The issue of women serving as judges has been a contentious one in Egyptian society for nearly eight decades. While other Muslim majority countries started appointing women judges as early as the 1950s and 1960s, it was not until 2003 that the Egyptian government announced the appointment of its first ever female judge. Despite the approval of Egypt's religious scholars, her appointment was fiercely contested, among both the general public and the legal profession. In this paper we explore the question of why the appointment of women as judges provokes so much controversy in Egyptian society, and in the judiciary in particular. We show that the debate reveals a preoccupation with the proper place of women in society. With both traditionally educated religious scholars and people lacking formal religious training justifying their point of view by resorting to religious argumentation, the debate is also a clear example of the fragmentation of religious authority in Islam.