Kecia Ali: An authority on Islam and gender issues

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Islam and gender

Kecia Ali is one of the world’s leading scholars on Islam and gender issues. Currently a Professor of Religion at Boston University, she has also taught in the Harvard Divinity School and Brandies University. She has already authored five major academic books, most of them related to various issues of Islam. Over the past few decades, she has researched extensively on issues such as Islamic jurisprudence, Islam and gender issues, ethics, and biographies. One of her key areas of research is women in early and modern Islam. Prof. Ali has also researched and written on popular culture.

Education and Interest in Islam and gender

Born in 1972 Kecia Ali comes from the Boston area. She attended Stanford University as an undergraduate and obtained her BA degree in history with Honours in feminist studies. Ali earned her master’s and a doctorate in religion from Duke University. And she converted to Islam during her college days. Over the past decade, focusing on Islam and gender issues, Kecia has held a number of service and leadership roles in the American Academy of Religion. As of now, she is the status committee director of the AAR. And she has been a former president of the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics.

Among her dearest hobbies are abstract acrylic painting and reading. In 2018 Kecia co-founded an organization named Believers Bail Out. This is an initiative to free needy Muslims from pre-trial detention using Zakat money. The organization also endeavors to educate people about mass incarcerations.

Contribution to academics

Prof. Ali contributed significantly towards the subjects of Islam and gender issues through her much-acclaimed books. She has also written at great length on the issues of marriage and womanhood, aiming to trace their connection with development and Islam. Among her major books are Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence, Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam, Imam Shafi‘i: Scholar and Saint, and The Lives of Muhammad. Her latest book, however, is a little removed from her previous works. Titled Human in Death: Morality and Mortality in J.D. Robb’s Novels, it uses popular fiction to discuss gender and ethics. The book explores J.D. Robb’s futuristic police procedurals, analyzing their largely compelling model of human flourishing as well as their critical silences and omissions.

Peer-reviewed academic journal Comparative Islamic Studies in its review of Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence termed the book a ‘challenging contribution’ to Islamic history. The Journal of Law & Religion praised Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam as a “valuable contribution to the fields of legal, historical and gender studies.”

Ali has also co-authored and co-edited a number of books with other leading scholars. Among these are, Islam: The Key Concepts, Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A-Z, and A Jihad for Justice: Honoring the Life and Work of Amina Wadud.

Once again returning to the subject of Islam and gender issues, Prof. Ali is at present working on a new book on Women in Muslim Traditions.


(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)

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