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Embracing the Divine

Gender, Passion, and Politics in the Christian Middle East, 1720-1798

Akram Fouad Khater is associate professor and director of Middle East studies at North Carolina State University. He is the author of Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Making of a Lebanese Middle Class, 1861-1921 and Sources in the History of th

Publication Year: 2011

Embracing the Divine narrates the transformation of Christianity in the Middle East during the 18th century. It traces the tumultuous events surrounding the life of Hindiyya al-Ujaimi, a visionary nun determined to establish her own religious order in the Levant against the will of the Vatican. This Christ-centered and driven desire led to two inquisitions by the Holy See, a concerted campaign on the part of Latin missionaries to discredit her, turmoil within her Maronite church between supporter and detractor, and tragic exorcisms and deaths. Thus, beyond its compelling cinematic scope, Embracing the Divine presents a critical chapter in the history of Christianity in the Middle East, a history that has been largely absent from both Middle Eastern studies and from histories of Christianity. Moreover, this story relates the radical nature and perceived magnitude of Hindiyya's transgressions across gender lines constructed locally and by a universalizing Roman Catholic Church.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

Th is book began with a felicitous happenstance. On a late spring afternoon in 1990, I was sitting in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris reading manuscripts for my doctoral dissertation. Restless from the tedium of my current reading, I went to flip through...


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p. xvii-xvii

Main Characters

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pp. xix-xxi

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-19

“[Jesus] placed his hands on my hands, his feet on my feet and his lips on my lips, and I gazed upon the whole universe.”1 Hindiyya al-‘Ujaimi, a Maronite2 nun from Aleppo, dictated this evocative and provocative vision of her latest encounter with Christ...

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2. Aleppo: The Making of a Visionary (1720–1746)

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pp. 20-67

“On June 6th [1753] Sister Hindiyya, the mother superior of the Sacred Heart of Jesus convent, was summoned and asked about the names of her parents, her place of birth and her age . . . She answered, my father is called Shukralla and my mother Helena...

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3. Mount Lebanon: A Voice in the Wilderness (1746–1750)

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pp. 68-107

On October 12, 1746, Hindiyya arrived in Dayr Ziyarat al-Adhra (Visitation of the Virgin), a Jesuit convent established in 1744 in ‘Ayntura, a village in central Mount Lebanon. Her move to the mountains of Lebanon was meant to distance her from...

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4. Bkerki Convent: A Living Saint (1750–1756)

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pp. 108-160

Sometime in 1751 copies of a poster satirizing and attacking Hindiyya and her allies appeared across Mount Lebanon and in the city of Aleppo. Commissioned by Jesuit missionaries, the poster was sarcastically titled “A Real Picture of the Heart of the Sinless...

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5. Purgatory: Angels and Demons in the Convent (1756–1778)

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pp. 161-217

In 1787 Constantin François Volney, who sojourned in Mount Lebanon two years before, began his narration of the demise of Hindiyya in the following portentous fashion...

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6. Epilogue: Hindiyya, Alone and Everywhere (1778–1800s)

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pp. 218-238

While the terrible deaths in the convent were decried, the second inquisition of Hindiyya and its surrounding events were less focused on attaining justice for the nuns and more directed at casting aspersions at Hindiyya, dismantling her order...


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pp. 241-277


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pp. 279-291


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pp. 293-311

E-ISBN-13: 9780815650577
E-ISBN-10: 0815650574
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632610
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632614

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 16
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1