Presentation at the Chicago portion of AERA in April, 2023. “Embodiment and Action: Centering Identity in Arts Education and Research.”
This manuscript is currently being prepared for publication and is expected to appear in The Reading Teacher.
This literary criticism approaches three different accounts about Islam’s acclaimed first female Sufi Saint Rabia al-Adawiyya, and analyzes the development of her legend according to the surrounding historical and religious factors of her historians. Essentially, these factors conditioned the retelling of Rabia’s legend, a story that began with her name and flourished into a popular Muslim account of spiritual strength and societal defiance. Although one cannot assure why the earliest biographers chose to pass on Rabia’s story, each of these male authors acted as a feminist Prometheus, that is, the spark of Rabia al-Adawiyya was breathed into the Muslim tradition so that centuries later stories of her womanhood and strength continue to be transmitted and translated, crossing cultural and societal boundaries to share her teachings. The first portion of this essay deals with one of the earliest Sufi documents that mentions Rabia. Arthur John Arberry’s translation of The Doctrine of the Sufis (Kitab al-Tarruf li-madhhab ahl al-tasawwuf of Kalabadhi) written by Abu Bakr al-Kalabadhi in the late tenth century preserves the sayings and anecdotes attributed to Rabia and to other Sufis. The second account of Rabia’s legend translated by Arthur John Arberry and written by Farid Ud-Din Attar during the twelfth century is Muslim Saints and Mystics, or the Memorial of the Saints,. The last and most recent account of Rabia is Dr. Nabil Safwat’s translation of the book entitled First Among Sufis: The Life and Thought of Rabia al-Adawiyya written by Widad El Sakkakini, an Arabic woman novelist. El Sakkakini reinterprets the legendary Rabia, and remolds her life so that it is more accessible for the traditional Muslim woman. Available for purchase on Amazon.
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