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The Ladies of Rūm: A Hagiographic View of Women in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Anatolia

In: Journal of Sufi Studies
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  • 1 University of St. AndrewsUK
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In the medieval Middle East, the Sufi experience was not only a male enterprise. Women also participated in the development of this mystical representation of Islam in different ways. Despite the existence of scholarly studies on Sufism in medieval Anatolia, the role played by women in this period has generally been overlooked. Only recently have studies started to highlight the relevance that some of these Sufi ladies had in spreading Sufism in the Middle East. Accounts of women’s deeds are especially abundant in hagiographic literature produced in the seventh/thirteenth and eighth/fourteenth centuries. However, it has been generally downgraded as historically unreliable for consisting of biased ‘inside accounts’ of the lives of Sufi shaykhs and their followers. This article has a twofold goal: first, to investigate what information hagiographies provide about the role of women in medieval Anatolia; and second, to try to vindicate the option of using hagiographic literature as a relevant source of information in researching aspects of cultural history that cannot be found in other source materials.

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