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Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam
English cover
AuthorAkram Nadwi
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectAl-Wafa bi Asma al-Nisa
PublisherInterface Publications
Publication date
ISBN978-0955454547 English version
LC ClassBP136.485 .N33 2007

Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam is a book by Akram Nadwi, originally published in 2007. This work serves as an English introduction to his Arabic publication, Al-Wafa bi Asma al-Nisa, which consists of 43 volumes and focuses on the biographies of women scholars of hadith. Nadwi worked in this field of research for 15 years. The book highlights the historical significance of learned women in the early years of Islam, including their participation in religious education and the extensive journeys they undertook to seek knowledge, actively engaging in mosques and madrasas throughout the Islamic world, contributing to the study and dissemination of Prophetic hadith. The book is divided into ten chapters and is published with supporting materials such as photographs of mosque courtyards, original manuscripts, maps of educational journeys, lists of female teachers, bibliographies, charts detailing the transmission of major hadith collections, and tables depicting the notable students of renowned female scholars.


In 1995, Akram Nadwi initiated a research project at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in response to a claim made by The Times that the limited education of Muslim women could be attributed to the Islamic faith. Initially, his goal was to scrutinize ancient Arabic manuscripts in search of female scholars and their names. His original expectations were modest, anticipating perhaps 20 or 30 women of note.[1] However, his research quickly unveiled a substantial number of women actively involved in the pursuit of knowledge. Among his primary sources were well-known and less familiar collections of hadiths, which he scoured for mentions of women. In addition, he delved into biographical accounts and reports penned by scholars about their interactions with teachers, irrespective of gender. His planned article was transformed into a comprehensive book and, subsequently, an encyclopedia. This work now encompasses the lives of over 10,000 women across 43 volumes.[1]


The book commences with a preface in which the author outlines its purpose. It consists of ten chapters, each containing detailed footnotes and references drawn from classical sources and Arabic manuscripts, arranged in alphabetical order. Chapter one focuses on the examination of legal prerequisites for narrating hadith. The second chapter discusses specific issues relevant to female seekers and students of hadith. Chapter three provides a reconstruction of the social and cultural context in which women pursued their studies. The fourth chapter highlights the role of dedicated teachers in educating women, and the fifth chapter takes a chronological approach to discuss the reading materials used. Chapters six, seven, and eight delve into the contributions of women to the dissemination of knowledge related to hadith literature. The ninth chapter is a chronological and geographical overview of hadith studies. The final chapter explores the fiqh and amal of women scholars.[2]


This book doesn't delve into the realm of women's studies or offer apologetics from a feminist perspective. Instead, it serves as a homage to the profound erudition of women in the context of Islam.[3] The author's objectives for this work encompass four distinct aspects:

  1. Meticulous selection and composition of biographical studies spotlighting individual women.
  2. A comprehensive, quantitative analysis of the muhaddithat across various periods and locations.
  3. An in-depth exploration of the historical and contextual evolution of distinct genres in hadith compilation, along with their transmission.
  4. A thematic examination, focusing on the contributions of Islamic women scholars.

What becomes evident in this book, as noted by Nadwi, is that those individuals most committed to the education of women, affording them respect, and treating them as equals in scholarly endeavors – often labeled as "conservative" in contemporary terms – played a central role in the book's narrative. The book compellingly demonstrates the enduring and essential role that women have played in the study and teaching of the prophetic tradition. Their indispensable contribution to preserving what is regarded as the "master guide to understanding the Quran in terms of rules and norms" is undeniable, shedding light on their undeniable and distinct scholarly leadership.[4]


Nur Saadah Hamisan from the Faculty of Quranic and Sunnah Studies at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia commended the book's exceptional effort and highlighted its positive reception, suggesting its suitability as compulsory reading material for academicians and students involved in Hadith studies, while also being accessible for those interested in exploring the knowledge culture of al-muḥaddithāt.[5] Minlib Dallh, a research Fellow at the University of Oxford, lauded the book for rectifying misconceptions about the limited role of women in Islamic scholarship, considering it an excellent textbook for Hadith and Sunnah studies in educational institutions.[3] Muzaffar Iqbal, the General editor of Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, noted the book's unique perspective in dispelling stereotypes about Muslim women and providing textual evidence of their substantial involvement in classical Islamic heritage.[6] Yasmin Ismail from the Free University of Berlin called it a must-read for all, emphasizing its importance in showcasing a rich history of female scholarship, offering a precedent for a more inclusive and enlightened future in the context of Islam.[7]



This book was translated into Bengali by Mizan Rahman, Momtazul Karim, Mardia Mumtaz, and Rafe Salman. It was published by Guardian Publications in late 2022 during a ceremony held at the Auditorium of the National Mosque of Bangladesh, Baitul Mukarram. The main author, Akram Nadwi, attended the event.[8]


  1. ^ a b Ley, Julia (2022). "Female scholars in Islam: Unsung guardians of the 'true' tradition". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 29 July 2023. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  2. ^ Iqbal, Muzaffar (2008). "Book Review: Mohammad Akram Nadwi: Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam" (PDF). Journal of Islam & Science. 6 (1): 72. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 October 2023. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  3. ^ a b Dallh 2008, p. 331.
  4. ^ Dallh, Minlib (2008). "al‐Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam – By Mohammad Akram Nadwi". Reviews in Religion & Theology. 15 (3): 332. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9418.2008.00387_6.x. ISSN 1350-7303. Archived from the original on 17 October 2023. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  5. ^ Hamisan, Nur Saadah (2019). "Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars In Islam: by Mohammad Akram Nadwi". Ulum Islamiyyah (in Malay). 27: 67. doi:10.33102/uij.vol27no1.109. ISSN 2289-4799. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  6. ^ Iqbal 2008, p. 71.
  7. ^ Ismail, Yasmin. "Review: Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam". Rootd. Archived from the original on 6 January 2022. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  8. ^ "Al-Muhaddithat : Dr. Akram Nadwi". (in Bengali). Archived from the original on 17 October 2023. Retrieved 17 October 2023.

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