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Book: The Religious Body Imagined

Chapter: 4. Non-binary Sexual and Gender Identities in the Community: The Khuntha as an Isolated Being in the Mosque

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39648


The Mamluk jurist Abd al-Rahim al-Isnawi wrote a legal manual to articulate what Islamic law, in the Shafi‘i form, expects of the religiously observant life of a khuntha who has yet to be assigned a sex. Al-Isnawi described a congregational prayer format that allows a khuntha, or a group of khunatha, to participate in the congregation. Building on theories of space, religion, and gender as articulated by Michel de Certeau, Kim Knott, and Doreen Massey. This essay surveys the series of cases (10 in total) through a reading of strategies the jurist uses to regulate a khuntha’s access to men’s, women’s, and separate spaces, as well as to regulate interpersonal relations between men, women, and the khunatha.

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