Barren Women: Religion and Medicine in the Medieval Middle East
Sara Verskin, Ph.D. 2017
Barren Women is the first scholarly book to explore the ramifications of being infertile in the medieval Arab-Islamic world. Through an examination of legal texts, medical treatises, and works of religious preaching, Sara Verskin illuminates how attitudes toward mixed-gender interactions; legal theories pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance; and scientific theories of reproduction contoured the intellectual and social landscape infertile women had to navigate.
In so doing, she highlights underappreciated vulnerabilities and opportunities for women’s autonomy within the system of Islamic family law, and explores the diverse marketplace of medical ideas in the medieval world and the perceived connection between women’s health practices and religious heterodoxy.
Featuring copious translations of primary sources and minimal theoretical jargon, Barren Women provides a multidimensional perspective on the experience of infertility, while also enhancing our understanding of institutions and modes of thought which played significant roles in shaping women’s lives more broadly.
Studying Infertility in the Medieval Islamic World: Why and How
Part I: INFERTILITY AND ISLAMIC LAW THROUGHOUT THE LIFE CYCLE
Introduction to Part I
1 Infertility and the Purposes of Marriage in Legal Theory
2 Law and Biology: Menstruation, Amenorrhea, and Legal Recognition of Reproductive Status
3 Islamic Law and the Prospects of Women Presumed to be Infertile
Conclusion to Part I: The Intersection of Islamic Law and Women’s Biology
PART II: ARABO-GALENIC GYNECOLOGY AND THE TREATMENT OF INFERTILE WOMEN
Introduction to Part II
4 Gynecological Theory in Arabo-Galenic Medicine
5 Physicians, Midwives, and Female Patients
Conclusion to Part II: Medicine and Sexism
PART III: HEALING AND RELIGIOUS VULNERABILITY
Introduction to Part III
6 Religiously Classifying the Medical Marketplace of Ideas
7 Heterodoxy and Healthcare Among Women
Conclusion to Part III: A Tafsīr about the First Woman’s Fertility and Theological Vulnerability
Epilogue: Infertility and the Study of Women’s History