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Title: Family relations and politics in early Islam
Authors: Perlman, Yaara
Advisors: Cook, Michael
Contributors: Near Eastern Studies Department
Keywords: early Islamic administration
maternal ties
milk relationships
Subjects: Islamic studies
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation argues for the centrality of kinship bonds, especially those resulting from maternal and nursing ties, in securing civil and military appointments from the time of the Prophet through that of the Umayyad caliphate. The role of women in shaping the career trajectories of leading figures is often obscured by the Muslim sources and overlooked by the scholars studying them. Yet women, and the ways men identify through them, were central to the construction and management of political alliances, and accordingly, if we do not take them into account our understanding of Islamic history remains partial. By uncovering evidence of family connections that are likely to have factored into the careers of several officials in the formative period of Islam, the dissertation advances our knowledge about women’s political and social influence in early Arab society and brings to light the often-invisible human networks that underlay important events in premodern Islamic history.The dissertation makes both a substantive and a methodological contribution. In terms of substance, it offers an analysis of previously unexplored familial connections that help explain why certain people were given leading positions in the early Islamic empire. This information has profound implications, as some of the largest conflicts within the early Islamic community unfolded precisely over this question of who received appointments and where. Methodologically, the dissertation shows that we need to broaden our source base and cast our evidentiary net as widely as possible in order to extract new details on family ties from unexpected sources and genres and to connect these details to records of political appointments. The dissertation illustrates the value of going beyond the obvious sources and drawing on the broadest possible range of primary sources, including legal works, dictionaries, and commentaries on poetry. The evidence yielded by this expansive corpus allows us to establish historical facts with a high degree of confidence. The dissertation thus contributes to the scholarly debate in early Islamic studies about the reliability of Muslim sources: it demonstrates that the Muslim sources—despite their shortcomings—are indispensable to the study of this all-important and highly contested period.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies

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