‘Breathtaking... El-Badawi brings to life accounts of warriors and queens who defy standard notions of the social and religious history of the Arabs. His masterful book offers new insights into the intimate relationships between paganism, Christianity, and early Islam in the Near East, and on the distinctive roles that women played in all of these traditions.’
Queens and Prophets
How Arabian Noblewomen and Holy Men Shaped Paganism, Christianity and IslamEmran Iqbal El-Badawi
Arab noblewomen of late antiquity were instrumental in shaping the history of the world. Between Rome’s intervention in the Arabian Peninsula and the Arab conquests, they ruled independently, conducting trade and making war. Their power was celebrated as queen, priestess and goddess. With time some even delegated authority to the most important holy men of their age, influencing Arabian paganism, Christianity and Islam.
Empress Zenobia and queen Mavia supported bishops Paul of Samosata and Moses of Sinai. Paul was declared a heretic by the Roman church, while Moses began the process of mass Arab conversion. The teachings of these men survived under their queens, setting in motion seismic debates that fractured the early churches and laid the groundwork for the rise of Islam. In sixth-century Mecca, lady Khadijah used her wealth and political influence to employ a younger man then marry him against the wishes of dissenting noblemen. Her husband, whose religious and political career she influenced, was the prophet Muhammad.
A landmark exploration of the legacy of female power in late antique Arabia, Queens and Prophets is a corrective that is long overdue.