Arab Women in the Middle Ages

Arab Women in the Middle Ages

Private Lives and Public Roles

9780863567735 January 2001 Hardback 268pp

About the Book

Regardless of social rank and religion, whether Christian, Jew, or Muslim, Arab women in the middle ages played an important role in the functioning of society. This book is a journey into their daily lives, their private spaces and public roles.

First we are introduced into the women’s sanctuaries, their homes, and what occurs within its realm – marriage and contraception, childbirth and childcare, culinary traditions, body and beauty rituals – providing rare insight into the rites and rituals prevalent among the different communities of the time.

These women were also much present in the public arena and made important contributions in the fields of scholarship and the affairs of state. A number of them were benefactresses, poets, calligraphers, teachers and sales women. Others were singing girls, professional mourners, bath-attendants and prostitutes. How these women managed their daily affairs, both personal and professional, defined their roles in the wider spheres of society.

Drawing from the Islamic traditions, as well as legal documents, historical sources and popular chronicles of the time, Guthrie’s book offers an informative study of an area which remaisn relatively unexplored.

About the Author

Shirley Guthrie was educated at the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh and has travelled widely in the Middle East. Since receiving her doctorate in Islamic painting in 1992, she has continued her research into illustrated Arabic manuscripts.


'A useful survey on Arab (mostly Muslim) women's lives in past centuries.'

'Of greatest use to educators and lecturers looking for diverse and entertaining details of various aspects of medieval Near Eastern social life.'
International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies

'Reveals a broad understanding of the subject'
MESA Bulletin