One of the most famous Sufis of the ninth century was a woman named Fatima (d.838) who lived in Nishapur. She was a Shaykha and gnostic who abandoned her life of luxury for the Sufi path. She spent all her wealth in serving the poor.
The daughter of one of the nobles of Balkh she offered herself in marriage to Sheikh Ahmad bin Khidruya, another Sufi, asking him to request her hand in marriage from her father.
Ahmad refused, whereupon she sent another message in the following terms: “ O Ahmad, I thought you would have been too manly to attack those who travel on the way to God. Be a guide(rahbar) not a brigand (rahzan)?Ahmad asked her in marriage of her father, who gave her to him in the hope of receiving his blessing.
They spent their life in seclusion and in pursuit of religious and spiritual matters.
She became respected as a master of esoteric interpretation of the Quran and tasawwuf (Sufism).
She was also acquainted with great Sufi saints including Hazrat Bayazid Bastami and Hazrat Abu Hafs al-Haddad, and is also credited for being the teacher of the great Hazrat Dhul-Nun al- Misri. The latter said, ”She is a saint from among the friends of God, the Glorious and Mighty. She is also my teacher (ustadhi).”
A master once asked Hazrat Dhul-Nun, “Who, in your opinion, is the highest among the Sufis?” He replied:
“A lady in Mecca, called Fatima Nishapuri, whose discourse displayed a profound comprehension of the inner meanings of the Quran which were astounding.”
Abu Yazid al-Bistani said: ”In all of my life, I have only seen one true man and one true woman. The woman was Fatima of Nishapur. Whenever I informed her about one of the stages of spirituality, she would take the news as if she had experienced it herself.”
Once she sent a gift to Dhul_Nun who returned it saying, ”Accepting the gifts of Sufi women is a sign of humiliation and weakness.”
Fatima replied: ‘There is no Sufi in this world more lowly than one who doubts another’s motives.”
Al-Sulami: Early Sufi Women
Camille Adams Helminski, WOMEN of SUFISM: A Hidden Treasure
Data Ganj Baksh al- Hujwiri, Kashf al-Mahjub