Commemorating Muslim Women
Updated: Mar 8
Islam places a strong emphasis on the dignity and rights of women. From the time of the first revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), women have played a significant role in the development and spread of the religion. In fact, many of the Prophet's companions and early scholars were women, and their contributions to Islamic scholarship and society are still recognized and celebrated today.
One of the key aspects of Islam's approach to women's rights is the recognition of their inherent value and worth as individuals. The Quran explicitly states that men and women were created equally and are equally accountable to God for their actions
"And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, and is a believer - those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed." (4:124)
This verse highlights the importance of righteousness and faith in Islam, and emphasizes that both men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah when it comes to doing good deeds and earning reward in the Hereafter. It is a powerful reminder that gender is not a factor in determining one's worth or value in the eyes of Allah, and that everyone will be judged based on their deeds and their faith.
This fundamental belief is reflected in various aspects of Islamic law and practice, including inheritance laws, marriage contracts, and social etiquette.
Throughout Islamic history, women have also made significant contributions to the fields of science, medicine, literature, and other areas of knowledge.
For example, the 10th-century scholar and physician Al-Qarawiyyin, Fatima Al-Fihri was a prominent figure in the Muslim world and is credited with founding the world's oldest university, which was named after her in modern-day Morocco. She lived in the 9th century and was a daughter of a wealthy merchant. She used her inheritance to establish the university in 859 CE, which became a center for Islamic education and scholarship. Today, Al-Qarawiyyin is still one of the most prestigious universities in the Muslim world.
Salah Aldeen Ayoubi had several sisters, but the most famous of them was As-Sayyida (Lady) Shams Al-Muluk Ismat Al-Din Khatun, or aka Set Al-Sham, who was a very influential figure in the Ayyubid dynasty that her brother founded. As-Sayyida Shams Al-Muluk was born in Tikrit, Iraq, in 1165 CE, and was the daughter of Najm Al-Din Ayyub, the father of Salah Aldeen Ayoubi. She was known for her intelligence, courage, and diplomatic skills. She was also a poet and a patron of the arts, and many poets and scholars of the time wrote about her beauty and grace. She played an important role in the Ayyubid dynasty by acting as a mediator between her brother and the other rulers of the region. She was also involved in political negotiations with the Crusaders, and she helped to secure the release of Muslim prisoners of war. She was known for her generosity and charity, and she built many mosques, schools, and hospitals throughout the Ayyubid Empire. She was known for her patronage of education and is credited with establishing a chain of schools across the Ayyubid Empire. These schools were called the "Madrasat al-Nisa" or the "Schools for Girls". The Madrasat al-Nisa were a network of schools exclusively for girls and women, which provided education in a wide range of subjects, including Quranic studies, Islamic law, Arabic language, literature, poetry, and calligraphy. The schools were staffed by female teachers and were intended to provide women with the knowledge and skills they needed to become active participants in the intellectual and cultural life. The Madrasat al-Nisa were established in many cities, including Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Cairo. They were supported by donations from wealthy patrons, including Set Al-Sham herself, who is said to have donated large sums of money to the schools. The Madrasat al-Nisa played an important role in the education of girls and women and had a lasting impact on the intellectual and cultural life of the region. They were an early example of the importance of education and the empowerment of women in Islamic society. As-Sayyida Shams Al-Muluk, Set Al-Sham, died in 1240 CE in Damascus, Syria, and was buried in the mausoleum of her father, Najm Al-Din Ayyub. She is remembered as a brave and intelligent woman who played an important role in the history of Islam.
The list of Muslim women influencers goes on throughout the history of Islam until our modern days.
The Achievements of Muslim Women
Muslim women have made significant achievements in various areas of life, including their families, communities, and countries. Some of these achievements include:
Education: Muslim women have been making strides in education, with increasing numbers of women pursuing higher education and entering professional fields. This has led to greater economic and social empowerment for women, as well as greater representation in decision-making roles. Like Fatima Al-Fihri in Al-Qarawiyyin; Set Al-Sham in AlSham,Sultana Radhia in Delhi, Al-Ader Al-Karima in Yemen, Na'ela Khatoun in Baghdad, Nana Asmau in Africa, and in the modern days Alshaikha Munira Qubaisi in Syria.
Politics: Muslim women have been breaking barriers in politics, with a growing number of women running for and winning elected positions at local, national, and international levels. This has helped to increase the visibility and representation of women in public life, and has given Muslim women a voice in shaping policies and priorities. Someone like Halima Ya'akub, the president of Singapore; Aziza Ismail, a member of the House of Representatives of Malaysia; and Zahra Alsaljouki, the minister of Labor of Turkiye.
Activism: Muslim women have been at the forefront of social and political activism, advocating for issues such as women's rights, social justice, and environmental sustainability. This has helped to raise awareness and create positive change in their communities and beyond. Like Dalia Mogahed, who launched "Islamophobia: A Threat To All".
Entrepreneurship: Muslim women have been increasingly starting their own businesses, creating jobs, and contributing to economic growth and development. This has helped to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes, and has empowered women to take control of their own economic futures. Like Dina Ibrahim, the founder of Calgary Hyat Co; Dana Alfahham, founder of Dana's Cake Shoppe. and Maysaa Alsous, the founder of Smart Minds Learning.
Arts and Culture: Muslim women have also made significant contributions to the arts and culture, including music, literature, film, and visual arts. This has helped to showcase the diversity and richness of Muslim cultures, and has provided opportunities for Muslim women to express themselves creatively and share their perspectives with a wider audience. Like Bridget Hlioui, the founder of B A Hlioui Art.
In addition to recognizing women's achievements, Islamic teachings also emphasize the importance of respecting and honoring women in daily life. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is known to have treated women with kindness, respect, and dignity, and he commanded his followers to do the same. Islamic teachings also prohibit any form of violence or abuse towards women and emphasize the importance of mutual respect and kindness in relationships.
The Prophet pbuh said: "I urge you to take care of the women, for they are like captives under your care. You have no right to mistreat them, so be mindful of Allah concerning women." (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
Islam has a long history of honoring and dignifying women, recognizing their inherent value and worth, and celebrating their achievements. While there may be varying interpretations and practices within different Muslim communities, the fundamental principles of respect, equality, and justice remain central to Islamic teachings on women's rights.
A fitting conclusion for this article is the Hadith narrated by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which states that "Women are the twin halves of men." (Sahih Bukhari) referring to the equality between men and women.
Al-Madrasa Al-Shamia Al-Baraniah, Damascus, Syria
Established by Set Al-Sham, Khatoun in 582 Hijri