Negotiating Homosexuality in Contemporary Shīʿī Islam: a legal-hermeneutical analysis of Twelver Imāmī Shīʿī Islamic sources
Date: 22 March 2021
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Arab and Islamic Studies
This project studies the discursive spaces for negotiating homosexuality in contemporary Twelver Imāmī Shīʿī scholarship. Today, both in Shīʿī Muslim-majority and in (Western) Shīʿī Muslim-minority contexts, Shīʿī traditional scholars and grassroots communities alike often oppose sexual diversity, based on arguments that are fuelled ...
This project studies the discursive spaces for negotiating homosexuality in contemporary Twelver Imāmī Shīʿī scholarship. Today, both in Shīʿī Muslim-majority and in (Western) Shīʿī Muslim-minority contexts, Shīʿī traditional scholars and grassroots communities alike often oppose sexual diversity, based on arguments that are fuelled by patriarchal interpretations of the received tradition. However, contemporary grassroots level activists and a few Shīʿī reformist scholars advocate a more tolerant attitude and speak of Islam’s inbuilt tolerance of homosexuality. Therefore, this study investigates the legal ethics of homosexuality in Islam. It offers a scholarly assessment of the contemporary Shīʿī juridical-hermeneutical vectors demarcating the space between the two poles of prohibition and acceptance of homosexuality. To address this essential issue, the project is built around a legal and hermeneutical-constructive question: what are the discursive spaces of homosexuality in contemporary reflections within Shīʿī legal-hermeneutical scholarship? Responding to this central question, the study is premised on the notion that Shīʿī legal sources consist of a tradition of sacred (textual) sources, intellectual reasoning, a vast stockpile of (often contrasting) interpretations of these sources, and a distinguished methodological repertoire called ijtihād. Following the same methodology, these textual-exegetical and intellectual-rational aspects will be described, analysed, and critiqued in this thesis. By contributing to this line of research, the study aims (1) to understand from a new perspective how Shīʿī jurists have debated, and continue to debate, the issue of homosexuality, and thereby to identify the potential discursive spaces on this topic in contemporary Imāmī Shīʿī context; and (2) to integrate the study of (Imāmī) Islamic law on gender and sexuality into the broader field of Islamic legal studies.
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