The Personal Performance of the Qur’ānic Wildan: Shifting Gendered Boundaries of Sexuality


The paper argues that there is a discursive space within juridical texts and qur’ānic commentaries that justify an interpretation postulating a third gender or gender ambiguity. It aims at offering insights into the legal treatment of alternative gender identities by analyzing the personal performance of the Qur’ānic ghilmān. All the descriptions of ghilmān focused on glorifying their personal performance in contrast to a lack of discussion of their characteristics. These descriptions supported the assumption that ghilmān had another role, sexual partners for male believers, although it was hidden and almost unspoken. The qur’ānic heavenly taxonomy of gender and sexuality established an independent, conceptual and normative framework approaching questions of gender and sexuality that exist there only, part of the incentive to urge the believers to follow the right path. The case of the ghilmān extended the gap between the earthly world and heaven because the qur’ānic heavenly spectrum of gender and sexuality widened the earthly framework by shifting the known gendered boundaries. These detailed descriptions, including praising of the physical beauty of the ghilmān, are connected to bodily pleasures, part of a complementary message for more options to practice sexuality. The social, gendered and sexual stratification in heaven starts with male believers at the top, then come female believers, and at the bottom ḥur al-῾ayn and lower are the ghilmān, that supply services, including sex, exclusively for male believers.


Hadas Hirsch
Dean of Faculty of Social Studies and Humanities, History, Arabic Lanugage, Oranim Academic College, Israel


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Religious Community and Socialization



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