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Conceiving Identities

Maternity in Medieval Muslim Discourse and Practice

Kathryn M. Kueny

Publication Year: 2013

Explores how medieval Muslim theologians constructed a female gender identity based on an ideal of maternity and how women contested it.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-18

God, as conceived by the men who guard Islam’s early traditions, fashions only perfected beings in the wombs of women. As noted by Abū ʿUthmān ʿAmr ibn Baḥr al‑Jāḥiẓ (d. 869 CE), a famous ninth‑century Arab author of prose, literature, and Muʿtazilite theology, 1 ...

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1 On Wombs, Women, and the Hand of God

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pp. 19-50

The Qurʾān hardly provides a comprehensive, systematic manual of reproductive theories and practices; rather, it projects a series of brief vignettes that disclose disparate and fragmentary conceptions of procreative processes and agents of creation on both a cosmic and individual ...

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2 Mapping the Maternal Body

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pp. 51-80

According to Helen King, the human body is simultaneously a physical and symbolic artifact; as such, it is both naturally and culturally construed.1 Many feminists take this perspective one step farther to suggest there is no “natural” composition to the body whatsoever. ...

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3 Paradigms of the Good Mother

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pp. 81-116

Muslim exegetical writings draw upon the Qurʾān but flesh out further its basic, revelatory proclamations with expansive details from the prophet’s biography (sīra), medical wisdom, law, and tales from the isrāʾīlīyāt.1 In the context of filling in the narratives surrounding Qurʾānic references to human reproduction and motherhood,...

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4 Postpartum

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pp. 117-162

Public rituals and embodied practices serve to bridge the gap between the perfected queens of paradise and the real women whose lives and bodies often thwarted their efforts to achieve the ideal states of motherhood personified by Mary,  siya, Khadīja, and Fāṭima. As noted in chapter 3, for real women, the path to paradise was certainly ...

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5 Mother as Monster

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pp. 163-200

Unlike the stellar Mary,  siya, Khadīja or Fāṭima, “bad” mothers defy both God’s and man’s reproductive command through sexual deviance and corrupt faith, ritual, and practice. Bad mothers don’t confirm social births; rather, they undo both the ritual and theological structures that give their children (and themselves) a legitimate,...

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6 The Cure of Perfection

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pp. 201-240

The monstrous forms on the margins or in the center that result when fundamental boundaries have been transgressed prompt the reestablishment of primary prohibitions necessary to preserve the divinely mandated social order encoded within its established maternal ideals. Such prohibitions both structure and patrol the ...

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pp. 241-252

As the examples above have shown, not every child born into the medieval Muslim world appears to have been “designed to the highest standard of wise appropriateness,”1 which is “evidence of divine wisdom, design, and execution.”2 Barrenness, miscarriages, stillborn infants, and maternal mortality often reveal an experiential reality ...


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pp. 253-348


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pp. 349-372


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pp. 373-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781438447872
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438447858

Page Count: 404
Publication Year: 2013