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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Umm Waraqa bint Abdallah

Known For: Qur’anic scholar; nicknamed ‘the female martyr’; led first mixed prayers
Country: Saudi Arabia

About

Umm Waraqa bint Abdallah, or Umm Waraqa, was the Prophet Muhammad’s companion. She was well versed in the Qur’an and the Prophet trained her and allowed her to lead mixed-gender prayers. Whether her hadith refers to leading prayers in a residenceor a community is open to interpretation. Even so, she was the imam of her clan, which was significant and large enough to have its own muezzin.

Umm Waraqa wished to be known as a martyr, so she asked Prophet Muhammad to allow her to participate in the Battle of Badr (624 A.D./ 2 A.H.) so that she could take care of the wounded; from that time on, Prophet Muhammad referred to her as “the female martyr.”

After the Prophet’s death, she was appointed by Caliph Umar to lead the market committees of Medina and Mecca.  She was one of the few people who handed down the Qur’an before it was compiled into its final written form during Uthman’s caliphate.

Sources

Wiebke Walther, Women in Islam: From Medieval to Modern Times (Princeton: Markus Wiener, 1981) 111, citing Ibn Sad, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, vol. 8, p. 335
John L. Esposito, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), 339-340.

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