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C o n t e n t s Acknowledgments ix Preliminary Notes xi Introduction 1 One Holy Women in Context 11 Two Holy Women in Holy Texts 27 Three Virgins and Wombs 41 Four Mothers and Families 67 Five Sacred Art and Architecture: Holy Women in Built Form 99 Conclusion 119 Appendix: Genealogies 125 Glossary of Arabic Terms 129 List of Abbreviations 133 Notes 135 Bibliography 179 Index 201 ix A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s When time for writing these acknowledgments approached, I noticed a sharp increase in my propensity for procrastination. I have lived with Mary and Fatima for so long, providing the final touches to the manuscript feels like a death of sorts, not only the end of a research project, but also the loss of a part of myself. I first met medieval Mary and Fatima when I was an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas; they followed me to Indiana University for my graduate work and to Southern Arkansas University for my first academic post. They remain close by, now at the University of Mississippi, as I begin the tenure process. The Blessed Virgin and Fatima al-Zahra have remained my constants as I moved across various state lines, making new friends and leaving old ones and learning to face the challenges of life in academia. It is with profound humility and sadness that I now complete my time spent with their lives and legacies and introduce them to my readers. Because this study has consumed me for so many years, there are many people to thank for their continued support and encouragement. First, however, I should like to recognize the generosity of Southern Arkansas University and Ole Miss; both institutions provided summer research funds that allowed me time to write. Various colleagues and friends also made this book possible: Paul Babbitt, who counted my paradigm shifts; David Brakke and Dyan Elliot, who read early drafts; Jan and Bonnie Duke; Chris and Maren Foley; Ben Johnson; the Rasmussen clan, who protected my sanity; William Tucker; Mary Jo Weaver; and James Willis. I especially want to thank two mentors and friends, Lynda Coon and Scott Alexander. I met Lynda when I was an undergraduate, and she challenged my notions of history, religion, and gender. During her classes, I reexamined everything I thought I knew about myself and the world around me. She continued to offer advice—and sometimes threats—throughout my graduate career; and she provided a critical reading of the manuscript in its final stages. Her comments revealed her stunningly sophisticated insights that compelled me to rewrite and revise in imitation of her own scholarship (though not always successfully ). Scott Alexander, my mentor at Indiana University, introduced me to the mysteries of the Arabic language and guided me with questions and comments during hours of conversation about Shi`ism, the holy family, and comparative religion. I remain in awe of his breadth of knowledge, generous spirit, and masterful teaching. In view of Lynda and Scott’s constant encouragement, it seems disingenuous to present this work as wholly my own—I can hear their comments, opinions, and critiques blending with my analysis in conversation (and sometimes disagreement ) about medieval hagiography, holiness, and gender. Without their voices, this book would not exist. x Acknowledgments xi P r e l i m i n a r y N o t e s Translations The Latin and Arabic transliterations for all extensive quotations are provided in the notes. Modern translations that I consulted are identified following the appropriate citation. I have attempted to render all important Latin and Arabic terms into English. I have retained two Arabic designations that, because of their mystical bent, escape a literal translation: nur, or light, is the preexistent form of Muhammad and the Imams who resided on Allah’s throne in paradise; ahl al-bayt, or people of the house, refers to Muhammad’s family. According to Shi`ite theology, Allah awards the Prophet’s family, the ahl al-bayt, special authority and status among humanity. The appendix includes a glossary of Arabic terms for nonspecialists. Transliteration I have standardized as many Arabic transliterations as possible, so I do not use the macron or underdot in the body of the text. I do include all diacritical marks in the notes, following the transliteration guide adhered to by the International Journal of Middle East Studies. I do not include diacritics for common words and...