The Role of Women in the Field of Knowledge and Education Throughout the History of Islaam


الحمد لله رب العالمين، والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين، نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين أما بعد


‘Allaamah Siddeeq Hasan Khan (rahimahullaah) said: “It isn’t hidden from you that women make up half of this Ummah; rather most of it, and that they are the counterparts of the men in everything that has come from the true Sharee’ah – except for things which Allaah, The Most High, and His Messenger have specified by way of it excluding the men. They (the women) have been conferred upon with favour just as they (the men) have been conferred upon with favour with an array of gracious favours.

Hence for them is that which there is for them, and upon them is that which is upon them in the generality of the prescriptions of religious law and the regulations. How can it not be so; when there are no good qualities which the Qur’aan and the hadeeth were revealed with except that it is required from them (the women) that they carry them out, and there is no bad trait which the Book and the Sunnah have spoken with except that it is meant to be abandoned by them.”[1]


The Elevated Status of the Woman in Islaam


Shaikh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez bin Baaz (rahimahullaah) said: “Indeed the Muslim woman has an elevated position in Islaam, as well as a great influence in the life of every Muslim. Since she is the initial school in establishment of the righteous society – if this woman proceeds upon guidance from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), because holding firmly onto both of them distances every Muslim male and female from misguidance in everything.”[2]

Until the religion of Islaam would come and give the woman her rightful status, the Arabs had detested girls being born to them, and this detestation would show on a man’s face upon his learning that a girl had been born to him. Allaah, The Mighty and Majestic, informs of their state of affairs when He, The Most High, said:

وَإِذَا بُشِّرَ أَحَدُهُم بِالْأُنثَىٰ ظَلَّ وَجْهُهُ مُسْوَدًّا وَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ * يَتَوَارَىٰ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ مِن سُوءِ مَا بُشِّرَ بِهِ ۚ أَيُمْسِكُهُ عَلَىٰ هُونٍ أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَابِ ۗ أَلَا سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ

((And when one of them is given the tidings of a female, his face becomes dark, and he is inwardly grieved. He hides himself from the people because of the ill of that which he has been given tidings of. Should he keep it in humiliation or bury it in the dust? Certainly, evil is what they decide.)) (An-Nahl: 58-59)


The religion of Islaam therefore not only put an end to the negative mindset towards the female gender and of this merciless practice towards them which had existed in some societies, but at the same time it elevated the status of women to one of dignity, and like the men, it gave women the prospect of living a good life, and of attaining great reward, if they believe and work righteous deeds, Allaah, The Most High, said:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

((Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward according to the best of what they used to do.)) (An-Nahl: 97)


Women are likewise to be treated with kindness and respect, whether in the case of one’s mother or sister or daughter, with regard to the treatment of men towards their wives, Allaah, The Most High, said:

وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

((And live with them in kindness.)) (An-Nisaa: 19)


It was the religion of Islaam that gave the female her due rights, so there entered a new chapter in which the woman was to be granted her true rights, far from the oppression that females had been subjected to from long before, and thus it was the religion of Islaam that taught mankind to give these rights, as ‘Umar bin al-Khattaab (radhiyallaahu ‘anhu) once said: “We never used to give significance to women in the days of pre-Islamic ignorance, but when Islaam came and Allaah mentioned them, we saw for them a right upon us due to that.”[3]


The Error of the Claim that Islaam Oppresses Women – It is Islaam that Gave the Woman her Rights


Shaikh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez bin Baaz (rahimahullaah) said: “Those who say that Islaam oppresses the woman have erred very much and have made a great mistake. For indeed it is Islaam that has been just towards her and elevated her status, she had been oppressed in the times of (pre-Islamic) ignorance amongst the Arabs and the Jews and Christians. It is Islaam that elevated her and venerated her significance and was just towards her and gave to her the rights due to her. So it made her a noble mother and a noble wife and a daughter who is shown compassion – and has benevolence granted upon her who is spent upon; and is treated with excellence until she becomes independent or can marry.”[4]

Shaikh Muhammad bin Saalih al-‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said: “Indeed the Islamic religion – it is the one that rendered assistance to the woman and thus gave her rights to her – after she had been wronged during the times of ignorance, due to His saying:

وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ

((And for the women is a share of what is left by the parents and close relatives.)) (An-Nisaa: 7)


However; the Islamic religion did not give the woman more than her (rightful) due, neither did it lower her from her station. Rather it gave her the right that is appropriate for her, and it is known – and for Allaah is the praise – by way of the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam).”[5]

The religion of Islaam not only gives the woman the station she deserves, but encourages fine treatment of women and for both men and women to attain enlightenment through seeking and pursuing beneficial knowledge. Therefore the religion of Islaam should not be confused with some of the erroneous cultural practices of particular nations and societies that are distant from the teachings of the religion – as is often presumed in these times, whether in regard to the treatment of women or other than that. The ill-treatment of women is not stipulated in Islaam, and so should not be attributed to it, rather the religion of Islaam encourages piety and dutifulness from both the men and the women, and it is on this basis and its implementation that an individual is deemed better than another – whether male or female.

Hence, the virtue of a person is by virtue of religion, and so whether male or female, a person is deemed better on account of Taqwa (piety and being fearful of Allaah), this is a right that the religion of Islaam has stipulated, as such, a great number of women have appeared over the course of time that were better than the men on that basis, and is something that has been witnessed over the centuries and documented, Shaikh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez bin Baaz (rahimahullaah) said: “How many a woman who is better than a man because of her knowledge and her religion and her uprightness and her insight. Whoever looks into the pages (of the books) of the female companions and the female Taabi’iyyat and the scholars of the Ummah from the women knows that there are good women, and that they are given preference over many of the men.”[6]


The Woman is Accountable Just like the Man – Therefore Seeking Knowledge is Essential Upon Her


The woman – like the man is accountable for her actions, and is obligated in the religion with duties which she is to fulfill, this can only be done upon the basis of having knowledge of such obligations, it is therefore necessary upon the woman that she seeks beneficial knowledge.

Ibn al-Jawzee (rahimahullaah) said: “The woman is a person who is accountable just like the man, it is therefore necessary upon her to seek knowledge of the obligations upon her, in order for her to fulfill them upon certainty. So if she has a father or a brother or a husband or a Mahram who can teach her the obligatory things and make her aware of how to carry out the obligations, then that suffices her, and if it is not to be; then she is to ask and learn.

Therefore, if she is able to find a woman who knows, then she learns from her, otherwise she learns from the Shaikhs and elderly men without being in isolation with her, and she should be frugal according to its necessary duration, and whenever an occurrence comes upon her in her religion, she should ask – and should not be shy, for Allaah is not shy from the truth.”[7]

Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said: “Seeking knowledge is not exclusive to the men, hence just as it has been legislated for the man that he should seek knowledge; rather it is specified upon him if his worship is not established except by way of it, then it is specified upon him, likewise then is the woman – and there is no difference.”[8]


The Role of the Wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and the Female Companions in the Spread of Knowledge


The wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) are regarded as fine examples for womankind and were eminent keepers of knowledge who were referred to as important sources by others including the companions themselves, because they were the wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and thus the mothers of the believers, and it was in their homes that the revelation would often be revealed. Allaah, The Most High, said:

وَاذْكُرْنَ مَا يُتْلَىٰ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَالْحِكْمَةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ لَطِيفًا خَبِيرًا

((And remember what is recited in your houses of the verses of Allaah and the Hikmah [Wisdom – the Prophetic Sunnah]. Indeed Allaah is Ever-Subtle, All-Aware.)) (Al-Ahzaab: 34)


Al-Qurtubee (rahimahullaah) said regarding this aayah: “Allaah, The Most High, commanded that they should inform with regard to that which is revealed from the Qur’aan in their homes, and that which they see from the actions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) as well as that which they hear from his statements – such that they propagate that to the people so that they can act and follow the example. This is a proof of the permissibility of accepting the report of a single individual from the men and the women in the religion”[9]

Therefore the likes of ‘Aaishah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa) was greatly referred to for knowledge, as was Umm Salamah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa) – who in the words of Adh-Dhahabee was: “From the Fuqahaa of the female companions”[10] and about whom Ibn al-Qayyim said that she was: “one of those who would be referred to for legal opinion during the era of the companions.”[11] As well as others from the wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) who were sought for knowledge and opinions in all aspects of religion.

The following brief overview of the contribution of the wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in the field of hadeeth reveals the dedication which was observed in preserving knowledge as well as in spreading it:

Umm al-Mu’mineen ‘Aaishah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach two thousand two hundred and ten (2210) ahaadeeth of which Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim agree upon and report one hundred and seventy four ahaadeeth, and Al-Bukhaaree individually reports fifty four ahaadeeth and Muslim reports sixty nine ahaadeeth.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Umm Salamah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach three hundred and seventy eight (378) ahaadeeth of which Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim agree upon and report thirteen ahaadeeth, and Al-Bukhaaree individually reports three hadeeth and Muslim reports thirteen ahaadeeth.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Umm Habeebah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach sixty five (65) ahaadeeth, of which Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim agree upon and report two hadeeth, and Muslim individually reports two hadeeth.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Hafsah bint ‘Umar (radhiyallaahu ‘anhumaa)

Her reports reach sixty (60) ahaadeeth, of which Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim agree upon and report four ahaadeeth, and Muslim individually reports six ahaadeeth.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Maymunah bint al-Haarith (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach thirteen (13) ahaadeeth[12] of which Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim agree upon and report seven ahaadeeth, and Al-Bukhaaree individually reports one hadeeth and Muslim reports five ahaadeeth.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Zainab bint Jahsh (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach eleven (11) ahaadeeth of which Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim agree upon and report two hadeeth.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Safiyyah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach ten (10) ahaadeeth of which Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim agree upon and report one hadeeth from them.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Juwairiyah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach seven (7) ahaadeeth, Al-Bukhaaree individually reports one hadeeth and Muslim reports two hadeeth.

Umm al-Mu’mineen Soudah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa)

Her reports reach five (5) ahaadeeth, of which Al-Bukhaaree individually reports one hadeeth.[13]


As for the female companions in general, then the number of ahaadeeth reported on their authority in the six famous books of hadeeth is as follows:

Al-Bukhaaree reports from 31 female companions.

Muslim reports from 36 female companions.

Abu Dawood reports from 75 female companions.

At-Tirmidhee reports from 46 female companions.

An-Nasaa-i reports from 65 female companions.

Ibn Maajah reports from 60 female companions.[14]

Point of Note: How the women would narrate and so teach is explained by Shaikh Muqbil bin Haadi al-Waadi’ee (rahimahullaah) who said: “‘Aaishah – Umm al-Mu’mineen and Umm Salamah and likewise after them amongst the Taabi’een; Hafsah bint Sireen and ‘Amrah bint ‘Abdir-Rahmaan, then that which was after that – the scholars did not cease to hear from the women. This conveyance was upon the basis that it was done from behind a veil, for they were pious to Allaah, The Mighty and Majestic, however; it has been reported from a hadeeth of ‘Aaishah – and from ‘Aaishah that she would speak from behind a veil.”[15]


The Role of Muslim Women Throughout the Ages in the Spread of Knowledge


From the early period of Islaam, women have contributed vastly in teaching and disseminating knowledge, of the most significant of these women were the wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) as well as the female companions in general. So the knowledge that was taught and spread by some of the women in the early part of Islaam was by no means restricted to any particular individual, but rather the female companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) taught and spread beneficial knowledge, and this is something that is well known and recorded in the books of history, Adh-Dhahabee (rahimahullaah) stated: “A multitude from the Taabi’een took from the female companions.”[16]

Such women from this early period included the likes of ‘Amrah bint ‘Abdir-Rahmaan  Al-Ansaariyyah who was an ‘Aalimah and took from the likes of ‘Aaishah and Umm Salamah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhumaa), Hafsah bint Sireen – who is mentioned later, and Umm Dardaa as-Sughraa, the ‘Aalimah from whom a great multitude of people would come to seek knowledge from such as Makhool and Zaid bin Aslam and others. Likewise women such as ‘Aaishah bint Talhah and Mu’aadhah bint ‘Abdillaah Al-‘Adawiyyah and Hafsah bint ‘Abdir-Rahmaan bin Abee Bakr – who were all students of ‘Aaishah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa) were all women who would become well known for knowledge during this period.

As for other younger Taabi’iyyaat who took from those who had been younger companions and thus died later on in comparison to other companions, then such women included the likes of: Sha’thaa bint ‘Abdillaah Al-Asadiyyah and Umm ‘Amr bint ‘Abdillaah bin Az-Zubair and Ruqayyah bint ‘Amr and others.

After these women came a generation of women that included the likes of Faatimah bint Imaam Maalik bin Anas and Khadeejah Umm Muhammad and Zainab bint Sulaimaan Al-Haashimiyyah and Umm ‘Umar Ath-Thaqafiyyah and others.

After these women there continued a succession of women who were eminent female scholars and from whom many people would come to take knowledge, from these women were Sutaytah bint Al-Hussain – who was from the most proficient of people with regard to the fiqh of the Shaafi’ee Madhab, other women included Jum’ah bint Ahmad bin Muhammad – the Muhaddithah of Naisabur, and Faatimah bint ‘Abdir-Rahmaan. Some of the Muhaddithaat would relate the ahaadeeth from memory, as was done by Faatimah bint Abee Bakr bin Abee Dawood As-Sijistaani.[17]

Then in the generations that followed, the women of those eras continued in seeking knowledge and teaching and becoming renowned in many of the sciences of the religion. Over the course of time, a great many women sought knowledge and so became proficient ‘Aalimaat (female scholars) in a wide range of subjects, and  due to this a great many people would come and seek knowledge from them – including scholars of great distinction.

Therefore the scholars would take knowledge from the female scholars of their era, and would travel to them if necessary for this purpose. It is likewise known and documented that an individual scholar would take knowledge and hadeeth from a great number of male and female scholars, this highlights the effective educational system which was established in such times, and how the varied branches of learning flourished in such societies, and of the great number of women who contributed to the Islamic sciences, some of these examples are as follows:

Yunus bin Muhammad Al-Mu’addab said: “I have written down from a thousand Shaikhs, and sixty women.”[18]

Al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi in his work Ta’reekh Baghdad mentions thirty one women from the city of Baghdad who narrated hadeeth.[19]

Adh-Dhahabee mentioned the number of scholars that Ibn ‘Asaakir took from, and amongst the numbers that he cited he mentioned that of them were over eighty women.[20]

Adh-Dhahabee listed the names of the scholars from whom he took in his work: Mu’jam Shuyookh Adh-Dhahabee, the total number of scholars listed in this work were one thousand and forty three scholars, of these one hundred and two were women.

As-Sakhaawee dedicated the final volume of his work: Ad-Daw Al-Laami’ to the mention of the women, he mentioned over one thousand women, many of whom were women of eminence and knowledge.

Likewise As-Suyutee mentioned in summary thirty two female scholars from whom he took, in just one of four levels of his scholars.[21] He also listed forty two female scholars from whom he took knowledge in his ‘Mu’jam Shuyookh.[22]

As for the western world, then centuries ago at a time when the rest of Christian Europe remained unschooled; it was Spain – which had for generations been under Muslim rule that led the way in how a nation was to be educated, and it was the Muslim society of Andalusia (Spain) that shone forth as an example of civil enlightenment. Again, women were to play an important role, and the books that document the history and events of Muslim Spain record a great number of female scholars and writers and learned women from this era.

The pre-eminence that Muslim Spain held over the rest of Europe at the time would be acknowledged even by orientalists that came later as is found in an observation by the Dutch orientalist and historian Reinhart Dozy who said: “In Andalusia nearly every one could read and write, while in Christian Europe; persons in most exalted positions – unless they belonged to the clergy – remained illiterate.”[23]

Andalusia at this time was such that women played a prominent role in the field of education, and is mentioned by those that recorded it or witnessed this in its societies. Ibn Fayyaad mentioned in his work of history regarding the accounts of Cordoba that in the suburbs to the east of Cordoba there were one hundred and seventy women, all of them could write the Mus-haf (copies of the Qur’aan) in Kufic calligraphy.[24]

The great scholar of Andalusia Ibn Hazm illustrated the role of women with regard to his education in the early part of his life, he said: “Indeed I witnessed the women, and came to know from their innermost conscience that which other than me would barely come to know, because I was raised up in their guardianship, and I grew in development in front of them, and I did not know other than them, nor did I come to sit with the men except that I was upon the verge of youthfulness and at a time that my face grew youthful. It is they who taught me the Qur’aan and related much to me by way of poetry and tutored me in handwriting.”[25]

The following is a mention of some of the well-known Muslim women who throughout time who contributed greatly in the field of education and knowledge:

‘Aaishah bint Abee Bakr as-Siddeeq (radhiyallaahu ‘anhumaa)

The virtues of the mother of the believers ‘Aaishah bint Abee Bakr as-Siddeeq (radhiyallaahu ‘anhumaa) are a great many and are well-known, but with regard to the vastness of her knowledge and of her importance in that regard, the following is a brief mention of what some of the people of knowledge have said concerning her:

From Abee Moosaa (radhiyallaahu ‘anhu) who said: “Nothing would become difficult for us – the companions of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) ever from a hadeeth, and that we would ask ‘Aaishah except that we found with her knowledge concerning it.”[26]

Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said: “As for ‘Aaishah; then she was at the vanguard in knowledge and the laws of distributive shares of estate (inheritance) and the rulings and of the Halaal and the Haraam. From those that took from her who would scarcely go beyond her statement/opinion and were instructed by her in legal knowledge were: Al-Qaasim bin Muhammad bin Abee Bakr – the son of her brother, and ‘Urwah bin Az-Zubair – the son of her sister Asmaa.”[27]

Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) said: “And from her exclusive qualities is that she is the most knowledgeable of the women of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), rather she is the most knowledgeable of the women without exception.”[28]

Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) said likewise: “In the nations, there has not been the like of ‘Aaishah in her memory and her knowledge and her fluency and her intellect.”[29]

Imaam adh-Dhahabee (rahimahullaah) said: “I do not know there to be in the Ummah of Muhammad – rather nor amongst the women without exception a woman more knowledgeable than her.”[30]

The knowledge of ‘Aaishah likewise extended to the field of medicine, as is clear in a narration from Ash-Sha’bee who said: It was said to ‘Aaishah (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa): “O Umm al-Mu’mineen. This is the Qur’aan which you took from the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and likewise the Halaal and the Haraam, and this poetry and ancestry and stories you heard from your father – as well as other than him, so what about medicine?”

She said: “The delegations used to come to the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), so a man would not cease to complain of his ailment and ask concerning its remedy, so he would inform him concerning that. So I memorized that which he would prescribe to them and I understood it.”[31]

Ibn Hajr (rahimahullaah) said: “It has been said that indeed a quarter of the rulings of the Shar’iyyah have been transmitted from her.”[32]

Hafsah bint Sireen

Hafsah bint Sireen Umm al-Hudhail al-Ansaariyyah al-Basriyyah al-Faqeehah, the well known Taabi’iyyah and sister of Muhammad bin Sireen. Those that she narrated from included: her brother Yahyaa and Anas bin Maalik and Umm ‘Atiyyah al-Ansaariyyah and others. Those that narrated from her included: her brother Muhammad and Qataadah and ‘Aasim al-Ahwal and Ibn ‘Awn and others.

Iyyaas bin Mu’aawiyah said: “I have not come across anyone that I would prefer over her.”

Al-Haafidh Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) said regarding the students of ‘Aaishah bint Abee Bakr as-Siddeeq (radhiyallaahu ‘anhumaa): “Amongst the women there was no one more knowledgeable from her students than: ‘Amrah bint ‘Abdir-Rahmaan and Hafsah bint Sireen and ‘Aaishah bint Talhah.”[33]

Mahdi bin Maimoon said: “For thirty years she remained not coming out from her place of prayer except to take a siesta or to relieve herself.”

She lived for seventy years, and she died after the year one hundred after the Hijrah.[34]

 ‘Aaishah bint Ibraheem bin Siddeeq

Umm Faatimah ‘Aaishah bint Ibraheem bin Siddeeq: Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) said: “The wife of our Shaikh Al-Haafidh Jamaal ud Deen al-Mizzee, she was unequaled amongst the women of her era due to the profusion of her worship and her recitation. She helped many women to complete (the Qur’aan), and the women that read upon her were a great many and they benefitted from her and from her uprightness and her religion and her abstemiousness in the dunya and of her taking but a little from it.

She reached eighty years of age and spent it in the obedience of Allaah, and prayer and recitation. She died in the year 741H, her husband Al-Haafidh al-Mizzee died nine months later, they were buried beside each other in the same cemetery as Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah to the west of his grave.[35]

Kareemah bint Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Haatim al-Marwaziyyah

Umm Al-Kiraam Kareemah bint Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Haatim al-Marwaziyyah, the Shaikhah the Faqeehah the scholar of the Prophetic ahaadeeth, a woman of good understanding and comprehension. She heard and so learned the Saheeh of Al-Bukhaaree from Abil Haitham al-Kashmeehani and others. She narrated the Saheeh (of Imaam al-Bukhaaree) a great many times.

As-Sam’aani said: “I heard my father mentioning Kareemah, and so he said: ‘And has any person seen the like of Kareemah?’”

Those that narrate from her include Al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi and Muhammad bin Barakaat as-Sa’eedi and As-Sam’aani and others. She resided in Makkah for a great length of time and lived till the age of one hundred and did not marry. She died in the year 463H.[36]

Faatimah bint ‘Ayyaash bin Abil Fath al-Baghdadiyyah

Umm Zainab Faatimah bint ‘Ayyaash bin Abil Fath al-Baghdadiyyah, the righteous Shaikhah and worshipper, she was from the virtuous female scholars and would enjoin the good and forbid evil, she would stand in the midst of the Ahmadiyyah (an innovated sect) and denounce their practices and the principles of the people of innovation, and in that regard she would do that which the men were unable to.

Ibn Katheer said: “She would attend the gatherings of Shaikh Taqi ud Deen Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah), and so she benefitted from him and from other than him. Indeed I heard Shaikh Taqi ud Deen Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) praising her and attributing virtue and knowledge to her, and that he would be in readiness on account of her due to the abundance of her issues and the fine nature of her inquiries and the swiftness of her understanding.”

Adh-Dhahabee (rahimahullaah) said: “A great many of the women benefitted by way of her and turned in repentance, and she was abundant in knowledge and content with but a little (in worldly needs) and was eager to benefit and in giving reminder, and was one of sincerity and reverential fear and would enjoin the good. By way of her the women of Damascus were reformed, then the women of Egypt.”

Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr (rahimahullaah) said: “She was well acquainted with Fiqh, Ibn Taymiyyah would praise her and would be amazed at her eagerness and intelligence, and the women of the people of Damascus benefitted from her due to her truthfulness in her admonishment and her abstemiousness. Then she transferred to Cairo and so benefit occurred by way of her and her rank became elevated, and rarely did anyone from the women beget the like of her. She died on the night of ‘Arafah in the year 714H.”[37]

Faatimah bint Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdil-Wahhaab Aal Ash-Shaikh

Shaikhah Faatimah bint Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdil-Wahhaab. She was born in the city of Ad-Dir’iyyah at a time when her father had reached old age – this being at a time when Ad-Dir’iyyah was at its height of being a centre of knowledge and learning. So she sought knowledge, and she had four brothers who were all illustrious scholars, these were: Shaikh ‘Abdullaah bin Muhammad bin ‘Abdil-Wahhaab, Shaikh Hussain, Shaikh ‘Ali and Shaikh Ibraheem. She therefore sought knowledge in the city of Ad-Dir’iyyah and became proficient in the sciences of the religion. Shaikh Ibraheem bin Muhammad bin Ibraheem Aal Ash-Shaikh (rahimahullaah) said from his father that their aunt (Faatimah) the ‘Aalimah would teach the legislative sciences and Prophetic biography in her home.

It was reported from Ustaadh ‘Abdir-Rahmaan Ar-Ruwaishid who said that Shaikh Muhammad (bin ‘Abdul-Wahhaab) had a daughter called Faatimah, and that she embarked upon seeking knowledge since she had been very young until she became advanced in age and she did not marry. She had the attribute of beauty and the utmost degree of  virtuousness. She was present at the siege of Ad-Dir’iyyah in the year 1233H (1818CE), and when the siege became constricted by the forces of Ibraheem Pasha, she escaped together with her nephew ‘Ali bin Hussain bin Shaikh Muhammad, and so they escaped to Oman.

Later when Imaam Turki bin ‘Abdillaah returned and repelled the Turks from the land and settled in the new capital city of Riyadh, she returned to Riyadh together with her nephew and took up residence therein along with others from her family who had returned to Najd or did not move away. She died in Riyadh and was buried in the ‘Ood cemetary.[38]

The number of women in the field of knowledge and education in Islaam throughout time is a great many, a brief mention of other such women is as follows:

Faatimah bint ‘Alam ud Deen Al-Qaasim Al-Birzaali, the righteous Shaikhah, the worshipper and writer, her father, the great scholar, brought her along to listen to hadeeth whilst she was three days old, and she heard a great deal of hadeeth, she memorized the Qur’aan. She heard from one hundred and eighty five male and female scholars. She died in the year 731H.[39]

Sitt Al-Wuzaraa bint ‘Umar Ad-Dimashqiyyah, the righteous Shaikhah, who came from a household renowned for knowledge, Imaam Adh-Dhahabee and a great many others took from her. She narrated up to and including the day of her death. She died in the year 716H.[40]

Sitt Al-Fuqahaa bint Ibraheem bin ‘Ali bin Fadl Al-Waasitee, the righteous Shaikhah, the worshipper, about whom Adh-Dhahabee said: “She was righteous, good, and humble – she narrated a great deal.” She died in the year 726H at the age of 93.[41]

Zainab bint Makki Al-Harraaniyyah, the righteous Shaikhah, the worshipper, who lived long, and from whom some of the greatest scholars of the time heard from including: Ibn Taymiyyah and Adh-Dhahabee and Al-Birzaali, she narrated hadeeth for sixty and some years. She died in the year 688H.[42]

Umm Muhammad Sayyidah bint Moosaa al-Misriyyah, about whom Imaam Adh-Dhahabee said: “Indeed I travelled in order to meet her, however; she died whilst I was still in Palestine in the month of Rajab in the year six hundred and ninety five.”[43]

Al-Khatoon bint Al-Malik Al-Muhsin Ahmad Al-Ayyubi, granddaughter of Sultaan Salaah ud Deen Ayyubi, the Shaikhah, Adh-Dhahabee said: “She was venerable having an elevated/higher chain of authority.” She died in the year 678H.[44]

These are a mention of but a few of the many hundreds of women that have been mentioned in the various books of biographies and history, and so it would not be possible to cite them all, the intent here is to make a brief mention of some of them.


With Such Historic Repute – What then is Reason for the Stagnation that is Found in the Muslim World Today?


Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) mentioned in this regard: “When the Islamic Ummah (nation) was holding firmly onto its religion in the early period of Islaam, it had honour for it and consolidation and strength as well as dominance in all aspects of life. Rather; some of the people state that the west did not benefit in that which they came to benefit from the sciences except due to what they recounted from the Muslims in the early period of Islaam. However the Islamic nation lagged behind a great deal from its religion, and there has been innovated into the religion of Allaah that which is not from it – in belief and statement and action, and so due to that there has occurred a great tardiness, as well as a great lag. We know – in certainty of knowledge, and we call Allaah, The Mighty and Majestic, to witness that if we were to indeed return back to that which our predecessors were upon in our religion, then we too would have honour and nobility for us, and triumph over all of mankind.”[45]

Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said likewise: “The reality is; that which has impeded us isn’t Islaam, but our lagging behind from Islaam and our inactiveness from the directives of Islaam.”[46]


In Conclusion


Islaam has a rich history of female scholarship and of their contribution to the varied sciences of the religion, a history which is such that in the words of Imaam Ash-Shawkaanee (rahimahullaah): “It has not been reported from a single one of the scholars that he rejected the report of a woman – on account of her being a woman. For how many a Sunnah has the Ummah taken with acceptance from a single woman from the companions, this is not disputed by the one who has the slightest share of knowledge of the Sunnah.”[47]

To conclude, Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr al-Asqalaani who in his work; Inbaa al-Ghumar[48] – amongst the numerous biographies and events which he recorded, in the events he cited for the year 798H, he entered a short – yet tender entry, being that of his own sister. The warmth of expression and the compassionate choice of words denote the endearment, its translation reads:

Sitt ar-Rakb bint ‘Ali bin Muhammad bin Hajr, sister of its writer, she was born in the month of Rajab in the year seventy on the way to the Hajj, she was a recitor, a writer, a prodigy in intelligence. She was my mother after my mother.[49] I was befallen by her loss in the month of Jamaadil Aakhir of this year.




[1] Husn al-Uswah p.15

[2] Al-Mawsu’ah al-Baaziyyah fil Masaa-il an-Nisaa-iyyah  3/1661

[3] Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (no.5843)

[4] Fataawa Noor ‘alaa Darb 4/2207

[5] Tafseer al-Qur’aan al-Kareem – Soorah an-Nisaa 1/52

[6] Fataawa Noor ‘alaa Darb 4/2208

[7] Ahkaam an-Nisaa p.12

[8] Majmu’ Fataawa 24/507

[9] Jaami’ le-Ahkaam al-Qur’aan 14/184

[10] Manhaj Ummuhaat al-Mu’mineen fee Da’wah ilallaah p.400 for the original source refer to Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 2/203

[11] Manhaj Ummuhaat al-Mu’mineen fee Da’wah ilallaah p.400 for the original source refer to I’laam al-Muwaqi’een 1/12

[12] This is the number stated by Imaam Adh-Dhahabee in Siyar (2/245), others including Ibn al-Jawzee mention 76 ahadeeth.

[13] Manhaj Ummuhaat al-Mu’mineen fee Da’wah ilallaah p.228-230 for the original sources refer to the biographies in Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 2/139-269.

[14] Juhood Al-Mar’ah fee Nashr Al-Hadeeth wa ‘Uloomihi p.20

[15] Aham Fataawa an-Nisaa p.69

[16] Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 7/42

[17] Abridged from: Juhood Al-Mar’ah fee Nashr Al-Hadeeth wa ‘Uloomihi p.12-14

[18] Al-Jaami’ le-Akhlaaq ar-Raawi wa Adaab as-Saami’ 2/221

[19] Ta’reekh Baghdad 16/616 onwards.

[20] Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 20/556

[21] Kitaab At-Tahadduth be-Ni’matillaah p.43 onwards

[22] Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’aan 1/14

[23] A History of the Muslims in Spain chapter 5

[24] Kitaab al-Mu’jib fee Talkhees Akhbaar al-Maghrib p.270

[25] Tooq al-Hamaamah p.69

[26] Reported by At-Tirmidhee (no.3883) and he said regarding it: Hadeeth Hasan Saheeh Ghareeb. Shaikh Al-Albaanee declared it to be Saheeh (authentic) in Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmidhee (no.3883)

[27] I’laam al-Muwaqi’een 2/39

[28] Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah 11/338

[29] Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah 4/322

[30] Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 2/140

[31] Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 2/197

[32] Fathul Baari 7/107

[33] Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah 11/339

[34] Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 4/507 Tadheeb at-Tahdheeb 4/669

[35] Abridged from: Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah 18/421 and Tahdheeb al-Kamaal 1/36

[36] Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa 18/233-235 and Ta’reekh al-Islaam 10/223 and Shadhraat adh-Dhahab 3/314

[37] For the above quotes refer to: Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah18/140-141and Ibar 4/39-40 and Ad-Durar al-Kaaminah 3/226

[38] ‘Ulamaa Najd Khilaal Thamaaniyah Quroon 5/364-366

[39] Ta’reekh Hawaadith az-Zamaan 2/477 and A’yaan al-‘Asr 4/21

[40] A’yaan al-‘Asr 2/398 and Ad-Durar al-Kaaminah 2/129

[41] Mu’jam Shuyookh Adh-Dhahabee (no.318) and Ad-Durar al-Kaaminah 2/127

[42] Ta’reekh al-Islaam 15/606-607

[43] Mu’jam Shuyookh Adh-Dhahabee (no.325)

[44] Ta’reekh al-Islaam 15/365

[45] Majmu’ Fataawa 3/48

[46] Sharh al-Mumti’ 13/6

[47] Nayl al-Awtaar 8/22

[48] 1/517

[49] The mother of Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr died in the year 776H and his father died in the year 777H as is mentioned by As-Sakhaawee in Al-Jawaahir wa ad-Durar 1/104-108. Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr himself was born in the year 773H therefore he had not completed four years of age before he had lost both parents. As for the sister of Ibn Hajr mentioned above, then she died in the year 798H at around 28 years of age. Refer to: Al-Jawaahir wa ad-Durar 1/114-115.

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