A Story of Intellectual Wits from Arabian Nights

Moslem women scholars are not recorded in the historical texts, their existence is at least testified to by stories from the / Arabian Nights.^^

The compelling legend of the Arab slave-girl Tawaddud reminds us that even the most patriarchal of cultures have recognised the scholarly achievements of women. Her story occupied Shaharazad from the 436th through the 462nd of the Arabian nights. When Abu al-Husn of Baghdad found himself destitute, his beautiful young slave Tawaddud proposed that he offer her to the Caliph Harun al-Rashid for an exorbitant price on account of her exceptional abilities. So the Caliph summoned to his palace Ibrahim, the brilliant rhetorician, who brought along readers of the Koran, doctors of law and medicine, astrologers, scientists, mathematicians and philosophers, all for the purpose of examining the extraordinary claims of the slave girl. First, Tawaddud was tested on every aspect of the Koran and its laws. When she had answered each question correctly. she put to the Koranist a question that he was unable to answer. The unfortunate scholar forfeited his clothes and was sent away humiliated. Next a physician questioned her on physiology. Tawaddud described in detail the veins, bones and internal organs of the body, and the relation of the four elements to the four humours and humoural disease. She elucidated the internal and external symptoms of disease, emphasising the importance of a reasonable and moderate diet and cautioning against the common medical practices of bleeding and cupping. She quoted Galen and answered all questions put to her.Then Tawaddud, in tum, posed a riddle for the physician who replied in fmstration: 'O Commander of the Faithful, bear witness against me that this damsel is more leamed than I in medicine and what else, and that I cannot cope with her' Burton p. 227). A philosopher quizzed her on the nature of time and ceded to her when she correctly solved a story problem in arithmetic. Finally she triumphed over Ibrahim himself, despite his elaborate efforts to trap her.

The Caliph paid Abu al-Husn 100,000 gold pieces for Tawaddud and offered to grant her any request - she asked to return to her master and together they joined the court of the Caliph where, presumably, they lived happily ever after.


The slave girl Tawaddud bests a collection of scholars in a battle of knowledge.

Folksonomies: feminism ancient folklore

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Tawaddud:Person (0.857224 (negative:-0.137293)), Ibrahim:Person (0.499869 (neutral:0.000000))

Baghdad (0.985745): geo | website | dbpedia | freebase | yago | geonames
Muhammad (0.864223): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Islam (0.854168): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Harun al-Rashid (0.803518): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Caliphate (0.766075): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
One Thousand and One Nights (0.730761): website | dbpedia | freebase
Qur'an (0.656905): dbpedia | opencyc | yago
Scheherazade (0.629324): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Hypatia's Heritage (Beacon Paperback, 720)
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Alic , Margaret (1986-11-15), Hypatia's Heritage (Beacon Paperback, 720), Beacon Press, Retrieved on 2011-04-12
Folksonomies: history science feminism science history