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Chosen among Women

Mary and Fatima in Medieval Christianity and Shi'ite Islam

Mary F. Thurlkill

Publication Year: 2007

Chosen among Women: Mary and Fatima in Medieval Christianity and Shi`ite Islam combines historical analysis with the tools of gender studies and religious studies to compare the roles of the Virgin Mary in medieval Christianity with those of Fatima, daughter of the prophet Muhammad, in Shi`ite Islam. The book explores the proliferation of Marian imagery in Late Antiquity through the Church fathers and popular hagiography. It examines how Merovingian authors assimilated powerful queens and abbesses to a Marian prototype to articulate their political significance and, at the same time, censure holy women's public charisma. Mary Thurlkill focuses as well on the importance of Fatima in the evolution of Shi`ite identity throughout the Middle East. She examines how scholars such as Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi advertised Fatima as a symbol of the Shi`ite holy family and its glorified status in paradise, while simultaneously binding her as a mother to the domestic sphere and patriarchal authority. This important comparative look at feminine ideals in both Shi`ite Islam and medieval Christianity is of relevance and value in the modern world. It will be welcomed by scholars and students of Islam, comparative religion, medieval Christianity, and gender studies.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. viii-xii

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pp. 1-9

Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. . . . Do not be afraid, Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above women. According to both Christianity and Islam, the angel Gabriel delivered the above pronouncements to Mary, informing her that she would give birth to a son even though she was a virgin. Mary obeyed God’s will and bore ...

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One: Holy Women in Context

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pp. 11-26

Hagiographers certainly embellished Mary and Fatima’s roles in Christianity and Shi'ite Islam for rhetorical purpose. Throughout sacred texts these women perform various miracles such as healing the (pious) sick and punishing the (heretical) evildoers with righteous anger. Historians, on the other hand, have struggled to locate Mary and Fatima chronologically, ...

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Two: Holy Women in Holy Texts

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pp. 27-40

One of the most important goals of comparative religion is not simply to detail historical similarities and differences in religious systems but to discover new ways of understanding them.1 To that end scholars often as-sign categories or topical classifications to specific cultural elements, for example, ritual, myth, or mysticism.2 Hagiography and gender also serve ...

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Three: Virgins and Wombs

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pp. 41-66

In her work Purity and Danger, the anthropologist Mary Douglas explains that concerns for the physical body—its intactness, purity, and integrity—reflect concerns held by the body politic.1 Douglas sees purity and pollution rituals relating to the body as symbols for society and social boundaries. The Israelites’ halakhic (legal) preoccupation with ...

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Four: Mothers and Families

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pp. 67-98

In his work The Body and Society, Peter Brown poses this interpretive option for scholars of ancient texts: “Rather, they [the Apocryphal Acts] reflect the manner in which Christian males of that period partook in the deeply ingrained tendency of all men in the ancient world, to use women ‘to think with.’ ”1 Brown’s approach resembles Douglas’s notion ...

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FIve: Sacred Art and Architecture

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pp. 99-118

Early medieval Christians and Muslims created artistic images to illustrate their cosmologies and theologies in the social sphere. Much like hagiographers and theologians, artists and architects employed Mary and Fatima as symbols in their chosen space to depict constantly shifting theologies, political agendas, and gender expectations.1 Material ...

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pp. 119-124

According to early medieval Christian and Shi`ite tradition, God chose Mary and Fatima as vessels for his sublime progeny. Mary, an obedient maiden, gave birth to the God-Man Jesus; Fatima, sharing in the divine nur, held the Imamate within her womb. The attention to two female figures did not stop with theological concerns; hagiographers also chose ...

Appendix: Genealogies

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pp. 125-128


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pp. 129-132


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pp. 133-134


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pp. 135-178


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pp. 179-200


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pp. 201-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780268093716
E-ISBN-10: 0268093717
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268042318
Print-ISBN-10: 0268042314

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 712995183
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Chosen among Women

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Subject Headings

  • Fāṭimah, d. 632 or 3.
  • Shīʻah -- Doctrines -- History.
  • Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint -- History of doctrines -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
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