‘This is the age of women’: Legitimizing Female Authority in Contemporary Turkish Sufism


  • Anna Neubauer University of Neuchâtel




Female spiritual leadership, Sufism, Cemalnur Sargut, şeyh, mürşid


Although Sufism has generally shown a greater openness to women than other forms of Islam, women in position of power have been relatively rare in its history. It is often in the informal sphere, where authority is linked to sainthood and charisma, that female leadership developed. Drawing on the example of Cemalnur Sargut, a female spiritual guide who is the head of a branch of the Rif??iyya in Istanbul, this article examines the possibilities for women to gain access to spiritual leadership with male and female disciples in contemporary Sufism. Sargut’s originality lies in the fact that she claims a semi-formal authority for women. The paper analyses how Sargut and her predecessor, also a woman, have engaged in interpretations of the history of Sufism and of their own group to legitimize their authority.

Author Biography

  • Anna Neubauer, University of Neuchâtel
    Anna Neubauer studied Ethnology, Geography and History at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. She wrote her PhD thesis in anthropology on female authority in contemporary Sufism in Istanbul. Whilst completing her PhD, Anna Neubauer has worked at the Swiss Forum for Migration Studies on various research projects tackling the issues of migration, integration and transnationalism. She is currently lecturer at the Center for the Understanding of Social Processes at the University of Neuchâtel.


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How to Cite

Neubauer, A. (2016). ‘This is the age of women’: Legitimizing Female Authority in Contemporary Turkish Sufism. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 29(2), 150-166. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v29i2.30982