by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JUNE 2, 2015:
Recently, there have been various debates within the Muslim community over women’s mosque attendance. While contemporary questions of modern society structure current conversations, this question, ‘may a Muslim woman go to the mosque,’ is not a new one. In Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice (Columbia University Press, 2014), Marion Holmes Katz, Professor of Islamic Studies at New York University, traces the juristic debates around women’s mosque attendance.
Katz outlines the various arguments, caveats, and positions of legal scholars in the major schools of law and demonstrates that despite some differing opinions there was generally a downward progression towards gendered exclusion in mosques. were engaged in at the mosque, the time of day, the permission of their husbands or guardians, attire, and the multitude of conditions that needed to be met. Later interpreters feared women’s presence in the mosque because they argued it stirred sexual temptation.
Katz pairs these legal discourses with evidence of women’s social practice in the Middle East and North Africa from the earliest historical accounts through the Ottoman period. In our conversation we discuss types of mosque activities, Mamluk Cairo, women’s educational participation, the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the transmission of knowledge, European travelers accounts of Muslim women, night prayers, mosque construction, debates about the mosque in Mecca, and modern developments in legal discussions during the 20th century.
LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH HOLMES KATZ
In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.