Sexual Ethics and Islam

Pages: 320
Subject: Religion: Islam, Gender/Feminism
Imprint: Oneworld

Sexual Ethics and Islam

Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence

Kecia Ali

An updated edition of feminist academic Kecia Ali's assessment of whether a just system of sexual ethics is possible within an Islamic framework
9781780743813 (7 Jan 2016)
RRP £14.99 / US$22.95

The Book

Whether exploring the thorny issues of wives' sexual duties, divorce, homosexuality, or sex outside marriage, discussions of sexual ethics and Islam often spark heated conflict rather than reasoned argument. In this updated and expanded edition of her ground-breaking work, feminist Muslim scholar Dr Kecia Ali asks how one can determine what makes sex lawful and ethical in the sight of God. 

Drawing on both revealed and interpretative Muslim texts, Ali critiques medieval and contemporary commentators alike to produce a balanced and comprehensive study of a subject both sensitive and urgent, making this an invaluable resource for students, scholars, and interested readers.

Additional Information

Subject Religion: Islam, Gender/Feminism
Pages 320
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Dr Kecia Ali is Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University where her research focuses on Islamic law, women and gender, ethics, and biography.


‘Relevant to most readers' daily experience of discussion about Islam. The book is well worth reading.'

- The Muslim World Book Review

‘It's great to have a new edition of this foundational work in Muslim feminism that, ten years down the road, widens and deepens the important questions raised by the first edition.'

- Dr. Judith Plaskow, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Manhattan College

‘An important and daring book. It not only deals with deeply controversial issues, but also suggests principled and ethical answers within an Islamic framework.'

- Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, legal anthropologist, activist and a founding member of Musawah, the global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family

‘Compulsory reading for anyone interested in grappling with the enormously challenging questions of sexual ethics in contemporary Islam.'

- Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Notre Dame

‘For too long debates over sexuality and religion have lapsed into a ‘don't ask-don't tell' state of mind. Professor Ali is willing to ask the tough questions.'

- Contemporary Islam Journal

"Ali is willing to ask the tough questions. A refreshing analysis of sexual ethics in Islam."

- The Globe and Mail

‘In this important revised edition of Ali's major treatise on a feminist approach to Islam, she offers a broad and comprehensive view of how sexual ethics have been defined in Islam throughout history, and how those understandings inform and define Islam today... This is a significant addition the feminist understanding of Islam and its complex views of sexuality.'

- Publishers Weekly

"This book is a vigorous and engaging contribution to a very important dialog."

- American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

"With unwavering focus, clarity and scholarly confidence, Dr. Ali advances our understanding of profound ethical questions far beyond the apologetics and polemics of current Islamic discourse."

- Abdullahi An-Na`im - Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University

Table of Contents



1  Marriage, Money, and Sex

    "And according to what they spend from their wealth ... ”




    Coda 1


2  Lesser Evils: Divorce in Islamic Ethics

    Untying the knot

    Extreme circumstances

    Prospects for reform


    Coda 2


3  "What your right hands possess”: Slave Concubinage in Muslim Texts and Discourses

    Islam and slavery: overview of sources and history

    Women, war captives, and withdrawal


    Coda 3


4  Prohibited Acts and Forbidden Partners: Illicit Sex in Islamic Jurisprudence

    Protecting chastity: the classical texts

    Paternity, legal fictions, and non-marital sex in contemporary Muslim thought


    Coda 4


5  Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Same-Sex Intimacy in Muslim Thought


    Don't ask, don't tell

    Same-sex marriage


    Coda 5


6  "Reduce but do not destroy”: Female "Circumcision” in Islamic Sources

    Islamic or un-Islamic?

     "Reduce but do not destroy”


    Coda 6


7  "If you have touched women”: Female Bodies and Male Agency in the Qur'an

    To whom am I speaking?

    A difficult verse

    Garments for one another


    Coda 7


8  The Prophet Muhammad, his Beloved Aishah, and Modern Muslim Sensibilities

    Apologetics and polemics

    Searching for solace


    Coda 8


9  Toward an Islamic Ethics of Sex


Afterword to the 2016 edition




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