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“Discovering the Value of (Relative) Solitude”: The Impact of the Pandemic on Gendered Religious Practices in Islam


Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

This paper discusses the ways in which religious Muslim practices have changed in 2020-2021 under the conditions of lockdown and social distancing. It focuses on new gendered aspects of congregational prayer, fasting and breaking fast during Ramadan, and funeral rites. Based on 38 open-ended online surveys distributed among Muslim women of various affiliations, as well as ten follow-up interviews, this paper employs the framework of lived religion. Our thematic analysis points to different outcomes of these religious transformations for various groups women: for some, the pandemic conditions appear to have equalized religious practices in a desirable way. For others, the pandemic has bolstered religious practices defined by complementary, hierarchical gender roles. Our data simultaneously highlights longstanding trends in the study of lived religion (subjectivation, holistic approaches, refashioned collectivities, fractured religious identity) and the degree to which the pandemic has transformed Muslim religious experiences. It suggests a reconfigured mode of religious comportment that relies variously on individual and online collective practices that affirm womens engagement.