Sep 26, 2009

Muslim Women Achieved Much in the Field of Knowledge

The gates of knowledge are open to the Muslim woman, and she may enter whichever of them she chooses, so long as this does not go against her feminine nature, but develops her mind and enhances her emotional growth and maturity. We find that history is full of prominent examples of remarkable women who sought knowledge and became highly proficient.

Foremost among them is the Mother of the Believers `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her), who was the primary source of hadith and knowledge of the sunnah, and was the first faqihah in Islam when she was still a young woman no more than nine years of age.

Imam al-Zuhri said: "If the knowledge of `A'ishah were to be gathered up and compared to the knowledge of all the other wives of the Prophet (PBUH) and all other women, `A'ishah's knowledge would be greater."[34]

How often did the greatest of the Sahabah refer to her, to hear the final word on matters of the fundamentals of Islam and precise meanings of the Qur'an.

Her knowledge and deep understanding were not restricted only to matters of religion; she was equally distinguished in poetry, literature, history and medicine, and other branches of knowledge that were known at that time. The faqih of the Muslims, `Urwah ibn al-Zubayr, was quoted by his son Hisham as saying: "I have never seen anybody more knowledgeable in fiqh or medicine or poetry than `A'ishah."[35]

Imam Muslim reports that she heard her nephew al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (RAA) make a grammatical mistake, when he and his (paternal) cousin were talking in front of her, and she told him off for this mistake. Imam Muslim commented on this incident: "Ibn `Atiq said: `Al-Qasim and I were talking in front of `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her), and al-Qasim was one who made frequent mistakes in grammar, as his mother was not an Arab. `A'ishah said to him, "Why do you not speak like this son of my brother? I know where the problem comes from: he was brought up by his mother, and you were brought up by your mother . . ."[36]

Among the reports in which the books of literature speak of the vast knowledge of `A'ishah is that which describes how `A'ishah bint Talhah was present in the circle of Hisham ibn `Abd al-Malik, where the shaykhs of Banu Umayyah were present. They did not mention any point of Arab history, wars and poetry but she did not contribute to the discussion, and no star appeared but she did not name it. Hisham said to her, "As for the first (i.e., knowledge of history etc.), I find nothing strange (in your knowing about it), but where did you get your knowledge about the stars?" She said, "I learnt it from my (maternal) aunt `A'ishah."[37] `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) had a curious mind and was always eager to learn. Whenever she heard about something she did not know, she would ask about it until she understood it. Her closeness to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) meant that she was like a vessel full of knowledge.

Imam Bukhari reports from Abu Mulaykah that `A'ishah, the wife of the Prophet (PBUH) never heard anything that she did not know, but she would keep going over it until she understood it. The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Whoever is brought to account will be punished." `A'ishah said: "I said, `But does Allah (SWT) not say ( `Soon his account will be taken by an easy reckoning') (Qur'an 84:8)" He said, "That refers to al-`ard (when everyone is brought before Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgement); but whoever is examined in detail is doomed."[38] In addition to her great knowledge, `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) was also very eloquent in her speech. When she spoke, she captured the attention of her audience and moved them deeply. This is what made al-Ahnaf ibn Qays say: "I heard the speeches of Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali and the khulafa' who came after them, but I never heard any speech more eloquent and beautiful than that of `A'ishah." * Musa ibn Talhah said: "I never saw anyone more eloquent and pure in speech than `A'ishah."[39]

Another of these brilliant women were achieved a high level of knowledge was the daughter of Sa`id ibn al-Musayyab, the scholar of his age, who refused to marry his daughter to the khalifah, `Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, and instead married her to one of his righteous students, `Abdullah ibn Wada`ah. `Abdullah went in to his wife, who was one of the most beautiful of people, and one of the most knowledgeable in Qur'an, Sunnah and the rights and duties of marriage. In the morning, `Abdullah got up and was preparing to go out. His wife asked him,"Where are you going?" He said, "To the circle of your father Sa`id ibn al-Musayyab, so that I may learn." She said, "Sit down; I will teach you what Sa`id knows." For one month, `Abdullah did not attend Sa`id's circle beacuse the knowledge that this beautiful young girl had learned from her father (and was passing on to him) was sufficient.

Another of these prominent female scholars was Fatimah, the daughter of the author of Tuhfat al-fuqaha', `Ala' al-Din al-Samarqandi (d. 539 AH). She was a faqihah and scholar in her own right: she had learned fiqh from her father and had memorized his book al-Tuhfah. Her father married her to his student `Ala' al-Din al-Kasani, who was highly distinguished in the fields of al-usul and al-furu'. He wrote a commentary on Tuhfat al-fuqaha' entitled Bada'i` al-sana'i`, and showed it to his shaykh, who was delighted with it and accepted it as a mahr for his daughter, although he had refused offers of marriage for her from some of the kings of Byzantium.. The fuqaha' of his time said, "He commentated on his Tuhfah and married his daughter." Before her marriage, Fatimah used to issue fatwas along with her father, and the fatwas would be written in her handwriting and that of her father. After she married the author of al-Bada'i`, the fatwas would appear in her handwriting and that of her father and her husband. Her husband would make mistakes, and she would correct them.[40]

`A'ishah, the other wives of the Prophet (PBUH), the daughter of Sa`id ibn al-Musayyab, Fatimah al-Samarqandi and other famous women scholars were not something unique or rare among Muslim women. There were innumerable learned women, who studied every branch of knowledge and became prominent in many fields. Ibn Sa`d devoted a chapter of al-Tabaqat to reports of Hadith transmitted by women, in which he mentioned more than seven hundred women who reported Hadith from the Prophet (PBUH), or from the trustworthy narrators among the sahabah; from these women in turn, many prominent scholars and imams also narrated Hadith.

Al-Hafiz ibn `Asakir (d. 571 AH), one of the most reliable narrators of hadith, who was so trustworthy that he was known as haafiz al-ummah, counted eighty-odd women among his shaykhs and teachers.41 If we bear in mind that this scholar never left the eastern part of the Islamic world, and never visited Egypt, North Africa or Andalusia - which were even more crowded with women of knowledge - we will see that the number of learned women he never met was far greater than those from whom he did receive knowledge.

One of the phrases used by scholars in the books of hadith is: "Al-shaykhah al-musnidah al-salihah so-and-so the daughter of so-and-so told me . . ." Among the names mentioned by Imam Bukhari are: Sitt al-Wuzara' Wazirah bint Muhammad ibn `Umar ibn As`ad ibn al-Munajji al-Tunukhiyyah and Karimah bint Ahmad al-Maruziyyah. They are also mentioned by Ibn Hijr al-`Asqallani in the introduction to Fath al-Bari.[42]

The position of these great women is enhanced by the fact that they were sincere and truthful, far above any hint of suspicion or doubt - a status that many men could not reach. This was noted by Imam al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi in Mizan al-I`tidal, where he states that he found four thousand men about whose reports he had doubts, then follows that observation with the comment: "I have never known of any woman who was accused (of being untrustworthy) or whose hadith was rejected."[43]

The modern Muslim woman, looking at the magnificent heritage of women in Islamic history, is filled with the desire for knowledge, as these prominent women only became famous and renowned throughout history by virtue of their knowledge. Their minds can only be developed, and their characters can only grow in wisdom, maturity and insight, through the acquisition of useful, beneficial and correct knowledge.

34 al-Isti'ab, 4/1883; al-Isabah, 8/140.
35 Tarikh al-Tabari: Hawadith 58; al-Samt al-Thamin, 82; al-Isti'ab, 4/1885.
36 Sahih Muslim, 5/47, Kitab al-masajid, bab karahah al-salat bi hadrat al-ta'am.
37 Al-Aghani, 10/57.
38 Fath al-Bari, 1/196, Kitab al-'ilm, bab man sami'a shay'an fa raji' hatta ya'rifuhu.
39 Reported by Tirmidhi, 5/364, in Kitab al-munaqib, bab min fadl 'A'ishah; he said that it is hasan sahih gharib.
40 Tuhfat al-fuqaha', 1/12.
41 Tabaqat al-shafi'iyyah, 4/273.


Loved the article. May Allah (swt) grant every Muslimah the desire to become eloquent in her word and trustworthy in her speech. The tongue is a piece of muscle which can be used to take us to Heaven - sheer bliss - or towards the pit of Hell. It is for each Muslimah to choose what she wants to do with the brain, the tongue and the heart she has been blessed with.
It's called 'garbage in garbage out'
A Muslimah who would see no evil, hear no evil and do no evil ... would never inshAllah go wrong.

I can only imagine how women were respected and seen as powerful and smart without looking at her as a woman who should stay home and quite...I am sorry to say that but in the actual Muslim world and the middle east in particular women are not respected and valued the way we were in the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Sahabas...For me this has much to do with the consequences of centuries of colonization that let the Muslim world depersonalized and in a quest of identity. May Allah gives us the strength to overcome our difficulties we have much to learn from our (ladies) predecessors...:) Just some food for thoughts...wassalam

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