Bedouin and ‘Abbāsid Cultural Identities : The Arabic Majnūn Laylā Story book cover
1st Edition

Bedouin and ‘Abbāsid Cultural Identities
The Arabic Majnūn Laylā Story

ISBN 9780367333942
Published October 20, 2019 by Routledge
244 Pages

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Book Description

This literary-historical book draws out and sheds light upon the mechanisms of "the ideological work" that the Arabic Majnūn Laylā story performed for ‘Abbāsid urbanite, imperial audiences in the wake of the disappearance of the "Bedouin cosmos."

The study focuses upon the processes of primitivizing Majnūn in the romance of Majnūn Laylā as part of the paradigm shift that occurred in the ‘Abbāsid empire after the Greco-Arabian intellectual revolution. Moreover, this book demonstrates how gender and sexuality are employed in the processes of primitivizing Majnūn. As markers of "strangeness" and "foreignness" in the ‘Abbāsid interrogations of the multiple categories of ethnicity, culture, identity, religion and language present in their cosmopolitan milieus. Such "cultural work" is performed through the ideological uses of alterity given its mechanisms of distancing (e.g., temporal and spatial) and nearness (e.g., affective). Lastly, the Majnūn Laylā love story demonstrates, in its text and reception, that a Greco-Arabian and Greco-Persian subculture thrived in the centers of ‘Abbāsid Baghdad that molded and shaped the ways in which this love story was compiled, received and performed.

Offering a corrective to the prevailing views expressed in Western scholarly writings on the Greco-Arabian encounter, this book is a major contribution to scholars and students interested in Islamic studies, Arabic and comparative literature, Middle East and gender studies.

Table of Contents



1. Song Culture, Kitāb al-Aghānī (Book of Songs) and the Love Story of Majnūn Laylā

2. On the term ‘Uḍhrī and its Symbolic Universe for Understanding Majnūn Laylā

3. The Night in the Ghayl—Love, Meaning, and Language

4. Umayyad and ‘Abbāsid Constructs of Masculinities in the Love Story of Majnūn Laylā

5. A Lost ‘Bedouin Arcadia’—The Tree Man and the Umayyad Tax Man

6. Majnūn as the Knight-Errant: Language and the Significance of Errancy (Huyām)

7. ‘Abbāsid Culturally Primitivist Readings of Laylā as Object and Subject

8. ‘Abbāsid Readings of the ‘Uḍhrī Romances: Female Unchastity & the Love Triangle




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Ruqayya Yasmine Khan is an associate professor and the M. Malas Chair of Islamic Studies in Claremont Graduate University’s Religion Department. Khan’s research interests include Arabic literature (early and modern), Qur’anic studies, gender/women’s studies and Islam and the digital age. Her more recent scholarly interests include late antiquity and Islam, origins of Islam and cultures of Umayyad Damascus and Abbasid Baghdad. Khan is the author of the book Self and Secrecy in Early Islam (2008), which maps the relationships between the concepts of secrecy and identity in early Islamic cultures. She is also the editor of Muhammad in the Digital Age (2015).