Empowered Women: 7 Legends of Historical Women in Islam

Since the time of the prophet, a number of women have played an important role in influencing world history, starting from social, political, educational, and cultural aspects. However, perhaps their role is less known and rarely exposed by historical writers who are still dominated by men.

1. Khadijah bint Khuwailid (Legends of Historical Women)

Khadijah is an independent, knowledgeable, and generous woman. She is the first wife as well as the first faithful followers of the Prophet Muhammad. Born in 555 AD to a successful merchant family in the Quraysh tribe of Mecca. She learned a lot about business from his father, Khuwailid bin Asad. After her father died, she soon took over the responsibilities of the business, which was then male-dominated.

Inheriting her father’s knowledge, Khadijah became one of the most successful traders and was known in Mecca for her honesty and virtue. She is known to often feed and clothe the poor and help her relatives in need. Before marrying the Prophet Muhammad, Khadijah had been widowed twice because her two husbands had died.

When her second husband died, she thought she would never remarry. However, she was destined to be the wife of the Prophet Muhammad. She was very impressed with the honesty of the Prophet Muhammad, when he brought his trading caravan to Syria. They got married with a big age gap.

At that time, Prophet Muhammad was 25 years old and Khadijah was 40 years old. In the journey of Prophet Muhammad’s ups and downs carrying out the orders of the Almighty, Khadijah faithfully supported him morally and financially until he died at the age of 64 years and 6 months. Khadijah’s death is also known as Amul Huzni.

2. Nusaibah Bint Kaab

Nusaibah Bint Kaab was a member of the Banu Najjar tribe in Medina, which was famous for its bravery on the battlefield. Her name as a warrior is associated with many battles, such as Bait-ul-‘Aqabah II, the Battle of Uhud, the Battle of Hunayn, the Battle of Yamamah, and the Treaty of Hudaybiyah.

In the Battle of Uhud, she was one of the war figures who guarded and protected the Prophet Muhammad. It is said that wherever the Prophet was, the Prophet could see the formidable woman guarding him and protecting him from opponents, like a shield. She suffered 12 wounds in the Battle of Uhud, before she fainted.

When she came to her senses, the first thing she asked was the safety of the Prophet. She was also involved in the battle against Musailamah Al-Kadzab, in which she lost her son, and himself suffered many injuries.

3. Aisyah bint Abu Bakr

Aisyah is known as the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most beloved. But apart from that, Aisyah actually had a major role in the politics of her time.

She is known to have narrated 2210 hadith and sunnah from the Prophet Muhammad, which later became a source of other knowledge for Muslims, besides the Quran. What Ayesha writes are the daily religious sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, covering a wide range of topics, including heritage and pilgrimage.

After the Prophet’s death, Ayesha’s role in the Islamic community increased. She played a role in opposing the patriarchal construction that developed by delivering public speeches. After the death of Uthman bin Affan, a friend of the Prophet who became the third caliph, Ayesha led the Basra War or known as the Camel War in 656 AD.

She lost the war, but became a prominent sign in her legacy that women could fight against patriarchy. Her efforts are a historically important account of the struggles of empowered women. After her defeat on the battlefield, she returned home and began translating hadith and spreading Islam.

4. Rabia al-Adawiyya (Legends of Historical Women)

Born in Basra, Iraq, Rabia is one of the Sufi Muslim scholars and poets. Early in her life, she was a slave in Southern Iraq until she got his freedom. Her ideas about spirituality are considered most important in the early Sufi tradition, and she is considered one of the founders of the “Divine Love” tradition. The idea focuses on loving God for the sake of love itself, rather than getting out of fear or help. She chose a hermit life over a household, when she turned down various marriage proposals.

She lived in exile, which often brought poverty, but her ascetic steadfastness did not fade. Many men and women often approached her, asking for his spiritual guidance and knowledge of the Sufi tradition. John Renard notes in the Historical Dictionary of Sufism (2005), “She is one of the few women to have consistently earned a place in hagiographic anthologies over the centuries.”

5. Lubda from Cordoba

Lubna lived in the 10th century AD, and grew up in the court of Sultan Abd al-Rahman III. Many different talents and works have been attributed to her, but do not boast of her popularity. She was in charge of the Royal library in the Andalusian palace, which had about 500 thousand books at the time, and was one of the most important libraries in the world.

During her lifetime, she worked as a secretary to the Caliph, as a clerk, and later as a private secretary to Abd Al-Rahman’s son Hakam II Ibn Abdur-Rahman. However, her knowledge and skills are not limited to writing and translating, but she is also a mathematician and is known for teaching mathematical equations to street children.

Apart from that, he is also a poet and calligrapher. Much is not known about Lubna as there is little historical record about it. In fact, in the past, their reliability and credibility were often questioned. It is often suggested that Luban may not be one person, but 2 different women named Lubna and Fatima, who collectively possess these talents.

However, the record of his life is considered to have mixed in the pages of history. Whatever the truth behind this speculation, it is undeniable that empowered women with such talents and knowledge exist, but their lives are not well documented.

6. Al-Malika al-Hurra Arwa al-Sulayhi

Born in 1048 AD, Arwa was orphaned at a young age and adopted by her uncle and aunt, who was then ruler of Yemen. She was brought up with a good education by the queen and then married a prince at the age of 17 years. When the king and queen died in a series of traumatic events, and the prince was unable to rule because of his poor health and paralysis, Arwa took the throne as the sole ruler of Yemen.

As soon as he came to power, she moved the royal capital from Sanaa to Jibla, in order to be in a better position to rule and also to avenge the death of the late king by destroying the ruler of Najahid, Said ibn Najar. She succeeded in doing so in 1088.

She is known to have built many schools throughout her territory, and significantly boosted the economy. The chronicles of time call her a brave, independent woman, possessing extraordinary intelligence and reasoning. She never lost the support of her people, and was affectionately called “the little queen of Sheba”. She remained in power until her death in 1138.

7. Sayyida al-Hurra (Legends of Historical Women)

Sayyida was born in the Kingdom of Granada, the last Muslim-ruled country in Spain. Her family moved to Morocco after the fall of the empire in 1492. She, together with her first husband rebuilt the city of Tetouan in Northern Morocco, which she later controlled herself after her husband’s death in 1515.

Sayyida’s real name is unknown and the name Sayyida al-Hurra is what she is called because of her nature. strong and brave. Sayyida al-Hurra means a noble woman who is free and independent, a sovereign woman who is not subject to superior authority. She became the last person in Islamic history to hold the title of al-Hurra or queen. She is also known as Hakima Tatwan, which means Governor of Tetouan.

Sayyida is an unusual queen with the title “pirate queen” often ascribed to her. She controlled most of the Western Mediterranean sea with her pirate fleet, which she used to dominate Spanish and Portuguese ships. When she later married the king of Morocco, she had no intention of giving up her power, instead she ordered the King to come to Tetouan.

It was the first and only time in Moroccan history that a king did not marry in the capital. After 30 years in power, she was ousted by her son-in-law, and her future fate remains unknown. She completely disappeared from history.

The lives of these empowered women are often neglected when studying and discussing Islamic history. While it is true that many things in the lives of these women are still governed by patriarchal traditions, they have struggled and changed many things, until a successor emerged.

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