Sufi Women in Pakistan: Case Study of Mai Saihba and Her Shrine in Dhok Sahi Sharif, Punjab
Keywords:Sufi-culture, women Sufis, Sufi-praxis, shrines, Sufism and Pakistan, Dhok Sahi Sharif
Sufism is a mystical thread of Islam, which when practiced as a cultural system, creates Sufi culture, which is considered significantly different from orthodox, normative or official versions of Islam. Women's contribution to this Sufi culture, which often assimilates indigenous cultural values, has not been fully explored, thus causing ambivalence about Sufi women's lives and their roles. This paper attempts to fill this gap by exploring a variety of aspects of Sufi women's role and contribution to the enrichment of Sufi traditions and local culture in Pakistan through the case study of Mai Sahiba and her shrine, Sahi Sharif, in Punjab. This paper has two main sections. Section one, drawing upon secondary sources, highlights complex perspectives on gender and role of Sufi women in general within Sufism. Section two, drawing upon primary textual sources about Mai Sahiba's life and ethnographic fieldwork at her shrine, offers a glimpse of her life and shows how her devotees celebrate her as a Sufi who challenged hierarchical structures that exist within Sufism and in Pakistan.