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Middle Eastern Women in Gendered Space: Religious Legitimacy and Social Reality

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Abstract The notion that Islam dictates gender separation in the pre-modern Middle East is widely held by observers, some scholars, and even Muslim women. When studying different aspects of gender in the Middle East, however, one comes up with evidence that challenges the common view of gendered space. In mainstream Islamic orthodoxy, there were situations in which women seemed to have left their homes and mixed with men who were not their kin. The principles and social practice relating to women’s appearance in public space for religiously-sanctioned purposes were interwoven, resulting in complicated and ambiguous situations. In order to explore the principles as well as the practice of religiously sanctioned gendered spaces over time, three venues will be visited: the communal prayer, studying and teaching, and the Islamic shari’a court. These venues have been and continue to be the foci of negotiation between religious legitimacy and social reality.

Affiliations: 1: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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