Professor Marion Katz presents on jealousy, masculinity in Islamic tradition

By Shira Gould || Staff Writer

This past Thursday, Marion Katz, a former visiting professor at Franklin & Marshall College, and a current professor at New York University, came to the Weis College House Great Room to discuss masculinity in Islamic tradition.

This talk was part of the Islam, Gender, and Sexuality series on campus. Her talk was more focused on Islamic ethics than it was on text. It explored patterns of behavior, old stories, and comments by Islamic scholars. According to Katz, jealousy in the context of Islam is a response towards romantic and sexual possessiveness. The purpose of her talk was to explore that tradition and determine how it relates to masculinity, and in turn, how it manifests itself in Islamic social life.

According to Katz, jealousy in Islam pertains to one’s instinct to guard what specifically and exclusively belongs to them. It is different from the Western concept of jealousy in that it varies from envy, which is the longing for what belongs to others.

Given that femininity is associated with humility, while masculinity is associated with valor and honor, this creates a gendered association with jealousy. In order to maintain one’s honor, it is important to maintain a possession over what is theirs. As Katz states, this is what creates a disdain for the other; the fear that the other will interfere with personal success. But it does not stop there. Jealousy also serves to protect the family’s honor. In fact, it is seen as weak to be passive and to ignore one’s jealousy.

Katz introduced the audience to three influential Islamic scholars to address this topic. To Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī, for example, jealousy is a praiseworthy trait because it was given by God in order to allow someone to protect what is theirs. Additionally, Islamic men are socially conditioned to believe that passivity is “stupid” and that anger is “masculine.” Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīya takes a different approach to jealousy. He believes that jealousy is essential to one’s relationship with God.

Jealousy is intended to expel ethical impurities. Likewise, he stated that female jealousy can be a sign of love in a similar way to the biblical story of Sarah and Hagar. Sarah’s jealousy of Hagar was a sign of love. Lastly, Katz mentioned the scholar Ibn al-Hājj al-Abdarī who believes that jealousy is a framework to view all gender discrepancy through religious demonstration.

In contrast to the Western perspective of jealousy, according to Katz, jealousy in Islamic culture is seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Since jealousy is intended to protect one’s property, and since women are not entitled to exclusivity in some religious circles, jealousy is therefore not a feminine quality.

Katz then opened the talk up for questions. First she responded to questions pertaining to the inheritance of this quality. Katz said that jealousy is seen as an innate quality, as it is modeled in nature. In humans, however, it is important to control the various forms of jealousy. For example, misplaced jealousy can be damaging. Additionally, Katz discussed how she came to study the topic of jealousy in masculinity. She said she allowed the text to lead her to this topic and she tried her best to ignore all of her preconceived notions.

First-year Shira Gould is a staff writer. Her email is sgould@fandm.edu.

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