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Islamic Shari’a Law, Neotraditionalist Muslim Scholars and Transgender Sex-Reassignment Surgery: A Case Study of Ayatollah Khomeini’s and Sheikh al-Tantawi’s Fatwas

By studying the fatwas, the paper analyzes the main juridical reasons behind the fatwas of Khomeini and Al-Tantawi, who might be called neotraditionalists, and the issuance of such progressive fatwas through their classical methodology of ijtihad.

The attitude of Islamic scholarship and law with regard to the issue of transgender sex-reassignment surgery is still an important subject for Muslim transgender people. This operation was mostly regarded as sinful, thus prohibited (haram) in Islam by both Sunni and Shi’a traditional scholars. But in the late 1980s, sex-reassignment surgery was legalized (made halal) in shari’a and/or in state law by the fatwas of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and Sheikh Muhammad al-Tantawi in Egypt. It seems that these fatwas should initially be considered as an indication of Islamic tolerance toward trans-gender Muslims. This article explains how the transgender Muslims’ situation prompted the fatwas on sex-reassignment surgery and, therefore, how the fatwas, ultimately, expanded the scope of Islamic tolerance. The paper analyzes the main juridical reasons behind Khomeini and Al-Tantawi issuing such progressive fatwas through their classical methodology of understanding the Islamic concept of jtihad. Following the same methodology, the article, as further discussion, offers to open up an Islamic debate over similar and related cases, such as homosexuality and bisexuality, aiming to improve Islamic tolerance or acceptance of these phenomena.

It seems that transgender sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) is still an important subject for Muslim trans-gender people. It was mostly regarded as sinful, hence prohibited (haram) in Islam by traditional Muslim scholars (see Al-Jizani, 2006; Kanaan, 2000; Katoziyan, 1993; Madani,1997; Qaradawi,1980; Tabrizi, 1999). But in the late 1980s, SRS was legalized (made halal) in shari’a and/or in state law by the fatwas of Ayatollah Khomeini and Sheikh al-Tantawi in Iran and Egypt, respectively. It seems that these fatwas should initially be considered as a tolerant attitude of Islam toward transgender Muslims. This article will try to show how the situation of transgender Muslims prompted the SRS fatwas and, therefore, expanded the scope of the Islamic tolerance. By studying the fatwas, the paper analyzes the main juridical reasons behind the fatwas of Khomeini and Al-Tantawi, who might be called neotraditionalists, and the issuance of such progressive fatwas through their classical methodology of ijtihad. Following the same methodology of ijtihad, the paper, as a conclusion and prompt for further discussion, offers to open up an Islamic debate concerning similar and related phenomena, such as homosexuality and bisexuality, aiming to improve Islamic tolerance toward these phenomena.

Bibliographic Information

Title: Islamic Shari’a Law, Neotraditionalist Muslim Scholars and Transgender Sex-Reassignment Surgery: A Case Study of Ayatollah Khomeini’s and Sheikh al-Tantawi’s Fatwas

Author(s): M. Alipour

Published in: International Journal of Transgenderism 2017, VOL. 18, NO. 1, 91–103

 Language: English

Length: 13 Pages

Islamic shari’a law neotraditionalist Muslim scholars and transgender sex reassignment surgery

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