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Musannaf
This is a really interesting paper. Some notes below from my reading:
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The argument links the question of women's participation in warfare at the origins of Islam to the nature of "military organization at the time." It also has great insights on social and cultural history (for someone like me who isn't that interested in military history!)
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @mikati_rana
The broader outlines of the issue may be familiar and perhaps even intuitive to many. But the contribution of lies in a clearly meticulous effort to sift through the evidence for women's presence on the battfield in early Islamic history.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
By her own account, Mikati's paper thus responds to questions about this topic raised previously in the works of Leila Ahmed, Nadia El Cheikh, Aisha Geissinger and Ruth Roded, as well as Hugh Kennedy's work on the early Muslim armies.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
She begins with the case of Umm ʿUmāra, "an unusual woman" who became something of a legend for her martial valor. She is said to have fought in the battles of ʿUḥud, Ḥunayn, Yamāma and finally in the Ridda wars after the Prophet's death.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
Some of the details leave you with a vivid image of the one-armed Umm ʿUmāra in her old age, recounting battle stories from her days of yore.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The paper goes on to list and discuss a number of other "exceptional warrior women" including Umm Sulaym, Ṣafiyya bint ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib, the famous poet al-Khansāʾ, Um Ḥakīm bint al-Ḥārith, Juwayriya bint Abī Sufyān, Asmāʾ bint Yazīd, Azda bint al-Ḥārith and others.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
To be sure, Mikati notes that the data ultimately leaves us with only a small number of women (hence "exceptional") named and known for having fought in battle. The explanation for this also leads to a key methodological point highlighted later in her conclusion.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
One of the enduring literary legacies of this history is women's war poetry in Arabic, itself a testament to their role in accompanying men to the battlefield.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
This was effectively a genre that Tahera Qutbuddin has described as "women's verse of battlefield goading (taḥrīḍ)," mentioned briefly in the chapter on women's orations in her just-published magnum opus, Arabic Oration (2019)
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
Related but different are some of the battle speeches by early Muslim women (famously that of ʿĀʾisha at the Battle of the Camel), which Qutbuddin finds to be stylistically more or less in the same tradition as men's battle orations to incite fighting.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The poetry, however, is quite interesting. As noted by Mikati, there are accounts about women "reciting poetry that promised the courageous fighters sex and taunting the cowardly by threatening to withhold sex from them."
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The sources for all this range from sīra and maghāzī to ḥadīth, ansāb, and the chronicles. It's interesting to note that chapters on Jihād in the canonical ḥadīth collections include sections on women, such as Bukhārī's on "Raiding by Women and their Fighting with the Men"
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
Mikati refers to that particular body of literature as "legal discussions of women's raiding (ghazw al-nisāʾ)" which apparently often highlight their primary role as providing water to fighters on the battlefield. There are details of this in some of the stories.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
This "service" role on the battlefield—whether preparing food, nursing the wounded, or possibly looking after the horses—goes to the heart of the paper's argument, concerning the "non-professional" nature of early Muslim armies.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
To put it simply, in Mikati's words: "A man brought his sword, armor, and horse—if he had the means—and a woman: his wife, mother, or sister, to serve him."
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
Crucially, this raises a methodological point, as to why such "service" roles are often invisible: she points out that the medieval sources reflect a "general disregard for the role of all non-combatants in the conduct of war, whether male or female, Kharijite or non-Kharijite."
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The discussion of Kharijite women on the battlefield is the third/last section of the paper, and perhaps the most fascinating part of this whole history. It also helps us understand what happens beyond the early period.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
While examples for women on the battlefied soon disappear, the Khārijite rebellions seem to keep alive a tradition of women's fighting, at least to some degree.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
There's an obvious problem of sources here, since much of the information is only that reported by non-Kharijite sources and heresiographers. Nevertheless, some of the stories (and the poetry) that we have are most intriguing!
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The Khārijite rebellion of Shabīb b. Yazīd against the Umayyads apparently included a fighting force of 200 women led by his mother Ghazāla.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The fact of Ghazāla's eventual defeat and decapitation is a reminder that their participation in rebellion meant that women would not be shown any mercy by the caliphs just because they were women.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
The notorious Umayyad governor Ziyād b. Abīhi had al-Shajjāʾ, a Khārijite woman, "dismembered and crucified, with her naked corpse exposed in the market." Mikati notes several examples of crucificxion. Some Khārijite leaders thus began to oppose the participation of women in war.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
Executions were meant to be a deterrent. Non-Khārijite sources claim it worked and that women "became fearful of participating, not for fear of death, but rather lest they were to be stripped naked." Yet they continued to fight, as in the case of Ghazāla two decades after Ziyād.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @TalhaAhsanEsq
The paper mentions an "often-quoted verse" by Umm Ḥakīm, the wife of Khārijite "caliph" Qaṭarī b. al-Fujāʾa, which has actually come up here on Twitter before, thanks to
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @TalhaAhsanEsq
Worth noting here that Qaṭarī was the subject of 's recent thesis at SOAS.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
In her paper, Rana Mikati points out with great insight that the role of women among the Khārijites was a matter of curiosity to others precisely because they were by definition rebels/outcasts (as one might translate the name they were given).
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @afzaque
As such, she says, "there is no doubt that some of the non-Kharijite sources romanticize and possibly exaggerate the participation of Kharijite women in fighting." This appears to be an important historiographic point.
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @menalib
Mikati also notes that the representation of Khārijite women sometimes resemble those of warrior women in the Arabic popular epics e.g. Sīrat Dhāt al-Himma. The latter has been dealt with by in her thesis, and also here:
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Musannaf Oct 5
Replying to @mikati_rana
Thanks to for a great read, and for sharing the paper here for those who want to check it out:
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