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"Do Not Enter Houses Other Than Your Own": the Evolution of the Notion of a Private Domestic Sphere in Early Sunnī Islamic Thought

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This article is the first comprehensive study of the conceptions of domestic privacy articulated by early sunnī Muslim jurists. Focusing on exegetical and legal sources composed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries CE, I argue, first, that Muslim scholars regarded privacy as a legal category. Second, I demonstrate that notions of privacy developed over time: most scholars living within the first two centuries AH associated privacy with property rights, granting legal protection to assertions of privacy only if violations of privacy entailed an infringement of property rights; by contrast, scholars from the ninth century onwards developed privacy into a separate legal category, protecting it even when no property rights were violated. Finally, I argue that most Muslim scholars adopted an instrumental approach to privacy, which they viewed not as an end unto itself but rather as a means to promote a viable society, to prevent their community from disintegrating, and, ultimately, to ensure the Islamic nature of Society.


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