“Because I’m the man! I’m the head”: British married Muslims and the patriarchal family structure

Abstract

The patriarchal family is based on a hierarchical social structure which positions the man as the head of the family ‘ruling’ over women and children. This article draws on data obtained from structured interviews with 25 married Muslim couples living in Glasgow (Scotland, UK). It examines their views on the position of the family head. Exploring the hierarchical relationship between the husband and wife, the article considers how participants come to an agreement about who may assume this role and how it is to be fulfilled. It also explores how participants use religion to support and reproduce the patriarchal family structure based on the man as the head of the family.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Yusuf Ali’s translation. Marmaduke Pickthall translates it as follows: ‘Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).

  2. 2.

    Prophet Muhammad’s first wife.

  3. 3.

    May Allah be pleased with her.

References

  1. Al-Hibri, A. (1982). A study of Islamic Herstory: Or how did we ever get into this mess? Women’s studies international forum. Oxford: Pergamon.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Al-Hibri, A. (2005). Muslim women’s rights in the global village challenges and opportunities. In H. Moghissi (Ed.), Women and Islam: Critical concepts in sociology. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Ali, W. (2003). Muslim women: between cliché and reality. Diogenes, 50(3), 77–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Archer, L. (2001). Muslim brothers, black lads, traditional ‘Asians’: British Muslim young men’s constructions of race, religion and masculinity. Feminism and Psychology, 11(1), 79.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Archer, L. (2003). ‘Race’, masculinity and schooling: Muslim boys and education. Buckingham: Open University Press.

  6. Badawi, J. A. (1992). Women in Islam. In K. Ahmad (Ed.), Islam: Its meaning and message. Markfield: The Islamic Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Barlas, A. (2004). Towards a theory of gender equality in Muslim Societies. CSID Annual Conference, Washington, D.C., http://www.asmabarlas.com/TALKS/20040529_CSID.pdf. Date Accessed: August 13th 2004.

  8. Birke, L. (1986). Women, feminism and biology: The feminist challenge. Brighton: Harvester/Wheatsheaf.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Brandth, B., & Kvande, E. (1998). Masculinity and childcare: the reconstruction of fathering. Sociology Review, 46(2), 293–313.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Brickner, B. W. (1999). The promise keepers: Politics and promises. Maryland: Lexington.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Clare, A. (2001). On men: Masculinity in crisis. London: Arrow Books.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Coltrane, S. (2001). Marketing the marriage “Solution”: misplaced simplicity in the politics of fatherhood. Sociological Perspectives, 44(4).

  13. Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power. Oxford: Polity.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Da Costa, Y. (2002). The honor of women in islam (Scholars in Islam Series). Washington: Islamic Supreme Council of America.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Dahl, T. S. (1997). The Muslim family: A study of women’s rights in Islam. Translated from the Norwegian by Ronald Walford. Norway: Scandinavian University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Doi, A. R. I. (1989). Woman in shari’ah, Islamic law. London: Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Donovan, B. (1998). Political consequences of private authority: Promise keepers and the transformation of hegemonic masculinity. Theory and Society, (28), 817–843.

  19. Edwards, T. (2006). Cultures of masculinity. London: Routledge.

  20. Engineer, A. A. (2004). Islam and sexual equality. Date Accessed: 16th December 2006: [http://www.countercurrents.org/engineer-140104.htm]

  21. Esposito, J. L., Fasching, D., & Lewis, T. T. (2002). World religions today. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Frosh, S. (1995). Unpacking masculinity: From rationality to fragmentation. In C. Burck & B. Speed (Eds.), Gender power, and relationship. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Hassan, R. (1999). Feminism in Islam. In A. Sharma & K. K. Young (Eds.), Feminism and world religions. Albany: SUNY.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Haywood, C., & Mac an Ghaill, M. (2003). Men and masculinities: Theory, research, and social practice. McGraw-Hill International.

  25. Hearn, J. (2004). From hegemonic masculinity to the hegemony of men. Feminist Theory, 5(1), 49–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hewitt, I. B. (1997). What does Islam say? London: The Muslim Education Trust.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Hopkins, P. D. (1996). Gender treachery: Homophobia, masculinity, and threatened identities. In L. May, R. Strikwerda, & P. D. Hopkins (Eds.), Rethinking masculinity: Philosophical explorations in light of feminism. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Hopkins, P. E. (2006). Youthful Muslim masculinities: gender and generational relations. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 31(3).

  29. Hopkins, P. E. (2007). ‘Blue squares’, ‘proper’ Muslims and transnational networks: narratives of national and religious identities amongst young Muslim men living in Scotland. Ethnicities, 7(1), 61–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hopkins, P. E. (2009). Responding to the ‘Crisis of Masculinity’: the perspectives of young Muslim men from glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland. Gender Place & Culture, 16(3).

  31. Janssen, A. (1997). The rise and decline of the male breadwinner family? An overview of the debate. In A. Janssen (Ed.), Rise and decline of the male breadwinner family? New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Johansson, T. (2002). Fatherhood and masculinity: Non-resident fathers’: Construction of identity. In S. Ervo & T. Johansson (Eds.), Among men: Moulding masculinities (Vol. 1). Aldershot: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Kandiyoti, D. (1988). Bargaining with patriarchy. Gender & Society, 2, 274–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Kimmel, M. (1999). Patriarchy’s second coming as masculine renewal. In D. S. Claussen (Ed.), Standing on the promises: The promise keepers and the revival of manhood. Cleveland: Pilgrim.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Lorber, J. (1994). Paradoxes of gender. Yale University Press.

  36. Macey, M. (1999). Religion, male violence, and the control of women: Pakistani Muslim men in Bradford. Gender & Development, 7, 1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Macey, M. (2002). B. Spalek. In Islam, crime and the criminal justice system. Devon: Willow.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Maqsood, R. W. (1995). Muslim marriage guide. London: Quilliam.

    Google Scholar 

  39. McDowell, L. (2000). The trouble with men? Young people, gender transformations and the crisis of masculinity. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24(1).

  40. Morgan, D. (1992). Discovering men. London: Routledge.

  41. Murata, S. (1992). The Tao of Islam: A sourcebook on gender relationships in Islamic thought. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Nock, S. L. (1998). Marriage in men’s lives. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Roald, A. S. (2001). Women in Islam: The western experience. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Rushing, B. (2004). Breadwinner. In M. S. Kimmel & A. Aronson (Eds.), Men and masculinities: A social, cultural, and historical encyclopedia (Vol. 1). California: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Saeed, A., Blain, N., & Forbes, D. (1999). New ethnic and national questions in Scotland: post-British identities among Glasgow Pakistani teenagers. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22(5), 821–844.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Sarantakos, S. (2005). Social research. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Savaya, R., & Cohen, O. (2003). Divorce among Moslem Arabs living in Israel: Comparison of reasons before and after the actualization of the marriage. Journal of Family Issues, 24.

  48. Wadud, A. (1999). Qur’an and woman: Re-reading the sacred text from a woman’s perspective. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. West, C. & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1(2).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Asifa Siraj.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Siraj, A. “Because I’m the man! I’m the head”: British married Muslims and the patriarchal family structure. Cont Islam 4, 195–214 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-010-0120-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Family head
  • Gender
  • Islam
  • Masculinity
  • Patriarchy
  • Muslim