Harmlessly being yourself, yet finding yourself suddenly chained. Scrutinized on every single move, no matter how benign. And if that wasn’t enough, you are presented with the gift of uncountable barriers, set carefully in your path to stumble on. Things are rarely made easy for you. If by some miracle they are, you feel as though something isn’t quite right. This is what many women battle with every day as they try to struggle through their lives. This is a time to remind women to be themselves and unshackle the chains tied within, at least the ones they end up wrapping around themselves. Society, patriarchy and the world, in general, continues to impose barricades. It saddens us to see women adding to it, further topping up a near-tumbling mountain of adversity.
Today on International Women’s Day 2021, we’d like to shed light on some of the powerful women in Islam, most of whom are rarely ever mentioned or taught about. No, in no way are we trying to undermine or belittle all the achievements of men here. The point of this article is only to shore up the achievements of women in order to inspire our readers as well as to pay tribute to these amazing role models.
Khawlah Bint Al-Azwar (R.A)
Khawlah Bint Al-Azwar (R.A); the strong female military leader who fought many battles for Muslims. She was one of the lucky people who accepted Islam during the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The daughter of a powerful tribal chief, Khawlah Bint Al-Azwar (R.A) belonged to the Bani Assad clan. Her passion for Islam resulted in her leading battles, wars and military expeditions. A fearless, courageous, and vigorous warrior, many believe her to be one of the greatest female military leaders in the world.
Amongst the numerous battles she fought, was the battle of Yarmouk, which is regarded as one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles to ever take place. Authors describe Khawlah Bint Al-Azwar to have the skills of Khalid bin Waleed. A mention of her can be found in the works of scholars such as Al-Waqidi and Al-Azdi. Other battles that Khawlah fought in includes the Battle of Sanita-al-Uqab and the Battle of Adnajin.
Khadija Bint Al-Khuwaylid (S.A)
Hazrat Khadija (S.A), AKA Mother of the Believers, was the first wife of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and one of the most powerful and influential women in Islam. She was a businesswoman and trader who single-handedly funded and supported Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in his early days. She is one of the few women in Islamic history who are mentioned in school syllabi but not as much in sermons or media. She deserves more appreciation for being such an aspiring, notable and empowered woman of Islam, a great example even for the modern woman regardless of what religion they may practice.
Nusaybah Bint Ka’ab (R.A)
Nusayba (R.A) was an early convert to Islam. She is said to be the first-ever female to fight for Islam. She belonged to the Banu Najjar tribe. Not only did she accompany warriors during battles to provide assistance, but Nusaybah also fought alongside the Prophet in the Battle of Uhad, protecting him from the enemy’s arrows. Apart from this, she also partook in the Battles of Hunain, Yamama, and the Treaty of Hudaibiyah.
Sayyida al-Hurra (Pirate Queen)
Sayyida Al-Hurra, roughly translating to “a lady who is free and independent”, was a well-educated, intelligent and powerful force of her time. Sayyida al-Hurra was a nickname while her actual name remains unknown to the world. Sayyida belonged to a family of Andalusian nobles who, after the fall of Grenada, fled to North Africa. Not long after in the sixteenth century, she became pirate queen and ruled the city of Tétouan in Northern Morroco. It is said that Sayyida was the last person in Islamic history to legitimately hold the title of Queen (Hurra).
She remained the undisputed leader of the pirates in the west region of the Mediterranean and unleashed catastrophe on shipping lines belonging to Spain and Portuguese. Sayyida ruled for thirty years after which she was dethroned by her son-in-law.
Lubna of Cordoba
Lubna rose from being a slave of Spanish origin to becoming one of the most important figures of the Umayyad Palace in Cordoba. She was a skilled mathematician who also excelled in writing, poetry, and grammar, all the while being well-versed in other sciences too. Apart from this, she also served as a palace secretary to Abd al-Rahman III and Al-Hakam and ran the royal library. Her brilliant mind impressed the royals.
Lubna was also in charge of playing, writing, and translating numerous manuscripts and was a driving force, alongside Hasdai ibn Shaprut, that brought the famous library of Medina Azahara into existence. There are stories of her teaching the children in the streets who chased her to get more knowledge, especially that of mathematics. (Surely, must have been a great teacher that she left children intrigued by math).
Lubna’s achievements are undoubtedly remarkable, especially because of her rising from a woman and, that too, a slave to being trusted with multiple important roles at times when men predominated these positions.
Razia Sultan (also known as Razia Sultana) was nothing less than a queen, quite literally. She was the Sultan of Delhi from 1236 to 1240- the first-ever female ruler of the subcontinent and was the only Muslim to have ruled over Delhi. And yes, Sultan. Not Sultana. She refused to be addressed as the latter because Sultana meant “wife or mistress of the Sultan.” Razia made sure to rise against all who doubted her abilities and those who defied her position as a ruler. Thanks to her father, Iltutmish, who believed in her potential and proficiency and declared her as the next heir before his death. Unfortunately, but nothing surprising, Muslim nobility was absolutely against her ruling over Delhi and made sure her brother, Rukn Uddin Firuz, was appointed as the Sultan after Iltutmish’s death.
However, her brother proved to be an utter failure as a ruler. Thus, Razia rose as the Sultan within no time. She had to showcase a masculine image of herself in order to further solidify her power. Not only was she a great leader, but she was also a patron of the learned. She established schools, academies, centres of research and public libraries. She proved to be an efficient, competent, and valiant ruler, who was well respected and loved by fellow officials. She led her forces from the front in many battles, conquering numerous territories. Razia was a great administrator and demonstrated a woman can do all that a man can do, maybe even better.
Depicting Muslim women as oppressed, having little to no rights or any liberty is absolutely incorrect! We hope these women serve as prime examples for existing and future generations to come, regardless of gender!