On Feb. 24,
Katherine Johnson – the esteemed mathematician who was part of an exclusive
group of scientists at NASA’s Flight Research Division, where she used her
mind, a slide rule and pencil to calculate flight paths for the Apollo 11 moon
mission in 1969 – passed away at the age of 101. And if you know her story – as
well as that of her NASA cohort of brilliant African-American female
mathematicians – it may be because of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, based on
the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.
was a revelation to much of the American public. It shattered many stereotypes
and showcased the intellectual talents and resilience of women who wouldn’t let
institutionalized racism and segregation get in the way of achieving
themes are universal, though. Ground-breaking accomplishments by women have
always occurred. We just need to dig deep enough in history to find these gems.
And Muslim women are just starting to get their similar due.
the painstaking research of Islamic scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi, the dean of
Cambridge Islamic College, the stories of accomplished Muslim female scholars,
jurists and judges have been unearthed. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Nadwi’s
research of biographical dictionaries, classical texts, madrasa chronicles and
letters has led to a listing of about 10,000 Muslim women who have contributed
toward various fields of Islamic knowledge over a period of 10 centuries.
Not only is
the sheer number impressive, but so is the manner in which these women
operated: Many were encouraged by their fathers at an early age to acquire
knowledge, and many travelled to seek deeper understanding of Islamic sciences.
They sat in study circles – with men – at the renowned centres of learning,
debating and questioning alongside their male counterparts. And they taught
their own study circles to men and women alike. Some were so revered that
students came from near and far to absorb their wisdom. They approved
certifications of learning and provided fatwas (non-binding religious
opinions); as judges, they delivered important rulings.
notable examples include Aisha, the youngest wife of Prophet Mohammed, who was
known for her expertise in the Koran, Arabic literature, history, general
medicine and juridical matters in Islam. She was a primary source of authentic
hadith, or traditions of the Prophet, which form part of the foundation of
Sunni Islam. Umm al-Darda was a 7th-century scholar who taught students in the
mosques of Damascus and Jerusalem, including the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn
Marwan. She was considered among the best traditionalists of her time. “I’ve
tried to worship Allah in every way,” she wrote, “but I’ve never found a better
one than sitting around debating with other scholars.” And one of the greatest
was the 8th-century scholar Fatima al-Batayahiyyah, who taught in Damascus.
During the Hajj, leading male scholars flocked to her lectures. She later moved
to Medina, where she taught students in the revered mosque of the Prophet. When
she tired, she rested her head on the grave of Mohammed. Fatimah bint Mohammed
al Samarqandi, a 12th-century jurist, advised her more famous husband, ‘Ala’
al-Din al-Kasani, on how to issue his fatwas; she was also a mentor to
but a few of the thousand luminaries found by Mr. Nadwi, a classically trained
Islamic scholar. Initially, he thought he would find 20 or 30 women; his
compilation now fills 40 volumes. While a 400-page preface (Al-Muhaddithat: The
Women Scholars in Islam) has been published, the remainder sits on a hard
drive, waiting for a publisher. Given the far-reaching importance of Mr.
Nadwi’s work, surely a Muslim country or UNESCO can help disseminate it.
research provides a stark contrast to contemporary practice in parts of the
Muslim world. Some mosques, including ones here in Canada, forbid women. Rarely
do Muslim women give lectures to their own communities. And the idea of women
being intellectually on par with (or superior to) men is laughable in many
quarters. Muslim women have a long way to go to reclaim their rightful place.
Even his ground-breaking research will not change much, laments Mr. Nadwi,
until Muslim men have respect for women – respect that starts in the home. He’s
seen too much family violence in Britain, India and Pakistan. He’s highly
critical of those who discourage or deny women from pursuing education,
comparing it to the pre-Islamic practice of burying baby girls alive.
have just begun to discover our own “hidden figures” and there are many more
yet to find. If we fail to deal with the present-day sexism that has eroded the
egalitarian nature of our own historical communities, this excavation becomes
all the more difficult.
Khan is the author of “Of Hockey and Hijab”: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim
Headline: To unearth the ‘hidden figures’ of Islam, sexism against Muslim women
Source: The Globe and Mail
Mr.Ghulam Mohiyuddin what is the minimum marriageable age for girls as per Islam/Arab culture ?If unequivocal answer is possible, no argument is essential. Pl.let the readers know the age criteria for Girls for marriage