This paper looks at the ways in which older generations of Yemeni women in Sanaa negotiate religious change. Practices that are associated with Sufism and popular folk Islam are prevalent in Yemen, especially among older, illiterate women who have had little to no access to textual, “orthodox” Islam. The past few decades in Sanaa, however, have witnessed a rise in socially-restrictive forms of Salafi Islam, especially among the younger generations, which has had consequences for Yemeni women and their ability to carry out roles in the public sector. On the other hand, the Salafis provide Qur’anic school education, including literacy training, for older, often illiterate, women for whom there are few other educational opportunities. The Salafis disapprove of Sufism and folk Islam, and in Yemen these activities have often been forced underground. Here I analyze the types of benefits older Yemeni women receive from their differing religious practices and the ways in which they accommodate doctrinal contradiction.

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