'Women of Sufism: A Hidden Treasure'
By Camille Adams Helminski (Author)
Helminski was the first woman to publish an English translation of the Qur'an and has built a career out of reprinting classic Sufi materials. This collection of primary sources casts a spotlight on the roles women have played in Sufi history: because Sufism sheds hierarchical and social distinctions in favor of a total consummation with the Beloved (Allah), women have always held an important position, says Helminski. The collection opens with early writings about Sufi women, most of which were written by men, and some of which have only recently been made available in English. Here we learn of Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya, an eighth-century saint about whom many legends were composed, and the ninth-century healer Lady Nafisa, who was renowned for her Qur'anic knowledge and whose tomb is still a sacred destination for spiritual pilgrims of many religious traditions. Helminski goes on to offer writings by and about Sufi women up to the present day, including poetry (Rumi has some competition!), folklore, prayers, songs and journal entries. Helminski does a fine job of introducing each subject, placing each shaykha (female teacher) in her historical context and explaining why she should be remembered. Some of the contemporary women are particularly interesting, such as Russian-born Sufi author Irina Tweedie, who describes her gradual path toward Sufism. This collection of women's voices is a rich and varied resource for understanding women of "The Way."