Marking the Body: Resemblance and Medieval Muslim Constructions of Paternity
Before blood tests, DNA testing, and close record keeping, resemblance was often utilized as the means through which paternity was secured. However, on what basis does a child look like his father? The answer to this question is dependent upon an ever shifting set of criteria and authoritative voice, all of which affect the child's physical appearance. This article explores the rich rhetorical strategies medieval Muslim physicians and scholars adopt to establish paternity through the generation and determination of like features between fathers and children. I argue that such strategies are informed by broader assumptions about male/female anatomy, wayward parental behavior, notions of piety, and the inherent fragility of masculinity and the patriarchal household. Observations for this discussion are drawn from a variety of medieval Muslim medical texts, bestiaries, ḥadīth collections, and other legal and theological treatises.
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