Women Scholars of Hadith

Aside from Karimah, a number of other women scholars of hadith occupy an eminent place in the history of the transmission of the text of the Sahih.17 Among these, one might mention in particular Fatimah bint Muhammad (d. AH 539/1144 CE; Shahdah “the Writer” (d. AH 574/1178 CE), and Sitt Al-Wuzara bint `Umar (d. AH 716/1316 CE).18 Fatimah narrated the book on the authority of the great scholar of hadith Sa`id Al-`Aiyar; she received from the hadith specialists the proud title of musnidat Asfahan (the great hadith authority of Asfahan).

Shahdah was a famous calligrapher and a scholar of great repute; the biographers describe her as “the calligrapher, the great authority on hadith, and the pride of womanhood.” Her great-grandfather had been a dealer in needles, and thus acquired the sobriquet “Al-Ibri” (needle-seller). But her father, Abu Nasr (d. AH 506/1112 CE) had acquired a passion for hadith and managed to study it with several masters of the subject.19 In obedience to the Sunnah (the Prophet’s way and teachings), he gave his daughter a sound academic education, ensuring that she studied under many hadith scholars of accepted reputation.

She married `Ali ibn Muhammad, an important figure with some literary interests, who later became a boon companion of the caliph Al-Muqtadi, and founded a college and a Sufi lodge, which he endowed most generously. His wife, however, was better known: She gained her reputation in the field of hadith scholarship, and was noted for the quality of her isnads.20 Her lectures on Sahih Al-Bukhari and other hadith collections were attended by large crowds of students; and on account of her great reputation, some people even falsely claimed to have been her disciples.21

Also known as an authority on Al-Bukhari was Sitt Al-Wuzara, who, besides her acclaimed mastery of Islamic law, was known as the musnidah (the great hadith authority) of her time, and delivered lectures on the Sahih and other works in Damascus and Egypt.22 Classes on the Sahih were likewise given by Umm Al-Khayr Amatil-Khaliq (AH 811/1408 CE–AH 911/1505 CE), who is regarded as the last great hadith scholar of the Hijaz.23 Still another authority on Al-Bukhari was `A’ishah bint `Abdul-Hadi.24

Part 2


* Excerpted with some modifications from: www.studyislam.com

1- Maura O’Neill, Women Speaking, Women Listening (Maryknoll, 1990CE), 31: “Muslims do not use a masculine God as either a conscious or unconscious tool in the construction of gender roles.”

2- For a general overview of the question of women’s status in Islam, see M. Boisers, L’Humanisme de l’Islam (3rd ed., Paris, 1985), 104–10.

3- Al-Khatib, Sunnah, 53–4, 69–70.

4- See above, 18, 21.

5- Ibn Sa`d, VIII, 355.

6- Suyuti, Tadrib, 215.

7- Ibn Sa`d, VIII, 353.

8- Maqqari, Nafh, II, 96.

9- Wustenfeld, Genealogische Tabellen, 403.

10- Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad, XIV, 434f.

11- Ibid., XIV, 441-44.

12- Ibn Al-`Imad, Shadharat Adh-Dhahah fi Akhbar man Dhahah (Cairo, AH 1351), V, 48; Ibn Khallikan, no. 413.

13- Maqqari, Nafh, I, 876; cited in Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 366.

14- Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 366. “It is in fact very common in the ijazah of the transmission of the Bukhari text to find as middle member of the long chain the name of Karimah Al-Marwaziyyah” (ibid.).

15- Yaqut, Mu`jam Al-Udaba’, I, 247.

16- COPL, V/i, 98f.

17- Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 366.

18- Ibn Al-`Imad, IV, 123. Sitt Al-Wuzara’ was also an eminent jurist. She was once invited to Cairo to give her fatwa on a subject that had perplexed the jurists there.

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