Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Azam on Rape in Islamic Law

Sexual Violation in Islamic Law: Substance, Evidence, and Procedure by Hina Azam of the University of Texas at Austin (Cambridge 2015) is an intellectual history of the law of rape. It compares two schools of Sunni Islamic law--the Hanafi and the Malaki--and has especially interesting things to say about legal bricolage or talfiq, the combining of rules from different schools of law.  From the publisher: 
Sexual Violation in Islamic LawThis book provides a detailed analysis of Islamic juristic writings on the topic of rape and argues that classical Islamic jurisprudence contained nuanced, substantially divergent doctrines of sexual violation as a punishable crime. The work centers on legal discourses of the first six centuries of Islam, the period during which these discourses reached their classical forms, and chronicles the juristic conflict over whether or not to provide monetary compensations to victims. Along with tracing the emergence and development of this conflict over time, Hina Azam explains evidentiary ramifications of each of the two competing positions, which are examined through debates between the Ḥanafī and Mālikī schools of law. This study examines several critical themes in Islamic law, such as the relationship between sexuality and property, the tension between divine rights and personal rights in sex crimes, and justifications of victim's rights afforded by the two competing doctrines.
(We noted her New Books Network podcast here earlier.)

 Praise includes: 

"Hina Azam’s meticulous readings of classical texts are framed in a wide-ranging analysis with implications far beyond the issue of sexual violence. Although firmly centered on pre-modern legal discourses, the book trenchantly demonstrates their relevance to ongoing debates. Required reading for anyone interested in the history of gender and Islamic law." 
Marion Katz, New York University

"Hina Azam’s book is a tour de force on the early history of sexual violation in Islam. Debates on penalties attached to crimes of rape in some contemporary majority Muslim societies are derived from early Islamic precedents and practices. Prior to Sexual Violation in Islamic Law some of these debates were shrouded in arcane debates and unreachable texts for many. In lucid prose and elegant presentation, Azam provides an accessible historic overview of internal debates among legal scholars that are now available to the broader reading public. Her vital insights will cast a guiding light for those interested in debates on gender, sexuality, and ethics as well as the sexual practices in the Near East in a comparative context." 
Ebrahim Moosa, University of Notre Dame
"Hina Azam takes on contemporary practices of Islamic law that work against rape victims through a revisiting of late antique and medieval legal discourses. Her meticulous approach yields ample material for rethinking some of the more injurious aspects of current legal interpretations and sounds a compelling call for gender justice grounded in the Islamic legal tradition. An exemplary work of engaged scholarship." 
Judith Tucker, Georgetown University

More information is available here.