Re-reading the Position of Women in Islamic-Iranian Mystical Texts (With Reference to Attar and Rumi’s Works)

Document Type : Original Article


Assistant Professor, Department of Persian Language and Literature, University of Kurdistan, Sanandaj, Iran


Contrary to the traditional disciple-making efforts presented by commentators of mystical works, which aim to consolidate a fanatical attitude towards mysticism and hide any epistemological defects, these works have their own disadvantages, similar to any other knowledge system. One of these disadvantages is the categorization of "women," which, due to the continuation of the patriarchal worldview and the Mithraic origin of Iranian-Islamic mysticism, has been approached with a dogmatic and gender-oriented perspective. Therefore, within the mystical tradition, despite occasional praises given to women in Sufi works, they are generally regarded as symbols of evil passion, and the love for them is seen as figurative and lustful. In these instances, the mystical texts acknowledge their own stance, and, often in contrast to the efforts of their fanatical admirers, provide an opportunity for so-called "destructive" analyses. The present article examines the contradictions within the works of two renowned mystical poets, Attar and Rumi, specifically regarding their portrayal of "woman". By adopting a deconstructive approach, often utilizing textual evidence, it aims to highlight their patriarchal attitude. Consequently, it concludes that while researchers of mystical works have often attempted to absolve the mystic poets of their patriarchal or misogynistic gender-oriented views, the mystics themselves have not done so.


Main Subjects

Abu Nasr Al-Siraj. al-Luma Fi al-Tasawwof, edited by Reynold A. Nicholson, Leiden, Brill, 1914.
Al-Dailami, Abu al-Hassan. The biography of Sheikh Kabir Abu Abdullah Ibn al-Khafif. (Sirat-e Sheikh-e Kabir). Translated by Rokn-od’Din Shirazi, edited by A. Marie Schimmel Tari, Tehran, Babak, 1984.
Attar, Farid-od’Din. The Conference of the Birds. (Mantiq al-Tair). edited by Mohammad Javad Mashkour, Tabriz, Tehran Press, 1974.
Attar, Farid-od’Din. Tribulations of Spiritual Progress (Musibat-Namah(. edited by Mohammad Reza Shafiei Kadkani, Tehran, Sokhan, 2007.
Attar, Farid-od’Din. Muslim Saints and Mystics (Tazkerat al-Awliya). edited by Mohammad Estelami, Tehran, Zovvar, 2012.
Diakonoff, Igor Mikhailovich. History of the Medes. Translated by Karim Keshavarz, Tehran, Book Translation and Publication Press, 1966.
Ghazali, Mohammad. Book of Council for Kings (Nasihat al-Muluk). edited by Jalalu’d-Din Homayi, Tehran, Homa, 1988.
Ghazali, Mohammad. The Alchemy of Happiness (Kimia-ye Sa’adat(. edited by Hossein Khadiv Jam, Tehran, Scientific and Cultural, 2001.
Imami, Nasrolla. "Woman in Mathnawi" Persian Language and Literature Researches. Vol. 1, No. 1, 27-34, 2009.
Jami, Abd al-Rahman. Fragrance of fondness (Nafahat al-Uns). edited by Mehdi Towhidipour, Tehran, Mahmoudi, 1957.
Karachi, Rouhangiz. Introduction. Eight Treatises on the Expression of Women, Tehran, Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies, 2011.
---. "Reflection on the Status of Women in Rumi's Thought from the Sociological Perspective of Literature". Cultural Research Society. Vol. 5, no. 4, 89-106, 2014.
Kiani, Mohsen. History of the Monastery in Iran, Tehran, Tahoori, 1990.
Munavvar, Mohammad. The Mysteries of Unification (Asrar al-Tawhid(, edited by M.R. Shafiei Kadkani, Tehran, Agah, 2002.
Pourdavoud, Ibrahim. Anahita, Tehran, Donya-ye Ketab, 2002.          
Razi, Najm-od’Din. The Path of God’s Bondsmen (Mersad al-Ebad), edited by M.A. Reyahi, Tehran, Elmi va Farhangi, 2000.
Razi, Hashem. Mithraic Religion (Aein-e Mehr). Tehran, Behjat, 2002.
Rumi, Jalalu’d-Din. The Mathnawi, (Vol. I & II) edited and Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 1926.
---.  The Mathnawi, (Vol. III & IV) edited and Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 1930.
---.  The Mathnawi, (Vol. V & VI) edited and Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 1934.
---.  Shams’s Sonnets, edited by B. Foruzanfar, Tehran, Amir Kabir, 1999.
---.  It Is What It Is (Fihi Ma Fihi). edited by B. Forouzanfar, Tehran, Negah, 2008.
Sa’adi. Bustan. Edited by G. Yousefi, Tehran, Kharazmi, 1989.
Sajjadi, Ziau’d-Din. An Introduction to the Principles of Mysticism and Sufism. Tehran, Samt, 1997.
Shams Tabrizi. The essays (Maghalat), edited by Mohammad Ali Movahhed, Tehran, Kharazmi, 1998.
Sanai. The Walled Garden of Truth (Hadiqa al-Haqiqa). Edited by Modarres Razavi, Tehran, University of Tehran, 1995.
Schimmel, Annemarie. I Am Wind, You Are Fire, The Life and Work of Rumi. Translated by Fereydoun Badrei, Tehran, Toos, 1998.
Sobout, Akbar. Hassan al-Basri, The Treasurer of Science and Mysticism. Tehran, Haghighat, 2007.
Taheri, Zahra. The Absence and Presence of Women in Persian Sufi Texts (Hozur-e peyda va penhan-e zan dar mutun-e sufiyyeh), The Institute of Asian and African Studies, Tokyo, University of Foreign Studies, 2007.
Taste of the Time. edited by Mohammad Reza Shafiei Kadkani, Tehran, Elmi, 2007.
Vermaseren, Martin. Mithraic Religion. Translated by Bozorg Naderzad, Tehran, Cheshmeh, 2004.
Zarrinkoob, Abdolhossein.  Persian Sufism in its Historical Perspective (Tasavof-e Irani dar Cheshandaz-e Tarikhi). Translated by Majdaldin Keyvani, Tehran, Sokhan, 2004.
---.  A Quest for Persian Sufism (Josteju da tasavvof-e Iran). Tehran, Amirkabir, 2000.
---.  Sea in a Jug (Bahr dar kuzeh). Tehran, Elmi, 2007.
---.  Step by Step Up to Union with God (Pelleh Pelleh ta Molaghat-e Khoda). Tehran, Elmi, 2011.
---. The Value of the Heritage of Sufism (Arzesh-e Mirath-e Sufieh). Tehran, Arya, 1965.