The Beauty of the Houri: Heavenly Virgins, Feminine Ideals (Hardcover)

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The Beauty of the Houri: Heavenly Virgins, Feminine Ideals By Nerina Rustomji Cover Image


A captivating look at the history of the pure females of Islamic paradise known as the houri

The fascination with the houri, the pure female of Islamic paradise, began long before September 11, 2001. Beauty of the Houri: Heavenly Virgins, Feminine Ideals demonstrates how the ambiguous reward of the houri, mentioned in the Qurʾan and developed in Islamic theological writings, has gained a distinctive place in the cultural eye from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century.

The houri had multiple functions in Islamic texts that ranged from caretaker, to pure companion, to personal entertainment. French, English, and American writers used the houri to critique Islam and Muslim societies, while also adopting the houri as a model of feminine beauty. Unlike earlier texts that presented different forms of the houri or universalized the houri for all women, writings about the houri after September 11th offer contradictory messages about Islam. In the twenty-first century, the image of the houri has come to symbolize a reward for violence and the possibility of gender parity.

As a cosmic figure that inspires enduring questions about the promise of paradise and the idealized feminine form, the houri has a singular past and broad potential for future interpretation. The Beauty of the Houri narrates an intellectual history of the houri and offers a contemporary account of how theological ambiguity has led to different interpretations of this powerfully enduring Islamic concept.

About the Author

Nerina Rustomji is an Associate Professor of History at St. John's University. She specializes in the intellectual and cultural formation of Islamic societies and the Middle East. Her first book The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture narrates a history of heaven and hell in Islamic texts, material cultures, and book arts from the seventh century C.E. project. The Beauty of the Houri received fellowship support from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan, and The New York Public Library.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780190249342
ISBN-10: 019024934X
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2021
Pages: 248
Language: English