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FATIMA SAAM, BIBI (twelfth-thirteenth Centuries)

Fatima Saam was the adopted sister of the Sufi saints and brothers Fariduddin Ganj-i-shakar and Sheikh Najibuddin al-Mutawakkil. She was also a good friend of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya. She was a poet of some accomplishment herself, a fact which was not always easily acknowledged by her male counterparts. Fariduddin is supposed to have declared that he thought she was a man in a woman’s form. She has left no work of her own, but her sayings are frequently quoted in texts such as the Akhbar-al-Akhyar. One such couplet says, ‘You seek love, and at the same time you seek life. You want to have both together, but you can never have them’. She wrote most often of charity, saying that the generosity that made a man give another a piece of bread and a glass of water was better than all the sterile penances of ten thousand prayers and fasting. In this, her philosophy was a down-to-earth one and as humanistic as that of the better-known male Sufi saints.
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