Some Women Saints in Brief

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from ‘Sufism Attracting Many Women Followers.’

Since its inception, Sufism has had its share of women saints and practitioners.  By legend, the Spanish mystic Shaykh Muhyi ad-Din ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.), a contemporary of Mawlana ar-Rumi (q.s.), once was asked how many ‘substitutes’ (saints) there were.  He supposedly answered that there were forty “souls.”  Asked why he did not say forty men, he answered that some were women.

Within Mawlana ar-Rumi’s (q.s.) immediate family there were several women who were noted Sufi adepts, including the mother of his first wife.  Mawlana ar-Rumi’s (q.s.) mother-in-law was widely considered his spiritual equal and it was likely for this reason that he was married to her daughter, Shaykha Gawhar Khatun.  Mawlana ar-Rumi (q.s.) later arranged for his favorite female disciple Fathima Khatun (q.s.), the daughter of his beloved friend, Shaykh Swalah ad-Din (q.s.), to marry his favourite son, Shaykh Sulthan Walad (q.s.).  Two girls were born of this marriage, Shaykha Muthaharah Khatun (q.s.) and Shaykha Sharifah Khatun (q.s.), and they apparently were especially precious to Mawlana ar-Rumi (q.s.).  In time, these girls grew up to be saintly women known in Konya for producing miracles and providing spiritual instruction to other women, according to Shaykh Shams ad-Din Ahmad Aflaki (q.s.).

One of the earliest Sufi women saints whose life was recorded by historians was Shaykha Rabi’ah al-Adawiyyah (q.s.) of Basra, who lived in the ninth century.  She later was praised by the hagiographer, Shaykh 'Abd ar-Rahman Jami’ (q.s.) for the brilliance and sincere humility she displayed in conversation.  She also was praised by the writer Shaykh ‘Ahthtar (q.s.).  Once Shaykha Rabi’ah al-Adawiyya (q.s.) was approached by a man seeking the way, who asked her to provide him with security.  Immediately, she began to weep, according to Jami’ (q.s.).  The man seemed quite stunned and asked her why she was crying.  She reprimanded him, observing that security in this world entails the abandonment of Allah (s.w.t.).  Through his inquiry the man had defiled himself, according to the saint.  On another occasion, the same man told her that they had been ‘saddened’ by Allah (s.w.t.).  The saint asked him not to lie, noting that if he had been so saddened he would not be able to enjoy the world as he then was.

Jami’ (q.s.) also tells the story of a thirteenth-century Andalusian woman saint named Fidda (q.s.) who became famous for performing miracles.  Once a visitor to her village learned she had a goat that dispensed both milk and honey.  He met Fidda (q.s.) and gave her a jar and asked her to fill it with milk and honey from her goat.  She complied and he drank milk that was filled with honey.  The guest then asked Fidda (q.s.) how such a miracle could have been performed.  She explained that once her husband had been preparing to slaughter the goat as an offering at the end of Ramadhan.  However, she convinced her husband not to kill the goat because they were a poor couple and poverty is an excuse for not making offerings.  The very same day a guest arrived, and the husband concluded that he must slaughter the goat in order to feed the guest.  However, in the moment that the husband was sacrificing the goat, another goat appeared and entered Fidda’s (q.s.) house.  The new goat was to provide the couple with milk and honey.  Fidda (q.s.) concluded that when disciples, such as herself and her husband, have hearts that are pure and good, their ability to perceive is elevated, and even milk can taste like honey.


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