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Gender and Legal Personhood in Hanafi law

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The final research seminar of the academic year saw Al-Mahdi Institute host Dr Saadia Yacoob, from Willams College, Massachusetts.

With gender being a central theme of the discussion, Dr. Yacoob began by positioning her presentation in the milieu of gender in Islamic law, and particularly from the Hanafi School. The presentation explored the idea of intersectional identities to ask the question about how much of what is seen as gender-related law, is actually informed exclusively by gender as the identity marker. Dr. Yacoob argued that it is often other aspects of a female subject’s identity that cause certain laws to apply. These other identity markers may include the woman’s position in a family unit, her freedom, her age and other social positions. In her closing arguments, Dr. Yacoob included the idea that viewing Islam and Islamic law, through the lens of gender, was partly a colonial imposition. The presentation resulted in a vibrant question and answer session among the virtual seminars attendees

Saadia Yacoob is Assistant Professor of Religion at Williams College. She holds a PhD in Islamic studies from Duke University and an MA from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. She has also studied Islamic law in Egypt and Jordan. Her research focuses on gender, childhood, and enslavement in Islamic law. Her forthcoming book manuscript titled Reading Gender in Early Islamic Law investigates the intersections of gender, age, and enslavement in the construction of legal personhood in Hanafi law. More broadly, her research interests include Islamic legal history, Muslim feminist studies, history of sexuality, and slavery studies. Her research has been published in The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law and several academic blogs such as The Immanent Frame and Contending Modernities. She is also curator-host of the “History Speaks” stream at the Maydan Podcast.

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