(Prophethood) of Women
Volume V, pp 17-19
al-Fisal fi al-Milal wa-al-Ahwa'i wa-al-Nihal
Abu Muhammad Ali Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hazm al-Andaluci
(Abu Muhammad said) This is an issue we know of no debate about it except here
in Cordoba and in our time. A group of people went on and denied that Prophet-
hood could not be for women and made everyone that claims as such an innovator
(Mubtadi'). Another group said that Prophethood is possible for women. A
third group abstained from discussing this issue.
(Abu Muhammad said) We find no proof for those who claim that Prophethood is
impossible for women other than that some of them denied it based on the
" (O Muhammad!) Whenever we sent before you Messengers to whom we have revealed
Our messages, they were but men." (1)
(Abu Muhammad said) This is a verse none can deny as nobody claimed that Allah
(SWT) sent women Messengers. The issue here is about Prophethood (Nubuwwa) and
not Messengership. Henceforth the need to understand the meaning of the word
'Prophethood' in the language in which Allah (SWT) spoke to us (i.e. Arabic).
We find that this word is taken from Inba' (prophecy) which means I'lam
(revelation). So whomever Allah (SWT) tells him about what will be before
it comes to pass, or reveals to him informing him about a certain matter, then
he is a Nabi (prophet) without any doubt.
This (Prophethood) should not be understood as Ilham (inspiration) which is
natural as Allah said in Surah al-Nahl:
" And behold! Your Lord has inspired the bees with this: 'Build thy hives in
the mountains, and the trees and the creepers over trellis, then drink nectar
from every kind of fruit, and follow the ways made smooth by your Lord.' From
its belly comes out a fluid of varying hues wherein is healing for mankind.
Here is indeed a sign for those who ponder over it." (2)
It should neither be understood as doubt (Zann) or illusion which none would
assure its truthfulness except an insane person (i.e. a crazy person would
think illusion or Zann as part of what we commonly label as 'truth').
It neither should be understood as Kahana (sorcery) which is part of what the
evil spirits (shayatin) try to get by listening to the heavens and as such get
stricken by shooting stars. As Allah (SWT) says:
" And We have always set against every prophet enemies from among satans of
men and satans of jinns who have been inspiring one another with charming
things in order to delude the minds. But had your Lord willed, they would
never have done so. So leave them alone to continue false allegations."(3)
Such sorcery was ended with the advent of the messenger of Allah (SWT),
Muhammad (SAAW) (4).
It is not part of Nujum (fortune telling), which can be learned. Nor is it
part of dreams which none can assure their truthfulness or lies.
Revelation which is Nubuwwa (Prophethood) is meant from Allah (SWT) to inform
that to whom it was revealed of what Allah wants to tell him. This should be
understood differently from all the previous cases.
Allah makes to whom it was revealed fully aware and fully knowledgeable of the
truthfulness of what was revealed to him - (Exactly) like his knowledge of what
he can sense and the (obvious) deductions of his brain - with no doubt in them.
(This revelation) can be transmitted by one of either ways: through an angel
that comes to him or through a message directly revealed to him and this is a
knowledge from Allah (SWT) to whom He gives, with no transmitter or teacher.
If they deny that this is the meaning of Prophethood then let them teach us its
meaning for they will not bring any single proof.
Allah revealed in the Koran that He sent angels to women to deliver to them
truthful revelations from Allah (SWT). They gave glad tidings to the mother
of Isaac (Sarah) of Isaac. Allah says:
"...And his wife was standing by; hearing this, she laughed. Then we gave her
the good news of Isaac, and after Isaac of Jacob. She said,' Woe be me! Shall
I bear a child now when I have grown extremely old, and this husband of mine
has also become old? This is indeed a strange thing.' The angels said,' What!
Are you surprised at Allah's decree? O people of Abraham's household! Allah's
mercy and blessing are upon you. Indeed, Allah is worthy of all praise and
This is a direct address from the angels to the mother of Isaac about the
blessing Allah will bless her with -Isaac, then after Isaac Jacob - then
their testimony about the power of Allah and her astonishment of the matter of
how Allah (SWT) makes things possible.
This could not be an address from an angel except to a prophet - in one way or
another - we find also that Allah (SWT) sent Gabriel to Mary mother of 'Isa -
Jesus - (AS) with a message and told her:
"...I am a mere messenger from your Lord and have been sent to give you a pure
This is a true Nubuwwa with a true revelation and a (clear) message from Allah
(SWT). Zacharias (AS) used to find with her Rizq (food) for this he asked
Allah (SWT) to grant him a trustworthy son (7). We found also that Allah re-
vealed to (Yukabid) mother of Moses that she shall throw her son into the Yam
(river) and she shall neither worry or have grief and promised her He shall
return Moses to her and make him a prophet and a messenger. With no doubt this
is a true Nubuwwa (revelation) and a logical consequence of our premises.
If she was not sure of the revelation that Allah would return her son to her,
either that this was a mere vision or a feeling she had, she would be - by
throwing her son in the Yam - committing a crazy act and a heinous crime
against herself. If one of us did such an act he would be an extreme trans-
gressor or a crazy person that deserves the agony and the (psychological)
consequences he has to go through - (probably) in a bimaristan (a mental
Such logical analysis none could deny. Therefore it becomes - with assuredness
- true that that which came to (Yukabid) - of throwing her son in the Yam - was
a revelation, like that which was revealed to Ibrahim (AS) in his dream. He
was ordered to slaughter his son. If Ibrahim (AS) was not a true prophet,
and had he slaughtered his son for a dream he saw or a doubt he had in himself,
it would be true that whoever does such an action would not be of the Prophets
but an insane person. This nobody would doubt.
Hence their (the women's) Prophethood becomes obviously true. We find that
Allah (SWT) while mentioning the prophets in Surah Mariam, He mentioned Mariam
amongst them and then said:
" These are the Prophets on whom Allah bestowed His favors. They were from the
descendants of Adam, and from the seed of those whom we carried in the Ark with
Noah, and from the seed of Abraham and of Israel. They were from those whom we
guided aright and made our chosen ones. They were tender-hearted that whenever
the Revelations of the Merciful were recited to them, they would fall down pro-
strate, weeping." (8)
This is a description of all of them. One should not single her out as a
special case, to be treated separately.
Now the saying 'and his mother a Siddiqa' (Koran) does not deny her the right
to be a prophet as Allah said: 'Joseph, O Siddiq!'(9). and as is known he is a
true prophet and a messenger; and this becomes now clear. From Allah only one
We can also include along with them (Yukabid and Mariam) the wife of Pharao,
as the prophet (SAAW) said:
" There are many persons amongst men who are quite perfect but there are not
perfect amongst women except Mary, daughter of 'Imran, and Asiya, wife of
Pharao." (10) or as the Messenger of Allah (SAAW) said.
Now perfectness (kamal) for men can only be for some messengers -for those who
are 'less than them' are not perfect-. His (the Prophet's) particularization
to Mariam and Asiya (the wife of Pharao) was a privilege for both of them over
all those to whom Prophethood was given from amongst women - with no doubt -,
as those who are a degree less than them are not perfect.
Henceforth it is clear that these two women became perfect more than any other
women and even if these women were prophets. From Koranic texts we find that
" (O Muhammad) , most surely you are of those who have been sent as Messengers.
Of these Messengers, We have raised some above others in rank." (11)
So the perfect of his gender is the one who excels in his perfection and none
of his gender can reach him. They are the messengers from amongst men, of whom
we find our prophet Muhammad and Ibrahim (ASWS).
(1) Koran, Yusuf (12:10)
(2) Koran, al-Nahl (16:68)
(3) Koran, al-An'am (6:112)
(4) This is in reference to the verses in Surah Jinn (72: 8-9), and Surah
Saffat (37: 6-8).
" 'And that we (the Jinns) searched the heavens and found it filled with guards
and shooting-stars.' And that:' Before this we used to find a seat in heaven
for eavesdropping, but now if someonetries to eavedrop, he finds a shooting-
star lying in ambush for him.'" (72: 8-9)
" We have adorned the lower heaven with adornment of the stars and have seemed
it against every rebel satan. These satans cannot hear the words of the exal-
ted ones (angels) ; they are darted at and driven off from everyside, and for
them there is a perpetual torment." (37: 6-8)
(5) Koran, Hud (11:72)
(6) Koran, Mariam (19:19)
(7) This is in reference to the verses in Surah Al 'Imran (3:37-38). It reads:
" Whenever Zacharias entered the sanctuary to see her, he found some eatables
(Rizq) with her. He would ask, 'O Mary, whence have these come to you?' She
would answer, 'It is from Allah, Allah provides without stint for whom he
wills.' Thereupon, Zacharias invoked his Lord and said, 'Lord, bestow upon me
from Thyself righteous offspring for Thou alone hearest prayers.'"
(8) Koran, Mariam (19: 58)
(9) Siddiq (M) or Siddiqa(F) (Ar.): An embodiment of truth and righteousness.
(10) This is a part of a Sahih hadith reported by both Bukhari and Muslim. The
hadith, as it appears in Sahih Muslim looks as follows:
Abu Musa reported Allah's messenger saying: There are many persons amongst men
who are quite perfect. But there are not perfect amongst women except Mary,
daughter of 'Imran, and Asiya wife of Pharao. And the excellence of 'Aisha as
compared to women is that of Tharid (some type of food) over all foods.
What follows are two commentaries by two Islamic scholars about this issue and
the whole issue of the Prophethood of women.
After referring to Surah Tahrim, Ayah 11, Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani (12) says:
We can infer from this restriction of description (hasr) that they (Mariam
and Asiya) were prophets as the perfection in human beings can only be for
prophets (Anbiya'), then for Saints (Awliya'), then for the Truthful (Sid-
diqin), then Martyrs (Shuhada'). If they were not prophets then it would be
necessary that there is no Waliyyah, Siddiqa, or Shahidah in the ranks of
On the other hand, we find these characters are present for quite a number of
them. It is as if he said: 'And there were no prophets amongst women except
so and so.' Had he also said that 'the character of Siddiqa, Waliyya or
Shahida was only for so or so,' then we would infer that these characters
cannot be for other women.
Another possibility would then be to assume that there is another type of
perfection other than Prophethood. As such, the proof can no longer hold.
And Allah knows best.
Any how, the Prophet meant 'of those who came before his time.' Now he
mentioned only 'Aisha of those of his time. We can by no means infer that
this is a clear declaration that 'Aisha (RA) is better than other women, for
Tharid is better than other food in the easiness of storing it, and the
easiness in digesting it. It was the best food in their time... There is
another addition in Tabarani after Mariam, daughter of 'Imran, and Khadija,
daughter of Khuwailid, and Fatima, daughter of Muhammad...
Qurtubi said,' The truth is that Mariam is a prophet as Allah (SWT) revealed
to her through an angel. But Asiya, there is no clear proof of her prophet-
Kirmani said: ' It should not be understood from the word perfect (kamal) a
proof of her Prophethood as the word is used to describe the completeness of a
certain thing and the highest point it can reach. So the meaning is 'she
reached the best of all qualities that women can have.'' He then said:' It
has been reported that there is consensus between scholars (Ijam') that there
is no Prophethood (Nubuwwa) for women.' This is what he said.
al-Ash'ari was reported as saying "There were six women who were given
prophecy: Eve, Sarah, the mother of Moses (Yukabid), Haggar, Asiya,
and Mariam.' The condition for such a prophecy is that who ever an angel
talked to about a rule of Allah, or revelation of what will come to pass then
he is a prophet. And - for him - It has been proven that the Angel came to
them from Allah (SWT) with different matters, and there is clear indications
that a direct revelation was given to some of them in the Koran.
Ibn Hajjar, then brings the above testimony of Ibn Hazm.
Imam Nawawi (13), on the other hand says this hadith is used as a proof by
those who believe in the Prophethood of women, however the majority (Jumhur) of
Muslim scholars do not approve of the Prophethood for Mariam and Asiya.
In the interpretation of this hadith, he follows the same line of reasoning
as that of Kirmani.
(11) Koran, al-Baqarah (2:253)
(12) Ibn Hajjar al-'Asqalani, Fath al-Bari bi-Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6,
pp 514-516, Dar al-Rayyan lil-Turath. Cairo, 1986
(13) Imam al-Nawawi, Sahih Muslim bi-Sharh al-Nawawi, Vol. 15, pp 198-199,
Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-'Arabi, Bayrut, Lebanon, 1984.
is an extremely controversial subject but it needs to be
Anbiyya is the plural of Nabi and nabi means prophet. It is not indicative
of male or female just as in the Quran the word "man" is used to represent
both male and female (i.e. mankind). The assignment of prophethood
exclusively belonging to men has been a misnomer. It is the product of men
wanting to arrogate and usurp everything in our religion for themselves.
The office of prophethood has been occupied by both genders but each gender
has different functions.
There will be many who will disagree, but there are some shuyuk who have
argued that no person who wasn't a prophet had contact with Gibrail(as) but
Maryam(may ALLAH bless and sanctify her secret) was the only women who has
been known to speak and meet with Gibrael(as). The fact that this occurred
places her above all other women and brings her into the rank of
prophethood. Now that does not mean that she was higher than Isa(as) but
her role was to teach Isa(as) and be a role model for all the other women
around her. The Quran mentions Maryam(as) various times and an entire Sura
was named after her. That speaks for itself.
Past Maryam(as) there are very few other women specifically mentioned in the
Quran Eve or Hawwa, Sarah, the mother of Moses (Yukabid), Haggar and Asiya
(wife of Pharaon). All of these women were especially loved by ALLAH(swt)
and given the high rank of prophethood but there work was totally different
to the work given to the male prophets. I must also mention that there are
degrees of prophethood just as there are degrees of sainthood.
Like I said this is an extremely controversal area and as time goes on (and
Muslims become more open minded) this issue will be addressed and wrong will
set to right.
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