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Hodgson points out that secluding women from public view, as Muslim men did, was not something exclusive to Islam.

Christian Byzantium approved of this practice, though it did not allow polygamy. This, however, does not lessen the distinctive nature of the harem. In Hodgson's words, those in the harem lived in "a world of their own in which women ruled over women, with the lone adult male as an often rather remote arbiter.

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It would appear that Muslim men who had harems must have had a hard time heeding the Qur'anic admonition to "deal justly" with multiple wives. The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, as understood by Jews likewise describes in vivid detail the problems that come with polygamy and concubinage.

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Consider in Genesis 16 Abraham's failure to treat his wife Sarah and his concubine Hagar equally, leading eventually to Hagar's exile into the desert. Or think of the intense rivalry between Leah and Rachel for their husband Jacob's affections Genesis , and the hostility Leah's sons felt toward Joseph, son of Rachel Genesis Ida Glaser, a former tutor of mine now teaching at the University of Oxford, has written on this subject in detail in her book Partners or Prisoners.

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There she argues that "the culture of Genesis is much closer to most Muslim cultures than it is to the West" , though she is quick to point out that Westerners can fall into patterns of domination, dependency, and blame as well. I began this blog with some reflections on Edward Said. While I think he has some good things to say about the dangers of stereotyping, we should not allow that to stop us from critically examining difficult issues. The harem is an institution that we need to know about and take seriously.

Moreover, given that polygamy is today permitted and practiced in many Muslim nations, the harem is still a relevant subject. Let's not allow the writings of Flaubert to obscure what is in fact an important discussion that needs to take place about polygamy in Muslim contexts today. US Edition U.

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Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard. Join HuffPost Plus. During the restorations, other intriguing items were found underground and in old closets. Jewelries such as earrings, rings, and necklace pieces along with everyday items like scissors, keys, needles and buttons were found, too.

Cloth pieces that fell behind the closets, slippers without their pairs and embroidered dress pieces were also among the items found along with the letters, amulets, talismanic writings and written spells. Also among the findings, the purpose and meaning behind an amulet with Arabic text on it is unknown, but it still has its key attached to it. On top of the door of a closet was a spell with a cut nail and tooth covered with a piece of cotton.

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