Muslim Women + Islamic Architecture + Islamic Art

This semester I’ve been compiling a list of resources (books, articles, etc.) that discuss anything under the broad umbrella of Muslim women and creativity. In a history of architecture class I remember my professor mentioning that the Mosque and University of Al-Qarawiyyin was built by a woman, Fatima Al-Fihri (her sister, Maryam al-Fihri, founded Fez’s other major mosque, Al-Andalus). It was not particularly uncommon for women to build and sponsor mosques and religious institutions. But, obviously, this was and is not the only way Muslim women creatively engage with their faith, societies, and traditions. And there are far more different ways this would happen than what a typical class in Islamic architecture might reveal.

Below is a list of resources I have found. Partly for my own research interests and partly for sharing with other students, scholars, and any one else who would be interested. It is a work in progress. I will add new articles, books, book chapters, etc. as I come across them. Some of these will have links, especially if a particular resource is free access.


Katz’s Women in the Mosque

design for Avenue Malls Mosque, Kuwait

Zaha Hadid’s Avenues Mall Mosque, Kuwait

Akšamija, Azra. “Flocking Mosque.” Forward: Architecture and the Body. New York: The American Institute of Architects, Spring 2010. Vol. 10, No. 1. pp. 14-18.

This is a fairly short article exhibiting the work of Azra Akšamija and her reimagining of Muslim prayer space. Her work is drawing from particularly Islamic thought on sacred space–the idea that prayer space is a masjid, i.e. a place where one prostrates (m + s-j-d).

Banda, Miriam Memory Chipeta. The role of Muslim women at Ndirande and Kachere Mosques, Blantyre City. 1996.

Bicer, Hulya. “The Inarticulateness Of Tradition In Today’s Mosque Architecture: Uskudar Sakirin Mosque As A Concept Of Postmodernis.” Sosyologca, Jan 2011, Issue 1, pp.283-296

This article discusses the contemporary Sakirin Mosque in Istanbul, designed by a female architect, Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu (b. 1955).

Elias, Jamal. Aisha’s Cushion: Religious Art, Perception, and Practice in Islam. 2012.

Not specifically about women but discusses Islamic art. This challenges a contemporary misconception that Muslims have been averse to religious art.

Emont, Jon. “Transgender Muslims Find a Home for Prayer in Indonesia.” New York Times. 22 Dec. 2015.

A New York Times article on a religious community of trans Muslim women. The waria of this particular town have made their own alternative space for prayer and Islamic education. So far, I can’t find an academic article dealing with the same subject. If nothing else, this story is a placeholder for a gap in literature.

Hadid, Zaha and Aaron Betsky. Zaha Hadid: complete works. Rev. and expanded ed. 2009

Zaha Hadid. Little else needs to be said among architects. But if you haven’t heard of this Iraqi-born architect (1950-2016), her postmodernist, organic, but hypnotically cyborg-like design aesthetic is definitely worth checking out. The next article on this list is an example of her own writing–in this case, her take on today’s mosques.

Hadid, Zaha. “The Contemporary Mosque.” In Constructing the Ineffable: Contemporary Sacred Architecture. Karla Britton, ed. 2010.

Jaschok, Maria. Book, co-edited: Chinese Women Organizing; Cadres, Feminists, Muslims, Queers. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2001.

Jaschok, Maria and Shui Jingjun: The History of Women’s Mosques in Chinese Islam: A Mosque of Their Own. Richmond: Curzon Press, 2000.

Jaschok, Maria. Chapter: ‘Gender, Religion, and Little Traditions: Chinese Muslim Women Singing Minguo’ in Women in China. The Republican Era in Historical Perspective. Edited by Mechthild Leutner and Nicola Spakowski. Berlin: Litt Verlag, 2005.

Jaschok, Maria. Chapter: ‘Sources of Authority: Female Ahong and Qingzhen Nüsi (Women’s Mosques) in China’ contributed to Women, Leadership and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority edited by Masooda Bano and H. Kalmbach, Brill, Leiden, 2012.

Jaschok, Maria and Jingjun Shui. The History of Women’s Mosques in Chinese Islam : a Mosque of Their Own. Curzon, 2000.

Jaschok, Maria and Jingjun Shui. Women, Religion, and Space in China : Islamic Mosques & Daoist Temples, Catholic Convents & Chinese Virgins. Routledge, 2011.

So I kind of went down a rabbit hole looking into Jaschok’s research on Chinese Muslim women and mosques in China.

Katz, Marion Holmes. Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

This is one of my favorite academic books. Katz’s research is meticulous. Her writing, engaging. The gem in her book is her middle chapter where she discusses a treatise debating women’s access to the Haram of sixteenth-century Mecca. Legal histories are not an enjoyable read for everyone. But her work is worth reading because it illuminates a lot of the intricacies and nuance in Islamic thought on women and mosque space. In the process, she reveals (unfortunately only male) juristic thinking on what we call gender, especially as it contrasts with our own binary conceptions of what it means to be a woman and a man.

Al-Kodmany, Kheir. “Women’s Visual Privacy in Traditional and Modern Neighborhoods in Damascus.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. Vol 17, No 4. Winter, 2000.

Lewis, Reina. Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures.Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

Mazumdar, Shampa and Sanjoy Mazumdar. “Rethinking Public and Private Space: Religion and Women in Muslim Society.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. 18:4 (Winter, 2001).

Mazumdar and Mazumdar propose a new model to understand public and private, male and female spaces in Muslim societies.

Meneley, Anne. “Fashions and Fundamentalisms in Fin-de-Siecle Yemen: Chador Barbie and Islamic Socks.” Cultural Anthropology. 22:2. 2007.

Al-Murahhem, Faredah Mohsen. “The Nineteenth Century Western Travellers’ Conception of the Harim: Restoring the Cultural Complexity of the Hijab in Architecture.” Journal of Islamic Architecture. Vol 1, Issue 4. Dec. 2011.’

A Saudi female scholar writing in response to orientalist notions of the orientalist (wet) dreams of the harem and women’s spaces.

Orhun, Deniz. “The Relationship between Space and Gender in Traditional Homes across Turkey.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. 27:4, Winter 2010.

Ozaloglu, Serpil and Meltem Gurel. “Designing Mosques for Secular Congregations: Transformations of the Mosque as a Social Space in Turkey.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. 28:4 (Winter, 2011).

Ozaloglu and Meltem talk about the continuing importance of male-female gender segregation in mosque design as well as other trends in modern mosque design in Turkey. Overlaps with contemporary Muslim revivalism and transhistoric mosque design.

Rouse, Carolyn and Janet Hoskins. “Purity, Soul Food, and Sunni Islam: Explorations at the Intersection of Consumption and Resistance.” Cultural Anthropology. 19:2. 2004.

Tarlo, Emma. Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith. New York: Oxford International Publishers Ltd., 2010.

Woodlock. “Praying Where They Don’t Belong: Female Muslim Converts and Access to Mosques in Melbourne, Australia.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. Vol. 30, No. 2 (June 2010).

This article is a study on women converts accessing mosques in Melbourne, Australia.