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Before ṣūfiyyāt

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

image of Journal of Sufi Studies

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.

Affiliations: 1: University of OxfordUK


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