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‘Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam’ – Excerpts from Preface and Personal Comments

I am a fastidious consumer of books and I do not think I give books much chance before putting them down. I must say I have never read a preface so well-articulated and well-argued. Not apologetic in the least and not like other (non-Islamic) books in which the author tries so hard to get the reader on his/her side. I think it is brave, comprehensive, a little wordy but exactly as it ought to be without compromising on any aspect of the Deen. Mashaa’Allah la quwata illa billah. I never knew I would ever get the opportunity in my lifetime to read any essay on this topic which will make my heart at peace. Whoever reads this post must absolutely buy a copy of the book. Support the cause and spread the word! It is an extreme blessing of Allah SWT that Allah SWT allowed such a book to be printed in the English language by such a notable scholar. May Allah SWT preserve him, protect him from Shayateen and aid him in his goals.Ameen. Of course, I am a nobody to ‘comment’ on such a great work by such a great person (hafidhullah) but I wish to promote his work, give a personal mini testimonial, and share a few excerpts from the book just to encourage the masses a little bit and give this book the exposure that it demands. Surely, this books requires greater media coverage than any other best-selling book in this genre. And Allah SWT knows best.

A few excerpts from the Preface:

The aim of undoing injustices suffered by women (wherever they are suffered) is acceptable to Muslims. But it is entangled in the theoretical underpinning of feminist critique, which is not acceptable but which nevertheless invades Muslim minds. I hear it in the form and content of the questions put to me. The form is: if men can do X, why can’t women do X? The X could be ‘pray in a mosque;, ‘interpret the law’, ‘issue fatwas’, ‘lead prayer’, ‘travel unaccompanies’, ‘behave chastely without scarfing the head’, etc. This approach succeeds in embarrassing Muslims by framing each issue as one of equity: if men can X and women can’t, or if women must X but men needn’t, it does appear to be unfair.


These were not feminists, neither consciously nor unconsciously. They were above all else, like the men scholars, believers and they got and exercised the same authority by virtue of reasoning with the same methods from the same sources as the men, and by having at the same time, just as the men did, a reputation for taqwa, righteousness and strong intellect.


I have worked through much material over  a decade to compile biographical accounts of 8,000 muhaddithat. Not one of them is reported to have considered the domain of family life inferior, or neglected duties therein, or considered being a woman undesirable or inferior to being a man, or considered that, given aptitude and opportunity, she had no duties to the wider society, outside the domain of family life.


As this book shows, women scholars acquired and exercised the same authority as men scholars. Both did so within the well-known Islamic conventions of hijab and of avoiding, to the extent practicable, such mixing of men and women as can lead to forbidden relationships. As Muslims understand it, hijab is commanded by God as law-giver, as a social expression and marking of the gender differences commanded by Him as Creator. The practice of hijab is thus not dependent upon having reasons for it but upon its being His Command. However, God as a law-giver commands nothing that He as creator does not also enable and  a part of His enabling obedience is that His Commands are intelligible, so that can obedience can flow from a more willing assent.


…they cover their hair, and wear an over-garment, or clothing that does not caricature their bodily form: the meaning is – the opposite of modern Western conventions – to conceal, not reveal and project , their bodily presence. The meaning is not that women should be absent or invisible, but that they be present and visible with the power of their bodies switched off.


Anyway, despite pressures, believing men and women will not, for the Western tastes, abandon the commands of God and His Messenger to practice hijab. It is part of the faith. The great Shaykhahs who are the subject of this book, never doubted its obligatoriness. Nor is there the least evidence that it inhibited them from teaching men, or learning from men. Clearly, however, there are practical issues involved of how space was used, how voices were projected so questions could be taken and answered, and how students and teachers could know how the other had reacted.


I urge you to support the cause inshaa’Allah: here.

Learn more about the Author here.

[Note: In the event of any copyright issues, please do not hesitate to contact me immediately inshaa’Allah.]


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