Q. In conducting some research on the role of sisters in Islam I am desperately short of information regarding sisters who were leaders in various of the Islamic sciences, throughout the history of Islam. The obvious and common examples are the Sahabiat(ra), but I know that our history was not bereft of contributions from sisters in this regard. Quite the contrary in fact.
I am aware that scholars like Imam Malik(ra) and Imam Suyuti(ra) both had female teachers, but have no details on them.
I would be most grateful and appreciative if those of you with the requisite knowledge could fill this void for me.
I need to know:
-the names and biographies of such sisters.
-what their speciality was (e.g. scholar, jurist, exegete, etc.)?
-what other roles did they occupy (e.g. were they mothers as well as scholars- this will help show that sisters can be more than just wives/mothers [without diminishing the magnitude of these roles too])?
-who were they taught by / who did they teach?
-what works did they author?
-are any of these works extant?
-what were their known achievements in their fields of expertise?
-what is the source you are using to provide me with such information?
-why is this information not widely available/known today?
-why are such roles not emphasised in our times? And if they are then why does it seem that the number of sisters versus brothers who are of expertise in these fields is disproportionate to the past?
Jazakallahkhair in advance to any who can assist. Please know that this research is for the benefit of the Ummah, and not to denigrate it in any way.
A. Al-hamdu lillah for the precision of this long overdue research. If scholarly Muslim sisters have one task today it is to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about the true place of woman in Islam, which its enemies have completely misrepresented in the media and elsewhere. Note from the final disclaimer how suspicious we have become that our Muslim history be misused toward such misrepresentation.
I cannot hope to fill the blanks opened up by all these questions, nor do I think that the original questioner had me in mind as their ghost writer or researcher. I will give a couple of pointers and paste some relevant material I had saved from previous net discussions. The rest will be up to the researcher with my prayers for success, and Allah is the Granter of success!
I recommend that you get in touch with the hadith history specialist Dr. Mustafa Azami, who insha Allah will take a special interest in this project as he told me years ago that he was hoping someone would undertake it.
Center for Hadith Analysis Professor M. M. Al-Azami, Director 805 29th Street #552N, Boulder, CO 80303, USA phone/fax 303-938-1211
You might also get in touch with Dr. Aisha Bewley the celebrated translator of Maliki classics.
On women scholars of hadith: See the excellent appendix bearing that title at the conclusion of “Hadith Literature,” by Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi, the Islamic Texts Society, 1993.
On women scholars in general: Aisha Bewley once wrote the following in a discussion on the History of Islam list:
A’isha was accepted as a source of legal knowledge. There is a recorded instance of her contradicting Abu Hurayra on one issue and Ibn ‘Abbas on another and her view is accepted for theirs. In another case, she asked her client to write out a Qur’an for her and corrected him when he reached a verse about the middle prayer. When people argued with her about the ‘idda, she interpreted a verse of Qur’an. (Both instances showing her command of the Qur’an) Her command of Islamic law was such that the oldest Companions consulted her. She gave fatwas in the khalifates of Umar and Uthman and until her death. She also had knowledge of medicine and poetry.
The role of women in Islam in all areas of knowledge is quite extensive:
Umm Waraqa collected and recited the Qur’an and may have assisted ‘Umar in assembling the text.
‘Amra bint ‘Abdu’r-Rahman was one of most prominent women of second generation. She was one of those who gave legal opinions in Madina after the Companions. Her opinion overrode the views of other authorities. She is the first authority for three legal issues dealing with the prohibition against digging up graves, the ban on selling unripe fruit, and the effect of crop damage on the sale of agricultural produce. In one case, she reversed the decision of her nephew to cut off the hand of a man who stole some iron rings. Her authority was accepted on matters such as business transactions and punishments (hudud). Imam Malik takes her as a legal precedent for details on the hajj.
Nafisa bint al-Hasan (d. 208/824) taught hadith to Imam ash-Shafi’i.
Ibn Hajar mentioned 12 women who were musnida (transmitters of collection of traditions). He studied with 53 women.
[GFH: Ibn Asakir al-Dimashqi (499-571) took hadith from 1,300 male shaykhs and 80-odd female shaykhas.]
The sufi shaykha, ‘A’isha al-Ba’uniyya bint Yusuf (d. 922/1516), author of several books about tasawwuf, came to Cairo where she gave legal opinions (fatwa) and taught.
One could go on and on….
End of Aisha Bewley’s text.
Here is another post I had saved from the msa-net:
Hdate: Monday 5 Jumaada al-THaany 1416 A.H. Number: msa/30Oct95/19117 <Message Length: 55 lines>
Bismillah Walhamdulillah Was Salaatu Was Salaam ‘ala Rasulillah
Excellent Reference on the ROLE of WOMEN in ISLAM
By far, the most comprehensive scholarly work yet.
`Abd al-Halim Muhammad ABU SHAQQAH (died 1416/1995). Tahrir al-mar’ah fi `asr al-risalah: dirasah jami`ah li-nusus al-Qur’an al-Karim wa sahihayy al-Bukhari wa Muslim (Emancipation of Women in the time of the Message: A comprehensive study of the textual-evidences of the Noble Qur’an, and the two Sahih-s of al-Bukhari and Muslim). Kuwait: Dar al-Qalam, 1990-1994. 6 parts, 319+461+233+333+311+240=1,897 pages. Softcover, 6 volumes. Hardcover, 6 in 2 volumes. ISBN 977-5550-02-5
It is in Arabic. I know of no English translation yet!
Part 1: Ma`alim shakhsiyyat al-mar’at al-Muslimah. Part 2: Musharakat al-mar’at al-Muslimah fi al-hayat al-‘ijtima`iyyah. Part 3: Hiwarat ma` al-mu`aridin li-musharakat al-mar’at al-Muslimah fi al-hayat al-‘ijtima`iyyah. Part 4: Libas al-mar’at al-Muslimah wa zinatuha. Part 5: Makanat al-mar’at al-Muslimah fi al-‘Usrah. Part 6: al-Thaqafat al-jinsiyyah li-al-zawjayn.
Part 1: Personal characteristics of Muslim women. Part 2: Involvement of Muslim women in the social life. Part 3: Discussions with the opposers of involvement of Muslim women in the social life. Part 4: Dress of Muslim women and her adornment. Part 5: Position of Muslim women in the family. Part 6: Sexual enlightenment for the couple.
Publisher: Dar al-Qalam, Kuwait. P O Box 20146, al-Safah 13062, KUWAIT. phone 2457407, 245-8478, fax ?
Distributor: Dar al-Qalam, Cairo. P O Box 65 Majlis al-sha`b, Cairo, EGYPT. phone/fax 355-1105
Available in the United States from: Peace Islamic Knoweledge Service Attn. Husayn Khattab 431 S. Birmingham, Tulsa, OK 74104 phone/fax 918-663-7467
Note that the above work is advertiszed in the post as “By far, the most comprehensive scholarly work yet” but I do not see any mention of the role of women in Islamic intellectual history in the section headings. Perhaps there is something about it inside the book.
You may or may not also find some useful material on the question in the following sources:
– “Woman in shari`a” by Abd al-Rahman Doi – “Marriage in Islam” by Muhammad Abd al-Rauf (was rector of the Islamic University of Malaysia) – “The Islamic View of Women and the Family” by M. Abd al-Rauf (the best book in English on the topic. New York: Robert Speller and Sons, 1977. ISBN Publication Number 0-8315-0156-1.) – Dr. Jamal Badawi’s book “Gender Equality in Islam”. – The English translation of Raqaaiq as-Saalihaat by Abu Maryam Fathee (Heart-Melting Traditions of the Rigteous Women). – An article on women saints by Michel Chodciewicz in “Sufi” magazine. He spoke about Rabi`a al-`Adawiyya and others, and gave many useful refs. – The life of Ibn `Arabi entitled “Quest for the Red Sulphur” by Claude Addas, Chodciewicz’s daughter.
Allah Almighty knows best.
© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America