Islamic Studies Nusrat Amin
Roja Fazaeli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0261


Nusrat Amin al-Dawla Isfahani was born in Isfahan, Iran. The prevailing biographical consensus places her birth in 1886. Amin was also known as Hajiye Khanum Nusrat Amin Begum and wrote under the pen name Banu-i-Irani (Iranian Lady). Nusrat Amin holds a place of reverence in contemporary Shiʿism as a mujtahida (a woman who has the capacity to exert her own judgment on questions of religious law) who received ijaza (permission) certificates from a number of high-ranking ulama (religious scholars). Her work spans from mysticism to ethics. Amin died on 13 June1983; her life crossed both the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties, as well as the Constitutional (1905–1911) and Islamic revolutions (1979) in Iran. As literature on female religious authority in Islam has advanced there has been increased interest in Amin’s status as a female mujtahida, particularly in English language scholarship. Conferences on her work and in her memory were held in Isfahan and Qom in 1992, 1993, 2013, and 2017. Amin’s more traditionally conservative viewpoints on women and the complementarity of genders fits well within the ethos of the Islamic Republic. Amin is also a symbol of female religious authority in Iran.

General Overviews and Biographies

The English language sources devoted to Amin’s life and scholarship are relatively recent and limited to journal articles and book chapters. Künkler and Fazaeli 2011 provides a comprehensive and in-depth account of the life and work of Amin. Cheraghi 2012 is a very descriptive article on Amin’s life, work, and ideas. Davary 2013 is also written in a similar vein with more emphasis on Amin’s authority and legacy. Fazaeli 2013 is an encyclopedia entry that places Amin in the context of the category of mujtahida. Rutner 2015 presents a more comprehensive and critical view of Amin’s life and scholarship. Brief discussions on Amin also appear in Fischer 1980, Mir-Hosseini 1999 (cited under Ijazas and Religious Authority), and Sakurai 2012.

  • Cheraghi, Tayyebeh. “Lady Nusrat Beygum Amin.” Message of Thaqalayn 14.3 (Autumn 2012): 109–129.

    The English translation, by Sayyedeh Zahra Mirfendereski, of Cheraghi’s article was first published in Persian in Banovan Shi’a in 2004. The article is an account of Amin’s life and her achievements. The article also highlights Amin’s views on the hijab and portrays her as a supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini.

  • Davary, Bahar. “In Search of Female Authority in Islam: A Contemporary Shi’a Mojtahede.” Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies: Alam-e-Niswan 20.1 (2013): 19–33.

    Article on the life and legacy of Amin with an emphasis on the question of female religious authority within Shiʿa Islam.

  • Fazaeli, Roja. “Mujtahida.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women. Edited by Natana J. DeLong-Bas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    An encyclopedia article explaining the term mujtahida with a focus on Banu Amin and Zohreh Sefati. Available online.

  • Fischer, Michael M. J. Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

    A sociocultural account of the relationship between various religious actors and the Pahlavis.

  • Künkler, Mirjam, and Fazaeli, Roja. “The Life of Two Mujtahidahs: Female Religious Authority in Twentieth-Century Iran.” In Women, Leadership and Mosques, Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority. Edited by Masooda Bano and Hilary E. Kalmbach, 127–160. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011.

    The first comprehensive book chapter in English written on the mujtahidas Banu Amin and Zohreh Sefati. The lives of these two individuals are contextualized alongside larger questions around female religious authority in 20th-century Iran.

  • Rutner, Maryam. “Religious Authority, Gendered Recognition, and Instrumentalization of Nusrat Amin in Life and after Death.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 11.1 (March 2015): 24–41.

    DOI: 10.1215/15525864-2832331

    Article on the life and scholarship of Nusrat Amin with a focus on her recognition as a religious authority, as well as attention to the renewed interest in Amin’s life and work during the 1990s.

  • Sakurai, Keiko. “Shi‘ite Women’s Seminaries (howzeh-ye ‘elmiyyeh-ye khahran) in Iran: Possibilities and Limitations.” Iranian Studies 45.6 (2012): 727–744.

    DOI: 10.1080/00210862.2012.726846

    Sakurai writes on the expansion of the female hawzas in Iran. Drawing on primary and secondary sources Sakurai notes that an increase in the number of hawza educated women has not disturbed the male dominated religious hierarchy of the hawza.

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