The Preservation of Islam through Female Scholarship
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
“And Allâh has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks (to Allâh)” – Qur’aan : Surat al-Nahl (16) : 78.
Islam has always emphasized the place of education in our religion. In fact the Qur’aan commands us to seek knowledge:
“It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allâh” – Qur’aan : Surat Faatir (35) : 28.
The religion of Islam as we know it, has been preserved by God’s will through the believers, both men and women. We often hear about the men, but not so often of the women. It is in this light that there is a small discussion by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad on this very issue. He delicately points out the great role that female Islamic scholarship played in the preservation of the religion, by God’s will. It’s only 10 minutes in length but it is truly inspiring to hear of the great reverence we should have for the women scholars:
In Islam we have many women scholars, judges, Qur’aan recitors and memorizers, hadith scholars, the list goes on and on. It’s very much well known the extent to which we have Shaykhas and Ustadhas. However what does Christianity say about the role of women?
Ulpian (Dig., I, 16, 195) gives a celebrated rule of law which most canonists have embodied in their works: “Women are ineligible to all civil and public offices, and therefore they cannot be judges, nor hold a magistracy, nor act as lawyers, judicial intercessors, or procurators.”
Women, however, are not capable of certain functions pertaining to religion. Thus, a woman is not capable of receiving sacred orders (cap. Novae, 10 de poen.). Certain heretics of the early ages admitted females to the sacred ministry, as the Cataphrygians, the Pepuzians, and the Gnostics, and the Fathers of the Church in arguing against them declare that this is entirely contrary to the Apostolic doctrine. Later, the Lollards and, in our own time, some denominations of Protestants have constituted women ministers. Wyclif and Luther, who taught that all Christians are priests, would logically deny that the sacred ministry must be restricted to the male sex. In the early Church, women are sometimes found with the title bishopess, priestess, deaconess, but they were so denominated because their husbands had been called to the ministry of the altar. There was, it is true, an order of deaconesses, but these women were never members of the sacred hierarchy nor considered such. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 14:34) declares: “Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith. But if they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church”.
It is not allowed to women, however learned and holy, to teach in monasteries (cap. Mulier, 20 de consec.). Ministering at the altar, even in a subordinate capacity, is likewise forbidden. A decree says: “It is prohibited to any woman to presume to approach the altar or minister to the priest” (cap. Inhibendum, 1 de cohab.); for if a woman should keep silence in church, much more should she abstain from the ministry of the altar, conclude the canonists. – Excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Women in Canon Law, Rössler, A., & Fanning, W. (1912).
wa Allaahu Alam.
[and God knows best.]