Vague Historical Query: Transvestite Emir?

I'm got a player who has made a companion character who is a mamluk transvestite emir.

Now, granted this concept demands an insanely exotic background including important people who were in on her secret. She is a woman living as a muslim emir. Born in Egypt, but initially found in Moorish Spain, she will, disguised as a man, end up falling in love with a comrade knight who is her True Love.

Her intro story will involve her fleeing from some emirs, a sahir, and a djinn who have discovered her secret after long suspecting there was something odd about the secretive Ishaaq Al'Tayib. Other players will be taking the parts of the offended pursuers before Ishaaq ends up finding her way to the covenant.

SO, that said....

I'm trying to figure out any historical instances of transvestite behaviour for whatever reason in medieval Islam. Were there any secret woman-knights or what have you? What might such a person expect from her fellows when discovered? What would the medieval Islamic attitude be? Are there any not too terribly scholarly resources for this sort of info?

Any help would be appreciated.



Unfortunately, islam is not a friendly religion to women and their places are very very circumscribed. Even modern times, the laws and punishments dating back to the 9th and 10th century are still enforced. A woman who shows her face to any male not family is STONED. To get caught is a death sentence.

I don't know of any actual cases but I suspect you can get an idea of the fate of them when they were eventually caught. christianity has a lot of sins to its name but it is positively gentle when it comes to islam where women step out of place.

True in part, but only in part.

Various different Islamic regimes have had various different attitudes to women, like medieval christianity, women weren't highly regarded. While todays Wahabi states (such as Saudi Arabia) treat their womenfolk in a fashion that can be considered as nothing less than barbaric, not all Muslim states are the same. Even Saudi's immediate neighbours are anywhere close to as strict as them.

I'm no expert at all in medieval Islam, but i do know that there were a variety of islamic states which varied in the harshness of their religion. Indeed Andalusia saw waves of conquering muslims from Africa displacing christians then successive muslim governments as they "got soft". The invading muslims would then get settled, get soft and get conquered by ye another wave of muslim africans.

I'd imagine that the Khalifa states of Andalusia were perhaps a bit more enlightned than the hardy desert tribes.

Islam isn't without precidence in this either, Mohammeds early boss was a woman and he then went on to marry her.

Consider also that christianity at the time was a brutal and oppresive religion, very hidebound and unopen to challenge. Religious tolerance was certainly far more common amongst the Khalifa states than in most christian nations at this time.

Hmm, interesting question, but first of I have to say that I agree with Gribble about the different levels of strictness depending on time and area.

Actually I think it is even likely that Islam during that time was more tolerant than Christianity. Due to this - and unless anybody has any specific knowledge about the matter - I would deal with it the same way as in Christendom.


Thank you for the answers thus far.

I'd also like to know specifically what muslims of the time, in Andalusia, would have issue with in dealing with such a character. Is it both a breaking of a religious taboo and a societal one? Are there specific parts of the Koran that would be being violated? I am only passingly familiar with Islam of the time, and mainly from reading books on Moorish Spain (The Ornament of the World, et al) which I gather was a bit more relaxed, much to the perturbation of those they asked to aid them against the Reconquista.

It is easy enough to look at Search engines for Islam Women Dress and see the various quran and commentary quotes about it. It is religious restrictions about dress. Social comes from the religious.

Not quite so simple. IIRC the majority of dress codes are not specified in the quoran, but rather taken from the haditha which is only an official part of islam if you live in the right/wrong place.
Most of the dress codes in islam actually originate from those that existed in the christian Byzantine/East Roman empire.

So, just like today, or actually MORE than today the exact rules would be totally dependent on location and the local interpretation on what the religion says and what is even a full part of the reiligion.

Depending on where and when, it would be both, either or neither.
I THINK the part that would be considered unacceptable in most ways, times and places would be being a transvestite.

Female roles in society however varies to the extreme however, from the "totally hidden away at home" to females taking up positions as officials(this happened less over time however, and by ArsM time i think it would be extremely uncommon, but still possible as it happened occasionally much later as well) and women becoming soldiers(this was less common from the start and also declined over time, i think the latest date i read it happening officially was 13th or 14th century).

Also to be considered is if this woman will be an official transvestite OR if she will officially have faked being a male for the sake of taking office as an emir. The latter would still not be accepted but the former would likely be totally unacceptable and then some! If seemingly the latter, there might for example be some who will choose to help her get away just to be rid of the problem.

To be a male impersonator violates some hadith. The punihsment is not death, it is being evicted from the community. (Bukhari LXXII 62.774)