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Abstract

Burials are sites of encounter between family members, the broader community, and the dead, while the human body itself encodes genetic kinship relations. This paper uses bioarchaeological approaches to document kinship encounters at the medieval site of Tashbulak, in the highlands of modern-day Uzbekistan. At Tashbulak, encounters between this mountain community and the broader region are captured in Muslim burial practices and genetic variation that overlaps with populations across Central Asia. Kinship encounters within the community can also be observed in the care taken with burials, especially in two exceptional graves of a disabled individual and a youth buried with personal effects.

In: Medieval Encounters
Author:

Abstract

This article looks at the figure of the extreme anti-Shiʿi, the nāṣib, as treated by early Imami Shiʿi discourse during the seventh–ninth centuries CE. Several stories are studied in which the nāṣib is encountered as a problematic internal other within Shiʿi family structures. It is argued that such narratives gesture at the ways in which complex social realities were responded to by social and religious authorities such as the Shiʿi imams. While concerns about issues such as mixed marriages and overbearing parents were not restricted to Shiʿi families, the figure of the nāṣib shows us how certain ways of encountering others within kinship structures were related to the distinctive ways in which Imami Shiʿi social institutions harmonized or were dissonant with the wider society within which they were embedded.

Open Access
In: Medieval Encounters

Abstract

This article explores unions between elite Muslim men and elite non-Muslim women from the conquered populations during the seventh to ninth centuries CE. It considers cases from a range of geographic settings, including the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Fertile Crescent, and Iran. It examines these unions in their immediate historical contexts as well as literary artifacts of much later periods. With respect to the former, it argues Muslim conquerors often used elite non-Muslim women to cement their alliances with indigenous elites and as instruments to humiliate and abase these elites. With respect to the latter, it argues that stories of aristocratic non-Muslim women constitute a neglected but important feature of conquest narratives and they show how elite non-Muslim lineage remained prized among Muslims long after the conquests were over. Finally, as the article argues, the phenomenon demonstrates that many in early Muslim society considered maternal lineage to be very important, even if social standing was technically based mainly on the father.

Open Access
In: Medieval Encounters
Author:

Abstract

The situation of widows was a serious problem in the multi-religious societies resulting from the first Islamic conquests, both among the elite and in the lower echelons of society, where poverty stalked those women who did not have a protective and supportive family environment. Several possibilities were open to Christian widows at the time of their insertion into the new society: their entry into a monastery, a solution that did not suit the reproductive strategies of either group; or several kinds of marriage: within the same social and religious group, or with Muslim conquerors, bringing them into the host society. The few testimonies from chronical sources will be analyzed in contrast to legal treatises, fatwa compilations, Islamic legal formularies, and canon collections produced by Andalusi Christians to obtain a perspective from both sides. The dynamics of these sources, which show the evolution from the 8th to the 11th century, will help us to understand the continuity of Christian religious practices in Andalusi society and the role of widows in Medieval families.

In: Medieval Encounters
Author:

Abstract

This article argues that Muḥammad Ibn Saʿd’s (d. 230/845) Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā presents early Islamic freedwomen as deeply embedded in kinship networks within their former enslavers’ households and within their wider societies. It first considers how the very organization of Ibn Saʿd’s text reveals the importance of these kinship ties. It then analyzes how freedwomen participated in a “mutuality of being” with their former enslavers, particularly by performing intimate tasks of mothering and caretaking. Next, it reveals how freedwomen acted as social connectors, forging links between different households as wives, mothers, servants, go-betweens, and hadith transmitters. Finally, it reminds readers that these freedwomen had been alienated from their original families before being embedded in a new society through new kinship ties. This analysis allows us to appreciate that the kinship encounters early Islamic freedwomen participated in were real, intimate, and meaningful, but they were also characterized by unfreedom.

In: Medieval Encounters
Author:

Abstract

This article delves into social group structures, examining them through the prism of kinship ties. At the core of our exploration is Marshall Sahlins’s definition of kinship as “mutuality of being,” which will be elaborated towards the article’s conclusion. We home in on the first four centuries of Islam (approximately 600–1000 CE), a pivotal era marked by shifts in social affiliations and loyalties. Initially, “mutuality of being” was deeply influenced by patron-client relationships, known as the Islamic patronate (walāʾ). Yet, by the era’s end, “mutuality of being” evolved to resonate more with affiliations to one of the three major Islamic currents or their subsets: Kharijite, Shiite, or Sunnite Islam. Our objective is to dissect the societal transformations during this period, from a Muslim society anchored in Arab tribal loyalty to one gravitating towards the aforementioned religious currents. We then connect these observations to Sahlins’s kinship theory.

In: Medieval Encounters

Abstract

The rise of Islam in the seventh century not only brought about significant political and religious changes but also sparked profound encounters among social and cultural institutions across vast territories. Often overlooked, Kinship constituted a central focus in these transformations. Even before Islam, the evolving religious landscape of the ancient world played a crucial role in shaping kinship notions and institutions. However, the Islamic expansion accelerated these processes through waves of migration, conversion, and acculturation, giving rise to diverse encounters in the formation of cosmopolitan Islamicate societies. These encounters ranged from quotidian interactions like marital partnerships to intellectual debates and literary translations. Kinship served as a locus for encounters between confessional, ethnic, and social groups, while there were also encounters between different kinship ideas, institutions, and practices. This article follows recent advances in kinship studies that argue for the cultural, rather than biological, nature of kinship and view it as a dynamic process rather than fixed structures. We offer the conception of kinship encounters as a useful lens to study medieval islamicate societies, institutions and interactions. Through a series of case studies, we show the role of kinship encounters in shaping identity markers, dictating communal agendas, and fulfilling social and religious absorbing and assimilating roles.

Open Access
In: Medieval Encounters
Authors: and

Abstract

Based on the abundant evidence of funerary archaeology, this article examines the changing patterns from family/multiple to individual burial practices among non-Muslim and Muslim urban and rural societies of early Islamic Palestine, particularly between the seventh and ninth centuries as a possible mirror of changes in kinship dynamics. The transformation from the use of family or communal burial caves to individual tombs is evaluated through several archaeological case-studies, and this change is interpreted vis-a-vis the country’s social and demographic background in the Early Islamic period.

In: Medieval Encounters

Abstract

This article focuses on the importance that Islamic legal texts and prescriptive literature from the seventh/thirteenth and eighth/fourteenth centuries assign to the family, especially the mother, in forming religious identity. It approaches this question by analyzing the phenomenon of the non-converting family, or the family’s retention of their Jewish or Christian religion after the father’s conversion to Islam. The article describes and contextualizes instances in which the family did not convert along with the father against the background of seventh-/thirteenth- and eighth-/fourteenth-century Syria and Egypt. It summarizes some of the measures that were introduced to punish non-converting families of new Muslims and contrasts these with the rulings relating to conversion in an eighth/fourteenth-century legal compendium. The legal rulings focus on positive motivation to convert rather than punitive measures but reflect a similar concern to promote the conversion of the family as a whole. They also reflect a particular concern that the wife of the convert and mother of the household should convert, a feature which is related here to the influence that mothers are held to have exercised over the religious identity of the household.

Open Access
In: Medieval Encounters
Islamic and Jewish Studies around the Turn of the Twentieth Century
The scholarship of Ignaz Goldziher (1850–1921), one of the founders of Islamic studies in Europe, has not ceased to be in the focus of interest since his death. This volume addresses aspects of Goldziher’s intellectual trajectory together with the history of Islamic and Jewish studies as reflected in the letters exchanged between Goldziher and his peers from various countries that are preserved in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and elsewhere. The thirteen contributions deal with hitherto unexplored aspects of the correspondence addressing issues that are crucial to our understanding of the formative period of these disciplines.

Contributors: Camilla Adang, Hans-Jürgen Becker, Kinga Dévényi, Sebastian Günther, Máté Hidvégi Livnat Holtzman, Amit Levy, Miriam Ovadia, Dóra Pataricza, Christoph Rauch, Valentina Sagaria Rossi, Sabine Schmidtke, Jan Thiele, Samuel Thrope, Tamás Turán, Maxim Yosefi, Dora Zsom.