Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Contextualising Professional Muslimah

Contextualising Professional Muslimah at Scholars in Residence

The selection for who is representing Muslim professionals is the first step in the empirical encounter. There are three clusters how a Muslim can be addressed: As a discursive category, identity marker and subject formation. Those clusters interact with each other through different relational backgrounds as they are: 1. Performativity, 2. Self-fashioning, 3. Secular and religious norms and values, 4. Moral reasoning, 5. Nation states, 6. Diversity in Islam, 7. Culture vs. Islam. The backgrounds build other analytical lenses which must be discussed further.

When analyzing Muslim women’s biographies, there was a moment when religion became important as a resource or repertoire for dealing or coping in life crises or other difficult life experiences, but also as a strive to become a professional. „The Muslim“ is an important aspect in life for self-development, seeking for knowledge and also distributing it. One of our colleagues explained the interconnectivity of work and piety through practices of faith, worship, and service to the Muslim society. Being Muslim is a way of living, a guidance book or orientation in life (Lebensführung), where intention is important, sincerity and respectfulness - giving meaning to everything what a person is doing. The principles create the foundation on how to be a working woman and a good wife at the same time in accordance with Islamic values. This understanding of Islam is seen a resource for self-empowerment, as a woman needs to be self-standing. The national scale is important for promoting personal and professional development because it evokes a discourse of power relations, but also positioning in society, defined by transnational scales. Hereby, the Muslim is related to a constant and existential struggle to become a better human being in the world.

When examining the underlying implications of profession, we must examine the problem of social closure: How can the number of people practicing a profession be reduced and therefore the price in the market be controlled? When entering power discourses, there are three stakeholders in the game: state, bureaucracy, and professionals. In that sense, capitalism was rooted in the Calvinist idea, that you had to be successful in the world to succeed in the next life. As mentioned before traditional professions would be doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, whereas IT analysts are new expert occupations. The purpose of the network of professionals is to limit entry and price control, licensing, masking inequalities. The Muslim context for Halal certifications for example need to be credited, but also registered by the state. Some important Muslim concepts and case examples of Muslim Professional Networks must be included in the discussion.  Here, a short list of examples:



  • Ijazah: permission given from the Sheikh/Imam(saint) to a student; healing property, blessing to pursue a profession; with Ijaza people are trusted


  • Ustad: teacher/ scholar


  • Barakah: miraculous blessing from God (children, relationships, water)


  • Iman: Believe in God, if you believe in God, people are honest