Jan - Mar 2011, Women in Islam

The Female Scholars Of Islam

By Latifah Martinez

As-Salaam Alaykum,

I wanted to put together this little piece to briefly mention a few of the MANY female scholars throughout history to make the point that women have always had an important position in this deen that was never questioned in the past.

I think that if more Muslim women and girls knew about these noble women then less would be affected by the false talk of the so-called “Muslimah feminists” who make us think that we must either reduce or completely remove the hijab, mingle with men and other such things in order to be “liberated”. Not so, as these great women have shown.

Upon reflection, what is more amazing about these women is that they were not only scholars who memorized the Qur’an, memorized several thousand ahadith along with the chain of narrators for each, but also wives and mothers who had duties at home MINUS the modern conveniences we have today. This should be a reminder and inspiration to the women to not only to study the deen but be very diligent and strive to go above and beyond in their studies of this deen.

And finally, as many of these women were taught by their fathers and/or husbands (although many taught their husbands) this should serve as a reminder to the MEN to teach their daughters (and wives for that matter) just as diligently as the sons are taught. In many cases, the blame for level of ignorance amongst some of the sisters must be laid firmly at the feet of the men (Husbands/Fathers). Some of you would be amazed at how ignorant some of the sisters are because their husbands do not teach them. I knew of a sister who was Muslim for a couple of years that did not even know her salaat completely because her husband did not teach her.

Some may not know this, but women had an important role in the collection of hadith going back to the time of the Tabieen. Women such as Hafsa, the daughter of Muhammad Ibn Sireen, and Rawaahah, the daughter of Imaam Al ‘Awzaa’e who was a narrator that carried ijaazah through her father, among others held important positions as Hadith narrators.

Umm ad-Darda and ‘Amra bint ‘Abdir-Rahman were also from amongst the female hadith scholars of the period of the tabieen. ‘Amra was considered a great authority on traditions related by A’isha. Among her students was Abu Bakr ibn Hazm who was a famous judge of Madinah of his time.

Also during the time of Imam Maalik, was a woman known as ‘Aabidah Al Madinah. She was from the freed slave girls of Madeenah and narrated from Imam Maalik to the point where it was said that she narrated 20,000 ahadith.

Women remained very important in the collection of the ahadith well into the period when the famous collections of hadith were compiled. All of the important compilers of hadith received many of their narrations from women and every major collection gives the names of many women as the immediate authorities of the author. And even after these works were compiled, the women hadith scholars mastered them as well and taught others to whom they would issue their own ijazas.

Here are some other interesting facts:

– Many of Imam Ahmad’s students were women including Maymunah bint al- Aqra`, Khadijah Umm Ahmad, Makhtah, the sister of Bishr bin al-Harith, Umm Salih `Abbasah bint al-Fadl (Imam Ahmad’s first wife), Rayhanah (Imam Ahmad’s cousin and ‘Abdullah’s mother. He married her when Umm Salih died.), and Husn.

– The great hadith scholar Abu Dawood’s granddaughter Fatima was also a scholar of hadith.

– Imam Ath-Thahabi had many female teachers whom he used to praise including: Khadeejah Bint Yusuf, ‘Amatul ‘Azeez Al Baghdaadiyyah (Thumma Dimashqiyyah), Faatimah Bint Ibraheem Ibn Mahmood Ibn Jawhar, Hadiyyah Bint ‘Abdul Hameed Al Maqdisiyyah, and Hadiyyah Bint ‘Alee Al Baghdaadiyyah.

– Ibn Qudaamah’s daughters, Raabi’ah and Ruqayyah, were both scholars of their own merit who had ijaazahs from their father.

– Ibn Hajr received an ijaazah from Zaynab Bint ‘Uthmaan Ibn Dimashqee and had several other women teachers. Also there was Zaynab Bintu Yahyah Bint ‘Izzud Deen As Sulamee who narrated the book Mu’jam As Sagheer of Tabaraani. Fatima bint al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn al-Daqqaq al-Qushayri, a scholar who was known not only for her great knowledge of hadith, the chains of narrators, and her mastery of calligraphy, but for her great piety.

Karima al-Marwaziyya was a central figure in the transmission of Sahih al-Bukhari and was considered the best authority of it in her time. Abu Dharr of

Herat, one of the leading scholars of the period, held her scholarship in such high regard that he advised his students not to study the Sahih of al- Bukhari under anyone else. Among her students were al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi and al-Humaydi.

I could have gone on and on listing the names of great women scholars throughout Islamic history who achieved as much as many of the men of this Ummah (May Allah have mercy upon them all) and in some cases were considered amongst their peers to be the BEST (bar none) of their time in their fields, but for the sake of brevity I will keep it short because I just wanted to make this point/reminder to benefit everyone.

I hope that someone will put together a collection of biographies of the female scholars into a book to be distributed in the English language. To my knowledge this hasn’t been done and I think this project would be a very beneficial and a wonderful inspiration to Muslim women and girls who are seekers of knowledge.

© December 31, 2003.