Rughum & Najda by Samar Habib is a fictional love story set in ninth-century Baghdad. Rughum, a Muslim woman, meets Najda, a witch who was raised with a Manichean family. Rughum and Najda’s love story is the main story around the stories of several lesbian (or “tharifa”) women in the book. Besides Rughum and Najda, we have Bathal, who because a woman of high rank and property when one of her male admirers bought her freedom; Qureisha, who lives with Bathal; and many others.
According to a press release from the book’s publisher, Habib wrote the book in part because of a lack of other fiction writing on the topic; in her words, “There has not been to date, a ficto-historical novel dealing with same-sex love among women set during the golden age of Islam.” Her engagement with the topic is based on her own background as a historian, specialising in “Arab history and civilizations” and “lives of homosexual women in the Middle Ages and antiquity.” [Read more...]