Liminal craft, exceptional law: Preliminary notes on midwives in medieval Islamic writings

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Abstract

In his monumental Introduction to History, al-Muqaddima, Ibn Khaldun, the well-known Muslim historiographer and philosopher of history (d. 1406 a.d.), dedicates a whole chapter to midwifery (inat al-tawld) that is as original in conception as it is rich in detail. The chapter is included in Part V, which offers a survey of professions and craftsthe accidents of sedentary culturethat for Ibn Khaldun reflect the sophistication of urban life. Within this survey, midwifery ranks among the most basic crafts (ummaht al-ani), being something necessary in civilization and a matter of general concern, because it assures, as a rule, the life of the newborn child. Moreover, like the art of writing, book production, singing, and medicine, midwifery is regarded as a noble craft because of the subject that is at the heart of it (sharf bi-l-maw).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-202
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Volume42
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

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