Women’s Shi‘i Ma’atim in Bahrain

Authored by: Sophia Pandya

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Human Development, Political Transitions
Country: Bahrain
Region: Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2010
Citation: Pandya, Sophia. "Women’s Shi‘i Ma’atim in Bahrain." Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 6, no. 2 (2010): 31-58.

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Executive Summary

In this study I examine the evolving function of the ma’tam (pl. ma’atim), or Shi‘i religious center, in Bahraini Shi‘i women’s lives. Th e role of the ma’tam has changed in Bahraini society, especially in the case of women’s ma’atim. While men’s ma’atim have always been sites of political relevance, according to the women I interviewed it is only in the last few decades that women have used their ma’atim for purposes other than religious and social. In the past, Bahraini Shi‘i women used this space to grieve the martyrdom of figures from Shi‘i sacred history. Now they have begun to employ it for secular education of all kinds—legal, social, health—and even for political purposes. I focus on the ways in which education, and the Shi‘I Islamic resurgences that took place in Iran and Iraq, influenced Bahraini Shi‘i women in their interpretation of religion and their uses of religious space.