1st Edition

Sufi Women and Mystics Models of Sanctity, Erudition, and Political Leadership

By Minlib Dallh Copyright 2024

    This book focuses on women’s important contribution to Sufism by analyzing the lives and seminal contributions of six mystic Sufi women to Islamic spirituality.

    To help reverse the sidelining of Sufi women in the recorded academic literature, the author has selected a representative sample of figures from diverse Islamic dynasties with varying backgrounds, social status, and devotional contributions. Taking a historical approach attentive to specific political contexts, readers will be introduced to the contributions of Umm Ali al-Balkhī and Fātima of Nishāpūr in the ninth-century Khurāsān, Aisha al-Mannūbiyya of the Hafsid dynasty in Ifrīqya, Aisha al-Bā‘ūnīyya of the Mamlūk dynasties of Egypt and Syria, the Mughal princess Jahan Ara Begum, and the daughter of the Caliph of Sokoto, Nana Asma’u. It is argued that these ascetic and Sufi women were recognized by their male and female peers, became political leaders in their communities, and were honored as examples of sanctity and erudition. Their works influenced mystical discourse, hagiographical writings, religious language, and models of religious authority to secure legacies of Islamic orthopraxis.

    The book will appeal to anyone interested in Sufism and Sufi history, as well as to those wishing to delve into the understudied topic of Muslim women’s spirituality.

    Introduction  1. Fātima of Nishāpūr and Umm Ali al-Balkhi: Two Forerunner Sufi Women of the Ninth-Century Greater Khurāsān  2. Aisha al-Mannūbiyya (d. 1267) Enthralled in Divine love: ‘la sainte parfaitement ravie en Dieu’ (majdhūba)  3. Aisha al-Bā‘ūnīyya: Living in the Love of God and Veneration to his Messenger, Muhammad  4. Jahan Ara Bengum: A Powerful Princess and a Sufi Devotee of the Mughal Empire  5. Nana Asma’u bint Usman dan Fodio (d. 1865): The Erudite Mystic and Poet of the Sokoto Caliphate  Conclusion


    Minlib Dallh is a Dominican friar and Visiting Assistant Professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Atlanta, GA (USA). His research focuses on comparative mysticism, women mystics, and love-mysticism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His first book was entitled The Sufi and the Friar: A Mystical Encounter of Two Men of God in the Abode of Islam (2017).

    "Minlib Dalh is to be congratulated on bringing to our attention six female Sufis who deserve to be much better known and who each made a major contribution in the history of Sufism. His work fills a lacuna and brings to the fore the dynamic agency of each of the mystics whom he discusses. This is a scholarly, highly readable and insightful work in which the author splendidly accomplishes his 'primary goal to help reverse the sidelining of Sufi women in the recorded academic literature.'"

    Ian Richard Netton, University of Exeter, UK

    "In an astonishing panorama, the author unfolds for us the experience of six women Sufi scholars and mystics in six periods of time and different places, from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries. His account shows an erudition which is thorough but lightly-worn, a sensitivity to matters of controversy about women’s writing and spirituality in Islam, an acute awareness of historical and political context, and above all a passion to recover neglected women’s voices. This book should be essential reading, not only for scholars of Islam, but for all those interested in mystical experience, feminist theology and religious history in general."

    Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford, UK