Beyond Binary Barzakhs: Using the Theme of Liminality in Islamic Thought to Question the Gender Binary




Hussaini, Sara Haq

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This study is an exercise in reflecting on the theme of liminality found throughout Islamic thought with a view toward questioning the gender binary. Beginning with Islamic traditional thought, the first chapter examines the Qur'anic pericope of the enigmatic People of the Heights – those who are between heaven and hell – and Ibn 'Arabi's metaphysical concept of barzakh or "intermediary state." The second chapter conducts a gendered analysis of the theme of liminality in Islamic mystical thought, giving examples from the works of Rumi and contemporary South Asian poets to make the case for non-duality. Lastly, the third chapter presents a concrete illustration of some of the theoretical concepts discussed in the first two chapters, by exploring how the metaphysical and mystical ideas of liminality are embodied in the social and personal experiences of those who identify as hijras ("third genders") in South Asia.



Ibn Arabi, Hijra, Islam, Third Gender, Rumi, Sufi