For too long now, we have allowed the media to manipulate us into believing that Muslim women are a group of subservient, oppressed, uneducated housewives, whose only purpose in life is to satisfy the men in her life and pop out babies. However, it wasn’t always this way. So, in honor of the holy month of Ramadan, and just women being amazing all round, I’ve compiled this list of 10 Muslim women you may or may not have heard of before.

  1. Khadija binti Khuwaylid (550-620 CE): She was a prosperous businesswomen at a time when it was frowned upon for women to be working. She was exceptionally wealthy and the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) used to work for her. She was a widow at the time, 40 years old, and the Prophet was 25 when she asked him to marry her. She was also the first person to accept the Prophet’s teaching and is regarded as the mother of Islam. ‘I was nourished by her love,’ is what the Prophet had to say about her. She was an all around stereotype-breaker and continues to be an inspiration up until today.
  2. Nusayba binti Ka’b (unknown-634 CE): also known as Umm ‘Ammaarah, she converted to Islam when the Prophet moved from Mecca to Medina. She is best known for fighting in a war, the battle of Uhud, and was a fierce sword fighter. She is also one of the first fighters for women’s rights. She had asked the Prophet why God only addresses men in the Qur’an to which this verse was revealed, ‘Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.’ (Chapter 33, Verse 35, Qur’an). This cements the fact that women and men are equal in Islam. 
  3. Fatima al-Fihri (unknown-880 CE): she is the founder of the world’s oldest university, Al Qarawiyyin University, in Morocco. After inheriting a large sum of money, her and her sister, Mariam, used their wealth to the benefit of the greater community. So next time someone tells you that Muslim women are uneducated, remind them that Muslim women built the world’s first university.
  4. Lubna of Cordoba (unknown-984 CE): she was a slave who became the secretary of the Caliph’s palace in Cordoba. She was highly intelligent, and from an early age, she organized the library of the palace. Her dream was to turn the library into a school for girls and boys, and before she died this dream was achieved. The scholar Ibn Bashkuwal had this to say about her: “She excelled in writing, grammar, and poetry. Her knowledge of mathematics was also immense and she was proficient in other sciences as well. There were none in the Umayyad palace as noble as her.” [Ibn Bashkuwal, Kitab al-Silla (Cairo, 2008), Vol. 2: 324].
  5. Al-Malika al-Ḥurra Arwa al-Sulayh (1048-1138 CE): a Yemeni queen who was highly educated in religion, poetry and history, among others. She was the first women to be granted with the highest rank in the Yemeni Fatimid religious hierarchy, a Hujja, testament to how much authority she had. She was behind expanding Yemen’s stronghold into parts of India and its communication with the rest of the Muslim world. A true queen.
  6. Razia Sultan (1205-1240 CE): she ruled the Sultanate of Delhi after the passing of her father, who named her his heir. To the outrage of many, she behaved exactly the way a Sultan would, even wearing her father’s royal clothes when sitting on the throne and would only answer to ‘Sultan’ and not ‘Sultanah.’ She lead armies into battle and was a firm believer in education, opening libraries and schools. However, many at the time were against having a woman in power and she was overthrown.
  7. Nana Asma’u (1793-1864 CE): a Nigerian princess, fluent in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa and Tamacheq, was a leading scholar in West Africa. She played a huge role as advisor to her brother during his Caliphate. During the time of his Caliphate, she created a group, with other women, whose goal was to educate women in all areas, rural and poor included. She left behind extensive journals and books filled with her poetry. Today, there are many educational buildings named after her.
  8. Laleh Bakhtiar (1938-present day): she is the first American woman to translate the Qur’an into English. She is best known for her translation of the word ‘idrib‘, in Chapter 4, verse 34. She translates it as ‘go away’, instead of ‘to beat’ and her reasoning for that is that the Prophet would not have harmed anyone out of war. She uses his example as a guide for humanity and hopes that her translation will mean that ‘one less women is beaten in the name of God’, and that ‘it has not been sanctioned by God; it is a criminal act’. (Bakhtiar, 2012).
  9. Shirin Ebadi (1947-present day): she is the first Muslim women to have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize as well as the first women to have achieved Chief Justice status in Iran but was removed from this position as some believed that it is not appropriate for women to serve as judges. She has been arrested for taking on controversial cases. She has lead several cases for UNICEF, Tehran, and is an activist for free tuition in children and human rights. She believes that ‘It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered.’
  10. Daisy Khan (1958-present day): she is the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which upholds the ideals of strengthening Islamic expression and building bridges between Muslims and the public. She is a mentor to many American Muslims, helping in terms of assimilation and integration. She founded the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE), a global organization that is fighting for Muslim women’s rights. She also lead the Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council, made up of Muslim women who are leaders in their respective fields across 26 countries. She is truly a voice for Muslim women.