Creating an asexual jurisprudence in Islam

This post is for the October Carnival of Aces, whose topic is religion and asexuality.

It took me awhile to decide what to write about for this Carnival. Not because I don’t know what I want to say, but because I’ve already written so much on the topic. Not including this post, the asexuality and Islam tag on my personal blog includes 14 original posts.

I’ve written a few posts (1, 2, 3) on hijab (the Islamic modest dress) and how people’s perceptions of that intersects with my asexuality. I’ve written about belonging (and not belonging) to communities and about compulsory sexuality. I’ve written tips for straight Muslims and other allies. But the topic I’ve written about most extensively is marriage.

The (so far) eight posts in my “Asexuality, Islam, and Marriage” series tend to be the least-read of all my asexuality and Islam posts, which doesn’t surprise me. They’re dense and they also discuss topics that are foreign to most asexuals on Tumblr – both because Islam is not well-known to most non-Muslims and because most online aces tend to be secular or atheist.

However, these posts are the ones that I most hope that other asexual Muslims will read and benefit from, and they’re the most important to me. They’re the result of 15 years of independent study of Islamic jurisprudence as it relates to sex and marriage.

Although only one of the posts explicitly proposes a new framework, I see all of them together as constituting a fledgling asexual jurisprudence. Why is an asexual jurisprudence needed? Because traditional and orthodox jurisprudence doesn’t work for asexual Muslims, especially those who cannot, do not, or will not engage in sexual activity. For asexual Muslim women especially, the traditional jurisprudence of marriage can result in oppressive and harmful outcomes because it tends to consider such women as inherently deviant.

Whether asexual Muslims are seeking to enter a marriage with an allosexual Muslim, and need safeguards if the relationship falls apart, or if they want to legitimize a queerplatonic or other non-sexual relationship with another asexual Muslim, they will need to go beyond the orthodox jurisprudence of marriage, even in a cross-sex relationship. And, yes, asexual Muslims may need to create a jurisprudence of same-sex marriage too.

In practice, there are many obstacles to implementing asexual jurisprudence, which to me emphasizes just how unorthodox it can be – and why asexual Muslims need it.

Presenting any kind of challenge to orthodoxy, whether it is Islamic feminism or queer theology*, can evoke a strong backlash. Moreover, I have no formal Islamic scholarly qualifications (let alone the advanced ones many traditionalists claim are needed to engage in independent reasoning). This is often very difficult for women to obtain, and I have extremely limited access to any kind of Islamic learning from where I live, except online. Right now, my fledgling asexual jurisprudence is too obscure for anybody to have had much of a reaction to it. And it may only ever be a niche interest.

But for me it’s about leading a livable life as an asexual Muslim, and that’s why I’ve embarked on this. I claim the right to do it out of sheer necessity.

*I could also have called my work an “asexual theology” in the broader sense of “religious discourse” but in Islam the term “theology” (kalam) tends to refer to discourse about the nature of God, so “jurisprudence” is a more precise term.

About Laura (ace-muslim)

Laura is an aromantic asexual, queer-identified, and a Muslim. She lives in the U.S., works in online tech support, and volunteers for a Muslim anti-racism organization. She blogs about asexuality, queer Muslim issues, and other topics at http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com and has written on asexuality for a number of Muslim sites.
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4 Responses to Creating an asexual jurisprudence in Islam

  1. Sara K. says:

    I re-read your post about same sex marriage in Islam. As in Muslim jurisprudence, traditional Chinese society also has distinct gender roles within marriage. Though these are much less rigid now than they once were, the Chinese language itself has some of the gendering built into the language describing marriage. If, say, Taiwan were to legalize same-sex marriage (I use Taiwan as my example because they are the Chinese speaking society most likely to do so), people would either have to switch to gender-neutral language, or assign gender roles to the couple.

    However, in traditional Chinese society there was a practice in which a woman from a relatively wealthy could marry a man from a less wealthy family and take on part of the ‘male’ role (for example, their children would have their mother’s family name, not their father’s). Wealthy families without sons in particular often tried to arrange this type of marriage.

    Muslims have been living in China for a long time, so I wonder … is it possible that, influenced by Chinese culture, they might already do something like this? At the very least, I suspect the idea of a woman who agrees to provide maintenance getting the right of qiwamah would be less strange to them than to Muslims in some other societies. But I know very little about Chinese Muslims, and since that particular marriage practice exists largely because of ancestor worship, it’s possible that Chinese Muslims do not accept it at all.

    • Very interesting! Apparently a few Arab women very early in Islamic history liked the “if you pay maintenance, you get qiwamah” idea, when they were high-status and wanted to marry men of much lower social status, similar to what you mentioned. The early jurists hastened to reject such an interpretation. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if people were still doing it, or trying to do it, in other periods of history or in other regions as well, though perhaps only as an individual practice.

    • queenieofaces says:

      Is this different than “adoption” in Japan? (I.e. the man is “adopted” into the woman’s family to become the heir, but takes her name and is legally considered her parents’ son.)

      • Sara K. says:

        Yes, it is different. The practice is known as ‘ruzhui’, and though the practice of ruzhui differs by region and time period (for example, sometimes the son-in-law can inherit the wife’s family’s property, and sometimes he can’t), the son-in-law is generally expected to be subservient to the wife’s family, and is not considered a son to the wife’s parents or a successor to the wife’s family line.

        And a ‘ruzhui’ husband would not take his wife’s name, just as wives never take their husbands’ names, even in regular marriage. In Chinese-speaking societies it is highly unusual for people to change their family names upon marriage.

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