10 of the most inspiring and remarkable Muslim women in history5,122 views
Nowadays, there is always an article of top ten featuring men or topics surrounding the Islamic world, but we never so often hear or even know about the the astounding and inspiring stories about the Muslim women leaders in history. It is a fact that Islam is one of or the only religion that brought forth women in the leadership role and had influential ways into their society.
I wanted to make a top ten that was different from my first one of “10 inventions made my Muslims that changed the world” and highlight the role of Muslim women in our history to showcase how much influential they had in this world today.
Before the list starts I want to put a disclaimer that this list is comprised of different Islamic women in history, not just the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) or the women who were in his time with him, but also women who came later and were in prestigious roles in their time and place. I had a hard time with this list because I wanted to make the list as short as possible and for easy reading and learning and to focus on who I think is worth mentioning. There are tons of Muslim women in our history and these ten are not the only ones.
1. Khadīja bint Khuwaylid (رضي الله عنه)
This woman needs no introduction. She was the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and was one of the first converts of Islam, most probably the first one. Khadija(رضي الله عنه) was born in Mecca and was far ahead of her time. She was previously married to a man and then divorced. She was the only woman in Mecca to have her own successful business and be fully independent. Something which is very rare than and can even go into our times.
Khadija(رضي الله عنه) was a pious woman and serves as the perfect example of what we call today as a ‘modern woman’. She gave her full support to her husband, the Prophet(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) whether it was emotionally or spiritual.
Her death was such a huge blow to the Prophet Muhammad(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) that he was in such grieve and deeply saddened for many months. Even when he married his other wives, he would use Khadija’s(رضي الله عنه) examples to them.
2. ‘Ā’ishah bint Abī Bakr (رضي الله عنه)
Aisha(رضي الله عنه) is the second wife who I am referring to in this list and she is very different than what Khadija(رضي الله عنه) was like. First off is that she is the daughter of Abu Bakr(رضي الله عنه), close companion of the Prophet Muhammad(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and was the first leader of the Ummah (Muslim community) after the Prophet’s(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) death.
Aisha was very young when she was married to the Prophet(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم), most accounts now confirm she was at least from the age of 16-19 years of age when married. That age gap with her husband came to an advantage because she was the only wife who lived a long enough life to see and have a tremendous hand in what was Islam shape to be.
Aisha(رضي الله عنه) even in the Prophet’s(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) time would sometimes accompany him in expeditions and battles and that would certainly give her experience later in the future handling the Romans and Persians. She even had a great memorization of the Quran and provided many authentic Hadiths that Muslim cherish today. Thanks to this intelligent woman we know more about the Prophet Muhammad(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) than anyone else did and that helps a lot in understanding the core principles of Islam.
3. Fāṭimah bint Muḥammad (رضي الله عنه)
Fatimah(رضي الله عنه) is the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and even though she had three other sisters, it seems to be that the most information about her we know considering she was the wife of Ali ibn Abi Talib(رضي الله عنه) and had two sons Hussain(رضي الله عنه) and Hassan(رضي الله عنه), which would spring off into the beginning of the Shia sect of Islam.
Fatimah(رضي الله عنه) was a loving and caring daughter and continued that nature of hers throughout her life. She is most regarded to have taken care of the Prophet(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) during his early difficult times when he use to preach of Islam. She is the only daughter of the Prophet(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) to give him descendants. The 11th century dynasty of Egypt Fatimids described themselves of being directly descendants of Fatimah(رضي الله عنه) and Ali( رضي الله عنه).
4. Nusayba Bint Ka’b al-Ansariyya(رضي الله عنه) and Sumayyah bint Khayyat(رضي الله عنه).
I’ve decided to include two women in the number 4 slot because they are equally respected and regarded highly in their times and even till now. Nusayba(رضي الله عنه) was a Sahabi and she was one of the few women that actually participated in battles and not only that, but did it bravely. She is well known for defending the Prophet() and shielding him during the Battle of Uhud. Her bravery was remarkable at a time when women hardly even witness battle, but to also be in it and handle her own.
Sumayyah(رضي الله عنه) has a very special title attached to her and symbolizes the sacrifice which was done by the early Muslim converts at the time. She is the first martyr in Islam. She and her husband along with her three sons use to tortured and persecuted daily by the Meccan tribes. The story of her death is so graphic and horrible that I do not want to even mention it. With the beginning of her death it struck a core to the Muslims and would make them understand this world is not forever and that your beliefs should not be dictated by anyone!
5. Rābi‘a al-‘Adawīyya. 717-801 (C.E)
Rabia al-Adawiyya also known as Rabia Basri because her murshid(mentor or teacher) was Hassan al-Basri. She is widely considered by many to be one of the most influential minds of Sufi Islamic doctrines.
She was a saint and Sufi scholar and was deeply religious at her time. When she was very young her father had a dream that the Prophet Muhammad(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) came to him and told him that his daughter, Rabia was to serve the religion and spread the message of Islam. Rabia would later become very pious and observe daily fasts. At one point of time she was a slave and then later freed. She is regarded by many in the Sufi religion as a pious and influential women in the Sufi order and she had many poems and she complied the doctrine “Divine of Love”.
6. Lubna of Cordoba (10th century).
Lubna of Cordoba was an intellectual woman in the 10th century and her father was the Caliph of Cordoba, Al-Hakam II. He was a great defender of culture and her daughter was nothing short of that. Lubna was known to have astounding knowledge and great poetry as well. Lubna, was in charge of playing, writing and translating many manuscripts. She, too, along with Hasdai ibn Shaprut, was the driving force behind the creation of the famous library of Medina Azahara.
It is also interesting to know that during this time there has been reports that at least 170 women were responsible for making copies of valuable manuscripts!
7. Razia Sultana (1236 to May 1240).
Razia Sultana was the Sultan of Delhi, India. She was trained to lead armies and administer kingdoms if necessary. Razia Sultan was the only woman ruler of both the Sultanate and the Mughal period. Razia refused to be addressed as Sultana because it meant “wife or consort of a Sultan”. She would answer only to the title “Sultan.”
In her time she was very tolerant to non-Muslims and gave examples from the Prophet Muhammad(صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم). She gave orders that schools, academies, centres of research and such to be build for further knowledge.
8. Shajar al-Durr(1200’s)
She was the widow of the Ayyubid Sultan As-Salih Ayyub and she played a crucial role after his death during the Seventh Crusade against Egypt (1249–1250). She became the Sultana of Egypt on May 2, 1250, marking the end of the Ayyubid reign and the start of the Mamluk era. She was very influential at her time to protect the Muslims against the threat of the Crusaders and did a great job at it.
She was able to give strength back the the Mongols and expel the European Crusaders from the Holy Land. This was vital because the Mamluk dynasty would be the most powerful political entity until the coming of the Ottomans. It is said that she was of Turkish origins.
9. Sayyida al Hurra (1485)
Sayyida al-Hurra means “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.” She was a queen of Tétouan in 1515-1542 and a pirate queen in the early 16th century. She is considered to be “one of the most important female figures of the Islamic West in the modern times”. She controlled the Western Mediterranean Sea while the Barbarossa of Algiers controlled the East. She was very head strong and made sure that the operations of the Sea was not taken lightly.
That’s why she is referred to as the ‘pirate queen’.
10. Kosem Sultan(1590 – 3 September 1651)
She was one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history. She had two successful reigns during her times and made countless influences within the Ottoman Empire.
She was the wife of Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603–1617), she achieved power and influenced the politics of the Ottoman Empire through her husband, then through her sons Murad IV (r. 1623–1640) and Ibrahim (r. 1640–1648), and finally through her minor grandson Mehmed IV (r. 1648–1687).
She was Valide Sultan(mother sultan) which means Queen mother of a Sultan. When her sons Murad IV and Ibrahim reigned as Ottoman sultans. She was a prominent figure during the Sultanate of Women. She was official regent twice and was thereby one of two women to have been formal regents of the Ottoman Empire.
Interesting fact is that Kosem was born Orthodox Christianity, she later converted to Islam and her ethnicity is Greek.
Fatima Al Fihrya.(died.880)
She founded the University of Qarawiyyin. The world’s oldest university to date.