Muslim Midwives: The Craft of Birthing in the Premodern Middle East
MUSLIM MIDWIVES – Book Sample
Ibn Khaldūn’s al-Muqaddima is distinguished, much like the author himself, by a number of features that are as striking to us today as they must have been to his contemporaries. Forming the prolegomena to a much larger work, Kitāb al-ʿibar, and serving as a highly sophisticated introduction to the historian’s craft, al-Muqaddima is the towering achievement of a man who undoubtedly ranks as one of the greatest thinkers in Islamic history.1
As a historiographer and philosopher of history, Ibn Khaldūn can claim to have laid the foundations, in the fourteenth century, of the discipline that we know today as sociology.2 That said, it still comes as a surprise to many of us when we ﬁnd that in his monumental Introduction to History Ibn Khaldūn devotes a whole chapter to midwifery (Fas ̣lfī s ̣ināʿat al-tawlīd), one that is as original in conception as it is rich in detail.3 The chapter is included in part 5 of the Muqaddima, which discusses means of subsistence (maʿāsh), professions and crafts (s ̣anāʾiʿ) –“the ‘accidents’ of seden-tary culture”– that, Ibn Khaldūn points out, reﬂect the complexity of …..
About this Book – MUSLIM MIDWIVES
Thebook reconstructs the role of midwives in medieval to early modern Islamic history through a careful reading of a wide range of classical and medieval Arabic sources.
The author casts the midwife’s social status in premodern Islam as a privileged position from which she could mediate between male authority in patriarchal society and female reproductive power within the family.
This study also takes a broader historical view of midwifery in the Middle East by examining the tensions between learned medicine (male) and popular, medico-religious practices (female) from early Islam into the Ottoman period and addressing the confrontation between traditional midwifery and Western obstetrics in the first half of the nineteenth century…
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