The Female Voice in Sufi Ritual: Devotional Practices of Pakistan and India

Paperback | August 11, 2010

byShemeem Burney AbbasForeword byElizabeth Warnock Fernea

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The female voice plays a more central role in Sufi ritual, especially in the singing of devotional poetry, than in almost any other area of Muslim culture. Female singers perform sufiana-kalam, or mystical poetry, at Sufi shrines and in concerts, folk festivals, and domestic life, while male singers assume the female voice when singing the myths of heroines in qawwali and sufiana-kalam. Yet, despite the centrality of the female voice in Sufi practice throughout South Asia and the Middle East, it has received little scholarly attention and is largely unknown in the West.

This book presents the first in-depth study of the female voice in Sufi practice in the subcontinent of Pakistan and India. Shemeem Burney Abbas investigates the rituals at the Sufi shrines and looks at women's participation in them, as well as male performers' use of the female voice. The strengths of the book are her use of interviews with both prominent and grassroots female and male musicians and her transliteration of audio- and videotaped performances. Through them, she draws vital connections between oral culture and the written Sufi poetry that the musicians sing for their audiences. This research clarifies why the female voice is so important in Sufi practice and underscores the many contributions of women to Sufism and its rituals.

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The female voice plays a more central role in Sufi ritual, especially in the singing of devotional poetry, than in almost any other area of Muslim culture. Female singers perform sufiana-kalam, or mystical poetry, at Sufi shrines and in concerts, folk festivals, and domestic life, while male singers assume the female voice when singing...

Shemeem Burney Abbas is a professor of political science, gender studies, and literature at the State University of New York at Purchase. She was formerly a professor and chair of the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8.97 × 6.01 × 0.58 inPublished:August 11, 2010Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292725922

ISBN - 13:9780292725928

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Table of Contents

  • Author's Note: Transliterations, Translations, and Conversation Analysis Transcript Notation
  • Foreword by Elizabeth Warnock Furnea
  • Preface: Woman's Place in Sufism
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. History and Economy of Women in Sufi Ritual
  • Chapter 2. Ethnographies of Communication
  • Chapter 3. Female Myths in Sufism
  • Chapter 4. The Female Voice in Sufi Ritual
  • Chapter 5. Closing the Circle of the Mystic Journey
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index