Celebrating Muslim Women in the Arts and Sciences

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Historical Females in Islam


Fatima al-Fihri: The Mother of Modern Education

Did you know that the oldest university that is currently the world’s oldest operating educational centre was founded by a Muslim woman in the 9th century? Fatima al-Fihri was a highly educated woman who founded the Al-Qarawiyyin mosque in Fez, Morocco, which later became a hub for learning and a vibrant university focusing on Islamic Theology and Law, in addition to Astronomy, Medicine, Languages, and Mathematics. Fatima al-Fihri’s selfless contribution towards intellectual development, which still benefits individuals today, is an early example of the powerful leadership role women have played throughout Islamic history and today.

Nusaybah bint Ka'ab: The Fearless Warrior

One of the most distinguished women warriors in Islam is Nusaybah bint Ka’ab. She gained a reputation for her courage and participation in multiple battles, including her role in the Battle of Uhud, where she acted as a human shield to protect the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life with her sword and bow in hand. She was revered for taking part in multiple battles and received many wounds, including the loss of her hand on the battlefield at the age of 60! Her courage and strength were matched by her steadfastness in faith and she was a testament to the many strong women in Islam who believed that defending Islam was a duty of both women and men.

Rufaida Al-Aslamia: The Pioneer in Medicine and Social Work

Rufaida Al-Aslamia lived during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) and was a pioneering figure in the field of Islamic medicine and social work. She is widely acknowledged as the first female Muslim nurse and the first woman surgeon in Islamic history. Rufaida Al-Aslamia was trained by her father Saad Al-Aslamia, a physician, and eventually took her expertise to the battlefield. She played an active role in assisting wounded soldiers during many battles and was known for her exceptional skills and abilities. In addition to her work as a nurse, Rufaida took it upon herself to share her knowledge and teach other women to work in medicine. She also played a significant role in social work and advocated for Muslims in need, caring for her community while dedicating her life to the development and improvement of nursing. Her efforts resulted in the establishment of new rules and traditions that have led to better nursing practices around the world.

Mariam Al-Astrulabi: The Astrolabe Innovator

In the 10th century, a Muslim woman was known for her academic brilliance and an exceptionally focused mind that lay the foundation for managing the transportation and communication using astrolabes. Mariam Al-Astrulabi, born in Syria, took the science of astrolabes to the next level and made an immense contribution to astronomy, and also helped develop navigation and timekeeping techniques of the time. Although the astrolabe was invented by the Greeks, Muslims would specifically use it to find the Qibla, determine prayer times & the initial days of Ramadan and Eid. The astrolabe developed by Mariam Al-Astrulabi could be used to precisely establish the mathematical positions of the stars and other celestial objects despite her not having a class in mathematics. Her intellect and contributions to Science as well as the Islamic religion are exceptional.

Queen Amina: A Legacy of Valor 

Amidst the flourishing Muslim civilization, the pages of history unveil remarkable women who made significant contributions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Queen Amina of Zaria, born in 1588, was a distinguished figure in her time. She was the eldest daughter of Bakwa Turunku, the visionary founder of the Zazzau Kingdom in 1536. Amina ascended to power between 1588 and 1589, leaving an indelible mark on history. Queen Amina is chiefly celebrated for her valiant military conquests. Her legacy is adorned with exceptional military strategies and her unparalleled prowess in engineering, particularly in the construction of formidable walled encampments during her numerous campaigns. Her most enduring achievement is the construction of the renowned Zaria Wall, a testament to her unwavering determination and ingenuity.


Modern Females in Islam


Hawa Aden Mohamed: Champions of Womens Rights

Hawa Aden Mohamed is a Somali social activist, who came to Canada due to the civil war. She faced many challenges, including the loss of her mother and undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) at a young age. Despite these difficulties, Hawwa was determined to make a difference. She realized that FGM, a harmful cultural practice, was wrongly associated with Islam, and her sister even died from complications following the procedure. Hawwa decided to dedicate herself to protecting women's rights and, in 1999, she founded the Galkayo Educational Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia to protect women’s health and psychological and social welfare. Hawwa's efforts were recognized with several awards, including the Amnesty International Ginetta Sagan Award for defending women and children's rights. She used the prize money to build a hospital in Somalia for women and girls. Hundreds of lives have been improved due to the courage and determination of Hawa Aden Mohamed.

Giella Massa: A Trailblazer in Journalism

Ginella Massa, a distinguished Canadian Screen Award-winning broadcast journalist, and media personality has left an indelible mark on the realm of news reporting. She etched her name in history as the first woman to anchor a national newscast in North America while wearing a hijab, setting a new standard for inclusivity and representation.

In 2015, Ginella made her debut on Canadian television as a Video Journalist for CTV News in Kitchener, Ontario, becoming the first hijab-wearing television news reporter in North America. In the following year, she garnered international attention by anchoring the evening newscast for CityNews in Toronto, Ontario. In 2020, Ginella once again made history as the host of "Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa," airing in primetime on CBC News Network, the flagship national public broadcaster of Canada.

Ingram Mattson: A Scholar and Activist

Ingrid Mattson, born on August 24, 1963, is a Canadian luminary who has dedicated her life to scholarship and activism. As a professor of Islamic studies, she currently holds the esteemed London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College, part of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Her remarkable journey includes serving as the former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). In 2010, she garnered widespread recognition, earning her the distinction of being "Perhaps the most noticed figure among American Muslim women," as acknowledged in a 2010 New York Times article.

4 Comments on “Celebrating Muslim Women in the Arts and Sciences”

  1. I appreciate learning, historical data and current regarding women and Islam. It is a shame, a horrible, ignorant travesty that, and I cannot speak for all, that many of the various divisions, and additionally, much of the general population are not taught this. I could share more; but will stop here as a subject is becoming quite emotional history and knowledge is everything and without it all of us lose thank you for sharing and abundant blessings for your continued productivity.

  2. Thank you guys so much!!!
    I have learned a whole lot today, about Islam. I really appreciate write up, and I encourage you guys to keep doing what you are doing.
    Thank you once again

  3. Thank you guys so much!!!
    I have learned a whole lot today, about Islam. I really appreciate the write up, and I encourage you guys to keep doing what you are doing.
    Thank you once again

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