Affective entanglements with the sexual imagery of paradise in the Qur’an


  • Mahdi Tourage King's University College


Islam, Quran, Sexuality, paradise affect theory


This paper examines affective structures and power formations that are constructed, maintained or contested when the significance of the sexual imagery of paradise in the Qur’an is divided into sensual and spiritual. I take a fictional story by Mohja Kahf as an example of a Qur’an commentary that centres gendered and embodied experiences in the text, and contrast it with Muhammad Abdel Haleem’s commentary, who views the sexual rewards of paradise as allegorical. Using affect theory, I will argue that allegorical interpretations limit the affective efficacy of the sensuality of the text to their symbolic function, associating spirituality with a disembodied, hence transcendent masculinity. Kahf’s exegesis, however, shows that affect and meaning are not pre-given, but produced in interaction with the text. I will conclude that configuring the text as sensual or spiritual is not due to any intrinsic or predetermined content, but a product of power relations.

Author Biography

  • Mahdi Tourage, King's University College

    Mahdi Tourage, PhD (2005, University of Toronto), is currently Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Social Justice and Peace Studies in the Department of Religious Studies, King’s University College, London Ontario, Canada. His book Rumi and the Hermeneutics of Eroticism was published in 2007 (Brill) and his coedited volume (with Philipp Valentini) Esoteric Lacan in 2019 (Rowman & Littlefield). His publications have appeared in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Iranian Studies, and Performing Islam. His areas of interest are Islamic religious thought, Sufism, gender and sexuality, and psychoanalysis.


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Body and Religion