Submitting to God

Women and Islam in Urban Malaysia

by Sylva Frisk

  • Published: 2009
  • Pages: 275 pp.
  • illustrated
  • Series: Gendering Asia
  • Series number: 6
Available from NIAS Press worldwide except North America
ISBN Paperback: 978 87 7694 048 5, £16.99 ()

By organizing new forms of collective ritual and assuming new public roles as religious teachers, these religiously educated women are transforming the traditionally male-dominated gendered space of the mosque and breaking men’s monopoly over positions of religious authority.  This book challenges both preconceptions of the nature of Islamization as well as current theories of female agency and power.

In recent decades, Malaysia has been profoundly changed by forces of globalization, modernization and industrialization, as well as by a strong Islamization process.  It has been argued, that the position of Malay women in society has worsened.  This study however, challenges that assumption through exploration of the everyday religious practices of pious women within Kuala Lumpur’s affluent, Malay middle class.

Here, women play an active part in the Islamization process not only through heightened personal religiosity but also by organizing and participating in public programmes of religious education. By organizing new forms of collective ritual and assuming new public roles as religious teachers, these religiously educated women are transforming the traditionally male-dominated gendered space of the mosque and breaking men’s monopoly over positions of religious authority.  This book challenges both preconceptions of the nature of Islamization as well as current theories of female agency and power.

author image not supplied

 Sylva Frisk is a lecturer at the School of Global Studies at Gothenburg University in Sweden, teaching social anthropology and Asian Studies, and is Director of Studies for its Master Programme in Global Studies. Her research interests are gender, religion and globalization with a particular focus on gender and Islam in Malaysia.

 Sylva Frisk is a lecturer at the School of Global Studies at Gothenburg University in Sweden, teaching social anthropology and Asian Studies, and is Director of Studies for its Master Programme in Global Studies. Her research interests are gender, religion and globalization with a particular focus on gender and Islam in Malaysia. She is currently involved in an interdisciplinary research project on the transformations of Islam and politics in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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by Maila Stivens, University of Melbourne, Australia
From journal:
Pacific Affairs Volume 85, Issue 4, December 2012

"This is a very welcome study of urban Malay women’s religious experiences in Kuala Lumpur.

"This is a very welcome study of urban Malay women’s religious experiences in Kuala Lumpur. Drawing on her PhD fieldwork in the mid-1990s on Islamic study groups, and on material gathered during regular visits since then, Sylva Frisk presents a meaning–centred approach to exploring women’s religious involvement through a close ethnographic account of its enactment in their daily lives.

Overall […] the book provides an admirable, close and rich account of the construction of faithful subjectivities.

[…]the book is especially welcome for placing gender relations at the centre of the immense changes within contemporary Malaysia and it will be of great interest to a wide range of readers interested in Southeast Asian developments, in gender and in religious studies more generally."

by David Kloos, VU University Amsterdam
From journal:
Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Vol. 168, no. 2-3 (2012)

 "…a valuable contribution to an important field of study."

 "…a valuable contribution to an important field of study."

by Julian C.H. Lee, Monash University
From journal:
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) Vol. 17, 2011

"… it succeeds in giving readers a thoughful, well-observed, and sympathetic insight into the worldview of mainstream Muslim Malay women in urban Malaysia."

"… it succeeds in giving readers a thoughful, well-observed, and sympathetic insight into the worldview of mainstream Muslim Malay women in urban Malaysia."

by Sharon A. Bong
From journal:
Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia Vol. 26, No. 1 (2011)

"Frisk offers a relexivity that is welcomed.

… Submitting to God will undoubtedly be used as a reference by other scholars in the feild."

"Frisk offers a relexivity that is welcomed.

… Submitting to God will undoubtedly be used as a reference by other scholars in the feild."

by Michael G. Peletz
From journal:
South East Asia Research, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2011

"The prose througout is clear, crisp, and highly accessible, as are her main arguments.

… Frisk’s book deepens our understanding of women’s engagement with Islamization in Malaysia and clearly deserves a wide readership."

"The prose througout is clear, crisp, and highly accessible, as are her main arguments.

… Frisk’s book deepens our understanding of women’s engagement with Islamization in Malaysia and clearly deserves a wide readership."

by David Banks
From journal:
Contemporary Islam, vol. 4, 2010

 Sylva Frisk’s Submitting to God is an important contribution to the understanding of grassroots women’s Islamic activities in Malaysia. … I strongly recom­mend [it] to readers seeking a humane approach to Islam in Malaysia, a text that is not filled with negative images and addresses real spiritual as well as other social issues.

 Sylva Frisk’s Submitting to God is an important contribution to the understanding of grassroots women’s Islamic activities in Malaysia. … I strongly recom­mend [it] to readers seeking a humane approach to Islam in Malaysia, a text that is not filled with negative images and addresses real spiritual as well as other social issues.

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