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 Women And The Fatimids In The World Of Islam
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Full-length study of women and the Fatimids is a groundbreaking work investigating an unexplored area in the field of Islamic and medieval studies.
The authors have unearthed a wealth of references to women, thus re-inscribing their role in the history of one of the most fascinating Islamic dynasties, the only one to be named after a woman.

 Atlast some light is thrown on the erstwhile silent and shadowy figures of women under the Fatimids which gives them a presence in the history of women in medieval and pre-modern dynasties.
Basing their research on a variety of sources from historical works to chronicles, official correspondence, documentary sources and archaeological findings, the authors have provided a richly informative analysis of the status and influence of women in this period.

 Their contribution is explored first within the context of Isma’ili and Fatimid genealogical history, and then within the courts in their roles as mothers, courtesans, wives and daughters, and as workers and servants. Throughout the book comparison is drawn with the status and roles of women in earlier, contemporary and subsequent Islamic as well as non-Islamic courts

Contents of the Book


  1. Studying Women and the Fatimids: the Sources, the Methods

and the State of Studies 1

  • Medieval IsmaÆili Perspectives on the Women of the Prophet Muhammad’s Household: Fatima and Khadija 5
  • Working the Propaganda Spindle
    • The DaÆwa: A Historical Overview 14
    • Women and DaÆwa in the Pre-Fatimid Period 21
      • Trade and Family 22
      • Marrying into the Mission 24
      • Female Loyalty and Guile 25
    • Women and the DaÆwa in the Fatimid Period: The North African Phase 28
      • Dishing Out for the Propaganda 28
      • Early Legislation and Doctrinal Instruction 29
    • Women and the DaÆwa in the Fatimid Period: The Egyptian Phase 30
      • Women and the ‘ShiÆitisation’ of Egypt 30
      • Getting the Message 32

analytical table of contents

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Analytical Table of Contents [ vii

c. Female Participation in Religious Activities 33

d. The Feminine in the ‘Language’ of the DaÆwa 35

  • The Decline of the Dynasty: Late Eleventh Century to 567/1171 36
    • Feminine Disguise and Intelligence Work 36
    • Female Testimony at the Service of the DaÆwa 38
  • Family Ties: Women and Genealogy in Fatimid Dynastic History
    • Female Figures in IsmaÆili Pre-Fatimid Genealogical History 46
    • Women in the Fatimid Dynasty 49
      • The North African Phase 49
      • The Egyptian Phase 51
      • Caliphs’ Sons and Viziers’ Daughters 55
    • Women in the Dynasties in the Regions Outside the Dawla:

The Zirids, the Nizaris and the Sulayhids 58

  • Women in the High-Ranking Families at the Service of the

Fatimid Dynasty 63

  • Inside the Palace Walls: Life at Court
    • The Setting 70
    • The Sources 73
    • The Court Harems 73
      • Concubines and Slave-girls in the Harems 75
      • Women’s Voices from the Harem 79
    • Female Staff at the Palace 80
    • The Palace and the ‘Politics’ of Dress 83
    • The Entertainment 86
      • Court Poetry, Music and Dance 86
      • A Few Weddings and Some Funerals 91
      • Religious and Secular Ceremonies: the Public and the Private 93
  • Battleaxes and Formidable Aunties
    • Between Authority and Power 104
    • Public Signs of Women’s Influence and Power 106
    • Women’s Influence 109
      • The Mother: Rasad, Between Influence and Power 110
      • The Aunts: The ‘Clouds of Red Revenge’ 114
    • From Influence to Power: Women Rulers 116
      • The Daughter, the Sister and the Aunt: Sitt al-Mulk 117
      • The Wife, the Widow, the Mother: Queen Arwa al-Sayyida al-Hurra 127
        • Her Background and Asma’, her Mother-in-Law 127
        • al-Sayyida Arwa bint Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Sulayhi 129
        • Political and … Religious Authority? 136

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viii ] Analytical Table of Contents

  • Women of Substance in the Fatimid Courts
    • Women of Substance at the Fatimid Courts 149
    • Wealth and Riches 152
      • Wealth 152
      • Riches 156
      • How Wealth and Riches were Acquired 159
      • How Wealth and Riches were Lost: The Damoclean Sword of Confiscation 159
      • Management and Spending Strategies 161
    • Architectural Patronage and its Female Champions 163
      • Phase One: Architectural Patronage under al-‘Aziz 166
        • Durzan: Patronage as Status Symbol of Female Influence 167
      • Phase Two: Architectural Patronage under al-Amir and

al-Hafiz, Restoration and Politico-Doctrinal Landscaping 171

  • Reasons for Patronage: Beyond Generosity and Piety 176
  • Outside the Palace Walls: Daily Life
    • ‘Sects’ and the City: Landscape and Religious Diversity in

the Fatimid Capital and its Environs 186

  • Ideal Homes and Harsh Realities 191
    • Women’s Restrictions under al-Hakim 192
    • Free and Bonding Agents: Free and Slave Women at Work 199
    • Women’s Education and Educated Women 205
    • Appealing Women: Some Legal Rights and Wrongs 208
      • Marriage and Divorce 210
      • Inheritance 213
      • Crime and Punishment 214
    • Healthy and Pure: Feminine Hygiene and Sexuality in Legal

Theory and Medical Practice 215

  1. Contraception 221
    1. Purity Laws and Personal Hygiene 222

Conclusions 232

Appendix 1: The Fatimid Imam-Caliphs and Their Mothers 238

Appendix 2: Glossary 239

Bibliography 244

Index 254


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