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Women Mystics in Medieval Islam:

Practice and Transmission


Jean-Jacques Thibon

Islam is no exception to the always been radically misogynist, as


commonplace that women seem to if women had never been given the
have played a minor role in the elab- slightest prominence in its history.
oration and transmission of spiritual And yet the role played by women,
doctrine in the three monotheistic or the position they have often ac-
religions. But as a result of wide- quired with difficulty, has not fol-
spread ignorance of the history of lowed a smooth course throughout
Islam, even amongst believers them- nearly fifteen centuries of Islamic
selves, it is often somewhat hastily history.1
upheld that the position of Islam has The aim of this paper is to

64
study the position of women in a devoted entirely to women were few
specific context: that of the spiritual and far between but some do ex-
masters and mystics of Islam who, ist; the place occupied by women in
for purposes of simplification, can hagiographic or historiographic lit-
be grouped under the generic term erature is variable and often modest
of Sufis.2 This study will be limited or very modest. In biographical dic-
chronologically to medieval times, tionaries, some earlier authors did
and in particular to the pivotal peri- give a significant place to women as
od of the tenth century, even if there in the voluminous work entitled al-
will be cause to mention women Ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā d’Ibn Sa‘d (d. 230/
who lived earlier or later. Finally, fo- 845) which includes five hundred
cus will be placed on religious prac- women mostly from the prophet-
tices and teaching work, and conse- ic period. Abū Nu‘aym al-Iṣfahānī�
quently on the mission of spiritual (d. 430/1039), a contemporary of
transmission which these women Sulamī�, who was one of his masters,
undertook throughout their lives. only included a few pages on women
in Ḥilyat al-awliyā’, his great ency-
Sources clopaedia, despite the hundreds of
notices throughout the ten volumes
First the sources on which and even then the thirty or so women
this study is based. Of particular in question all lived in the days of the
note is a book dating from the end of Prophet. In contrast, a work by Ibn
the tenth century entirely devoted to al-Ǧ� awzī� (d. 597/1200) entitled Ṣifat
Sufi women, which proves that wom- al-safwa lists figures who were con-
en played an important role in Sufi sidered worthy of serving as models
circles from very early on. At least, of piety from the beginning of Islam
their role was important enough and amongst them are to be found
for an author, Abū ‘Abd al-Raḥmān a large number of women, mostly
al-Sulamī� (d. 412/1021),3 who re- Sufis, totalling approximately two
corded the teachings of Sufi spiritual hundred and fifty out of more than
masters, whether men or women, to one thousand. Yet he was accused of
write a book containing portraits of misogyny in other works and he was
eighty-two women. Admittedly, the extremely critical about Sufis in his
succinct biographical notices gen- book entitled Talbīs Iblīs. Further-
erally give incomplete information more, he did not omit to criticise the
about their spirituality. Nonetheless, work of his predecessor, Ḥilyat al-
information can be gleaned from the awliyā’, which he nonetheless used
text on how these women, who orig- as a source of inspiration. However,
inally came from Ḫurāsān or Iraq, a good many women remain anony-
were perceived by their contempo- mous and the truth is that despite the
raries. Subsequently, similar works large number of entries only a mea-

65
gre amount of information is given But there is a certain gap between
about each woman. It is of interest theory and reality, which is far from
to determine whether the attitudes being peculiar to Islam.
of the men who wrote the history of
Sufism and its saints changed in the Exemplary figures
course of time. Admittedly, towards
the sixteenth century, Š� ā‘rānī�’s (d. But to return to the Middle
973/1565) bibliographical compen- Ages. There are special cases, which
dium of saints entitled al-Ṭabaqāt al- include that of Rābi‘a al-‘Adawiyya,7
Kubra devoted no more than a few who lived in the eighth century and
scant pages to a total of fifteen or so consequently during the period that
women. Munāwī� (m. 1031/1621), gave rise to Sufi streams of thought
who was his disciple, did not fol- and who is the very first mystical
low his master’s example and even figure of Islam and one of the great-
if he did not give particular promi- est. If the historical woman is diffi-
nence to women as they only rep- cult to pinpoint, she is in fact of little
resent thirty-five entries,4 he did importance as this woman, who is at
at least treat them as men’s equals. the origin of the passionate and ex-
Later, the Ǧāmi‘ karāmāt al-awliyā’ clusive love which can be shown for
written by a contemporary author, God, disappears behind ‘the homage
Nabhānī� (d. 1350 /1931), appears paid to feminine sanctity’,8 to quote
no more generous in his treatment P. Lory. It is to be noted that she is
of women.5 All in all, authors in the the only woman whose name was
tenth and eleventh centuries seem quoted and mentioned three times
to have given greater visibility to in one of the very first treatises on
women than later hagiographic Sufism by Kalābāḏī� (d. 380/990)
writers did even if in numerical even though he spares little space for
terms women remain marginal. This women in his work. Yet the introduc-
visibility certainly corresponded to tory chapter, which sets out to define
a social reality which was to change the origin of the term Sufi, ends by
gradually. But it is not only a ques- relating a meeting during which the
tion of the times. The case of Š� a‘rānī� great Egyptian master Dhū l-Nūn is
and Munāwī�, who lived at the same given a formal yet poetic lecture on
time, cast a very different light on Sufism by a woman who admittedly
women and demonstrates that the remains anonymous. This can none-
emphasis placed on women in hagi- theless be taken as a sign that the
ographic literature is also a question author recognises the contribution
of an author’s individual sensitivity. made by women to constructing this
A great many authors explicitly ad- spirituality.9
mit absolute equality between men One particular woman il-
and women in spiritual matters.6 lustrates the position occupied by

66
women and the role
they played in Sufi cir-
cles during the eleventh
century, namely Fāṭima
bint Abī� ‘Alī� al-Daqqāq
(391–480/1001–1088).
Her father Ḥasan b. ‘Alī�
al-Daqqāq was a well
known Sufi in Nishapur
and the master of a ma-
jor figure in medieval
Sufism, ‘Abd al-Karī�m al-
Qušayrī� (376–465/986–
1072), author of the
Risāla, a handbook on
Sufism which has re-
mained to this day a key
reference for the study
of Sufism. Daqqāq gave
his daughter in marriage
to Qušayrī� who was to
become head of the con-
vent he had founded for
Sufis. The couple had
remarkable descend-
ants, many of whom be-
came renowned scholars
and Sufis. Fatima was
thus described as ‘The own right through her personality,
daughter of the master, the wife of which is certainly exceptional. From
the master and the mother of mas- her early years when she was still an
ters’. Of particular note is the fact only child, her father gave her his full
that Fatima comes from a mystic attention, as much as he would have
and learned background extending given to a boy. He set up sessions of
over several generations. Even if it mystical teaching for her; she learnt
is often the case, Fatima, who is de- the Koran by heart and mastered the
scribed in our sources as ‘the pride art of Koranic commentary. Contact
of the women of her time’, owes her with the great scholars who came
fame to more than her family back- through Nishapur or visited her
ground. She not only exists through father made a scholar of her and
lineage or marriage but also in her she was allowed to transmit had-

67
ith, which was no small privilege. thereby indicating her high degree
Her longevity resulted in her had- of spirituality. But she in turn had
ith dictation sessions being highly a daughter; Sulamī� tells us that she
valued towards the end of her life imposed on herself the constraint of
as she transmitted the teachings of not leaving her house for fifty years
the great figures of the past. She is so as to give herself fully to God.
consequently described as šayḫa in These few examples are corrobo-
our sources as her authority par- rated by numerous other examples
ticularly in the field of hadith and which show that these women fol-
her radiant spirituality drew rec- low their own spiritual paths inde-
ognised scholars who came to lis- pendently and that their teachings
ten to her alongside her children are perpetuated after their death in
and grand-children.10 Although she accounts which are to be found in
was a member of the city’s aristoc- hagiographic works. Our knowledge
racy, she nonetheless completely de- of Nishapur is well documented, but
tached herself from worldly goods the same cannot be said for all cities
and devoted her time to worship, in the Muslim East. It is consequent-
spiritual exercises and teaching and, ly difficult to tell whether Nishapur
later on, to her children who inher- is an exception or not as regards the
ited her radiant fervour. One might position and role of Sufi women in
object that she was a special case. It the society of their time.
seems that she was not, as several
other examples are to be found in Fāṭima of Nishapur (d.
the city of Nishapur. One example 223/838) is another major figure of
is Faḫrawayh bint ‘Alī� (d. 313/925– sanctity who lived in the province
6),11 one of the wives of Abū ‘Amr b. of Ḫurāsān in the ninth century.13
Nuǧayd (d. 366/976). The latter was Sulamī� considers her to be a great
a reputed Sufi and traditionalist; he Gnostic and far superior to all the
was the grandfather of Sulamī�, our other women of her time. It should
main source on Sufi women at this be pointed out that she frequented
time. He recognised her worth say- some of the greatest names of Mus-
ing ‘What I gained from my com- lim mysticism and in particular Abū
panionship with my wife Faḫrawayh Yazī�d al-Bisṭāmī� (d. 260/874). He of-
was no less than what I gained from ten visited her and said of her ‘I have
my companionship with Abū ‘Uṯmān never mentioned a mystic station to
(al-Ḥī�rī�)’. As this master is one of Fatima which was unknown to her’.
the greatest spiritual figures in the There is also the Egyptian Dhū l-Nūn
city, this is no small compliment. He (d. 245/859); he recognised her
had a daughter ‘Ā�’iša12 (d. 346/957), as one of God’s saints, the noblest
about whom Sulamī� writes that woman he had ever met; he simply
her prayers were always answered, confessed ‘Fatima is my master’– a

68
strange admission coming from a her wanderings into a form of asceti-
master with such a reputation and cism. Our sources relate something
noted in our sources as being of great she said to a learned gathering, pos-
importance. Although little remains sibly the religious elite. This illus-
of the historical person, these two trates the lessons a woman could
testimonies sufficed for her to be in- give her equals and her participation
cluded amongst the great saints and in the city’s social life: ‘Be careful not
earned her a place in a large number to use your occupations for the com-
of hagiographic works. She died in fort of your souls when you think
Mecca where she lived but it would you are seeking knowledge’.15
seem that Dhū l-Nūn met her on one Another woman is worth
of her occasional visits to Jerusalem, mentioning: Umm ‘Alī�, a woman of
thereby proving that these women princely extraction, with a strong
travelled in response to constraints personality. She chose her own
unknown to lesser mortals. husband, Aḥmad b. Ḫiḍrawayh (d.
Nowadays it would appear 240/854–5), forcing him to ask her
surprising that women could prac- father for her hand.16 Her father ac-
tice peregrination (siyāḥa), even cepted as he hoped to benefit from
if it was more marginal for women the blessings of his future son-in-
than for men. Peregrination is a sort law who was a well-known spiritual
of wandering aimed at acquiring master but who had acted reluc-
knowledge, which certain masters tantly. She also forced him, by way
saw as an essential step on the spir- of a dowry, to take her to Abū Yazī�d
itual path.14 Consequently, women al-Bisṭāmī� to ask him to marry them.
did travel; they travelled alone for When they were in his presence,
long periods of their lives regardless she unveiled her face and started
of the dangers on the roads. Thus talking with him. But this free be-
we know from Sulamī� that Umm al- haviour stopped the day he noticed
Faḍl came to Nishapur in the second that her hands were painted with
half of the tenth century and that all henna. She informed him that since
the great masters of the city came to he had looked at her his spiritual
listen to her, including prestigious companionship was henceforth un-
scholars who occupied the highest lawful. This shows the rigour of a
positions in the city, such as Abū Sahl woman who refused to overstep
Ṣu‘lūkī� (d. 369/980). When Sulamī� the law despite an appearance of
described her as ‘unequalled in her freedom. When they were about to
times in eloquence, knowledge and leave, her husband asked the master,
spiritual states’, he linked sanctity Abū Yazī�d, for some advice, as was
with knowledge. Umm al-Faḍl trav- customary. Abū Yazī�d suggested he
elled widely from city to city to seek learn spiritual chivalry (futuwwa)
knowledge and transmit it, turning from his wife, an attitude based on

69
altruism and sincerity. Here is an- who died in Jerusalem in 229/843–
other unusual and paradoxical situ- 4, has some points in common with
ation as Ibn Ḫiḍrawayh was a master Fāṭima. She too was the wife of a
who was well-known for his futuw- great Syrian master Aḥmad b. Abī�
wa. Was it because he followed Abū al-Hawārī� (d. 230/845) who lived in
Yazī�d’s advice to the letter? Whatev- the ninth century. She too was rich
er the explanation, this woman spent and spent all her wealth for her hus-
her fortune on the poor and on her band and his disciples with enthu-
husband’s disciples, supporting him siasm; she admitted to him ‘I do not
in his role of spiritual master. They love you as a husband but as a broth-
were an exceptional couple, but they er’. Her life was completely turned
are not the only case in which hus- towards acts of worship and she
band and wife are reputed for their was accustomed to a rigorous form
sanctity and their knowledge of the of asceticism; the duties of marriage
spiritual path.17 When they settled in weighed heavily on her, so much so
Nishapur, she met the great masters in fact that she gave her husband
of the day and in particular Abū Ḥafṣ money for him to take a second wife.
al-Ḥaddād, who might have been She did not show the slightest jeal-
the founder of a particular stream ousy and even went so far as to cook
of Muslim spirituality called ‘People meat for him to give him strength
of Blame’ (Malāmatiyya). He was so before he went to join his other wife.
impressed that he admitted ‘I had Admittedly it was an unusual case;
always detested women’s conver- moreover, Rābi‘a’s spiritual master,
sation until I met Umm ‘Ali. Then I who was a woman, severely criti-
knew that God’s gnosis may be given cised Aḥmad as she considered it
to whoever He wishes’. This dem- was unfitting for a spiritual man to
onstrates that women participated share his affections between several
in the learned discussions held in wives.18
literary or spiritual circles. It might It can be seen from these ex-
seem surprising that the entries on amples that a commitment to the
her husband in hagiographic works spiritual path sometimes runs in
devote almost as much space to her the family. Lineages are formed and
as to her husband. It is all the more knowledge and sanctity are trans-
surprising when one knows that mitted from one generation to the
his biographers claimed he had one next like heirlooms which are to be
thousand disciples, all of whom had conserved and made to fructify. But
reached the end of their spiritual ‘management of spiritual wealth’
path. It is not difficult to image that such as may be found at the time con-
his wife played a decisive role in this cerns first and foremost the trans-
spiritual influence. mission of knowledge: knowledge of
Rābi‘a bint Ismā‘ī�l al-Š� āmiyya, Sufism but also of hadith or Koranic

70
exegesis, and possibly the bequest of dinary power of persuasion over a
a school as in the case of Qušayrī�’s female audience. This explains why
family. This knowledge goes hand she had a large number of female
in hand with certain personal quali- disciples, both in Damascus and Cai-
ties and education (tarbiya), a field ro. She got them to learn the Koran
in which women actively participate by heart and she relentlessly urged
in addition to occupying a central them to come to God. Indeed, she be-
place in the transmission of knowl- lieved that God’s love could be found
edge. When economic issues ap- through subservience to the Law
pear later, with the development of and by acting in the interest of one’s
brotherhoods and zawiya, and above fellow creatures.20
all with a saint founding a spiritual
lineage, they are linked to the trans- Marginal women
mission not only of spiritual wealth
but also of various material goods Some women had exception-
and property.19 al spiritual experiences which led
Fāṭima bint ‘Abbās al- them to live on the fringe of their so-
Baġdādiyya, who died in Cairo in ciety. It was a man, a famous man in
714/1315, is worth mentioning fact, who brought them out of their
even if she lived in a later period. She anonymity. One example is Fāṭima of
was devout, erudite and a Sufi, but Cordova, a saintly woman who had
that is not what makes her differ- a great spiritual influence over Ibn
ent. What is unusual is that she was ‘Arabī� to whom we are indebted for
a Mufti and as such she had the right the meagre biographical informa-
to give her opinion on legal matters, tion that is available. In his youth
an eminently masculine function. the great Andalusian master was in
It is certainly the reason why the service to her when she was almost
sources mention her school of law, a hundred years old; at that time, her
the Hanbali school, reputed to be the face was that of a young girl of four-
strictest of all, which is quite excep- teen and he did not dare to look at
tional in the case of a woman. But her. If ordinary mortals took her to
that is not all: from the pulpit in a be simple-minded, Ibn ‘Arabī� reports
mosque she harangued the women, miracles which testify to the perfec-
and even the whole population ac- tion of her spirituality.21
cording to one source. It is said that Rayḥāna al-Maǧnūna is one
the scholars of the day were struck those mystics whose experience
by the extent of her knowledge and of divine love has drawn them into
even the great Ibn Taymiyya, a fin- states of rapture or madness. She
icky critic of Sufi doctrines, praised probably lived in the eighth cen-
her intelligence and the intensity of tury in the region of Bassora in Irak
her meditation. She had an extraor- but there is very little historical in-

71
Photo courtesy of Sousan Khayam
formation about her. Hagiographic head of a maǧlis, a more or less reg-
sources have singled out her sublime ular gathering of disciples around
words. But it is possible to deduce a scholar or a master, either in the
from these short accounts that men mosque or in houses. She had a very
from ascetic circles in Bassora spent beautiful and particularly musical
whole nights in her presence ben- voice; she spoke in public, adorning
efiting from the teaching she may her sermons with recitations possi-
have given in the course of her noc- bly of the Koran. She had consider-
turnal prayers, as she was renowned able impact on her audience, espe-
for the rigour of her vigils.22 This is cially when she spoke of death in a
yet another unusual situation which throttled voice. Indeed, hers was a
demonstrates that the spiritual au- particular form of devotion, marked
thority acquired by some women by attrition, a characteristic she
put them on an equal footing with shared with other ascetics, both men
men; their womanhood was no ob- and women. Tears would stream
stacle to their influence in contexts down her face sometimes making
where social conventions were more her words totally incomprehensible
flexible. to her disciples.23
At the same time, and in
the same region, another woman, Conclusion
known by the one enigmatic name of
Š� a‘wāna, appears to have been at the Islam consequently has no

72
lack of saintly female figures. Yet the great metropolis of Nishapur
until very recently, oriental studies,offered an environment which ena-
a largely male-dominated field, fol- bled women to participate actively
lowed in the steps of Muslim histori- in the spiritual life of the city, at least
for those belonging to a
certain elite: teaching, de-
Masculinity or femininity are acci- bates or studies, they un-
dents that make no difference to the dertake the same activities
essence of human nature which is as men. But Bassora, Bagh-
one. All means to reach perfection dad, Damascus or Cairo are
not outdone, as the exam-
are consequently open to women ples above have illustrated.
just as they are to men. Thus women are seen to
travel so they can study and
become recognised and re-
ographers by showing little interest spected masters. On occasion they
in the question. It is perhaps not by can lecture men; they have disciples,
pure chance that their relative ano- both male and female; they give fi-
nymity came to an end thanks to … nancial support to the development
women. The pioneer works are those of a Sufi group around a master.
written by Margaret Smith, Anne- They devote themselves to serving
marie Schimmel and Nelly Amri. the very poor and spend their for-
Numerically speaking, the tunes to further the cause of God.
women who are most frequently Another noteworthy fact is that Sufi
mentioned in our sources lived in women come from all social classes,
the first two centuries of Islam. In from princes to servants.
the same way as men, women who They have a place both inside
lived in the days of the Prophet en- and outside the home. They resist
joyed a special and unparalleled sta- their husbands even if the latter are
tus which stems from the privilege of recognised spiritual masters and
having seen God’s messenger. Then claim their right to lead a contem-
come the numerous women who plative vocation.24 In Sulamī� one is
played a role in the expansion of as- struck by the fact that several wom-
ceticism and the different forms of en are presented in situations which
itinerant lifestyle: some participated give them the upper hand over their
in collecting hadith or in develop- husbands. As a result their husbands
ing the legal sciences. When Sufism who are nonetheless eminent mas-
appeared and started expanding, ters appear in a less flattering light.
women committed themselves to The greatest masters may stand in
spiritual matters. awe of the learning of one woman,
Around the tenth century, of the virtue of another, of the pow-

73
er of love that drives another, of the used by the Gospels or its Christian
endurance another might show in exegeticists: the figure of Mary is
exercises of mortification. Women that of a ‘ābida,—ancilla domini—
as they are shown at the end of the she is totally subjected to God’s will
tenth century have no reason to be and vowed to silent worship’.25 The
jealous of men, but they neverthe- malāmī� shares a common destiny
less differ in at least one respect: with women: the former must hide
the lack of information about them. his spiritual states from his fellow
Their spiritual teaching and prac- creatures, while the second must
tice have come down to posterity hide her femininity from men. With
but their personality lacks historical Mary as the prototype of sanctity,
depth as the subject is avoided. As a female sanctity gradually acquired
result very little bibliographical in- a form of anonymity in Islam. In fact
formation is available. our sources contain a great many
‘The Greatest Master’ Ibn ‘anonymous servants’ who have lost
‘Arabī� clearly stated: masculinity or everything including their name.
femininity are accidents that make This may well be the reason why an
no difference to the essence of hu- author such as Sulamī� said so little
man nature which is one. All means about the women whose spiritual
to reach perfection are consequently teachings and practices he recount-
open to women just as they are to ed. Everything else was private and
men. From the point of view of the had to be concealed from his read-
Andalusian master it is not a simple ers.
doctrinal statement. His biography
shows the decisive role played by
________________________________________
women on his spiritual path and in
his writings. He thus stated that the
most perfect contemplation of God NOTES
which man may experience comes
through a woman. But for the šayḫ al- 1 See Annemarie Schimmel, ‘The Femi-
akbar, the highest form of sanctity is nine Element in Sufism’, appendix II to
that incarnated by the Malāmatiyya, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel
anonymous spiritual figures who Hill, North Carolina, 1975.
are unknown to men; their heart 2 On the question of Sufi women, see
is sealed by God and He alone can R. Cornel, Early Sufi Women, Louis-
penetrate it. According to M. Chod- ville, 1999 and Arezou Azad, ‘Female
kiewicz ‘the features of the malāmī� Mystics in Medieval Islam: The Quiet
are to be found in the figure of Mary Legacy’, in Journal of the Economic and
as represented in Islamic literature Social History of the Orient, 56, 2013:
based on the Koran but the terms 53–88.
used there are often similar to those 3 The title of the book is Ḏikr al-niswa

74
al-muta‘abbidāt al-ṣūfiyyāt. See R. E. mystiques, éd. Audrey Fella, Paris, Laf-
Cornell, Early Sufi Women, Fons Vitae, font, 2013: 809.
Louisville, 1999 and the French trans-
9 See Doctrine of the Sūfīs, trans. A. J.
lation of the text entitled, Femmes sou-
Arberry, Cambridge, 1991, reprint of
fies, trad. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Andreucci,
1935 first edition, 11.
Paris, Entrelacs, 2011. For an analysis
of the text, see J.-J. Thibon, L’œuvre 10 For a list of her disciples and trans-
d’Abū ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī mittors, see Francesco Chiabotti, En-
(325/937–412/1021) et la formation tre soufisme et savoir islamique : ‘Abd
du soufisme, Damas, Ifpo, 2009: 330–9. al-Karīm al-Qušayrī (376–465 /986–
1072), doctoral thesis, Université de
4 It is nonetheless significant that twen-
Provence, 2014:104–6.
ty-eight lived in the second century of
the Hegira. It would seem that sanctity 11 See R. E. Cornell, Early Sufi Women,
was particularly common amongst fe- 176–9.
male ascetics in the early days of Is- 12 See R. E. Cornell, Early Sufi Women,
lam. 184–5.
5 For a more detailed history of hagi- 13 For further details, see Jean-Jacques
ographic works and the position each Thibon, ‘Fâtima de Nichapour’, in Les
attributed to women see, Nelly et La- femmes mystiques, 369–70.
roussi Amri, Les femmes soufies ou la
passion de Dieu, Saint-Jean-de-Braye, 14 But there are a great many examples
Editions Dangles, 1992, ch. 2 and M. of such women, such as Umm Hārūn
Chodkiewicz, ‘La sainteté féminine al-Dimašqiyya, who was in the habit
dans l’hagiographie islamique’, in of travelling once a month on foot
Saints orientaux, D. Aigle éd., Paris, from Damascus to Jerusalem, see Nelly
1995: 99–115, in particular 101–2. Amri, ‘Umm Hârûn al-Dimashqiyya’ in
Les femmes mystiques, 928–9.
6 Al-Ḥiṣnī� (d. 830/1426) and his Kitāb
siyar al-sālikāt al-mu’mināt, entirely 15 For quotations and further details, see
devoted to women is a good example Jean-Jacques Thibon, ‘Umm al-Fadl
of this, as is al-Ḥurayfiš (d. 801/1398) al-Wahtiyya’, in Les femmes mystiques,
author of Al-rawḍ al-fā’iq, quoted by 925–26.
Nelly and Laroussi Amri, op. cit., 57–8. 16 It should be pointed out that late
In this work, the author states in the sources call her Fāṭima, which can
introduction to the section on women give rise to a possible confusion with
that God ‘has associated pious women Fāṭima de Nishapur and some Western
and pious men and that in women can scholars consider that the two women
be found the same spiritual states, re- were in fact only one, as for example R.
nunciation, perfection and piety as in Deladrière or A. Schimmel; for further
men’, quoted by M. Chodkiewicz, op. details see Jean-Jacques Thibon, ‘Umm
cit., 102. ‘Alî�’, in Les femmes mystiques, 364–6.
7 For further details, see Margaret Smith, 17 Another famous case is that of Ḥakī�m
Rabi’a the Mystic and Her Fellow-Saints Tirmiḏī� and his wife.
in Islam, Cambridge, 1928.
18 For further details, see Jean-Jacques
8 ‘Râbi‘a al-‘Adawiyya’ in Les femmes
75
Thibon, ‘Râbi‘a bint Ismâ‘î�l al-Shâmi-
yya’, in Les femmes mystiques, 926–28.
19 On this question see Family Portraits
with Saints, Hagiography, Sanctity
and Family in the Muslim World, ed.
by Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen § Alex-
andre Papas, Islamkundliche Untersu-
chungen Band 317, Berlin, � coles des
Hautes É� tudes en Sciences Sociales §
Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2014.
20 For further details, see Jean-Jacques
Thibon, ‘Fâtima bint ‘Abbâs al-Bagh-
dâdiyya’, in Les femmes mystiques,
926–28.
21 For further details, see Jean-Jacques
Thibon, ‘Fâtima bint Ibn al-Muthanna
de Cordoue’, in Les femmes mystiques,
368–9.
22 For further details, see Jean-Jacques
Thibon, ‘Rayhâna al-Majnûna’, in Les
femmes mystiques, 826–8.
23 For further details, see Jean-Jacques
Thibon, ‘Sha‘wana’, in Les femmes mys-
tiques, 866–8.
24 Rābi‘a al-Azdiyya who chastised her
future husband, a reputed ascetic from
Bassora, when she allowed him to see
her for the first time, after making him
wait a certain length of time: ‘Oh lust-
ful one! What did you see in me that
aroused your desire? Why don’t you
ask a lustful person like yourself to
marry you?’ see R. E. Cornell, Early Sufi
Women, 128.
25 See M. Chodkiewicz, op. cit., 113.

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