Kinship Encounters: People and Ideas in the Medieval Islamicate World

Uriel Simonsohn, Oded Zinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rise of Islam in the seventh century not only brought about significant political and religious changes but also sparked profound encounters among social and cultural institutions across vast territories. Often overlooked, Kinship constituted a central focus in these transformations. Even before Islam, the evolving religious landscape of the ancient world played a crucial role in shaping kinship notions and institutions. However, the Islamic expansion accelerated these processes through waves of migration, conversion, and acculturation, giving rise to diverse encounters in the formation of cosmopolitan Islamicate societies. These encounters ranged from quotidian interactions like marital partnerships to intellectual debates and literary translations. Kinship served as a locus for encounters between confessional, ethnic, and social groups, while there were also encounters between different kinship ideas, institutions, and practices. This article follows recent advances in kinship studies that argue for the cultural, rather than biological, nature of kinship and view it as a dynamic process rather than fixed structures. We offer the conception of kinship encounters as a useful lens to study medieval islamicate societies, institutions and interactions. Through a series of case studies, we show the role of kinship encounters in shaping identity markers, dictating communal agendas, and fulfilling social and religious absorbing and assimilating roles.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)131-172
Number of pages42
JournalMedieval Encounters
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:


  • community
  • encounters
  • family
  • Islamicate
  • kinship
  • law

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