As the title of the monograph suggests, Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) by Asma Afsaruddin, guides the reader through an organized and compelling narrative of reflections on hot-button topics in the modern world. The monograph offers a provocative balance of historical contextualization, close reading of texts, review of key scholars, and political analysis. Given its treatment of topics such as Islamic law, gender, international relations, and interfaith dialogue, the book should prove useful in a graduate or undergraduate context–either as a whole or as individual chapters–particularly as a conversation starter, given the depths to which each chapter points. Although the scope of the book may appear ambitious, Professor Afsaruddin is well-equipped to manage the breadth of her study into a concise, lucid, and well written text. Given her research background in jihad and violence as well as Quranic hermeneutics, moreover, Contemporary Issues in Islam is a mature work that reflects decades of careful research and intellectual synthesis with ample attention to both primary and secondary literature. The monograph will likely appeal not only to scholars and students in religious studies and Islamic studies, but also political science and history as well as journalists.
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.
by ALI OLOMI for ISLAMiCommentary on MARCH 30, 2016:
In March 2016 Payam Feili, a young Iranian poet, took refuge in Israel because he faced persecution in his home country for being openly gay. Feili’s situation is not unique for many LGBTQ individuals in the Middle East. Homosexuality is a crime in nearly two dozen Muslim countries carrying severe punishments in ten of those counties.
While it is tempting to ascribe this to Islam, the historical context is more nuanced and complex.
The status of LGBTQ rights in the Muslim world today is perplexing given that Islamic history is characterized by its relative tolerance of sexual diversity and same-sex desire.
Though homosexuality as an identity and category is a predominantly modern construction, gay, lesbian, transgender, and intersex individuals have always been present in history.
From the time of Prophet Muhammad on, intersex individuals known as mukhannathum lived in Islamic society and occupied publicly visible, though sometimes marginalized spaces. Many of these individuals, like Gharid and Al Dalal, were openly gay and had lovers. They enjoyed positions as musicians and intermediaries between men and women in the role of matchmakers. In both Umayyad and Abbasid history, gay individuals were not only present, but quite public. The first time they faced state violence was at the hands of Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd-al Malik. The 10th century historian, Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani writes in his Kitab al-Aghani that Sulayman had all the mukhannathum castrated, not because of their sexual desires, but because their music had distracted one of his lovers while she was attending him. Continue reading →
In her fascinating new book Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke University Press, 2015), Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University, explores shifting meanings of transsexuality in contemporary Iran. By brilliantly combining historical and ethnographic inquiry, Najmabadi highlights the complex ways in which biomedical, psychiatric, and Islamic jurisprudential discourses and institutions conjoin to generate particular notions of acceptable and unacceptable sexuality. Moreover, she also shows some of the paradoxical ways in which state regulation enables certain possibilities and spaces for nonheteronormative sexuality in Iran. Continue reading →