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Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam

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This book is an adaptation in English of the prefatory volume of a 40-volume biographical dictionary (in Arabic) of women scholars of the Prophet s hadith. Learned women enjoyed high public standing and authority in the formative years of Islam. For centuries thereafter, women travelled intensively for religious knowledge and routinely attended the most prestigious mosques and madrasas across the Islamic world. Typical documents (like class registers and ijazahs from women authorizing men to teach) and the glowing testimonies about their women teachers from the most revered ulema are cited in detail. An overview chapter, with accompanying maps, traces the spread of centres of hadith learning for women, and their eventual decline. The information summarized here is essential to a balanced appreciation of the role of women in Islamic society.

336 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2007

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Adam Taufique.
3 reviews2 followers
March 25, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. Sh. Muhammad Nadwi does an amazing job at showing how women would go neck and neck with men in preserving hadiths. Their scholarship was not only respected, but even participated in the classes that women taught.

The only negative I found from this book was that sometimes there are pages and pages of just names (chains of narrators), which can get dry at times. This motivated me to find out about each name in the chain and who they were.

Overall, a very good read.
Profile Image for Noor.
87 reviews49 followers
June 23, 2016
Shaykh Akram begins this book by stating that it is "not an exercise in 'women's studies'", although he does invite people to use the material presented for such studies. It essentially serves as the introduction to his recently completed 53-volume biographical dictionary of female hadith scholars in Islam.

This book shows abundantly that females have been involved in the scholarly tradition in Islam right from its inception; not just for hadith, but extending to all sciences of Islam. It was no revolutionary concept; instead, it was the accepted norm. In the introduction, Shaykh Akram writes: "There is no period when men have certain privileges to speak or think or act, and then women find a way to 'invade' the men's ground. Rather, the women and men both know, from the outset of Islam, what their duties are." Women used to challenge the rulers of their times, as well as challenging cases in court. There are a number of examples given of such cases. Superiority in these matters was irrespective of gender but instead relied on what knowledge an individual could offer.

There are plentiful examples listed of instances where male scholars would seek out female ones to learn from them. In many cases, they were even preferred to male scholars because, as the women generally outlived the men, they had a shorter isnad/chain of narration back to the Prophet (sAaws). Furthermore, there is no record of any woman narrator that has been accused of lying or whose narration has been established as lying. Even the Companion generally most referred to for matters of jurisprudence/fiqh is A'isha (rAa).

I also enjoyed learning about some parts of the science of hadith, such as: the different ways it can be received, the different levels of chains of narrations, the different kinds of hadith books that were studied, and the classification of narrators of hadith.

One negative point about this book is that a large chunk of it is just a list of names. I understand this fulfils the purpose of the book and shows just how extensive the contribution of women scholars was, but these parts made for a duller read that I mostly skimmed over. The parts I liked were those that gave stories behind the names. As this book acts as an introduction to the larger volumes, I think that the book should have focused more on these personalised stories and left the en masse listing for the magnum opus.

This aside, Shaykh Akram has done profound work over his studies on muhaddithat and I hope that many positive things come out of it.
Profile Image for Tuscany Bernier.
Author 1 book107 followers
September 25, 2016
I LOVED this book. I found out something new on almost every page and it helped me understand the oft-forgotten history female scholarship in the Islamic world better. I recommend this book to anybody with at least a basic understanding of Hadith though because he expects you understand most of the Arabic terms used. :D
Profile Image for delimatulis.
57 reviews
March 4, 2021
"I do not know of another religious tradition in which women were so central, so present, so active in its formative history" - Pg. 16

Absolutely beautiful.

Okay, I'm gonna keep it short, sweet & simple. Otherwise, I'm gonna blabber on how much I love this book!! :3

This book is JUST a summary / introduction of the kitab series that Sh. Akram wrote on the female Muhaddithat (Hadith narrators). Which was equally mind-blowing for me reading this, thumbing through the pages I couldn't help feeling in awe and amazed at the HUGE numbers of women involved and contributing to Islamic scholarship particularly narrating Hadith which definitely debunks some misogynistic mindset that women couldn't obtain Islamic education etc.

Structure of the book: examples are scattered across the book but in an organised manner - with specific titles and it's easy to digest.

Sh. Akram's points are solid and factual based and I find it really positive, refreshing and enlightening. It's not something new neither revolutionary. It is what it is. It's not about feminism/secularism/liberal etc, it's about upholding what's already in Islam.

Definitely 100% recommended!
Profile Image for Abu Kamdar.
Author 20 books257 followers
September 29, 2016
As an introduction to a larger work, this book fulfills its objectively properly. It raises interest in the topic, introduces key concepts, gives a brief summary and history, and most importantly gets the reader interested in the full research which I hope to read one day.
Profile Image for Ummu Auni.
518 reviews
December 29, 2021
I found this book when searching for something else, the author was trying to compile with regards to female scholars since he found that many women became scholars & a lot of people irrespective gender learnt from them. This is in line with what I found with regards to Aisyah r.a. It is interesting to note that Imam Malik's daughter memorised the whole Muwatta but not his son, while there were some instances that female slaves were well educated and even interfered with court's decision.
Profile Image for Opu Hossain.
155 reviews18 followers
January 19, 2022
If you've studied Islam a little then you'd probably aware of the hadith geniuses who are titled with "Muhaddith". You'd probably came across tens of renown Muhaddith played rule in hadith preservation throughout ages. But how about the women scholars who's higher contributions were long forgotten? Many don't even know hundreds of women scholars (Muhaddithat) who attended the most prestigious mosques, Islamic institutes and madrasas across the Islamic world, superior even sometimes over male scholars in Islamic verdict discovered once again in the book "Al-Muhaddithat" by Akram Nadwi. While the whole world once was lacked behind in women scholarship, our Muhaddithat on the contrary far ahead flourished in the Islamic world thus inspired Muslim women in education as the world has ever seen. They learned, taught and brought changes in Islamic societies. They're beside male scholars the legacy of the hadith of the prophet (peace be upon him)
Profile Image for Badrul Aini Sha'ari.
30 reviews8 followers
June 23, 2016

Selama ini kita jarang didedahkan dengan nama wanita di sebalik turunnya ayat al-Qur'ān atau wurudnya Ḥadīth tertentu.
2 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2021
Women attained high ranks in all spheres, as this book will show, women were involved in transmitting islamic Knowledge and gave ijaza..
This book is an honour for female scholarship in islam..while many mysogynist men are busy debating about women cannot teach in islam and not providing women spaces at mosque this book came in the right time..stretching from the day of the prophet to the 20th century..
While the author's research he was expecting to publish a "pamplet" of 20 to 30 women scholars but he found 9000 muhaddidat, 40 volumes in arabic,...
Among women companions ( A pious, modest lady and a scholar) Ayesha RA her intellectual level was so high that her fatwas was accepted during the caliphate of khulfa e rashideen and mastery over shariah laws regarding inheritance...even during the time of prophet(saw), women were given the right space in the mosque and were involved in challenges and discussing the cases..
This book is an evidence that women are not restricted in seeking knowledge nor in transmitting the knowledge in Islam infact they were much involved(women companions were active in religion-tafsir, hadith, fiqh , shariah ,politics, business, battlefield, medical aid, they also spread message of islam)

Some of the buried history of women transmitting islamic knowledge mentioned in this book such as Umm al darda 17th century jurist and a scholar who taught jurisprudence in the mosque of damascus and Jerusalem ..her students were men,women and even caliph..
14th century syrian scholar fatimah al bataihiyyah who taught both men and women in the prophet's mosque in medina..she leaned against prophet's tomb while she taught.
Fatimah al samarqandiyyah trained by her father in hadith and fiqh would judge court cases..she issued fatwas and advised her far more famous husband on how to issue his fatwas.
Fatimah bint yahya 13th century jurist whose husband also a jurist used to consult her on his tougher cases .."This is not from you " his students would say when he'd bring back one of her fatwas.."This is from behind the curtains"
11th century hadith scholar umm al Kiram karimah bint Ahmad ibn muhammad ibn hatim al marrwaziyah , she was popular Narrator of famous book of hadith sahih al Bukhari..her students included great imams and a well known historian al khatib al baghdadi..
Ibn Kathir says: "Umm Zaynab Fatimah bint 'Abbas al-Baghdadiyyah (d. 714) was among the scholars and women of virtue. She commanded good and forbade evil, and opposed the Ahmadiyyah sect for their [illicit] friendship with women and young boys. And she criticized their states, thinking and arguments of bid'ah and others. she did what men are unable to do"..

In the history of Islamic scholarship, no women has ever been accused of fabrication or inaccurate reporting of hadith..For women, scholarship was a spiritual vocation rather than a career..
To the people who follow four school of thought, Great scholars like Abu Hanifa and imam malik- "founders of schools of religion"-- they never had problems with women. They were also learning from them.
Islamic past(history) is a blueprint for present on how to live and behave by adhering to the Qur'an and sunnah...
This book is a heavy read but its worth to know the hidden history of female scholars. one must take their own time to read and benefit from it..
Profile Image for Khandkar Ridwan.
8 reviews1 follower
November 25, 2021
বইটির নাম al-Muhaddithat : The Women Scholars of Islam। লেখক শাইখ আকরাম নদভী।

অনেকেই হয়তো অবাক হয়ে প্রশ্ন করে বসবেন, আরে! মহিলারা আবার ইসলামিক স্কলার হতে পারে নাকি? আসলে এখানে শুধু মহিলা স্কলার বলা হয়নি, বলা হয়েছে মুহাদ্দিসাত, অর্থাৎ মহিলা মুহাদ্দিস!

ইসলামের গত চৌদ্দশ বছরের ইতিহাসে আমরা অনেক যুগশ্রেষ্ঠ ইমাম, মুহাদ্দিস, ফকিহ ইত্যাদি খুঁজে পাই। বেশীরভাগ সময়েই তাঁদের পুরুষ হিসেবেই দেখে আসছি। তাই হয়তো অনেকের এরকম চিন্তা হতে পারে যে ইসলামের জ্ঞান প্রচারের ইতিহাসে নারীদের হয়তো কোন অবদানই নেই। অথচ সত্যটা আসলেই অনেক অদ্ভুত আর সুন্দর। সেটিই ইতিহাস ঘেঁটে প্রমাণ করে দেখিয়েছেন শাইখ আকরাম নদভি।

খুঁজে খুঁজে এক-দুই না, একশ-দুইশ ও না, আট হাজার নারী মুহাদ্দিস ও ফকিহ খুঁজে পেয়েছেন লেখক, যারা ���্ঞানে, ঈমানে, আখলাকে ছিলেন তুলনাতীত। যাদের প্রশংসায় পঞ্চমুখ ছিলেন খোদ আমাদের বড় বড় ইমামগন! উম্মুল মু’মিনিন আইশা রাদিয়াল্লাহু আনহু থেকে শুরু করে এই শতাব্দির শাইখা বাহিয়া আল কুতবিয়া পর্যন্ত যত বড় বড় আলিমা ছিলেন তাঁদের জীবনী চল্লিশ ভলিউম এর magnum opus মুক্কাদ্দিমাহ তে সংকলন করেছেন শাইখ আকরাম। সেই বিশাল কাজের মুখবন্ধ অথবা ভূমিকাই হল ৩১৪ পৃষ্ঠার al-Muhaddithat।

বইটি প্রধান ১০টি অধ্যায়ে স��জিয়েছেন তিনি। হাদিসের বিভিন্ন ধরন্ন, হাদিস সংকলনের নিয়ম ইত্যাদি বিভিন্ন তাত্ত্বিক আলোচনাও এনেছেন প্রয়োজন মাফিক। কি কি বিভিন্ন তরীকায় নারীরা শিক্ষিকার ভূমিকা পালন করেছেন, কীভাবে তাঁরা এই জ্ঞান অর্জন করেছেন, কারা কারা তাঁদের ছাত্র ছিলেন, তাঁদের প্রতি সালাফদের ইমামদের ধারণা কি ছিল ইত্যাদি এতো সুন্দর করে গোছানো হয়েছে বইটি পড়লে অবাক হতে হয়।

আম্মাজান আইশার (রাঃ) সম্পর্কে আমার জ্ঞান ছিল রাসুলুল্লাহ সাল্লাল্লাহু আলাইহি ওয়া সাল্লাম এর একজন স্ত্রী হিসেবে আর একজন রাবী হিসেবে। কিন্তু উম্মাহর সবচাইতে শক্তিশালি মুহাদ্দিস আর ফকিহদের একজন হিসেবে তাঁর ভূমিকা সম্পর্কে আমার বলতে গেলে কোন ধারণাই ছিল না। হাদিসের জারহ আর তা’দিল এর ক্ষেত্রে তাঁর ভূমিকা অনস্বীকার্য। কারণ হাদিসের সত্য মিথ্যা যাচাই এর নিয়মগুলো বলতে গেলে তাঁর দৃষ্টান্ত থেকেই নেয়া হয়েছিল। কীভাবে? - সেটা বইয়ের ২৪০ তম পৃষ্ঠা পড়লেই বুঝতে পারবেন।

আজ আমরা আমাদের আশেপাশে, আমাদের দেশে কিংবা অন্য কোন দেশে কয়জন হাফেযা পাই? অথচ এক সময় ছিল যখন পুরো কুরআন মুখস্ত থাকা একজন নারীর জন্য খুব একটা বড় ব্যাপার ছিল না। ইসলামের নারীরা তখন কুরআনের সাথে সাথে এর শানে নুযুল আর তাফসীর শিক্ষা করতেন অহরহ। তাঁরা নিজেরা শিক্ষা দিতেন ইমাম মালিকের মুয়াত্তা, সুনান এর সমস্ত গ্রন্থ, মুসনাদ ইমাম আহমদ, বুখারি-মুসলিম সহ ফিকহ এর বড় বড় গ্রন্থ সমুহ আর এ সবকিছুই তাঁদের মুখস্ত ও নখদর্পনে ছিল।

কত শত ইমামের উস্তাদ যে নারী ছিলেন তার ইয়ত্তা নেই। ইমাম আহমদ, ইমাম ইবন তাইমিয়া, ইবন জাওযি, ইবন কায়্যিম, ইমাম যাহাবী, ইবন কাসির, ইবন রজব সহ আরও অনেকের উস্তাদ্গনের মধ্যে নারীরাও ছিলেন। তখনকার সাথে আজকের দুনিয়ার সাথে তুলনা করলে দেখা যায় দ্বীনের জ্ঞানের ক্ষেত্রে আমাদের মা-বোনদের বলতে গেলে একরকম খাশি করে রাখা হয়েছে। বেশী কে বেশী তাদের শুধু হাফেযা বানানো হয়ে বাচ্চাদের মাদ্রাসায়।

অথচ একজন মা যখন আলীমা হবেন তার সন্তানরাও আলীম হবেই। একজন স্ত্রী যখন আলীমা হবেন স্বামী আলীম হবেই। আজ আমাদের সমাজে মহিলাদের মধ্যে দ্বীনের জ্ঞান বলতে গেলে কিছুই নেই। তাই তারা মকসুদুল মোমিনিন, আমলে নাজাত, বারো চান্দের ফযিলত এসব বইগুলো ধরে পড়ে আছেন এখনো।

ইসলাম তো চৌদ্দশ বছর আগে থেকেই একুশ শতাব্দির চাইতেও মডার্ন হয়েই আছে। শুধু আমরাই দিনে দিনে পিছিয়ে পড়ছি।
Profile Image for Muahid mubashir.
14 reviews10 followers
October 30, 2015
oh..This scholarly work has many, i mean so many lengthy names of female scholars, their teachers,and the books they have studied and taught over period of time which refutes and rebukes those people who say Islam didn't allow women for higher studies .It is astonishing to know some women have traveled thousands of miles with their mahrams to gain knowledge.
But I don't recommend it to a beginners in Islamic studies as i mentioned it has got so many Arabic names you will be bored with and eventually at the end you won't remember most of them.
Profile Image for Neelam.
325 reviews53 followers
May 13, 2017
This book is such an inspiring book for all people to read.
The countless women throughout islamic history that were independent empowered women, that contributed to society, that helped change society for the better is just amazing!
This book is a must read as it will help to dispel any belief that women are oppressed and denied an education in islam.
The only thing i will say is that you may find some of the language a bit difficult when it comes to names of people etc.
A book that you can refer back to again and again. Loved it!
Profile Image for iraj.
8 reviews
September 14, 2021
"I do not know of another religious tradition in which women were so central, so present, so active in its formative history. It follows that they were recognized as 'senior' in a social order in which authority was explicitly based upon commitment to and knowledge of the religion."

I loved this book. Awed and humbled by these women and their work.
Profile Image for Lyana Khairuddin.
95 reviews22 followers
March 18, 2017
This book left me with a lot to reflect upon. Documenting women scholars in Islamic hadith tradition is no easy feat, and for Mohammad Akram Nadwi to have completed this require Muslims globally, especially Muslim women to say thanks. Thank you, for having labouriously collected names and lineage and the most relevant hadiths attributed to women scholars. This book is merely a summary of volumes of "dictionaries" listing women scholars and the hadiths they narrated, and focuses on women as hadith scholars. There is also a link to a pdf that attempted a documentation of Muslim women scholars in other fields provided in the introduction of the book (www.interfacepublications.com/images/...).

While Akram presented his case through this book as to why Islam is not misogynistic, he was very careful on critiquing patriarchy that has existed within Islamic tradition. Islam is equal, and women and men and transgenders are equal in front of God (with only our Iman placing one with more Grace by God than another). Yet history has proven that patriarchal standing is what has reduced this equality and the decline of women scholars within Islamic academia. We can clearly see this through the clear timelines presented in this book - how during the time of the Prophet pbuh, women are allowed to be engaged in public discourse about the religion, travel for knowledge, use mosques as a place of supplication, assembly for discourse and spreading knowledge; teach and provide judgment as jurists and scholars and even considered authorities in Islam. The reality today is women are considered second class with many Mufti gatherings and fatwa councils not including women; and women are not encouraged to be actively involved in Islamic scholarship.

Further, there was a mention in the book that during the time of Ibn al-Saati's education, he listed that he had 3,000 men as teachers of hadith to a mere 400 women! Geopolitically, we also see the damage done to Islamic centres of learning, such as Baghdad in Iraq and Damascus in Syria through unnecessary war; and this contributed to the decline of Islamic knowledge.

Akram is very careful in this book. He is of the opinion that women should be "behind the veil" and argues that a woman's authority in Islam is still alluded by what men think of women - yet in the same breath alludes that piety is not judged based on physical appearance and social standing, using historical facts to support his discourse in the book. Reading between the lines, women scholars in Islam are still subscribed the patriarchal judgement of having to be a good wife, a good mother, have (socially accepted) feminine mannerisms, teach within boundaries of their homes and travel only with father and husband, and of course, donning the hijab, to be considered pious and thus scholarly.

Yet this book is important to bring to light the abrupt absence of women and the decline in scholarly manner in interpreting hadiths, Quranic knowledge and fatwas seen today. It draws from history and Islamic tradition to argue that gender role is not exclusive and that knowledge is the epicentre of Islamic teaching. It is indeed a wake up call for Muslims today, in light of Islamophobia and a bad image painted by Daesh and extremists.

I will end this review with a quote from the book,
"Women have also built a strong relationship with the Book (Quran), the fruit of which is fully internalised, and they become fluent in it, speaking from it like a mother tongue."

Why then, when women today start reading the Quran and questioning laws placed by Muslim men purported to be in the name of the religion, are we ridiculed, slandered, and shamed? Why is it that hadith by men (the Six Books) are considered superior, and we only hear of Aishah RA as merely the Prophet pbuh's young bride; and not for her extensive knowledge of the religion, jurisprudence, and for her arguments in light of chasing the highest version of her ad-Din?

Questions to ponder.
Profile Image for Hadeel.
89 reviews17 followers
May 30, 2022
I really loved this book. In our Islamic tradition, women have always been active in the fields of teaching and transmitting knowledge. Patriarchy doesnt exist in Islam. This is seen clearly in how women were the teachers of men and men spent a considerable amount of their time seeking knowledge from women due to their intelligence and expertise.

The decline of women's scholarship today on the fields of education is unfortunate when we see how women from the second century were active participants in the public life in all fields. If you really want to see how Islam empowered women since the beginning of time, then this is the book to read.
Profile Image for Aisha (thatothernigeriangirl).
220 reviews46 followers
July 21, 2018
I read this book over the course of five months, taking occasional breaks to fully internalize its contents.
Nadwi outdid himself with the research he did for this book and I commend his efforts immensely.
This book outlined several reasons why knowledge (including transmission of Hadith) has never been shackled by the chains of gender and every word reflected that point.
This is by far one of the best and most liberating English text on Islamic history.
Despite its brilliant contents, I think the way the author concluded the book added the last seasoning. Barakallahu fihi!
Profile Image for Farraas Muhdiar.
50 reviews13 followers
June 12, 2017
Such a recommended read if you want to know more about the role of women Muslim scholars in preserving the hadith and how Islam perceives & value women since hundreds of years ago. The book could be a bit challenging if you haven't read anything about Islamic studies before - but I found it eye-opening. The long list of names in the book could be a bit annoying, but I think it's important to ensure the reliability of the message.
Profile Image for Joko.
350 reviews6 followers
February 13, 2021
Super well researched! A LOT of names. Because it was described as a dictionary, I wasn't expecting the writing to have such a literary quality. It flows like a story, which makes sense with the subject matter. I suppose hadiths are like stories in that sense.
Profile Image for Sky14416.
54 reviews
October 10, 2021
I enjoyed reading this! It was very educational. And I enjoyed the little compiled hadiths that are in this book. It’s nice to look at how woman scholars were like and how they contributed to the preservation of hadiths, as well as teaching it and the Quran.
1 review
July 13, 2019
Excellent book. Very good for circle studies. Highly recommended. May Allah reward the author immensely.
Profile Image for T.
197 reviews
December 20, 2021
Interesting and explorative. Full of information to challenge commonly held Western perception.
Profile Image for Safwan.
66 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2021
slightly bit repetitive, but great amount of research gone in for the women scholarly side.
Profile Image for Ayesha Nasir.
12 reviews15 followers
February 2, 2023
Keeping in mind that this is the intro of a larger body of work, I found it to be an impressive and detailed documentation. I left hungry for more descriptions, more ahadith, and more stories.
Profile Image for Rukia Haji.
146 reviews
April 24, 2023
Impressive. Lists of names. Dictionary of accomplished women scholars of hadeeth. Mashallah
3 reviews2 followers
July 18, 2008
Dr. Nadwi discusses the many contributions made by female scholars and the importance of such scholarship in Islam.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews

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