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8 Times Muslim Women Were Badasses Throughout History

8 Times Muslim Women Were Badasses Throughout History

women thrive islam

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We all remember that one person, usually a male, that tried to tell us that being a Muslim woman meant we had to stay confined in our homes, have children, and care after our husbands. While you’re cringing at the thought of this memory, I want to address that being a stay-at-home wife/mother does not in any way lower your status as a woman. Rather, I want to tackle the misinformed idea that has been passed down through generations regarding a woman’s societal role in Islam.

I want you all to grab a nice, comfortable seat and sit — just in case you faint after realizing how powerful, thriving, and important women have been in Islamic history.

With that said, let’s take a look at eight Muslim women who have succeeded in carving the path for the rest of us to thrive on.

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1. Khadija bint Khuwaylid

Not only was Khadija a devoted wife of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the first convert to Islam, but she was also a wealthy businesswoman and skilled at trade. In fact, Khadija hired Muhammad to work for her. Yup, total boss-lady written all over this.

Even more, Khadija was said to have been the one to propose to Muhammad. Can you imagine that? We’ve been breaking gender roles since before you tried to create them.

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2. Fatima al-Fihri

After inheriting a large fortune after the death of her husband and brothers, Fatima devoted her money to benefit the community. So, Fatima built the Al Qarawiyyin Mosque, which later was turned into a university. Today, this is still an important domain for education — as it remains open as one of the first Islamic and most prestigious universities in the world.

So to my fellow sisters reading this article. If you want to invest in an idea, by all means pleeaaaaassee do so. Fatima’s idea sparked great minds through generations of leaders. By wanting to benefit one small community, Fatima ended up impacting the world. Now you can too.

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3. Aisha

At such a young age, Aisha possessed genius qualities that made her the go-to person to gain knowledge and seek advice from after the death of Muhammad (PBUH). In her lifetime, she excelled in educating and interpreting hadiths. She was respected and looked up to for her wisdom despite her age.

So for my young sisters, please do not be discouraged from learning and educating yourself. If you love learning, continue to learn. Don’t feel like an outcast when you are the wisest person in the room. You are admired. You will change minds one day.

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4. Sumayyah Bint Khabbat

Sumayyah was said to be the seventh person to embrace Islam. Being one of the very first believers created a strength within her that we admire to this day. Sumayyah was tortured for being a follower of Islam so much that it heightened her strong character. The last time she was tortured to disclaim her deen (faith), Sumayyah retorted her opinions back on her torturer. Thus, she became the first Martyr in the entire Ummah.

Even though Sumayyah’s body may have died on that day, her strength and courage remains with us today. Sumayyah’s character is in all of us. #MuslimWomenTalkBack

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5. Khawla bint Hakim

Did someone say badass? Khawla defied the image of a stereotypical “woman.” She was a warrior respected by many men fighting alongside her. She’s led knights into many battles. Khawla has organized and directed a group of women warriors.

While she set an example for us to always fight for what believe in and never accepting defeat, Khawla also emphasized the space women have in battles. Her position in the Battle of Ajnadayn illuminated the courage and strength us woman have today. To all my warriors out there, stay #MuslimGirlFierce.

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6. Rufaidah bint Sa’ad

This one is for all the males that claim women should not even study science, let alone have careers in the health profession. Do you remember when Sa’d Ibn Mu’aath got injured in the battle of Al-Khandaq? Muhammad (PBUH) commanded that Sa’d be placed and treated in Rufaidah’s tent. Why? She was recognized as the first Muslim nurse and female surgeon in Islam.

Rufaidah and her companions paved the way for us science majors to be where we are. Heal on, ladies.

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See Also

7. Nana Asma’u

Nana is the symbol for education and independence of women under Islam. She is seen as a model for African feminists till this day. Nana was fluent in Arabic, Greek, Fulfulde, Hausa, and Tamacheq. Nana was a poetess. She is still respected as an educator and advisor.

So for my women writers. When you are sitting there writing in your journals, remember Nana. She is proof that our words don’t go unnoticed. Don’t ever believe the notion that writing isn’t important. Through your writing, you can educate. Through your thoughts, you can inspire. Never remain silent. Find your voice and use it.

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8. Nusayba bint Ka’b Al-Ansariyah

Nusayba is known today as being one of the first advocates for women’s rights in Islam. While she was a close companion of Muhammad (PBUH), she raised a question many of us have had while reading the Quran. Nusayba asked the Prophet why God only addresses men in the holy book. Soon after, a special Aya was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) in Chapter 33, Verse 35 that states women can have every quality and spiritual level as men. Thus, declaring us equal.

Unfortunately in a world like today, being deemed as equal does not mean we have the privilege of stopping our fight for it. To this day, it is evident that the world does not view us women as a man’s equal counterpart. In fact, the patriarchal hierarchy placed upon us by today’s society works against us. So, when you are feeling defeated in a man’s world, remember Nusayba. Speak out for your equality when you feel the world hasn’t handed it to you.

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Has the idea of women in power and equality caused you to faint yet? No? Good, because it shouldn’t. Women thriving and succeeding should not be a taboo in Islam because it has been happening since day one. So to any individual telling women that their job is to remain at home as a caregiver, I want you to read this list several times. If Muhammad (PBUH) viewed us women as his equal counterpart, why can’t you?

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We have every right to be out and about in the outside world. Islam does not limit me as a woman. Rather, Islam liberates me to thrive.

So my final message to all my sisters reading this, please #ThriveOn.

View Comments (14)
  • So why has all this only happened in the past. I am not Muslim but it upsets me to see how they must suffer and be excluded from succeeding in many things due to restrictions placed on them particularly in dress. I am very offended when I see all the males dressed comfortably and the women suffering in the heat covered from head to toe with a trench coat no less. This is barbaric and in my mind a male problem. Just my two cents.

    • Hello Joanne. I think you raise a great topic that is misconceived in today’s society. There are many phenomenal Muslim women in today’s world that are still paving the way for groundbreaking stories (many of which we highlight in our daily articles on this website). As for your comment regarding oppression, women here in the states are able to dress as comfortable and freely as they choose. At this point I want to reiterate that the hijab is a choice. While it is true that there are many countries in the Middle East that force dressing regulations upon their civilians, I think it is crucial to discuss that, in those countries, a lot of the oppression comes from cultural traditions rather than religious ideologies. As regards to Islam, the Quran clearly states that no one has the right to oppress any individual in any way. This is when the divide between culture and religion is seen. Unfortunately, many media outlets and misinformed individuals are unaware of the divide and tend to make the two equivalent. This is a dangerous thing to do. Keep in mind that as Muslim women writers, we are using this website as a platform to speak on these issues and help educate the world on the truth behind misconceived ideas. I thank you for your comment and hope you are a bit more informed on the issue after this. If you feel I have not provided enough information, feel free to look through more articles on our website and/or contact me directly via Facebook to discuss your thoughts further. As always, we thank you for visiting our site to read our articles and help us raise awareness about topics as such.

  • Some correction and Justice, you mentioned Khathija Radiallaahu as ‘converted’, it should be ‘Reverted’. Each Sahabi you mentioned you called them by their name and not sending salaam upon them or saying Radiallaahu Anha. Third you also need to touch upon how their observed their protection of, ‘Awrah’. They were liberated but not to be rellbelious, they submitted their will to Allaah and spend their life pleasing Allaah and not as a showoff for the world, Girl power, etc. They very humble and at the same time were guided by our beloved Nabil and Rasool Mohamed us allaahu alaihi wa sallam and their firm faith of Allaah subhanahu tahla

    • Hi. I appreciate all your comments/suggestions stated above except for the last one. In no where throughout my article did I state that these women did these acts to “rebel,” “showoff,” or boast their success. Rather, I clearly state that these women were able to thrive because Islam allowed us to be liberated and succeed as opposed to the misconception of oppressed women today. I was making a point of stating that these women became who they were BECAUSE of Islam, not IN SPITE of Islam. I stated in several of their stories that they were devout followers of Islam and our Nabi (PBUH). With that said, because they were followers of Islam and understood the meaning of liberation under Islam, they were able to provide us with examples to follow.

      • As-salaamu Alaikum Sister Marwa. I got interested to read your article in which used the word “Badasses” in the title. First, i believe you intended to use this word, to convey that “Muslims women’s are not just ordinary women, but they can prove to be more independent, liberated, inspirational, successful, etc. and then you listed to say some of from the history”, correct me if i am wrong???

        However, this word in not appropriate to describe any women’s, because, first its used in a urban slang world to be a M*****F***** (an abuse for an mother), AND also we use this word in a different sense, this word actually means, (of a person) difficult to deal with; mean-tempered; touchy (if read as an adjective) OR distinctively tough or powerful; so exceptional as to be intimidating (in a noun form, especially when you combine it with the name of the women) OR an be a mean-tempered troublemaker. Lets leave this to rest as its not a choice of word that i can use to inspire upon the feelings of any of my sisters, and you too, May Allaah give us all the success.

        Coming to your concern, that you did not intend to say they have to be more of rebellious, showoff, etc. I agree as you intented, however, as i could not find the actual nature of how they managed to prove themselves as an exceptional womens, under Islam (AND NOT under male chauvinist world), hence was not sure what were you conveying to them and more importantly how they can achieve the same. May be my bad as the article i was reading was from a man stand point of view and hence was prejudiced, may Allaah correct my condition.

        Anyway, good article though and have to see more such works from you.

  • We need to add Dr. Betty Shabazz to the list. I’m reading a biography about her, and I feel like we American Muslim women know hardly anything about this American Muslim icon, except for the fact that she’s the widow of Malcolm X. She had a whole life after his assassination, and it’s truly remarkable what she was able to accomplish as a single mother of 6.

    • i agree with you. There are several American Muslim -or even ‘modern’ Muslim- women that are groundbreaking in their stories. This could possibly be another topic for a different list. Thank you for commenting.

  • Those Great Sahabiyat and women fought for the cause of ISLAM. But today Muslim women who sadly happens to be feminist works for the destruction of Islam. And, this is the difference between Sahabiyats and todays Muslim Women.

      • Yeah Sure why not. I will provide you with points that I got from debates.

        #1. Against Hijab
        #2. Re-Interpretation of Quran. i.e, Rubbishing the classical scholarly works of Qurtubi,Ibn Kathir et al.
        #3. Against Male authority. Vocal against Husband being the head of the household. Especially with regards to Quran 4:34.- “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend their property [for the support of women.]”
        #4. If somebody gives Islamic advice or correct them citing Hadees and Quran, they are quick and hell-bent on criticizing.
        #5. Against Islamic Jurisprudence.

        Finally, what I dislike about feminists who bear Muslim name that, they never been vocal when christian apologists,polemics randomly at riff-raff criticize and abuse our Propeht(pbuh) and play with Quran verses and spread lie against Islam. You cited Aisha Razi’allahu Anha. Do you know that once a group of Jews came to Allah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) and sought his audience and said: As-Sam-u-‘Alaikum. A’isha said in response: As-Sim-u-‘Alaikum (death be upon you) and curse also. This is the attitude of Aisha Razi’allahu Anha. Do any Feminists bearing Muslim name feel angry when our Prophet get ridiculed. Nay,never. Instead they criticize our Prophet’s Hadees.

        fINALLY,MUSLIM FEMINISTS sounds very insulting. Because either you are feminists or you are Muslim. You can not be two at the same time. Muslim is the one who submits to Allah’s will and also accepts what Prophet SAYS and rejects what Prophet Asks us to reject.
        Now I ask you, Do feminists bearing Muslim name accepts and rejects what Prophet asked to?

        • Perhaps if men did not oppress women in the name of Islam, these things wouldn’t be issues. Women in many places are forced to wear the hijab or burqa, forced by the males in their families and societies and the general culture. Being against male authority does not come from wanting to go against the Qur’aan but because men have abused that right and oppressed (often violently) the women around them and have stripped them of the rights which Islam gave to women. None of these happen in a vacuum and are more often than not, products of a heavily oppressive patriarchal society.

  • Masha Allah, a refreshing and much needed article. Too often, Muslim women in history are only mentioned with regards to their qualities of modesty and shyness. This reminds us that we should aspire to more- we need to aspire to the bravery of Khawla, the steadfastness of Sumayya and the excellence of Aisha, may Allah be pleased with them.

    Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but I have one issue with the article- the memes. I feel as if it is disrespectful to include gifs/memes like the ones above in a text referring to some of the greatest women to have walked this Earth. The struggles of these women (the martyrdom of Sumayya!) can not in any way be compared to those alluded to in the memes. The memes give a light-hearted feel to the article at the cost of trivialising its main points.

    Once again, thumbs up on a very relevant and inspiring piece of work 🙂

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