Female Islamic Saints


Sâmiha Ayverdi
I. A photo portrait of Sâmiha Ayverdi.

Sâmiha Ayverdi (1905–1993) was a prolific Turkish author, literary scholar and mystic of the Rifa’i order. She grew up in Istanbul in a well established family of the Ottoman elite, born to her mother Fatma Meliha Hanım and her father Lieutenant Colonel İsmail Hakkı Bey, with her brother Ekrem Hakkı Ayverdi being an established architect. She went to the Süleymani Exemplary School for Girls and graduated in 1921, after which she studied Sufi teachings at the Ken’an Tekke under Shaykh Ken’an Rifaî beginning in 1927. She would succeed her master after his death in 1950. Fluent in Turkish in French, She began her writing with novels, publishing her first, Aşk Bu İmiş, “So This Is Love,” in 1938, before expanding into other manners of prose and poetry, although she would stay in the bounds of her mother tongue. She penned other novels, drawing on her childhood in an Ottoman mansion, as well as autobiographical pieces, religious tracts and works on Turkish history, which grew in renown in Turkey in the new millenium after her death.

Sâmiha Ayverdi was a well known Turkish nationalist, conservative activist, and an unexpected face among many in the developing modernist movement. She was unique among the many nationalist modernist scholars by being a Sufi woman, with the most remembered early Islamic modernists being men, and with many early nationalists being anti-Sufi Kemalist reformists and anti-Sufi conservatives. Despite being controversial among Sufis for her right-wing nationalism and prejudices, and among nationalists for her Sufism, she was an emblematic example of a female Sufi with intellectual sway, political power, and a large spiritual following, organizing for further visibility of Sufism after the prohibition of tariqahs and tekkes in Turkey, and leaving a complicated political and religious legacy in her wake.

Not necessarily considered a saint.

Photo Reference

I: “Samiha Ayverdi.” Biyografya, www.biyografya.com/biyografi/16275.

Other Reading

Aytürk, İlker, et al. “Paradoxes of a Cold War Sufi Woman: Samiha Ayverdi between Islam, Nationalism and Modernity.” New Perspectives on Turkey, vol. 49, 2013.

Sagaster, Börte. “Sâmiha Ayvcerdi.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, edited by Kate Fleet et al., BRILL, referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-3/ayverdi-samiha-COM_27650.

“Sâmiha Ayverdi - Hayatı, Fikirleri, Eserleri.” Sâmiha Ayverdi: Mütefekkir Ve Mutasavvıf Yazar, www.samihaayverdi.org/index.php/hayati-fikirleri-eserleri.

Samiha Ayverdi

West AsiaRifa‘i OrderSufiAuthorSpiritual MasterMystic.