The making of Qīz Bībī in Central Asia's oral shrine traditions

From the Great Lady to a fourteen-year-old virgin

Authored by: Aziza Shanazarova

Routledge Handbook on Islam in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367225285
eBook ISBN: 9780429275364
Adobe ISBN:


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The present chapter explores the shrine of the sixteenth-century female Sufi master from Central Asia celebrated as Aghā-yi Buzurg (the Great Lady) and traces its history. Her shrine, known as that of “Qīz Bībī,” is situated in close proximity to the city of Bukhara. The chapter illustrates how the figure of Aghā-yi Buzurg went through different phases of reinterpretation over time. The traditions surrounding the shrine of Qīz Bībī remind visitors of Aghā-yi Buzurg’s superiority in her struggle with her famous contemporary Mīr-i ‘Arab, whose glorious madrasa is a popular touristic site in the city of Bukhara up to the present. The accounts explored in the chapter allow us to see the intricate correlation between the written narratives and oral materials on Aghā-yi Buzurg, in which the Great Lady is turned into a 14-year-old virgin, i.e. Qīz Bībī. Not only do these sources demonstrate people’s efforts to make sense of Aghā-yi Buzurg’s legacy over a long period of time, but they also shed light on the development of oral history in general.

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