The political role of women in al-Andalus

What can cause a greater blow to one’s self confidence than to arrive late at an intellectual seminar already having a LITTLE knowledge of what is going to be said there? A belated arrival coupled wit the half-cup knowledge keeps a listener engrossed in nothing but confusion. As such, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And not withstanding these two issues, the topic was itself, SENSITIVE if not NEGATIVE.

Put aside the above state of mind, the rest of the lecture was very enlightening. It goes without saying that a topic like “Rule of woman in Andulasian politics” cannot be easily CONCLUDED with everyone’s views INCLUDED.

There is nothing like an absolute right or wrong when it comes to ‘WOMEN’ and ‘POLITICS”. The best way of dealing with both is with a compromising attitude. What is considered ‘opportunity’ in one maybe a ‘threat’ for another.

However the learned speaker openly spread the facts before the audience for them to PONDER, …so that to the myths around, their intellect wouldn’t SURRENDER.

Prior to enlisting the names of women who played an important role in the Muslim rule of Spain, the scholar also talked about the legends of women in Muslim conquests that took place in other parts of the world.

She also spoke of Hakam II who patronized learning and under whose rein the Cordoba University’s fame spread far and wide. The university attracted students from different parts of the world. The ruler was so engrossed in learning that he left the state control to a WOMAN.

Whether such a move was a BLISS or CURSE, historians will continue to argue and disagree.

But her rein was full of changes. She tried to make sure that her son became the next king (and not her husband’s brother). The king’s authority was weakened and the Khalifa system was almost transformed to a Hijabah system (or something like that). To sum it all, the QUEENDOM brought about a ‘fitnah’ or civil war in the KINGDOM.

‘Behind every successful man is a woman’ goes the saying. If that holds true, then history is also a testimony to the fact that ‘behind every bankrupt man is a spendthrift women’. The phenomenon of ‘Women operating behind the veil’ is not specific to Andulasian politics alone: Egypt, India and even Ottoman Empire experienced the bliss and curse of Queens and princesses.

At least that is what I could conclude as a meager listener of the seminar. Towards the end, the speaker admitted that she had hurried the speech, due to the ill health of her vocal chords.

However I must confess that it takes courage and confidence, besides a deeper understanding of the topic, for a western educated Arab female scholar to present such a thesis before an audience in the Cultural capital of Arab world- Sharjah, fondly called the Bride of Arabia.

[Prof. Nada Mourtada comes from the University of Paris, where she taught Constitutional Law for 4 yrs. She attained her Ph.D. from the University of Paris in 1997, and joined the AUS in the same year. Dr. Mourtada is Assistant professor of political studies and social sciences where she teaches a wide array of subjects, including International relations , American government, political studies, globalization, western culture and Islamic culture. Dr. mourtada has already published a book on Executive Privilage of the American presidency at the LGDJ, one of the most prestigious publishing houses in Paris, and is working on her second book, which will be about the supreme court of the U.S. and the political questions doctrine. In the summer 2000, Dr. Nada was awarded a visiting scholarship at the congressional research service, Washington D.C. She also was offered a visiting scholarship at the institute of Governmental Studies at the university of California at Berkeley, which she will take up in the summer of 2002. Professor Mourtada is the Deputy Editor In Chief of the Journal of Social Affairs, which is the first scholarly journal to be published by AUS. Under Dr. Mourtada, the English language section of the Journal needed to be started from scratch, but it has already attracted articles from a number of world class scholars.]

This essay is was written after attending the seminar. It should be noted that the views expressed in this article is based on the writer’s own understanding of the topic which maybe prone to factual errors.