Females In The Sufi World – An Untold Story
The world famous Islamic Sufi poet Mevlana Jalal-ud-din Rumi (1207-1273) wrote: “Woman is the radiance of God; She is not your Beloved. She is the Creator- you could say that She is not Created.” In other words, everything has originated from a woman. If we consider Adam as the first male, then the soul from which he is born is also a female. So, just like God, femineity is present everywhere.
The physical presence of a woman is not always important. She is there when we are kind to someone, she is there when we show our love for someone, she is there when we sacrifice the most important thing of our life for someone, she is there when we show responsibility for the welfare of the society and she is there when we love someone unconditionally. So, it’s the feeling that matters the most and that is Rumi has given her the status of ‘Creator’.
Sufism has always had the presence of a woman as mystical secret, even though Sufism is considered to be an esoteric form of a seemingly patriarchal religion. It is seen that there is a niche or a vertical rectangular shaped wall called as ‘Mihrab’ in every Mosque which is curved at the top and is located pointing towards the direction of Mecca where Muslims pray five times a day. The Sufis know the Mihrab to be a visual symbol of an abstract concept: “the transcendent vagina of the female aspect of divinity”.
The Divine Feminine has always been present in Islam. Sufism, commonly known as ‘mystical Islam’ is known to have honored women in all possible ways. Various researches show that God is known to possess both feminine and masculine qualities. Be it the ‘Ardhnarishwara’ concept of Hindu mythology which represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the Universe or that of Islam where also Allah is supposed to have both of these traits.
These inseparable qualities of God have inspired the Sufis, which is evident from their sayings and poetry. For them, Allah has always been their beloved and the Sufi has always been the female lover who sings and dances for uniting with her beloved. For instance, in one of the compositions of a famous Sufi saint and poet Baba Bulle Shah of Kasur, Pakistan:
Tere Ishq Nachaya karke thaiyya thaiyya, chetti aa mive tabiba nayi te main mar gaiyan
Which means that “O my Murshid, your love has made me dance like mad, please come and meet me I am dying longing for you.
Sufi literature has the greatest discussion of femineity in Islam. The various famous love stories that we come across, like heer Ranjha, laila majnun, Sassi- Punnu etc, have depicted woman as the divine reality and the Hero goes in quest for her. For example, the best known love story of Laila Majnun originated as a simple love story in Arabia where the hero is constantly longing for her lady love and meets her after her death and dies himself near her grave. This love story has been depicted beautifully through Sufi literature and has made it the most beautiful love story ever put into Persian poetry. Sufi love stories depict the Beloved as a woman who is a Presence waiting in stillness which the hero is in quest for her.
It has been observed that just like men, women were equally interested in participating in Islamic rituals and development of Sufism.
Women were seen as mystics in Sufi rituals, as sufi poetesses, as singers/musicians/participants in Sufi songs. Women have also played an important role in bringing up and supporting Male Sufi saints, by being their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, maids, mentors etc. For example, Mai Naimat, a maid servant of Shah Abdul Latif, from whose memory his entire Risalo is said to have been reconstructed and in many more different ways women have been present everywhere in the propagation of this Mystical dimension of Islami.e. Sufism.
Then, why is it that only Men could come forward in this particular genre? Why women are not remembered for their precious contribution towards spreading Sufism all over the world? Any Answers?