Women in Islamic History

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Women in Islamic History

Women in Islamic History

There is no doubt that history is the mirror of cultures and civilizations throughout the world. Without people’s real actions and application, the reality of people’s thoughts and beliefs would not be recognized. The place of these thoughts and beliefs are the minds and the hearts. The elements of the environment for applying these actions and following these beliefs are people, place, time and circumstances.

I can also say that this application is the real interpretation of the theory from whose words many meanings could be understood. Based on this meaning, jurists in some cases have given priority to the Prophet’s [pbuh] actions over his sayings. Rather, they sometimes regard the actions of his companion’s as clear proof of the ruling.

I have discussed the status of women in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and I have dealt with many misconceptions about woman from the perspective of the juristic legacy.

Now, let us review the condition of woman throughout Islamic history that proves the dignity and protection of woman and her equality with men as they are the two pillars of humanity. In fact, history presents many women who have had an impact on the Muslim Ummah and have made great contributions in all fields of life.

The glorious role of woman started in the very early stage of Islam. She was the first to believe in Prophet Muhammad [pbuh], the first martyr, and the first person after Prophet Lut [pbuh] to immigrate for the sake of God [swt]. ‘Aishah [raah] was the most beloved person to the Prophet [pbuh]. Khadijah [raah], his first wife, was the first person to believe in him. She was his supporter and protector; and the mother of his children. He called the year in which she died the Year of Grief.

Sumayyah, daughter of Al-Khayyat [raah], wife of Yaser, and mother of Ammar [raa] was the first martyr in Islam. She was stronger than her son in faith when she refused, under torture, to insult the Prophet [pbuh] or to utter words of disbelief. Rather, she held on to her faith in the Prophet [pbuh] till she was killed. Ruqayyah [raah], daughter of the Prophet [pbuh], was the first to immigrate for the sake of God [swt], with her husband ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan [raa]. [At-Tabarani]

Fatimah and ‘Aishah [raah] were the most loved ones to the Prophet [pbuh]. It is narrated that the Prophet [pbuh] said when he was asked, ‘Who do your love the most, O Messenger of Allah?’ He [pbuh] replied, ‘Fatimah’. In another narration from Anas [raa], he said when he was asked, ‘Who do you love the most, O Messenger of Allah?’ He replied: ‘A’ishah.’ The man said, ‘And from men.’ The Prophet [pbuh] said, ‘Her father, Abu Bakr.’

The status of woman in Islam is not only restricted to their being the first believer, martyr or immigrant or the most beloved of the Prophet [pbuh]; rather, she has been elevated throughout the ages, and became a ruler, a judge, a teacher, a soldier, a mufti, a scholar, a leader of Hisbah [executive authority], and other positions which are all recorded in Islamic history. Based on that, I have divided this part into the following chapters:

Women as Rulers
Women as Judges
Women as Soldiers
Women as Scholars or Muftis
Women as Leaders of Hisbah [executive authority]
Women among Non-Muslims

I. Women as Rulers
This does not refer to women who had influence, power, or authority through their husbands, sons or masters, because this form of leadership was common, especially during the Abbasid era. For example, there was Al-Khuzayran1 daughter of ‘Ata’ and the wife of Al-Mahdi, and the mother of his two sons, Al-Hady and Harun, who died in 173 AH. Moreover, Qubayhah, the mother of Al-Mu’ttaz Billah [d 264 AH]2 and Fatimah Al-Qahramanah3 [299 AH], Umm Musa Al-Hashimiyah Qahramanah dar Al-Muqutadir Billah4 [321 AH], and Umm al-Muqtadir Billah Shaghb,5 were not independent rulers. There have been independent women who were rulers over many Muslim countries throughout various ages. Although they did not receive the title of caliph, they received other titles such as Sultan, Queen, Al-Hurrah and Khatun.

Throughout Islamic history, there have been more than fifty women who ruled Muslim countries, such as Sit Al-Mulk, one of the Fatimid rulers in Egypt in the 5th century of Hijrah; Queen Asma’; Queen Arwa who ruled San‘a’6 at the end of the 5th century of Hijrah; Zaynab An-Nafzawiyah in Al-Andalus; Sultan Radiyyah who ruled Delhi in the middle of the 7th century of Hijrah; Shajarat Ad-Dur who ruled Egypt in the 7th century of Hijrah; A’ishah Al-Hurrah in Al- Andalus; Sit Al-Arab; Sit Al-’Ajam; Sit Al-Wuzaraa’; Ash-Sharifah Al-Fatimiyah; Al-Ghaliyah Al-Wahhabiyah; Al-Khatun Khatla’ Turkan; Al-Khatun Badshah; Ghazalah Ash-Shabibah and many others. The following examples of women illustrate the female leaders or rulers in Islamic history.

1. Sit Al-Mulk
She was one of the Fatimid queens in Egypt and was born in 359 AH. She came to power when she organized an operation for the disappearance of her brother, Al-Hakim Bi-Amrillah, the sixth Fatimid Caliph in 411 AH. It was reported that she killed him. Adh-Dhahabi said, ‘She allied with Prince Ibn Dawas; she went to him secretly, and said, ‘I came to you to help and protect both of us.’ He replied, ‘I am just your Mamluk [your slave]. She said, ‘We are in great danger as my brother is jeopardizing our fathers’ system and he has been doing a lot of things that no Muslim would approve of, and I am afraid that he might get killed and then we might get killed as well. Then, this kingdom would come to an end.’ He said, ‘You are right.’ What should we do?’ ‘We should have an oath to keep this a secret.’ She replied. Then, they agreed to kill him.’7

Sit Al-Mulk had her own motives for killing her brother as he had over-stepped the limits. He used to subjugate the weak, kill all dogs, forbade women from going out, and burnt Cairo. He forbade the inhabitants to work during the day and ordered them to work at night in order not to see them working when he went outside and paraded around. He woke up one night and announced his divinity and ordered the people of Cairo, including Sit Al-Mulk, to worship him.

2. Queen Arwa
Queen Arwa was the daughter of Ahmad Ibn Ja‘far As-Silihiayah. She was a strict queen from Herraz in Yemen, where she was born in 440 AH. She was raised by Asmaa’, the daughter of Shihab As-Silihiyah, whose son married her. She played a very important role in the propagation of the Fatimid ideology in Asia, especially in India through Fatimid preachers who were sent there from Yemen during her time.

After the death of Queen Asma’ in 1087 CE / 480 AH, her crippled son officially passed power to his wife Arwa who secured the succession of power in the hands of the As-Silihiyah family in Yemen. After this, she decided to take revenge from Sa‘id Az-Zubaydi who had killed her uncle. In order to do that, she moved the capital to Jibalah which is fortified by mountains and increased pressure on Sa‘id. After making alliances with other countries, she destroyed his army, had him killed and captured his wife. She ruled the kingdom and managed the military until Al-Makarram died in 484 AH and was succeeded by his cousin, Saba’ Ibn Ahmad. However, she remained in power and all the official assemblies were held under her supervision. She was a hidden ruler.

In Yemen, scholars used to appeal to her in Friday speeches. The first speech was for Al-Mustansir then to As-Silihi and finally for Al-Hurrah. In 492 AH, Saba’ died and Silihiyah’s power weakened. Queen Arwa stayed in a fortress in Jibalah, controlled all the citadels there, and selected ministers and workers. She lived for forty years and died in 532 AH. She was buried in her mosque. She left a heritage of endowments and became the last of the Salihiayah rulers.8

3. Turkan Khatun
She was the daughter of Khajankash and wife of Sultan Tiksh Ibn Ayil Raslan. She had a lot of dignity and wisdom and started ruling in 628 AH. She was a just and fair ruler and gave rights to her people. She founded many public fountains, charities and hospitals all over the country. Her writers were seven of the most talented and prestigious of that time. When her signature and the Sultan’s signature were on the same document, with two different decisions, she used to authorize the one with the later date. Her signature was, ‘Protector of world and Religion; Turkan is the queen of all the ladies of the world.’ Her logo was, ‘I seek refuge in God [swt] alone.’ She used to write her signature and logo with a thick pen so that it would not be forged.

4. Radiyah, Daughter of At-Tamash
Radiyah descended from a Turkish Mamluk family. She came to power in Delhi in 1236 CE, 634 AH after her father’s death, Sultan Iltu-Tamash Khan, who was one of the military leaders who founded the Islamic nation in India. Her father had chosen her over her two brothers due to her intelligence, talents, and ability to rule the state. Her first royal decision was to stamp her name on a coin with the title, ‘Radiyat Ad-Dunya wad-Din, [i.e. Radiyat who is pleased with the world and religion].’ When powerful leaders and the army tried to remove her from power, especially when her older brother killed the younger one, they failed because she relied on people who revolted against her brother. Radiyah was a very powerful queen in India. She ruled for 4 years and was killed on 25 Rabi’ Al-Awwal in 637 AH. Her grave is located in Jemn River near Delhi.9

5. Shajarat Ad-Dur
She was one of the most famous queens in Islamic history. She was intelligent, strict, powerful, pious, and benevolent. She was one of the bondmaids of King As-Salih Najmud-Din Ayyub. He married her after she gave birth to his son, Khalil. She accompanied him on trips to the East and settled in Egypt where she gained power in the Salihiyah era. During her husband’s illness, she used to make decisions and approve them on his behalf by copying his signature. When Turan Shah reached Al-Mansurah, he threatened her and demanded money, so she killed him on Muharram 7th, 648 AH. After the death of Turan Shah, she was chosen as the ninth leader in the Ayyubi era. All state leaders agreed on this, including the princes in 648 AH. ‘Izz Ad-Din Aybak As-Salihiy At-Turkumany Atak was appointed as the leader of the army. She ruled the people in the best way and they were all pleased with her policy. Her signature on official documents was in her handwriting, Mother of Khalil. They used to invoke her in Friday speeches in Egypt and Greater Syria. Coins were minted with the inscription: [Coinage of Al-Musta’simiyah As-Salihiah, Queen of Muslims, Mother of the Victorious King, Khalil].

The moment Shajarat Ad-Dur came to power she started paying attention to the crusaders in Egypt and began negotiating with King Lewis IX who was held captive in Damietta. The agreement was to set them free after paying 800,000 Dinars as ransom: 400,000 dinars before their departure, and the rest when they reached Acre, never to return to Muslim coasts. On the other hand, she was generous as she left many buildings and public fountains for charity. She was killed in Rabi’ Al-Awwal in 655 AH.10

6. Sultan Khadijah
Khadijah, the daughter of ‘Umar Ibn Salah Ad-Din Al-Bengali was one of the Sultans of India. She was born and raised during her father’s rule in India where she was educated and cultured to be one the most intellectual and noble ladies of her time. After her father’s death, her brother, Shihab Ad-Din, succeeded him to the thrown but had a bad reputation. As a result, he was dismissed by the people in 740 AH and replaced by Sultan Khadijah. Her husband, Jamal Ad-Din, was appointed as head of the ministries, and she depended on him in crucial cases. Sultan Khadijah died in 770 AH.11

II. Women as Judges
Although the majority of Muslim scholars disagree regarding a woman being a judge, Imam Abu Hanifah maintained that she can be a judge in the cases where a woman’s testimony is accepted. Other scholars agree that she can be a judge in all cases, such as Muhammad Ibn Jarir At-Tabari, Ibn Hazm Az-Zahiri, Ibn Tiraz Ash-Shafi’i, Ibn Al-Qasim, and in one a narration from Imam Malik. Nevertheless, throughout Islamic history only one female judge is mentioned. She was Thamal Al-Qahramanah.

Thamal Al-Qahramanah
She was one of the most powerful women in the Al-Muqutadir era in the Abbasid dynasty. She was a great supporter of his mother who took care of state affairs. Thamal used to receive and listen to complaints from the people once a week in 306 AH. At first, people did not accept the idea of complaining to a woman. Later, she brought the judge, Abu Al-Hasan Ibn Al-Ashnani, to support her. She then proved herself when all the complaints had been checked and she had resolved all the problems. Her council became famous and was attended by judges, scholars and people of high rank. She died in 317 AH.12

Thamal was the only female judge who has been recorded in Islamic history, despite the fact that leadership is more crucial than judgment. Some of the female rulers used to judge among people such as Turkan Khatun and others who judged justly among people.13

III. Women as Fighters and Military Leaders
A woman’s role in Jihad is no less than that of a man. Women actually started Jihad before men. The first martyr in Islam was Sumayyah, the wife of Yasir. Asma’, daughter of Abu Bakr was the first to put herself in danger when she secretly delivered food and drink to the Prophet [pbuh] and her father in the cave. She was hurt by Abu Jahl when she refused to tell him about their hiding place.

Islam asks women and men to defend their country, land and people. The Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] approved of females participating in war. In fact, women had already participated in wars with the Prophet [pbuh], like Umm Salim Ibn Malhan, Umm Haram, daughter of Malhan, Umm Al-Harith Al-Ansariyah, Ar-Rubayy’, daughter of Mu‘widh, Umm Sanan al-Aslamiyyah, Umm Salit, Layla Al-Ghiffariyah, Ku‘aybah, daughter of Sa‘id Al-Aslamiyah, Himnah, daughter of Jahsh, Rufaydah Al-Ansariyah and Umm Ziyad Al-Ashja‘yah.

1. Umm Salim, Daughter of Malhan Al-Ansariyah
It was narrated that her name is Al-Ghumaysa’, and in another narration, Ar-Rumaysa’, and in a third one she is called Sahlah and was the mother of Anas Ibn Malik, the Prophet’s [pbuh] servant. Her husband was Malik Ibn An-Nadar. She married Abu Talhah Zayed Ibn Sahl Al-Ansari, the father of her other sons, Abu ‘Umayr and Abdullah.

She participated in the Battles of Uhud and Hunayn with the Prophet [pbuh]. She had a dagger in the Battle of Hunayn, and when Abu Talhah saw her, he told the Messenger of Allah [pbuh]. She then said, O Messenger of Allah I will stab the enemy who attacks me.’ The Messenger of Allah [pbuh] then smiled.14

2. Umm Haram Ibn Malhan
Umm Haram was the daughter of Malhan Ibn Khalid Ibn Zayd Ibn Haram, the sister of Umm Salim, the aunt of Anas Ibn Malik [raa], and the wife of ‘Ubadah Ibn As-Samit. Her narrations are included in all the books of Hadith, except the collection of Abu ‘Isa. Anas Ibn Malik [pbuh] and others narrated from her.

Once, the Prophet [pbuh] took a nap in her house, and he woke up laughing. When she asked him the reason why he was laughing, he said, ‘[In my dream] I saw Muslims from my Ummah on board ships. They looked like kings and queens sitting on beds.’ She said, ‘O Messenger of God, ask God for me to be with them.’ The Messenger [pbuh] responded, ‘You will be from the first to enter Heaven.’

After her marriage to ‘Ubadah Ibn As-Samit [pbuh], she participated in a battle with him. When they returned, she wanted to ride a mule but the mule knocked her down, and she broke her neck and died. It was narrated that she died during the time of ‘Uthman.15

3. Ar-Rubayy’, Daughter of Mu‘wwidh
Ar-Rubayy’ was the daughter of Mu ‘wwidh Ansariyah from Bani An-Najar. The Prophet [pbuh] visited her the day after her marriage for the sake of strengthening family ties. She lived for a long time and narrated many Hadiths. Abu Salamah Ibn Abdul-Rahman, Sulayman Ibn Yasar, ‘Ubadah Ibn Al-Walid Ibn ‘Ubadah, ‘Amr Ibn Shu‘ayb, Khalid Ibn Zakwan, Abdullah Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Uqayl and others narrated from her. Ar-Rubayy’s father was one of those who participated in the Battle of Badr and killed Abu Jahl. She died in her seventies during the era of Abdul-Malik.16

She made pledges to the Prophet [pbuh] and participated in Jihad. She was engaged to Iyas Ibn Al-Bakir Al-Laythi and she married him after returning from the Battle of Badr. The Prophet [pbuh] visited her after her marriage. She got her female servants dressed to drum and mourn the death of their fathers in the Battle of Badr. Ar-Rubayy’ participated at the Battle of Uhud with Umm ‘Imarah and ‘A’ishah.

4. Umm Sanan Al-Aslamiyyah
She was one of the Prophet’s [pbuh] companions who narrated Hadiths from the Prophet [pbuh]. Both Ibn Abbas and her daughter, Thubaytah, daughter of Hanzalah Al-Aslamiyyah narrated Hadiths from her. She was a courageous and determined warrior. She went to the Prophet [pbuh] who was heading to Khaybar and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! I want to come and join Jihad with you to distribute water, treat the injured, encourage the warriors and look after their belongings.’ The Prophet [pbuh] said, ‘Come with us and stay with Umm Salamah [who usually went with the Prophet [pbuh].’17

5. Layla Al-Jiffariyah
She is one of the more prominent female companions of the Prophet [pbuh] and she participated in battles with him [pbuh].18 She narrated, ‘I joined the Prophet [pbuh] in battles to treat the injured and take care of the sick.’ When ‘Ali [raa] went to Basrah in battle, she joined his troops.19 She died in 40 AH.

6. Ku‘aybah, Daughter of Sa‘id Al-Ansariyyah
She was one of the most generous and important female companions of the Prophet [pbuh]. She used to join him in battle. She also participated in the Battle of Khaybar and was killed by an arrow, according to a narration by Al-Waqidi.20

7. Rufaydah Al-Ansariyyah
Ibn Hajar said, ‘Rufaydah Al-Ansariyyah or Al-Aslamiyyah was mentioned by Ibn Ishaq in the story of Sa‘d Ibn Mu‘adh when he was injured in the Battle of the Trench. The Prophet [pbuh] told them to take him to Rufaydah’s tent in the mosque until he himself could visit them. Rufaydah used to treat the injured and mercifully take care of the Muslims who suffered.21 Since she converted to Islam, she participated in many battles. She supported the Muslims in times of hardship, and defended their rights.

As time passed, women led the Muslim army who fought in the way of God [swt]. An example of this is Turkan Khatun.

8. Turkan Khatun
Turkan Khatun was the daughter of Taghraj, Queen of Asbahan, wife of Sultan Milkshah. She was very intelligent, wise, religious and powerful. She descended from Afrasyab, the King of Persia. She used to help her husband in the affairs of the state. After his death, she managed to govern the kingdom, recruit consultants and ministers, lead armies, and protect trade interests.

Turkan had an influential role in the way Persia was ruled, and she helped to reform many bad habits and customs. She was generous and gave to many charities, so she gained the love of princes and people. Her daughter married Al-Muqtadi bi-Amrillah, the Abbasid Caliph. Turkan died 487 AH.22

Though these are only a few examples of women’s contribution to Muslim armies in times of battle, it confirms the role of women in all aspects of life.

IV. Women as Scholars and Muftis
Throughout Islamic history, many female scholars have succeeded in various fields. Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar mentioned about 1543 biographies of women in his book Al-Isabah fi Tamyyiz As-Sahabah. Some were scholars, others were narrators and some were authors. In addition, women have been mentioned by An-Nawawi in his book, Tahdhib Al-Asma’ wal-Lughat, Al-Katib Al-Baghdadi in his book, Tarikh Baghdad, As-Sakhawy in his book, Ad-Daw’ Al-Lami’ li-ahl Al-Qarn At-Tasi’, ‘Umar Rida in his book Mu‘jam A‘lam An-Nisa’. All these writers and others wrote about authors and biographers and mentioned many female scholars in areas such as Hadith [traditions], Fiqh [Jurisprudence], Tafsir [exegesis of the Qur’an], literature, and poetry.

Muslim women have exceeded men in many areas of knowledge in Muslim civilization, especially in Hadith. Imam Adh-Dhahabi and Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said, ‘I never heard of a woman who was accused of being a liar [in Hadith narration], nor one whose narrations were unsound and ignored.’23 Ibn Hajar confirmed this, saying, ‘I never heard of a woman being accused of lying [in narration], nor one whose narrations were weak or ignored.’24

Women were keen to seek knowledge from the time of the Prophet [pbuh]. Abu Sa‘id Al-Khudri and Abu Hurayrah [raa] narrated that women asked the Prophet [pbuh] to fix a day each week to teach them, as he did with men.[Al-Bukhari] ‘Ata’ Ibn Rabah said about ‘Aishah [raa], ‘She was the most knowledgeable and cultured and had the wisest opinions.’ [Al-Hakim]

All the other wives of the Prophet [pbuh] and most of the companions’ wives were knowledgeable too. All these women and many others significantly contributed towards enriching Muslim civilization. I cannot mention them all here; however, I will mention some examples of the women who came after the time of the Prophet’s [pbuh] companions.

1. Nafisat Al-‘Ilm
Adh-Dhahabi said, ‘She was a noble and righteous lady, and the daughter of the Muslim leader, Al-Hasan Ibn Zayd Ibn As-Sayyid, the grandson of the Prophet [pbuh]. She is from the Alawis Al-Hasaniyah. Her mosque is located in Cairo where she was buried. Her father appointed Al-Mansur as the leader of Madinah, then dismissed him and had him imprisoned. At the time of Al-Mahdi, Al-Mansur set him free, confiscated his money and performed the pilgrimage with him.

Nafisat Al-‘Ilm moved from Madinah to Egypt with her husband, Ishaq Ibn Ja‘far Ibn Muhammad As-Sadiq. She died in 208 AH, but not much was known about her death. It is narrated that she was a righteous worshipper and supplication next to her grave is more blessed.25

Nafisat Al-‘Ilm was born in Rabi’ Al-Awwal 11 in 145 AH in Makkah and stayed there until she was five. Her mother, Zaynab, daughter of Al-Hasan, moved to Al-Madinah with her father. She used to go to the Prophet’s [pbuh] mosque and listen to the scholars who taught there. She studied Fiqh and Hadith. Because she continuously sought knowledge, she was given the title ‘Nafisat Al-‘Ilm [i.e. the one who seeks knowledge]. When she reached marriageable age, most of the Prophet’s relatives proposed marriage to her through her father, who politely refused them all, except Ishaq Al-Mu’taman, son of Ja’far Ibn Muhammad As-Sadiq. He agreed to marry her to him and they married at his father’s house. They had a son, Al-Qasim and a daughter, Umm Kulthum.

She spent most of her time in the Prophet’s [pbuh] Mosque in Al-Madinah. She was an ascetic person who boycotted worldly pleasures that diverted her from worship. She dug her own grave. She memorized the Qur’an and interpreted it, and many people came to her to learn tafseer. She invoked God [swt] saying, ‘O God! Make it easy for me to visit the grave of Ibrahim [pbuh].’ God [swt] answered her prayers, and she visited Ibrahim’s grave with her husband.

She went with her husband to Egypt in Ramadan in 193 AH at the time of Harun Ar-Rashid. They were warmly welcomed in Al-Arish, north-eastern Egypt, and they stayed in the house of the chief merchant at that time, Jamal Ad-Din Abdullah Al-Jassas. On Saturday, Ramadan 26th, 193 AH, five years before the arrival of Imam Ash-Shafi’i, she came to Cairo and stayed with an Egyptian lady called Umm Han’ whose house was spacious, where people used to come seeking knowledge from Nafisat.

The house had become crowded which made it difficult for her to worship God [swt] the way that she had been used to do. She left and said to her visitors, ‘I intended to stay among you, but I am a weak woman and many people come seeking to learn from me, which has limited the time for my invocations. I am longing for my grandfather’s Radah in Al-Madinah.’

When the people heard that, they begged her to stay and the governor, As-Siry Ibn Al-Hakam, told her that he would be responsible for her and that he would remove any difficulty she faced. He prepared a larger house for her and fixed a schedule of two days per week when people could visit her to learn or seek her advice, so she would be free for the rest of the week to worship. She then agreed to stay. All the princes knew about the influence she had on people and that she also led a revolution against an unjust ruler.

Once a common man was unjustly arrested and tortured by the ruler’s soldiers. Later, that man passed by her house. The man called for her and asked her to pray for him, so she said, ‘May God blind those who are unjust so that they will not notice you’. When they arrived at the place of the ruler, they told him about what Nafisat Al-‘Ilm had said. The ruler said, ‘Am I unjust with my people? O God! I repent and seek Your forgiveness.’ Then, he ordered the men to release him. After that, he gave some money in charity to the poor and the needy.

In the book Tarikh Al-Qaramani [History of Al-Qaramani] by Al-Qaramani, the authors of Al-Gharar and Al-Mustatraf, who are authentic historians, mentioned that Nafisat Al-‘Ilm led a revolution against Ibn Tulun after people began complaining about his injustice. When she knew that the ruler would pass in front of her house, she passed him a letter. When he saw her, he dismounted and took it from her. She wrote, ‘You have ruled unjustly; you have used your power to humiliate others. You wrong people and prevent their provisions. You know that the invocation of the oppressed at night is likely to be accepted. Everyone will come to an end. Do whatever you want, to God we complain. And, soon the unjust assailants will know what turns their affairs will take! Al-Qaramani said, ‘Ibn Tulun ceased his injustice until his death.’

When Imam Ash-Shafi’i came to Egypt he was close to her and used to visit her on his way to and from Al-Fustat mosque for his regular lesson there. He used to pray At-Tarawih in Ramadan at her mosque. Each time he saw her, he used to ask her to pray for him. Even when he was sick, he would send someone to greet her on his behalf and tell her that he was sick so she could pray for him. In his will, he requested that she pray for him at his funeral. When he died in 204 AH and the funeral passed by her house, she prayed for him, implementing his wish.

She used to cry a lot because she feared God [swt], and she would fast during the day, pray at night, and only eat every three days and only with her husband. She went to Makkah for pilgrimage thirty times where she would pray to God [swt] next to the Ka’bah asking, ‘O God! My Lord, my Master and Protector! Let me enjoy Your satisfaction of me.’

Zaynab, daughter of Yahya Al-Mutawaj, said about her, ‘I served my aunt, Nafisat, for forty years, and she never missed the night prayer or broke her fast. So, I once told her, ‘Will you take it easy on yourself a little?’ She said, ‘How can I take it easy while I face many obstacles, that even the winners cannot pass easily.’

She was sick for seven years in Egypt, so she wrote a letter to her husband. She dug her grave at home and used to sincerely worship, pray, and recite the Qur’an 190 times at that grave. She kept doing this until the agony of death came while she was fasting in 208 AH. She was asked to break the fast, but she refused saying, ‘I prayed to God for thirty years that I would die while I am fasting, how can I do this now? At night, she read Surat Al-An’am [ch. 7]. When she reached the verse: ‘For them will be the home of peace [Paradise] with their Lord. And He will be their Wali [Helper and Protector] because of what they used to do.’ [A-Ana’am, 6: 127] she fainted after saying Al-Shahadah [declaration of faith] then passed away.

2. Karimah, Narrator of Al-Bukhari
The respected scholar, Umm Al-Kiram Karimah, daughter of Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hatim Al-Mirzaweyah lived in Makkah. She studied Sahih Al-Bukhari at Abu Al-Haytham Al-Kashm and at Zahir Ibn Ahmad As-Sarsakhy and Abdullah Ibn Yusuf Ibn Bamuwiyh Al-Asbahani. She was a trustworthy narrator, and was generous and religious. She narrated Sahih Al-Bukhari many times, one of which was the way Abu Bakr Al-Khatib had narrated it. She never married. Many people narrated Hadith from her including Al-Khatib, Abu Al-Ghanae’m An-Nursy, Abu Taleb Al-Husayn Ibn Muhammad Az-Zaynaby, Muhammad Ibn Barakat As-Saidy, Ali Ibn Al-Husayn Al-Fraa’, Abdu Allah Ibn Muhammad Ibn Sadaquah Ibn Al-Ghazal, Abu Al-Quasim Ibn Ibrahim An-Nasĩb, Abu Al-Mudhafar Mansūr As-Sam’ani, and others.

Abu Al-Ghanae’m said, ‘Karimah gave me a copy of Sahih Al-Bukhari. I sat and wrote seven pages, then I read them. I wanted to lecture alone but she refused and said that she should supervise me first and she did.

Abu Bakr Al-Mansour As-Sama’ani said, ‘I heard from my father that Karimah was the most generous person he had ever met.

My niece said that Karimah never married. Her father was from Kashmihn and her mother was from the Saiaries. Her father took her to Jerusalem and then back to Makkah; she lived until one hundred years of age.

Ibn Nuqutah said, ‘I took her time of death from Ibn An-Naser as 465 AH. However, the correct year of her death was in 463 AH.’ Hebatullah Ibn Al-Akfani and Abdul Aziz Ibn Ali As-Sufi told me that he had heard from one source that Karimah died in 463 AH. Abu Ja’far Muhammad Ibn Ali Al-Humadhani said, ‘I performed pilgrimage in 463 AH and was told that Karimah had died while I was on my way there.’26

3. Amatu Al-Wahid
She was the daughter of Al-Husayn Ibn Isma’il Al-Mahamili and was a jurist and mufti. She studied with her father and narrated from him. She memorized the Qur’an by heart as well as some texts of Shafi’i Fiqh. She mastered Arabic grammar and the laws of inheritance. She used to issue Fatwas along with Abu Ali Ibn Abi Hurayrah and was the mother of Judge Muhammad Ibn Al-Qasim Al-Mahamili. She died in Ramadan 377 AH.27

4. Shahdah Al-Abri
She was the daughter of Abu Nasr Ahmad, Ibn Al-Faraj Ad-Daynuri al-Baghdadi, the scholar of Hadith. She lived for a long time, and was a writer. She was also one of the authentic narrators of Hadith in Iraq. She was born in 480 AH and studied with Abu Al-Fawaris Tirad Az-Zaynabi, Ibn Talhah An-Na’ali, Abu Al-Hasan Ibn Ayyub, Abu Al-Khattab Ibn Al-Batr, Abdul-Wahid Ibn ‘Ulwan, Ahmad Ibn Abdul-Qadir Al-Yusifi, Thabit Ibn Bandar, Mansur Ibn Hayd, Ja’far As-Siraj, and others.

She had her own religious council. Many scholars narrated from her such as Ibn ‘Asakir, As-Sam’ani, Ibn Al-Jawzi, Abdul-Ghani, Abdul-Qadir Ar-Rahawi, Ibn Al-Akhdar, Sheikh Al-Mafaq, Sheikh Al-’Imad, Ash-Shihab Ibn Rajih, Al-Baha’ Abdur-Rahman, An-Nasih, Al-Fakhr Al-Irbali, Taj-ud-Din ‘Abdullah Ibn Hamawayh, A’zz Ibn Al-’Ulayq, Ibrahim Ibn Al-Khayr, Baha’ud-Din Ibn Al-Jumayzi, Muhammad Ibn Al-Mani, Abul-Qasim Ibn Qumayrah as well as many others.

Ibn Al-Jawzi said, ‘I studied with her. She had very good handwriting. She married one of the Caliph’s deputies.’ She was a social person and met with regular people as well as with scholars. She was generous and organized charities. She lived for nearly one hundred years and died on Muharram 14th, in 574 AH. Many regular people and scholars attended her funeral.

Sheikh Al-Muwaffaq said, ‘She was the last person in the chain of Hadith transmission in Baghdad. She lived for a long time so she had introduced the knowledge of the old to the young. Her handwriting was very delicate but it became less so as she aged.

5. Zayn Al-Arab, Daughter of Abdur-Rahman
She was the daughter of Abdur-Rahman Ibn ‘Umar Ibn Al-Husayn. She was known as the daughter of Al-Khuzayrani. She was a scholar of Hadith and was responsible for the Sheikhdom of Ribat. She stayed in Makkah where she was responsible for the Sheikhdom of Ribat Al-Haramayn before her death in 704 AH when she was in her seventies.28

6. Dahma’, Daughter of Yahya
She was the daughter of Yahya Ibn Al-Murtada. She was a prestigious scholar and studied with her brother, Imam Al-Mahdi. She mastered Arabic grammar, Usul [principles of Islamic jurisprudence], logic, astrology, semiotics and poetry. She wrote four volumes explaining Al-Zhar book. She made a commentary on Manzumat Al-Kufi in Fiqh [jurisprudence] and al-Fara’id [inheritance]; as well as a commentary on Mukhtasar Al-Muntaha. Students of Tala City studied with her. She died in Tala City in Dhul-Qa’dah, 837 AH.29

7. Fatimah, Daughter of Ahmad
Fatimah, daughter of Ahmad Ibn Yahya was a noble scholar, who used to derive legal rulings from the Shari’ah. She discussed many known rules with her father, such as the mixing of henna with safflower and using it as a dye. Her father said, ‘She deduced rules by herself,’ meaning that she was well-versed. Even her husband, Imam Al-Mutahhar, used to ask her opinion when he was confused about some legal issues. When some of his students raised difficult issues, he would ask her and she would answer. When he told them, they would know that it was not his answer. She died in 840 AH before her father.30

8. Asma’ Al-Mahrawaniyah
Asma’ was the daughter of ‘Abdullah Ibn Muhammad Al-Mahrawaniyah. She was a scholar of Hadith and a writer. She was pious and righteous. She studied the book of al-Khatib entitled ‘Riwayat Al-Aba’ ‘An Al-Abna’ [Fathers’ Narration from his Sons] with Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Nasr Ibn An-Nahhas, and Ash-Shihab Ahmad Ibn Al-Ghalib Ibn Muhammad Al-Maksīni. Six sheikhs authorized her narrations, including, Raslan Adh-Dhuhni, Abu Bakr Ibn Muhammad Al-Muzni. Ash-Shihab Ibn Al-Liyudi taught her about ruling the sheikhdom. As-Sakhawy also studied with her. She died in Damascus in Safar, 867 AH, and was buried in the Bab Tuma graveyard near Sheikh Raslan’s grave.31

9. Zahidah At-Tahiri
She was the daughter of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdullah At-Tahiri. She was a narrator who was authorized by Ibn Al-Jumayzi, Ash-Shawi and others. She studied with and narrated from Ibrahim Ibn Khalil and others. Al-Muqatili taught her about the sheikhdom and Al-Wani was taught by her. She died in the eighth century of Hijrah.32

10. Zaynab Al-Jirjaniyah
Zaynab, daughter of Abdur-Rahman Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Jirjani was also known as Ibnat Ash-Shi’ra Al-Hurrah and was a knowledgeable woman, a noble scholar and an authentic narrator. She was born in Nīsabur in 524 AH. She studied Hadith with many scholars and was authorized by them. She learned from Abu Muhammad Isma’il Ibn Abu Al-Qasim Ibn Abu Bakr An-Naysaburi, the reciter; Abu Al-Qasim Zahir; Abu Al-Muzaffar Abdul-Mun’im Ibn Abdul-Karim Ibn Hawazin Al-Qushayri; Abul-Futuh Abdul-Wahhab Ibn Shah Ash-Shazyadi; Abul-Barakat Muhammad Ibn Al-Fadl Al-Fazari and others. She was authorized by Al-Hafiz Abul-Hasan Abdul-Ghaffar Ibn Isma’il Ibn Abdul-Ghaffar Al-Farisi; Al-Khiraqi, as well as other narrators and scholars.

‘Ali Al-Maqdisi mentioned her, while Al-Hasan Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Al-Bakri studied part of the Hadith [traditions] of Abu ‘Umar, Ismai’l Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad As-Salami and ‘Uthaman Ibn Abdul-Rahman Ibn As-Salah. She studied the third part of Al-Waki’ Ibn Al-Jarrah’s book Az-Zuhd, and Al-Arba’in was narrated by her with the authenticity of As-Sa’dīn from Fatimah, the daughter of Al-Baghdadi. The tenth part of the book Al-Fawa’id by Al-Hakim’s Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad An-Naysaburi was narrated by her orally from Abu Al-Qasim Zahir Ibn Tahir Ibn Muhammad Ash-Shahami. She authorized the first and second full volumes of the narrations by Ali Ibn Harb with authentication. She died in Nīsabur Jumada Al-Akhar in 615 AH.33

V. Women in Executive Authority [Hisbah]
It has been narrated that in the first century of the Islamic era, women were appointed to positions in the executive authority, or what is now called ‘the police’. In Islamic Jurisprudence, this is referred to as Al-Hisbah. For this reason, some scholars have agreed that women can work in similar positions in Muslim countries. Based on a narration from Ash-Shifa’, Ibn Hazm said, ‘It is permissible for a woman to be a ruler. Abu Hanifah also held this view. It was narrated that ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab appointed Ash-Shifa as an inspector of the market.

If it is said that doing so would contradict the Prophet’s [pbuh] saying, ‘People who are led by a woman will not be prosperous,’ I respond by saying that this Hadith refers to major leadership [Caliphate]. The Prophet [pbuh] said, ‘A woman is a guardian of her husband’s money and she will be asked [on the Day of Judgment] about this guardianship.’ The scholars of the Maliki school maintain that a woman can be a guardian or deputy unless there is a text in the Qur’an which forbids her in this matter.34

Abu Balaj, Yahya Ibn Abu Salim narrated, ‘I saw Samra, the daughter of Nahik, who lived at the time of the Prophet [pbuh] wearing thick armour and thick clothes, holding a whip and telling people what is right and what is wrong.’ [Al-Tabarani and Al-Haythami]


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