[Forgotten Women] Lubna of Cordoba

This is the second part of a series on Al Miraah featuring forgotten women in which we tell the stories of groundbreaking women whose names are so often excluded from history.

Read part one: Rabbi Regina Jones


Lubna of Cordoba
Lubna of Cordoba (via https://ballandalus.wordpress.com)

The forgotten woman of MENA history that we will be looking at is most commonly known as Lubna of Cordoba, although she is sometimes referred to as Labna or Labhana. A user of the forum at www.ummah.com gave their own insight into why she has been forgotten, by quite simply stating that: ‘she is a woman and has no “famous” husband’, which may very well be the case. Only very little is known about her mainly because there are very few sources about this remarkable woman, and the credibility of these sources can often be questioned. In spite of these setbacks it is still worth mentioning those things that are known, because it is important that people remember her name.

Lubna lived in the 10th century C.E. and was raised in Cordoba at the court of Sultan Abd Al-Rahman III, a descendant of Abd Al-Rahman I who is said to be the only member of the Umayyad dynasty to survive the Abbasid coup of 750. He subsequently fled to Al-Andalus and established his own Sultanate. Many different roles and talents have been attributed to Lubna, though it is not clear how much of this is actually true. A list of roles that have been ascribed to her include: poet, copyist, scribe, royal library’s acquisitions expert, private secretary, and mathematician. As mentioned earlier, it is not known which of these are true, and writer Kamila Shamsie argues there is reason to believe that Lubna could possibly be the embodiment of two or perhaps three women at the court of Cordoba who, combined, were all these things [1]. But let’s first see what is generally said about this one woman known as Lubna of Cordoba before we descend into speculation.

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Picks of the week, 26 January-1 February

Andeel and Habiba Effat, A quick look back at the revolution’s internet sensations, Mada Masr, 27 January 2015.
Robert Mackey, Egypt Condemns Western Outrage at Fatal Shooting of Protester, The New York Times, 27 January 2015.
Joas Wagemakers, Jihadi-Salafi views of the Islamic State, Monkey Cage, 27 January 2015.
M. Steven Fish, Why is terror Islamist?, Monkey Cage, 27 January 2015.
Jack Khoury, Reuters and Nidal al-Mughrabi, UN suspends Gaza reconstruction due to stalled donor payments, Haaretz, 27 January 2015.
Michael Axworthy, Is it time to make Iran our friend and Saudi Arabia our enemy?, The Guardian, 28 January 2015.
Aaron Y. Zelin, The Islamic State’s model, Monkey Cage, 28 January 2015.
Marwan Muasher, Jordan Caught Between Two Bad Situations, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 28 January 2015.
Mark Valeri, Simmering Unrest and Succession Challenges in Oman, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 28 January 2015.
Mostafa Hashem, A Generational Battle Among Brothers, Sada, 29 January 2015.
Nour Samaha, Hezbollah-Israel: No war for now, Al Jazeera, 29 January 2015.
Ashraf al-Falahi, Islah’s Houthi Gamble, Sada, 30 January 2015.
Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima, CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing, The Washington Post, 30 January 2015.
Khalil al-Anani, The ISIS-ification of Islamist politics, Monkey Cage, 30 January 2015.
John Hutchinson, Meet the flower men of Saudi Arabia, Daily Mail, 30 January 2015.
The great Kuwaiti cat-meat scandal, BBC Magazine Monitor, 31 January 2015.
David D. Kirkpatrick, Sisi Blames Muslim Brotherhood for Bombings in Sinai, The New York Times, 31 January 2015.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says that Egypt’s fight against terrorism will take years (via The New York Times)

Did you read an interesting news article, op-ed, analysis or report in the last week that you’d like to share? Provide a link in the comments section below!

Guest post: Facebook Counts

Jona Fras* holds an MSc in Arab World Studies from the University of Edinburgh, UK, and is currently conducting PhD research on colloquial Arabic and radio in Jordan. His musings on this can be found on his blog (https://areluctantarabist.wordpress.com/) and occasionally on Twitter (@jonafras).


During the final days of Muhammad al-Wakeel’s stint at Radio Rotana – when his programme was still called بصراحة مع الوكيل, “Honestly with al-Wakeel” – the host dedicated one Thursday session to an on-air interview with Rajae Qawas, a comedian best known for his work on the Arabic entertainment network Kharabeesh. They touched on many topics, including family, fan interactions, Kharabeesh’s online competitors (Saudis, apparently), and the use of Jordanian dialect in comedy. Eventually, the talk turned to Qawas’s imitation act, and Abu Haytham came up with a challenge.

“Could you do an impression of me?”

Qawas rose to it splendidly. Not as much the tone of voice – though he did nail al-Wakeel’s distinctive cadence, with rises at the end of phrases followed by over-extended pauses – as the way in which the star host tends to conduct his on-air interactions: reading out listeners’ names, responding to their greetings posted on social media, and re-phrasing and appropriating the problems from their call-ins to fit into his own personal performance arc.

And, to top it all off, a reference to al-Wakeel’s personal “Page” on Facebook.

صار عندنا على صفحتنا اكثر من مليون و نصّ (..) مشاهد و

we now have on our page more than a million and a half (..) viewers and…

(The (..) stands for a longer pause. Source: bi-SiraaHa ma3 al-wakiil recording, Radio Rotana, 10 April 2014)

A clever choice – especially given that, for the past few days, al-Wakeel had worked in his number of Facebook followers into just about every third sentence he spoke on air. “We’ve reached a million and a half followers on our Facebook page.” “A million and a half friends.” “More than a million and a half.” And so on, and so on.

A star, indeed, to be liked by so many.

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The Etymology of the Islamic State

Prior to adopting the name “Islamic State”, the terrorist organisation referred to by American President Barack Obama as ISIL and French President François Hollande as Daesh went through many different iterations, each with its own name.

Islamic State flag in Mosul
A motorist drives beneath a flag of the Islamic State at the entrance of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul (via Associated Press)

Aaron Zelin, founder of the fantastic Jihadology.net website, outlined the group’s development since its establishment in Iraq in early-1999. The group that has come to be known as the Islamic State was founded as Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (جماعة التوحيد والجهاد)– Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad — by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The group did not gain notoriety until in 2004, following the American invasion of Iraq, it adopted the name Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين) — Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers (Mesopotamia), better known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). For a brief period in 2006, prior to Zarqawi’s death, the group was organised into Majlis Shura al-Mujahedin (مجلس شورى المجاهدين) — the Mujahedin Shura Council. Following Zarqawi’s death in a US targeted strike in June 2006, the group was rebranded in October 2006 as dawlat al-iraq al-islamiyya (دولة العراق الإسلامية) — the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).

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Picks of the week, 19-25 January

Bethan Staton, The deep roots of the Palestine-Israel conflict, Al Jazeera, 21 January 2015.
Julian Pecquet, Congress torn between Europe, Israel on Iran, Al-Monitor, 22 January 2015.
Madawi al-Rasheed, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia obituary, The Guardian, 22 January 2015.
Karl Sharro, The Confused Person’s Guide to Understanding Yemen, Karl reMarks, 23 January 2015.
Egypt Cancels January 25 Revolution Celebrations, Egyptian Streets, 23 January 2015.
Hussein Ibish, How King Abdullah Set Stage for Saudi Reforms — and Opening to Israel, The Jewish Daily Forward, 23 January 2015.
Yassine Majdi, Le Maroc, un acteur important de la luttle contre le terrorisme?, TelQuel, 23 January 2015.
Robin Wright, Postscript: King Abdullah, 1924-2015, The New Yorker, 23 January 2015.
Lina Khatib, The Regional Impact of Saudi Succession, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 23 January 2015.
Ian Cobain, Revealed: how Blair colluded with Gaddafi regime in secret, The Guardian, 23 January 2015.
Nicky Woolf, American Sniper: anti-Muslim threats skyrocket in wake of film’s release, The Guardian, 24 January 2015.
Merrit Kennedy, Libyan Extremist Group Says Leader Has Been Killed, Associated Press, 24 January 2015.
Uri Misgav, Israel’s centrist parties should unite to defeat Netanyahu in the election, Haaretz, 25 January 2015.
H.A. Hellyer, Power, the January 25 revolutionaries, and responsibility, Mada Masr, 24 January 2015.

Mourners gather around the grave of Saudi King Abdullah following his burial in Riyadh
Mourners gather around the grave of Saudi King Abdullah following his burial in Riyadh (via The Telegraph)

Did you read an interesting news article, op-ed, analysis or report in the last week that you’d like to share? Provide a link in the comments section below!