In Recognition of Women
|Wednesday, January 23,2008 10:47|
|By Khaled Abou El Fadl|
When Imam Zuhri, a famous scholar of sunna (Prophet Muhammad’s traditions), indicated to Qasim ibn Muhammad, a scholar of the Quran, a desire to seek knowledge, Qasim advised him to join the assembly of a well-known woman jurist of the day, Amra bint Al-Rahman. Imam Zuhri attended her assembly and later described her as a boundless ocean of knowledge. In fact, Amra instructed scholars of fame, such as, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Hazm, and Yahya ibn Said.
Amra was not an anomaly in Islamic history which is abundant with famous woman narrators or jurists starting with Aisha, the Prophet’s wife. For example, Al-Rubaiyi bint Muawidh advised many men on legal matters including Abdullah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Umar. Aisha, daughter of Sad ibn Waggas, taught famous jurists such as Imam Mallik, and Sayyidah Nafeesa, granddaughter of Hassan, instructed Imam alShafii. A conservative count would reveal at least 2,500 woman jurists, narrators of hadith and poets throughout history.
One will rarely find a woman lecturing to a mixed audience about a gender neutral topic such as riba (usury), for example. While it is common to encounter professional Muslim women in every walk of life, it is very rare to find Muslim women on the boards of Islamic centers or in the leadership positions. There are several reasons for this alarming phenomenon. One particularly disturbing reason is the derogatory attitude that seems to have infested many Muslim men.
May God bless Fatimah bint Qais who tenaciously argued with Umar and Aisha over a legal point, and remained unconvinced and refused to change her opinion, and on Um Yaqab who once heard Abdullah ibn Masud explain a legal point then confidently told him, “I have read the entire Quran but have not found your explanation anywhere in it.”
The famous Hanbali jurist ibn Qudamah, for instance, was educated by Shahada bint Ibri, a woman. particularly in the 6th century hijra, there were numerous occasions where woman professors issued licenses (ijaza) to men. For instance, the Chinese born Fatima bint Saad licensed, no one less than, al-Hafiz al-Munziri himself.
It is well-known that women like Aisha, Um Salamah, Laila bint Qasim, Asma bint Abu Baker, Kaula bint Um Darda and many others were trusted with preserving and teaching at least one fourth of our religion. Isn’t it time we trust women to contribute to our public and intellectual lives? May the Muslim community in the United States be the first to produce the first Muslim woman jurist in the last two hundred years. It is long overdue.