Articles and Chapters

“Early Pious, Mystic, and Sufi Women”

The Cambridge Companion to Sufism, ed. Lloyd Ridgeon (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

A survey of primary and secondary literature on the lives, thoughts, practices, and the gendered social contexts of early pious and Sufi women (pre-4th/11th century).

Click on the Link for a PDF of “Early Pious, Mystic, and Sufi Women”

“God Loves Me”:  The Theological Content and Context of Early Pious and Sufi Women’s Sayings on Love

Journal for Islamic Studies Vol. 30, 2010, pp. 33-59

Maria Dakake argues in her article, ‘Guest of the Inmost Heart’ that Sufi women imagined God in domestic terms as the ideal faithful lover, provider, and protector. Based on my research of pious and Sufi women from the 7th to 10th century, I support Dakake’s important observation; but I also suggest it needs to be opened up to more complicated notions of “domesticity” that take into account the connections made between patriarchal social norms and the divine personality as well as the historico-theological context of the women’s sayings on divine love which touch on the problem of anthropomorphism and the push and pull of popular and elite theologies.

This article contains selections from my book in progress on early Pious and Sufi women.

Click on the Link for a PDF of “God Loves Me” 

‘I am one of the People’: A Survey and Analysis of Legal Arguments on Woman-Led Prayer in Islam

Co-authored with Ahmed Elewa. Journal of Law and Religion XXVI, No.1 (2010-11)

This paper, written five years after the Wadud prayer, presents a survey and analysis of the various responses to Female-led mixed-gender prayers. The paper explores how social concerns inform Islamic legal thinking both methodologically and through the general social assumptions of the scholar’s day then and now. The paper also presents legal reasoning that deems female-led mixed prayers permissible by default.

Click on the Link for a PDF of Silvers and Elewa “I Am One of the People”

‘In the Book We have left out nothing’ (Q 6:38)”: The Ethical Problem of the Existence of Verse 4:34 in the Qur’an

Comparative Islamic Studies 2.2 (2008):  171-180.

Medieval Muslim mystic and thinker Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1240) claims all mean- ings drawn from within the semantic boundaries of the language of the Qur’an are intended by God. If so, how do Muslims concerned about violence against women reconcile their faith with verses such as 4:34 which can be read as a prescription to beat women to control their rebelliousness? This paper will explore the problem posed by the existence of verse 4:34 in the Qur’an through the lens of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s ontology and ethics and the traditionally received example of the Prophet Muhammad. God’s self-disclosure through the macro-cosm, logocosm, and microcosm demands the full expression of his beautiful and terrible attributes as well as the human responsibility to cultivate the proper balance between the two. I argue that Muhammad’s example demon- strates that cultivating that balance requires resisting divine prescriptions that are ultimately not worthy of us as children of Adam.

Click the Link for a PDF of “In the Book We Have Left Out Nothing”

Theoretical Sufism in the Early Period: With an Introduction to the Thought of Abū Bakr al-Wāsiṭi on the Interrelationship between Theoretical and the Practical Sufism

Studia Islamica, No. 98/99 (2004), pp. 71-9

A discussion of the inter-relationship of theoretical and practical Sufism in the early period through an examination of Abu Bakr al-Wasiti’s understanding of repentance (tawba).

Click the Link for a PDF of Theoretical Sufism in the Early Period.

The Teaching Relationship in Early Sufism: A Reassessment of Fritz Meier’s Definition of the shaykh al-tarbiya and the shaykh al-ta’lim

The Muslim World Hartford: Jan 2003. Vol. 93, Iss. 1; p. 69 (29 pages)

A discussion of early Sufi practices and Sufis’ self-understanding of their mode of knowledge as one of the early Sunni religious sciences.

Readers should be aware that I have changed my mind on two major points that I made in this article. 1. Institutionalization. I corrected this point in my book Soaring Minaret. 2. My reading of Meier’s argument. I was a graduate student when I wrote it and overstated Meier’s distinction in articulating my own (learn from my error, O Graduate Student, eschew overstatement). I will correct this overstatement and share my present understanding of ta`lim and tarbiya in my upcoming book Simply Good Women. Thankfully the overstatement is a small part of the article. The article remains a resource for its analytical overview of Sufi pedagogy drawn from the earliest sources.

Click on the Link for a PDF of Teaching Relationship in Early Sufism