Before ṣūfiyyāt

Female Muslim Renunciants in the 8th and 9th Centuries ce

in Journal of Sufi Studies
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Some scholars have attempted to identify a distinctive, feminine spirituality among early Muslim renunciants and Sufis. Studies by Roded, Azad, Dakake, and Silvers are reviewed. Content analysis of Ibn al-Jawzī, Ṣifat al-ṣafwa, suggests that renunciant women and men (of the period before classical Sufism) were remembered for similar devotional activities in similar frequencies. The Damascene Yazīd b. Maysara (fl. earlier 2nd/8th cent.) is quoted as saying, “A reprobate woman is like a thousand reprobate men, while a virtuous woman will be credited with the work of a hundred male saints.” There is no room here to say that collections of renunciant sayings name surprisingly many saintly women, or that the tradition systematically suppressed reports of saintly women from disbelief in female saintliness. On the contrary, saintly women were part of the prevailing ideology.

Sections

References

2

Ruth Roded, Women in Islamic biographical collections (Boulder: Lynne Reinner, 1994), chap. 5.

3

Ibid., 95.

6

Ibid., 104.

9

Cornell, ‘Introduction’, Early Sufi women, 54.

10

Ibid., 44.

16

See also Lloyd Ridgeon, ‘Introduction’, in Jawanmardi: a Sufi code of honour (Edinburgh: University Press, 2011), esp. 8–9, on women and futuwwa organizations.

17

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 210–11.

18

Ibid., 238–9.

19

Ibid., 198–9.

20

Ibid., 222–3.

21

Ibid., 256–7.

22

Arezou Azad, ‘Female mystics in mediaeval Islam: the quiet legacy’, Journal of the economic and social history of the Orient 56 (2013): 53–88, esp. 68–77. The story of her marriage to Abū Yazīd and his advice to her husband is earliest found in Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya, 10:42. Azad cites the slightly later account of Hujwīrī, Kashf al-maḥjūb, ed. Maḥmūd ʿĀbidī (Tehran: Surūsh, 1383), 183–4 = ed. Valentin Zhukovskii (Leningrad: Gosydarstvennaya Akademicheskaya Telegrafeya, 1926), 149–50.

24

Azad, ‘Female mystics’, 77.

25

Carol Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and redemption: essays in gender and the human body in medieval religion (New York: Zone Books, 1992), 257.

26

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 168–9.

28

Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya 10:42; Azad, ‘Female mystics’, 75–6.

31

Azad, ‘Female mystics’, 77.

32

Melchert, ‘Transition’, 64–6.

33

Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya, 10:121.

34

Sulamī, Ṭabaqāt, 226.

35

Gramlich, Alte Vorbilder, 1:384–5.

36

Maria M. Dakake, ‘ “Guest of the inmost heart”: conceptions of the divine beloved among early Sufi women’, Comparative Islamic studies 3 (2007): 72–97; quotation at 72.

37

Laury Silvers, ‘ “God loves me”: the theological content and context of early pious and Sufi women’s sayings on love’, Journal for Islamic studies (Johannesburg) 30 (2010): 33–59.

38

Silvers, ‘God loves me’, 46–7.

40

Laury Silvers, ‘Early pious, mystic Sufi women’, in The Cambridge companion to Sufism, ed. Lloyd Ridgeon, Cambridge companions to religion (Cambridge: University Press, 2015), 24–52.

41

Silvers, ‘Early pious’, 26–8.

42

Sulamī, Ṭabaqāt, 5.

43

Roded, Women, 3, 92–3.

46

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 96–7.

50

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 184–5.

58

Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya, 6:220. His distress on hearing thunder is elsewhere likened to that of a woman in labor: Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya, 6:225.

74

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 102–3.

75

Ibid., 84–5.

77

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 88–9.

78

Ibid., 116–17.

79

Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya, 7:346.

80

Ibid., Ḥilya, 9:244.

82

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 114–15.

83

Ibid., 155–6.

84

Ibid., 236–7.

85

Ibid., 248–9.

86

Ibid., 254–5.

90

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 166–7.

91

Ibid., 132–3, substituting my own translation for Cornell’s: ‘A slave should not seek his Lord unless he resolves to see himself fulfill all of his service to God. For if the slave delays fulfilling his service near to his goal, it is as if he had failed to fulfill any of it.’

92

Ibid., 128–9.

94

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 116–17; Ibn al-Jawzī, Ṣifa, 4:27–8, § women of Basra. I think Cornell misinterprets the last pronoun suffix, whose natural antecedent seems to me to be ‘anyone’ (aḥad); that is, I see no reference here to the great ones’s possessions, rather Kurdiyya reports having no lust directly for any of the great ones (lit. ‘lords of the world’).

97

Sulamī, Early Sufi women, 92–3. Should be at least ‘my lord’. Cornell interprets her name as Nusiyya, a strange form (fuʿīla) I do not find in dictionaries.

100

Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya, 7:349.

106

Ibn al-Jawzī, Ṣifa, 4:226; § unknown women of Jerusalem.

110

Darlene M. Juschka, ‘Gender’, in The Routledge companion to the study of religion, ed. John R. Hinnells, 2nd edn. (London: Routledge, 2010), 245–58, at 253.

111

Marina Tolmacheva, ‘Female piety and patronage in the medieval “ḥajj” ’, in Women in the medieval Islamic world, ed. Gavin R. G. Hambly, The new Middle Ages 6 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 161–79, at 165.

112

Silvers, ‘Early pious’, 42, citing her own earlier article, ‘ “God loves me” ’, 53–8.

119

Rosalind Gwynne, ‘Al-Jubbāʾī, al-Ashʿarī and the three brothers: the uses of fiction’, Muslim world 75 (1985): 132–61.

120

Fedwa Malti-Douglas, Man’s body, woman’s word: gender and discourse in Arabo-Islamic writing (Princeton: University Press, 1991), 44–5.

121

Abū Nuʿaym, Ḥilya, 5:236.

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