Muslim women's experiences of motherhood: a South African perspective

Doctoral Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This study explores South African Muslim women's experiences of motherhood; particularly the ways in which Muslim women themselves construct and enact their maternal roles in relation to their social realities and faith tradition. Using an Islamic feminist analytical framework, I employed the concepts of experience as an epistemological site, the particularity of mothering experiences, and gender scripts within Islamic perspectives to render visible the layered and nuanced realities of Muslim mothers which reflect their lived experiences. The study found that the participants experienced tension between the discursive idealisation of motherhood in the Islamic tradition and the challenges of their lived experiences as mothers, in that the former creates unattainable and at times disempowering expectations on mothers based on dominant constructions of gender norms and femininity. This finding corroborates and is reflective of the main themes in feminist literature on Motherhood in Islam. However, the study also found that participants actively engaged in mothering/parenting around themes less widely reflected in the above literature. These included the intricacies and complexities of mothering Muslim children within a context of contemporary social norms, such as digital technology consumption and sexual diversity. This finding highlights a chasm which exists between Islamic traditional constructions of motherhood and contemporary challenges to Muslim family life. The study shows that in response to these challenges, these South African Muslim mothers are generating innovative, creative responses to fulfilling their mothering roles and determining their maternal subjective values whilst doing so. The study concludes that there is a dire need for the inclusion of Muslim women's participation in developing knowledge that will support Muslim mothers in navigating the highly challenging terrain of raising Muslim children.