Muslim Women: Past and Present

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Throughout the ages, from the earliest days of Islam to contemporary times today, Muslim women have been and continue to be active leaders in their communities and countries across the world. This directory is a growing archive of leading Muslim women scholars, activists, writers, politicians, artists, religious and spiritual leaders, civil society leaders and more. Please contribute to this archive by suggesting Muslim women to be featured through our recommendation form.

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Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

She believed in me when none else did, she embraced Islam when people disbelieved me; and she helped and comforted me when there was none to lend me a helping hand.

Prophet Muhammad (Shahid Ashraf Encyclopaedia of Holy Prophet and Companions [LOCATION:PUBLISHER, DATE],  16)

Known For: The first convert to Islam, ‘Mother of the Believers’ and ‘The Best of Women’
Dates: Common Era 555-619 (CE)
Country: Saudi Arabia

About

Khadijah bint Khuwaylid was the first convert to Islam. She was also the devoted wife of the Prophet Muhammad. The daughter of Khuwaylid ibn Asad and Fatimah bint Za’idah, she came from the family of Quraysh, Mecca’s leading family. The Quraysh belonged to the Banu Hasham clan of the Banu Asad tribe. 

Khadijah was well-known in her community for her success in the field of trade. By the time she met Muhammad, she was a wealthy businesswoman who had been widowed twice and had borne several children. Khadijah hired Muhammad to work for her on a specific trade endeavor in Syria. Impressed with his honesty and trustworthiness, as well as his successful conclusion of her business endeavors, Khadijah’s satisfaction with Muhammad’s success soon turned into love. Although she had refused previous proposals of marriage, she proposed to Muhammad. At the time of their marriage, she was 40 years of age he was 25. Together they had six children, four of whom survived past infancy: Ruqayyah, Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, and Fatimah.

Khadijah and Muhammad had been married for fifteen years before he received his first revelation and began preaching the religion that was eventually to be called Islam. On the night he received his first revelation, Khadijah was the one in whom he first confided. She comforted and supported him, and it was she who sought advice from her Christian cousin, who proclaimed that Muhammad’s revelations were from God. Although it was common practice amonst 7th century Arab men to take multiple wives, Muhammad never took another wife in the nearly 25 years of his marriage to Khadijah.  Khadijah has been a role model for all Muslim women. Her marriage to Muhammad and the stories of their relationship reflect love, loyalty, trust, and respect between two individuals and partners.

Sources

Jennifer HeathThe Scimitar and the Veil: Extraordinary Women of Islam(Mahwah: HiddenSpring, 2004).
Sherifa Zuhur, Revealing Reveiling: Islamist Gender Ideology in Contemporary Egypt (New York: SUNY Press, 1992), 32-34. 
Anne-Marie Schimmel, My Soul is a Woman: the Feminine in Islam (New York: Continuum, 2003), 27.

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This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women by their Country. We are actively building the archive of Muslim women leaders from the past, as well as from today, and we would welcome your recommendations of women to feature. Please complete our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.
This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women leaders by entering the keyword(s) of your choice. If you cannot find a particular woman that you are looking for, please let us know by completing our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.