Women Scholars of Hadith
[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. The actual document follows my introductory comments.]
Courtesy: Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq; Personal Homepage: http://www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm; mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
They Must Bloom Again:
My introductory comments
By, Mohammad Omar Farooq
Ever since I have become conscious about Islam on one hand and the contemporary social reality on the other, I have continuously felt disturbed by the fact that in regard to many aspects, there is a BIG gap between what Islam stands for and what the social reality is. One of the vital areas where this gap is so pronounced is gender. After tying the knot of my heart with my beloved wife, and then joining the parents club through two most wonderful daughters, I could not but take a much closer look at the gender issues.
Over the years I have been keen on learning more about these issues. I have done modest amount of reading on Islam. I have been increasingly dissatisfied with much of my readings as I continued to discover directly from the Qur'an, Qur'anic literature, Hadith and Seerah that what we are generally adhering to, defending, and promoting in regard to gender issues stand in sharp contrast to the Qur'anic and Prophetic vision as well as the heritage.
There is a general notion among the religious establishment of Islam, and derived therefrom, among the common Muslims, that Islam recognizes superiority of men over women. (See one of my articles, Cyber-discussion on Gender Equality in this regards.) Just the other night a friend of mine, from Los Angeles, California (teaching at a university there) called me and among other things, lamented at the fact that his otherwise devoted Muslim family is finding a difficult time to have rooms assigned for them in Masjid to have ventilation. Might little bit of natural light and wind be hazardous to our women's as well as our spiritual health and well-being?
I remember visting places for regular needs in countries, such as Bangladesh, and having little or no facility for women to wash and pray. Several years ago I participated in the Shura committee of one of the Islamic Centers in USA. By the vote of the community, the elected chairman of the Shura was joined by his wife (also elected as a member) in the Shura as well. At the very first meeting, one of the brothers, who must have felt that the presence of the sister, even with her husband present, was a violation of Islam, to protect his own piety and lodge his silent but otherwise conspicuous, protest, stood up and left.
I recently visited a Masjid in Ohio, where I found the facilities for washing for men was not that good but survivable. My young daughter, however, going around by herself into the women's section, later on, came out crying at what she experienced there. A non-muslim woman in one of the places of America was refused the taxi-service by a Muslim driver because she had a dog with him. It did not matter that she was a blind. The brother, feeling dutybound, gave her a sumptuous lecture to this blind, non-Muslim lady.
The literacy rate is already poor in the Muslim countries, and the rate for women is disproportionately lower. Let us not talk about the women, like Rashida, who are without any protection and had to be brutally murdered without any assistance, while the neighbors heard her last screams. (See one of my articles, Being Women: Then and Now). Women are now being robbed of their professional and out-of-the home positions under strict public code in Taliban's "Islamic" Republic of Afghanistan. In contrast, Muslim women in Iran are doing relatively lot better. In the heartland of Islam with Makkah and Madina, women don't have the right to drive. It is absolutely, IRONIC. (See one of my articles, Hajj and the Neglected Legacy of a Great Woman.)
Islamic movements in various parts of the world are chanting that the progress they have made in promoting the cause of the women in accordance with Islam and proudly arguing how Islam is rightfully superior in dealing with women's rights. As they are still groping with the issues whether women should veil themselves or not, they have no problem with men playing games, such as soccers, with albeit "longer" shorts! They are promoting separate women's educational institutions as well as separate women's organizations for Islamic causes. Some Islamically-oriented groups are establishing women-only mosques - all believing that what they are doing is Islamic or better represents Islam. At the same time, Muslim groups are losing seats in the Parliament in countries, such as Bangladesh, while they have to contend with viles of many home-grown, viciously anti-Islamic feminists.
Please do remember that my entire angle is nothing but Islamic and to be applicable within the context of Islam. Let me raise some questions now. Are men superior to women according to Islam? Why don't we have women Islamic scholars, experts, and Mujtahids? To solve the problems of women, do we need, or is it Islamic, to have separate Islamic schools/colleges/mosques? Is it alright for women to give lectures to a mixed gathering of Muslim men and women? How about doing so at an Islamic Center/mosque?
I hope that I have not caused already enough bells sounding alarm. Based on my study of the Qur'an, Hadith, and Seerah, I myself have concluded quite a while ago that what we are promoting, both by saying and doing, today are mostly opposite to what Islam teaches. Then, several years ago it was by chance I came across a book Struggling to Surrender by a new American Muslim, Dr. Jeffrey Lang. The book was captivating. But apart from its richness in terms of the experience he frankly shared and thoughts he provoked, it was an important eye-opening experience for me in regard to gender issues. We are generally aware that Muslim women, such as Hadhrat Aisha, Fatima, Khadija (r), and others, have played distinguished role during and immediately after the Prophet (s). In that book, there were some brief reference to a forgotten, but very distinctive role Muslim women have played in Islamic history.
My interest was deeply aroused. I followed up by reading the original reference, Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development, Special Features & Criticism by Dr. Mohammad Zubayr Siddiqi. This book had a chapter titled "Women Scholars of Hadith." This chapter, which is provided below, was an eye-opener for me.
For the first time I realized one of the most basic defects in our contemporary Muslim attitude and thinking. We all know that beyond the few towering women personalities in the earliest part of the Prophetic era, we can hardly name any woman scholar. It is well-known that in our contemporary century, Islamic scholars, Imams, experts, as well as leaders of Islamic movements HAVE NOT been educated by men AND women. Going back further, even noted scholars such as Shah Waliullah Dehlavi and Shaikh Sarhind Alfisani (correct me, if I am wrong) did not have any woman among their educators. It was simply not possible, because "women scholars" of Islam - teaching men and women, in public context, where many of them were, not just among women, but overall the best of the best of their time - have become an extinct species.
What am I saying! Learning of Islam by men from men AND women? Tell me, it is true - isn't it - that the founder of Tabligh Jamaat (Maulana Muhammad Ilyas), founder of Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Shaikh Hasan al-Banna), Saudi Arabia's late chief Mufti Shaikh Ibn Bazz, or even the founder of Jamaate Islami (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi) did not have among their educators any contemporary women scholar. The result is easily understandable and predictable. Have you ever heard that there were times spanning many centuries when top male Islamic scholars sometimes used to recommend their mixed groups of students, men and women, to learn a particular book such as Sahih al-Bukhari or Sahih Muslim from none other than some specific woman scholar? If you have not, then the attitude of these generations of Muslims, including their leaders, scholars, mentors, vis-à-vis women, is better understandable.
I guess I have said enough. While as a sort of layman my modest learning and research continue on this subject, I have found this following document "Woman Scholars of Hadith" to be absolutely an eye-opener.
Recently, past forty, I find in retrospect that I have hardly accumulated any good deed. Sometimes, envisioning my situation with the Balance (Mizan) I feel like that as soon as it would be placed in position, the left side will take a nose-dive. Thus, I have plenty of reasons to be concerned being such deficient in good deeds. However, in my humble observation and study, - and there are plenty among you who could probably convincingly prove me wrong otherwise - that Allah is almost looking for an "excuse" to save us. That is probably why in the case of the man "who had NO good deeds" Allah takes his providing water to a thirsty dog as the "excuse" for forgiving him [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8, #38]. A similar case is reported in case of a "prostitute" [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, #538]. A prostitute!!! A man just removed a thorny branch from the people's path and Allah "accepted his good deed and brought him to Paradise" [Sunan Abu Dawood; Vol. 3, #5225] Just for giving her two hungry daughters the last date, while herself going starved, Allah "ordained" Paradise for a mother. [Riyadus Saleheen, #269] While pure Aqeedah and avoidance of Bid'a have their proper place in Islam, as I think more I have hard time in each of the above cases to understand what might have been the knowledge, belief, or understanding of these people who were forgiven or saved by Allah. One thing is common in each of these cases - little bit of humane caring, a kind of Amali Salehat that caringly and positively touches others' lives.
[A personal note/digression: In counting my case, I can't think of any good deed in my ledger. But I do believe that our Benevolent Rabb is as His servants think of Him [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, #596]. And I do think that He is the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate, the Most Forgiving. Not that I believe in committing as much sin as possible, but I do believe that Allah's power of compassion and forgiveness is infinite - much exceeding my shortcomings or failures as a believing person. I do seek His forgiveness and mercy. If He enjoys forgiving those who seek forgiveness, He might find a good case in me who would need lot of forgiveness. Yet, I do bring to your attention this following document of Dr. M. Zubayr Siddiqi (May Allah bless his soul) to all of you as an eye-opener. Who knows, our Benevolent Rabb might take this modest work as His excuse to forgive me. I do pray and beseech that He would. I declare: La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammad al-Rasulullah. O Allah! O al-Rahman al-Rahim! Bless Your beloved Messenger Muhammad, his family, progeny and companions. You have said: "O my servants who have trangressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful." (al-Qur'an/39/al-Zhumar/53) O Allah! I have transgressed against my souls and have done it so much. But I believe in your mercy and forgiveness, and I surrender myself with all my shortcomings to You.]
If you find this document palatable and beneficial, those who are capable should do further research on this issue beyond this document, and all others, please bring this document to the attention of other Muslims, men and women, and start thinking as to how can we bring about the reality of Islamic learning back. I can't overemphasize that on men's or women's issues, we need women alongside our men to take the seat of the educators/mujtahids/scholars/experts. That is why we again need women scholars back: THEY MUST BLOOM AGAIN.
Note: Read my additional comments after the document.
Women Scholars of Hadith
by Dr. Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi
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
1. Maura O'Neill, Women Speaking, Women Listening (Maryknoll, 1990CE), 31: "Muslims do not use a masculine God as either a conscious or unconscious tool in the construction of gender roles."
2. For a general overview of the question of women's status in Islam, see M. Boisers, L'Humanisme de l'Islam (3rd. ed., Paris, 1985CE), 104-10.
3. al-Khatib, Sunna, 53-4, 69-70.
4. See above, 18, 21.
5. Ibn Sa'd, VIII, 355.
6. Suyuti, Tadrib, 215.
7. Ibn Sa'd, VIII, 353.
8. Maqqari, Nafh, II, 96.
9. Wustenfeld, Genealogische Tabellen, 403.
10. al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad, XIV, 434f.
11. Ibid., XIV, 441-44.
12. Ibn al-Imad, Shsadharat al-Dhahah fi Akhbar man Dhahah (Cairo, 1351), V, 48; Ibn Khallikan, no. 413.
13. Maqqari, Nafh, I, 876; cited in Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 366.
14. Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 366. "It is in fact very common in the ijaza of the transmission of the Bukhari text to find as middle member of the long chain the name of Karima al-Marwaziyya," (ibid.).
15. Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Udaba', I, 247.
16. COPL, V/i, 98f.
17. Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 366.
18. Ibn al-Imad, IV, 123. Sitt al-Wuzara' was also an eminent jurist. She was once invited to Cairo to give her fatwa on a subject that had perplexed the jurists there.
19. Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil (Cairo, 1301), X, 346.
20. Ibn Khallikan, no. 295.
21. Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 367.
22. Ibn al-Imad, VI. 40.
23. Ibid., VIII, 14.
24. Ibn Salim, al-Imdad (Hyderabad, 1327), 36.
25. Ibn al-Imad, IV, 100.
26. Ibn Salim, 16.
27. Ibid., 28f.
28. Ibn al-Imad, VI 56.
29. ibid., 126; Ibn Salim, 14, 18; al-Umari, Qitf al-Thamar (Hyderabad, 1328), 73.
30. Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 407.
31. Ibn Battuta, Rihla, 253.
32. Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan, V, 140f.
33. Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Udaba, 17f.
34. COPL, V/i, 175f.
35. Ibn Khallikan, no.250.
36. Ibn al-Imad, V, 212, 404.
37. Various manuscripts of this work have been preserved in libraries, and it has been published in Hyderabad in 1348-50. Volume VI of Ibn al-Imad's Shadharat al-Dhahab, a large biographical dictionary of prominent Muslim scholars from the first to the tenth centuries of the hijra, is largely based on this work.
38. Goldziher, accustomed to the exclusively male environment of nineteenth-century European universities, was taken aback by the scene depicted by Ibn Hajar. Cf. Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 367: "When reading the great biographical work of Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani on the scholars of the eighth century, we may marvel at the number of women to whom the author has to dedicate articles."
39. Ibn Hajar, al-Durar al-Karima fi Ayan al-Mi'a al-Thamina (Hyderabad, 1348-50), I, no. 1472.
40. Ibn al-Imad, VIII, 120f.
41. Ibid., VI, 208. We are told that al-Iraqi (the best know authority on the hadiths of Ghazali's Ihya Ulum al-Din) ensured that his son also studied under her.
42. A summary by Abd al-Salam and Umar ibn al-Shamma' exists (C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur, second ed. (Leiden, 1943-49CE), II, 34), and a defective manuscript of the work of the latter is preserved in the O.P. Library at Patna (COPL, XII, no.727).
44. Sakhawi, al-Saw al-Lami li-Ahl al-Qarn al-Tasi (Cairo, 1353-55), XII, no. 980.
45. Ibid., no. 58.
46. Ibid., no. 450.
47. Ibid., no. 901.
48. al-Aydarus, al-Nur al-Safir (Baghdad, 1353), 49.
49. Ibn Abi Tahir, see COPL, XII, no. 665ff.
51. Goldziher, Muslim Studies, II, 407.
52. al-Suhuh al-Wabila, see COPL, XII, no. 785.
53. COPL, V/ii, 54.
54. Ibid., V/ii, 155-9, 180-208. For some particularly instructive annotated manuscripts preserved at the Zahiriya Library at Damascus, see the article of Abd al-Aziz al-Maymani in al-Mabahith al-Ilmiyya (Hyderabad: Da'irat al-Ma'arif, 1358), 1-14.
Mohammad Omar Farooq
In light of the above document, additional research is needed. Insha'Allah, I myself intend to continue to do my share, while I also urge all those who have access to original sources as well as time, interest and expertise to do their share.
As you will notice that Dr. Siddiqi has used mostly original Islamic sources for providing information and supporting his observations. However, one area that might draw attention of some is use of Ignaz Goldziher, a well-known Orientalist, as some source in the above document by Dr. Siddiqi. To remove any doubt about the reference to Goldziher, the sources from which Goldziher have been quoted are also produced here. It is worth reading to ensure that Goldziher himself has used only reference from original Islamic sources. To read Goldziher's paper to which Dr. Siddiqi refers and in which Goldziher provides his original references, see Women in the Hadith Literature.
Through collaboration, we can make a difference. However, just based on the above document, several things can be established.
1. The Hadith literature that we have as a precious treasure, only secondary to the Qur'an, has been developed, preserved, propagated, and taught by both men AND WOMEN of scholarly repute. ASK: Why does it appear that so many male muslim scholars' name have become so commonly known, while we know hardly ANY name after the period of the companions of the Prophet (s)? Shall we make an effort from now on to remedy this?
2. At least, in regard to Hadith literature, men AND WOMEN have taught some of the best generations of Islamic scholars. ASK: Why the women Islamic scholars have virtually become extinct? How is it that we don't even have generally available and circulated information about the role of these precious gems? ASK again: Why do we not care so that they bloom again?
3. The other side of the same fact is that, in regard to Hadith literature, men AND WOMEN learners have taken lessons from their teachers, men AND WOMEN. ASK: How in the world our Islamic scholars have found themselves deprived of an educational environment where they could also learn from men AND WOMEN scholars of their time? How is it that they don't even have a sense of loss and deprivation? ASK again: What can we do about it?
4. Muslim scholars of Hadith, men AND WOMEN, have taught and learnt in a public setting. ASK: How in the world these scholars have participated in the pursuit of knowledge and education publicly, while we are trying to keep women either away from Mosques or, even if we do allow them, we confine them to mostly invisible areas?
5. There were some women scholars of Hadith of such high repute, such as Karima al-Marwaziyya, who used to be regarded as "the best authority on the Sahih of al-Bukhari in her own time." ASK: How in the world can we ever think, attributing to Islam, that men are superior to women (particularly, in terms of intelligence), while when given opportunity, Muslim women have shown no lack of competence to be scholars and educators of some of the best minds of their times, and in turn, their contemporary "men scholars" have recognized such women personalities as the best of the best of their time? Also ASK: Under what kind of circumstances some women can be recognized as the "best of their time", unless they were studying and educating alongside men in an environment where merits can be competitively identified?
A few more "disturbing" questions.
6. It is a commonly held notion that Islam is against co-education (Of course, I am talking about it in an Islamic environment). ASK: Is that the scenario we get from these many generations of women scholars?
7. These women scholars used to give public lectures in gathering of learners, men and women. ASK: What does that indicate about their voice? Did they just move their lips, while the learners used to be lip-readers?
8. These women scholars used to give Ijazas (certificates) to qualified students. ASK: How did the students know who was the teacher? How did the teachers know who was the student? Remember that many of these classes used to be fairly large, and we don't know of any "convention of carrying name-tags" during these periods. Also ASK: If these scholars used to issue Ijazas blindly, without ascertaining the recipient, what credibility can be assigned to such a system?
I wish to see, through collaboration with others, a full-scale research is undertaken as a follow up to the Dr. M. Zubayr Siddiqi's "Women Scholars of Hadith." The purpose of this research would be to ascertain the environment in which these scholars used to participate in the educational activities. Did they veil themselves? In what kind of classroom setting they used to give lectures or lessons? How did they use to interact with their fellow scholars? Etc. Such research can be undertaken by any interested party. It can also be carried out through dissertation research for which fellowships can be provided.
You might have other questions or feedbacks. Please share those with me and in turn I will share those with others.
May Allah forgive me if I have said or written anything wrong or raised any wrong questions. Otherwise, may He let women scholars bloom again. May He give me Taufiq to make whatever modest contribution I can make in this regard. May He guide us all to the Truth. Indeed, there is no true guidance but from Him.
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