Early Sufi Women
As-Sulami, Rkia Elaroui Cornell (tr.)
This work is a translation of the long-lost Dhikr an-Niswat al-muta 'abbidat as-sufiyyat, the influential work on Sufi women saints by Abu Abd ar-Rahman as-Sulami (d 1021).
As-Sulami, the great systematizer of Sufi doctrine and author of the famous Tabaqat as-Sufiyya (Categories of the Sufis), originally wrote this work as an appendix to his Tabaqat, which only includes hagiographical notices on male saints.
Separated from the original work soon after as-Sulami's death, the Book of Sufi Women was thought lost until 1991, when a unique manuscript of the work was found in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The present translation was made directly from the Riyadh manuscript, which dates to the year 1084, only sixty-three years after the death of as-Sulami himself. This makes it one of the earliest manuscripts of as-Sulami's works in existence and the earliest work on Sufi women to appear in the Islamic hagiographical tradition.
The work contains notices on eighty-four women and provides a picture of independent female spirituality in Islam that calls into question many long-held myths about the status of women in the Muslim world.
"Not only does Sufi spirituality possess a marked feminine dimension, but throughout the centuries numerous women in different areas of the Islamic world have participated in the spiritual teachings of Sufism. This classical work of as-Sulami is a precious testament to the role of women in the Sufi tradition in the past and to female spirituality in Islam in general." – Seyyed Hossein Nasr, George Washington University