Marion Homes Katz
Marion Homes Katz

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.

Unknown-1Katz 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.


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.

One thought on “LISTEN: Marion Holmes Katz on “Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice”

  1. Muslims did not orchestrate 9-11 eirtemxsts did this.Saying that all Muslims are responsible for the deaths on 9-11 is like saying that all Christians are responsible for Timothy McVeigh (which my sister narrowly missed perishing in that attack).This is also the anniversary of the day Scott Roeder killed Dr. George Tiller, should we hold all Christians responsible for that heinous crime?This nation was founded on religious freedoms and the Muslim religion has existed long before Osama Bin Laden, and will continue long after his death. We cannot let eirtemxsts let us loose site of our values, and when I use the word extremist, I’m including those xenophobes who would stop the building of this place of worship because their emotions have blinded them to rational thought.


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