Hidden Female Figures in Islamic History

Whenever we’ve heard stories of prominent figures in Islamic history, the narrative we’ve been taught always highlighted the male companions and male scholars – making it seem as if the women were all hidden, veiled away from the rest of society. We assumed they were always at home, where they belonged (as we were told), staying out of the public eye. 

But as I began to study, I started to unveil TREASURES. Jewels of women who played roles in society, even at the time of Rasullalah (S), that I had never in my life imagined that Islam granted women the ability to play. But their stories were always hidden, tucked away in Arabic books – un-translated to the masses. Why have their names been erased from our Islamic curriculum? 

Islamic history is full of women exercising their God-given rights to work, serve, and be fully engaged in her society. The erasure of these names from history has caused these rights to be stripped from her, leading to the mistreatment and exploitation of half of the Muslim ummah.

Revive their names, revive their stories. It’s time to bring back the Hidden Female Figures of our Islamic History:

Have you ever heard of Shifaa bint Abdullah? The strong intelligent woman who Umar (R) appointed as a policewoman of the entire marketplace in Madinah. She walked around with her stick, keeping the peace and reprimanding those who were violating the business transaction laws of the Shariah. Imagine that. A woman who was so knowledgeable of the Shariah, that she was chosen from all the other Sahaba to police both men and women.  In fact, when Umar (R) decided to appoint another police for the Makkan marketplace, another woman, Samra’ bint Nuhayk was chosen as the most suitable for the job. These women were looked at based upon their qualifications, their knowledge of the Shariah – not their gender.

Have you ever heard of Nusayba bint Ka’ab? The female warrior who courageously defended the Prophet (S) in several battles. The one whom the Prophet (S) said about her at Uhud, “Whenever I looked to the right or left, I saw her fighting in front of me.” The one whom the Prophet (S) asked, “From where can anyone get courage like you, O Umm Umarah (her nickname)?”

Have you ever heard of Rufayda bint Sa’ad? Also known as Rufayda al-Aslamiyyah, who was the first female nurse in Islamic history. The Prophet (S) ordered the wounded and dying to be sent specifically to her tent during battles. Learning medical knowledge from her father, she became an expert in the medical field, and began training other women companions to become nurses as well. She was known as a kind, empathetic healer, as well as a compassionate social worker who took care of orphans, the handicapped and the poor.

Have you ever heard of Um Mihjaan? The cleaner of the masjid, who beautified and maintained the Prophet (S)’s blessed mosque. The one whom the Prophet (S) was upset when she passed away, because nobody had informed him of it. “Why did you not inform me?” he asked his companions. He then asked to see her grave, and prayed his own individual Salat ul Janaazah over her. Isn’t it amazing that a woman was entrusted to take care of the masjid of Rasulallah (S), yet today several Muslim societies won’t even let women into the masjid?

Have you ever heard of Umm Sa’d Jamilah bint As’ad Ansariyyah? A noble teacher of Islam. It is reported that Dawud ibn Husayn, a companion of the Prophet (S), used to take Qur’anic lessons from her. According to ibn Athir, Umm Sa’d had memorized the Qur’an and used to give regular lessons.

Have you ever heard of the female companion who owned her own farm? She employed many men to work under her, she was their boss, and they tended to her crops.  

Have you ever heard that many female companions were businesswomen? Like the wife of Abdullah ibn Masud, who was the main breadwinner of her family, making handicrafts by her own hand and selling her goods in the marketplace.

Have you heard that Aisha bint Abu Bakr was actually considered a “Muftiyah” meaning a female Mufti? Did you know that title could even exist for women? Men and women would come from all over the Islamic world to consult her about the Shariah, and she would perform ijtihad and issue fatawa. There are several times where she even corrected the fatawa of other sahaba, since she was privy to a lot of ahadith that others had not heard because of her close relationship with the Prophet (S).

Have you ever heard of Umm al-Darda? A prominent female scholar and jurist of Islam in the 7th century who would teach her lessons in the male section of the masjid. Her class was attended by men and women, Imams, jurists, and Hadith scholars.

Have you ever heard of the numerous women scholars who played a pivotal role in the lives of many of the ulama we look up to? The female scholar Nafisa bint al-Hasan taught hadith to Imam ash-Shafi’i. Ibn Hajar mentioned that he studied under 53 women scholars. Ibn Asakir al-Dimashqi took hadith from 80 female narrators of hadith.

Have you ever heard of Fatima al-Fihri? The educated Muslim woman who founded the world’s very first university, The University of al-Qarawiyyin, which still stands today as one of the most prominent institutions of Islamic learning.

These are just a few of the hidden female figures of our Islamic history. Women who exercised the rights that Islam had granted her, untainted by the patriarchy and cultures that stifle women today.

Learn about their names. Share their names.
Rewrite their names into the books of history. 

Safiya Ravat graduated with a degree in Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh and Usul al Fiqh) from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, as well as a Journalism degree from the University of Houston. She and her husband live in Dallas, TX where they are Instructors and Researchers at the Bayyinah Institute. Full bio here. Follow them for more videos and posts on Facebook at Mahad and Safiya.

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Questions

CAN A WOMAN STAY IN THE MASJID DURING MENSES?

CLICK HERE for video response.

The scholars’ 2 OPINIONS:
1) NO SHE CANNOT STAY IN THE MASJID UNLESS PASSING BY FOR A NEED (MAJORITY)

Evidences:
-The junub (sexually impure person after intercourse) is told explicitly in the Quran (Nisa: 43) not to stay in the masjid. And the junub, by analogy, is similar to the menstruating women because they both have an impurity that requires ghusl.
– Rasulullah (S) said to tell all women (menstruating and not) to come to the Eid prayer, but he said “let the menstruating women avoid the prayer place.”
-Rasulullah (S) in said, “The mosque is not permitted for menstruating women or anyone who is in a state of janabah (sexual impurity).”

2) YES SHE CAN STAY IN THE MASJID
(minority opinion held by Ibn Hazm, Al-Muzani a scholar of the Shafi’I madhab, Dawud Ad Dhaahiri, and modern day scholars such as Shaykh Yusuf al Qardawi and others)

Evidences:
-The hadeeth mentioned above (“The mosque is not permitted for menstruating women or anyone who is in a state of janabah (sexual impurity).”) was classed as da’eef (weak) by Shaykh al-Albaani as well as other scholars, so it is not permissible to make a ruling of fiqh based on a weak hadth.
– The ayah talking about the junub cannot be applied to the menstruating women because they are not analogous.
When Aisha is on her period during Hajj, Rasulullah (S) told her “do everything but don’t do tawaf of the kabah” which indicates she could stay at the Kabah and do worship, dua, etc.
-A slave woman who was freed set up a tent and lived in the masjid. And Umm Mihjaan (the caretaker of the masjid) would regularly take care of the masjid, and was not told to avoid it during menses.
-Therefore, these scholars are of the opinion that if it were really impermissible for a woman to not stay in the masjid, there would be an authentic direct hadith or ayah about it, as women around the messenger regularly had their period. The evidences brought by the majority are not strong enough to make it haram upon her to stay in the masjid.

CAN A WOMAN TRAVEL BY HERSELF?

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Did you know that the wives of the Prophet (S) traveled together WITHOUT a Mahram from Madinah to Makkah to make Hajj?

In short – there are two opinions on the matter. 1) No, she has to have a Mahram. 2) Yes, she can, as long as her safety can be ensured, and that she uses safe public transportation where others are around.

CAN I DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE MAKE UP FASTS?

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Rasulullah (S) said “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be (rewarded) as if he had fasted the entire year.” [Muslim]

So CAN I DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE MY RAMADAN MAKE UP FASTS?

2 Opinions of the scholars:

1) NO, FINISH RAMADAN FASTS FIRST: Some scholars, amongst them the Hanbalis, say that one must finish the obligatory fasts of Ramadan first before you do any other voluntary fast, as obligations are more important than voluntary fasts and because the Hadith says “Whoever FASTS Ramadan and follows it up with 6 of shawal…” indicating one must finish all 29/30 of Ramadan first and foremost. Some of this group say, if one cannot do all of Ramadan make up fasts in Shawal, then they can complete their 6 Shawal in the next month (Dhul Qa’dah).

2) YES, YOU CAN DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE RAMADAN MAKE UPS:
The other opinion of scholars (amongst them the Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki madhhab) is that the obligation of finishing off Ramadan is an obligation that is given an extended amount of time to fulfill. So since it is given a wide time of 11 months to finish the Ramadan fasts, it should NOT be limited to finishing them off in the very next month (shawal). Shawal is a limited amount of time, and Ramadan is given a long time, and therefore it would be permissible to fast 6 shawal first as long as the Ramadan fasts are accomplished throughout the next 11 months. This is from the mercy of Allah in giving us a long time to make up all the Ramadan fasts.

The precedence that we have in the seerah, is that of Aisha (R) who said that she regularly made up her Ramadan fasts in the month of Shaban, which is the month right before Ramadan. But it is also known that she did many voluntary fasts throughout the year. Scholars conclude that she thererfore saw it acceptable to do voluntary fasts, EVEN though the Ramadan make up fasts had not been completed yet.

It is also very difficult for women to make up Ramadan fasts (maybe 7-8 days) & finish shawal (another 6 days) within one month – because obviously her menses will come (maybe 7-8 days). That almost requires her to fast another WHOLE month minus her period just to accomplish Shawal. And that is definitely a great difficulty.

**Majority of scholars say you cannot combine Shawal and Ramadan make up fasts with one intention. They should be separate intentions and separate days.

NOTE: Know yourself! If you find it difficult to make up your fasts, PRIORITIZE Ramadan fasts over Shawal fasts, because an obligation is like a debt!

May Allah allow us all to fast the 6 of Shawal to get the reward of an entire year! Ameen

CAN WOMEN READ/TOUCH THE QURAN DURING MENSES?

CLICK HERE for video response.

RECITING QURAN – there are 2 opinions:
1) She CANNOT read/recite the Quran.
Most scholars prohibit women from touching the Quran based on the hadith “The menstruating woman and the one who is in a state of sexual impurity (janaabah) should not recite anything of the Qur’aan.”

2) She CAN read/recite the Quran.
This is the opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah, ibn Qayyim, Imam Malik, Bukhari, and one opinion of Imam Ash Shafii as well as many other scholars. Their argument is that the hadith mentioned above is Daeef (weak). In fact, the hadith is considered weak by almost all scholars of Hadith and therefore cannot be used in order to make a fiqh ruling. So women may recite or read the Quran, either from memory or from the Quran mushaf (book) itself.

TOUCHING THE QURAN

Scholars of fiqh agree that someone who is not purified CANNOT touch the Quran because Allah says in the Quran “None shall touch it except the purified” (Waqiah: 79). This includes the junub (sexually impure), the menstruating woman, as well as someone without wudhu.

So how can she read the Quran?
1) Use a barrier (glove, towel, pen) so that her hand doesn’t directly touch the Quran
2) Read it off of a tablet or phone as these are not considered the Quran, but rather devices that have the Quran in them.
3)Read a book which has Tafseer/translation in it – as that is not considered the Quran mushaf (book) either. Even if it contains the Arabic, if half is tafseer/translation, it is permissible for an impure person to hold.

WOMEN’S FASTING FAQ

CLICK HERE for video response.

Q:If you fast all day, and your period starts a few minutes before Maghrib, do you have to make that day up?
A: Yes.

Q: If I didn’t make up all my fasts before next Ramadan, what do I do?
A: If you had no excuse, you have to pay the penalty, Fidya as well as make them up later. (Fidya: feeding a poor person a full day’s meal per day that you missed).

Q: Do pregnant and breastfeeding women have to fast?
A: They are exempt if they fear for themselves or the baby. However, if they feel well enough, they can fast, after consulting a doctor.

Q: How do pregnant/nursing moms make up those fasting days if they have years of make ups?
A: There are multiple opinions of scholars:
1- make them all up over the years (majority opinion)
2- pay the fidya only (opinion of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar (R))
3- pay the fidya AND make them up over the years

Connect With Us

1 month ago

Suhbah Institute

"If you owe past Ramadan fasts (qada), it’s time to make them up. There is one hadith in which Sayyida Aisha mentions making up all her past Ramadan fasts in Sha’ban.

If one waits a full year without making up their fast and the next Ramadan comes, then they owe fidya in addition to each qada.

Fidya = feeding one poor Muslim two handfuls of food. Most local mosques can distribute the food if you give them the money. If not then you can pay fidya online: irusa.org/fidya-and-kaffara/."

JazakAllah Khayran Dr. Shadee Elmasry for the reminder!

Here are some common fasting questions regarding pregnancy, nursing, and women:

Q:If you fast all day, and your period starts a few minutes before Maghrib, do you have to make that day up?
A: Yes.

Q: If I didn’t make up all my fasts before next Ramadan, what do I do?
A: If you had no excuse, you have to pay the penalty, Fidya as well as make them up later. (Fidya: feeding a poor person a full day’s meal per day that you missed).

Q: Do pregnant and breastfeeding women have to fast?
A: They are exempt if they fear for themselves or the baby. However, if they feel well enough, they can fast, after consulting a doctor.

Q: How do pregnant/nursing moms make up those fasting days if they have years of make ups?
A: There are multiple opinions of scholars:
1- make them all up over the years (majority opinion)
2- pay the fidya only (opinion of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar (R))
3- pay the fidya AND make them up over the years

If you have any more questions, write them in the comments! Be sure to watch the video for the detailed explanations.

Mahad and Safiya
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Have make up fasts due to pregnancy, nursing? How to make them up? Have Fiqh questions about Fasting for Women?

Here are the FAQs:

Q:If you fast all day, and your period starts a few minutes before Maghrib, do you have to make that day up?
A: Yes.

Q: If I didn’t make up all my fasts before next Ramadan, what do I do?
A: If you had no excuse, you have to pay the penalty, Fidya as well as make them up later. (Fidya: feeding a poor person a full day’s meal per day that you missed).

Q: Do pregnant and breastfeeding women have to fast?
A: They are exempt if they fear for themselves or the baby. However, if they feel well enough, they can fast, after consulting a doctor.

Q: How do pregnant/nursing moms make up those fasting days if they have years of make ups?
A: There are multiple opinions of scholars:
1- make them all up over the years (majority opinion)
2- pay the fidya only (opinion of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar (R))
3- pay the fidya AND make them up over the years

If you have any more questions, write them in the comments! Be sure to watch the video for the detailed explanations.

Mahad and Safiya
Have Fiqh questions about Fasting for Women? Safiya Ravat answers the most frequently asked questions with explanation from the scholars!

Q:If you fast all day, and your period starts a few minutes before Maghrib, do you have to make that day up?
A: Yes.

Q: If I didn’t make up all my fasts before next Ramadan, what do I do?
A: If you had no excuse, you have to pay the penalty, Fidya as well as make them up later. (Fidya: feeding a poor person a full day’s meal per day that you missed).

Q: Do pregnant and breastfeeding women have to fast?
A: They are exempt if they fear for themselves or the baby. However, if they feel well enough, they can fast, after consulting a doctor.

Q: How do pregnant/nursing moms make up those fasting days if they have years of make ups?
A: There are multiple opinions of scholars:
1- make them all up over the years (majority opinion)
2- pay the fidya only (opinion of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar (R))
3- pay the fidya AND make them up over the years

If you have any more questions, write them in the comments! Be sure to watch the video for the detailed explanations.
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2 months ago

Suhbah Institute

Between Science & Fiqh: Breastmilk, Premies & Medical Need

Sun, April 14, 6:30pm-8pm
w/ Ustadha Safiya Ravat, NICU Dr. Frank Placencia & Dr. Yunus Ahmadi
at Maryam Islamic Center

Can premature babies receive donated breast milk in the hospital, if that is the only thing that can help them survive? What does the medical community say about this great need? What does the Islamic scholarly community comment on this necessity?

Join us for a medico-legal discussion surrounding the potential Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) issues arising from the use of donated breast milk from other women for children born prematurely with a panel of 2 physician specialists (NICU), Dr Frank Placencia and Dr Yunus Ahmadi, as well as Ustadha Safiya Ravat commenting on the Fiqh perspective.

RSVP: www.facebook.com/events/391539031684185/
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2 months ago

Suhbah Institute

Unheard Voices: Women in the Masjid by Safiya Ravat
Hosted by Texas Dawah Convention

-The Masjid Barrier
-Women in leadership positions in our Seerah
-The Prophet (S) fighting for women to be valued
-Giving our daughters hope that there is a way forward

What is a woman’s place in the masjid? Are women allowed to be in leadership positions in our masjids and communities? What are the benefits of having women in the masjid, and what do they contribute to the community? Who are some women we can look to as examples in our Islamic history?
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About 24 Hours Ago

This past Ramadan, the community showed a lot of generosity and helped us raise enough funds to grant 15 scholarships for #SuhbahSeminary. http://bit.ly/2nG9rH2