Islam Women

Inspiring Women in Muslim History That We Should Know

Women are degraded and considered to be solely homemakers; I’m not degrading homemakers. Of course, I appreciate them, but this is about labeling women incapable of entering other fields. If we focus on Muslim history, we will encounter thousands of incidents in which women have taken the lead. Women like Fatima- Al-Fihri and Sutayta al-Mahamili succeeded in education and mathematic fields. They have set the example that women are no less than men.

We don’t have to set a day for women; instead, we can celebrate them every day, and here I’m writing this as a tribute to all the amazing women out there.

Let’s meet some amazing women in Muslim history!

1. Fathim al-Firhi

She was a game-changer in the Islamic community and civilization. Though her hometown was Qayrawan, she moved from there to Fez (now Morocco) with her father. Fathim al-Firhi and her sister played a prominent role in making education one of the essentials for women in those days. The girls grew up in an educated family, and they were competent in hadith and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).  

Fatima’s inheritance from her father was considerably huge, so she utilized them to build a mosque for the community. Al- Qarawiyin was the first and oldest madrasa (Islamic learning center) that later became the world’s first university. It was established in 859, and students worldwide joined the university to learn Islamic studies, languages, astronomy, and sciences. Thanks to this university for making Arabic numbers popular even in Europe. Hence, the Firhi sisters are among the best examples of Islamic women’s role in Muslim civilization.

Sharika Hafeez’s Medium blog on The Woman Who Founded the World’s First University shares many interesting facts that anyone would love to read.

2. Sutayta al-Mahamali

The daughter of Judge Abu Abdallah al-Hussein was a brilliant lady who had her heart and soul for mathematics. She was a genius in the 10th century, and the world celebrated her knowledge in mathematics. Unfortunately, she has now become a history that people hardly speak about.

Her father guided her, along with many other reputed scholars. Her specialties weren’t in one subject; instead, she was well-versed in hadith, Arabic literature, and jurisprudence. On top of all, she excelled in fara’idh (successoral calculations) hisab (arithmetics), which were also parts of mathematics developed in 987. She invented solutions to some mathematical equations, including algebra aptitude. Many mathematicians have utilized her equations. Her ability to create equations showed that she had tremendous skills in mathematics.

You can also watch this video that shares some more insights about Sutayta.

3. Al-Ijliya Al-Astrulabi (Mariam)

She’s the woman behind astrolabes. She was a 10th-century scientist who was born in Syria. According to ancient Islam, she was the only female astronomer at the time. She was solving problems related to the placement of stars and the sun, and her academic brilliance was beyond best.

Her interest was piqued after seeing her father’s passion for developing Astrolabes. He used to share his insights with his daughter. Mariam had to work with complicated precision and calculations of mathematics. However, she mastered it over time. Her innovative and intricate designs caught the eyes of the city ruler, Sayf Al Dawla, and then she was employed in Aleppo court. Apart from this, she supported timekeeping techniques and navigation.

The Al-Ijliya, the main-belt asteroid 7060, was found by Henry E. Holt and was named after Mariam, and that proved her significant role in the study of Astronomy. Plus, Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian American author, penned down a novel termed ‘Binti,’ which was awarded Nebula Award, and the main character revolved around Mariam.

She can be an inspiration for the girls who want to make their dreams in the field of inventions and research.

4. Zaynab Al Shahda

Calligraphy is one of the activities that most Muslims enjoy doing. Zaynab Al Shahda was also one of those people who loved to do calligraphy, and she was famous for her work in hadith and Islamic law (fiqh).

She was too good at what she was doing, so praises kept flooding without a break. She was then appointed as Yaqut’s (last Abbasid Caliph) teacher. Zaynab also did the calligraphies at Musa’s place. She was an established teacher who could brilliantly guide the students on the right path. People made an effort to study and receive ijaza (a license authorized by the professional) from Zaynab.

Her brilliance was proved after she received Siqat al-Dawla due to her strong ties with the Abbasid Caliph, al-Muktafibillah. She considered learning literature and science as her pastime activities.

She is an excellent example for the girls these days. They can prove their point that women were never oppressed in Islam. According to Islam, focusing on a career and building oneself with a superior level of integrity and intelligence wasn’t gender-biased.

5. Queen Amina of Zaria

Amina of Zaria or Warrior queen was another name that she was famous for. She led the military to expand the Hausa people’s territory to North Africa, and it was considered the most massive borders that marked history.

Women in Subsaharan Africa succeeded in a wide range of fields during Muslim civilization. Amina was one of the women who did her role as a warrior. Bakwa Turunku was her father and the founder of the Kingdom Zazzau (now Zaria) in 1536.

Amina earned her people’s trust and respect as she led the military with her fantastic military strategy. She was in command between 1588 and 1589. She also used engineering skills during her campaigns, and her fierce military usage stood out among everything else. She was praised and credited for the construction of the Zaria wall.

All in all, it’s clear that women warriors and women leaders weren’t frowned upon during Muslim civilization. Thus, it should get established in the minds of current Muslim society.

If you are interested, you can watch this short clip about Warrior queen, Amina!  

Wrapping up

Some of the inspiring women in Muslim history have left behind many things that we can still utilize. Their mark on Muslim history isn’t insignificant; instead, it’s highly appreciated and most cherished. These women have influenced the lives of other women who have been struggling to find their individuality.

In Muslim civilization, women from different backgrounds and faiths got together and developed the communities alongside men. Their past work, inspiring lifestyles, and strong-willed personalities have become a guide for the current generation.  

Shakira Shareef
Shakira is a freelance writer. She loves writing on lifestyle, freelancing, travel, self-help, business, and Islam. If not writing, she'd be cleaning or reading. Yes, zero human interaction –she's pretty boring!