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Queen of the Stars: Buran and The Role of Women in Astrological Knowledge in the Abbasid Caliphate
In ibn Tawu’s biography he mentions an event in which the 9th century Queen Buran of Baghdad employs an astrolabe to discover a “qat” and thus make a prediction about the fate of the caliph. This reference would make Buran the first named woman astrologer/astronomer in the Islamic world. This paper examines what level of knowledge is being ascribed to Buran by ibn Tawus. By examining treatises from Abu Ma’shar and al-Biruni, we can recreate the method of the “qat” to examine the level of scientific, mathematic, and technical knowledge Buran may have had and its application in ‘ilm al-nujum. Through a careful recreation of the theoretical method employed by Buran we can extrapolate about women’s access to networks of knowledge, the transmission of learning, and the role of astrology in medieval Abbasid courtly culture. Buran’s knowledge and event attributed to her highlight the under-studied role of women in the astral sciences and the nebulous boundary between astrology and astronomy in the medieval Islamic period as well as the importance of the astral sciences as a legitimizing force in Abbasid politics.
Geographic Area
Islamic World
Sub Area
7th-13th Centuries