VIDEO: Female Sufis in the Medieval Period

Hafiz Poems - Medieval Islamic Manuscript (Public Domain)

Dr Lloyd Ridgeon (Reader in Islamic Studies, The University of Glasgow)

Dr. Lloyd Ridgeon talks about the role of Sufi women in the medieval period. Ridgeone examines positive and negative portrayals of Sufi women in a wide range of texts. 


This paper will assess the extent to which females were active in the medieval period. It will outline a range of perspectives – all male – which reveal a very diverse range of views, some of which were positive about female participation in the tradition, and others which were misogynist. The presentation investigates not only the social reality of female participation, but also describes how some Sufis presented an idealised version of femininity in which the divine was manifested as the ideal woman. A range of texts will be utilized, from Sufi manuals, poetry and hagiography. The work is an attempt to listen to the voices of women through these male authored texts, and present an alternative understanding of Sufism, as studies for so long have focused on the “big men” of Sufism, such as Rumi or Ibn ‘Arabi.

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