Marriage and divorce law in Pre-Islamic Persia. Legal status of the Sassanid’ woman (224–651 AD)

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Title Marriage and divorce law in Pre-Islamic Persia. Legal status of the Sassanid’ woman (224–651 AD)
Autor: Maksymiuk, Katarzyna
Date: 2019
Źródło: Cogent Arts & Humanities. - Nr 6 (2019), s.1-9
Abstract: Formore than 400 years, the Sassanid Persia was the greatest state in Asia. Zoroastrianism supported by Shahanshahs had an immense influence on the legal principles of the state. The Sassanian society was Patriarchy, based on the society’s gender construction. Because the patriarchal constructions of social practices were legitimized by religion, the basic limitation of the women’s rights in the Sassanian period was the obligation to have the male guardian. Below considerations regard the problem of the civil rights of Sassanian women, based on analysis of the legal status of women in marital unions. In 2018, in the journal Cogent Arts & Humanities 5, 1, an article by Mahmoud Emami Namin “Legal status of women in the Sassanid’s Era (224–651 AD)” was published. In his paper, Dr. Mahmoud Emami Namin, arguments against two theses presented by the researchers studying the Sassanian history. The first thesis is related to the assumption that women lacked a legal entity, and, consequently, could not make use of her rights. The second thesis, challenged by the author is related to the “opinions about the prevalence of incestuous marriage (next-of-kin marriage) and loan marriage (wife lending) among the Sassanids”. The author challenges the arguments regarding the position of the Sassanian women presented by two distinguished orientalists Christian Bartholomae and Arthur Christensen. Obviously, he is right. However, it is necessary to note that the picture of Persia depicted by the above-mentioned researchers was questioned bymodern historians a few years ago. Theses made by Professor Christian Bartholomae, presented in German University of Heidelberg, in 1924 (the woman’s rights in the Sassanid’ Empire), related to the lack of legal status of women in pre-Islamic period, which Dr. Mahmoud Emami Namin polemizes with, were refuted by the research conducted by the expert on Sassanid law Professor Maria Macuch (see in References). The second problem, Dr. Mahmoud Emami Namin focusses on, is “the authorization of incest”,which was discussed by Christensen and Bartholomae. This part of the paper is much more interesting and presents interesting conclusions. One must agree with Dr. Mahmoud Emami Namin in that the “incest” was a common practice among Zoroastrians in the Sassanid’s period, andwas never deemed “weird and offensive”. The paper lacks the analysis related to factors contributing to the negative picture of Persia in scientific literature written in the previous century. It seems to have predominantly resulted from cultural differences. Orientalists studying the history of the Sassanids were from the “western culture”. Therefore, they did not understand the mentality of the society governed by Zoroastrian principles, which reflected their descriptions of the pre-Islamic Persia. Their ethical assessment and interpretation of sources were determined by the system of values, in which they had been brought up. It should be noted that the manuscript contains extremely interesting passages in the manuscript related to the legal aspects of different types of marriages, financial conditions or children’s rights. In the manuscript, the author presents a slightly different division of marriages that the one proposed by Dr. MahmoudEmami Namin. It seems that the principal assumptionmade by the author: “Throughout this paper, the baseless writings of orientalists about the rights of the Sassanid’s women are critically examined” may be described as preaching to the converted.

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