Women and the Path of Faqr

The purpose of creation of this universe is to attain gnosis of Divine Essence which is possible through Faqr. Gnosis or recognising is to learn about something or someone. Like, worldly knowledge is required to progress in life. Similarly, in order to attain union with Divine Essence, gnosis of Divine Essence is required.

The knowledge of gnosis of Divine Essence is the basis of Islam and its rituals and practices. The prayer remains incomplete until one attains gnosis. Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani says:

“How can one worship Allah when he or she does not recognise Him?”
Ghaus ul Azam
Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani

It is not possible to recognise Allah through intellect because it is limited and the Divine Essence is beyond comprehension. Although, one can ponder over the creation of the universe to understand the Creator. The soul belongs to the universe of Command (alam al-Amr) as Allah says in Quran:

Meaning: (O Beloved Prophet) Say: ‘The soul is from my Lord’s command, and you have been given but a very little knowledge. (17: 85)

Faqr Leads to Divine Essence

The soul has access to the universe of Command whereas the intellect is only limited to this physical world. Like a person learns about various things and way stations on a journey. Similarly, the soul attains Divine gnosis when it progresses from the realm of physical world to the universe of Command. If a person remains confined to the boundary of his / her house and does not embark on a journey, they can never reach their destination nor can they learn about the various things and way stations on the way.

Similarly, until a soul embarks on the inward journey towards Allah, it can neither reach Him nor learn anything about Him. So, the first thing in order to attain gnosis of Divine Essence is to make an effort and develop that desire within. And then embark on this journey. On this journey, it is imperative that the seeker has the means of sustenance i.e. the invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat and the patronage of a qualified spiritual guide.

Allah inculcates in Quran to find a medium when embarking on this journey:

Meaning: O believers! Fear Allah persistently and keep looking for means to (approach and get closer to) Him and strive hard in His way so that you may prosper. (5: 35)

Murshid Guides the Seekers on the path of Faqr

Aqwal Sultan ul Ashiqeen

Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman says about medium (spiritual guide):

According to sharia, mediation means to find closeness to Allah through a person who is Allah’s beloved and is already close to Him, who has travelled the mystic path and knows its ups and downs. In Sufism such a person is known as Murshid, Pir or Shaikh i.e. the spiritual guide. A true spiritual guide is the one who perfectly knows the path to Allah, who has crossed the waystations of Faqr reaching the realm of Incomparable and Unknowable and is now fully proficient to guide people who do not know the Divine path. (Sufism – The Soul of Islam)

Sultan-ul-Arifeen Sultan Bahoo says:

Search for Murshid so that you may attain gnosis of Divine Essence and become a friend of Allah (Saint). (Ameer ul Kaunain)

He further says in one of his Punjabi stanza:

کی ہویاجے راتی جاگیوں جے مرشد جاگ نہ لائی ھوُ

راتیں جاگے تے کریں عبادت ڈینہہ نندیاں کریں پرائی ھوُ

Explanation: Your worship and devotions of day and night are worthless and will not benefit you in any way until a Murshid plants the seed of Divine love and gnosis in your inward. Until this happens, a person on one hand performs excessive devotions yet on the other hand does not restrain from backbiting and speaking ill of others. In other words, his prayers and devotions do not benefit him at all because his inward is subdued to the lewdness of the Self which only an accomplished Murshid can cleanse through his spiritual attention.

Women and Sufism

Like other matters in life, general perception in society is that Faqr and Divine gnosis is not for women. As they are hindered in progressing in worldly matters, similarly, they are discouraged in religious matters too. The prime reason for that is lack of awareness about the fundamentals of Islam. It is simply impossible to walk the path of Faqr (Sufism) without a perfect spiritual guide. Unfortunately, in our society there is a false myth according to which the women cannot pledge allegiance (bayah) to a Murshid without first taking permission from their father or husband.

In fact, a man who believes in Mysticism and Faqr and is rightly guided will never stop his daughter or wife to adopt the path of Faqr (Sufism). However, if things are on the contrary, then it is a point to ponder for the women, should they still follow such a man and not strive to attain gnosis and closeness of Allah?

Neither a woman’s husband nor her father will come to her rescue in the grave. She will even not be able to make an excuse that she did not adopt the path of Faqr because her father or husband stopped her from doing so. Women do a lot of things in life against the will of their father or husband but when it comes to finding a Murshid for spiritual training, they use their father or husband as an excuse.

Man and Woman are Equal Near Allah

Once the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘It is compulsory upon man and woman to attain knowledge’. In this Hadith the Holy Prophet mentioned man and woman separately which asserts that the woman must fulfil her part. For this she does not need to seek permission of a man; neither her father nor husband can stop her. The knowledge (mentioned in Hadith) also includes the knowledge of Divine gnosis. Like a man cannot forbid a woman from performing prayer or fasting. Similarly, they cannot forbid her from pledging bayah to a perfect spiritual guide.

Both men and women are equal. Allah says in Quran:

Meaning:Then their Lord accorded approval to their supplication (and said:) ‘Certainly, I do not waste the wages of any labourer, whether man or woman; you all are from one another. (3: 195)

On another occasion, Allah says:

Meaning: And do not long for the thing in which Allah has made some of you superior to others. Men will have a share of what they earn, and women will have a share of what they earn. (4: 32)

Meaning: Whoever performs pious works, man or woman, provided he or she is a believer, We will surely keep him alive with a life of purity, and will indeed reward them (as well) their wage of the righteous works which they used to do. (16: 97)

It is clear from Quran and Hadith that both men and women are equally near Allah when it comes to piety.

Soul is Discrete

Man and woman are different in physical appearance and in some of the inherent responsibilities. However, there is no difference between them when it comes to discharging religious duties or moral attributes. To give birth to children and feed them is a requirement of women due to their physical attributes. However, to believe in Islam, have correct rituals, devotions, invite towards Divine gnosis and forbid wrong, spread the message of Islam, to strive for the establishment of Islamic system, in all these matters women are equal to men. Where Quran mentions the Prophets and Messengers, it also mentions pious women too. Allah has praised Pharaoh’s wife and Mary but on the other hand condemned wife of Prophet Noah, Prophet Lot and the wife of Abu Lahab.

Allah created all the souls equal. These souls appeared in the form of men or women in this physical world according to the tasks and duties they were destined to perform. The soul itself is discrete, neither is it male nor female. The relation between Allah and the soul is that of Ishq (Divine love). Therefore, regardless of a person’s gender in this physical world, everyone has equal right to cleanse their inward and attain gnosis and vision of Divine Essence. On this basis, to prevent a woman from pledging allegiance to a perfect spiritual guide is wrong and unjust.

During the time of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), where we hear and read about male Companions and their efforts for the propagation of Islam. At the same time, we see a lot of female Companions who played a key role in the early days of Islam. In the history of Islam where we know mostly about male Saints, there are many highly accomplished female Saints too.

Sultan-ul-Faqr I Fatimah-tuz-Zahra

After creating the Mohammadan light, Allah created the light of Fatimah-tuz-Zahra (R.A) Thus, she became the first Sultan of Faqr. Whoever gets Faqr (Divine vision and union with Divine Essence) is through her medium. She crossed all the waystations of Faqr with such courage and reached such heights that the Holy Prophet chose her to be the first to transfer the Trust of Faqr. It is written in Volume VII of Tawarikh Aina Tassawuf:

Fatimah-tuz-Zahra enquired the Holy Prophet whether she will be raised alone on the day of Judgement. The Holy Prophet replied, “The esoteric training of Muslim women will begin from you. All those women who will join this group will rise with you on the day of Judgement. Allah has reserved this grandeur for you since pre-existence.

Sultan Bahoo has mentioned her with immense respect in his books. This reflects his love and respect for the People of Cloak. In his Divine journal, Risala Roohi Sharif, Sultan-ul-Arifeen Sultan Bahoo (R.A) introduced the seven souls of Sultan-ul-Faqr. Fatimah-tuz-Zahra is the first amongst them. He writes:

“They are the Sultan-ul-Faqr (King of Faqr) and Syed-ul-Kaunain (Lord of all the worlds). One of them is the sacred soul of the Queen of the Doomsday (Fatima Razi Allah Anha).” (Risala Roohi Sharif)

Sultan Bahoo’s Respect for People of Cloak

On one occasion in his book Aqal-e-Baydar, Sultan Bahoo mentions the incident of his Bayah at the sacred hands of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and his spiritual relation and connection with Fatimah-tuz-Zahra. He says:

خواندہ فرزند من زاں فاطمہ

معرفتِ فقر است بر من خاتمہ

Explanation: Fatima-tuz-Zahra called me her son and as a result I reached the peak of Faqr.

He further says in her grandeur:

Fatimah-tuz-Zahra was brought up in Faqr and she was highly accomplished in Faqr. Whoever attains Faqr only attains through her medium. (Jamia-ul-Asrar)

Rabia of Basra

Rabia of Basra is a prominent Saint in Islamic history. She was a Saint of very high rank. Sultan Bahoo has frequently mentioned her in his books. Below are some extracts from his books:

Rabia of Basra attained the highest ranks of Faqr whilst in sleep without any medium. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Someone asked Rabia of Basra about self, Satan and world. She said, “I am so deeply engrossed in the Oneness of Allah that I have no idea about the self, Satan or the world.” (Ain-ul-Faqr)

On another occasion Sultan Bahoo writes:

Once Rabia of Basra saw Prophet Mohammad in dream. The Holy Prophet asked, “O Rabia, do you befriend me?” Rabia replied, “O, the esteemed Messenger of Allah, how is it possible that I do not befriend you? But my inward is so deeply engrossed in the love of Allah and I am annihilated in the Oneness of Allah such that I have no idea of anything else.” (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Once someone asked Rabia of Basra, what do you worship for? Is it due to the fear of hell or in hope of going to paradise? She replied, “O Allah if I worship you due to the fear of hell, then burn me in hell fire. And if I worship you to get paradise then do not grant me paradise. And if I worship you purely for you then do not deprive me of your vision”. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Some of the very accomplished Saints of her time used to attend her lectures and used to benefit from her Divine knowledge.

Bibi Rasti

The mother of Sultan Bahoo is considered one of the most accomplished Sufi Saints of her time. She was very pious and highly knowledgeable. She had inspired knowledge and spent most of her time in devotions. As soon as she finished the daily chores, she would engage in prayers and meditation. Sultan Bahoo pays high tribute to his mother in his books. He says:

نام باھو مادر باھوؒ نہاد

زانکہ باھوؒ دائمی با ھو نہاد

Explanation: Bahoo’s mother named him Bahoo because he ever remains with Hoo (the Divine Essence).

At another occasion he says, may Allah shower His countless blessings upon my mother because she named me Bahoo.

In Ain-ul-Faqr he says:

راستی از راستی آراستی

رحمت و غفران بود بر راستیؒ

Explanation: Bibi Rasti is adorned with truth. O Allah! Shower your mercy and blessings upon her and forgive her.

Bibi Rasti had achieved a very high rank in Faqr, she was at the station of fana fi Hoo (annihilation with Allah).

Sultan Bahoo received early training and education from her mother. He says about her mother’s devotions and prayers in Mohkim-ul-Fuqara:

My mother had attained such invocation that it led to bleeding from eyes. I also went through this situation. This is called Divine presence (Huzoor-e-Haq).

Similarly, the mother of Ghawth al-Azam Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani was highly accomplished Saint.

Abu Abdul Rehman Salma has mentioned many prominent female Sufi Saints in his book “Zikr al-Niswah al-Sufiat al-Mutabidaat”. Some of these are mentioned below:

Fatimah Nisha Puri

Fatimah Nisha Puri was a highly accomplished Sufi Saint of her time. Bayazid Bastami said in her praise: “I have not come across anyone else in my whole like one man and one woman. That woman was Fatima Nisha Puri. Many other prominent Saints of her time have praised her. This includes Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn al-Jawzi.

Bahria of Basra

Another famous Saint from Basra was Bahria. She received spiritual education and training from Shafeeq Balkhi. Abu Abdul Rehman quotes Bahria as saying, “When the inward gets rid of lusts then it gets attached to knowledge. It adopts that knowledge practically and this provides the strength to absorb that knowledge.”

Ayesha bint Abu Usman Nisha Puri

The daughter of famous Sufi Saint Abu Usman Nisha Puri was also a very pious woman. Abu Abdul Rehman Salma writes in his book that she was the most devoted and pious from the progeny of Abu Usman. Abu Abdul Rehman quotes a saying of her: “You should not feel happy about something that is mortal and is going to perish. One must not feel sorry about something that is going parish one day. Only Allah is enough for happiness. The real thing to be worried about is if someone were to be deprived of Allah’s forgiveness.”

Some other prominent female Sufi Saints include Saeedah bint Zaid and Umm Haroon of Damascus who were well-known in their time.

Female Sufi Saints – A role Model for Today’s Women

The female Sufi Saints of the past not only discharged their worldly matters and responsibilities adequately but at the same time they attained inward knowledge and the gnosis of Divine Essence.

However, in today’s age, the increasing lack of knowledge of the religion has distanced the women from the essence of Islam. When today’s Muslim women aspire to live with freedom, they must read about these female Sufi Saints and take lesson from their lives so that they do not go astray in the name of modernity and so-called liberalism. Only this way, they can progress in the world as well as succeed in hereafter. In order to follow the life of those accomplished Sufi Saints one needs to adopt company of spiritual guide who knows the ups and downs of this path.


Furman Sultan ul Ashiqeen

The Universal Divine Man of this age and the present Imam of Sarwari Qadri order, Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman champions the rights of women and gives them the respect as Allah and His beloved Prophet (pbuh) commanded. He spread the message of Faqr for women as he did for their male counterparts. He says:

“Man is name of an attribute. It is a unique quality that is present both within a man and woman. Only a real ‘man’ adopts the path of Faqr. On this basis, many women are men and many men are women. (Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen)

Under his spiritual guidance and company, thousands of women have had their ‘self’ cleansed of the various ill attributes and they were blessed with gnosis of Divine Essence and presence in Mohammadan Assembly. During the weekly gatherings as well as the annual events, as per his instructions, there are special arrangements of women so that they can participate in these gatherings easily.

In addition, the women are encouraged to actively participate in every department and wing of Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr. As a result a large number of women are contributing in spreading the message of Faqr.

May Allah grant long life and health to Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman and grant us the strength to serve our Shaikh sincerely and with conviction and remain steadfast on the path of Faqr. Ameen.

What is the role of women in Sufism?

Women have never been behind when it comes to achieving high ranks in Sufism. Fatimah-tuz-Zahra (R.A), the beloved daughter of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is the first Sultan of Faqr. This means, the Holy Prophet transferred the Trust of Faqr to her before anyone else. Whoever attains Faqr is through her medium. After her, there have been many prominent female Sufi Saints in the history of Islam who surpassed many of their male counterparts in every aspect.

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