Contextualising Female Scholarship in Islam

                         الحمد لله رب العلمين والصلوة والسلام على النبي محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين

                                                             أما بعد

All Praise is due to Allāh ﷻ, the Lord of the universe. May peace and blessings be upon our noble master Muḥammad ﷺ, his family and his companions.

There is no doubt that women contributed to furthering the religious and educational interests of our dīn. The fact that books on the biographies of Islamic scholars contain specific chapters on women clearly demonstrates this. However, for one to suggest that women sought and imparted religious knowledge in a capacity equal to that of men is a gross misrepresentation of the reality. There is a stark difference between the methods utilised in educating and imparting knowledge for men and for women. The importance of maintaining our Islamic identity and holding on firmly to tradition in this regard cannot be trivialised.

The great Muḥaddith al-ʿAllāmah Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān al-Aʿẓamī (May Allāh have mercy on him) elucidated this very point:[1]

“…irrespective of the advancements of our times and the enlightenment of our minds, there will be no change in the rulings of Islām. The method adopted in nurturing and educating during the era of Sayyidatunā ʿĀ’ishah (May Allāh ﷻ be pleased with her) will remain for your daughters and mine today. The manner in which Allāh’s (exalted is He) Messenger ﷺ arranged for the education of women and regulated their lifestyle 1400 years ago, we are obliged to apply today in the very same light. Excuses such as, “…times have advanced!” and “…the world will label us narrow minded and conventional” will not be heard in the court of Allāh ﷻ. This is not conventionalism; these are our principles and methodology; this is known as consistency within our religiosity.”

The purpose of this article is to contextualise the roles and characteristics of female scholarship in our tradition. I pray that Allāh makes this humble effort a means of better understanding for one and all. Āmīn.

Was Scholarship Historically One of the Primary Roles of Muslim Women?

Were Female Ḥadīth Narrators Prominent?

Shaykh Muḥammad Khayr Ramaḍān Yūsuf mentions in his book, Female Authors and Their Compilations Throughout Islamic History:[2]

“In Ibn al-Jazarī’s book Ghāyat al-Nihāyah fi Ṭabaqāt al-Qurrā’, he presents (as mentioned in his introduction) all those found in the two books of the expert ḥadīth scholars: Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī and Abū ʿAbdillāh al-Dhahabī, and he supplements them with approximately double that amount. The number of entries reaches 3955. There are no female entries besides three women:

1. Salmā bint Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī ibn al-Jazarī – and she is the daughter of the author [Ibn al-Jazarī d.833AH]!

2. Maymūnah bint Abī Jaʿfar Yazīd – her father [Abū Jaʿfar Yazīd ibn al-Qaʿqāʿ d.130AH] is one of the imāms of the ten modes of recitation.

3. Hujaymah bint Ḥuyayy al-Awṣābiyyah – the wife of the companion Abu ‘l-Dardā’ (May Allāh be pleased with them).[3]

In Muʿjam al-Mufassirīn by Shaykh ʿĀdil Nuwayhiḍ, his findings have been published in two large volumes; however I was only able to locate one female who is the author of a book of tafsīr, namely Zayb al-Nisā’ bint al-Shāh Muḥyiddīn Aurangzeb ʿĀlamgīr.

There is no doubt that the reason for there being so few accounts of female reciters – in general – is that the (Islamic philosophy on) women is based on remaining hidden, chaste and avoiding free-mixing. Their hearing and learning took place abiding by the conditions and boundaries set by Islām. After having learnt the Qur’ān they would suffice with teaching Qur’ān to their families and close relatives.”

Shaykh Muḥammad Khayr Ramaḍān Yūsuf also states at the beginning of his book, Female Authors and Their Compilations Throughout Islamic History:[4]

“I wrote this research in the year 1413AH. From then onwards, I have been motivated to record everything pertaining to the writings of women in Islamic history. I checked glossaries, bibliographies and scholarly treatises pertaining to women – the outcome of this was a mere six new entries to this book. Therefore, the total number of female authors throughout Islamic history up until the year 1200AH is thirty-six.

If we were to exclude the Mashyakhāt[5]  compiled by these women, we would be left with just twenty-one female authors. The total number of their books does not in any way exceed one hundred.”

The above excerpt written by the Shaykh in 1420AH clearly illustrates that scholarship amongst women was extremely low compared to that of men.

Shaykh ʿAbd al-Jawād Ḥamām makes a similar analysis by focusing on the crème de la crème of female scholarship. He analyses the female narrators found within the six canonical books of ḥadīth.

He writes in Jahālat al-Ruwāh wa Atharuhā fi Qabūl al-Ḥadīth al-Nabawī:[6]

“Allāh (exalted is He) addresses both Muslim males and females in one address. He doesn’t give one preference over the other on the basis of gender. The single measure for preference is piety and good actions.

Allāh (exalted is He) says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

“O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allāh is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allāh has full knowledge and is fully acquainted.”[7]

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِنَ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ مِن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَأُوْلئك يَدْخُلُونَ ٱلْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ نَقِيرًا

“And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer – those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed.”[8]

And this is what woman has known from the very dawn of Islām. She has been equal to man in bearing the fatigues of Prophethood and propagating the message. She did not consider herself inferior to man in anything. Rather, we find the honourable female companions pressuring men for their monopolisation of the company of the Messenger ﷺ, therefore they sought their right to the education and counsel of the Messenger ﷺ and they would present themselves to hear the blessed aḥādīth. He ﷺ answered them without causing them even the slightest amount of inconvenience or embarrassment. Hence, they learnt and memorised from him ﷺ.

This exemplifies the great enthusiasm the female companions had for hearing the blessed aḥādīth from the Messenger ﷺ and to take from him ﷺ directly. Thereafter they didn’t conceal that knowledge, rather they narrated what they had learnt and memorised from the Messenger ﷺ. Pay attention to the mother of the believers Sayyidah ʿĀ’ishah (May Allāh be pleased with her); she became the fourth of those who have narrated most prolifically from the Messenger ﷺ. Accompanying her in prolifically narrating from him ﷺ are Umm Salamah, Ḥafṣah and other female companions. May Allāh be pleased with them.

This trend remained during the era of the tābiʿūn. A few female narrators were prominent during that time e.g. ʿAmrah bint ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (who was considered to be one of the strongest narrators to have taken from Sayyidah ʿĀ’ishah – May Allāh be pleased with her), ʿĀ’ishah bint Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ and others. The trend also remained the same during the era of the atbāʿ al-tābiʿīn and beyond, to the extent that an era would not be void of prominent female narrators. People would want to take narrations from them due to their virtue and lofty chains of narration.

Despite the status of the Muslimah and specifically their characteristic thirst for ḥadīth, it is no secret to the researcher that the number of female narrators compared to that of male narrators is small. In fact, there is a striking difference in their numbers.

The eye of the researcher will not err in recognising that many female narrators have been described as majhūl (unknown). Many of them are not known to have narrated except one or two narrations and many of their narrations are themselves attributed either to their sons, husbands or brothers.

A glance at the book Taqrīb al-Tahdhīb by the expert ḥadīth scholar, [Imām] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (May Allāh have mercy on him), further emphasises this point. We find that the number of male narrators therein reaches 8524 whereas the number of female narrators doesn’t exceed 300. After investigating the entries of these 300 female narrators in Taqrīb al-Tahdhīb, we find the verdicts given by the expert ḥadīth scholar, [Imām] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, pertaining to them as follows:

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The above illustrates the following:

• More than a third of these narrators are ṣaḥābiyyāt (companions) or their ṣuḥbah (companionship) is disputed.

• The rest are split between ‘accepted narrators’ and ‘unknown narrators’ – Ibn Ḥajar remains silent on fifteen narrators because their circumstances were unknown to him. Had he been aware, he would have given a verdict accordingly.

• When this (ie. the prevalence of female narrators being unknown) is the situation with the six canonical books of ḥadīth as well as those books which are affiliated with them – whilst they are the most prominent and most worked on books of ḥadīth – what would one then anticipate from the less-prominent books in this regard!? This is why we find at the end of the book Mīzān al-Iʿtidāl by Imām al-Dhahabī: ‘The Chapter On Unknown Women – And I am unaware of any woman who has been accused of forgery or has been forsaken.’[9] Imām al-Dhahabī presents a chapter on women and describes them as ‘unknown’ because this is what is commonly the case regarding them. At this juncture, he deflects forgery and accusations of forgery away from them. His intent thereby seems to be to lighten the criticism of them being unknown, so that their narrations are not rejected in their entirety, just as they are not all judged to be on the same level of jahālah (unknownness). Shaykh Aḥmad Shākir comments on this statement of Imām al-Dhahabī: ‘It seems as though he is inclined towards the view that if a trustworthy individual narrates from women who have been declared unknown, then they would be considered to be among the accepted female narrators who are unknown [despite remaining unknown].’

Thus, the jahālah of many of these women will be deemed ‘inconsequential’ if the one who narrates from her is trustworthy, or if she was from the tābiʿūn.

It is clear from this discussion that female narrators in general are few in number, and very few of them are known. It is rare to find instances of women being criticised based on any of the reasons for narrator-criticism (jarḥ). However, most female narrators are unknown. Most of those who have been mentioned, along with their transmitted narrations, are of the early generations from the ṣaḥābiyyāt (female companions) or those close to their time.

It is for this reason – i.e. most female narrators being unknown – that many ḥadīth scholars discouraged taking aḥādīth from women and shunned narrating from them.

The expert ḥadīth scholar, [Imām] Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr comments after mentioning a ḥadīth:[10] “The wife of Abū Isḥāq, the wife of Abu ‘l-Safar and the slave-woman of Zayd ibn Arqam with whom he had a child; none of them are known to have carried knowledge. It is with regard to those such as them that Shuʿbah narrated from Abū Hāshim: ‘They would dislike narrating from women besides the wives of the Messenger ﷺ.’

Shuʿbah ibn al-Ḥajjāj said:[11] “When I used to come to Kūfah, al-Aʿmash would ask me about the ḥadīth of Qatādah. One day I said to him: ‘Qatādah has narrated to me from Muʿādhah…’ and he responded: ‘From a woman!? Keep away! Keep away!’”

Ibn al-Qaṭṭān al-Fāsī says:[12] “Caution is adopted against the aḥādīth of women. They have been warned against for a long time by imāms of the field – except for those who are known and trustworthy from them. As for these unknown women who possess little knowledge and happened to narrate from their fathers, mothers, brother, sisters and other relatives; then they are predominantly unknown just like the unknown men. As for ʿAmrah bint ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, ʿĀ’ishah bint Talḥah, Ṣafiyyah bint Shaybah and trustworthy women such as them, there is no doubt that it is necessary to accept their narrations.”

Women were predominantly unknown because of the obligation of ḥijāb and their adoption of modesty. This meant that meeting with ḥadīth scholars wasn’t always easy. The incident of Hishām ibn ʿUrwah refusing Ibn Isḥāq access to hearing ḥadīth from his wife Fāṭimah bint al-Mundhir is famous. Hishām denied Ibn Isḥāq the opportunity to hear from his wife to prevent him seeing his wife.”[13]

The above clearly contextualises the role of female scholarship throughout the early generations. Very few women, if any, considered it a major responsibility upon themselves to narrate aḥādīth to the masses. As for the small percentage that did narrate ḥadīth, many of them were unknown. Their observance of the laws of ḥijāb and reluctance to mix with the opposite gender prevented them from narrating to those beyond their own family circle. Below we will mention examples of the methods of transmission adopted by women i.e. with ḥijāb.

RELATED: Yes, Islam Forces Muslim Women to Wear Hijab


Highlighting the importance of this Islamic injunction, the mother of the esteemed Shaykh, Mawlānā Abu ‘l-Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Nadwī (May Allāh have mercy on him) advises newly married brides in her book Ḥusne Muʿāsharah (Excellence in Social Conduct) – the book contains advices pertaining to the household life of young women, nurturing of children and how to inculcate good character into one’s life – she writes:[14]

“Only appear in front of your brothers-in-law in a state which resembles that of ḥijāb. Never make eye contact with them. Never show any personal achievement to them. Do not joke and laugh. If they initiate such behaviour, do not respond but rather show your disapproval. Behave in such a manner that shows apparent separateness. Ensure that no-one takes your name loudly in such a manner that people outside may hear and come to know of your name. Be precautious in every matter. Stand and sit with modesty. Do not walk whilst glancing here and there…”

Qāḍī Athar Mubārakpūrī mentions:[15]

“The muḥaddithāt of Islām, in every situation of their search for knowledge, at home or on their travels, were extremely particular of the boundaries of sharīʿah and would take their gender-based obligations into particular consideration. They would never transgress the boundaries of sharīʿah and femininity.

Whilst narrating ḥadīth, they would take care of their affairs extremely responsibly and would never exceed their limits. Especially in matters pertaining to ḥijāb, they were extremely severe in this regard.”

Dr. ʿAbd al-Hādī al-Tāzī describes the facilities for females at Jāmiʿ al-Qarawiyyīn during the 9th century AH in his three-volume book on the history of the institute:[16]

“…Although these (women) undertook their education in dedicated rooms allocated to them, there were places in the Qarawiyyīn which aided in terms of their location with hearing from senior shuyūkh directly, just as the other students hear.”

As for the method of ḥadīth transmission between two genders, Imām al-Zarkashī (May Allāh have mercy on him) mentions:[17]

“Ibn Abi ‘l-Dam says: ‘…as for women, there is no difference in it being permissible to narrate from them (behind a curtain) whilst it is necessary for them to observe ḥijāb.’ I (Imām al-Zarkashī) say: ‘And it is not permissible to look at them for ḥadīth transmission purposes as opposed to shahādah purposes.’”

The expert ḥadīth scholar, Imām al-Mughaltā’ī (May Allāh have mercy on him) mentions:[18]

“And they used to listen to ʿĀ’ishah and the other wives of the Messenger ﷺ (may Allāh be pleased with them) from behind the curtain…”

Shaykh Mawlānā Muḥammad Idrīs Kāndehlawī (May Allāh have mercy on him) mentions:[19]

“The second proof for the validity of transmission from behind a curtain is the ḥadīth of our mother – the mother of the believers; ʿĀ’ishah – as well as the other mothers of the believers (May Allāh be pleased with them). They would narrate from behind a curtain and their narrations from behind a curtain were transmitted and accepted by consensus.”

ʿAbdullāh al-Bāhilī said:[20]

I saw the curtain of Sayyidah ʿĀ’ishah in the Jāmiʿ Masjid. She would speak to people from behind it and was asked questions from behind it.’

ʿAbdullāh ibn Abī ʿAbd al-Raḥmān says:[21]

“I heard my father say: ‘A group of ḥadīth scholars arrived and sought permission from Abu ‘l-Ashhab. He granted them permission so they said: ‘Narrate ḥadīth to us.’ He replied: ‘Ask (i.e. ḥadīth related questions)’. They responded: ‘We have no questions to ask.’ His daughter then said from behind a curtain: ‘Ask him with regard to the ḥadīth of ʿArfajah ibn Asʿad…’”

Imām Ibn Ḥibbān narrates:[22]

“The tābiʿūn, such as Aswad (d.74/75AH) and ʿAlqamah (d.120AH) from the scholars of ʿIrāq and Abū Salamah (d.94AH), ʿAṭā’ (d.115AH) and others from the scholars of the Ḥijāz heard from Sayyidatunā ʿĀ’ishah (d.58AH) without looking at her and they heard her voice. The scholars accepted their narration even though they didn’t reach her to the extent that they could visually see her. This is legitimate transmission and those who criticise it are unjust.”

Ibn Rushayd mentions under the entry of Umm al-Khayr Fāṭimah al-Baṭā’iḥī:[23]

“I met her in Masjid al-Nabawī and some narrations were recited to her whilst she was situated adjacent to the blessed head of the Noble Messenger ﷺ. She wrote out the ijāzah, by her own hand, for all of her narrations to myself, Banū Abi ‘l-Qāsim, ʿĀ’ishah, Amatullāh and for all those whose names are printed alongside my name in the ijāzah. This was in the presence of her son – my overwhelming thought is that his name was Muḥammad. She would tie her jilbāb upon her face out of modesty and safety – May Allāh be pleased with her.”

Shaykh ʿAbd al-Jawād Ḥamām records the statement of Imām al-Dhahabī (May Allāh have mercy on him):[24]

ʿAbdullāh ibn Aḥmad narrates with his chain to Hishām: Hishām said: ‘Ibn Isḥāq narrates from my wife Fāṭimah bint al-Mundhir: By Allāh! He never ever saw her.’[25]

As for the burdens borne by women in terms of their responsibilities over their homes, nurturing of their children and taking care of their husbands, then this is an enormous job which preoccupies them from seeking narrations face to face, receiving chains of narration from scholars, travelling in search of knowledge, transmitting ḥadīth and teaching.

This does not mean their status or virtue is diminished in the slightest. Rather, this honour entrusted to them by Allāh to prepare men, nurture callers to the dīn and to create outstanding scholars is the greatest duty and task which occupies a woman and that by which she attains distinction.”

In relation to this incident of Hishām, Imām al-Dhahabī (May Allāh have mercy on him) states:[26]

“Hishām is truthful in his oath: he never saw her, nor can any man allege that he did – rather, he mentioned that she transmitted to him. We have also heard from a number of women without ever seeing them. Likewise, a number of the tabiʿūn narrated from Sayyidah ʿĀ’ishah (May Allāh be pleased with her) without ever having seen her appearance.”

He further writes:[27]

“If this account from Hishām is correct then it is possible that she wrote to Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq (and did not transmit aḥādīth orally) because the people of Madīnah considered this (written transmission) to be permissible…”

Free Mixing[28] and the Fallacious Deduction of the Orientalist Josef Horovitz (d.1931)

The sharīʿah has sanctioned communication between males and females where there is a genuine need due to necessity. However, there is a stark difference between the communication sanctioned by Islām and the ‘free-mixing’ which has become the hallmark of the west. There is enough evidence to suggest that such ‘free-mixing’ – which is a concept foreign to Islām – was in fact endorsed and imported into our circles by orientalists. This has been discussed by Shaykh Aḥmad Maʿbad ʿAbd al-Karīm:[29]

“…it should be noted that the German orientalist Josef Horovitz (d.1931) deduced[30] from the narration of a non-maḥram male from a woman by means of samāʿ (hearing) that open free-mixing existed between males and females since the very beginning of Islām.

Because this applies to the recital of al-ʿIrāqī and his samāʿ (hearing) upon Sitt al-ʿArab and others as has preceded, I felt obliged to highlight the incorrect deduction of the abovementioned orientalist and his colleagues. He is incorrect in two ways: Hearing from a woman or reciting to her does not necessitate free-mixing. Rather it is entirely possible that this is accomplished with a barrier/curtain between them. The majority of the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah have agreed unanimously that samāʿ (hearing) of ḥadīth from an individual – or reciting to them – whether male or female, is valid despite the existence of a curtain between them and the one listening, or reciting, to them. Such as, [for example,] the face covering, a wall, or other similar types of barriers which prevent one person from seeing the other. The extra care and attention taken by the listener or reciter will suffice. Just as they (i.e. the scholars) have established that the mothers of the believers and other female companions would transmit ḥadīth to non-maḥram males from behind a curtain/veil after it (ḥijāb) was sanctioned by sharīʿah. And they are role models for all those after them; in every era.”

The above texts clearly establish that only a small minority of women were involved in imparting knowledge in the early generations. The involvement of this minority was regulated by the laws of ḥijāb, contrary to what has become the norm in our times.

Shaykh Muḥammad ʿAwwāmah has also responded to Dr Akram Nadwi directly regarding his apparent suggestion that such unbridled free-mixing existed during these mass gatherings of ḥadīth transmission.[31]

Shaykh ‘Alī al-Ṭanṭawī writes in Dhikriyyāt ʿAlī al-Ṭanṭāwī:[32]

“My days in the faculty of Sharīʿah did not last for long. This is because they had decided on following the evil path adopted in University which was to congregate both male and female students in the classroom. I refused this.

A faculty meeting was held. Our teacher, Shaykh Muḥammad Bahjat al-Bayṭār; and friends, Shaykh Muṣṭafā al-Zarqā, Shaykh Musṭafā al-Sibāʿī, Ustādh Mubārak and Dr Maʿrūf al-Dawālībī, were present. May Allāh have mercy on the deceased amongst them and lengthen the lives of the others. All of them were saying to me: ‘They are in their ḥijābs, congregating them isn’t a forbidden step and there is no proof for it’s prohibition.’ (!!??)

[However] I see it as a door, if we are to leave it open, ḥarām will enter it. I reminded my brother, Ustādh al-Zarqā: ‘When we used to study together in the law faculty in the early thirties, there was a young girl with us who would come with a cloak, covering her face and would not reveal it except in the class; then, I seek forgiveness of Allāh for saying this, it was not possible to tempt anyone to ḥarām. Look today where the matter has reached?!’

I debated with them, however debating with them did not benefit me.

So I said to them: ‘I will repeat the lesson to female students for free. Being alone with them is less-worse than them being congregated with male students. I will not take any remuneration for repeating.’

They declined and I declined so I returned to my lectures.

Nothing took me by surprise (i.e. no female entered the class) but a thick-skinned female student. She interrupted the class. I told her: ‘Leave!’ She didn’t respond and continued walking as if she hadn’t heard me. Her gaze was on the ground so she wasn’t looking at me. I said to her, ‘If you weren’t a girl, I would grab you by the ears and throw you out of the door but you are a female and I do not raise my hands to a woman. So, if you don’t want to leave, I will leave!’

I left and did not return to lecture at the faculty. Only a short time passed when this decree had come to me without me seeking, anticipating it or knowing of it. Allāh had replaced for me the sustenance that I had lost at that faculty. He who forsakes anything for the sake of Allāh, Allāh substitutes it with something better.

What I had thought has been vindicated. The faculty of Sharīʿah today – as they had said – is like all other faculties in terms of free mixing between boys and girls. Rather, the devil has played his part by whispering in the ears of atheists and corrupters to enrol their children into the faculty of Sharīʿah, not to learn the Sharīʿah or to encompass sacred knowledge, but to hold their diplomas and enjoy its benefits by becoming teachers of religion so they can fight us from within our own forts and live with us whilst being our enemies. Such people are worse than the enemies who fight us face-to-face, visible to the eyes, with swords and daggers in hand.”

RELATED: Ikhtilāṭ: A Critical But Neglected Islamic Prohibition

The Face Covering – A Mere Cultural Inheritance?

Unfortunately, some ignoramuses allege that the niqāb (the face covering) and the ḥijāb (barriers,curtains etc.) between men and women are mere cultural practices with no religious significance. They foolishly claim that historically men and women would sit within close proximity of each other and consequently also insinuate that the face veil is a cultural inheritance with no religious significance at all. The texts mentioned above conclusively dispel these unfounded claims and clearly illustrate that ḥadīth transmission took place whilst observing the highest degrees of ḥijāb.

Accounts of important female personalities of the past further establish this. The statement of Sayyidatunā ʿĀ’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her), in the ḥadīth pertaining to the slander against her, further refutes the claim that niqāb is a cultural inheritance. The words of Sayyidatunā ʿĀ’ishah are as follows:[33]

“…فعرفني حين رآني وكان يراني – تعني صفوان بن أمية – قبل نزول الحجاب فخمرت وجهي بجلبابي

“He recognised me when he saw me; and he (she means Ṣafwān ibn Umayyah) had seen me before [the obligation of] ḥijāb was revealed. Thus I covered my face with my jilbāb”

Fāṭimah bint al-Mundhir narrates from Asmā’ (may Allāh be pleased with them), as reported in Ṣaḥīḥ ibn Khuzaymah, that she said:[34]

We used to cover our faces from the men (in the state of iḥrām) and comb (our hair) before that.”

Fāṭimah bint al-Mundhir also mentions, as reported in Imām al-Zurqānī’s commentary on the Muwaṭṭa’:[35]

“We would cover our faces whilst we were in the state of iḥrām, all this while we were in the company of Asmā’ bint Abī Bakr.” And in another narration: “And she [Asmā’ bint Abī Bakr] did not reprimand us. This is because it is not permissible for a woman in the state of iḥrām to conceal her face with the intention of concealing it from the eyes of the people – rather it is obligatory where she knows or anticipates there to be tribulation (fitnah) or that she will be looked at with the intention of gratification.”

Sayyidatunā ʿĀ’ishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) mentions, as reported in Sunan Abī Dāwūd:[36]

“Conveyances would pass while we were with the Messenger of Allah in the state of iḥrām. When they would be parallel to one of us, we would lower our jilbābs from our heads over our faces and when they had passed us, we would uncover it.”

This is contextualised further in Ḥāshiyah Irshād al-Sārī li Manāsik al-Mullā al-Qārī (p.162):[37]

“And [while in the state of iḥrām] she will cover her head i.e. not her face. Unless she covers her face with something which hangs away from her face, then it is permissible. In al-Nihāyah [it is mentioned]: ‘Verily dangling something over the face is obligatory upon her. The ruling indicates that a woman is forbidden from exposing her face to strange men without necessity, as mentioned in al-Muḥīṭ.’”

Shaykh Mawlānā Ẓafar Aḥmad al-Thānawī mentions in Iʿlā al-Sunan:[38]

“The wisdom behind women uncovering their faces in the state of iḥrām lies in the niqāb and the covering of the face being signs of dignity, honour and from amongst the traits of free-women. Therefore they were ordained to abandon this in iḥrām and to adopt the attributes of slave-women and servants so that people are present at the threshold, door and presence of Allāh in the appearance of slaves, both men and women. Imām al-Bayhaqī narrates from Ṣafiyyah bint Abī ʿUbayd, that she said: ‘A slavegirl emerged covered and clothed in the jilbāb. ‘Umar enquired: ‘Who is this woman?’ Someone replied: ‘She is the slavegirl of a certain tribe.’ He then sent for Ḥafṣah and said: ‘What drove you to cover this woman, adorn her with the jilbāb and make her resemble the free women? Do not confuse the slavegirls with the freewomen!’. Al-Ḥāfiẓ (ie. Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī) has mentioned this [incident] in al-Talkhīṣ (111/1) and remained silent.[39]

Herein is proof that a woman will cover her face in situations besides that of iḥrām. May the curse of Allāh be on those who have worn on their necks the chains of bondage to Europe whereby they have made every effort to remove the ḥijāb from Muslim women. They changed the blessing of Allāh upon themselves and chose the characteristics and traits of slaves.”

Moreover, the level of modesty practiced during ḥadīth transmission has been exemplified further by what is mentioned regarding the daughter of Imām Mālik.

Qāḍi ‘Iyāḍ mentions:[40]

“[Imām] Mālik had a daughter who was memorising his knowledge i.e. the Muwaṭṭa’She would stand behind the door. Whenever a mistake was made, she would knock on the door so [Imām] Mālik would realise and correct him.”

Ibn al-Hājj mentions:[41]

“It has been narrated about Imām Mālik – may Allāh have mercy on him – regarding when the Muwaṭṭa’ would be recited to him: If the reader would err in a word or added or omitted [something], his daughter would knock on the door. Thereafter her father would say to the reader: ‘Repeat! You have erred.’ The reader would then repeat [it] and he would identify his mistake.”

Aḥādīth Were Recited Upon the Women – Not by Them

Many female narrators raised the bar even further by having the ḥadīth recited to them rather than reading it themselves. This is evident from the modes of transmission that have been recorded from them. Qāḍī Athar Mubārakpūrī (May Allāh have mercy on him) mentions whilst explaining the different modes of transmission:[42]

Whilst explaining samāʿ (recital of the teacher to the students) he mentions:

“…and the daughters of Islām would use this method (samāʿ) for their close relatives.”

Whilst explaining qirā’ah ʿalayhā (recital of the students to the teacher) he mentions:

“…the female scholars generally adopted this method when educating: they would remain behind a curtain and a relative of theirs would recite.”

The above demonstrates how women would recite the aḥādīth themselves when they were transmitting to maḥrams (unmarriageable kin), whereas in the presence of non-maḥram males, a relative would recite while the female would be situated behind a curtain/barrier. A few examples will be presented below for clarity:[43]

عائشة (طس) بنت محمد ابن أحمد بن عمر بن سلمان البالية ثم الصالحية، أخت شیخنا

قرأت عليهما مشيخة أحمد بن علي بن الحسن الجزري

ʿĀ’ishah bint Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn ʿUmar ibn Salmān al-Bāliyyah thumma al-Ṣāliḥiyyah – the sister of our Shaykh

“I recited upon them both (i.e. her and her brother)…”[44]

سارة بنت الشيخ الإمام العلامة القاضي تقي الدين السبكي, ولدت سنة أربع و ثلاثين , وأسمعت و هي صغيرة من زينب بنت الكمال والجزري وأبيها…

…أجازت لبنتي خاتون واجتمعت بها فقرأت عليها:…

Sārah bint al-Shaykh al-Imām al-ʿAllāmah al-Qāḍī Taqī al-Dīn al-Subkī

“She granted ijāzah to my daughter [Zayn] Khātūn[45], I convened with her and then I recited upon her…”[46]

سيدة بنت موسی بن عثمان بن عيسى بن درباس ، أم محمد المارانية المصرية

أخبرتنا سيدة بنت درباس – كتابة – …

Sayyidah bint Mūsā ibn ʿUthmān ibn ʿĪsā ibn Dirbās

“She was the last remaining person who had heard from him…”

“Sayyidah bint Dirbās reported to me – in writing – …”[47]

RELATED: Are Wives Responsible for Housework in Islam?

Narrating After Having Reached an Advanced Age

Sufficient evidence has been provided above to show that the default manner in which female scholars would transmit aḥādīth was from behind a curtain/barrier. Instances which suggest otherwise may be due to them predominantly transmitting to maḥrams (unmarriageable kin) – as was briefly touched upon earlier. Another viable reason may be because the female scholar was elderly – although there are instances whereby even elderly women adorned the niqāb (face-veil) whilst narrating ḥadīth. Below are examples of both.

ʿAṣim ibn Sulaymān al-Aḥwal mentions:[48]

“We would enter upon Ḥafṣah bint Sīrīn, she would take hold of her jilbāb and veil her face with it. We would say, ‘May Allāh have mercy on you! Allāh – exalted is He – says:

والقواعد من النساء اللاتي لا يرجون نكاحا فليس عليهن جناح أن يضعن ثيابهن غير متبرجات بزينة – النور: 60

“As for women past child-bearing, who have no hope of marriage, it is no sin for them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show adornment.” (Sūrat al-Nūr; 60)

It is the jilbāb. He said she would then respond: ‘What comes after this?’

We replied:

وأن يستعففن خير لهن

“…But to refrain is better for them.”

She then proclaimed: ‘Herein is evidence for the jilbāb [even after having reached old-age]’.”

Imām al-Dhahabī’s comment below further supports the assertion that many women only narrated to men when they had become elderly – it also highlights that many males only heard ḥadīth from females when the males were very young (prepubescent):[49]

“……This is what we assume to have occurred between them, in the same manner that a large group of tābiʿūn took aḥādīth from female companions of the Messenger ﷺ. It is possible that he entered upon her and saw her while he was a child, thereafter he memorised what he heard from her. It is also possible that he heard from her when she had aged and become elderly and this seems feasible because she is 10 years older than Hishām, hence she heard from her grandmother Asmā’. When she transmitted ḥadīth to Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq she was close to 60 years old.”[50]

Karīmah al-Marwaziyyah (363-463AH) is a celebrated female scholar who is known to have heard the Saḥīḥ of Imām al-Bukhāri from al-Kushmīhanī. She had narrated the Saḥīḥ on many occasions, including the recital of the Saḥīḥ to her by Imām al-Khatīb al-Baghdādī and similarly his student, Abu ‘l-Ghanā’im al-Narsī. In total, thirty-nine men and one woman have transmitted ḥadīth on her authority. Those who celebrate her personality rarely discuss what her age was when she gained prominence. Similarly, one should not be misled into thinking that she presided over mass gatherings of samāʿ as is becoming prevalent today. Far from it, the ijāzah based method of transmission had become predominant by her time. Furthermore, Abu ‘l-Ghanā’im al-Narsī was born in the year 424AH, consider for a moment, that even if he had heard from her at the tender age of 20, Karīmah (363-463AH) would have been very elderly at the advanced age of 81.[51]

Another person to have narrated from her is Nūr al-Hudā Abū Ṭālib al-Ḥusayn ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Zaynabī (b.420). His date of birth also suggests that even if he had heard from Karīmah at a tender age, Karīmah would already have been quite elderly.[52] The same can be said regarding other students of hers, such as Muḥammad ibn Barakāt al-Saʿīdī (b.420)[53] and particularly Abu ‘l-Ḥusayn ibn al-Qāḍī Abī Yaʿlā (b.451).[54] Since Karīmah lived a long life and became prominent during the latter stages of her life, it is therefore very likely that she was approached to transmit ḥadīth for ʿuluww purposes. As such, this will be discussed next.

ʿUluww – The Seeking of Lofty/Elevated Chains

Many female scholars narrated aḥādīth because they were sometimes bearers of lofty/elevated chains of transmission. As children they would be made to sit in gatherings of ḥadīth for the sake of gaining blessings. They would then listen to the aḥādīth and memorise them. After reaching an appropriate age, they would then transmit (adā’) the aḥādīth. It is well-known that women generally live longer than men. This would at times lead to situations where a female narrator lives to such an advanced age whereby she outlives her male contemporaries and is among the last living narrators to have heard from a particular shaykh. Due to this, students would flock to such individuals – not because these females were particularly engrossed in Islamic learning and scholarship, but in order to attain the lofty chain that the female narrator possessed. This is further expounded upon by Dr. Garrett Davidson in his ‘Carrying on The Tradition – A Social and Intellectual History of Hadith Transmission Across a Thousand Years’:[55]

“…many, probably even most, women ḥadīth transmitters were not learned people, but instead were laywomen, who nonetheless became sought-after transmitters due to their longevity and the resultant short chains of transmissions they possessed. Previous scholarship on women hadith transmitters has tended to conflate the participation of laywomen in ḥadīth transmission with their participation in learning and scholarship.[56] While there is no doubt that in their roles as transmitters of ḥadīth these women were part of the larger sphere of the scholarly community, there is very little evidence to suggest that the majority of these women transmitters participated in actual learning and scholarship. Instead, their participation in ḥadīth transmission belongs to the piety of ḥadīth scholars, their religious imagination and the preservation of ḥadīth transmission and the community’s connection to the Prophet ﷺ, that was discussed in the previous chapters. Indeed the biographies of some of the most prominent women ḥadīth transmitters contain no indication of their engagement in learning or scholarships, but instead focus on their roles as transmitters and links to the figures of the sacred past of the community.”

Scott Lucas[57] mentions in his book review of Dr. Garrett Davidson’s above-mentioned book[58]:

Davidson was wise to give the example of the male lay-transmitter al-Ḥajjār before addressing the sensitive issue of female hadith transmitters. Due to the paucity of female authors in Islamic history, there has been a temptation to assume that any Muslim woman who was involved in hadith transmission was a scholar. Davidson thoroughly demolishes this assumption on the basis of his careful analysis of al-Sakhāwī’s (d. 902/1497) famous biographical dictionary, al-Ḍaw’ al-lāmi‘; and audition notices preserved in Damascus. He shows that a very small number of female transmitters were in fact scholars, such as Karīma al-Marwaziyya (d. 463/1070) and Zaynab bt. al-Kamāl (d. 740/1339), while the vast majority of them were lay women. Part of his evidence for this argument is that these female transmitters were only sought out and audited when they were in their seventies and eighties, once their chains of transmission had become shorter than those of their contemporaries. Given that women who survive childbearing generally live longer than men, the Sunni quest for elevated chains of transmission presented long-lived women with an opportunity to become valued hadith transmitters. However, this same culture that valued elevation also did not demand that the transmitter be literate or a scholar, and this fact is reflected by Davidson’s finding that female transmitters were always passive participants in their audition sessions and rarely described as having scholarly credentials. In other words, a man read the hadith book out loud to the audience in the presence of the elderly female transmitter, like what we saw above in the case of al-Ḥajjār. This finding is especially devasting [sic] for a book such as Mohamad al-Nadawi’s al-Muḥaddithāt: The Women Scholars of Islam (Oxford 2007), because it means that the vast majority of women mentioned in it almost certainly were lay transmitters who lacked the basic credentials associated with Muslim scholarship.

Hereunder are some examples for added clarity:

عائشة بنت محمد ابن عبد الهادي بن عبد الحميد بن عبد الهادي بن يوسف بن محمد بن قدامة، المقدسية ثم الصالحية

ولدت في شهر رمضان سنة ثلاث وعشرين، وعمرت إلى أن لم يبق من سمع من أبي العباس الحجار في الدنيا غيرها

“ʿĀ’ishah bint Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī ibn Yūsuf ibn Muḥammad ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdisiyyah, then al-Sālihiyyah – she was born in the month of Ramaḍān in the year 23 [of the seventh century AH]. She lived a long life, to the extent that nobody else in the world except for her [remained who] had heard from Abu ‘l-ʿAbbās al-Ḥajjār…”[59]

سيدة بنت موسی بن عثمان بن عيسى بن درباس ، أم محمد المارانية المصرية

سمعت بالموصل من مسمار بن الدرباس ، وتفردت بالسماع منه

“Sayyidah bint Mūsā ibn ʿUthmān ibn ʿĪsā ibn Dirbās, Umm Muḥammad al-Mārāniyyah al-Miṣriyyah – she heard from Mismār ibn Dirbās in Mosul and she became the only one [remaining] to have heard from him…”[60]

هدية بنت علي بن عسكر المرأة الصالحة، أم علي البغدادية ، ثم الصالحية ابنة الهراس

ولدت سنة ست وعشرين وستمائة

وسمعت من الزبيدي حضورا ومن ابن اللتى والهمَداني وعمرت

“Hadiyyah bint ʿAlī ibn ʿAskar, a righteous woman, Umm ʿAlī – al-Baghdādiyyah, then al-Ṣāliḥiyyah ibnat al-Harrās – born in the year 626AH. She heard from al-Zabīdī whilst ‘present’[61] as well as from Ibn al-Lattā and al-Hamadānī – she lived long…”[62]

فاطمة بنت عبد الله بن عمر المقدسية

“وسمعت حضورا في الرابعة”

“Fāṭimah bint ʿAbdillāh ibn ʿUmar al-Maqdisiyyah – she heard whilst ‘present’ at the age of four…”[63]

Fāṭimah was the last living person to have narrated from Shaykh Ibrāhīm ibn Khalīl Mardā and others.[64]

فاطمة بنت ابن عساكر – أم عبد المنعم ابن عساكر

“سمعت من حنبل حضورا”

“Fāṭimah bint ibn ʿAsākir, Umm ʿAbd al-Munʿim ibn ʿAsākir – she heard from Ḥanbal while ‘present’…”[65]

Besides the fact that many of these women came to be amongst the last living people to narrate from a certain shaykh due to their old age, the above situations also highlight the fact that many young girls – upon whom the laws of ḥijāb were not yet binding – were made to sit in ḥadīth gatherings to seek blessings therefrom.

RELATED: Abortion in Islam: The Stance of the Ḥanafīs and Other Schools

Maḥārim (Unmarriageable Kin) and Other Women

A mere cursory glance at the chapter of women (Kitāb al-Nisā’) from Tahdhīb al-Kamāl by Imām al-Mizzī provides sufficient insight into those who women would narrate to and who they would narrate from. In the introduction of Tahdhīb al-Tahdhīb, the expert ḥadīth scholar, Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī claims that Imām al-Mizzī intended to encompass the shuyūkh and the narrators of all entries.[66] Therefore, skimming through the chapter of women not only gives the reader an insight into the fact that many of their narrations were via maḥārim and other women but also displays an accurate assessment of the extremely small number of narrators they narrated to and from. Below are just a few examples from many, to avoid lengthening the article too much. More examples can be found by studying the chapter of women in Tahdhīb al-Kamāl. Points of reference such as maḥārim and other women have been highlighted in bold:

8381 – Asmā’ bint Yazīd al-Qaysiyyah (a narrator of Sunan al-Nasā’ī)

Those who narrate from her: Her paternal nephew named Anas

8386 – Umayyah bint Abi ‘l-Ṣalt al-Ghifāriyyah (a narrator of Sunan Abī Dāwūd)

She narrates from: A woman from the Ghifārī tribe who had the privilege of accompanying the Messenger ﷺ.

Those who narrate from her: Sulaymān ibn Suhaym, it is said that she is his mother

8390 – Unaysah[67] (a narrator of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhari)

She narrates from: Umm Saʿīd bint Murrah al-Fahriyyah (a woman)

Those who narrate from her: Ṣafwān ibn Sulaym

8395 – Buhaysah al-Fazāriyyah (a narrator of Sunan Abī Dāwūd and Sunan al-Nasā’ī)

She narrates from: Her father

8408 – Ḥabībah bint Maysarah ibn Abī Khuthaym (a narrator of Sunan Abī Dāwūd and Sunan al-Nasā’ī)

She narrates from: Umm Karz al-Kaʿbiyyah (a woman)

Those who narrate from her: Her freed slave ʿAṭā’ ibn Abī Rabāḥ

8409 – Ḥasnā’ bint Muʿāwiyah ibn Sulaym al-Ṣuraymiyyah (a narrator of Sunan Abī Dāwūd)

She narrates from: Her paternal uncle

Those who narrate from her: ʿAwf al-Aʿrābī

8413 – Ḥafṣah bint Abī Kathīr Mawlā Umm Salamah (a narrator of Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī)

She narrates from: Her father

Those who narrate from her: Abu Shaybah ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Isḥāq al-Wāsiṭī. Imām al-Tirmidhī narrates from her and comments: Both her and her father are unknown.’

8414 – Ḥukaymah bint Umaymah (a narrator of Sunan Abī Dāwūd and Sunan al-Nasā’ī)

She narrates from: Her mother Umaymah bint Ruqayqah

Those who narrate from her: Ibn Jurayj

8427 – Khayrah, the mother of al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (a narrator of Ṣaḥiḥ MuslimSunan Abī DāwūdJāmiʿ al-TirmidhīSunan al-Nasā’ī and Sunan ibn Mājah)

She narrates from: ʿĀ’ishah and Umm Salamah – the wives of the Messenger ﷺ

Those who narrate from her: Her two sons, al-Ḥasan ibn Abi ‘l-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī and his brother Saʿīd ibn Abi ‘l-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī

8431 – Ribāb bint Ṣulayʿ (a narrator of Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhārī – taʿlīq, Sunan Abī DāwūdJāmiʿ al-TirmidhīSunan al-Nasā’ī and Sunan ibn Mājah)

She narrates from: Her paternal uncle Salmān ibn ʿĀmir al-Ḍabbī

Those who narrate from her: Ḥafṣah bint Sīrīn (a woman)

8443 – Zaynab bint Kaʿb ibn ʿUjrah, the wife of Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī (a narrator of Sunan Abī DāwūdJāmiʿ al-TirmidhīSunan al-Nasā’ī and Sunan ibn Mājah)

She narrates from: Her husband Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī and her sister al-Furayʿah bint Mālik

Those who narrate from her: Her nephews Saʿd ibn Isḥāq ibn Kaʿb ibn ʿUjrah and Sulaymān ibn Kaʿb ibn ʿUjrah

8455 – Salmā Umm Rāfiʿ (a narrator of Sunan Abī DāwūdJāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī and Sunan ibn Mājah)

She narrates from: The Messenger ﷺ and (his daughter) Fāṭimah al-Zahrā’ (May Allāh be pleased with her)

Those who narrate from her: Her Grandson ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAlī ibn Rāfiʿ

8464 – Al-Shifā’ bint ʿAbdillāh (a narrator of Ṣaḥiḥ al-BukhārīSunan Abī Dāwūd and Sunan al-Nasā’ī)

She narrates from: The Messenger ﷺ and ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb

Those who narrate from her: Her son Sulaymān ibn Abī Ḥathmah, his son (i.e. her grandson) ʿUthmān ibn Sulaymān ibn Abī Ḥathmah, her freed slave Abū Isḥāq, her grandson Abū Bakr ibn Sulaymān and Ḥafṣah – the wife of the Messenger ﷺ

8514 – Karīmah bint al-Miqdād ibn al-Aswad (a narrator of Sunan Abī Dāwūd and Sunan ibn Mājah)

She narrates from: Ḍubāʿāh bint Zubayr (a woman)

Those who narrate from her: Her husband Abdullāh ibn Wahb ibn Zamʿah and their daughter Quraybah bint ʿAbdillāh

8517 – Kaysah bint Abī Bakrah (a narrator of Sunan Abī Dāwūd)

She narrates from: Her father Abū Bakr al-Thaqafī

Those who narrate from her: Her nephew Bakkār ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Abī Bakrah

The above list is a mere drop in the ocean in establishing that female narrators did not preside over mass gatherings to transmit ḥadīth, contrary to what some contemporary individuals would like us to believe. When women heard aḥādīth, it was predominantly from maḥārim, other women or their masters/slaves. When they transmitted ḥadīth, it was likewise. If one were to study the chapter on women in Tahdhīb al-Kamāl, they would notice that a complete and exhaustive list would be extremely lengthy – the excessive number of female narrators who fall into this category can be gauged by noticing how frequently they appear.

Women narrating ḥadīth to and from maḥārim, other women or their masters/slaves was the general trend during the early generations and this continued to be the case right up until the time of later scholars such as the great ḥadīth masters Imām al-Dhahabī and Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī. This is evident from their books Muʿjam Shuyūkh al-Dhahabī and al-Majmaʿ al-Mu’assas li ‘l-Muʿjam al-Mufahras respectively.

The fact that so many of the narrations of women rely on maḥārim demonstrates that they seldom travelled in search for ḥadīth, nor did they preside over mass gatherings of ḥadīth transmission. This seems to be one of the main reasons for such women remaining relatively unknown.

In recent years a great deal of misinformation has arisen with regard to the roles and responsibilities of women in Islām. With the rapid onslaught of feminist propaganda throughout the world – which many of our Muslim sisters have also unfortunately fallen prey to – Qur’ānic verses and aḥādīth are deliberately blurred, decontextualised, misinterpreted and distorted by modernists/deformists and feminists in order to mislead and misguide unsuspecting Muslims into adopting ideologies alien to and incompatible with Islām. Our sisters should remain wary of the primary responsibilities which they have been entrusted with by Allāh (exalted is He) by reading about and becoming familiar with the lives of our pious predecessors. When confusion becomes the order of the day, we turn to those who learned directly from the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ – the companions – and those who firmly followed their ways i.e. the pious predecessors. It is they who are most qualified in clarifying matters for us. No matter how ‘enlightened’ or ‘progressive’ our minds may become, the Qur’ān and Sunnah – as understood and practiced by the imāms of this ummah – remain the ultimate source of true guidance. As has been emphasised in this article, the role of Muslim women throughout history has been predominantly of staying within their homes and taking responsibility for the physical, social and spiritual wellbeing of their families. The relatively few female scholars that did pursue Islamic knowledge from among them didn’t do so at the expense of their responsibilities to their husbands and families. Their conduct therein suggests that it was in complete conformity with the sharīʿah.

The purpose of this article was never to discourage Muslim women from pursuing Islamic knowledge but to understand the Muslim woman’s pursuit of knowledge in the correct context (in fact all Muslims are obligated to acquire the Islamic knowledge related to their everyday lives). This article adequately debunks the erroneous misinformation pushed by those who allege segregation in the classroom is a mere cultural innovation which has no basis in Islām and claim it is an unfounded practice, historically alien to the world of Islamic scholarship.

May Allāh ﷻ guide us to the truth and grant us sound understanding of His perfect dīn.

And Allāh knows best.

Servant of Allah, Suhail Akubat
28 Sha’ban 1442AH


  1. Al-Ma’āthir, 3/88-89
  2. فكتاب «غاية النهاية في طبقات القراء» لابن الجزري (ت: ۸۳۳ھ)، الذي أتى فيه – كما ذكر في مقدمته – على جميع ما في كتابي الحافظين أبي عمرو الداني وأبي عبد الله الذهبي، وزاد عليها نحو الضعف، وبلغ عدد من ترجم الى(۳۹۰۵) قارئا .. لم يرد فيه من النساء سوی : – سلمى بنت محمد بن محمد بن الجزري . وهي ابنة صاحب الكتاب! ميمونة بنت أبي جعفر یزید. ووالدها أحد القراء العشرة. – هجيمة بنت حيي الأوصابية التابعية «أم الدرداء الصغرى»، زوجة الصحابي الجليل أبي الدرداء – رضي الله عنه -.وفي معجم المفسرين من صدر الإسلام حتى العصر الحاضر، لعادل نويهض، الذي ضمت محتوياته في مجلدين ضخمين .. لم أر فيه سوى ذکر امرأة واحدة لها تفسير، وهي : زیب النساء بنت الشاه محيي الدين أورنك زيب عالمكيرولا شك أن السبب في التقليل من إيراد أخبار القارئات والمقرئات والحافظات… – بشكل عام – هو أن مبنى النساء على الستر والتعفف وعدم الاختلاط – وسماعهن وتعلمهن كان في الحدود والشروط التي وضعها الإسلام -، وأنهن كن يكتفين بعد تعلمهن القرآن الكريم على تعليم أهلهن أو ذو رحم – قارئات حافظات – المؤلفات من النساء ومؤلفاتهن فى التاريخ الإسلامي، ص15-16
  3. Umm al-Dardā’ al-Ṣughrā, also known as Juhaymah, passed away after 81AH, see: Tahdhīb al-Kamāl 695/4
  4. كتبت هذا البحث سنة 1413ه. ومنذ ذلك الوقت وأنا حريص على تقييد كل ما يتعلق بالمرأة من حيث التأليف في تاريخنا” الإسلامي، بل وتابع معاجم و ببليوجرافيات، ودراسات عن المرأة من النواحي العلمية. وكانت حصيلة ذلك كله العثور على ترجمات جديدة أضفتها إلى هذا الكتاب الفريد. فيكون ٦ مجموع النساء المؤلفات في التاريخ الإسلامي حتى نهاية عام ۱۲۰۰ه هو ٣٦ مؤلفة، بينها ترجمة «نانا أسماء بنت عثمان فودي» من نيجيريا المسلمة، التي ضربت رقما قياسية في التأليف، بالنسبة لغيرها من النساء المترجم له في هذا الكتاب، من حيث عدد مؤلفاتها التي بلغت أكثر من ٧٠ كتابة وقصيدة ! لكنها من أعلام القرن الثالث عشر.قلت: وإذا لم تحسب «المشيخات، مؤلفات للمخرج له، فإنه لا يبقى منه سوى (۲۱) مؤلفة ولا يتجاوز عدد مؤلفاتهن ال (۱۰۰) کتاب بأية حال – المؤلفات من النساء ومؤلفاتهن
  5. The books of Mashyakhāt are collections within which the muḥaddith records entries of his shuyūkh. Typically the entries are in order of those shuyūkh who were eldest in age or had the loftiest chains or in accordance with their cities of residence. Thereafter the muḥaddith records the aḥādīth narrated by them under each entry (see al-Taṣrīḥ wa ‘l-Ilmāḥ li Bayān Maʿāni ‘l-Īḍāḥ li Baʿḍ Masā’il al-Takhrīj wa l-Tarjīḥ wa ‘l-Ilal wa ‘l-Iṣṭilāḥ, p.27)
  6. Jahālat al-Ruwāh wa Atharuhā fi Qubūl al-Ḥadīth al-Nabawī, p.381-385.
  7. Sūrat al-Ḥujurāt v.13
  8. Sūrat al-Nisā’ v.124
  9.  Some have decontextualised and misinterpreted this statement of Imām al-Dhahabī (May Allāh have mercy on him), indicating that most, if not all women are reliable. However, the reality is that Imām al-Dhahabī’s presentation of the chapter on ‘Unknown Women’ right before making the statement shows that the reason very few women were accused of forgery was because most of these women were unknown and not because women are inherently more reliable than men (as some have misunderstood).
  10. وامرأة أبي إسحاق، وامرأة أبي السفر، وأم ولد زيد بن أرقم؛ كلهن غير معروفات بحمل العلم، وفي مثل هؤلاء روی شعبة عن أبي هاشم أنه قال : كانوا يكرهون الرواية عن النساء إلا عن أزواج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم – الاستذكار ج2 ص272
  11. Al-Muḥaddith al-Fāṣil Bayn al-Rāwī wa ‘l-Wāʿī, p.319; and al-Kāmil fi ‘l-Tārīkh, 146/1
  12. أحاديث النساء متقاة، محذور منها قديما من أئمة هذا الشأن، إلا المعلومات منهن الثقات، فأما هؤلاء الخاملات، القليلات العلم، اللاتي إنما اتفق لهن أن روين أحاديث آبائهن، وأمهاتهن، أو إخوانهن، أو أخواتهن، أو أقربائهن بالجملة … فإن الغالب في هؤلاء أنهن من المستورات، کمساتير الرجال، فأما مثل عمرة بنت عبد الرحمن، وعائشة بنت طلحة، وصفية بنت شيبة ، وأشباههن من ثقاتهن؛ فلا ريب في وجوب قبول روايتهن – بيان الوهم والإيهام 146/5
  13.  In relation to this incident of Hishām, Imām al-Dhahabī (May Allāh have mercy on him) states: “Hishām is truthful in his oath: he never saw her, nor can any man allege that he did – rather, he mentioned that she transmitted to him. I have also heard from a number of women without ever seeing them. Likewise, a number of the tabiʿūn narrated from Sayyidah ʿĀ’ishah (May Allāh be pleased with her) without ever having seen her form.” He further writes, “If this account from Hishām is correct then it is possible that she wrote to Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq (and did not transmit aḥādīth orally) because the people of Madīnah considered this (written transmission) to be permissible…” This incident has been discussed further later on in this article.
  14. Ḥusne Muʿāsharah, p.25
  15. Banāte Islām ki Dīnī wa ʿIlmī Khidmāt, p.31
  16. ومع أن هؤلاء السيدات كن يزاولن دروسهن في الدور المخصصة لهن . فإن هناك في القرويين أماكن كانت تساعد من حيث موقعها على حضور المرأة للاستماع مباشرة من كبار المشايخ مثل ما يسمعه الطلاب – جامع القرويين ج 2 ص 433
  17. قال ابن أبي الدم : وهذا محمول على ما إذا احتجب الشيخ على الراوي من غير عذر مبالغة في كراهة احتجابه ، أما النساء فلا خلاف في جواز الرواية عنهن مع وجوب احتجابهن . قلت : ولا يجوز النظر للرواية فيما يظهر ؛ بخلاف الشهادة حيث يجوز بل يجب – النكت على ابن الصلاح ص1085
  18. السابع : يصح السماع ممن هو وراء حجاب، إذا عرف صوته فيما إذا حدث بلفظه وإذا عرف حضوره بمسمع منه فيما إذا قرئ عليه. وينبغي أن يجوز الاعتماد في معرفة صوته وحضوره على خبر من يوثق به. وقد كانوا يسمعون من «عائشة» وغيرها من أزواج رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم له من وراء حجاب، ویروونه عنهن اعتمادا على الصوت.- محاسن الاصطلاح ص330
  19. والحجة الثانية لصحة السماع من وراء الحجاب: حديث أمنا أم المؤمنين عائشة وغيرها من أمهات المؤمنین، كن يحدثن من وراء حجاب، فقبل ما ترون من وراء الستر بالإجماع – منحة المغيث ص442
  20. عبد الله أبو الصهباء الباهلى والد عقبة الأصم و يقال الرفاعي، يعد في البصريين، رأى عليا رضي الله عنه بالكلأ يسأل عن السفر، و رأی ستر عائشة رضي الله عنها في المسجد الجامع تكلم الناس من وراء الستر و تسئل من ورائه – التاريخ الكبير 141/5
  21. عن عبد الله أبي عبد الرحمن قال : سمعت أبي يقول: جاء قوم من أصحاب الحدیث فاستأذنوا على أبي الأشهب، فأذن لهم فقالوا: حدثنا. قال: سلوا. فقالوا: ما معنا شيء نسألك عنه، فقالت ابنته – من وراء الستر -: سلوه عن حديث عرفجة بن أسعد أصيب أنفه يوم الكلاب – مسند أحمد ج5 ص23
  22. وذلك أن التابعين مثل الأسود وعلقمة من أهل العراق وأبي سلمة و عطاء و دونهما من أهل الحجاز قد سمعوا من عائشة من غير أن ينظروا إليها سمعوا صوتها، و قبل الناس أخبارهم من غير أن يصل أحدهم إليها حتى ينظر إليها عيانا – الثقات ج7 ص381
  23. منهم الشيخة الصالحة الكاتبة أم الخير أم محمد فاطمة بنت إبراهيم بن محمود بن جوهر البعلبکی المعروف بالبطائحي رضي الله عنها قامت في ركب الشام | زائرة وحاجة. لقيتها مسجد المصطفى . وقرئ عليها، وهي مستندة إلى جانب رواق الروضة الكريمة المحمدية على ساكنيها السلام ، تجاه رأس المصطفی الکریم وكتبت لي خطها بالاجازة هنالك في جميع مروياتها ، ولبني أبي القاسم وعائشة وأمة الله، ولأخواني ومن تسمى معنا في الإجازة . ويمحضر من ابنها، واسمه في غالب ظني محمد. وكانت تسدل جلبابها على وجهها حياء وصونا رضي الله عنها – ملء العيبة ص21
  24. Jahālat al-Ruwāh wa Atharuhā fi Qubūl al-Ḥadīth al-Nabawī, p.385-386
  25. Tārīkh Baghdād, 19/2
  26. «هشام صادق في يمينه، فما رآها، ولا زعم الرجل أنه رآها ؛ بل ذكر أنها حدثته، وقد سمعنا من عدة نسوة وما رأيتهن، وكذلك روى عدة من التابعين عن عائشة، وما رأوا لها صورة أبدا – سير أعلام النبلاء ج7 ص38
  27. وقال بعض الأئمة : الذي يذكر عن هشام بن عروة من قوله : كيف يدخل على امرأتي ؟ لو صح هذا من هشام لجاز أن تكتب إليه، فإن أهل المدينة يرون الكتاب جائزة، لأن النبي – كتب لأمير السرية كتابا ، فقال له : لا تقرأه حتى تبلغ موضع كذا وكذا، فلما بلغه قرأه وعمل به – سير أعلام النبلاء – ج7 ص41-42
  28. For further reading on the topic of unnecessary mixing between non-elderly men and women, see ‘The Prohibition of Ikhtilāṭ’ by Mufti Zameelur Rahman (May Allāh preserve him):
  29. See: al-Ḥāfiẓ al-ʿIrāqī wa Atharuhū fi ‘l-Sunnah, 1/385-386. An additional point to note is that some Orientalists have suggested that Islām is an oppressive religion for making ḥijāb obligatory upon women. Others have gone to the opposite extreme in attempting to defend Islām but instead ending up falling into the hands of the very modernists/deformists and feminists who are trying to erase modesty from the Muslims. They have erred and adopted a misleading and fallacious line of argument: alleging falsely that men and women enjoyed equal exposure to educational circles, while putting forth evidently falsifiable and absurd claims of men and women historically studying side-by-side, together in the same settings, in front of the same teachers, learning via mutual interaction without boundaries or restrictions. This could not be further from the truth as this article demonstrates. It should be noted that there is an apparent contradiction between the writings and the actions of the respected Shaykh Aḥmad Maʿbad ʿAbd al-Karīm. His book al-Ḥāfiẓ al-ʿIrāqī wa Atharuhū fi ‘l-Sunnah was published in 2004/1425AH. He has since taught in circles of knowledge whereby there is no proper adherence to the laws of ḥijāb.
  30. See: The Earliest Biographies of the Prophet and their Authors by Josef Horovitz. First published in 1927.
  31. Nashr al-Mīzān al-Nabawī: Faḍā’iluhū wa Asbāb Ḍaʿfihī wa Wasā’il al-Nuhūḍ Bihī, pp.66-67
  32. “وما طالت أيامي في كلية الشريعة، لأنهم قرروا اتباع سنة السوء المتبعة في الجامعة وهي جمع الطلاب والطالبات معا في قاعة الدرس، فأبيت ذلك، واجتمع مجلس الكلية وكان فيه شيخنا الشيخ محمد بهجة البيطار والأصدقاء المصطفيان الزرقا والسباعي والأستاذ المبارك والدكتور معروف الدواليبي ، رحم الله من مات منهم وأطال حياة الباقين، فكانوا جميعا علي يقولون: إن البنات محجبات، وليس الاجتماع خطوة ممنوعة ولا دليل على منعه . وأنا أراه بابا إن فتحناه دخل منه الحرام. وذكرت أخي الأستاذ الزرقا بأنه كان معنا -لما كنا ندرس معا في كلية الحقوق في أوائل الثلاثينيات – فتاة تأتي بالملاءة مغطى وجهها فلا تكشفه إلا في الفصل، ثم إنها (وأستغفر الله من هذا الكلام لا يمكن أن تغري أحدة بالحرام ! فانظر اليوم إلام انتهى الأمر؟وجادلتهم فلم يفدني جدالهم، فقلت لهم: إني أعيد الدرس للطالبات مجانا ، ولأن أكون معهن وحدي أهون من الطلاب مجتمعين، ولا آخذ على الإعادة أجرا. فأبوا وأبيت وعدت إلى محاضراتي، فما راعني إلا صفيقة الوجه، أي سميكة الجلد، تدخل علي الفصل فقلتُ لها: اخرجي. فلم ترد و مشت كأنها لا تسمعني، وكان نظرها الى الأرض فهي لا تراني. فقلت لها: لو كنت رجلا لأمسكت بأذنيك ورميتك وراء الباب، ولكنك أنثى ولا أمد يدي إلى امرأة، فان لم تريدي أن تخرجي فسأخرج أنا. وخرجت ولم أعد إلى التدريس في الكلية، فلم يمر إلا قليلا حتى جاءني هذا المرسوم بلا طلب ولا استشراف نفس إليه ولا علم به، فعوض الله علي من الرزق ما خسرته بتلك الكلية. ومن ترك شيئا لله عوضه الله خيرا منه.وقد صدق ما ظننت فصارت كلية الشريعة اليوم -كما قالوا کسائر الكليات في اختلاط البنين والبنات. بل لقد فعل إبليس فيها فعلته، حین وسوس إلى بعض الملحدين والمفسدين أن يدخلوا أبناءهم كلية الشريعة، لا ليدرسوا الشريعة ولا ليحيطوا علما بها، بل ليحملوا شهادتها ويتمتعوا بمزاياها فيصيروا هم مدرسي الدين، فيغزونا من داخل حصوننا ويعيشوا معنا وهم عدو لنا. وهؤلاء شر من العدو الذي يقابلنا سافر الوجه ظاهرة للعيان بيده السيف والسنان.” – ذكريات علي الطنطاوي ج8 ص 49-50
  33. Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 4750
  34. 2690 – حدثنا محمد بن العلاء بن کریب، حدثنا زکریا بن عدي، عن إبراهيم بن حمید، حدثنا هشام بن عروة، عن فاطمة بنت المنذر، عن أسماء قالت :كنا نغطي وجوهنا من الرجال وكنا نمتشط قبل ذلك – صحيح ابن خزيمة
  35. (مالك عن هشام بن عروة عن) زوجته (فاطمة بنت (المنذر) بن الزبير (أنها قالت كنا نخمر) نغطي (وجوهنا ونحن محرمات ونحن مع أسماء بنت أبي بکر الصدیق) جدته وجدة زوجها زاد في رواية لا تنكره علينا لأنه يجوز للمرأة المحرمة ستر وجهها بقصد الستر عن أعين الناس بل يجب إن علمت أوظنت الفتنة بها أو ينظر لها بقصد اللذة – شرح الزرقاني على الموطأ 2/152
  36. ومن باب المحرمة تغطي وجههاقال أبو داود : حدثنا أحمد بن حنبل حدثنا هشيم اخبرنا يزيد بن أبي زياد عن مجاهد عن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت كان الركبان يمرون بنا ونحن مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم محرمات فإذا حاذوا بنا سدلت إحدانا جلبابها من رأسها على وجهها فإذا جاوزنا كشفناه – سنن أبي داود 1/254
  37. (وتغطي رأسها) أي لا وجهها، إلا أنها إن غطت وجهها بشيء متجافي جاز، وفي النهاية، إنَّ سدْل الشيء على وجهها واجب عليها، ودلت المسألة على أن المرأة منهية عن إظهار وجهها للأجانب بلا ضرورة، كذا في
  38. – السر في كشف المرأة وجهها في الإحرام – هذا والسر في كشف المرأة وجهها في الإحرام أن الانتقاب وستر الوجه بالنقاب ونحوه من أمارات العز والشرف، ومن لوازم الحرائر من النساء فأمر بترکه في الإحرام واختيار ما هو من أمارات الإماء والفتيات والخوادم، ليحضر الناس كلهم على باب الله و عتبته وحضرته وهم في صفة العبيد رجالهم ونساءهم. روى البيهقي من طريق صفية بنت أبي عبيد قالت: خرجت أمة مختمرة متجلبة، فقال عمر من هذه المرأة؟ فقيل: جارية بني فلان، فأرسل إلى حفصة فقال: ما حملك على أن تخمري هذه المرأة وتجلبيها وتشبهها بالمحصنات، لا أحسبها إلا من المحصنات، لا تشبهوا الإماء بالمحصنات. ذكره الحافظ في ” التلخيص” (۱-۱۱۱)، وسكت عنه، وفيه دليل على أن المرأة تستر وجهها في غير حالة الإحرام، ولعن الله طائفة قلدت في أعناقها قلادة العبودية لأوربا، حيث بذلوا جهدهم في رفع الحجاب عن نساء المسلمين، وبدلوا نعمة الله عليهم، واختاروا صفة العبيد وأمارتهم.- إعلاء السنن 10/225
  39. Suggesting that the narration is authentic.
  40. قال الزبير: كانت لمالك ابنة تحفظ علمه – يعني «الموطأ» – وكانت تقف خلف الباب، فإذا غلط القارئ، نقرت الباب، فيفطن مالك، فيرد عليه – ترتيب المدارك ج1 ص
  41. روي عن الإمام مالك – رحمه الله – حين كان يُقرأ عليه “الموطأ”: إذا لحن القارئ في حرف أو زاد أو نقص تدق ابنته الباب، فيقول أبوها للقارئ: ارجع فالغلط معك، فيرجع القارئ فيجد الغلط – المدخل لابن الحاج ج1 ص117
  42. Banāte Islām ki Dīnī wa ʿIlmī Khidmāt, p.33
  43. There are numerous examples, of which only a handful have been presented here to avoid lengthening the article too much. For further examples, see: al-Majmaʿ al-Mu’assas li ‘l-Muʿjam al-Mufahras of Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, as well as Muʿjam Shuyūkh al-Dhahabī and al-Muʿjam al-Mukhtaṣṣ of Imām al-Dhahabī.
  44.  Al-Majmaʿ al-Mu’assas li ‘l-Muʿjam al-Mufahras, 358/2
  45. Imām al-Sakhāwī mentions: ‘She passed away whilst pregnant, as a result of the plague, in the year 833AH – therefore two martyrdoms were combined for her.’ See: al-Jawāhir wa ‘l-Durar fi Tarjamati Shaykh al-Islām ibn Ḥajar, p.1208
  46. Al-Majmaʿ al-Mu’assas li ‘l-Muʿjam al-Mufahras, 612/1
  47. Muʿjam Shuyūkh al-Dhahabī, No.325
  48. حدثنا سعدان بن نصر، حدثنا سفيان بن عيينة ، عن عاصم الأحول قال : كنا ندخل على حفصة بنت سيرين وقد جعلت الجلباب هكذا وتنقبت به، فتقول لها: رحمك الله ؛ قال الله تعالى: (والقواعد من النساء اللتي لا يرجون نكاحا فليس عليهن جناح أن يضعن ثيابهن غير متبرجات بزينة) هو الجلباب. قال : فتقول لنا: أي شيء بعد ذلك؟ فتقول : (وأن يستعففن خير لهن) فتقول : هو إثبات الجلباب – جزء سعدان بن نصر رقم 60
  49. قلت – اي الذهبي – : ذاك الظن بهما كما أخذ خلق من التابعين عن الصحابيات ، مع جواز أن يكون دخل عليها، ورآها وهو صبي، فحفظ عنها، مع احتمال أن يكون أخذ عنها حين كبرت وعجزت، وكذا ينبغي ، فإنها أكبر من هشام بأزيد من عشر سنين، فقد سمعت من جدتها أسماء لما روت لابن إسحاق كان لها قريب من ستين سنة – سير أعلام النبلاء ح7 ص42
  50.  Pronounced either as al-Kushmayhanī as explained by Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī in Muʿjam al-Buldān 1/430, or Kushmīhanī as explained by al-Samʿānī in al-Ansāb 11/115.
  51.  See: al-Dhahabi, Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalā’ – 18/233
  52. Ibid 353/19
  53. Ibid 455/19
  54. Ibid 601/19
  55. Carrying on The Tradition – A Social and Intellectual History of Hadith Transmission Across a Thousand Years, p.175
  56.  “Here I refer primarily to Nadwi’s ‘al-Muhaddithat’ and Sayeed’s, ‘Women and The Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam’. Other briefer studies have also put forward this thesis, including Osama Abou-Bakr’s ‘Teaching The Words of The Prophet: Women Instructors of The Hadith (Fourteenth and Fifteenth centuries)’ Hawwa 1, no.3 (2003)” – Dr. Garrett Davidson: Ibid.
  57. Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
  58. American Journal of Islam and Society, Vol. 38 No. 3-4 (2021) p. 167-168
  59. Al-Majmaʿ al-Mu’assas li ‘l-Muʿjam al-Mufahras, 350/2
  60. Muʿjam Shuyūkh al-Dhahabī, No.320
  61. The terms ḥaḍara, uḥḍira and ḥuḍūran are technical terms which refer to when a child is made to attend a gathering but has not yet reached an age whereby he/she is able to fully digest what is being transmitted. Some scholars have suggested that the age when a child is able to digest such is five years old. See: Tadrīb al-Rāwī, 4/206-207
  62. Muʿjam Shuyūkh al-Dhahabī, No.953
  63. Muʿjam Shuyūkh al-Dhahabī, No.627
  64. Banāte Islām ki Dīnī wa ʿIlmī Khidmāt, p. 31
  65. Muʿjam Shuyūkh al-Dhahabī, No.632
  66. ثم إن الشيخ رحمه الله قصد استيعاب شیوخ صاحب الترجمة، واستيعاب الرواة عنه، ورتب ذلك على حروف المعجم في كل ترجمة – تهذيب التهذيب ج1 ص9 – قلت: فيه نظر لكن يكفي الاستدلال للاعتبار
  67. Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī and Imām al-Dhahabī have declared her majhūl (unknown) – Dr. Bashshār ʿAwwād Maʿrūf
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Akram Nadwi got smashed!

Nazrul Islam

He is a simp liar.


There is no doubt that the reason for there being so few accounts of female reciters – in general – is that the (Islamic philosophy on) women is based on remaining hidden, chaste and avoiding free-mixing.”

These barriers do not exist in the secular world and women are still vastly in the minority in the upper echelons of academia.

Only recently with heavy government backing, subsidies, affirmative action and quota is something of a dent being made ie. a completely artificial situation.


vastly = fastly


There was a field experiment (the GEMM study) done on the hiring of new employees across six advanced economies(Germany, Spain, t.Netherlands, Norway, UK and USA) ,to see if there was discrimination based on gender when hiring new employees.In the experiment they tested male dominated jobs and female dominated jobs.They used CVs of fictitious candidates for real job offers, with Identical CVs with the only difference being the gender.The result was a big surprise:


they found no discrimination against females in any of the countries analyzed, not even in the male dominated jobs.
But they found high discrimination against male applicants in female dominated jobs and even in less clearly female dominated jobs they found discrimination against male prospects.

The experiment can be found in this article, written in “” in Spanish, titled: Piedras de papel – Cuidado con el gap.

Last edited 2 months ago by Takeshi

This pioneer experiment was carried out by a team of researchers from five european institutions : the WZB and the universities of Amsterdam, Oslo, Oxford and Carlos III of Madrid.