By Khaled El-Rouayheb
Attitudes towards homosexuality within the pre-modern Arab-Islamic international are more often than not depicted as schizophrenic—visible and tolerated on one hand, prohibited via Islam at the different. Khaled El-Rouayheb argues that this obvious paradox is predicated at the anachronistic assumption that homosexuality is a undying, self-evident truth to which a selected tradition reacts with some extent of tolerance or intolerance. Drawing on poetry, biographical literature, medication, dream interpretation, and Islamic texts, he exhibits that the tradition of the interval lacked the concept that of homosexuality. “Meticulously researched, lucidly written, nuanced, and brilliantly conceived, [the e-book] forthrightly takes on complicated matters surrounding the tradition of same-sex eroticism that existed within the Arabic-speaking lands of the early glossy Ottoman Empire. . . . a major booklet through a very good scholar.”—Journal of Religion “Rectifies many . . . prejudices and misinterpretations in a masterly fashion.”—Bulletin of the varsity of Oriental and African Studies (20050617)
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Additional resources for Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800
This strand perceived sexual relations between men as a transgression of Holy Law, though according to most schools of law only anal intercourse was deemed a cardinal sin. Anything that could be perceived to be the first step along the slippery slope to such transgressions, such as gazing at beardless youths or being alone with them, became deeply problematic. However, jurists were also committed to the principle that one ought not prohibit what God has made licit, or think ill of one’s fellow Muslims, and the efforts of especially zealous jurists to prohibit outright such “preliminaries” of sodomy met with resistance from other jurists.
In the ongoing rivalries for posts, money, status, and influence in the exclusively male public sphere, allusions to phallic penetration were always near at hand. When the poet Mamayah al-Rūmī (d. 1579) was appointed as interpreter at one of the courts of Damascus at the expense of the previous holder of the position, a Turk by the name of Amrallah, he composed the following lines in celebration:Thanks to God, I achieved my desired aim, and the opponent was discharged. 11 Since mafʿūl bihi is the term usually used to denote the passive sexual partner, the allusion is very clear in Arabic: Amrallah has been “screwed” by his successful rival for the post.
I should perhaps add that the imposed geographic and temporal limits do not imply any commitment on my part to the uniqueness of attitudes in that area and period. However, I also do not want to claim that each and every point I make will be valid for earlier periods of Arab-Islamic history. For instance, the love poetry of the period I study predominantly portrayed a chaste and unreciprocated love for a person whose gender is usually either indeterminate or male. This may or may not be true of earlier periods of Arabic history.