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Book Review: Sufi Narratives of Intimacy: Ibn Arabi, Gender, and Sexuality

In Uncategorized on July 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Published at Muslim Views

Research in the areas of Islamic and Gender Studies often overlap when it comes to the question of women in the Islamic spiritual tradition. What does Sufism offer to men and women seeking out paths of equality and egalitarianism? How does maleness or femaleness influence spirituality, and is the notion of the un-gendered soul a tenable one in the context of a hyper-gendered legal tradition? Is it possible to go beyond socially instituted gender norms, to more fundamental questions about what it means to be a human being, and use these notions to then create new gender discourses? These are some of the questions Dr Sa’diyya Shaikh, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s Religious Studies department, grapples with in her latest publication, Sufi Narratives of Intimacy: Ibn Arabi, Gender and Sexuality. She handles the complex spheres of gender and Sufism with the intellectual finesse and critical maturity required for such an endeavour, displaying and in-depth, working knowledge of the tradition.

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Women in the Middle: challenging hyper-liberalism, challenging ultra-conservatism

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Presented at IPSA Spring Symposium.

Published at Voice of the Cape.

I would like to begin by stating from the outset, that I approach this topic, not as an Islamic scholar or expert of any kind, but rather, as a student, a gender activist, and quite simply, as a woman who is trying to walk the middle way. There is, I believe, no better spokespeople for Muslim women as Muslim women ourselves, and therefore, I thank IPSA for extending this invitation to me, although I am quite humbled and hesitant to express my opinions on the same platform as such accomplished scholars, especially my esteemed teacher, Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, with whom, not surprisingly I have discussed this topic, time and time again.

It would be very easy and painstakingly clichéd to approach a topic such as “women in the middle” with the usual bout of “Islam has given women so many rights”. This is both simplistic and does not meet the challenge of answering exactly why and how so many things have gone awry with women and Islam. Instead, I wish to provide an overview of the new gender discourses in the tradition, a middle way approach by way of ‘fiqh al-Nisa’ and reference to some examples of South African women treading the middle way.

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