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From Semantics to Normative Law: Perceptions of Liwāt (Sodomy) and Sihāq (Tribadism) in Islamic Jurisprudence (8th-15th Century CE)

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The present essay is an examination of classical jurists' legal determinations pertaining to liwāt (sodomy) and sihāq (tribadism), both of which have been little studied in their legal context. In exploring jurists' logic and legal categorizations, I argue that three major factors contributed to their legal injunctions: (1) their use of zinā (illicit sex between a man and a woman) as the paradigm by which to punish liwāt and sihāq, (2) their perception of sexual intercourse as an exclusively male act of phallic penetration, and (3) an individual's legal status within the social hierarchy as reflected in jurisprudential discussions of illicit sexual intercourse (zinā). Juristic disagreements over the semantics and definitions of these three factors extended to the treatment of liwāt and sihāq and, ultimately, became normative doctrine.

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