and now, gender and Islamists

(Edit: updated with tags and a replacement link for the one that Medieval News have now taken off their site.)

I don’t seem to have much of interest to talk about in my own work at the moment, though I can assure you that lots of notes and footnotes are happening in the background. So to fill in meanwhile, I don’t know if you saw this already, but I was fascinated. Basically, a research project in Cairo has come up with nearly 8,000 female Hadith scholars, from seventh century to present day. Apart from the impact this could have on current gender politics in Islam if properly exploited, the comparisons boggled me. Did you know that the Council of Laodicæa, almost the last (late fourth century sometime) and certainly the weirdest (outlawing wizards, soothsayers, augurers and mathematicians, Canon 36—I’ve always assumed this referred to things like card-counting, but your suggestions are welcomed) of the Canonical Councils, saw the final outlawing of women priests (or not so final, depending on exactly how longue your durée is I suppose; it’s Canon 11 anyway).1 This project is as if someone dug back into the records we don’t have of the early Church and produced biographies of say, 40 of those women priests that it outlawed. It deserves to be known more widely, and while it seems unlikely that putting it here will achieve this, at least I’ll know where it was.

You want medieval? Well, the only reason I know owt about the Council of Laodicæa is that Charlemagne renewed several of its provisions in the Admonitio Generalis in 789. He and his legislators (or maybe just the latter) went through the big councils, for some reason included little wild Laodicæa, and on picking through its clauses decided, I don’t know why, that the one about mathematicians was one they had to have.2 I guess they were looking for Patristic precedent to cite against pagan practices, but it’s still a bit odd. I wonder how many people reminded Gerbert of Aurillac about it?


1. The Byzantines were still legislating around female participation in the liturgy in the seventh century, I discover: see J. Herrin, “`Femina Byzantina’: The Council in Trullo on Women” in Homo Byzantinus: Papers in Honor of Alexander Kazhdan, Dumbarton Oaks Papers Vol. 46 (Dumbarton Oaks 1992), pp. 97-105, online through JSTOR.

2. A. Boretius (ed.), Capitularia Regum Francorum Vol. I, Monumenta Germaniae Historica inde ab anno Christi quingentesimo usque ad annum millesimum et quingentesimum. Legum Sectio II: Capitularia Regum Francorum I (Hannover 1883), no. 22, pp. 52-62, the mathematicians canon being cap. 18 (p. 55).

One response to “and now, gender and Islamists

  1. Pingback: Seminar LXX: why you have to stay married, according to Hincmar of Rheims « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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