And sing, too, of the women

Al-‘Ijliyah bint al-‘Ijli al-Asturlabi, daughter of an astrolabe maker and also herself a maker of astrolabes, employed by the Emir of Aleppo in the 10th century. The asteroid 7060 Al-‘Ijliyah is named for her. In my reading about classical Islamic astronomy, I’ve learned that in part the discipline evolved to such a sophisticated level due to the requirements of Islam: worshippers needed to know the precise direction of Mecca for prayers and to determine from the sky the accurate times of sunrise and sunset during Ramadan. In other words, science and the apprehension of the Divine could be entwined. I loved reading about Bedouin navigation, using stars and wind-shaped sand dunes to guide them across deserts. No maps or instruments, apart from the maps inside the mind and the heart.


And here’s Zaynab Al Shahda, a 12th century calligrapher, who spent her leisure time studying science and literature.


And listen to Wallada bint al-Mustakfi,  11th century poet from Andalusia, who wore tunics with lines from her verses embroidered on the hem:

When night falls, plan to visit me.
For I believe night is the time that keeps secrets best.
I feel a love for you that if the light of heaven felt, the sun would not shine,
nor the moon rise, nor the stars begin their nightly journey.

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