The Talent and The Intellect: The Qayna's Application of Skill in the Umayyad and 'Abbasid Royal Courts Open Access

Schlein, Deborah Joanne (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5h73pw11p?locale=en
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Abstract

The qayna of the Umayyad (661-750) and 'Abbasid empires (750-1258) was an extremely well-educated slave girl trained in the arts of poetic recitation, verse creation, musical theory, and song. This intensive education made her one of the most highly valued commodities in the empire, therefore, only wealthy noblemen and caliphs could purchase and keep such a slave. Their renown in these arts made many of these royally-owned qiyan quite famous, and anecdotes concerning them abound in literature of the 'Abbasid era and afterward. These texts include the tenth-century historiographical work by al-Mas'udi, Muruj al-Dhahab wa Ma'adin al-Jawhar (The Meadows of Gold and the Mines of Gems), the tenth-century texts concerning song and poetry by al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani (The Book of Songs) and al-Ima` al-Shawa'ir (The Slave Poetesses), and the thirteenth-century biographical dictionary by Ibn al-Sa'i, Nisa` al-Khulafa` (The Women of the Caliphs). Scholarship written on these women includes studies of their education and their interactions with their masters, but little research has been done concerning their agency. What has been said points only to the qiyan's beauty and sexual allure as their tools of influence. Using the aforementioned texts, this thesis aims to discuss how the qayna primarily used her skills and intellect, over her beauty and sex appeal, to obtain certain freedoms, influence, and social mobility in the caliph's household.

Table of Contents

Introduction ............................................................................................................. 1

The Qayna ................................................................................................................. 1

Source Material .......................................................................................................... 4

Perception of the Qiyan ................................................................................................ 7

Status and Freedoms of Women .................................................................................... 9

Scholarship on the Qiyan ............................................................................................. 11

Methods .................................................................................................................... 14

Chapter 1 - The Professionalization of the Singing Slave Girl ......................................... 20

Slavery ..................................................................................................................... 20

Education of the Qiyan ................................................................................................. 28

Entertainment Slaves and Courtesans of Other Societies .................................................... 32

Development of Entertainment (Music and Poetry) ............................................................ 36

Chapter 2 - Sallamat al-Qass and Habbaba .................................................................. 40

Yazid II's Reputation .................................................................................................... 40

Sallama's Background .................................................................................................. 41

Habbaba's Background ................................................................................................. 43

Sallama and Habbaba as a Pair ..................................................................................... 43

Habbaba's Skill ........................................................................................................... 45

Habbaba's Death ......................................................................................................... 49

Chapter 3 - Mahbuba ................................................................................................. 51

"She wrote Ja'far on her cheek with musk" ...................................................................... 51

"O Perfume of an Apple that I devote to myself" ............................................................... 55

"I roam the palace not seeing anyone" ............................................................................ 59

"What kind of life would delight me" ............................................................................... 61

Mahbuba's Beginnings ................................................................................................... 62

Chapter 4 - Al-Khayzuran ............................................................................................ 65

Social Mobility of the Jawari.. ........................................................................................ 65

Al-Khayzuran as adviser to al-Mahdi ............................................................................... 67

Abu Dulama's Request .................................................................................................. 69

Al-Khayzuran as adviser to Musa al-Hadi ......................................................................... 71

Conclusion ................................................................................................................. 74

Bibliography .............................................................................................................. 77

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