‘Be content with the decree of Allah’

The cis-heterosexual nafs in Shi'i and Sunni fatwas on transsexuality and intersexuality


  • Garrett Kiriakos-Fugate Boston University


trans and intersex, Islamic law, patriarchy, fatwa, sex-reassignment surgery


This article examines the fatwas of Salafi-Sunni and conservative Shi'i scholars on transsexuality, and how their legal reasoning is limited by the cis-heteropatriarchal nature they ascribe to the nafs (self). Most Shi'i jurists in Iran permit sex-reassignment surgeries, while Salafi scholars forbid them as adulterations to the body except in the case of intersex persons. Both inherit normative legal reasoning that privileges the able-bodied, adult, free man as normative. They reference premodern rulings on the khuntha (those with ambiguous genitalia) and build upon the criteria developed by their predecessors to determine an individual’s so-called ‘true’ sex/gender. These scholars also take part in a contemporary world in which the body is medically and psychologically overburdened with gendered meanings. After analyzing these fatwas, I discuss how these cis-heteropatriarchal conceptions of the nafs greatly limit juristic creativity in addressing the spiritual wellbeing of trans, intersex, and non-binary Muslims.


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Body and Religion