The roles of the Virgin Mary and Fatima in medieval Christianity and Shiite Islam, respectively, are explored in a new book written by a University of Mississippi assistant professor of religion.
“Chosen Among Women: Mary and Fatima in Medieval Christianity and Shiite Islam” (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008) is the culmination of several years’ work, said Mary F. Thurlkill, whose teaching and research interests focus on comparisons between the two religions.
“Thurlkill has produced a remarkable study, a model for comparative work in the history of religions,” said Brannon Wheeler, visiting distinguished professor of history and politics at the U.S. Naval Academy. “The book is original, well researched and shows great erudition. Thurlkill’s original acumen is brought to bear on a rich and variegated topic that has for too long been ignored by specialists not willing to move beyond the confines of overly determined areas of research.”
The book addresses the proliferation of Marian imagery from late antiquity through the writings of church fathers and popular hagiography. It also focuses on the importance of Fatima in the evolution of Shiite identity throughout the Middle East. The author examines the way scholar Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi addresses Fatima as a representation of the Shiite holy family and compares the significance of feminine ideals found in Shiite Islam and medieval Christianity and its relevance in the modern world.
“I think it offers scholars of Christianity new insight into the earliest signs of Marian veneration in the West; and, to scholars of Islam in general and Shiism in particular, it offers a new way of understanding Fatima, the prophet Muhammad’s daughter,” Thrulkill said.