12 Muslim Women Who Are Modern Role Models That’ll Amaze And Inspire You

Wikimedia / NASA
Wikimedia / NASA

Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

Some fast facts of Hz Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

  1. Married three times: widowed from first marriage (2 kids), divorced second marriage (1 kid), third marriage was to Muhammad (pbuh) (6 kids)
  2. Businesswoman who exported her goods to far away markets like Syria.
  3. Khadijah had heard of the integrity and honesty of Muhammad (pbuh) and sent a job offer to him to head her trading caravans, which he accepted.
  4. She was impressed and wanted to propose to him (and she did).
  5. The first Muslim.

Ayshah bint Abu Bakr

  1. Interested in history from a young age
  2. Narrated over 2000 hadiths
  3. Was known for being inquisitive
  4. “She was known for her assertive temperament and mischievous sense of humor – with Muhammad sometimes bearing the brunt of the jokes. During his lifetime, he established her authority by telling Muslims to consult her in his absence.”
  5. In accordance with the systematic erasure of women, (surprise surprise), the Battle of the Camel, was literally named after her camel, instead of her…
  6. Her intellect and knowledge in poetry and medicine was praised by scholars such as Zuhri.
  7. She didn’t marry Muhammad (saw) when she was 6… People need to read a book and stop bringing this up because I’ve literally been answering this question since I was 12.

Fatima al-Fihri

  1. In 859 CE, she founded the world’s oldest degree-granting university: University of Al Quaraouiyine. Yes you heard me right, the world’s first university was founded by an oppressed Muslim woman.
  2. Alongside the Qur’an and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), other subjects that were also taught were grammar, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography and music. Gradually, a broader range of subjects were introduced in the university particularly natural sciences, physics, and foreign languages.
  3. Non-Muslims were welcome to matriculate. The university played a leading role in cultural and academic relations between the Islamic world and Europe. In fact, the University’s outstanding caliber attracted Gerber of Auvergne who later became Pope Sylvester II and went on to introduce Arabic numerals and the concept of zero to medieval Europe. One of the university’s most famous students was a Jewish physician and philosopher, Maimonides.
  4. The university exists to this day, located in Fes, Morocco

Rufaida Al-Aslamia

Before Florence Nightingale, there was Rufaida Al-Aslamia (born 620 AD)

  1. Developed the first ever documented mobile care units that were able to meet the medical needs of the community.
  2. Leader and founder of the first School of Nursing in the Islamic world
  3. Rufaida advocated for preventative care and recognized the importance of health education.
  4. She also became involved in social work within the community. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) gave her permission to erect a tent within a mosque and deliver health-related teachings to the community
  5. During military expeditions, Rufaida Al-Aslamia led groups of volunteer nurses who went to the battlefield and treated the casualties. She participated in the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaibar, and others.
  6. Rufaidah had trained a group of women companions as nurses. When Muhammad’s army was getting ready to go to the battle of Khaibar, Rufaidah and the group of volunteer nurses went to Muhammad. They asked him for permission “O Messenger of Allah, we want to go out with you to the battle and treat the injured and help Muslims as much as we can”. Muhammad gave them permission to go. The nurse volunteers did such a good job that Muhammad assigned a share of the booty to Rufaidah. Her share was equivalent to that of soldiers who had actually fought. This was in recognition of her medical and nursing work.

Anousheh Ansari

No relation to Aziz (at least I don’t think).

  1. First Muslim woman in space
  2. Self-funded space traveler, and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station
  3. Iranian-American engineer and co-founder and chairwoman of Prodea Systems
  4. Previously  co-founder and CEO of Telecom Technologies, Inc. (TTI), a supplier ofsoft switchh technology (whatever that is)
  5. Fluent in 4 languages (Persian, English, French, and Russian)
  6. Ansari performed a series of experiments on behalf of the European Space Agency:
  7. Researching the mechanisms behind anemia.
  8. How changes in muscles influence lower back pain.
  9. Consequences of space radiation on ISS crew members
  10. Different species of microbes that have made a home for themselves on the space station.
  11. The first person to publish a weblog from space.
  12. Ansari said, “I hope to inspire everyone—especially young people, women, and young girls all over the world, and in Middle Eastern countries that do not provide women with the same opportunities as men—to not give up their dreams and to pursue them… It may seem impossible to them at times. But I believe they can realize their dreams if they keep it in their hearts, nurture it, and look for opportunities and make those opportunities happen.”

Kartini

Indonesia’s First Feminist

  1. Pioneer in the area of education for girls and women’s rights for Indonesians.
  2. She aspired to further education but the option was unavailable to her and other girls in Javanese society, so she wrote letters about her feelings and they were published in a Dutch magazine and later as: Out of Darkness to Light, Women’s Life in the Village and Letters of a Javanese Princess.
  3. She passed away at the young age of twenty-five, but prior to her death, Kartini founded a school for young girls.

Khawlah bint al-Azwar

Muslim Mulan (seriously)

  1. Born sometime in the seventh century, Khawlah was well known for her leadership in battles of the Muslim conquests in parts of what are today Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.
  2. Known for her skilled swordsmanship (swordspersonship?)
  3. Also a mastered poet
  4. In the Battle of Adnajin, Khawlah had accompanied the Muslim forces to provide medical attention to wounded soldiers.
  5. However, her talent was first noted during the Battle of Sanita-al-Uqab in 634, fought during the Siege of Damascus, in which her beloved brother Zirrar (or Deraar) was leading the Muslim forces and was wounded and taken prisoner by the Byzantine army. Khalid ibn Walid took his mobile guard to rescue him. Khawlah accompanied the army and rushed on the Byzantine rearguard all alone.

Khawlah took a knight’s armor, weapons, and mare, wrapping herself in a green shawl. She fought the Byzantine battalion, who were attacking Muslim soldiers. Khalid bin Walid, the leader of the Muslim forces, ordered the soldiers to charge the Byzantine. In her armor and typical loose dress of Arabian warriors, she was not recognized as a woman.

Many of the Muslim soldiers thought that Khawlah was Khalid until Khalid appeared. The Muslims defeated the Byzantines, who fled the battlefield. When Khalid found Khawlah, she was covered in blood. He asked her to remove his veil. After refusing several times, Khawlah revealed her identity. Khalid then ordered his army to chase the fleeing Byzantines, with Khawlah leading the attack.

  1. In another battle, Khawlah was captured after falling from her horse. After being taken to a camp with other women prisoners, Khawlah was to be taken to the leader’s tent for pleasure. Instead, Khawlah roused the other prisoners, who used the tent poles as weapons and attacked the Byzantine guards. According to Al Waqidi, they managed to kill thirty Byzantine knights with Khawlah taking credit for five, including the Byzantinian who that insulted her.

Raha Moharrak

Mountain Climber and Artist

  1. Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Vinson, Mount Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kala Pattar, Pico de Orizaba and Iztaccihuatl.
  2. First Muslim woman to climb Mount Everest.
  3. In 2013, her four-member expedition team Arabs with Altitude attempted to reach the peak of Mount Everest in a bid to raise a million dollars for educating people in Nepal.
  4. Speaking about her achievement, she said: “I really don’t care about being the first, so long as it inspires someone else to be second.”
  5. Graphic Designer
  6. Currently pursuing her MBA with a specialization in Women’s Leadership.

Lubna of Cordoba

10th-century jack-of-all-trades, and master of them too

  1. She was born a Spanish slave girl, rising to prestige in the Andalusian royal court. She was the personal palace secretary for Sultan Abd al-Rahman III and his son after him. (while having a female intellectual and in court or in a royal position was not rare in Andalusian times, it was not exactly common)
  2. She also oversaw the royal library, some saying she was acquisitions expert, presiding over 500,000 books. She traveled across the Middle East chasing books to add to her library, with records of her travels to Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad. Lubna was a solo female traveler before it was cool.
  3. She was a poet…
  4. As scribe, she added to the royal library of Cordoba works that she had transcribed herself, even translating many important historic Greek texts that would have otherwise been lost to time.
  5. There are stories of her roaming the streets of Cordoba and teaching the children who chased after her mathematical equations. She must have been a bomb teacher, because the children actually came back to learn more math.
  6. There were more female scholars who were skilled mathematicians, poets, grammarians etcetera in 10th century Al-Andalus. The reason why so little is known about them says more about the dominant culture of historians and biographers who chose to omit these women from their accounts, than about the contemporaries of these women. (Source)

Nana Asma’u

I don’t even know where to begin with this amazing Nigerian princess from the 18th century

  1. She is known for her promotion of educating women and is revered as a precursor for feminism in Africa
  2. She stressed the sharing of knowledge and believed that learning without teaching was sterile and empty
  3. She was well versed in 4 languages (Arabic, the Fula language, Hausa and Tamacheq Tuareg) and educated in Arabic, Latin, and Greek classics.
  4. She’s written over 60 works, a large majority being Arabic poetry. Her works include and expand upon the dan Fodio’s strong emphasis on women leaders and women’s rights within the community ideals of the Sunnah and Islamic law.
  5. Starting around 1830, she created a cadre of women teachers (jajis) who travelled throughout the Caliphate educating women in the students’ homes. In turn, each of these jajis in turn used Nana Asma’u’s and other Sufi scholars writings, usually through recited mnemonics and poetry, to train corps of learned women, called the ’yan-taru, or “those who congregate together, the sisterhood.” To each jaji she bestowed a malfa (a hat and traditional ceremonial symbol of office of the pagan Bori priestesses in Gobir) tied with a red turban. The jajis became, thus, symbols of the new state, the new order, and of Islamic learning even outside women’s community. In addition to teaching students in her own community, she reached far beyond the confines of her compound through a network of itinerant women teachers whom she trained to teach isolated rural women.

Noor Inayat Khan

James Bond. But a Girl. And Muslim.

  1. Her code name was Madeleine (or Nora Baker or Jeanne-Marie Rennier) and she was an enemy of the Reich
  2. She was a British secret agent of Indian and American origin (can I get a woot woot for diversity?)
  3. As an SOE agent, she became the first female radio operator to be sent from Britain into occupied France to aid the French Resistance
  4. But before WWII broke out, she studied child psychology at the Sorbonne and music at the Paris Conservatory under Nadia Boulanger, composing for harp and piano. She began a career writing poetry and children’s stories, and became a regular contributor to children’s magazines and French radio.
  5. She wrote Twenty Jataka Tales, inspired by the Jataka tales of Buddhist tradition.
  6. After joining the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, she was recruited to join F (France) Section of the Special Operations Executive.
  7. She was betrayed to the Germans, either by Henri Déricourt or by Renée Garry, and then arrested and interrogated. There is no evidence of her being tortured, but her interrogation lasted over a month. During that time, she attempted escape twice. Hans Kieffer, the former head of the SD in Paris, testified after the war that she did not give the Gestapo a single piece of information, but lied consistently.
  8. On November 25, 1943, Inayat Khan escaped from the SD Headquarters, along with fellow SOE Agents, but was captured in the vicinity. She was shackled at hands and feet for ten months and was classified as “highly dangerous.”
  9. On September 11, 1944, Inayat Khan and three other SOE agents were moved to the Dachau Concentration Camp and executed 2 days later. Her last words were recorded to be, “Liberté”

Mariam Al-Ijliya

Before Netwon, there was Mariam aka “Al-Astrolabiya”

  1. 10th century astronomer who was known for her skill in building astrolabes, ancient tools used to map stars and the positions of the planets.
  2. It has been said her designs were more intricate and innovative, and therefore more useful; however no known astrolabes have ever been directly attributed to her as she did not sign her work. It is also not known if astrolabes were her only contribution to astronomy or if she was influential in other areas such as math or geography.

In honor of women’s history month, I decided I wanted to share some important Muslim women in history, since we are usually not included in the typical version of “feminism” since we are “oppressed.” TC mark

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