. Cooking up Spiritual Leadership

    6. “They Say a Woman’s Voice Is ʿAwra”

    7. The Ascetic and the Mother of the Knowers

    Epilogue: Islam as a Numinous, Performative Tradition