March 8th marks International Women’s day. Around the world, women of all corners are celebrated for the strength, femininity, influence, and grace they have brought to the world.
Here are 50 Muslim women scholars, or alimah, and leaders you’ve probably never heard of until now.
1. Nana Asmau (1793 – 1864)
Written works of hers are related to women’s religious education. Places of education in Northern Nigeria are typically named after her.
2. Nafisa Bint Al-Hassan (762 – 824)
Known as Sayyida Nafisa, she was a great-great-granddaughter of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. After learning the Qur`an at a young age, she grew up to teach the Muslim religion to young women and children.
3. Amina Wadud (1952 – present)
Amina Wadud is known to study the Qur`an for its lessons of equality and freedom. She is one of the founders of Sisters in Islam and a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University.
4. Fatima Al-Fudayliyya (18th century)
Studied heavy the lessons of hadith. Her lectures in Mecca were highly attended and she became a respected scholar up to her death.
5. Umm Al-Darda Al-Soghra (7th century)
“I’ve tried to worship Allah in every way, but I’ve never found a better one than sitting, debating other scholars.” She was a juror in Damascus who practiced shoulder to shoulder with other men.
6. Shuhdah al-Baghdadiyyah (10th century)
Shuhdah often performed Dars, or public lessons, about hadith. She was so highly regarded she was named “Fakhr-un-Nisa” or Pride of the Women.
7. Fatima al-Samarqandi (12th century)
Fatima studied Islam and hadith so thoroughly that she was able to work with her husband and father to issue fatwas.
8. Atifete Jahjaga (Present)
Atifete is the first female President of the Republic of Kosovo. She is the youngest woman to be elected to a high office and the first non-partisan elected candidate.
9. Rabia al-Adawiyya (717 – 801)
Known as a woman who never called any man, or shaykh, her master, Rabia was the first Suri Saint of Islam. Her life tells the story of how love and devotion to God will set the soul free.
10. Khadija (560 – 619)
Khadija employed Muhammad to manage a caravan and eventually offered him marriage. Because of her wealth, she is known to lay the path for Muhammad. She gave him time to meditate and encouraged his first visions.
11. Megawati Sukarnoputri (Present)
Megawati was Indonesia’s first female leader. She served as president from 2001-2004.
12. Queen Arwa of Yemen (1050 – 1138)
Arwa’s parents died at a young age and were raised by the royal side of her family. After her second husband’s death, she became the sole ruler until her death in 1138.
The daughter of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him
. After her mother died, she spent her life caring for him. She became known as the “the Resplendent One”.
14. Dr. Aminata Touré (Present)
Before becoming Prime Minister of Senegal in 2013, Aminata served as a Justice Minister from 2012 to 2013. She holds a Ph.D. in International Business Administration and Finance.
15. Tansu Çiller (Present)
Studied at the University of Connecticut, and Robert College at the School of Economics. She was the 22nd Prime Minister of Turkey.
16. Razia Sultana (Present)
Is a lawyer who focuses on the trama, rape, and trafficking of Rohingya girls and women.
17. Zailan Moris (Present)
Zailan is a scholar in Malaysia who studies Islamic philosophy, religion, and Sufism. She has written and edited many books on Islamic philosophy.
18. Yasmin Mogahed (Present)
A scholar living in the U.S. is known as the first woman instructor at the AlMaghrib Institute. She specializes in spirituality and psychology as a writer for the Huffington Post.
19. Siti Noordjannah Djohantini
Siti started out in an Aisyiyah household. She grew up to be an activist for the group and a female group leader. Now, she is the chairperson of Aisyiyah, the women’s wing of Muhammadiyah.
20. Siti Chamamah Soeratno (Present)
Siti Chamamah was a leader of the Aisyiyah. She is an expert in Indonesian literature and a teacher for several Indonesian schools and universities.
21. Riffat Hassan (Present)
Dedicated 33 years of work to teaching about Islamic religion and practices. After the World Trade Center attack, she is credited as helping bridge the bridge between the United States and the Muslim world.
22. Merryl Wyn Davies (1948 – 2021)
In 2010, Merryl was appointed the founder of the reopening of the Muslim Institute in the U.K. She was known as a people person who loved journalism.
23. Maria Ulfah (Present)
She was taught by her father from a young age that she is equal to any man or woman. Today, she is known as the first woman to win at an international Qur’an recitation competition.
24. Laleh Bakhtiar (1938 – 2020)
Laleh started her Islamic journey at the age of 24 when she met her now-husband. Her scholarly works were written in regards to the Qur’an’s messages on critical thinking.
25. Munira al-Qubaysi (Present)
Munira is known as the leader of Al-qubaysiat, the largest Islamic women-only movement in the world. She leads around 80 schools in Damascus and is one of the most influential modern Muslim leaders.
26. Zainab al Ghazali (1917 – 2005)
In 1966 Zainab was arrested and sentenced to hard labor for being a known founder of the Muslim Women’s Association. She was later released in 1971 and continued to teach women the lessons of Islam.
27. Zeb-un-Nisa (1638 – 1701)
Growing up the princess of a devout orthodox Islamic father and Emperor Aurangzeb, she chose to rebel against him and worshiped Islam the Sulfuric way. Her studies spanned from psychology to history.
28. Sheikh Hasina (Present)
Sheikh governs as the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh since 2009. She got involved in politics while her father was imprisoned in 1971 during their liberation war which led to Bangladesh’s independence.
29. Ingrid Mattson (Present)
Ingrid is the chairperson at the Huron University College at Western University in London, Canada for Islamic Studies since 2012. She is studying a major project on spiritual and sexual abuse around Muslim people.
30. Farhat Hashmi (Present)
Founder of the Al-Huda Institute, Farhat Hashmi is an ultraconservative Islamic scholar.
31. Azizah al-Hibri (Present)
A professor at the University of Richmond School of Law until 2012, Azizah dedicated her career to developing Islamic gender equality and jurisprudence.
32. Asma Afsaruddin (Present)
Also a professor, Asma teaches at Indiana University Bloomington Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. She is an expert in Islamic studies as it relates to gender roles, modern society, and religious movements.
33. Asifa Quraishi (Present)
Asifa is both a published author and professor in Wisconsin, U.S. She teaches at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She focuses on the comparison between Islamic and U.S. Constitutional Law.
34. Maryam Jameelah (1934 – 2012)
She was a writer known for conservative Islam and writings about Western culture.
35. Zaynab bint al-Kamal
A child prodigy, Zaynab was awarded an ijazah by her first birthday. She continued to be a prominent figure in the study of Islam.
36. Khaleda Zia (Present)
As the first female leader in Bangladesh, she served from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2006. During this time, she governed through civil unrest and economic crisis.
37. Fatima al-Batayahiyyah (8th Century)
Taught Sahih Bukhari in Damascus, her teachings were well known and respected. Men from all over the world would travel to see her speak.
38. Benazir Bhutto (1953 – 2007)
She was the first woman to lead a majority Muslim country. She led as Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990.
39. Saba Chaudhry Barnard (Present)
Saba created a series of paintings depicting Pakistani-American women. Her hope is that with this art, people will be able to expand their understanding of who they think Muslim women in America are.
40. Zainab Khan (Present)
A strong feminist in the U.S., Zainab creates art of women together, supporting each other, and understanding differences. She celebrates International Women’s Day every day.
41. Dekha Abdi (1964 – 2011)
A Muslim living in Kenya, Dekha spent her life as an international peacekeeper advocate. She created The Right Livelihood to try and resolve some of the world’s harshest conflict.
42. Haafiza Sayed (Present)
Haafiza is a contemporary artist for realism, landscapes, and abstract pieces. She was raised in Mumbai by a collection of family artists and writers.
43. Nadia Helmy Ahmed (Present)
Growing up in Denmark, Nadia opened up the world of boxing to women when she started at the age of 15. She recognized that with only a 5.5% Muslim population in Denmark, women needed an outlet to defend themselves.
44. Rajae el Mouhandiz (Present)
Another artist, Rajae expresses herself through poetry, singing, and songwriting. She made it to the 2021 Muslim 500 for her works in jazz, pop, and soul.
45. Soufeina Hamed (Present)
An illustrator, Soufeina tells the stories of Muslim women in Germany. She takes topics like religion and social situations and puts them in relatable contexts in her comic for ore audiences to understand Muslim life.
46. Kelly Izdihar Crosby (Present)
Kelly lives in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. Her art pieces on the different layers of multiculturalism in the U.S., social justice, Arabic calligraphy, and especially women in Islam.
47. Senna Ahmad (Present)
“If ever faith is lost in you, look into the eyes of a child, you will find your faith there.” Senna is a photographer in the U.S. who uses her photos to create a sense of unity and understanding among races and cultures.
48. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Present)
She is known as the first Olympic athlete to wear a hijab to the Olympics. She set fire to the world of athletics where today, Nike and other brands have workout options for hijab-wearing athletes.
49. Sophia Abdi Noor (Present)
Sophia is a Kenyan politician who fights hard for gender equality. She decided to join politics to put an end to early marriages, female genital mutilation, and wife inheritance.
50. Malala Yousafzai (Present)
Last but not least, Malala is what many would call the future of Muslim women. She fights hard for the rights of the people around her and their education.
Muslim Women on International Women’s Day
Muslim women are making, moving, and shaking the world for future generations. On International Women’s Day and every day, Muslim women have made a difference in who we are today.
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