Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi's <i>Bihishti Zewar</i>

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University of California Press, Nov 20, 1992 - History - 436 pages
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Challenging conventional notions about the place of women in Muslim societies, the Bihishti Zewar (Heavenly Ornaments) gives life to the themes of religious and social reform that have too often been treated in the abstract. This instructional guidebook, used by the world's largest population of Muslims, is a vital source for those interested in modern Indian social and intellectual history, in Islamic reform, and in conceptions of gender and women's roles.

The Bihishti Zewar was written in northern India in the early 1900s by a revered Muslim scholar and spiritual guide, Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi (1864-1943), to instruct Muslim girls and women in religious teachings, proper behavior, and prudent conduct of their everyday lives. In so doing, it sets out the core of a reformist version of Islam that has become increasingly prominent across Muslim societies during the past hundred years. Throughout the work, nothing is more striking than the extent to which the book takes women and men as essentially the same, in contrast to European works directed toward women at this time.

Its rich descriptions of the everyday life of the relatively privileged classes in turn-of-the-century north India provide information on issues of personality formation as well as on family life, social relations, household management, and encounters with new institutions and inventions. Barbara Metcalf has carefully selected those sections of the Bihishti Zewar that best illustrate the themes of reformist thought about God, the person, society, and gender. She provides a substantial introduction to the text and to each section, as well as detailed annotations.
 

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Contents

An Introduction to the Bihishti Zewar
1
Book One of the Bihishti Zewar
39
Introductory Comments
47
On Beliefs
67
The Impact of Islam on Everyday Life
77
Customs Deemed Sinful But Inconsequential
93
Customs Considered Properly Religious and Deserving
145
Amendment of Religious Duties Ibadat
177
Stories of Women Who Lived at the Time
273
Stories of Women Who Lived After the Time
293
A Selection from the Quran and Hadis
308
Book Ten of the Bihishti Zewar
315
Five Useful Lists
333
Weights and Measures
363
Three Essays
374
Notes
383

On the Reward of Good Deeds and the Punishment of
204
A Brief Account of the Day of Judgment and Its Signs
222
SeventySeven Points That Constitute Complete Faith
230
An Account of the Prophets to Inspire the Religious
253
Glossary
415
Index
423
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About the author (1992)

Barbara Daly Metcalf is Dean, Division of Social Sciences, College of Letters and Science, and Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, and the editor of Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe

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