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Lesbian Historic Motif Project: #102a Habib 2009 "A Lecture on Woman-Woman Love and Sexuality in the Arabo-Islamic Middle East"


Full citation: 

Habib, Samar. 2009. Arabo-Islamic Texts on Female Homosexuality: 850-1780 A.D. Teneo Press, Youngstown. ISBN 978-1-934844-11-3

Publication summary: 

This book makes a good companion volume to Habib's other works as it provides a comprehensive set of the texts she's working with. (The relevant parts of them, at least.) It also includes the text of two lectures that provide background and context for the texts themselves.

A Lecture on Woman-Woman Love and Sexuality in the Arabo-Islamic Middle East

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This work is a compilation of two lectures and a collection of primary texts in translation. The first chapter is a lecture sponsored by Aswat a Palestinian lesbian organization. It discusses issues of identity and especially issues around coming out in modern Islamic society.

Habib delves into the history of social and legal attitudes towards homosexuality under Islam, and especially the basis of condemning and punishing homosexuality. The official (religious) history of this topic makes it fairly clear that the impulse to persecute came first and only afterward did people cast about for justifications for that impulse.

Outside of purely religious literature, early (9-11th c.) texts were far from unified in their approach and many treated homosexuality positively, or at least neutrally. Condemnation specifically of female homosexuality revolves around one specific and questionable hadith [attributed saying of the Prophet] that equates “grinding” with fornication. But internal evidence casts doubt on the authenticity of this text. [At least, its status as an authentic hadith within the context and rules of that genre of texts.] Another modern position considers homosexuality to be a Western import and worth condemning on that basis, but the early Arabic sources clearly contradict this position.

The chapter continues with an overview of mentions of “grinders” in literature, which will not be repeated here as they will be reviewed in detail in later entries.

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