he left for Baghdad, where he renounced all those worldly assets and turned to asceticism. He returned to Damascus towards the end of his life, to resume preaching there. His biographers observe that despite the respect he had earned for himself, Abd al-Raªmån alTan¨kh did not refrain from preaching at funerals—apparently at the low-end of preaching.97 A truly controversial gure was Muªammad b. Ismål, a preacher who settled in Damascus in 620/1223, and oended various members of the local elite with his witty mocking poems. Ab¨ Shåma accuses him of involvement in shady business, such as the falsication of coins.98 I nd it hard to judge whether the man was indeed a crook (t to appear in al-Jawbars book about the underworld), or rather an honest but disturbing critic of his more compliant contemporaries. At any rate, he seems to have been a rather unusual type: I have found no other Damascene preachers criticizing the qå, the muªtasib or the shaykh al-shuy¨kh outright. Rather, they all seem to have been part and parcel of the religious elite, and quite loyal to it. Women preachers are an even more enigmatic and rare phenomenon. The Baghdåd(?) Khå‚‚a bint Ab al-Muammar al-Mubårak, a female student, or perhaps teacher (the epithet used is ‚åªiba) of Ab¨ Najb al-Suhraward, preached in her ribå† to female audiences. She also transmitted ªadth, a scholarly occupation more traditional to women.99 So did Khadja bint Y¨suf, known as Bint al-Qayyim al-Wåia, who died at a ripe age in 699/1299–1300. Her father, a Baghdåd bath-house keeper, realized that she possessed unusual talents and allowed her to study ªadth, Qurån, calligraphy, and preaching. In due time, she made good use of her training, preaching before audiences of women in the Syrian towns of Damascus, Alå and Tab¨k. Known also as an outstanding storyteller of the Maqåmåt al-Óarr, she must have been an attractive preacher, but at some point, just like Abd alRaªmån mentioned above, she quit her performances and secluded herself in her home.100
97 98 99 100
Ibn Asåkir, Tarkh, 35:399; Ibn al-Imåd, Shadharåt, 6:299. Ab¨ Shåma, Taråjim, 84–85. Dhahab, al-Tarkh, 49:215. Íafad, al-Wåf, 13:296.