Contemporary Islam

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 59–78 | Cite as

Sexual ethics, marriage, and sexual autonomy: the landscapes for Muslimat and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Muslims

  • Dervla Sara ShannahanEmail author


Muslims today are increasingly re-examining gender and human rights in the light of Qur’anic teachings, and these issues crucially intersect in the terrain of sexual autonomy. The Qur’an insists that men and women are spiritually equal, yet dominant interpretations of sexual rights in Islam are not gender symmetrical. This paper asks whether Islam’s depiction of sexuality and marriage allows a space for female, and non-heterosexual, sexual autonomy. It also explores current interpretations of Islam, sexuality and same-sex relationships amongst British Muslims who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered. Large issues are at stake for contemporary Muslims re-examining their institutions and identity. Does marriage remain authoritative when paradigms of sexuality shift, and what does this mean for sexual autonomy in the wider Muslim consciousness?


Islamic reform Religious marriage Sexuality Sexual autonomy Queer identity 



I am grateful to numerous Imaan members for being so consistently generous with their time. I also wish to acknowledge the anonymous reviewers and Andrew Yip, whose comments proved invaluable. Special thanks are due to all my brothers and sisters in Islam, who share their minds and continue to open mine. The evolution of this work is due entirely to the limitless patience of my partner, and is dedicated to my mother.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Theology, Religious Studies & Islamic StudiesUniversity of WalesLampeterUK

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