Islamic Studies Gender-based Violence and Islam
Liv Tønnessen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0286


Scholarship on gender-based violence (GBV) and Islam is fast evolving and has made key advances. In particular, it has successfully illuminated the intellectual diversity within the Islamic tradition on GBV both in the past and in the present. As such, this body of literature has contributed to countering stereotypes frequenting orientalist scholarship and emerging Islamophobia in Western societies, namely that the Islamic religion is monolithic and gender oppressive. Careful analyses showing how Sunni exegetical and legal traditions are pluralistic and diverse are combined with a normative approach which pursues gender justice for Muslim women. Historical contextualization of Islamic texts is combined with hermeneutical and linguistic analysis and the exploration of various methods of feminist interpretation, shedding important light on the way that the Islamic tradition is retrieved and appropriated in contemporary contexts in the Muslim world by political regimes, Islamist movements, and feminist activists. This innovative scholarship continues to advance discourses in law and religion, Islamic studies, and gender studies. This bibliography reflects scholarly work done on Islam and GBV, privileging works that are accessible to an international readership, including books and peer-reviewed articles. Relevant publications for nongovernmental organizations are not included, with a few exceptions. The themes are selected based on the literature available and are suggestive of the main areas that have garnered interest among scholars. GBV is defined as violence (causing physical, sexual, and/or psychological harm) against a person on the basis of their gender. The term is used to underscore the fact that structural, gender-based power inequalities place women and girls disproportionately at risk of multiple forms of violence in both private and public spheres. The term GBV is also increasingly used to describe violence against marginalized men and boys and queer populations who are targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The available literature on GBV and Islam focuses predominantly on women and girls, but there is an emerging scholarship on men and masculinities and also LGBTQI+ which is reflected in the publications referenced.

General Overviews

To date, there are no reference works or overviews that include a comprehensive focus on GBV and Islam. The overviews included here focus on the pluralistic Sunni exegetical and legal traditions’ position on different types of GBV or scholarship dedicated to disassociating such violence from Islam. The biggest bulk of this scholarship focuses on domestic violence. Chaudhry 2013 focuses on wife-beating through the lens of verse 4:34 in the Qurʾan. Sexual violence with a particular focus on the diffusion between zina (sexual intercourse before or outside of marriage) and rape and, to a lesser extent, marital rape has also received considerable attention in the literature (More information can be found in Azam 2015). Lastly, honor-related violence, which is seen by both scholars and activists as a practice not rooted in Islam or any other religion, has been widely discussed. The edited volume Welchman and Hossain 2005 includes a review of the state of the field related to honor violence, including disassociating such violence from Islam.

  • Azam, Hina. Sexual Violation in Islamic Law: Substance, Evidence, and Procedure. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781316145722

    This book provides a detailed analysis of Islamic juristic writings on the topic of rape focusing on legal discourses of the first six centuries of Islam, the period during which these discourses reached their classical forms.

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

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640164.001.0001

    This is a groundbreaking book which examines verse 4:34 throughout Arabic-language exegetical and jurisprudential literature from the lifetime of Muhammad through the 20th century. She compares traditional and contemporary interpretations of the verse.

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

    The introduction to this edited volume, which includes thirteen case studies, gives a state of the field of the available literature on honor crimes, including a discussion of its Islamic basis.

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