Role of women in preserving Islamic knowledge
A very good article on women scholars of hadith. Further giving weight to the argument that women have the right to be fully participating members of society – not to encourage isolation. Not to be holed up in the 4 walls of her home only to resurface for necessary needs.
During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) women were transmitters of prophetic traditions (hadith) and after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), many female Companions, particularly the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were viewed as vital custodians of the huge treasure chest of knowledge that they had obtained during their time with the Prophet (peace be upon him). They readily dispensed this rich knowledge when approached for instruction by other Companions. The names of Hafsah, Umm Habeebah, Umm Salama and A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with them) are very familiar to every student of hadith. In fact A’ishah is regarded as one of the most important figures in the whole of hadith literature as both one of the earliest reporters of the largest number of hadiths and also one of their most careful interpreters.Women also held important positions as scholars of hadith during the time of the Righteous Caliphate. A few traditionists (muhadiths – scholars of hadith) during this time include Hafsah, the daughter of Ibn Seereen, Um ad-Darda and Amrah bint Abdir-Rahman. Iyas ibn Mu’awiyah an important scholar of hadith of the time and a judge, considered Umm Darda to be superior to all other scholars of hadith of the period including famous scholars such as al-Hasan al-Basri and Ibn Seerin. Furthermore, Amrah was considered the greatest authority of traditions related by A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her). The Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz once ordered Abu Bakr ibn Hazm, a judge in Madinah (and also her fellow student) to write down all the hadiths known to her.This transmission and preservation of hadith continued with devout women coming from diverse backgrounds to excel and rise through the ranks of Islamic scholarship. For example, Abidah al-Madaniyah started life as a slave and learned a large number of hadiths. She later married Habeeb Dahhoon, a great muhadith (traditionist) of Spain who took her back to Andalusia. There she related over ten thousand hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the authority of her teachers from Madinah.Zaynab bint Sulayman on the other hand was born into a royal household and had obtained a fine education gaining a mastery of hadith sciences. She enjoyed a reputation as one of the most distinguished muhadithats (woman scholars of hadith) of her time and even counted many important male muhaditheen among her pupils.