Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800

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9780226729886: Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800

Attitudes toward homosexuality in the pre-modern Arab-Islamic world are commonly depicted as schizophrenic—visible and tolerated on one hand, prohibited by Islam on the other. Khaled El-Rouayheb argues that this apparent paradox is based on the anachronistic assumption that homosexuality is a timeless, self-evident fact to which a particular culture reacts with some degree of tolerance or intolerance. Drawing on poetry, biographical literature, medicine, dream interpretation, and Islamic texts, he shows that the culture of the period lacked the concept of homosexuality.

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Attitudes toward male homosexuality in the premodern Arab-Islamic world are commonly depicted as inconsistent. On the one hand, Arabic love poetry, biographical works, and bawdy satires suggest that homosexuality was a visible and tolerated part of Arab-Islamic elite culture before the nineteenth century. On the other hand, Islam supposedly considers homosexuality an abomination and prescribes severe punishment for it.

In Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500–1800, Khaled El-Rouayheb shows that this apparent paradox is based on the anachronistic assumption that homosexuality is a timeless, self-evident fact to which a particular culture reacts with some degree of tolerance or intolerance. Drawing on poetry, belles lettres, biographical literature, medicine, physiognomy, dream interpretation, and Islamic legal, mystical, and homiletic texts, he shows that the culture of the period lacked the concept of homosexuality. Instead, paramount importance was given to distinctions that are not captured by that term—between active and passive sexual roles, between passionate infatuation and lust, and between penetrative and nonpenetrative intercourse.
 
The first book-length treatment on the perceptions and evaluations of male homoeroticism in premodern Arab-Islamic culture, this book will become a welcome and frequently referred to addition to the bookshelves of readers interested in the history of sexuality, Islamic history, Arabic literature, gay and lesbian studies, and the history of ideas.  
 

About the Author:

Khaled El-Rouayheb is assistant professor of Islamic intellectual history in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.



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