Identifying Gender Biases in Islamic Legal Literature: An Examination of Analogical Arguments to Prohibit Women from Leading Prayer

  • David Solomon Jalajel University of the Western Cape
Keywords: Islamic law, Analogy, Qiyās, Legal theory, Usūl al-Fiqh, Gender, Women


It is generally assumed that gender biases played an important role in shaping Islamic Law, particularly some legal rulings that are unfavourable to women. Determining the degree of this influence is problematic, since the claims jurists make about gender in Islamic legal texts are meant to defend a given law and therefore might be purely polemical and not accurately represent the original reasons for the law. In this paper, a methodology is suggested to gauge the influence of gender attitudes in works of Islamic Law. The legal expositions from a broad survey of legal texts are compared with the framework of Islamic legal theory to identify assumptions operating behind the formal legal arguments and demonstrate how those assumptions impacted on the jurists’ conclusions. This methodology is applied to the case of how juristic analogy (qiyās) is used to prohibit women from leading men in prayer.