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The Preaching of Modern Feminine Muslimness in Contemporary Indonesian Islamic Fiction

posted on 08.10.2018, 22:00 authored by Delita Sartika
The thesis analyses the construction of a modern identity of Muslim women through the representation of "feminine Muslimness" in two contemporary Indonesian Islamic novels, Ayat-Ayat Cinta (The Verses of Love) and Perempuan Berkalung Sorban (A Woman with a Turban Shawl). Framed in a theoretical perspective of Islamic feminism as an immanent critique-or a critique from within-of Islam, the study explores diverging ways Islamic fiction proselytises feminine identity of Muslim women as a critical component of Islamic reform. Despite its claims to contemporary relevance, Ayat-Ayat Cinta actually maintains confinement of feminine piety within the traditional concept of submissive wifehood and motherhood. In avoiding explicit endorsement of these patriarchal doctrines, which may appear intimidating to today's generation of modern Muslim women, the novel tactfully portrays women's subordination as voluntary, self-initiated expressions of women's piety instead of a doctrine asserted by men. In contrast, Perempuan Berkafung Sorban pushes for a new, more critical direction of Islamic preaching, or dakwah, as a reform-oriented movement that comes from within the Islamic realm. The novel propagates Islam not only by criticising outdated Islamic tradition but also by calling for the enthronement of reason in the interpretation of Islam as an evaluative instrument against ideology that distorts its values. This extended form of dakwah allows women room to perpetually revisit their understanding of their faith and dynamically negotiate their identities that are located at a complex intersection of social, cultural and religious norms.


Principal supervisor

Rita Wilson

Additional supervisor 1

Harry Aveling

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts