In her shining new book Sexual Violation in Islamic Law: Substance, Evidence, and Procedure
(Cambridge University Press, 2015), Hina Azam
, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas-Austin, explores the diversity and complexity of pre-modern Muslim legal discourses on rape and sexual violation. The reader of this book is treated to a thorough and delightful analysis of the range of attitudes, assumptions, and hermeneutical operations that mark the Muslim legal tradition on the question of sexual violation. Indeed, the most remarkable aspect of this book is the way it showcases the staggering range and diversity of approaches to defining and adjudicating rape that populate the Muslim legal tradition. Focusing primarily on the Maliki and Hanafi schools of law, Azam convincingly demonstrates that Muslim legal discourses on rape were animated and informed by competing ways of imagining broader categories such as sovereignty, agency, property, and rights. In our conversation, we talked about problems of translation involved in using the category of rape in relation to pre-modern discursive archives, proprietary and theocentric approaches to sexual ethics in medieval Islam, the differences between the Maliki and Hanafi school on defining and punishing male-female rape, and the implications and significance of this study to the contemporary legal landscape in Muslim societies. This meticulously researched and lucidly written book will be of much interest to students of Islam, Islamic Law, Gender and Sexuality, and Muslim intellectual history. It will also make a great contribution to upper level undergraduate and graduate seminars on these topics.