Islamic Studies Gender and Sexuality
by
Aysha Hidayatullah
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0208

Introduction

The study of gender and sexuality in Islamic contexts is complicated by the modern historicity of these concepts and the danger of projecting them anachronistically onto contexts in which they did not exist as categories of thought. A further challenge is that there is no uniform referent for the concepts of gender and sexuality across Islamic contexts. Muslims’ notions of gender and sex (and their premodern antecedents) are subject to immense variation in understandings of the human person, body, and psyche, as well as the tremendous ruptures in their conceptions brought on by modernity and colonialism. Sex, gender, and sexuality differ not only in their “versions” or “expressions” across time and space, but also according to what might be meant by these concepts at all. Bearing in mind the instability of notions of sexuality and gender in Islamic contexts, the study of sexuality in Islam as it is understood here is concerned with Muslims’ understandings of designations of biological sex; reproduction; sexual desire, pleasure, behavior, relations, and expression; social mores and legal prescriptions/proscriptions; and modern/contemporary notions of sexual identification, discursive practices, and ethics. The study of gender in Islamic contexts is distinguished from the study of the related field of “women in Islam.” The latter field frequently treats the distinction between men and women as a given, and when it addresses gender, it most often does so from a social constructivist view of gender based on unquestioned designations of biological sex, while also neglecting the study of men. In contrast, following on the work of Joan W. Scott, here the study of gender is understood not simply as the study of the social construction of roles assigned to one’s stable and biologically defined sex, but also as the study of power-imbued relations and discursive practices in Islamic contexts whereby both gender and sex resist fixed identifications. It concerns not only women and femininity, but also men and masculinity, as well as the relational formation and subversion of those designations. Therefore, this article includes works on “women in Islam” only when directly relevant to gender in the sense understood here. Those interested in Muslim women broadly should consult the Oxford Bibliographies: Islamic Studies article on Women In Islam.

General Overviews

A small handful of works cover multiple topics on gender and sexuality across premodern, modern, and contemporary periods. The most highly recommended among these is Kecia Ali’s Sexual Ethics and Islam (Ali 2006). An abbreviated discussion of many topics discussed there appears online on the Internet sites of the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project (Ali 2003) and the Muslim Women’s League. A more dated and less reliable source is Abdelwahab Bouhdiba’s Sexuality in Islam (Bouhdiba 1985). General reference guides are also found in two entries in Brill’s Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures; Harris, et al. 2005 surveys mostly contemporary, regionally specific sexual practices, while Lagrange 2003 focuses on unresolved epistemological questions in researching the field as a whole.

  • Ali, Kecia. Feminist Sexual Ethics Project: Muslim Sexual Ethics. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University, 2003.

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    Provides very brief introductory discussions of marriage, divorce, and same-sex sexuality from a jurisprudential orientation. Also features a helpful topically organized bibliography.

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    • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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      An instant classic and the foremost guide on contemporary debates regarding the most pressing concerns about sexuality among Muslims today, all discussed accessibly and critically in relation to premodern understandings of the Qurʾan, Hadith, and Islamic law. Major topics covered include marriage, divorce, concubinage, illicit sex, same-sex sexuality, and circumcision.

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      • Bouhdiba, Abdelwahab. Sexuality in Islam. Translated by Alan Sheridan. London: Routledge and Kegal Paul, 1985.

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        Originally published as La Sexualité en Islam in 1975, this source centers on Arab Muslims and is heterocentric, outdated on contemporary sexual dynamics, and prone to ahistorical generalizations, apologetics, and essentialist judgments about sexual oppression in Islam. Even so, it makes interesting observations about the sacred dimensions of sexuality in some veins of Islamic thought, covering key works of medieval scholarship and erotic literature, and providing a doorway into a wide array of interesting topics.

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        • Harris, Colette, Parvaneh Hooshmand, Dror Ze’evi, Sabina Faiz Rashid, and Signe Arnfred. “Sexualities: Practices.” In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. Vol. 3, Family, Body, Sexuality and Health. Edited by Suad Joseph, 383–389. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

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          Documents an uneven mix of sexual practices in the Ottoman period and contemporary Central Asia, Iran, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, but helpful in acquainting researchers with a sampling of regionally specific concerns and sources unaccounted for in other general references.

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          • Lagrange, Frédéric. “Sexualities and Queer Studies.” In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. Vol. 1, Methodologies, Paradigms and Sources. Edited by Suad Joseph. 419–422. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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            Raises key epistemological concerns in constructing the field of sexuality/queer studies in Islamic contexts: constructionist and essentialist approaches, relational development of Western and Islamic notions, the challenges of terminology, and the tendency to equate premodern and contemporary phenomena. Concentrates on Arabic sources, but also lists some general and region-specific titles.

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            • Muslim Women’s League. Sex and Sexuality in Islam. Los Angeles: Muslim Women’s League.

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              Centering on the concerns of women and girls, and framed by an activist agenda to reform harmful dynamics, this source is subject to questionable generalizations and interpretations. Still, it raises essential issues related to a wide variety of topics on sexual development, roles, and regulations in Muslim societies.

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              Qurʾan

              Those interested in gender and sexuality in relation to the Qurʾan may want to examine directly commentaries on the Qurʾan as primary sources, and thus should consult the Oxford Bibliographies articles on Qurʾan and Tafsir. The works listed in this section are major secondary sources by contemporary scholars on the distinctions between men and women, the roles of men and women, and male-female relations, both in the Qurʾanic text and its interpretation. These works are divided into the categories of Women and Gender in the Qurʾan and Feminist Interpretations of the Qurʾan. Though they overlap at times, works in the former category are noted here for making observations about the Qurʾanic text and the interpretive tradition (being more descriptive in overall focus), while works in the latter category are noted for their own interventions in reinterpreting the Qurʾanic text in line with feminist agendas of social transformation (being more prescriptive in focus). Works of both categories are not immune to the tendencies of works on “women in Islam” noted above (see discussion in Introduction); however, their contents often provide important starting points for studying gender more precisely.

              Women and Gender in the Qurʾan

              Works in this category delineate key features of the Qurʾanic text and its interpretive tradition related to women and gender. Badran 2002 provides a crucial overview of the Qurʾan’s linguistic dynamics, while Stowasser 1994 catalogues the appearance of female figures in the text and its interpretation. Chaudhry 2013 and Bauer 2008 both trace the interpretive histories of particular verses of the Qurʾan. Merguerian and Najmabadi 1997 is specifically concerned with constructions of femininity, while De Sondy 2014 is concerned with constructions of masculinity.

              • Badran, Margot. “Gender.” In Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. 2. Edited by Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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                A general discussion of Qurʾanic vocabulary for what we now think of as gender and sex, including its terms for men and women, its gender-specific language and pronouncements, and grammatical gender and gendered nuances in Qurʾanic Arabic. Provides a basic overview of how the Qurʾan conveys biological and functional differences between men and women.

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                • Bauer, Karen A. “Room for Interpretation: Qurʾanic Exegesis and Gender.” PhD diss., Princeton University, 2008.

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                  Studies the exegetical tradition’s treatment of three Qurʾanic verses on the nature of women and the relationship between the sexes, arguing that scholars’ individual judgments and surrounding social norms played a greater role in the interpretation of these verses than the authority of canonical texts.

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                  • Chaudhry, Ayesha S. Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640164.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Studies the history of the interpretation of Qurʾanic verse 4:34, often used to sanction the physical disciplining of wives, since the 9th century. Traces the historical roots of modern and contemporary debates on male authority over women.

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                    • De Sondy, Amanullah. The Crisis of Islamic Masculinities. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.

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                      Chapter 3 (pp. 91–120) examines the stories of male figures of the Qurʾan to broaden definitions of Islamic masculinity derived from common readings of the text. Focusing on Adam, Joseph, Muhammad, and Jesus, the chapter argues against the notion of a single Qurʾanic masculinity.

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                      • Merguerian, Gayane Karen, and Afsaneh Najmabadi. “Zulaykha and Yusuf: Whose ‘Best Story’?” International Journal of Middle East Studies 29.4 (1997): 485–508.

                        DOI: 10.1017/S002074380006517XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        A good starting point for studying the concept of feminine guile (kayd al-nisaʾ) in the Qurʾan. Discusses interpretations of the Qurʾanic story of Joseph, with particular attention to their statements on female sexuality.

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                        • Stowasser, Barbara Freyer. Women in the Qurʾan, Traditions, and Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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                          Chapters 2 through 8 (pp. 25–103) discuss views of women derived from interpretations of Qurʾanic references to Adam and Eve; the wives of Noah, Lot, Pharaoh, and Moses; the Queen of Sheba; Mary; and the wives of Muhammad.

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                          Feminist Interpretations of the Qurʾan

                          Works in this category offer up their own interpretations of the Qurʾan on gender roles and relations, with the explicit aim of promoting socially just readings of the Qurʾan. Though these works differ in their stances on the vocabulary of feminism, all of them are engaged in debates that are widely associated with it. Wadud 1999 is commonly regarded as the landmark work of feminist Qurʾanic exegesis, with Barlas 2002 offering an elaboration and expansion of much of Wadud’s foundational work. Ali 2006 and Hidayatullah 2014 make critical interventions into the discussions largely set up by Wadud and Barlas.

                          • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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                            Chapter 7 (pp. 112 -134) features critical discussions of Qurʾanic verses on male agency and female passivity in verses on sexual intimacy, arguing that feminist interpretations of verses on sex must contend with Qurʾanic directives for male control over women’s bodies.

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                            • Barlas, Asma. “Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qurʾan. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

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                              A key text engaged in “feminist” interpretation of the Qurʾan. Chapter 4 argues that the Qurʾan disrupts the attribution of maleness to God. Chapter 5 argues that the Qurʾan acknowledges sexual difference but does not promote sexual differentiation, and provides a discussion of sexual fulfillment and morality in the Qurʾan. Chapter 6 performs critical readings of Qurʾanic passages on marriage, polygyny, and divorce.

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                              • Hidayatullah, Aysha A. Feminist Edges of the Qurʾan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

                                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199359561.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                Studies the development of the field of feminist interpretation of the Qurʾan, outlining its interpretive strategies and offering an extensive critique of its exegetical assumptions.

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                                • Wadud, Amina. Qurʾan and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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                                  The classic landmark “feminist” commentary on the Qurʾan. Performs critical readings of Qurʾanic verses on women figures, the Creation story, paradise, marriage, divorce, polygamy, and male authority.

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                                  Hadith and Sunna

                                  Since Muslims look to Muhammad as an example in all aspects of life, the record of his general interactions with women and his sexual relationships has always been an important area of inquiry. Sources on his life contain a wealth of evidence on how he related to women viewed what we might call gender today. The Hadith, serving as authoritative sources of Islamic norms, also speak broadly to transmitters’ understandings of gender. The sources suggested in this section consider Muhammad’s intimate relationships, as well as the Hadith’s depiction of women’s nature in general. Researchers wanting to examine the primary texts of the Hadith collections and works of sira (biographies of Muhammad) should consult the Oxford Bibliographies articles on Muhammad, Sunna, Hadith, and Sīra. To aid those interested in portions of these primary texts specifically concerned with the wives, concubines, and female companions of Muhammad, this section suggests some primary sources on these women. These are followed by a list of contemporary secondary sources that examine the gendered implications of the Hadith record and accounts of Muhammad’s life.

                                  Primary Texts on Female Companions of Muhammad

                                  Ibn Saʿd’s Al-Ṭabaqāt (Ibn Saʿd 1990–1991) is one of the most widely consulted classical biographical references in Islamic scholarship; its entries on the Prophet’s companions consolidate key Hadith reports involving those figures. The Women of Madina (Ibn Saʿd 1995) makes many entries on women from this larger reference work accessible to non-Arabic readers. Kabbani and Bakhtiar 1998 also serves as an English-language primary resource for Hadith reports about Muhammad’s female companions.

                                  • Ibn Saʿd, Muhammad. Al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā li-Muḥammad ibn Sa‘d ibn Manī‘al-Hāshimī al-Baṣrī, al-ma‘rūf Ibn Sa‘d. Edited by Muhammad ʿAbd al-Qadir ʿAta. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyah, 1990–1991.

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                                    An invaluable biographical dictionary (in Arabic) collected in the 8th century. Volume 8, the final volume of entries, is dedicated to female figures. See especially the section on accounts of the wives of Muhammad (pp. 42–104) and the section on the interpretation of Qurʾanic verses which refer to the wives of Muhammad (pp. 160–177).

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                                    • Ibn Saʿd, Muhammad. The Women of Madina. Translated by Aisha Bewley. London: Ta-Ha, 1995.

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                                      A decent English translation of select portions of Ibn Saʿd’s Al-Ṭabaqāt on women.

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                                      • Kabbani, Muhammad Hisham, and Laleh Bakhtiar. Encyclopedia of Muhammad’s Women Companions and the Traditions They Related. Chicago: ABC International Group, 1998.

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                                        Provides an English translation of the Hadith reports attributed to female mates and companions of Muhammad, and some of their biographies.

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                                        Secondary Scholarship

                                        Shaikh 2004 is a study of Hadith reports on women generally, while Mernissi 1991 focuses on reports about Muhammad’s interactions with his wives and other women. Stowasser 1992 and Hidayatullah 2010 are both concerned with gender norms derived from reports about Muhammad’s intimate relationships, the latter focused specifically on his relationship to a concubine. Ali 2004 demonstrates how discussions on marriage draw from the Prophet’s life, while Maghen 2005 zeroes in on Muhammad’s sexual activity and views on sex, and Roded 2006 discusses representations of his virility. Despite being a didactic rather than academic source, al-Shammari 2009 consolidates important source texts on Muhammad as a husband.

                                        • Ali, Kecia. “‘A Beautiful Example’: The Prophet Muhammad as a Model for Muslim Husbands.” Islamic Studies 43.2 (2004): 273–291.

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                                          A brief study demonstrating how early jurists’ and contemporary Muslims’ discussions of marriage draw upon Muhammad’s intimate relationships and behavior as a husband.

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                                          • Hidayatullah, Aysha. “Mariyya the Copt: Gender, Sex and Heritage in the Legacy of Muhammad’s umm walad.” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 21.3 (2010): 221–243.

                                            DOI: 10.1080/09596410.2010.500475Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Discusses historical representations of the sexual relationship of Muhammad to his concubine Mariyah the Copt.

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                                            • Maghen, Ze’ev. Virtues of the Flesh – Passion and Purity in Early Islamic Jurisprudence. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

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                                              Chapter 1 (pp. 3–40) discusses the sexual behavior of Muhammad and his pronouncements about sexual activity. Chapter 2 (pp. 41–74) discusses views of Muhammad’s sexual desire in relationship to his marriage to Zaynab (formerly married to his adopted son Zayd). Chapter 7 (pp. 173–196) discusses debates on Muhammad’s practices of ritual purity in relationship to touching women.

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                                              • Mernissi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam. Translated by Mary Jo Lakeland. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 1991.

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                                                Originally published as Le Harem Politique: Le Prophéte et Les Femmes in 1987. Contains numerous ahistorical generalizations that both cater to and defend against Orientalist stereotypes about women and Islam, but valuable for its critical discussion of the relationship of Muhammad to his wives and other women, and of Hadith reports commonly used to derive gender norms.

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                                                • Roded, Ruth. “Alternative Images of the Prophet Muhammad’s Virility.” In Islamic Masculinities. Edited by Lahoucine Ouzgane, 57–71. London: Zed Books, 2006.

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                                                  Discusses images of Muhammad’s sexual virility in classical sources, Christian polemics against Islam, and modern Muslim responses to them.

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                                                  • Shaikh, Saʿdiyya. “Knowledge, Women, and Gender in the Ḥadīth: A Feminist Interpretation.” Islam and Muslim-Christian Relations 15.1 (2004): 99–108.

                                                    DOI: 10.1080/09596410310001631849Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Studies Hadith reports from Sahih Bukhari’s book on “Knowledge,” focusing on statements about male and female nature, sexuality, knowledge, rationality, and authority.

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                                                    • al-Shammari, Ghazi. The Prophet Muhammad: The Best of All Husbands. Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 2009.

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                                                      A traditionalist treatment of Muhammad’s life as a husband, replete with moralistic prescriptions for proper behavior of women and men, but provides a unique collection of Qurʾanic verses and Hadith reports related to Muhammad’s behavior as a husband.

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                                                      • Stowasser, Barbara. “The Mothers of the Believers in the Hadith.” Muslim World 82.1–2 (1992): 1–36.

                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.1992.tb03539.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Reads interpretations of Hadith reports on the wives of Muhammad for statements on women’s nature and ideal womanhood.

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                                                        Marriage

                                                        The study of Islamic marriage covers the history, social customs, and legal models of marriage and divorce, providing key insights into gender roles and sexual norms. Ahmed 1992 and Rapoport 2005, along with Ali 2010, focus on the early and medieval periods; Haeri 2002 and Mir-Hosseini 2000 cover modern and contemporary contexts; and Ali 2006 and Tucker 2008 span all these periods. Hasan 2004 illustrates key debates on Islamic marriage and divorce law in the modern nation-state. Two related subcategories of works concern concubinage (the licit sexual union between a man and his female slave) and zina, or illicit sex (sexual intercourse outside the framework of marriage or concubinage).

                                                        • Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

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                                                          Chapters 3 and 4 of this landmark book on women in Islam discuss pre- and early Islamic marriage customs, providing important historical background on the early development of marriage in Islam.

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                                                          • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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                                                            Chapters 1 and 2 discuss classical models of marriage and divorce, raising questions of their commensurability with contemporary Muslims’ concerns on the topic and questions about same-sex marriage.

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                                                            • Ali, Kecia. Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

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                                                              Demonstrates how early Maliki, Hanafi, and Shafiʿi juristic texts discussed marriage and slavery in analogous terms.

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                                                              • Haeri, Shahla. Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage in Shiʿi Iran. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2002.

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                                                                The most widely used book-length study devoted to Shiʿa practice of mutʿah, or temporary marriage, in Iran.

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                                                                • Hasan, Zoya. “Shah Bano Affair: Overview.” In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. Vol. 2, Family, Law and Politics. Edited by Suad Joseph, 741–744. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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                                                                  A starting point for researching the landmark case decided in India in 1985 about the financial maintenance of a female Muslim divorcee by her former husband, which sparked controversy on the competing interests of religious personal law and civil code.

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                                                                  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. Marriage on Trial: A Study of Islamic Family Law, Iran and Morocco Compared. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2000.

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                                                                    Updated after its original publication in 1993, this is a useful study of marriage and divorce law within modern codes and contemporary practice in Iran and Morocco, by a renowned expert on women in Islamic law.

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                                                                    • Rapoport, Yosef. Marriage, Money and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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                                                                      Examines the economic, social, and legal causes of high incidences of divorce in late medieval Cairo, Damascus, and Jerusalem.

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                                                                      • Tucker. Women, Family, and Gender in Islamic Law. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511841316Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        A legal and social history of Islamic law spanning from classical to contemporary times, with chapters 2 and 3 focusing on marriage and divorce law.

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                                                                        Concubinage

                                                                        Islamic studies works on sex have tended to downplay or omit discussion of the only other context besides marriage in which sexual intercourse is permissible by Islamic law—in the relationship between a man and his female slave. The following works provide essential correctives. Ali 2010, Marmon 1983, and Schacht 2000 focus mostly on the practice of concubinage in early Islam, while Zilfi 2010 considers its early-modern manifestation, and Ali 2006 considers contemporary questions on the topic.

                                                                        • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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                                                                          Chapter 3 raises key ethical questions for contemporary Muslims in confronting the Qurʾanic allowance of slave concubinage.

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                                                                          • Ali, Kecia. Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

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                                                                            An extensive critical study comparing legal discussions on marriage and female slavery in early Islamic jurisprudence.

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                                                                            • Marmon, Shaun E. “Concubinage, Islamic.” In Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Vol. 3. Edited by Joseph R. Strayer. 527–529. New York: Scribner, 1983.

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                                                                              Provides a very concise general introduction to the institution of female slavery in Islam.

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                                                                              • Schacht, Joseph. “Umm al-walad.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 10. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 857–859. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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                                                                                Provides a very concise general introduction to the legal status, in early jurisprudence, of a female slave who gives birth to her master’s child.

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                                                                                • Zilfi, Madeline C. Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire: The Design of Difference. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                  A history of slavery in Istanbul during the early-modern Ottoman period, focusing on its social realities and relationship to state politics.

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                                                                                  Zina

                                                                                  The legal structures of marriage and concubinage are best understood in the larger context of the distinctions drawn between them and zina (sexual intercourse defined as illict for occurring outside of marriage and concubinage). Semerdjian 2008 summarizes early legal discourses on zina, while Ali 2006 takes up the questions these discourses raise in contemporary contexts.

                                                                                  • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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                                                                                    Chapter 4 discusses classical notions of chastity, paternity, and hadd laws in relationship to contemporary Muslims’ changing sensibilities around sex.

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                                                                                    • Semerdjian, Elyse. Off the Straight Path: Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                      One of the few full-length studies devoted specifically to legally illicit sex, focusing on the application of zina law in Ottoman Syria. Chapter 1 (pp. 3–28) provides a valuable overview of the concept of zina in the Qurʾan, Hadith, and early juridical literature

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                                                                                      Masculinity

                                                                                      Most of the scholarship available on the gender roles of Muslim men has been of an ethnographic or sociological nature, and it has not documented masculine roles in any direct relationship to Islam. An added challenge is that many recent works on Muslim men are notorious for their polemics and fixation on the supposed “crisis” of masculinity at the root of terrorism and religious violence. These tendencies leave us with few sources that treat masculinity seriously as a category of analysis in the study of Islamic texts, doctrines, and practices. This section lists the most reliable sources currently available on the topic attempting to initiate such a field of study. Ghoussoub and Sinclair-Webb 2000 collects a number of works on Muslim men in the Middle East, while all the works in Ouzgane 2006 are focused on Muslim men, whether in the Middle East or beyond. Najmabadi 2005 focuses on masculinity and the state in Iran, while the regional focus of De Sondy 2014 is India and Pakistan, though this work is especially significant for its readings of male figures in the Qurʾan. Amar 2011 criticizes the aforementioned discourse about masculinity and terrorism.

                                                                                      • Amar, Paul. “Middle East Masculinity Studies: Discourses of Men in Crisis, Industries of Gender in Revolution.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 7.3 (2011): 36–70.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.2979/jmiddeastwomstud.7.3.36Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Focused on only Arab men, but a crucial intervention in the field, with broad implications for rethinking popular discourses that understand popular movements and terrorism as animated by a pathological “crisis” in Muslim masculinity.

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                                                                                        • De Sondy, Amanullah. The Crisis of Islamic Masculinities. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.

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                                                                                          Examines multiple depictions of masculinity in the Qurʾan and Islamic tradition, and their impact on lived realities in India and Pakistan since the 18th century, as illustrated in thought of Syed Abul Aʿla Mawdudi, the poetry of Mirza Ghalib, and Sufi practice.

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                                                                                          • Ghoussoub, Mai, and Emma Sinclair-Webb, eds. Imagined Masculinities: Male Identity and Culture in the Modern Middle East. London: Saqi, 2000.

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                                                                                            A substantial number of essays in this collection are concerned with Muslim men in the modern/contemporary Middle East but do not necessarily examine the role of Islam in their masculinity, and some essays are now dated. Still, this remains one of the only collections on the topic. Coverage includes male circumcision; military service; political figures; political conflict; fiction, film, and news media; and self-narratives.

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                                                                                            • Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexualities of Iranian Modernities. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

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                                                                                              A groundbreaking study of how anxiety about gender and sex in modern Iran are largely expressions of anxiety about masculinity in nationalist discourse.

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                                                                                              • Ouzgane, Lahoucine, ed. Islamic Masculinities. London: Zed Books, 2006.

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                                                                                                The first collection of works on masculinity that is exclusively concerned with Muslim men, though no unifying theoretical, analytical, or methodological approach holds them together, and not all of the essays explicitly examine these men’s relationship to Islam. With some exceptions, most contributions tend toward ethnography and sociology in contemporary Muslim-majority and diasporic contexts.

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                                                                                                Premodern Subversion of Gender/Sex Binaries

                                                                                                An emerging field of study critically examines the premodern history of the transgression of male and female gender roles by people known in their contexts as eunuchs and hermaphrodites, as well as those whom we might today call “gender benders” or transvestites. Marmoun 1995 and “Khasi” discuss representations of eunuchs, Rowson 1991 and Rowson 2003 document what might today be called transvestism, and Sanders 1991 discusses the categorization of “hermaphrodites.” While these studies utilize historical approaches, Kugle 2010 employs a theological approach, considering possibilities for the recognition of transgenderism in doctrinal sources.

                                                                                                • “Khasi.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 4. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 1087–1093. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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                                                                                                  A brief introduction to representations of eunuchs in folklore and early and medieval Islamic tradition in the Arab world, Persia, and Turkey.

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                                                                                                  • Kugle, Scott Siraj al-Haqq. Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims. Oxford: Oneworld, 2010.

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                                                                                                    Chapter 6 reads Qurʾanic passages, Hadith reports, and medieval jurisprudence for evidence of their potential to accommodate contemporary notions of transgenderism.

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                                                                                                    • Marmoun, Shaun. Eunuchs and Sacred Boundaries in Islamic Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                      Studies the history of eunuchs who guarded the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina beginning in the 12th century, examining how their “neutral” gender categorization related to the crossing of moral and physical boundaries.

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                                                                                                      • Rowson, Everett K. “The Effeminates of Early Medina.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 111.4 (1991): 671–693.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/603399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        A study of the mukhannathun, a class of men known for their publicly recognized effeminacy or transvestism, in early Islamic Medina, including during the time of Muhammad.

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                                                                                                        • Rowson, Everett K. “Gender Irregularity as Entertainment: Institutionalized Transvestitism at the Caliphal Court in Medieval Baghdad.” In Gender and Difference in the Middle Ages. Edited by Sharon Farmer and Carol Braun Pasternack, 45–72. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                          Discusses transvestism among mukhannathun (“effeminate” men) and ghulamiyat (slave girls dressed as adolescent boys) in Baghdad beginning in the 8th century.

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                                                                                                          • Sanders, Paula. “Gendering the Ungendered Body: Hermaphrodites in Medieval Islamic Law.” In Women in Middle East History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender. Edited by Nikkie R. Keddie and Beth Baron, 74–95. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                            Discusses juristic attempts to assign a sex designation to people with atypical sexual anatomy (people whom might today be called “intersex”).

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                                                                                                            Modern and Contemporary Subversion of Gender/Sex Binaries

                                                                                                            Scholarship on modern and contemporary Islam has very recently begun to consider “gender-bending”, transgenderism, and transsexualism in a wide variety of geographical contexts, including Iran, Nigeria, India, and Indonesia. Studies in this field are still few, as work in this area is in its very early stages. Bridge to Iran: The Birthday (Kianfar and Mohr 2006) and Inside Out (Shayesteh 2006) are both films documenting experiences of transexualism in Iran, while Kugle 2010 discusses transexualism in terms of sex reassignment surgery in contemporary Islamic law. Gaudio 2009 and Reddy 2005 are both concerned with feminine masculinity, the former in Nigeria and the latter in India. Najmabadi 2005 examines the subversion of gender binaries in relation to the state in modern Iran. Davies 2010 studies transgender practices in Indonesia.

                                                                                                            • Davies, Sharyn Graham. Gender Diversity in Indonesia: Sexuality, Islam, and Queer Selves. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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                                                                                                              An analysis of cross-gender behavior in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, including that of individuals who identify neither as men nor women, and others with intersex characteristics.

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                                                                                                              • Gaudio, Rudolf Pell. Allah Made Us: Sexual Outlaws in an Islamic African City. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1002/9781444310535Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Studies contemporary ’yan daudu, men who, in the popular discourse of Hausa-speaking northern Nigeria, are said to act “like women,” in relation to Islamic sexual norms.

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                                                                                                                • Kianfar, Negin, and Daisy Mohr, dirs. Bridge to Iran: The Birthday. Link TV, 2006.

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                                                                                                                  Documents the experiences of a male-to-female transsexual Iranian women undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

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                                                                                                                  • Kugle, Scott Siraj al-Haqq. Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims. Oxford: Oneworld, 2010.

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                                                                                                                    Chapter 6 discusses contemporary Islamic law on sex-reassignment surgery.

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                                                                                                                    • Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexualities of Iranian Modernities. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                      A groundbreaking study of how notions of gender and sex in modern Iran subverted their binarization, and the role of nationalist discourse in the eventual binarization of gender and the hetero-normalization of love.

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                                                                                                                      • Reddy, Gayatri. With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226707549.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        An ethnography of contemporary hijras, men who take on feminine gender roles, in southern India. Chapter 5 discusses Muslim identity and practice.

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                                                                                                                        • Shayesteh, Zohreh, dir. Inside Out. DVD. First Run/Icarus Films, 2006.

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                                                                                                                          Documents transsexualism in contemporary Iran by interviewing a cleric, a doctor, and men and women in various stages of sex transition.

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                                                                                                                          Same-Sex Sexuality

                                                                                                                          The nascent study of same-sex sexuality/homosexuality in premodern and contemporary contexts has taken an upturn since the mid-2000s. Novice researchers should first consult Ali 2006 and Geissinger 2012, and then move on to el-Rouayheb 2005, an essential work, in order to understand key historical and terminological problems in the field. Those interested in women specifically should consult Habib 2007, whereas those interested strictly in premodern jurisprudence should refer to Omar 2012. Those seeking coverage of a breadth of issues in diverse contexts should consult the collections Habib 2010 and Murray and Roscoe 1997. Finally, researchers pursuing theological and interpretive issues will find an essential resource in Kugle 2010, a landmark book.

                                                                                                                          • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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                                                                                                                            Chapter 5 discusses the disparities between contemporary notions of homosexuality and premodern legal understandings of sexual consent, sexual discreetness, marital structures, and illicit sex.

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                                                                                                                            • Geissinger, Aisha. “Islam and Discourses of Same-Sex Desire.” In Queer Religion: Homosexuality in Modern Religious History. Vol. 1. Edited by Donald L. Boisvert and Jay Emerson Johnson, 69–90. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012.

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                                                                                                                              Provides a general overview of historical and contemporary Muslim discourses on same-sex desire and acts.

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                                                                                                                              • Habib, Samar. Female Homosexuality in the Middle East: Histories and Representations. New York: Routledge, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                Currently the only extended study specifically focused on Muslim women and same-sex sexuality. Studies the history and representation of female same-sex sexuality in the medieval and contemporary Middle East, and includes an important discussion of theoretical problems in the historiography of sex and sexuality.

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                                                                                                                                • Habib, Samar, ed. Islam and Homosexuality. 2 Vols. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                  A wide assortment of scholarly essays on legal, literary, and political discourses of same-sex sexuality in Islam, and the religious practice and experiences of queer Muslims, reflecting global and usually contemporary perspectives.

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                                                                                                                                  • Kugle, Scott Siraj al-Haqq. Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims. Oxford: Oneworld, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                    The first extended study of issues of same-sex sexuality in interpretations of Qurʾan, Hadith, and medieval/contemporary jurisprudence, including a discussion of same-sex marriage. A largely prescriptive work.

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                                                                                                                                    • Murray, Stephen O., and Will Roscoe, eds. Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                      The first collection of essays on the topic, providing historical, literary, and anthropological studies of same-sex sexuality in various historical periods and parts of the Muslim world.

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                                                                                                                                      • Omar, Sara. “From Semantics to Normative Law: Perceptions of Liwāṭ (Sodomy) and Siḥāq (Tribadism) in Islamic Jurisprudence (8th–15th Century CE).” Islamic Law and Society 19 (2012): 222–256.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1163/156851912X603193Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        A study of patterns in legal reasoning in classical/medieval Sunni jurists’ rulings on same-sex acts, especially in relation to zina and penetration.

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                                                                                                                                        • el-Rouayheb, Khaled. Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500–1800. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226729909.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Examines how notions of same-sex sexuality in the premodern Arab world may be incongruent with the modern/contemporary concept of homosexuality.

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                                                                                                                                          Prayer

                                                                                                                                          The majority of scholarship on “gender” and prayer is more appropriately categorized as work on “women” and prayer (see discussion in Introduction), but such works are currently the only sources available for beginning to understand the gendered dimensions of prayer. Aryanti 2013, Hammer 2012, and Jaschok and Shui 2000 are concerned with issues of women’s inclusion in prayer spaces and prayer leadership in modern/contemporary Indonesia, North America, and China, respectively. Elewa and Silvers 2010–2011 and Sadeghi 2013 are concerned with premodern legal discourses of women and prayer, the former on women’s prayer leadership, and the latter on women’s participation in communal prayer. Doumato 2000 examines recent practices of ritual prayer among women in the Gulf, while Geissinger 2013 examines premodern discussions of bodily comportment in prayer.

                                                                                                                                          • Aryanti, Tutin. “A Claim to Space: Debating Female Religious Leadership in a Muhammadiyah Mosque in Indonesia.” Muslim World 103.3 (2013): 375–388.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/muwo.12020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Examines debates on female leadership in relation to the politics of mosque space within Indonesia’s Muhammadiyah movement.

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                                                                                                                                            • Doumato, Eleanor Abdella. Getting God’s Ear: Women, Islam, and Healing in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                              Chapter 2 examines women’s ritual salah and heterodox forms of prayer in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region in the early 20th century.

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                                                                                                                                              • Elewa, Ahmed, and Laury Silvers. “‘I Am One of the People’: A Survey and Analysis of Legal Arguments on Woman-Led Prayer in Islam.” Journal of Law and Religion 26 (2010–2011): 141–171.

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                                                                                                                                                Studies classical Sunni jurisprudence on the permissibility of woman-led prayer in Islam, and contemporary responses.

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                                                                                                                                                • Geissinger Aisha. “‘Umm al-Dardāʾ Sat in Tashshahud Like a Man’: Towards the Historical Contextualization of a Portrayal of Female Religious Authority.” Muslim World 103.3 (2013): 305–319.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/muwo.12015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Critically examines the construction of prayer as gendered performance (particularly in terms of bodily comportment) in Hadith collections and legal debates of early Islam.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Hammer, Julianne. American Muslim Women, Religious Authority, and Activism: More Than a Prayer. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                    Examines US Muslim debates on woman-led prayer and women’s spaces in mosques in relation to women’s religious authority.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Jaschok, Maria, and Shui Jingjun. The History of Women’s Mosques in Chinese Islam: A Mosque of Their Own. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                      Examines the history of mosques exclusively for and run by Muslim women in China.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Sadeghi, Behnam. The Logic of Law Making in Islam: Women and Prayer in the Legal Tradition. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511920509Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Though primarily a study of legal reasoning and the evolution of Islamic law (focused on Hanafi rulings from the 8th to 18th centuries), this study provides a wealth of information on legal doctrines regarding the appropriate positioning and practice of women in communal prayers.

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                                                                                                                                                        Issues in Sufism and Shiʿism

                                                                                                                                                        As the field of Islamic studies remains largely Sunni-centric, the unique elements of gender and sexuality particular to the Shiʿi and Sufi traditions are often overlooked. The genealogical lineage of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima makes her a central figure in Shiʿi tradition. The representation of Fatima as an idealized woman in Shiʿi tradition is the focus of Thurlkill 2007. The rich symbolism of Muharram observances, which is the focus of Aghaie 2005, is also key to understanding concepts of gender in Shiʿism. In addition, as-Sulami 1999 on Sufi women figures serves as an important reference on the spiritual practice of early Sufi women as distinct from male practice, giving us insight into the gendered spiritual lives of early Muslim women that is often more difficult to surmise from Sunni sources. Finally, Kugle 2007 is concerned with the gendered implications of the physical body in Sufism, and the gendered concepts of ontology and cosmology are the focus of Murata 1992, Schimmel 1997, and Shaikh 2012.

                                                                                                                                                        • Aghaie, Kamran Scot, ed. The Women of Karbala: Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shiʿi Islam. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                          A collection of essential essays on gender symbolism and women’s roles in the modern Karbala rituals of Shiʿi Muslims in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, and the United States.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Kugle, Scott Alan. Sufis and Saints’ Bodies: Mysticism, Corporeality, and Sacred Power in Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                            An essential text for understanding the role of the physical body in Sufism. Chapters 2 (pp. 81–122) and 4 (pp. 181–220) discuss sainthood in relation to female embodiment and homoerotic desire, respectively.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Murata, Sachiko. The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                              An anthology of medieval Arabic and Persian texts in English translation concerned with the relation between feminine and masculine aspects of the divine nature and cosmology; Murata’s hierarchical delineation of those aspects has been the subject of feminist criticism.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Schimmel, Annemarie. My Soul Is a Woman: The Feminine in Islam. New York: Continuum, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                A classic work on the theme of femininity in classical and medieval Sufi literature.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Shaikh, Saʿdiyya. Sufi Narratives of Intimacy: Ibn ʿArabī, Gender, and Sexuality. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A groundbreaking work addressing notions of ontology, religious anthropology, and cosmology in the work of the 13th-century Sufi scholar Ibn ʿArabi and their implications for contemporary gender politics.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • as-Sulami, Abu ʿAbd ar-Rahman. Early Sufi Women: Dhikr an-niswa al-mutaʿabbidāt aṣ-Ṣūfiyyāt. Translated by Rkia E. Cornell. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                    A translation of the earliest extent hagiographical work on Sufi women saints, dating to the 11th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Thurlkill, Mary F. Chosen among Women: Mary and Fatima in Medieval Christianity and Shiʿite Islam. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                      A comparative work examining the centrality of Fatima in the formation of Shiʿite tradition.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Bodily Purity and Menstruation

                                                                                                                                                                      Issues of bodily purity are central to understanding Islamic conceptions of sexual activity and the treatment of the body as gender/sex differentiated. Sources on this subject shed light on the relationship between the sexual and sacred realms, ritual and the gendered body, and piety and physicality. Katz 2002, Maghen 2005, and Reinhart 1990 are concerned with jurisprudence on ritual purity generally, while Spellberg 1996 specifically addresses menstruation in textual interpretation. Reinhart 1990 and Spellberg 1996 are the most accessible works. Although Katz 2002 and Maghen 2005 are written for specialists, both are helpful in conveying the complexity of legal debates and the key questions for novice researchers.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Katz, Marion Holmes. Body of a Text: The Emergence of the Sunni Law of Ritual Purity. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                        A work catering to specialists, examining medieval legal debates within ritual purity jurisprudence, including a discussion of Qurʾanic texts on the topic.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Maghen, Ze’ev. Virtues of the Flesh: Passion and Purity in Early Islamic Jurisprudence. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A work most suitable for specialists, providing a masterful study of Prophetic practice and classical jurisprudence of ritual purity in relationship to sexual characteristics of the body and behavior.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Reinhart, Kevin A. “Impurity/No Danger.” History of Religions 30.1 (1990): 1–24.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1086/463212Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            A predecessor to more recent and extensive studies, and an attempt to glean an underlying system or logic to ritual purity jurisprudence.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Spellberg, D. A. “Writing the Unwritten Life of the Islamic Eve: Menstruation and the Demonization of Motherhood.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28.3 (1996): 305–324.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/S0020743800063479Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              Discusses the treatment of the biological functions of Eve as a divine punishment upon all women in Hadith literature and classical commentaries on the Qurʾan.

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                                                                                                                                                                              HIV/AIDS

                                                                                                                                                                              The topic of HIV/AIDS in Muslim contexts, which links contemporary Muslim views of gender and sexuality to health, has until recently been dominated by the study of demographic and public health concerns that have not been connected to Islam per se. A handful of recent works have initiated the study of Islamic religious norms in relation to the epidemic, often authored by scholar-activists involved in HIV/AIDS advocacy. Mahathir 2000 is concerned with the intersection between HIV/AIDS and gender inequality, while both Esack and Chiddy 2009 and the contributions to Haddad 2011 are concerned with religious morality vis-a-vis HIV/AIDS, especially Islamic ethical and theological approaches to infection, epidemic, and stigma.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Esack, Farid, and Sarah Chiddy, eds. Islam and AIDS: Between Scorn, Pity, and Justice. Oxford: Oneworld, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The most well-known collection of essays by scholars and activists concerned exclusively with Muslim perspectives on AIDS, spanning theological, legal, policy, and ethical approaches, with focused attention given to gender, sexuality, and poverty. A prescriptive approach to the topic based on confessional and activist perspectives.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Haddad, Beverley, ed. Religion and HIV and AIDS: Charting the Terrain. Scottsville, South Africa: University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Largely focused on Africa, with several pieces and responses by activists discussing Muslims’ approaches and attitudes toward infection, prevention, and treatment. See especially chapters 5 (pp. 135–169) and 7 (pp. 201–216) for Muslim perspectives.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Mahathir, Marina. “HIV/AIDS: Women’s Rights and Gender Issues.” In Islam, Reproductive Health and Women’s Rights. Edited by Zainah Anwar and Rashidah Abdullah, 139–150. Kuala Lumpur: Sisters in Islam, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Part of a collection of papers presented at a 1998 workshop in Malaysia. Discusses the relationship between the HIV/AIDS epidemic and women’s rights.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Premodern Discourses on Sexuality

                                                                                                                                                                                    The study of sexuality in premodern Islamic contexts has had to grapple with the problem of using modern terms to understand premodern notions of love, intimacy, desire, and family. For legal and literary histories, one should refer to Maghen 2005 and Marsot 1979. On methodological issues, Babayan and Najmabadi 2008 and Pierce 2009 are central works. For the Ottoman period, an especially rich area of study, see Andrews and Kalpakli 2005 and Ze’evi 2006. Works of medieval erotology are also an important source of information on sexual norms, as discussed in Franke 2012. Included in this section are also two valuable primary sources on the topic. Researchers will also benefit from many of the sources listed in the Same-Sex Sexuality section, particularly el-Rouayheb 2005.

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Andrews, Walter G., and Mehmet Kalpakli. The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Technically a study of the early modern period, but placed here for being on the cusp of the premodern/modern and more closely related to works in this category. Studies the figures of the lover and beloved from the late 15th to early 17th century through an examination of Ottoman lyric poetry.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Babayan, Kathryn, and Afsaneh Najmabadi, eds. Islamicate Sexualities: Translations across Temporal Geographies of Desire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A collection of essays by historians, literary scholars, and critical theorists on sexualities in the Islamic Middle East, examining epistemological problems in the study of sexualities. Includes some modern material but focused mostly on premodern discussions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Franke, Patrick. “Before Scientia Sexualis in Islamic Culture: ʿIlm al-bah between Erotology, Medicine and Pornography.” Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture 18.2 (2012): 161–173.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2012.652843Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          An analysis of medieval works of ʿilm al-bah (the science of sexual intercourse) as a precursor to modern sexual science.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Maghen, Ze’ev. Virtues of the Flesh: Passion and Purity in Early Islamic Jurisprudence. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            A rigorous study of early juristic texts on ritual purity with broad implications for the relation of sex and sacrality in medieval Islam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Marsot, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid, ed. Society and the Sexes in Medieval Islam. Malibu, CA: Undena, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              An early collection of essays attempting to map out the sources and areas of inquiry for the study of medieval Muslim sexualities, mostly concerned with legal and literary sources.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Pierce, Leslie. “Writing Histories of Sexualities in the Middle East.” American Historical Review 114.5 (2009): 1325–1339.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1086/ahr.114.5.1325Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                An insightful, up-to-date overview of epistemological, theoretical, and methodological concerns in the growing field of the history of sexuality in the Islamic Middle East.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Ze’evi, Dror. Producing Desire: Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle East, 1500–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Studies discourses of sexuality in medical texts, jurisprudence, scholarship by religious thinkers, dream interpretation, shadow theater, and travel accounts from the 16th- to early-20th-century Ottoman Empire. Another work on the cusp between the premodern and modern periods.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Primary Sources

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Researchers on the topic will find references to a wealth of primary texts written in a variety of Islamicate languages within the books listed above. The works listed here make two significant medieval sources on the topic available in English: al-Ghazali 1984 is a famous treatise on marriage, and Nafzawi 1999 is a fascinating advice manual.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Marriage and Sexuality in Islam: A Translation of al-Ghazali’s Book on the Etiquette of Marriage from the Ihya. Translated by Madelain Farah. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    The widely influential work of the 12th-century philosopher on behavior, roles, and responsibilities of men and women in marriage and sex.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Nafzawi, Umar ibn Muhammad. The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui: A Manual of Arabian Erotology. Translated by Richard S. Burton. New York: Signet Classics, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      A 15th-century Arab scholar discusses and offers advice on sexual enjoyment of the body in explicit detail.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Modern and Contemporary Discourses on Sexuality

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The study of modern and contemporary discourses on sexual behavior and desire in Muslim-majority contexts, particularly those outside of the Middle East, has been dominated by works that do not partake in the analysis of religion and religious identity. The following are key works that do include Islam as a category of study. Hopwood 1999 and Massad 2007 study discourses on sex in relation to modernity and colonial encounters. Mernissi 1987 is a somewhat polemical work that is listed not for its scholarly rigor but for its role in sparking far-reaching debates on Muslim women’s sexual oppression since the 1970s. Ilkkaracan 2000 and Ilkkaracan 2008 are essential collections featuring the contemporary voices of scholars and activists on Muslim sexual discourses. Piela 2012 accounts for the expression of such voices online. Researchers will also benefit from the modern and contemporary sources listed in the Same-Sex Sexuality section.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Hopwood, Derek. Sexual Encounters in the Middle East: The British, the French, and the Arabs. Reading, UK: Ithaca, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Examines interrelated attitudes and behaviors of Arab, British, and French women and men, both in their homelands and abroad, primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries, through a study of fiction, travel writing, and art.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Ilkkaracan, Pinar, ed. Women and Sexuality in Muslim Societies. Istanbul: Women for Women’s Human Rights, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          An anthology of writings by a wide range of scholars and activists on the control of women’s bodies and sexuality in Muslim communities around the world, mostly focused on the contemporary Middle East.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Ilkkaracan, Pinar, ed. Deconstructing Sexuality in the Middle East. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            An anthology of writings by scholars and activists on contemporary debates about the politics of sexuality in the Middle East.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Massad, Joseph A. Desiring Arabs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226509600.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Studies discourses on sex and sexual desire in relation to modernity and colonialism in the writings of 19th- and 20th-century Arab intellectuals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Mernissi, Fatima. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Originally published in French in 1975 and revised more than a decade later, this is an early classic of Muslim women’s studies by a famous Moroccan sociologist, from a secular feminist perspective. Proposes the theory that modern Muslim sexual dynamics are rooted in a fear of active female sexuality, sparking worldwide debate on Muslim women’s oppression.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Piela, Anna. Muslim Women Online: Faith and Identity in Virtual Space. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Currently the only book devoted to Muslim women’s self-expression and their debates about Islam on the Internet, exploring their transnational discussions on education, culture, marriage, sexuality, work, dress, and sisterhood.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Modern and Contemporary Advice Literature

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Modern and contemporary instructional guides and other advice literature on proper sexual conduct and male and female behavior are important sources of information on gender and sexual norms in Muslim communities, revealing what behaviors are regarded as socially acceptable and religiously sanctioned in popular discourse. One modern manifestation of such literature from India, the famous Bihishti Zewar, is made accessible by Metcalf 1990; this text is an important precursor to works that would follow over the course of the century and into the present day in instructing women on their duties and proper comportment. Al-Hashimi 2003 functions as an updated model of such a text, in this case emerging from the Arab world. Amer 2010, al-Kawthari 2008, and Maqsood 1999 are contemporary sources offering advice on sexual etiquette to adolescents and adults, both male and female. Azam 2009 analyzes norms found within advice literature on women’s dress, while Swank 2007 studies televised advice on sex.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Contraception and Abortion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Works on contraception and abortion are key sources for studying reproductive regulations in Islamic contexts. Those listed here are focused on the history, legality, and ethics of contraception in the Muslim world, spanning classical to contemporary periods. Musallam 1983 is focused on premodern jurisprudence, medicine, and popular discourse. Brockopp 2003 and Shaikh 2003 both examine premodern scholarly opinions in relation to contemporary ethical debates among Muslims.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Brockopp, Jonathan E., ed. Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War, and Euthanasia. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Contains three essays on abortion in classical Sunni jurisprudence, contemporary fatwas, and contemporary Muslim ethics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Musallam, B. F. Sex and Society in Islam: Birth Control before the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Examines evidence for allowance of contraception in medieval jurisprudence, medical texts, and popular literature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Shaikh, Saʿdiyya. “Family Planning, Contraception, and Abortion in Islam: Undertaking Khilafah.” In Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions. Edited by Daniel C. Maguire, 105–128. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195160017.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Concisely demonstrates the diversity of medieval and modern scholarly opinions on family planning, contraception, and abortion, and argues for the use of holistic ethical reflection in contemporary decision-making.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Circumcision and Excision

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Most of the works available on genital circumcision and excision are dominated by polemical discourses of the oppression of Muslim women or international development literature. The few scholarly works listed in this section provide brief essential introductions to historical, legal, and ethical issues related to these practices. The short articles on “Ḵh̲afḍ” and “Ḵh̲itān” (Wensinck 2000) give the novice researcher a basic sense of the definitions and occurrences of circumcision and excision over the broad span of Muslim history, interspersed with reference suggestions. Berkey 1996 offers a premodern historical overview, while Ali 2006 takes up contemporary rhetoric on the permissibility of female circumcision. A very brief and less historically rigorous, though interesting, discussion of male and female circumcision in Arab societies may be found chapter 12 of Abdelwahab Bouhdiba’s Sexuality in Islam (Bouhdiba 1985, cited under General Overviews).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qurʾan, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Chapter 6 criticizes totalizing statements about “Islam” advocating or forbidding the practice of female circumcision, arguing that both rely on interpretive authoritarianism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Berkey, Jonathan P. “Circumcision and Circumscribed: Female Excision and Cultural Accommodation in the Medieval Near East.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28 (1996): 19–38.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0020743800062760Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A careful historical examination of medieval Muslims’ customs and attitudes related to the practice of female excision.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • “Ḵh̲afḍ.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 4. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 913–914. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A very brief introduction to views and practices of female excision in Islamic contexts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Wensinck, A. J. “Ḵh̲itān.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 5. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 20–22. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A very brief introduction to views and practices of male and female circumcision in Islamic contexts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Rape, Domestic Violence, and Honor-Related Violence

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Many of the works available on violence against women in Muslim societies are prone to xenophobia and Orientalist discourse on the oppression of women in Islam. The more reliable scholarly studies of these topics listed in this section focus on the treatment of rape and gendered violence in the Qurʾan, Hadith, and jurisprudence; some of them also take up contemporary legal and activist responses to honor-related violence, a designation for violent acts (including but not limited to rape and domestic violence) committed in the name of the honor of a man, family, or community. Azam 2007 examines premodern discourses on rape, while Sonbol 1996 studies rape and marital obedience in both premodern and modern jurisprudence; Quraishi 2000 zeroes in on 20th-century rape laws in Pakistan. Largueche 1996 studies the disciplining of wives in the specific context of 18th-century Tunisia, while Chaudhry 2013 provides a comprehensive examination of wife beating as a ground for understanding contemporary debates. Welchman and Hossain 2005 and Idriss and Abbas 2011 are both focused on contemporary phenomena of honor-related violence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Azam, Hina. “Sexual Violence in Maliki Legal Ideology: From Discursive Foundations to Classical Articulation.” PhD diss., Duke University, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Examines the concept of rape in classical Maliki jurisprudence and Sunni Hadith collections.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Chaudhry, Ayesha S. Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640164.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A comprehensive examination of arguments about the right of husbands to beat their wives presented in Islamic jurisprudence and commentaries on the Qurʾan.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Idriss, Mohammad Mazher, and Tahir Abbas, eds. Honour, Violence, Women, and Islam. New York: Routledge, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A collection of scholarly essays, mostly on contemporary honor-related violence against Muslim women in various regions of the world, including debates on cultural relativism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Largueche, Dalenda. “Confined, Battered, and Repudiated Women in Tunis since the Eighteenth Century.” In Women the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Edited by Amira El Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Examines jurisprudence and historical records about the 18th-century Tunisian dar juwad, a kind of correctional/punishment site for women disobedient to their husbands.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Quraishi, Asifa. “Her Honor: An Islamic Critique of the Rape Laws of Pakistan from a Woman-Sensitive Perspective.” In Windows of Faith: Muslim Women Scholar-Activists in North America. Edited by Gisela Webb, 102–135. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Somewhat dated and apologist at moments, but a foundational essay on rape laws and the Zina Ordinance in Pakistan.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Sonbol, Amira El Azhary. “Law and Gender Violence in Ottoman and Modern Egypt.” In Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Edited by Amira El Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Examines the treatment of rape and marital obedience in Ottoman-era and modern Egyptian law.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Welchman, Lynn, and Sara Hossain, eds. “Honour:” Crimes, Paradigms, and Violence against Women. London: Zed Books, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A collection of essays by mostly activists and a handful of scholars, mostly on honor-related violence against women, with several contributions on case law and reform efforts in Muslim-majority countries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sexual Segregation and Veiling

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The history of writings on sex segregation, veiling, and the harem is inextricably linked to colonial and national discourses on Islam, women, and modernity—and thus notoriously prone to Orientalist assumptions and Muslim apologia. The sources listed here provide welcome alternatives to such writings, examining the rich and nuanced history, politics, and social customs of sexual modesty and separation since early Islam. Essential scholarship on the history of the harem is provided in Booth 2011, Lal 2005, and Pierce 1993. Historical, ethnographic, and narrative treatments of the veil are provided in Ahmed 2011, Bullock 2002, de Souza 2004, El Guindi 2003, and Heath 2008.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ahmed, Leila. A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A study of the historical, political, and social factors leading to an increase in Muslim women’s practice of veiling since the 1970s, particularly the rise of Islamism and its appeal to women in Egypt and the United States, and the impact of state policy in relation to Muslim women’s activist agendas.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Booth, Marilyn, ed. Harem Histories: Envisioning Places and Living Spaces. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The best collection of historical essays on experiences and representations of the harem in the communities of the Middle East and North Africa and their European visitors, covering the span of early Islam to the 20th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bullock, Katherine. Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes. Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A historical, political, sociological, and ethnographic analysis of Muslim women’s veiling and its meanings, concentrating on debates in North America and the Middle East. This study is framed by its explicit aim of disputing liberal feminist views of the veil and convincing readers that the veil is not inherently oppressive.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • de Souza, Eunice, ed. Purdah: An Anthology. New York: Oxford, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A collection of a wide variety of writings (including essays, personal accounts, fiction, poetry, originally in or translated into English) on women’s experiences and reformist/European views of sexual segregation and modesty on the Indian subcontinent in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • El Guindi, Fadwa. Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance. New York: Berg, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An anthropological and historical study of the veil in Arab culture, providing a nuanced analysis of its multifaceted meanings.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Heath, Jennifer, eds. The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A diverse collection of essays, personal narratives, and literary pieces by scholars and writers on the cultures, politics, and history of veiling.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Lal, Ruby. Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Examines harem life in 16th-century Mughal imperial courts, discussing how women negotiated their self-determination and influenced public affairs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Pierce, Leslie P. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A foundational historical study of royal women and hierarchies of power in 16th- and 17th-century imperial harems of the Ottoman empire.

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