Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/04/01 at 17:18:59|
Asalaam o'alaikum everyone!
I have been asked to do a talk on women in Islamic History. There are
going to be a few other speakers too who are also going to speak on the
I was wondering where I could find information on famous Muslim women.
Does anyone know of any good web-sites ?
I would also like to ask members WHO
WOULD YOU CHOOSE to talk about if you were in my position ?
The Muslim women that come to mind straight away are people like Hazrat
Khadijah, Hazrat Fatimah, and Hazrat Aisha. Although we will certainly
be covering these, I would also like to add Muslim women who are
perhaps not as well known, (i.e. don't come immediately to mind), but have
made a great contribution to our rich history.
Does anyone know of any good poems about being a muslim woman that I
could perhaps read out?
Has anyone got any other suggestions on how I could make this talk a
little bit more interesting?
All comments much appreciated...
Oh and one final thing! I need this information very quickly. (I got
the letter in the post this morning and the talk is to be next Friday!),
so please help... :-)
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/04/01 at 17:45:32|
|There's a sisters section on jannah.org that is quite useful, as for Muslim women, I know there was a very famous Alimah (scholar) who was the teacher of one of the four imams, there was another pious woman who only used to say words from the quran as her conversation. Ca't remember name.|
There was a famous woman warrior at the time of Khalid bin walid and there are many fine stories you'll fine in the companions of the prophet [saws]
Other pious women, wife of Pharoh, Maryam a.s, wives of Hazrat Ibrahim A.S.
If I find out more, I'll post agin if I'm not banned or stoped from posting.!
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/08/01 at 10:32:16|
|Thanks for your reply, have you actually got any material on the women you have mentioned ?|
It would be good to include these in the talk as most women in the audience will already know about the life stories of the wives and daughters of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). It will be nice to have something 'different' in the talk.
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/08/01 at 12:28:26|
MorningStar, here's what i found on the web:
There are more under the link that says "series of articles" but they're in a short e-mail format.
I'll be looking for more ,Insha'Allah.
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/08/01 at 17:16:01|
[url]http://www.jannah.org/sisters/[url] Its got poems, articles, adn you name it....
If I have some more time, then perhaps I can send you the emails or IM directly.
Another thing is plan, plan and plan your talk.
Masha-allah there are many women who have contributed much to Islam, so if you know what your on about and who the audience is then that would be a bonus.
The wives of the prophet saws. They all had unique qualities in them and they are the mothers of the believers. I think Hazrat Khatizah made the best contribution, because she was present at the prophets time when no one else was there to support him. Masha-allah a very noble and great woman, May Allah give here a good reward.
Theres also the prophets minder as well, shes mentioned in the book "Companions of the prophet".
And many others who have done great to spread Islam far and wide. Drop me a note if you want some more help.
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/08/01 at 20:02:34|
The post below is rather long, but has excellent information on prominent female scholars of our Ummah in the past.
Another resource is http://www.nawawi.org/course_famous_women.html
which is a course taught by Dr. Umar Farooq Abdullah in Chicago.
[Reference: Chapter 6, pp. 142-153, in Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development, Special Features & Criticism by Dr. Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi (Sir Ashutosh Professor of Islamic Culture, Calcutta University; published by Calcutta University, 1961). This original book contains illustrations of ijazas issued by respective scholars. A revised edition is now available, rearranged and modified under the title, Hadith Literature: Its Origins, Development & Special Features published by Islamic Texts Society (Cambridge, 1993). The original edition is out of print. The revised edition of the book is available from http://www.islamicbookstore.com/islamic_books/hadith.html .]
"History records few scholarly enterprises, at least before modern times, in which women have played an important and active role side by side with men. The science of hadith forms an outstanding exception in this respect. Islam, as a religion which (unlike Christianity) refused to attribute gender to the Godhead,1 and never appointed a male priestly elite to serve as an intermediary between creature and Creator, started life with the assurance that while men and women are equipped by nature for complementary rather than identical roles, no spiritual superiority inheres in the masculine principle.2 As a result, the Muslim community was happy to entrust matters of equal worth in God's sight. Only this can explain why, uniquely among the classical Western religions, Islam produced a large number of outstanding female scholars, on whose testimony and sound judgment much of the edifice of Islam depends.
Since Islam's earliest days, women had been taking a prominent part in the preservation and cultivation of hadith, and this function continued down the centuries. At every period in Muslim history, there lived numerous eminent women-traditionists, treated by their brethren with reverence and respect. Biographical notices on very large numbers of them are to be found in the biographical dictionaries.
During the lifetime of the Prophet, many women had been not only the instance for the evolution of many traditions, but had also been their transmitters to their sisters and brethren in faith.3 After the Prophet's death, many women Companions, particularly his wives, were looked upon as vital custodians of knowledge, and were approached for instruction by the other Companions, to whom they readily dispensed the rich store which they had gathered in the Prophet's company. The names of Hafsa, Umm Habiba, Maymuna, Umm Salama, and A'isha, are familiar to every student of hadith as being among its earliest and most distinguished transmitters.4 In particular, A'isha is one of the most important figures in the whole history of hadith literature - not only as one of the earliest reporters of the largest number of hadith, but also as one of their most careful interpreters.
In the period of the Successors, too, women held important positions as traditionists. Hafsa, the daughter of Ibn Sirin,5 Umm al-Darda the Younger (d.81/700), and 'Amra bin 'Abd al-Rahman, are only a few of the key women traditionists of this period. Umm al-Darda' was held by Iyas ibn Mu'awiya, an important traditionist of the time and a judge of undisputed ability and merit, to be superior to all the other traditionists of the period, including the celebrated masters of hadith like al-Hasan al-Basri and Ibn Sirin.6 'Amra was considered a great authority on traditions related by A'isha. Among her students, Abu Bakr ibn Hazm, the celebrated judge of Medina, was ordered by the caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz to write down all the traditions known on her authority.7
After them, 'Abida al-Madaniyya, 'Abda bin Bishr, Umm Umar al-Thaqafiyya, Zaynab the granddaughter of Ali ibn Abd Allah ibn Abbas, Nafisa bint al-Hasan ibn Ziyad, Khadija Umm Muhammad, 'Abda bint Abd al-Rahman, and many other members of the fair sex excelled in delivering public lectures on hadith. These devout women came from the most diverse backgrounds, indicating that neither class nor gender were obstacles to rising through the ranks of Islamic scholarship. For example, Abida, who started life as a slave owned by Muhammad ibn Yazid, learnt a large number of hadiths with the teachers in Median. She was given by her master to Habib Dahhun, the great traditionist of Spain, when he visited the holy city on this way to the Hajj. Dahhun was so impressed by her learning that he freed her, married her, and brought her to Andalusia. It is said that she related ten thousand traditions on the authority of her Medinan teachers.8
Zaynab bint Sulayman (d. 142/759), by contrast, was princess by birth. Her father was a cousin of al-Saffah, the founder of the Abbasid dynasty, and had been a governor of Basra, Oman and Bahrayn during the caliphate of al-Mansur.9 Zaynab, who received a fine education, acquired a mastery of hadith, gained a reputation as one of the most distinguished women traditionists of the time, and counted many important men among her pupils.10
This partnership of women with men in the cultivation of the Prophetic Tradition continued in the period when the great anthologies of hadith were compiled. A survey of the texts reveals that all the important compilers of traditions from the earliest period received many of them from women shuyukh: every major collection gives the names of many women as the immediate authorities of the author. And when these works had been compiled, the women traditionists themselves mastered them, and delivered lectures to large classes of pupils, to whom they would issue their own ijazas.
In the fourth century, we find Fatima bint Abd al-Rahman (d. 312/924), known as al-Sufiyya on account of her great piety; Fatima (granddaughter of Abu Daud of Sunan fame); Amat al-Wahid (d. 377/987), the daughter of distinguished jurist al-Muhamili; Umm al-Fath Amat as-Salam (d. 390/999), the daughter of the judge Abu Bakr Ahmad (d.350/961); Jumua bint Ahmad, and many other women, whose classes were always attended by reverential audiences.11
The Islamic tradition of female hadith scholarship continued in the fifth and sixth centuries of hijra. Fatima bin al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn al-Daqqaq al-Qushayri, was celebrated not only for her piety and her mastery of calligraphy, but also for her knowledge of hadith and the quality of the isnads she knew.12 Even more distinguished was Karima al-Marwaziyya (d.463/1070), who was considered the best authority on the Sahih of al-Bukhari in her own time. Abu Dharr of Herat, one of the leading scholars of the period, attached such great importance to her authority that he advised his students to study the Sahih under no one else, because of the quality of her scholarship. She thus figures as a central point in the transmission of this seminal text of Islam.13 As a matter of fact, writes Godziher, 'her name occurs with extraordinary frequency of the ijazas for narrating the text of this book.'14 Among her students were al-Khatib al-Baghdadi15 and al-Humaydi (428/1036-488/1095).16
Aside from Karima, a number of other women traditionists 'occupy an eminent place in the history of the transmission of the text of the Sahih.'17 Among these, one might mention in particular Fatima bint Muhammad (d.539/1144; Shuhda 'the Writer' (d.574/1178), and Sitt al-Wuzara bint Umar (d.716/1316).18 Fatima narrated the book on the authority of the great traditionist Said al-Ayyar; she received from the hadith specialists the proud tittle of Musnida Isfahan (the great hadith authority of Isfahan). Shuhda was a famous calligrapher and a traditionist 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'. But her father, Abu Nasr (d. 506/1112) had acquired a passion for hadith, and managed to study it with several masters of the subject.19 In obedience to the sunna, he gave his daughter a sound academic education, ensuring that she studied under many traditionists 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 Bukhari was Sitt al-Wuzara, who, besides her acclaimed mastery of Islamic law, was known as 'the musnida 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 Amat al-Khaliq (811/1408-911/1505), who is regarded as the last great hadith scholar of the Hijaz.23 Still another authority on Bukhari was A'isha bint Abd al-Hadi.24
Apart from these women, who seem to have specialized in the great Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari, there were others, whose expertise was centered on other texts. Umm al-Khayr Fatima bint Ali (d.532/1137), and Fatima al-Shahrazuriyya, delivered lectures on the Sahih of Muslim.25 Fatima al-Jawzdaniyya (d.524/1129) narrated to her students the three Mu'jams of al-Tabarani.26 Zaynab of Harran (d.68/1289), whose lectures attracted a large crowd of students, taught them the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the largest known collection of hadiths.27 Juwayriya bint Umar (d.783/1381), and Zaynab bint Ahmad ibn Umar (d.722/1322), who had travelled widely in pursuit of hadith and delivered lectures in Egypt as well as Medina, narrated to her students the collections of al-Darimi and Abd ibn Humayd; and we are told that students travelled from far and wide to attend her discourses.28 Zaynab bint Ahmad (d.740/1339), usually known as Bint al-Kamal, acquired 'a camel load' of diplomas; she delivered lectures on the Musnad of Abu Hanifa, the Shamail of al-Tirmidhi, and the Sharh Ma'ani al-Athar of al-Tahawi, the last of which she read with another woman traditionist, Ajiba bin Abu Bakr (d.740/1339).29 'On her authority is based,' says Goldziher, 'the authenticity of the Gotha codex ... in the same isnad a large number of learned women are cited who had occupied themselves with this work."30 With her, and various other women, the great traveller Ibn Battuta studied traditions during his stay at Damascus.31 The famous historian of Damascus, Ibn Asakir, who tells us that he had studied under more than 1,200 men and 80 women, obtained the ijaza of Zaynab bint Abd al-Rahman for the Muwatta of Imam Malik.32 Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti studied the Risala of Imam Shafii with Hajar bint Muhammad.33 Afif al-Din Junayd, a traditionist of the ninth century AH, read the Sunan of al-Darimi with Fatima bin Ahmad ibn Qasim.34
Other important traditionists included Zaynab bint al-Sha'ri (d.524/615-1129/1218). She studied hadith under several important traditionists, and in turn lectured to many students - some of who gained great repute - including Ibn Khallikan, author of the well-known biographical dictionary Wafayat al-Ayan.35 Another was Karima the Syrian (d.641/1218), described by the biographers as the greatest authority on hadith in Syria of her day. She delivered lectures on many works of hadith on the authority of numerous teachers.36
In his work al-Durar al-Karima,37 Ibn Hajar gives short biographical notices of about 170 prominent women of the eighth century, most of whom are traditionists, and under many of whom the author himself had studied.38 Some of these women were acknowledged as the best traditionists of the period. For instance, Juwayriya bint Ahmad, to whom we have already referred, studied a range of works on traditions, under scholars both male and female, who taught at the great colleges of the time, and then proceeded to give famous lectures on the Islamic disciplines. 'Some of my own teachers,' says Ibn Hajar, 'and many of my contemporaries, attended her discourses.'39 A'isha bin Abd al-Hadi (723-816), also mentioned above, who for a considerable time was one of Ibn Hajar's teachers, was considered to be the finest traditionist of her time, and many students undertook long journeys in order to sit at her feet and study the truths of religion.40 Sitt al-Arab (d.760-1358) had been the teacher of the well-known traditionist al-Iraqi (d.742/1341), and of many others who derived a good proportion of their knowledge from her.41 Daqiqa bint Murshid (d.746/1345), another celebrated woman traditionist, received instruction from a whole range of other woman.
Information on women traditionists of the ninth century is given in a work by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Sakhawi (830-897/1427-1489), called al-Daw al-Lami, which is a biographical dictionary of eminent persons of the ninth century.42 A further source is the Mu'jam al-Shuyukh of Abd al-Aziz ibn Umar ibn Fahd (812-871/1409-1466), compiled in 861 AH and devoted to the biographical notices of more than 1,100 of the author's teachers, including over 130 women scholars under whom he had studied.43 Some of these women were acclaimed as among the most precise and scholarly traditionists of their time, and trained many of the great scholars of the following generation. Umm Hani Maryam (778-871/1376-1466), for instance, learnt the Qur'an by heart when still a child, acquired all the Islamic sciences then being taught, including theology, law, history, and grammar, and then travelled to pursue hadith with the best traditionists of her time in Cairo and Mecca. She was also celebrated for her mastery of calligraphy, her command of the Arabic language, and her natural aptitude in poetry, as also her strict observance of the duties of religion (she performed the hajj no fewer than thirteen times). Her son, who became a noted scholar of the tenth century, showed the greatest veneration for her, and constantly waited on her towards the end of her life. She pursued an intensive program of learning in the great college of Cairo, giving ijazas to many scholars, Ibn Fahd himself studied several technical works on hadith under her.44
Her Syrian contemporary, Bai Khatun (d.864/1459), having studied traditions with Abu Bakr al-Mizzi and numerous other traditionalists, and having secured the ijazas of a large number of masters of hadith, both men and women, delivered lectures on the subject in Syria and Cairo. We are told that she took especial delight in teaching.45 A'isha bin Ibrahim (760/1358-842/1438), known in academic circles as Ibnat al-Sharaihi, also studied traditions in Damascus and Cairo (and elsewhere), and delivered lectures which eminent scholars of the day spared no efforts to attend.46 Umm al-Khayr Saida of Mecca (d.850/1446) received instruction in hadith from numerous traditionists in different cities, gaining an equally enviable reputation as a scholar.47
So far as may be gathered from the sources, the involvement of women in hadith scholarships, and in the Islamic disciplines generally, seems to have declined considerably from the tenth century of the hijra. Books such as al-Nur al-Safir of al-Aydarus, the Khulasat al-Akhbar of al-Muhibbi, and the al-Suluh al-Wabila of Muhammad ibn Abd Allah (which are biographical dictionaries of eminent persons of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries of the hijra respectively) contain the names of barely a dozen eminent women traditionists. But it would be wrong to conclude from this that after the tenth century, women lost interest in the subject. Some women traditionists, who gained good reputations in the ninth century, lived well into the tenth, and continued their services to the sunna. Asma bint Kamal al-Din (d.904/1498) wielded great influence with the sultans and their officials, to whom she often made recommendations - which, we are told, they always accepted. She lectured on hadith, and trained women in various Islamic sciences.48 A'isha bint Muhammad (d.906/1500), who married the famous judge Muslih al-Din, taught traditions to many students, and was appointed professor at the Salihiyya College in Damascus.49 Fatima bint Yusuf of Aleppo (870/1465-925/1519), was known as one of the excellent scholars of her time.50 Umm al-Khayr granted an ijaza to a pilgrim at Mecca in the year 938/1531.51
The last woman traditionist of the first rank who is known to us was Fatima al-Fudayliya, also known as al-Shaykha al-Fudayliya. She was born before the end of the twelfth Islamic century, and soon excelled in the art of calligraphy and the various Islamic sciences. She had a special interest in hadith, read a good deal on the subject, received the diplomas of a good many scholars, and acquired a reputation as an important traditionist in her own right. Towards the end of her life, she settled at Mecca, where she founded a rich public library. In the Holy City she was attended by many eminent traditionists, who attended her lectures and received certificates from her. Among them, one could mention in particular Shaykh Umar al-Hanafi and Shaykh Muhammad Sali. She died in 1247/1831.52
Throughout the history of feminine scholarship in Islam it is clear that the women involved did not confine their study to a personal interest in traditions, or to the private coaching of a few individuals, but took their seats as students as well as teachers in pubic educational institutions, side by side with their brothers in faith. The colophons of many manuscripts show them both as students attending large general classes, and also as teachers, delivering regular courses of lectures. For instance, the certificate on folios 238-40 of the al-Mashikhat ma al-Tarikh of Ibn al-Bukhari, shows that numerous women attended a regular course of eleven lectures which was delivered before a class consisting of more than five hundred students in the Umar Mosque at Damascus in the year 687/1288. Another certificate, on folio 40 of the same manuscript, shows that many female students, whose names are specified, attended another course of six lectures on the book, which was delivered by Ibn al-Sayrafi to a class of more than two hundred students at Aleppo in the year 736/1336. And on folio 250, we discover that a famous woman traditionist, Umm Abd Allah, delivered a course of five lectures on the book to a mixed class of more than fifty students, at Damascus in the year 837/1433.53
Various notes on the manuscript of the Kitab al-Kifaya of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, and of a collection of various treatises on hadith, show Ni'ma bin Ali, Umm Ahmad Zaynab bint al-Makki, and other women traditionists delivering lectures on these two books, sometimes independently, and sometimes jointly with male traditionists, in major colleges such as the Aziziyya Madrasa, and the Diyaiyya Madrasa, to regular classes of students. Some of these lectures were attended by Ahmad, son of the famous general Salah al-Din.54 "
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/08/01 at 20:39:27|
|Bismillah and salam,|
Please check out the women section on this page:
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/09/01 at 09:58:51|
Akhan, jazaka Allahu kheyran. This is a great article and badly needed these days. I'm reminded of one of the lectures of shaikh hamza yusuf in which he said the people who don't know their legacy won't be able to leave a legacy for the future generations.
What an inspiring legacy :) warms my heart. Allahu Akbar!!!
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/11/01 at 15:01:27|
|wa alaykum as salaam wa rahmatAllah,|
[quote]I would also like to ask members WHO
WOULD YOU CHOOSE to talk about if you were in my position ? [/quote]
If others are speaking along with you, I'm sure that they will choose some of the women companions, may Allah be pleased with them. You might want to choose an amazing woman from a time later on in our history.
If its' a Muslim audience, I'd probably speak about [url=http://jannah.org/sisters/zaynab.html]Zaynab al-Ghazali[/url].
[quote]Does anyone know of any good poems about being a muslim woman that I could perhaps read out? [/quote]
Check out sister Saraji Umm Zaid's *beautiful* poem [url=http://www.muslimpoet.com/Sara.htm#Mujahida]"Mujahida"[/url].
take care :)
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/14/01 at 14:21:55|
|Woman and Political Leadership in Muslim Thought: A Critique |
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
Lagos, October 10, 2001
This article is a comment on Abubakar Ahmad Gada's interesting write-up on the ''Political Irrelevance of Women in Islam''( Weekly Trust, October 5, 2001) which in turn was a contribution to an on-going discussion of the subject sparked off by Hajiya Bilkisu's earlier article in the Paper. Mallam Abubakar, the Imam of NNDC mosque, Kaduna presented arguments in his write-up which, to be fair, correctly reflect mainstream thinking in traditional scholarship. One only wished the respected Imam had shown more circumspection and less exuberance in brandishing untenable empirical examples, particularly in view compelling evidence of outstanding women leaders even in contemporary history. Take, for instance, Indira Ghandi in India and how she routed Pakistan; Or Golda Maier in Israel and how she defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan; Or Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher and how she defeated the Argentines in the Falklands in addition to breaking the back of the almighty Labour Unions at home. Of course there will always be examples of female leaders who have failed but then there are many more woeful examples of failure among their male opposite numbers. Evidently, examples such as those proffered by Gada, even if we accepted their questionable soundness, can never be a logical basis for establishing a causal link between gender and performance in political office.
The central message of the Imam's write-up, which this paper addresses, is that the leadership of women is prohibited by Islam. The basis for this assertion is that '' the Holy Prophet has in a hadith emphatically stated that any society which has its leadership under a woman will never progress.'' In this paper I intend first to discuss the various positions taken by scholars on this hadith and, secondly, to subject traditional thought to critique. The term 'critique' in social theory, to pre-empt misunderstanding, is not exactly synonymous with 'criticism' as employed in everyday English. Critical social theory does not so much seek to repudiate an existing theory as to set out clearly the limits of its validity. Mainly associated with Marx, who himself learnt from Kant and Hegel and bequeathed his method to latter day theorists particularly of the 'Frankfurt School' (including names like Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse and, with certain qualifications, Habermas) the critique is neither pure philosophy nor pure science but something in-between. An argument's popularity among the faithful is not necessarily based at all times on superior validity of its truth-claims. In reality, an argument may find acceptance because of its instrumentality in validating our pre-conceptions on the subject and its compatibility with the concrete reality which we inhabit or seek to bring about. As argued by Jurgen Habermas in his Knowledge and Human Interests, the conceptual structures of human knowledge are determined by interests that are deeply anchored in the solid existence of human beings as such. Only through a reflective examination of the process of knowing may we grasp these cognitive interests as what he calls "quasi-transcendental" conditions for the possibility of knowledge. An authentic saying, or hadith of the prophet retains, for all Muslims the transcendental quality and aprioristic claim of all revelation. Yet its interpretation necessarily, even if unknowingly, reflects a social reality that may in fact be distorted, an alienated and impoverished version of what it could become. All too often in intra-Islamic discourses, the contingent element of human consciousness is pretended away and the argument is presented as a timeless, eternal and Divine injunction. A critique of such an argument exposes its pseudo-objectivity and critically illuminates the underlying reality of alienation that provides the thinker's consciousness with its conceptual categories. This emphasis on the need to transcend the superficial and examine, from an epistemological perspective, the inextricable linkage between the law and the social, was the axis around which I constructed my arguments in an earlier intervention on this subject entitled ''Sharia and the Woman Question'' (see http://www.gamji.com/sanusi16.htm ). In this paper I return to the same theme.
Let me first state the hadith. Imam Bukhari reports from Abu Bakrah the following: "Allah provided me with considerable benefit during the battle of the camel with one word (or one statement). When news reached the prophet (S.A.W.) that the Persians had appointed Chosroe's daughter as their ruler, he said: ''A nation which placed its affairs in the hands of a woman shall never prosper!'' Those who claim that the leadership of women is ''unIslamic'' rely on this hadith. In reality, all that can be correctly affirmed is that some scholars relied on this hadith to disenfranchise women from leadership. There has never been unanimity on this matter among scholars, past and present, and the very inference of disenfranchisement is suspect. Let me explain.
From the earliest days of Muslim scholarship, even those jurists who implicitly accept the hadith above as containing some injunction have differed on the meaning of ''placing affairs in the hands of a woman''. Some scholars prohibit women from all public duties. Abu Hanifa permits a woman to hold public office, even to be a judge in matters in which her testimony is admissible- that is all cases other than those involving fixed penalties (hudud) and retaliation (qisas). Ibn Hazm in his Muhalla, allows a woman to hold every office apart from that of the Head of State based on this hadith. At the "liberal" extreme, Hafiz Ibn Hajr indicates in Fathul Bari that Imam Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari not only supports the unrestricted appointment of woman to judgeship, he permitted also her appointment as Head of State. A similar view is reported from Imam Malik Ibn Anas and adopted by some Maliki jurists (although the popular view in the mazhab is contrary to this).
The first point is therefore to note that there was no unanimity even among the earliest scholars on this matter, although the vast majority (for reasons we will presently discuss) barred women from the office of the Head of State. It is also not true that the leadership of Muslims by women is a modern phenomenon caused by "westernisation." Various Muslim communities at various times have been de-facto or de-jure ruled by women. A group of Kharijites, the Shuhaybiyyah, held that women are eligible for the office of Head of State as recorded by Ibn Hazm in Kitabul Fisal. According to historical texts, not only did they appoint their Imam's daughter as his successor, the lady delivered sermons from the pulpit and led them in prayer and on the battle- field. The famous thirteenth century Mamluk queens Radhia Sultana of Delhi and Shajaratul-Durr of Egypt were not the only women sovereigns over Muslim communities. A whole book has been written by Fatima Mernissi, entitled The Forgotten Queens of Islam, in which she covers from historical texts the lives of so many such queens in Muslim history. Ibn Battuta tells us how for forty years (from 1347 to 1388), Muslims in the Maldives were ruled by queens. The first was Sultana Khadija the daughter of Sultan Salah al-Din Albendjaly who ruled for 33 years. Her two sisters, Sultana Myriam and Sultana Fatima, followed in succession. Djajadimingrat lists 34 sovereigns who ruled over the Muslim kingdom of Atjeh in Indonesia between the 16th and 20th centuries. Four princesses succeeded each other as queens between 1641 and 1699. First was Sultana Tadj al-'Alam Saffiyat al Din Shah (the 14th sovereign of the dynasty) who was succeeded, in order, by Sultana Nur al-'Alam Nakiyyat al-Din Shah, 'Inayat Shah Zakiyyat al-Din Shah and Kamalat Shah.
The Shiite dynasty of Yemen also produced two queens, Asma Bint Shihab al Sulayhiyyah (d.1087) and 'Arwa Bint Ahmad al-Sulayhiyya(d.1138). Each of them took the title al- Sayyida al-hurra and had the khutbah (sermon) said in her name. There were also the Mongol Khatuns like Kutlugh Katun and Safwat al-Din Khatun. These are just examples but they suffice to refute the claims of those who believe the likes of Benazir Bhutto were the first women to rule Muslim lands. Women have ruled Muslim communities and their leadership was accepted and respected by the scholars of those communities.
Where does all this leave Abu Bakrah's hadith? Contemporary scholarship articulates its rejection of the hadith as evidence barring women from leadership from different perspectives. The first, which for want of a better term I will call 'feminist', rejects the authenticity of the hadith in its entirety. This view is represented by Fatima Mernissi in her ground breaking book, The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women Rights in Islam. Mernissi in this book does the unspeakable by questioning directly the reliability of a companion of the Prophet as a narrator of hadith. She suggests that Abu Bakrah, a former slave, joined Islam because of the promise of manumission. She argues that he prevaricated between joining Ali and joining Aisha in the civil war, and then after Aisha lost the battle he opportunistically 'remembered' a hadith spoken 25 years earlier to curry favour with the winning side. Finally she stresses that the second Caliph Umar had ordered Abu Bakrah flogged for false testimony. She therefore rejects the authority of Abu Bakrah and with it the evidence of the hadith since to her it is a fabrication. I have not independently checked the accuracy of Mernissi's biographical renditions although she has duly annotated her sources. Her conclusion on Abu Bakra is, however, unlikely to hold water with scholars of hadith who start from the premise that "all the Companions are just."
The second group adopts a different line of argument. Exemplified here by Justice Aftab Hussain in his book "Status of Women in Islam", the central argument of this group is that it is clear that Abu Bakrah did not understand from the words he narrated an injunction against the leadership of women. He was a companion of Aisha and followed her and fought among her troops and returned with her to Madina after her defeat. He remembered this hadith as he stated during the Battle of the Camel and yet neither left her side nor advised anyone else to. This group says that to insist that the hadith is an injunction against female leadership places this companion of the Prophet in very unbecoming light. Is it possible that a true companion would remember an injunction of the holy Prophet and proceed in disobeying it as if he had never remembered? Would he be so impudent as to subsequently announce this recollection without any explanation for his non-compliance?
The third group takes a different course. This group accepts the hadith as authentic but insists that it was a prophecy relating to the Kingdom of Persia and had no legal implications beyond that. The argument of this group is, in my view, best presented by Hiba Ra'uf 'Izzat in her book Al-Mar-ah wa 'l-'Amal as-Siyasi. This group argues that the hadith must be read along with related ones since, according to Hafiz Ibn Hajr, it merely completes the story of the Chosroe who tore the Prophet's letter.
Al-Bukhari reported three traditions connected with this episode, two of which were in the chapter on "Letter of the Prophet to Chosroe and Caesar". Abu Bakra's hadith is No 4425. The preceding hadith, No 4424, was reported from Ibn Abbas who said that "the Prophet of Allah sent Abdullah Ibn Huzafa with his letter to Chosroe and commanded him to hand it to the leader of Bahrain for delivery to Chosroe. When Chosroe read it he tore it. I believe Said Ibn Musayyab said: 'Then the Prophet prayed to Allah that he tear them up completely'." The third hadith is No 6639 reported by Bukhari in the chapter on "how the oath of the Prophet was" and it goes:"When Caesar dies there will be no Caesar after him. When Chosroe dies there will be no Chosroe after him. I swaar by He in whose hand is my life, you will spend their treasures in the path of Allah!"
These are the three hadiths reported by Bukhari on Chosroe and the Persians and their consistency is self -evident. In one he prays to Allah to destroy the Chosroe's dynasty the way he tore the letter. The second predicts that there will be no Chosroe after him and the Ummah will inherit the Kingdom's treasures. The third, Abu Bakra's, predicts that the Persians (who were still being ruled by Chosroe's dynasty) would not prosper. To extend this last hadith's scope to all societies ruled by women is refuted by the context. In addition it is refuted by Qur'anic evidence on the queen of Sheba (Al Naml: 28-44). Any one who reads those verses can see that they refer to a people who prospered under a wise and powerful female sovereign. It is also refuted by the compelling evidence of history. England prospered under Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I. So did Russia under Catherine the Great, Spain under Isabella and Zazzau under Queen Amina. We may now conclude.
It is evident that different scholars have interpreted this hadith in different ways. It is also evident, that strictly on the basis of truth-claims, the assertion that a particular position on this matter is the "Islamic" position, is presumptuous and suspect. As mentioned earlier, however, there are other dimensions for evaluating cognitive propositions. A Muslim who accepts the essentially inferior status of woman by Divine decree, or at least sees nothing wrong with according her a public status below that of man is not loathe to accept the interpretation which precludes her from political leadership. Yet this choice is to him "Islamic" only because it conforms to his preconception and presupposition of the Islamic position on gender relations. Another Muslim who sees Islam as an essentially emancipating and egalitarian faith accepts an interpretation which validates and concurs with his own subjective predisposition. He rejects the traditional interpretation only because he considers the subjection of women a historical aberration, an evanescent feature of a society striving to attain, but still short of realizing, its true potential.
In the final analysis, the real battle is not one of theological niceties and the regurgitation of metaphysical postulates. It is one of the 'desublimation of reason', its extraction from obtruse and abstruse mythology and its concrete embodiment in the fabric of social relations. The task of critique is to expose the fallacy of claims to superior objectivity, and reveal the intricate connections between religious teaching, as distinct from religion, and the ubiquitous consciousness emanating from social conditions. And this, difficult as it is, must be the lodestar of the progressive Muslim intellectual.
|Re: Famous Women in Islamic History|
|10/15/01 at 09:39:12|
|Asalaam o'alaikum everyone!|
This is just a short post to say "Thank You" to everyone for being such a great help!.
I did my presentation on Friday evening along with 5 other sisters. Alhamdulillah! the whole evening was a great success.
FYI, in the end I decided to speak mainly on two of the wives of the Prophet(PBUH), Hazrat Khadijah & Hazrat Aisha and then briefly on other pious women including Aasiyah (wife of Pharoah), Mary (mother of Jesus), Hajra (wife of Hazrat Ibrahim), Al-Shifa (one of the companions of the Prophet), Queen Zubaidah, and Zaynab-Al-Gazali.
Most of the other sisters, just chose one person to speak about, with the exception of a sister who spoke about Muslim women warriors. There were also quite a few poems read out during the course of the evening, mostly Allama Iqbal. (se7en, thanks for the Mujahida poem, everyone loved it!).
It was a very inspiring evening, one that made you feel proud to be a Muslim woman! May Allah gives us the strength of Imaan to follow in the footsteps of these great women (Ameen!)
JazakAllah and Wasalaam,
Individual posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Jannah.org, Islam, or all Muslims. All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the poster and may not be used without consent of the author.The rest © Jannah.Org