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

Introduction

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.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, where one person aims to control their partner through physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, including beating, threats, force, rape, forced seclusion, or withholding money, is dealt with extensively in the scholarship, particularly within the context of personal status or Muslim family law. The root of domestic violence lies, as Mir-Husseini, et al. 2015 eloquently writes, in the assumption that men should be in charge of women, expressed in concepts like qiwamah (which denotes the husband’s authority over his wife and his financial responsibility toward her) and wilayah (which denotes the right and duty of male family members to exercise guardianship over women), even though these do not appear in the Qurʾan. Women’s obedience to male guardians in exchange for nafaqa (maintenance) is at the heart of the marital contract and cements unequal power relations between the spouses, which simultaneously makes women and girls (as wives, daughters, sisters) more vulnerable to domestic violence. Domestic violence is not exclusively a spousal affair; brothers, for example, are sometimes socialized into violent behaviors toward sisters. However, there is an emerging ethnographic scholarship on new forms of Muslim masculinities which challenge this dominant and stereotypical conception of violent and oppressive men (for more information, see Inhorn and Naguib 2018). In most of the literature which flags domestic violence in the title, the focus has been specifically and quite narrowly on wife-beating and the impunity for such crimes within contemporary criminal codes in Muslim-majority countries. However, the guardianship of men over women gives the husband the right to act in stages against the wife’s “disobedience,” sometimes but not always culminating in physical disciplining or beating. This is demonstrated by Mir-Husseini, et al. 2015, built upon life stories of Muslim women from ten countries, and how they experience qiwamah and wilayah in their everyday lives. There is also some scholarly work on marital rape, but that is dealt with under the section on Sexual Violence. Chaudhry 2013 shows how the Qurʾan verse 4:34 has long been cited in support of a man physically disciplining his wife for disobedience. Hajjar 2004 focuses on how this classical and patriarchal interpretation of the verse has influenced the codification of Islamic family laws in contemporary Muslim states and translated into impunity for domestic violence, including marital rape. However, the authors of Dunn and Kellison 2010 and a range of other scholars have noted a diversity of Islamic interpretations of this verse. Ammar 2007 classifies the range of past and present-day Sunni exegetical responses as literal, patriarchal, and feminist interpretive positions. Chaudhry 2011 has also pointed to the contradiction between verse 4:34 and the Prophet’s example (the Sunnah). When experiencing marital conflict, the Prophet did not resort to wife-beating, and according to Muslim feminists such as the author of Mernissi 1987, his example should be authoritative in determining Islam’s position on domestic violence. There is a growing movement of Muslim feminist hermeneutical and linguistic analysis of this verse questioning classical exegetes’ interpretation of it. One of its earliest advocates, the author of Al-Hibri 1997, places the verse in a medieval patriarchal context, deconstructing classical exegetes’ interpretation of it guided by principles of gender justice. Reda 2019 suggests a spiritual re-reading of the Qurʾan as a tangible technique to combat wife-beating. Wadud 2006, by an influential African American Muslim feminist and political activist, rejects any Islamic permission for violence against women. Anwar and Ismail 2020 demonstrates how such approaches have gained traction in local contexts as applied by Sisters of Islam in Malaysia. Kort 2005 traces important shifts in the approach to the Qurʾanic verse 4:34, from condoning domestic violence to rejecting it, to contemporary Islamic Internet sites.

  • Ammar, Nawal H. “Wife Battery in Islam: A Comprehensive Understanding of Interpretations.” Violence against Women 13.5 (2007): 516–526.

    DOI: 10.1177/1077801207300658Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A review of Islamic interpretations on wife-beating classified by the author as literal, patriarchal, and feminist.

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  • Anwar, Zainah, and Rose Ismail. “Amina Wadud and Sisters in Islam: A Journey towards Empowerment.” In A Jihad for Justice: Honoring the Work and Life of Amina Wadud. Edited by Kecia Ali, Juliane Hammer, and Laury Silvers, 63–73. Ottawa, ON: Library and Archives Canada, 2020.

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    In the mobilization of Sisters of Islam (SIS) for a domestic violence law in Malaysia, the group used feminist interpretations of the Qurʾanic verse 4:34. The group argued in the context of Malaysia that wife-beating is not legitimized within Islam. The authors are founding members of SIS. First published as eBook in 2012.

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  • Chaudhry, Ayesha S. “‘I wanted one thing and God wanted another . . .’: The Dilemma of the Prophetic Example and the Qur’anic Injunction on Wife-Beating.” Journal of Religious Ethics 39.3 (2011): 416–439.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9795.2011.00487.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article explores the prophetic example (Sunnah) in determining Islam’s position on wife-beating. The essay argues that the modernists are correct in positing that Muhammad’s prophetic practice was to morally censure husbands who hit their wives.

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  • Dunn, Shannon, and Rosemary Kellison. “At the Intersection of Scripture and Law: Qur’an 4:34 and Violence against Women.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2 (2010): 11–36.

    DOI: 10.2979/fsr.2010.26.2.11Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examination of the diversity of interpretations of the Qurʾanic verse 4:34. The authors identify two strands of interpretation, building on premodern interpretations: one traditionalist, which allows for limited violence against wives, and one reformist, which reinterprets the verse to argue that its intention was not to allow the beating of wives.

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  • Hajjar, Lisa. “Religion, State Power, and Domestic Violence in Muslim Societies: A Framework for Comparative Analysis.” Law & Social Inquiry 29.1 (2004): 1–38.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-4469.2004.tb00329.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article focuses on the issue of domestic violence in Muslim societies in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The analytical framework is comparative, emphasizing four factors and the interplay among them: Sharia (Islamic law), state power, intrafamily violence, and struggles over women’s rights. The most important issue for understanding impunity for domestic violence in this region is the relationship between religion and state power.

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  • Al-Hibri, Azizah Y. “Islam, Law and Custom: Redefining Muslim Women’s Rights.” American University Journal of International Law and Policy 12.1 (1997): 1–44.

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    This article discusses personal status codes in contemporary Muslim societies, critiquing the Islamic jurisprudence on the right of a woman to contract her own marriage, the duty of the wife to obey her husband (which relates to domestic violence and verse 4:34), and the right of the wife to initiate divorce. The author offers a Muslim feminist solution to the advancement of women’s rights in Muslim countries.

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  • Inhorn, Marcia, and Nefissa Naguib, eds. Reconceiving Muslim Men: Love and Marriage, Family and Care in Precarious Times. New York: Berghahn Books, 2018.

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    This edited volume contains fifteen chapters which challenge the stereotypes of Muslim masculinities as aggressive, religiously zealous, and inherently patriarchal.

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  • Kort, Alexis. “Dar al-Cyber Islam: Women, Domestic Violence, and the Islamic Reformation on the World Wide Web.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 25.3 (2005): 362–383.

    DOI: 10.1080/13602000500408393Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores evidence of change in Islamic thought regarding domestic violence via the Internet through an exploration of the role and potential impact that Islamic websites are providing.

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  • Mernissi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1987.

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    Originally published in French, the book represents one of the earliest feminist commentaries on verse 4:34. The author argues that the Prophet’s treatment of women and his reported discomfort with wife-beating is the more authoritative example.

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  • Mir-Husseini, Mira, Mulki al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger. Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. London: Oneworld, 2015.

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    In this book, Musawah has put together scholars to explore the reasons behind the discrimination against women in Muslim legal tradition through the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah. Of particular interest are the first chapter, written by the editors, which gives a general introduction to the central concepts and an overview of the book; the chapter by Lynn Welchman examining how various Muslim-majority countries have taken different approaches in shaping areas of family laws related to qiwamah and wilayah; and the chapter by Al-Sharmani and Rumminger, which discusses Musawah’s Global Life Stories Project, which documented and analyzed the life stories of fifty-eight Muslim women in ten countries (Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, and the United Kingdom) to better understand how women actually experience the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah.

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  • Reda, Nevine. “The Qurʾan and Domestic Violence: An Islamic Feminist, Spiritually Integrative Reading of Verse 4:34.” International Journal of Practical Theology 23.2 (2019): 257–273.

    DOI: 10.1515/ijpt-2018-0058Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper examines Qurʾan 4:34 through an Islamic feminist lens, focusing attention on the importance of spirituality in the contemporary context. It contends that reading the Qurʾan as a spiritual method sheds new light on this verse, changing its interpretation from one that makes allowances for wife-beating to one that provides tangible techniques to combat this phenomenon.

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  • Wadud, Amina. Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam. New York: Oneworld Press, 2006.

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    In this book, Wadud develops a Qurʾanic-based feminism, where it takes an unequivocal approach to reading 4:34 and comes to the conclusion that a literal reading of 4:34 is harmful.

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Sexual Violence

Although rape is not discussed in the Qurʾan, it is mentioned in the Hadith sources. Rape is discussed in several Islamic sources such as fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), fatwas (legal opinions), and Sharia court records. According to Azam 2013 and Azam 2015 (cited under General Overviews), early Islamic legal authorities developed a fairly coherent notion of “rape” as a punishable crime, but they categorized rape as a coercive variant of zina, that is zina by force/without consent. In addition, it has been defined as a violation of property, or ightisab (from the root ghasb, or usurpation). As such, rape was seen as a moral and a property crime. Zina is a hadd crime, defined as any act of illicit sexual intercourse before (fornication) or outside of a marriage contract (adultery). The categorization of rape as a form of zina entails applying the same stringent method of evidence used in proving zina, to establish a rape crime. As noted by scholars and activists, therefore, the threshold for evidence becomes almost insurmountable. The diffusion between rape and zina also existed in Ottoman courts and in contemporary criminal laws in countries with codified hudud penalties like Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Northern Nigeria, and Iran, making it more difficult for women to prosecute their rapists. Köndgen 2017 shows the problematic consequences of this diffusion on women in the case of Sudan, and Khan 2004 in the case of Pakistan, namely the incrimination of the victim of rape. A different approach is presented by the author of Quraishi 2000, who has argued that in Islamic jurisprudence, rape was categorized not as a variant of zina but as a type of bodily injury (jarh) for which blood-money (diya) was due (more information can be found in Mir-Hosseini and Hamzić 2010). According to Azam 2013, this is a contemporary and activist approach taken by women’s rights activists in arguing for legal reform of modern rape legislation in countries which have criminalized zina. This way, they avoid directly challenging the hudud, the laws of God, and instead argue for delinking rape from zina as a distinct crime. Through the case of Sudan, Tønnessen 2014 showcases a variety of approaches and Islamic arguments that have been used by contemporary women’s rights activists to advocate for better legal protection against rape. The topic of marital rape has received considerably less attention in the scholarly literature. The majority of Islamic jurists do not recognize marital rape as rape. Since sexual access historically has accompanied a man’s right to his property, whether of his wife or female slave, then marital rape becomes an oxymoron, according to Ali 2010. However, the jurists did address the issue of a husband injuring his wife sexually. According to Ali 2010, the Hanafis allowed the husband to forcibly have sex with his wife if she did not have a legitimate reason to refuse it. In the comparative work Hajjar 2004 (cited under Domestic Violence), marital rape is presented as “uncriminalizable” under dominant interpretations of Islamic law, and this is reflected in contemporary criminal and personal status codes in the Muslim world.

  • Aghtaie, Nadia. “Breaking the Silence: Rape Law in Iran and Controlling Women’s Sexuality.” In International Approaches to Rape. Edited by Nicole Westmarland and Geetanjali Gangoli, 130–154. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2012.

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    This book chapter analyzes the ambiguities of Iran’s Penal Code and discusses how rape and sexual intercourse are perceived outside marriage.

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

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvjk2x5jSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book presents the first systematic analysis of how these jurists conceptualized marriage, its rights and obligations, and deals with among other things marital rape.

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  • Azam, Hina. “Rape as a Variant of Fornication (Zina) in Islamic Law: An Examination of the Early Legal Reports.” Journal of Law and Religion 28.2 (2013): 441–466.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0748081400000102Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article offers an analysis of reports narrating early legal positions on the crimes of rape and fornication, as well as the relationship between the two. These reports suggest that jurists’ concept of “coercive zina” developed in the post-Qurʾanic period and hung in part on zina being categorized as a hadd crime.

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  • Khan, Shahnaz. “Locating the Feminist Voice: The Debate on the Zina Ordinance.” Feminist Studies 30.3 (2004): 660–685.

    DOI: 10.2307/20458989Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article traces the history and effects of the zina ordinance in Pakistan, including its effects on the legal conception of rape, within the context of the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq (1977–1988) and what the author sees as the attendant suppression of women in the name of Islam.

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  • Köndgen, Olaf. The Codification of Islamic Criminal Law in the Sudan: Penal Codes and Supreme Court Case Law under Numayrī and al-Bashīr. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Academic, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004357082Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book offers an in-depth analysis of the Sudan’s Islamized penal codes of 1983 and 1991, their historical, political, and juridical context, their interpretation in the case law of the Supreme Court, and their practical application. The book’s fourth chapter describes the relevant Supreme Court decisions with regard to zina and rape, and determines to what extent and how Supreme Court decisions have developed over time in the context of Sudan’s Islamic state.

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  • Latiff, Natasha. “The Afghan Perspective of the Law on Rape: An Islamic Critique.” Bracton Law Journal 41.1 (2009): 17–31.

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    The article explores the conflation of rape and zina in Afghanistan. It builds on original interviews with judges and lawyers.

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  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, and Vanja Hamzić. Control and Sexuality: The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts. London: Women Living Under Muslim Laws, 2010.

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    The book examines zina laws in some Muslim contexts and communities in order to explore connections between the criminalization of sexuality, GBV (including rape), and women’s rights activism.

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  • Onyejekwe, Chinese J. “Nigeria: The Dominance of Rape.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 10.1 (2008): 48–63.

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    The article discusses contemporary challenges with prosecuting rape under Sharia law in Nigeria.

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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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    Foundational essay on rape laws and the zina ordinance in Pakistan.

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  • Sonbol, Amira. “Rape and Law in Ottoman and Modern Egypt.” In Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Era. Edited by M. C. Zilfi, 214–232. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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    This book chapter deals with the conception of rape in Islamic jurisprudence and looks at how rape cases were dealt with in courts during the Ottoman period and in modern Egypt.

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  • Tønnessen, Liv. “When Rape Becomes Politics: Negotiating Islamic Law Reform in Sudan.” Women’s Studies International Forum 44 (2014): 145–153.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.wsif.2013.12.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article elaborates on the debate on legal reform of rape, defined as coercive zina in the 1991 Criminal Code, using original interviews with Islamists and women’s rights activists in Sudan. It also elaborates on debates regarding Islam and marital rape.

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  • Tuğ, Başak. Politics of Honor in Ottoman Anatolia: Sexual Violence and Socio-legal Surveillance in the Eighteenth Century. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004338654Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The fourth chapter of the book creates a genealogy of legal terms that were used to describe sexual offenses in 18th-century Ottoman courts by tracing the historical and legal relationship of these terms in different legal spheres such as codified Ottoman laws, Islamic jurisprudence, and fatwas issued by the religious clergy at the time.

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Honor-Related Violence

Welchman and Hossain 2005 offers a broad definition of honor-related violence that includes a range of GBV, including killings, assault, forced confinement or seclusion, imprisonment, and forced marriage. The commonality across these lies in the justification for such acts of violence, which is attributed to the preservation of family honor and especially control of women’s sexuality. Goodwin 1995 explores how the concept of honor in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, and Egypt negatively affects Muslim women. The centrality of virginity is highlighted by Wynn and Hassanein 2017 in the context of Egypt and the state’s widespread practice of using military force and medical authority to test the virginity of females who threaten the political order. The use of virginity testing as torture relies on a symbolic cultural order in which the intact hymen, and hymeneal blood, are symbolic of a woman’s moral purity. These honor crimes are codified into criminal codes under the heading of morality and honor to varying degrees in Muslim-majority countries. Neshwiwat 2004 for example traces the definition of honor crimes under the Islamic and Jordanian criminal laws. In the context of Sudan, Tønnessen 2019 discusses the implications of the Islamic legal injunction that women legally need the permission of their male guardians to work outside of the home. The husband is said to have haq alhabs (the right of confinement), and without the husband’s (oral) approval, the wife will subsequently lose her right to maintenance and custody of her children. Forced marriage is also put in the context of honor-related crimes, including rape victims forced to marry their rapists to preserve the family honor. These “marry your rapist” laws have become increasingly contested in a range of Muslim-majority countries and several legal reforms have been enacted, including in Morocco, where Salime 2016 maps the public debate after a girl who was forced to marry her rapist committed suicide, including a focus on its links to Islam. Dina Siddiqi’s chapter in Welchman and Hossain 2005 demonstrates how honor paradigms interfere with the right to choose if, when, and whom to marry in South Asia, but also to divorce and control of property and economic resources within marriage. Such scholarship raises an important point by showcasing ways in which older women are complicit in enforcing such acts of honor-related violence. Women are inappropriately affected by honor-related violence, but as Wimpelmann, et al. 2021 demonstrates in the context of Afghanistan, men of lower socioeconomic positions face large-scale incarceration for pursuing consensual, heterosexual relations, including the noncodified honor crime of elopement, which denotes the act of running away to marry the woman of their choice. Although the scholarship is scant, there is an increasing acknowledgment of honor-related violence toward queer persons, whose very existence is perceived to violate Islamic and cultural norms and dishonor the ideal of the heteronormative family. Such ideals are reflected in legal frameworks either through the explicit criminalization of homosexuality or disguised through vaguely defined public order laws that allow the surveillance and policing of queer bodies. One of very few publications on the topic, Berkouwer, et al. 2015, describes the discrimination and abuse that sexual and gender minorities in Sudan and Egypt face. The Meshahat Foundation for Sexual and Gender Diversity (active in Sudan and Egypt) has collected oral histories from queer persons in a publication series called “Meem-oirs,” which showcases the experiences of honor-related homophobic violence such as forced marriage, different forms of physical and psychological beating and verbal abuse, forced confinement, and forced religious healing.

  • Berkouwer, Susanna, Azza Sultan, and Samar Yehia. “Homosexuality in Sudan and Egypt: Stories of the Struggle for Survival.” LGBT Policy Journal, 23 January 2015.

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    The article explores the daily struggles faced by LGBT individuals in the conservative and largely Muslim societies in Egypt and Sudan. It investigates legal, religious, and social sources of the discrimination and violence the queer community confront.

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  • Goodwin, Jan. The Price of Honour: Muslim Women, Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World. London: Warner Books, 1995.

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    This book examines how the concept of honor in a number of Muslim countries may affect Muslim women. It comprises of country studies including Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, and Egypt.

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  • Hussain, Mazna. “‘Take My Riches, Give Me Justice’: A Contextual Analysis of Pakistan’s Honor Crimes Legislation.” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 29.1 (2006): 223–246.

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    The article discusses legislative responses to honor crimes in Pakistan. The author addresses three different types of laws related to honor crimes and codified in various Muslim countries, which are juxtaposed with the author’s assertion that honor crimes are not an Islamic conception and that Islam can be alternatively constructed as a vehicle for female empowerment.

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  • Meshahat Foundation for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Meem-oirs.

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    Meshahat Foundation for Sexual and Gender Diversity (active in Sudan and Egypt) has collected oral histories from queer persons in a publication series called “Meem-oirs,” which showcases the experiences of honor-related homophobic violence and discrimination in the family, society, and public institutions such as medical facilities through life stories of LGBTQI+ persons in Sudan and Egypt.

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  • Neshwiwat, Ferris K. “Honor Crimes in Jordan: Their Treatment under Islamic and Jordanian Criminal Laws.” Penn State International Law Review 23.2 (2004): 251–281.

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    The article traces the definition of honor crimes under the Islamic and Jordanian criminal laws.

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  • Salime, Zakia. “Gender, Legality and Public Ethics in Morocco.” In Shari’a Law and Modern Muslim Ethics. Edited by Robert W. Hefner, 83–106. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005t30.8Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This chapter maps the public debate after the sixteen-year-old Amina Filali, who was forced to marry her rapist, committed suicide in Morocco, including how Islam is positioned in this debate.

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  • Tønnessen, Liv. “Women at Work in Sudan: Marital Privilege or Constitutional Right?Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society 26.2 (2019): 223–244.

    DOI: 10.1093/sp/jxz011Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article explores how working women in Sudan’s capital negotiate legal constraints, codified as Sharia law, placing them under the guardianship of their husbands, imposing strict public dress and behavioral codes upon them, and upholding occupational segregation in the workplace.

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

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    The authors in this edited volume present us with thirteen case studies from across South Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America on a wide range of honor crimes. Dina Siddiqui’s chapter, “Of Consent and Contradiction: Forced Marriages in Bangladesh,” is particularly relevant to issues related to forced marriage.

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  • Wimpelmann, Torunn, Azis Hakimi, and Masooma Saadat. “‘He Should Learn That He Cannot Get a Woman for Free’: Male Elopers and Constructions of Masculinity in the Afghan Justice System.” Men and Masculinities 24.3 (2021): 519–536.

    DOI: 10.1177/1097184X20910474Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article explores constructions of gender, masculinity, and class in moral crimes prosecutions and their legal aftermaths in Afghanistan, based on ethnographic research in the country. It includes a discussion about the legal grounds for the prosecution of men for “moral crimes,” including the noncodified crime of elopement.

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  • Wynn, L. L., and Saffaa Hassanein. “Hymenoplasty, Virginity Testing, and the Simulacrum of Female Respectability.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 42.4 (2017): 893–917.

    DOI: 10.1086/690918Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Based on ethnographic research, the article explores “virginity testing” of female protestors during the Arab Spring in the context of cultural beliefs about the hymen and women’s moral purity.

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Honor Killings

Honor killing is the most extreme type of honor-related violence and has received the most attention in the scholarship. It is defined as the (attempted) killing of a relative, most typically a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonor on the family. Pakistan, Arabian countries, and Turkey are reported to have the highest number of cases, but reliable statistics are lacking. For a systematic review of the literature in the Middle East and North Africa, see Kulczycki and Windle 2012. The concept has been increasingly problematized within the literature, according to Terman 2010, as it singles out Muslim-majority countries and thereby stigmatizes cultures and wrongfully associates this type of violent crime with Islam. There is a fear that the concept plays into increasingly Islamophobic political tendencies in the West, especially given that anti-Muslim prejudice becomes increasingly subsumed and hidden behind a façade of concern for women. Especially in Western media, an orientalist dichotomy is created between crimes of “honor” and “passion” in Muslim versus Western societies, despite the fact that both are intrafamilial murder. For more information on these issues in a Canadian context, see Shier and Shor 2015. Abu-Odeh 2005 demonstrates a diversity of Islamic positions on honor killings, but most of the scholarship aims to disassociate the crime from Islam. For example, Doğan 2011 claims that cultural understandings of honor and shame in Turkey, rather than Islam or other religious beliefs, are at the root of the practice. However, the author contends that there are factors arising from the different interpretations of certain Qurʾanic verses that have made Muslim communities more vulnerable to the practice of honor killings. The most frequent strategy, exemplified in several articles in the edited volume Idriss and Abbas 2011, is to showcase that honor crimes take place across religious doctrines. However, scholars do contend that certain elements of Islamic doctrine contribute to the climate of control of female sexuality and moral conduct more generally. For example, Ali (n.d) points to the criminalization of sexual activity before and outside of marriage (zina). Furthermore, these crimes are often condoned or tolerated by modern nation-states that have codified penal codes with exemptions or lighter sentences for individuals who inflict violence on family members found engaged in illicit or immoral sexual acts. For more information about such laws in Pakistan, Turkey, and Jordan, see Hussain 2006 (cited under Honor-Related Violence), Palo 2008, and Neshwiwat 2004 (cited under Honor-Related Violence). Within such modern nation-states, Islamic tradition is often appropriated in public debates about such crimes both associating and disassociating it from Islamic doctrine. This is discussed in the context of Palestine by Welchman 2007, and of Jordan by Warrick 2005.

  • Abu-Odeh, Lama. “Honor: Crimes of.” In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. Vol. 2, Family, Law and Politics. Edited by Suad Joseph, 221–222. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2005.

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    The author considers honor killings in the context of Islamic law, by comparing the position of certain jurists who treated it as legitimate with the liberal Muslim response to honor killings, who hold that this practice is un-Islamic.

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  • Ali, Kecia. “Honor Killings, Illicit Sex, & Islamic Law.” The Feminist Sexual Ethics Project, Waltham, MA: Brandeis University, n.d.

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    The author argues honor killings are the antithesis of Islamic morality, the perspective of Qurʾan, prophetic traditions (Hadith), and Islamic legal thought. However, certain elements of traditional sexual ethics do contribute to the climate of intense scrutiny of female conduct that finds one extreme expression in honor crimes.

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  • Doğan, Recep. “Is Honor Killing a ‘Muslim Phenomenon’? Textual Interpretations and Cultural Representations.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 31.3 (2011): 423–440.

    DOI: 10.1080/13602004.2011.599547Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article claims that cultural understandings of honor and shame, rather than Islam or other religious beliefs, are at the root of the practice. However, the author contends that there are factors arising from the different interpretations of certain Qurʾanic verses that have made Muslim communities more vulnerable to the practice of honor killings.

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

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    The edited volume has case studies from Muslim communities in the West and East, and contends that the concepts of honor and honor-based killings do not have roots in Islam and are not limited to only Muslim societies. The chapter by Mohammed Mazher Idriss especially supports the volume’s overall argument with an investigation of the textual sources of Islam.

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  • Kulczycki, Andrezej, and Sarah Windle. “Honor Killings in the Middle East and North Africa: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Violence against Women 17.11 (2012): 1442–1464.

    DOI: 10.1177/1077801211434127Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is a systematic review of the research literature on honor killings in the Middle East and North Africa. The authors note that most studies focus on legal aspects, determinants, and characteristics of victims and perpetrators. The article includes a discussion of Islam as a determinant.

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  • Palo, Stephanie. “A Charade of Change: Qisas and Diyat Ordinance Allows Honor Killings to Go Unpunished in Pakistan.” U. C. Davis Journal of International Law and Policy 15.1 (2008): 93–109.

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    This chapter focuses on Pakistan’s legislation on honor crimes and traces its historical development, including considering how Islam is invoked in the perpetuation of the ordinance as well as how the ordinance affects the treatment of honor killings.

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  • Pervizat, Leylâ. “In the Name of Honour.” Human Rights Dialogue: Violence against Women 2.10 (Fall 2003).

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    This article focuses on the experiences of the author working to address “honor killings” in Turkey. The misconception concerning Islam and honor killings has a central place in the piece. At the core of the issue is patriarchy, which is often upheld by the state, particularly through judicial application of the law.

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  • Ser’er, Aysan, and Gökçeçiçek Yurdakul. “Culture of Honor, Culture of Change: A Feminist Analysis of Honor Killings in Rural Turkey.” Violence against Women 7.9 (2001): 964–998.

    DOI: 10.1177/10778010122182866Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article presents a feminist analysis of honor killings in rural Turkey. One of the main goals is to dissociate honor killings from a particular religious belief system and locate it on a continuum of patriarchal patterns of violence against women.

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  • Shier, Allie, and Eran Shor. “‘Shades of Foreign Evil’: ‘Honor Killings’ and ‘Family Murders’ in the Canadian Press.” Violence against Women 22.10 (2015): 1163–1188.

    DOI: 10.1177/1077801215621176Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article compares murder cases labeled “honor killings” with cases labeled “family/spousal murders” in the Canadian news media and finds that “honor killings” are framed in terms of culture, religion, and ethnic background, whereas “family/spousal murders” tend to focus on perpetrators’ personalities or psychological characteristics, thereby presenting a dichotomy between South Asian/Muslim and Western values.

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  • Terman, Rochelle L. “To Specify or Single Out: Should We Use the Term ‘Honor Killing’?” Muslim World Journal of Human Rights 7.1 (2010): 1–39.

    DOI: 10.2202/1554-4419.1162Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author traces the use of and reactions to the term “honor killings.” She argues that honor killings fall within the larger category of culturally justified violence against women that is not limited to Muslim, Arab, or South Asian communities but that still exists among these groups of people. She discusses the usefulness of the term considering its wrongful association with Islam, especially in Western media.

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  • Warrick, Catherine. “The Vanishing Victim: Criminal Law and Gender in Jordan.” Law & Society Review 39.2 (2005): 315–348.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.n2005.00084.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article focuses on rape and honor killings in Jordan and investigates the use of criminal law as a site of contestation. It shows how Islam is appropriated by various actors on various sides, including Islamists, in the public debate over reform of Article 340.

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  • Welchman, Lynn. “Honour and Violence in a Modern Sharia Discourse.” Hawwa 5.2–3 (2007): 139–165.

    DOI: 10.1163/156920807782912472Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article considers the jurisprudential, legislative, and social arguments behind the Chief Islamic Justice of the Palestinian Authority’s public intervention against “murder as revenge” or in “defense of honor” in 2005. It further analyzes commonalities and differences in the Chief Islamic Justice’s arguments with women’s rights activists’ positions on the issue of honor-based violence.

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