6 Notable Muslim Women in History
You may have heard their names before but do you know who they are, how they lived, and what they did to be recognized and respected for centuries?
Here are six great women who have had a great influence on the history of Islam and shaped the way we live today.
1. Fatima al-Fihri
Fatima bint Muhammad al-Fihriyya also known as "Umm al-Banayn" (Mother of the Boys), was an Arab woman who is famous for the founding of the al-Qarawiyyin mosque in Fez, Morocco. From the 10th century, the famous mosque of al-Qarawiyyin became the first religious institute and the largest Arab university in North Africa. According to UNESCO and Guinness World Records, the university of al-Qarawiyyin is considered the most ancient university in the world still operating, preceding the first European universities. Fatima was a pious Muslim woman with visionary insight and a clever mind. She used her resources to set up a mosque, university, and library which to date are having a considerable impact on the beneficiaries.
2. Lubna of Córdoba
Lubna of Córdoba was an Andalusian intellectual, mathematician, and poet of the 10th century known for the quality of her writing and her excellence in the sciences. She was a slave girl who strived in a male-dominated world and became a modern-day rendition of a secretary of state. She was a cultural curator, book connoisseur, and translator of great texts. She traveled across the Islamic empire acquiring the latest manuscripts for the famous library of Medina Azahara which housed over 500,000 books. Lubna also happens to be the driving force behind the creation of the library.
3. Nusaybah bint Ka’ab
Nusaybah (also known as Umm ‘Umarah) was one of those who embraced Islam in the early days of revelation. She lived in Madinah and was a member of the Banu Najjar tribe. Nusaybah gained a reputation as the most distinguished woman who took part in the Battle of Uhud. She was one of two women who expressed an interest in swearing their allegiance to the Prophet (SAW) in the second pledge at Aqaba. She believed that a woman had the same duty in defending the new religion as a man. Nusaybah died in 13 AH and was buried in Al Baqi in Makkah. Her legacy is a testament to the strength and courage of Muslim women as Islam spread throughout the region.
4. Mariam al-Ijliya al-Astrulabi
She is one of the greatest women who lived in the 10th century. Mariam is known for her academic brilliance and an exceptionally focused mind that lay the foundation for managing transportation and communication using astrolabes (instruments used by early astronomers to measure the altitude of stars and planets). Her father was an apprentice who specialized in making astrolabes for Isterlabi in Baghdad. The significant contributions of Mariam in astronomy were officially recognized when the main-belt asteroid, 7060 Al-Ijliyye, was named after she followed the discovery of Henry E. Holt at Palomar Observatory in 1990.
5. Nafisah bint al-Hasan
Nafisah was the great great granddaughter of the cousin of The Prophet (SAW) and the fourth Khalifah, Ali ibn Abi Talib. She was born Makkah in the year 145 AH. Nafisah would go to the masjid with her father and listen to Islamic teachings. She studied hadith and fiqh from local scholars for many years. She was nicknamed Nafisatul 'ilm (the Gem of Knowledge). The famous Imam Shafi'i called upon her to learn Hadith from her and ask for her du'a. Upon his death, his funeral was carried to her home just so she could directly make du'a for him. The most inspirational aspect of Nafisah's life is that she served as a teacher to one of the greatest scholars in Islamic history.
6. Nana Asma'u bint Dan Fodiyo
Nana Asma'u (1793-1864) was the daughter of the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman Dan Fodiyo. She was a princess, poet, teacher, and women's rights activist. She was also active in politics and social reform. One thing you may not have known about her is that she is quadrilingual (in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa, and Tamacheck). Nana Asmau's poetic works served as practical guides to individuals at every level of social status and degree of academic achievement, from the illiterate to the scholarly. Her works dealt with war, the Sunnah, and women's roles in the Qadiriyya community. She made a considerable impact as one of the great educators of Africa.
These women are few among the many women who have had a great impact on the world and have shaped the way we live today. Women have made commendable contributions in different spheres and should be remembered for doing so. This will help us gain inspiration from them and also work towards making a difference in the world today.
Want your children learn more about these women and others, here are links to some children's books on notable Muslim women we have in store.