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Islam, Women and Feminism (14 Mar 2020 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Discouraging Muslim Women, The ‘Hidden Figures’ Of Islam, from Pursuing Education, Is Like Pre-Islamic Practice of Burying Baby Girls Alive

By Sheema Khan

March 07, 2020

On Feb. 24, Katherine Johnson – the esteemed mathematician who was part of an exclusive group of scientists at NASA’s Flight Research Division, where she used her mind, a slide rule and pencil to calculate flight paths for the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969 – passed away at the age of 101. And if you know her story – as well as that of her NASA cohort of brilliant African-American female mathematicians – it may be because of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

That film was a revelation to much of the American public. It shattered many stereotypes and showcased the intellectual talents and resilience of women who wouldn’t let institutionalized racism and segregation get in the way of achieving excellence.

Those themes are universal, though. Ground-breaking accomplishments by women have always occurred. We just need to dig deep enough in history to find these gems. And Muslim women are just starting to get their similar due.

Thanks to the painstaking research of Islamic scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi, the dean of Cambridge Islamic College, the stories of accomplished Muslim female scholars, jurists and judges have been unearthed. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Nadwi’s research of biographical dictionaries, classical texts, madrasa chronicles and letters has led to a listing of about 10,000 Muslim women who have contributed toward various fields of Islamic knowledge over a period of 10 centuries.

Not only is the sheer number impressive, but so is the manner in which these women operated: Many were encouraged by their fathers at an early age to acquire knowledge, and many travelled to seek deeper understanding of Islamic sciences. They sat in study circles – with men – at the renowned centres of learning, debating and questioning alongside their male counterparts. And they taught their own study circles to men and women alike. Some were so revered that students came from near and far to absorb their wisdom. They approved certifications of learning and provided fatwas (non-binding religious opinions); as judges, they delivered important rulings.

A few notable examples include Aisha, the youngest wife of Prophet Mohammed, who was known for her expertise in the Koran, Arabic literature, history, general medicine and juridical matters in Islam. She was a primary source of authentic hadith, or traditions of the Prophet, which form part of the foundation of Sunni Islam. Umm al-Darda was a 7th-century scholar who taught students in the mosques of Damascus and Jerusalem, including the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. She was considered among the best traditionalists of her time. “I’ve tried to worship Allah in every way,” she wrote, “but I’ve never found a better one than sitting around debating with other scholars.” And one of the greatest was the 8th-century scholar Fatima al-Batayahiyyah, who taught in Damascus. During the Hajj, leading male scholars flocked to her lectures. She later moved to Medina, where she taught students in the revered mosque of the Prophet. When she tired, she rested her head on the grave of Mohammed. Fatimah bint Mohammed al Samarqandi, a 12th-century jurist, advised her more famous husband, ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Kasani, on how to issue his fatwas; she was also a mentor to Salahuddin.

These are but a few of the thousand luminaries found by Mr. Nadwi, a classically trained Islamic scholar. Initially, he thought he would find 20 or 30 women; his compilation now fills 40 volumes. While a 400-page preface (Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam) has been published, the remainder sits on a hard drive, waiting for a publisher. Given the far-reaching importance of Mr. Nadwi’s work, surely a Muslim country or UNESCO can help disseminate it.

This research provides a stark contrast to contemporary practice in parts of the Muslim world. Some mosques, including ones here in Canada, forbid women. Rarely do Muslim women give lectures to their own communities. And the idea of women being intellectually on par with (or superior to) men is laughable in many quarters. Muslim women have a long way to go to reclaim their rightful place. Even his ground-breaking research will not change much, laments Mr. Nadwi, until Muslim men have respect for women – respect that starts in the home. He’s seen too much family violence in Britain, India and Pakistan. He’s highly critical of those who discourage or deny women from pursuing education, comparing it to the pre-Islamic practice of burying baby girls alive.

Muslims have just begun to discover our own “hidden figures” and there are many more yet to find. If we fail to deal with the present-day sexism that has eroded the egalitarian nature of our own historical communities, this excavation becomes all the more difficult.

Sheema Khan is the author of “Of Hockey and Hijab”: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman

Original Headline: To unearth the ‘hidden figures’ of Islam, sexism against Muslim women must end

Source: The Globe and Mail

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/sheema-khan/discouraging-muslim-women,-the-‘hidden-figures’-of-islam,-from-pursuing-education,-is-like-pre-islamic-practice-of-burying-baby-girls-alive/d/121304


  • of course. For Girls under age marriage is legally  banned .But such practice is prevalent in india. This must be eradicated at the earliest.

    By Dr.A.Anburaj - 3/22/2020 12:23:34 AM

  • Dr.Amburaj,
    According to UNCIEF, India has the highest absolute number of child brides in the world – 15,509,000.
    Nearly 12 million Indian children were married before the age of 10 years–84% of them Hindu and 11% Muslim–reveals an IndiaSpend analysis of recently released census data.
    A few days ago I told you that you do not know anything about Swami Vivekananda. Now I have to tell you that you do not know anything about your own community!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/21/2020 12:09:21 PM

  •  I would like to bring to the kind attention of our readers that many Muslims Girls are married off  without any regard for age/physical maturity. Another prevalent social sin
    is very young girls are married off to very old man- may be rich.This evil must be eradicated.

    By Dr.A.Anburaj - 3/21/2020 12:54:22 AM

  • Dr. Anburaj,
    In Islam, a girl should be pubescent before she can marry, but that does not prevent us from adopting current scientific thinking on the subject. In Indian law, a girl has to be 18 in order to be able to sign a contract. In Islam, marriage is a contract.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/20/2020 1:44:30 PM

  • Mr.Ghulam Mohiyuddin what is the minimum marriageable age for girls as per Islam/Arab culture ?If  unequivocal  answer is possible, no argument is essential. Pl.let the readers know the age criteria for Girls for marriage

    By Dr.A.Anburaj - 3/20/2020 4:09:38 AM

  • Dr. Anburaj,
    There is only one lame Hadith that spread the erroneous story of Ayesha being 9 at the time of her marriage. Recent research has belied it.
    Child marriage is as common among uneducated Hindus as it is among uneducated Muslims. It must be deplored. As I have said many times, girls must be at least 18 to marry as per the laws of India.
    You come to this forum solely to criticize the religion of 200 million of your compatriots although you are not well informed about progressive Islam yourself. You ask Muslims to read the works of Swami Vivekananda, although it is obvious that you have not read Swami Vivekanand yourself. Or, if you read his works, you did not understand them.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/17/2020 12:56:43 PM

  • Mr.Ghulam Mohiyuddin do not gloss over  pitfalls of Arab History. Tamilnadu Twoheed Jamat Ex President Mr,Jainuldin has openly admitted when Prophet was 53 He had married Ayesha who is 9 yrs old and had not reached puberty. But had sex with her at the age of 9.
    Muslims marry off their daughters very young. Could you disprove this point ?  What is the minimum age/or condition for marriagability  for Girls ? as per Arab /Islamic History

    By Dr.A.Anburaj - 3/17/2020 6:23:38 AM

  • Only the very ignorant now believe that Ayesha was married at the age of 9 when all recent research puts that age at about 19.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/16/2020 1:25:40 PM

  •  Ayesha was married to Mohammed at the age of 9. this is taken as precedence and Muslims do not hesitate to marry off their daughters without any consideration for age. This is the major problem.What is the minimum age-criteria for the marriage of a Muslim Girl ? Is it possible to get an answer,  which is compatible with modern Human physiology  from Islamic/Arabic Books ?  Find it and implement it. The problem will be solved .

    By Dr.A.Anburaj - 3/16/2020 4:16:31 AM

  • It is ironical that in this age enlightenment and progress that women in Muslim are discouraged to pursue education.The Nation or the society can never flourish if it stifles the potential of women.I n ordr to build a truely egalitarian and progressive society women should be given required motivation and encouragement to become educated.since patriarchy is acommon spect of Muslim societies It is quite difficult for women to actualize their potential and pursue education.From Islamic perspective as well acquisition of knowledge is an important principal , and I think if women are stopped and restricted to get education in the name religion Than it is a disservice to the Muslims Islamic ideals and to the cause  of feminism.
    In  this age of womenmpowerment
    Keeping Muslims
    women away from education 
    Is akin to robbing them of their future.Lack of education among Muslim women has a severe implications on the development aspects of the community as a whole.As far as well off and Elite Muslims are concerned women education is not a big problem But , when it comes to poor Muslims and Pasmandas
    It is a worrisome aspect.The Research conducted
    by Mohammed Akram Nadwi deserves a huge appreciation in exploring the role women have played in Islamic history.The Research will play in instrumental role in creating awareness about
    education among Muslim women.There is no Alternative to women emancipation rather than education.
    Given the Modern realities of 21 st century Discouraging women from acquiring education is a horrendous crime.e educating a woman has a magnifying effect as it is said educating a man is educating an individual while educating a woman is like educating the whole family.

    By Mohd Farooque Khan - 3/15/2020 3:39:12 AM

  • We must consider un-Islamic all barriers to women's advancement in education and employment.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/14/2020 12:32:20 PM

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