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UNIT 13: Family and Household

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VIDEO SEGMENT: The Early Islamic Family and Household

This video segment focuses on the spread of Islam through West Asia beginning in the seventh century CE. The early Muslim community in West Asia developed its practices by melding the Prophet Muhammad's teachings with Arab tribal customs already in place. As this new faith spread throughout parts of Africa and Eurasia, many aspects of family life began to change.

For the most part, although Islam portrayed women as honorable individuals, both the Qur'an and the Shari'a — the Muslim holy book and system of laws, respectively — reinforced male dominance. Indeed, because Islamic law recognized descent through the male line, the social and sexual lives of women were subjected to the strict control of male guardians in order to preserve the legitimacy of heirs.

The family was a highly valued institution in Islam, and was considered the most important social, economic and political unit of the community. Within the family, marriage was the primary relationship. As a reflection of these concerns, households in Islamic societies were set up with two concerns in mind: the right of the family to keep its affairs private, and the necessity of following the prescriptions of Islamic law and religious practices with regard to women.

However, as historians trace the impact of Islam on families and households over many centuries, they have discovered that the relative weight of these concerns depended on how jurists and legal scholars have interpreted and reinterpreted the Qur'an and the Shari'a in the context of their own societies and cultures.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, ZANZIBARI FAMILY (c. 1900). Courtesy of Torrence Royer.

Anonymous, ZAL HOLDING THE 'SIMURGH'S' FEATHER DURING THE BIRTH OF RUSTAM (c. 1590-1595). Courtesy of The Image Works.


Anonymous, SHARIA TEXT MANUSCRIPTS LAW BOOKS (n.d.). Courtesy of Professor Jon E. Mandaville.

Anonymous Herat, SCHOOL SCENE FROM AN UNIDENTIFIED MANUSCRIPT (1513). Courtesy of The Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon.



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