Women’s history is human history: a simple enough statement, and yet, when we flip through the majority of history books, women’s stories remain glaringly in the minority – if presented at all. As Muslims however, it is even more important to remember that Muslim women’s history is Islamic history. Without Hawaa [alyahis], without Maryam, without Haajar , without Aaasiya , without Khadijah , without A’ishah , and so many more women throughout Islamic history… where would our Ummah be?
Although March is Women’s History Month, Muslims should always be seeking to learn more about the incredible women who have been an integral part of our Ummah since the dawn of time. The following list is meant to be a valuable resource in seeking out this knowledge!
Children’s Books about Muslim Women in History
The Clever Companions – Rumaysa Sidat and Sophia Lunat [PICTURE BOOK]
The Clever Companions is an empowering look at the tales of three women who helped Islam to flourish. The first in a series celebrating the achievements of the female companions of the Prophet , this book inspires young children with relatable, real-life role models, and describes characteristics they can incorporate into their own lives. The Clever Companions explores the stories of the female Companions of al-Khansaa, Aa’isha, and Rumaysaa
The Adventurous Friends – Rumaysa Sidat and Sophia Lunat [PICTURE BOOK]
The Adventurous Friends is an inspiring look at the lives of three brave and courageous women who helped Islam spread far and wide. With stories told across the Arabian land and beyond, The Adventurous Friends is the second in a series of books which illustrate the exciting and often dangerous lives of the female companions of the Prophet Muhammad.
One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University – M. O. Yuksel [PICTURE BOOK]Fatima al-Fihri loved to learn. She wanted to know everything; like how birds flew, why the sky was blue, and how flowers grew. But more than anything, she wanted a school for all, where anyone could study and become whatever they wanted; like teachers, scientists, and doctors.
As she grew older, Fatima carried her one wish inside her, through good times and bad. Fueled by her faith and her determination, she worked hard to make her one wish come true. For over a thousand years, Fatima’s one wish—her school—served students and scholars from around the globe, and it continues to do so today!
101 Sahabiyyaat Stories and Dua – Goodword books [YOUNG READERS]
101 Sahabiyat Stories and Dua is a richly illustrated collection of 101 great stories of the female companions of the Prophet Muhammad, told in simple language that children will easily understand and relate to.
Fatima al-Fihri – Aaliya Tar Mahomed (published by Ahlan Kids) [PICTURE BOOK]
Stories about great personalities, their struggles, and achievements, are a wonderful source of empowerment and can play an important role in the lives of children. This wonderful new womankind series introduces children to influential Muslim women in history. Fatima Al Fihri tells the story of the remarkable woman who created the oldest university in the world.
Nana Asma’u – Aaliya Tar Mohamed [PICTURE BOOK]
Nana Asma’u is the iconic figure who transformed education in Western Africa through the Yan Taru movement in the 19th century.
20 Mighty Muslim Heroes – Tamara Haque [EARLY CHAPTER BOOK]
Do you know the story of the female founder of the oldest running university? You know of Newton and Einstein, but have you heard of Ibn Sina and Lubna of Cordoba? Did you hear of the female navy commander who defeated the Dutch army…twice! You will be surprised to know they were all Muslim! These are just some examples of thousands of courageous Muslim women and men throughout history whose beliefs and accomplishments helped change the world for future generations. They are trailblazers who opened the doors to education, made remarkable discoveries, fought for women’s rights, led powerful armies, and believed in their dreams.
The Mothers of Three Prophets – Jamila Jones [MIDDLE GRADE]
The stories of the mothers of three of Allah’sProphets, blessings and peace be on them, Isma’il (Ishmael), Musa (Moses), and ‘Isa (Jesus). The author considers the important roles played by them in bringing up their sons, who were chosen by Allah to convey His Message to their respective communities.
Khadijah: Mother of History’s Greatest Nation – Fatima Barkatullah [MIDDLE GRADE]
You have another mother. You’ve never seen her. You’ve never heard her voice. You’ve never perhaps even thought of her as your mother. But she is your mother nonetheless. And if you get to Jannah, your mother will there, waiting to meet you. HER NAME IS KHADIJAH. She was the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad , the first to believe in his message, and the first mother of the greatest nation history has ever seen. As you work towards reaching Jannah and meeting your mother Khadijah, it will certainly help if you did a little preparation beforehand and got to know about her story.
Islamic Books about Muslim Women in History
Al-Muhaddithaat – Sh. Muhammad Akram NadwiThis book is an adaptation of the Muqaddimah or serves as a preface to Sh. Akram’s 40-volume biographical dictionary (in Arabic) of the Muslim women who studied and taught hadith. It demonstrates the central role women had in preserving the Prophet’s teachings, which remains the master-guide to understanding the Qur’an as rules and norms for life. Within the bounds of modesty in dress and manners, women routinely attended and gave classes in the major mosques and madrasas, traveled intensively for ‘the knowledge’, transmitted and critiqued hadith, issued fatwas, etc. Some of the most renowned scholars among men have depended on, and praised, the scholarship of their women teachers. These women scholars enjoyed considerable public authority in society, not exceptionally, but as the norm.
Women Around the Messenger – Muhammad Ali QutbWomen entering the fold of Islam played an enviable prominent role, side by side with their counterparts, in shaping and developing the Muslim society as a model from the onset; emancipating humanity, men and women, from the shackles of deep-rooted ignorance. Women in Islam have a very special place, status, and dignity, that is unknown to mankind before or after. The life sketches of the early female believers, in this book, stand as beacons and outstanding models for the so-called “weaker sex”, and call for the revival of the pristine, lofty position of women in the society once again.
Kitab at-Tabaqat al-Kabir – the Women of Madinah – translated by Aisha Bewley
An abridged translation of Volume Eight of Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab’at-Tabaqat al-Kabir, which deals exclusively with the women who met theProphet Muhammad (blessings and peace be on him and on his family and Companions), or who transmitted from him. This storehouse of information gives readers a vivid taste and feel for the lifestyles and characteristics of the people of Madinah at the time of the Prophet .
Muslim Women: A Biographical Dictionary – Aisha Bewley
Islam has always provided an incredibly flexible environment in which women may flourish and achieve their true potential. Looking back to the time of the Prophet, women were extremely active in all areas of life. The negative stereotype of the role of Muslim women, which is often trumpeted in the media, stems from ignorance of the reality of the position of women in Islam. This dictionary is a comprehensive reference source of women throughout Islamic history from the first century A.H. to roughly the middle of the thirteenth century A.H. A perusal of the entries shows that Muslim women have been as successful as, for example, scholars and businesswomen, while also fulfilling their roles as wives and mothers for the past fourteen centuries.
Men and Women Around the Messenger – Darussalam Publications
This book serves as a beginner’s introduction to about one hundred of the Companions of the Prophet, both male and female. The author includes narrations, hadiths, and anecdotes to share the outstanding stories of these incredible individuals. It is an excellent reminder of what made the Companions of the Prophet so special: their love for Allah, their dedication to upholding the truth, and their determination to live for Islam at all costs. Although there is sometimes not as much detail as one would wish for some of the female Companions, this book at least provides a basic overview of who they were.
Academic Books about Muslim Women in History
Unforgettable Queens of Islam – Shahla Haeri
In this landmark study, Shahla Haeri offers the extraordinary biographies of several Muslim women rulers and leaders who reached the apex of political systems of their times. Their stories illuminate the complex and challenging imperatives of dynastic succession, electoral competition, and the stunning success they achieved in medieval Yemen and India, and modern Pakistan and Indonesia.
Educating Muslim Women: the West African Legacy of Nana Asma’u – Jean Boyd and Beverly MackNana Asma’u was a devout, learned Muslim who was able to observe, record, interpret, and influence the major public events that happened around her.
Daughters are still named after her, her poems still move people profoundly, and the memory of her remains a vital source of inspiration and hope. Her example as an educator is still followed: the system she set up in the first quarter of the nineteenth century for the education of rural women, has not only survived in its homeland—through the traumas of the colonization of West Africa and the establishment of the modern state of Nigeria—but is also being revived and adapted elsewhere, notably among Muslim women in the United States.
This book, richly illustrated with maps and photographs, recounts Asma’u’s upbringing and critical junctures in her life from several sources, mostly unpublished: her own firsthand experiences presented in her writings, the accounts of contemporaries who witnessed her endeavors, and the memoirs of European travelers. For the account of her legacy, the authors have depended on extensive field studies in Nigeria, and documents pertaining to the efforts of women in Nigeria and the United States, in order to develop a collective voice and establish their rights as women and Muslims in today’s societies.
Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam – Asma Sayeed
Asma Sayeed’s book explores the history of women as religious scholars from the first decades of Islam through the early Ottoman period (seventh to the seventeenth centuries). Focusing on women’s engagement with ḥadīth, this book analyzes dramatic chronological patterns in women’s ḥadīth participation in terms of developments in Muslim social, intellectual, and legal history. Drawing on primary and secondary sources, this work uncovers the historical forces that shaped Muslim women’s public participation in religious learning. In the process, it challenges two opposing views: that Muslim women have been historically marginalized in religious education, and alternately that they have been consistently empowered thanks to early role models such as ‘Ā’isha bint Abī Bakr, the wife of the Prophet Muḥammad .
Sovereign Women, Muslim Kingdom: The Sultanahs of Aceh – Sher Banu Khan
Sher Banu A. L. Khan provides a fresh perspective on the women who ruled in succession in Aceh for half the seventeenth century. Khan draws fresh evidence about the lives and reigns of the sultanahs from contemporary indigenous texts and the archives of the Dutch East India Company.
The long reign of the sultanahs of Aceh is striking in a society where women rulers are usually seen as unnatural calamities, a violation of nature, or even forbidden in the name of religion. Sovereign Women in a Muslim Kingdom demonstrates how the sultanah’s rule was legitimized by both Islam and adat (indigenous customary laws). Khan provides original insights on the women’s style of leadership and their unique relations with the male elite and foreign European envoys who visited their court.
The Forgotten Queens of Islam – Fatima Mernissi
Fatima Mernissi examines fifteen centuries of Islamic history. Recovering the stories of fifteen Islamic queens, this remarkable exploration tells how they ascended the throne, how they governed and exercised their power, and how their forgotten reigns influence the ways in which politics is practiced in the Muslim world today.
Miscellaneous Books on Muslim Women
A History of Islam in 21 Women – Hossein KamalyKhadija was the first believer, to whom the Prophet Muhammad often turned for advice. At a time when strongmen quickly seized power from any female Muslim ruler, Arwa of Yemen reigned alone for five decades. In nineteenth-century Russia, Mukhlisa Bubi championed the rights of women and girls, and became the first Muslim woman judge in modern history. After the Gestapo took down a Resistance network in Paris, British spy Noor Inayat Khan found herself the only undercover radio operator left in that city. In this unique history, Hossein Kamaly celebrates the lives and achievements of twenty-one extraordinary women in the story of Islam, from the formative days of the religion to the present.
One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing About the Muslim Pilgrimage – edited by Michael Wolfe
Since its inception in the seventh century, the pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Hajj, has been the central theme in a large body of Islamic travel literature. Beginning with the European Renaissance, it has also been the subject for a handful of adventurous writers from the West who, through conversion or connivance, managed to slip inside the walls of a city forbidden to non-Muslims. One Thousand Roads to Mecca collects significant works by observant travel writers from the East and West over the last ten centuries. This book was chosen for its excerpts from Sikandar Begum of Bhopal, Winifred Stegar, Lady Evelyn Cobbold, and Saida Miller Khalifa.
These books are just a sampling of the many resources available to learn about Muslim women in history: Muslim women who loved Allah [sawt] and worshipped Him, Muslim women who studied the intricate sciences of Islam, Muslim women who ruled with justice, Muslim women who invented incredible things, and Muslim women who brought strength to this Ummah in so many unique ways. More and more books, articles, and lectures are being published on this topic – so don’t hold back in seeking knowledge!
Source: Muslim Matters