5 Muslim Women who Started Revolutions
To celebrate Women’s World History month, Hiyya.org has compiled a list of Muslim women who have made considerable contributions to education and learning. Each of these women started intellectual revolutions in their own way and as a result, have changed their own corner of the world.
1. Why does God only address men? Nusayba bint Ka'b Al-Ansariyah
In her lifetime, Nusaba bina Ka'ab Al-Ansariyah worked hard to advocate for the rights of women and girl’s education. It is said that she famously asked the Prophet Muhammad "Why does God only address men (in the Quran)?" She ultimately convinced the Prophet to see women as spiritual equals. In addition to women’s rights, she was also one of the first defenders of the Islamic faith.
2. Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri Al-Quraysh (Morocco)
After migrating to Morocco from Tunisia, Al-Quraysh founded the Qarawiyyin mosque and eponymous school in Fes, Morocco and is known for having established the first university in the world. As a wealthy philanthropist, she strongly encouraged women to become educated and learn about Islam. The University of Qarawiyyin still stands today and has served as a major center for higher learning for the past twelve hundred years.
Her sister Mariam also contributed to the community by building the famous Andalusian Mosque in Fez.
3. Nana Asma’u (Nigeria)
A princess from a wealthy and influential family, Asma’u served her community by advocating for women’s rights in Islam and education in Nigeria. She was an avid reader and language learner who could speak Arabic, Hausa, Fulfude, Tamacheq, and Greek.
In the early 1800’s, Asma’u established a group of female teachers who would travel throughout the region to poor areas spreading knowledge about Islam. The group soon grew into a powerful network of educators who were dedicated to making education accessible to all women and girls in the country.
Her impact is felt today as many organizations hold special events and volunteer missions in her honor.
4. Laleh Bakhtiar
Always interested in furthering her own education, Bakhtiar studied philosophy and psychology during college. Her desire to learn more about religion in particular, Sufism and Islam led her to begin writing several in-depth books on the topic.
In 2007, she became the first American woman to translate the Quran when she published The Sublime Quran. In an attempt to explore more about the religion of Islam and the dynamic of women, her translation takes a more alternative views, that some believe offers a female perspective where there wasn’t one before.
Bakhtiar continues to challenge stereotypes and influence intellectual debates around Islam. Her work as a writer and translator has allowed for increased discussions on women and religion.
5. Malala Yousafzai
Many people are aware of Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school. What's not well known is that Yousafzai advocated online for girl’s and women’s rights to education before the attack. After miraculously surviving, she became the youngest Nobel Peace prize winner for her activism and dedication to making education accessible to girls around the world.
At just eleven years old, this precocious Pakistani blogged for BBC Newsabout her life as a school girl in Swat. She did interviews and wrote stories for other BBC outlets despite Taliban threats.
Malala's perseverance and commitment to education continues to inspire the world. The has made remarkable strides towards education equality and will likely start more intellectual revolutions in the future.