Did you know there were over 9,000 female scholars in early Muslim history?

 

What happened?

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Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi, who completed a monumental 57-volume work on the lives of female scholars of Hadith in Islamic History (May 2010) explains that there was, once upon a time, over 9,000 female scholars across the length and breadth of an enlightened Muslim civilisation.

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This pro-active approach to knowledge, he explains, was a direct result of Prophet Muhammad’s efforts [peace be upon him].

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Right from the get-go Dr Nadwi rebukes Muslim men about their current treatment of women in Muslim households. He appears visibly troubled/frustrated because of accounts he had heard about the treatment of Muslim women in some Muslim households. He does not relay any of those accounts. There is no need. It is NOT acceptable.

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[MWM: Male chauvinism is cross-cultural and must be fought by men! The Liberal-Secularists and Muslims might differ somewhat as to the precise criteria of what constitutes such chauvinism. But, nonetheless, it is an Islamic duty to fight against Male chauvinism. Which criteria is correct/better? The answer to that question is not the focus of this post. πŸ˜‰ ]

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Dr Nadwi says that if we want to make positive changes in society, presumably by our want to increase our practice of a polished Islam – well, nothing good is going to happen with the existence of such bad attitude by mistreating women. There can be no positive change in society until this is addressed.

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[Watch from 8:08] – Muslims must allow women space to learn – as Muslims following the Prophet’s Way once used to allow.

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[Watch from 10:00] – Muslim women did so well (in Muslim societies at the time of the Prophet and even after that) despite challenges due to restrictions on travelling alone (as per madhahib ruling).

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[MWM: Compare this to the modern period and the present state of affairs, given that in many Muslim societies with or without restrictions on travelling – where is the frequency of female scholars of Islam now?]

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If you take out the hadith relayed only by women, we will be deprived of one-quarter of the shari’ah. Their contribution is huge. (The other three-quarters is by both men and women).

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[Watch from 12:50] – Story of Mufti Amara. A story of how important women scholars were. Source: Malick’s Muwatta.

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[Watch from 15:40] – Women and mosques… [MWM – Good job: East London Mosque’s Maryam Centre!]

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[Watch from 16:20] – At Jerusalem, Masjid Al-Aqsa: the great tabiyya, Umm ud-Dardar taught for 6 months. Her hadiths can be found in the collections of Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Hanbal. Men would attend, including the Caliph Al-Malik Marwan.

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[Watch from 18:20] – At Medina, Prophet’s Mosque: one of the great muhaddith, Fatimah bint Ibrahim (d.711) learnt from the scholar Zabidi, and taught the hadiths of Bukhari. People travelled even from Morroco to attend her class.

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Dr Nadwi lists the accounts that reveal the extent of Muslim female scholarship across Muslim history.

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[Watch from 33:00] – Muslim men, at that time, had respect for Muslim women, which is why they encouraged their daughters, wives, sisters to learn. And if their wife knew more, the husbands would learn from them.

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[38:13] – Q&A

Some good questions, include (to paraphrase):

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a) What should we do to get to where these experts got to?

ANSWER: If we want to get anywhere – we MUST learn the Arabic language. Then understand the Qur’an and Sunnah. Don’t start with Fiqh and then busy yourselves working out from the Qur’an and Sunnah if your school of thought is right, as we do in the modern period.

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[watch from 51:00] –

b) When/ how did the decline take place as to why we don’t have such female Muslim scholars like this anymore?

ANSWER: After 10th/11th Centuries AH (Approx after 16th/17th Centuries CE) – the Madrasah curriculum became more Fiqh and Greek philosophy oriented. The problem with Greek philosophy was its belief that women were inferior to men. Aristotle was so offensive to women. There are women experts from every sect (i.e. Khawarij, Shia), but not in the Mutazillah sect (which was the first Muslim philosophical school). These people never allowed women to learn.

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Women were more active hadith-scholars. When philosophy became more prevalent, hadith learning would decrease, and so female scholarship would decrease too. Had Muslims accepted the way of Ibn Taymiyya in that century (who was pro hadith with his criticism of Greek Philosophy and Logic rather than being pro-philosophy) things might have become different… But it was too difficult for the people who received their Madrasa curriculum system from the way of Al-Ghazali at that time. Things couldn’t be revived. It didn’t work out and we’re suffering until now.

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Watch the lecture yourself. Pretty interesting stuff!

Shaykh

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3 Comments

Filed under Islam

3 responses to “Did you know there were over 9,000 female scholars in early Muslim history?

  1. Ma’ sha Allah this is very interesting. Thankyou for putting it up. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Jazakallahu khairan for your feedback. I always had an inkling that this must have been the case, but had no idea of the scale. And to have this researched and laid out as such is very much needed in these trying times, alhamdulillah.

      Like

      • Aslam,
        Yes i agree very much. I felt i could relate to it, i have recently self published a collection of poetry and it does express some of the points mentioned. Also, they are further developed in my up coming collection of short stories titles Genetic Makeup. In’sha Allah.

        Jazaks for reply.

        Like

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