Female Islamic Saints


The Madurese murshidahs (late 19th–20th century) were female murshids or guides to Sufi initiates who acted largely independently of their husbands in the ṭarīqah and had large numbers of female students, especially in the Mazhari branch of the Naqshbandi order. As is the case in much of Indonesia, women compromise a sizeable sum of ṭarīqah membership on the island of Madura, but rarely, if ever, in Indonesia were they murshidahs. In Madura, however, there are precedents of such murshidahs, particularly in the mid-20th century. Among the Naqshbandi Mazhari murshidahs, Nyai Aisyah was the earliest. She was appointed in the late nineteenth century to a female following that was largely elderly following, close to when the Naqshbandi Mazhari order was introduced to Madura from Mecca. Her granddaughter Nyai Thobibah (d. 1995) was initiated by her brother, the murshid Kyai Ali Wada from Ambunten. He gave her ijāzah, or the degree to instruct initiates in Sufi teachings, and she was active in Pamekasan, leading initiates of both genders. Syarifah Fatimah was initiated by Kyai Sirajuddin and given ijāzah by Kyai Shamsuddin Umul. She seems to not have had any familial relations to any murshids, and while she was active in Sumenep, she had followers in the provinces of Western Kalimantan and South Malang as well as Madura. Syarifah Nor was a scholar and murshidah in Gongeglegi, where she was called “Pah Nong.” Nyai Syafi’ah was made a murshidah by her murshid, her husband, although she would not be an active teacher. Kyai Jauhari, a murshid of the Tijani order, ordained his niece as a muqaddam, or a Tijani murshid, to teach female Tijanis. Women elsewhere were scarecely ever murshids in the Naqshbandi order (the Naqshbandi Mazhari order being an exception), and generally neither in the Tijani order, yet the large quantity of female adherants and relative egalitarianism at the time in Madura permitted these women to have rarely precedented influence in Indonesia.

Not necessarily considered a saint.
A group or multiple persons.

Other Reading

Bruinessen, Martin van. “Tarekat Naqsyabandiyah di Madura dan Dalam Masyarakat Madura di Daerah Lain [The Naqshbandi Tariqah in Madura and in Madurese Communities in Other Areas].” Tarekat Naqsya. Mizan, 1994, pp. 197–198.

Fathurahman, Oman. “Female Indonesian Sufis: Shattariya Murids in the 18th and 19th Centuries in Java.” Kyoto Bulletin of Islamic Area Studies, no. 11, Mar. 2018, pp. 40–67.

Gender and Power in Indonesian Islam: Leaders, Feminists, Sufis and Pesantren Selves, edited by Bianca J. Smith, Mark Woodward. United Kingdom, Taylor & Francis, 2013, pp.

mursyid • tarekat

Southeast AsiaNaqshbandi OrderTijani OrderSufiSpiritual MasterMystic.