Discussing Ghayra in Abbasid Literature: Jealousy as a Manly Virtue or Sign of Mutual Affection

in Journal of Abbasid Studies
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Jealousy is a thriving theme in Abbasid poetry and narratives, but it is not confined to the realm of storytelling and poetic motifs; its meaning and boundaries are discussed from various points of view of Abbasid scholarship. In this article, explanations and definitions of ghayra as an emotion as well as cultural practice are investigated on the basis of a selection of Classical Arabic literary sources. It is a study of attitudes towards jealousy in literature that is predominantly normative, and hence excluding subjective experiences as they are expressed in poetry and anecdotal literature.

Discussing Ghayra in Abbasid Literature: Jealousy as a Manly Virtue or Sign of Mutual Affection

in Journal of Abbasid Studies



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Ibn al-NadīmFihrist287. I am most grateful to Everett Rowson for sharing his knowledge about this book. He concludes that it was written not later than the middle of the fifth/eleventh century. See his excellent overview in Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature: Arabic: Middle Ages to Nineteenth Century. For the chapter on ghayra I rely on two mss; Aya Sofya 3837 (634 ah) and Fatih 3729 (582 ah).


KharāʾiṭīIʿtilāl306. There are a few variants to this ḥadīth e.g. lā tarudd instead of lā tamnaʿ and “enjoy her” instead of “keep her”; cf. Suyūṭī Sharḥ Sunan al-Nisāʾī 67-68. The ḥadīth is found in Abū Dāwūd Sunan 545; Shāfiʿī Umm 37. The different versions opinions and arguments around its interpretation are summarized by Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī who argues that yad lāmis must indicate zināʾ and that the husband suspects that his wife would be able to commit an adulterous act but that he has no evidence. I found al-ʿAsqalānī’s text where the ḥadīth is debated online in a transcript of a short Azhar MS entitled Risāla fī ḥadīth lā tarudd yad lāmis li-bn Ḥajarhttp://www.ahlalhdeeth.com/vb/showthread.php?t=87233.




KharāʾiṭīIʿtilāl312; also Ibn Ḥabīb Adab al-nisāʾ 275.






Kharāʾiṭī Iʿtilāl310. According to Kulaynī Kāfī V 537 it could “make the healthy among them sick.” See also Ibn Ḥabīb Adab al-nisāʾ 276.


Ibid.; Ibn ḤabībAdab al-nisāʾ275.


Ibn Abī ShaybaMuṣannaf54; also in Ibn Qutayba Uyūn IV 77 where ʿUmar advises: “Do not let your women stay in the upper rooms and do not teach them the Scripture. Take help from nakedness against them. Say ‘no’ to them frequently as a ‘yes’ would urge them to continue asking.” This khabar is elaborated in ps.-Jāḥiz Maḥāsin 274-275. Ibn Qutayba and ps. Jāḥiẓ also provide a variant attributed to ʿAqīl b. ʿUllafa; Uyūn IV 77; Maḥāsin 273.


KharāʾiṭīIʿtilāl311; Bukhārī Ṣaḥīḥ VII 2003. The wives of the Prophet were given the honorific title ummahāt al-muʾminīn “Mothers of the believers” in Q 33:6; see Stowasser Women in the Qurʾan.




Ibn ḤabībAdab al-nisāʾ277; the expression is also found in Kulaynī Kāfī 505.


KulaynīKāfī505. Al-Nasāʾī (Suyūṭī Sharḥ sunan al-Nasāʾī 69) claims that the Prophet advised the Muslims not to marry jealous women (i.e. from the Anṣār).










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