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Marion Holmes Katz

Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies ; Director of Graduate Studies

PhD 1997, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago; BA 1989, Yale

Office Address: 

Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies 50 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012


(212) 998-8888


(212) 995-4689

Courses Taught:

“The Qur’an and Its Interpretation”; “Women and Gender in Islam”; “Perspectives on Islam”; “World Cultures: Islamic Societies”; “Topics in Islamic Studies: The Prophet Muhammad"; Topics in Islamic Studies: Islam and the Body”

“Introduction to the Qur’an”; “Classical Arabic Texts: Tafsir”; “The Study of hadith”; “Problems and Methods in the Study of Islam”; “Women in Islamic Law”; “Islamic Legal Theories”; "The Prophet Muhammad: History, Law, Ritual"

Areas of Research/Interest: 

Islamic law (shari'a), gender, and ritual


My research interests revolve around issues of Islamic law, gender, and ritual. My first book, Body of Text, reconstructs debates over questions of ritual purity among early Muslim legal scholars and examines the broader processes and concerns – such as gender and community boundaries -- underlying them. The second, The Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, looks at the religious goals and assumptions driving the development of rituals commemorating the Prophet’s birth. It seeks to go beyond the conventional focus defined by the controversy over bida’ (religious innovations) to interpret mawlid ceremonies as coherent and powerful forms of religious expression in themselves, drawing extensively on the voluminous devotional literature associated with them. Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice is a survey of the rules, interpretations and practices associated with salat (the five daily prayers). It seeks to address an imbalance in the secondary materials available for teaching Islam (particularly to undergraduates), which has tended to emphasize issues such as war and gender discrimination to the exclusion of topics (such as prayer) that have been central to the study and teaching of other traditions. Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice examines the evolution of legal doctrines and argumentation regarding women’s participation in mosque-based prayer, and brings this normative material into dialogue with evidence from other kinds of sources for women’s presence and activities in mosques.


Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice. Columbia University Press, 2014
Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
The Birth of the Prophet Muhammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam. Routledge, 2007.
Body of Text: The Emergence of the Sunni Law of Ritual Purity. SUNY Press, 2002.

Selected journal articles:
“Shame (?aya?) as an Affective Disposition in Islamic Legal Thought,” Journal of Law, Religion and State 3 (2014) 139-169.
“Women’s mawlid Performances in Sanaa and the Construction of ‘Popular Islam,’” International Journal of Middle East Studies 40 (2008), pp. 467-484

Selected chapters from edited volumes:
“Scholarly Authority and Women’s Authority in the Islamic Law of Menstrual Purity,” in Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet and Beth S. Wenger, eds., Gender in Judaism and Islam: Common Lives, Uncommon Heritage (New York: NYU Press, 2014), pp. 73-104
"The ?add Penalty for Zina: Symbol or Deterrent? Texts from the Early Sixteenth Century," in Paul Cobb, ed., The Lineaments of Islam: Studies in Honor of Fred McGraw Donner, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012, pp. 351-76


Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, fellowship 2014-2015
American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2014-2015
Carnegie Fellowship, 2006-8, for the project “Contesting the Mosque: Debates over Muslim Women’s Ritual Access”
American Institute for Yemeni Studies fellowship, 2000
Fellow, Association for Religion and Intellectual Life, summer 1998
Malcom H. Kerr Dissertation Award in the Humanities, Middle Eastern Studies Association, 1998

Updated on 10/23/2015