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Striving against the ‘Nafs’

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Revisiting Somali Muslim Spousal Roles and Rights in Finland

image of Journal of Religion in Europe

I analyze how Somalis in Helsinki re-interpret religious norms on marriage in light of: 1) the challenges of socioeconomic hardships and marginalization in Finland; and 2) ethical principles in Islamic tradition that underlie religious rulings such as striving against the selfishness of the ‘nafs’ (self) and seeking spiritual advancement. I examine how norms on spousal roles and rights are contested and reinterpreted. I highlight how young women, in particular, foreground the ‘ethical' in their religious understandings of marriage norms. I explore if Veit Bader’s1 concept of ‘internal religious governance’ can analytically explain these processes. I draw on data from individual interviews and focus group discussions with women and men; and interviews with mosque imams and a clan elder.

Affiliations: 1: University of Helsinki, Finland,


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