The status of pious women in sunni Islam: A study on the public religious practices of women in Ankara

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology, Turkey

Approval Date: 2017




The aim of this dissertation is to demonstrate how pious women’s undertaking of public Islamic practices shapes their social status within the private domains such as their families and neighborhoods and public spaces of the mosque and Quran courses in urban Ankara in contemporary Turkey. I conducted an ethnographic field study in the Quran courses in three districts of Ankara, namely Bahçelievler, Çukurambar and Sincan which are middle, upper middle and lower middle class respectively. This study focuses on the findings of my participant observation within congregational prayers, Quran recitation and “sohbet” sessions of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DRA) and 26 semi-structured interviews conducted with pious lay women and female preachers. I aim to find out despite their subordinate status within Islamic practices, how pious women enhance their status through their practicing of Islamic rituals. The main finding of this study is that a pious woman’s social status is enhanced by the performance of public Islamic rituals juxtaposed with factors such as religious knowledge, display of emotions during ritual and the negotiation of daily chores with religious duties. This finding reflects both the fact that practicing Islamic rituals grants agency to pious women by enhancing their social status and also the fact that gender and religion work together in maintaining the subordination of women, and control of them by the patriarchal society.