islam advocates educating women and enlightening them about the teachings of religion, as this greatly influences the life of women as well as that of their children in the future. as hafiz ibrahim, the poet of the nile, said, "the mother is a school; if she is well-prepared, a noble nation is prepared."
the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, addressed women with some of his admonishment and in many hadeeths (narrations) he used to say: "o womenfolk…." he even specified a day on which he used to address them, when some
female companions, may allaah be pleased with them, said to him, "men are always with you. so, specify a day for us." he indeed specified a day on which he met them, admonished them and commanded them…"[al-bukhaari and muslim]
the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, used to urge women to teach each other. for example, he said to ash-shifaa’ bint ‘abdullaah al-‘adawiyyah, may allaah be pleased with her, "teach hafsah the ruqyah (protective and healing supplications) for namlah (namlah literary means ant. it is a skin disease where pustules appear on the side of the body and they are swallowed like ants), just as you taught her writing." [ahmad and al-haakim]
the mothers of the believers, such as ‘aa’ishah and hafsah, may allaah be pleased with them, used to explain and teach matters of the religion to women. this was also the guidance of other male companions, may allaah be pleased with them, for they were keen to teach their women and inform them about the teachings of the religion, especially rulings that are specific to women, such as those related to ritual purification, menstruation, post-partum bleeding, prayer, marriage, divorce, breastfeeding, and so on. some companions, may allaah be pleased with them, used to hold gatherings of knowledge in their homes in order to teach their children and daughters.
an-nawawi, may allaah have mercy on him, transmitted on the authority of qataadah, may allaah have mercy on him, who was a taabi‘i (successor of the companions), that anas ibn maalik, may allaah be pleased with him, whenever he completed recitation of the whole quran, used to gather his family and supplicate allaah the almighty. [ibn abu daawood]
on the whole, scholars were keen to teach women. history has recorded the biographies of women who were knowledgeable in religion and were taught by their fathers, brothers and husbands. such men present shining examples in caring for and educating both men and women without discrimination. life did not divert them from their duty towards their families until their sons and daughters grew into excellent role models in knowledge and piety.
here we mention the biographies of some women who learned from their fathers and husbands. the purpose of this series is to highlight the woman's position in islam. women scholars were appreciated by muslim biographers and therefore they included them in their classifications of great figures and biographies. it is hoped that this series will urge women students to exert their best efforts in learning religion and mastering what is beneficial for them in their scientific and practical life.
these women scholars specialized in different branches of knowledge at different ages, and their names have been arranged alphabetically. the names of women companions, may allaah be pleased with them, have not been included because they are numerous and well-known. rather, we will mention women from among the taabi‘is (followers) and their successors:
asmaa’ bint asad ibn al-furaat
her father was maghrib’s (north-west africa) famous scholar and judge. she was her father’s only daughter and he used to teach her the quran, hadeeth (narration) and fiqh (islamic jurisprudence). she used to attend her father's assemblies of knowledge and contribute to debates. when her father was appointed as the army's commander in order to conquer sicily, he attained a great victory and besieged the city of sousse, but was killed there in 213 ah. asmaa’ married one of her father’s students whose name was muhammad ibn abu al-jawaad and who was a head of the hanafi scholars inmaghrib. asmaa’, may allaah have mercy upon her, died in 250 ah.
to know more about her biography, review ad-dibaaj al-math-hab by ibn farhoon (page 305) and faqeehaat ‘aalimaat by muhammad khayr (page 29).
the sister of al-muzani
she is sister of the shaafi‘i scholar, ismaa‘eel al-muzani, the companion of ash-shaafi‘i, may allaah have mercy on them, who died in 264 ah. his sister used to attend the fiqh lectures of ash-shaafi‘i, may allaah have mercy upon him. some of the shaafi‘i scholars used to transmit her fiqh opinions and her decisions regarding what she believed to be the most preponderant opinions. to know more about her biography, review tabaqaat ash-shaafi‘iyyah by al-asnawi (volume 1 / page 443)
hafsah bint seereen
she is sister of the noble taabi‘i, muhammad ibn seereen, may allaah have mercy upon him. she was trustworthy and knowledgeable in fiqh as well as in other branches of knowledge. she was a sincere worshipper and one of the most prominent taabi’i women. she completed memorization of the quran at the age of twelve and lived for seventy years. her brother, muhammad, used to ask her about what he did not have knowledge about in the quran. mahdi ibn maymoon mentioned that she remained in her place of worship for thirty years and did not leave it except for a siesta and answering the call of nature. she died after 100 ah. her traditions are mentioned in different books of hadeeth. to know more about her biography, review tahtheeb al-kamaal by al-mizzi (volume 35 / page 151) and siyar ‘alaam an-nubalaa ’ by ath-thahabi (volume 4 / page 507).