This post is about a notable female scholar of hadith during the Mamluk period in Egypt and Damascus.
One thing to note- these women were not anomalies in their time. The fact that women were scholars of hadith (and other things but this period there were a lot of hadith scholars) was a normal thing.
The ijaza system in the studies of hadith allowed children to receive ijazas before they came of age with the understanding that they would study and understand the texts later on in life. Hadith studies was open to everyone because many people could memorize, short and popular collections of hadith. Women excelled so much in this field that men eagerly sought them out as teachers to get ijazas from them. Another reason why the men sought them out was because these women had famous people in their chains of transmission and these men wanted to obtain these famous names in their own chains as well.
Zaynab Bint al Kamal is one example. She was a Hanbali of Damascus. She transmitted popular and major works such as Sahih al Bukhari, Muslim and the Muwatta and many other little works as well. Ibn Hajar al Asqalani learned from her. She appears in 139 of Ibn Hajar al Asqalani’s isnads. SubhanAllah.
Ibn Battuta also received ijaza from her In his book, Rihlat Ibn Battuta, he calls her a “traveler of the world” and she is listed a a person that granted him ijaza when he visited Damascus, Syria.
Roster of some more notable students Zaynab bint al Kamal :
- Muhammad b. Ahmad ad-Dhahabi (d. 748 H/137)
- Khalil al Safadi (d. 764 H /1362)
- Taj-ad-Din as-Subki (d. 771 H/1369)
In Sunni Islamic scholarship, hadith has to be one of the most important branches. It is one of the major sources of law and women were at the forefront of its study and women never fabricated ahadith while men did.
This is during a time period when the Western women wouldn’t even imagine being schooled and Muslim women were at the forefront of the science of hadith. Look at the reputation that Muslim women have now. Many Muslim women in Muslim countries are illiterate. It’s sad that we are going backwards instead of forward. Everyone make dua that Allah makes women come to the forefront of Islamic scholarship again side by side with men. Ameen.
And may He bless all of our wonderful scholars that have transmitted all of this knowledge to us.