Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

December 2015 [Posted October 2016]

a Sufi saint, grinding grain, 14th century
Rabia al-Basri (717-801 C.E.), a Sufi saint, grinding grain, 14th century, from a Persian dictionary (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Silzell, Sharon. "Ḥafṣa and al-Muṣḥaf: Women and the Written Qurʾān in the Early Centuries of Islam." Hawwa: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World 13, 1 (2015): 25-50.

"This study examines the ways male medieval Muslim writers portrayed Ḥafṣa bt. ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb (d. 45/665) and other seventh-century women and their roles as authorities and authenticators of the written word of God. By tracing Ḥafṣa's ownership of the first complete written copy of the Muslim scripture, I identify the late third/ninth and fourth/tenth centuries as a period of conflict over the chain of transmission of the first Qurʾān. I argue that late third/ninth and fourth/tenth-century accounts of the collection and codification of the Qurʾān illustrate a conscious rewriting of Ḥafṣa's role in those projects. I suggest that Ḥafṣa's literacy may have been deemed a threat to the authenticity of the Qurʾān collected by Abū Bakr, resulting in a scholarly attempt to sever her from the codification project." [Reproduced from the journal page on the Brill Online website.]