Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics in Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.
An Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University, Kecia Ali received her B.A. from Stanford University and her PhD in Religion from Duke University in 2002. In the 2003-2004 academic year, Ali was a research associate in Harvard Divinity School’s Women’s Studies in Religion Program. Her research interests center on Islamic religious texts, particular jurisprudence, and women as represented in both classical and contemporary Muslim discourses. Currently (2010), she serves as co-chair for the Study of Islam Section of the American Academy of Religion and is also a member of the Steering Committee for the Consultation on Religion and Sexuality.Kecia Ali starts off her book by opening a fascinating discourse on the sexual subordination of Muslim women in Muslim cultures and in Islamic thought, using jurists like al-Shafi to back up some of her statements. She argues that some Muslim authors, like Abdul Rahman Doe, a Nigerian scholar, express the obligations of the Muslim man as if to suggest that he actually fulfills them willingly; they compare the ideal way that Muslim life is supposed to be to that of the reality of family life in the west. She also asserts that Islam as commonly practiced is a consequence of “men’s Islam,” which is the interpretation of Islam as understood by Muslim male scholars and jurists in medieval times and is sometimes misogynistic; as such, she proposes the idea of turning to the Quran alone as a guide. Further, she supports the view that the conclusions of the early jurists and scholars of Islam were influenced by their cultures and societies; hence, to universalize and eternalize their views is practically irrational. Ali addresses many controversial topics related to the Quran and/or as understood by Muslim jurists, including spousal support, the sexual availability of wives, the prohibition of marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, and the husband’s authority during divorce. She explores others topics as well: dower, polygamy, the widespread insistence that homosexuality is “modern” or “western” and definitely “un-Islamic,” and permission for men to be intimately involved with their concubines—or female slaves or war captives—without being married to them, along with four wives. For each of these issues, she shares different interpretations of many scholars and jurists, both classical and modern, and considers various questions that tend to arise, or have arisen, pertaining to them. She notes, for example, that the dower has been seen as "the price of the vulva" by Muslim jurists, allowing sexual access to the wife as long as she is married to her husband. Ali goes on to challenge the accepted sexual ethics in Islamic thought as posed by both classical and modern scholars, analyzes their views, and questions the concepts of good versus evil and of forbidden versus permissible actions.
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