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Holding Court: Zahra Ayubi

Photograph of Zahra Ayubi
Photograph of Zahra Ayubi

In this week's edition, we speak with Zahra Ayubi Assistant Professor of the Department of Religion. She has recently received a grant from the Greenwall Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Program in Bioethics to continue her research on the intersections of bioethics, gender, and religion within the context of Islam.  Her most recent book 'Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family, and Society' offers a textual-critical examination of gender in Islamic metaphysics and virtue ethics.


What is your book about?

This book is about the perennial concerns of how to live a moral life when so much of philosophical ethics is gendered and exclusive.

Where did you get your idea(s) for this book?

I always knew that I wanted to research concepts of gender in Islam and produce feminist work that advocates for justice. Then in graduate school I developed an interest in studying Islamic philosophical ethics as a genre. Hence, the idea for this book came together.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

My research looks like this: me sitting reclined in my office with my feet up on an ottoman. My laptop perched on a lap-desk and my browser connected to several library websites, a million tabs and files are open, and a stack of books and article printouts sit next to me with one book open on a book stand. Although I don’t have to be in this space or position to write, I usually do need to work in a warm place or need the heat to be turned way up.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

The library of the future SHOULD contain hard copy books as it does today, but I realize that housing books in limited space will not always be feasible and shipping heavy voluminous books may not be environmentally friendly. On the other hand, because libraries loan books that are to be read by multiple patrons over and over, they provide a more environmentally friendly way to get books into the hands of people than if each individual had to purchase/ship their own copies. That said, libraries of the future will probably succumb to budget cuts and stop purchasing hard copies of books, and instead expand their electronic offerings and electronic platforms of reading—it might not destroy the concept of the book, but it might cause a decline in reading habits overall.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Cultivate a daily writing practice, much like other daily rituals, and don’t worry about the initial quality of your writing. You can always revise a first draft, but if you don’t have a draft there is nothing to revise.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

If I had more time, I would read everything by G. Willow Wilson, Mohja Kahf, Laury Silvers, and other Muslim women fiction authors. I would also read the YA novels by Henna Khan, Sabaa Tahir, Alexis York Lumbard and Ausma Zehanat Khan in the secret hopes that they move to writing novels for adults. This would be both to support this community of authors, but also find representation of myself and stories familiar to me in literature.

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