Al-Wafa bi Asma al-Nisa

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Al-Wafa bi Asma al-Nisa
Arabic cover
AuthorAkram Nadwi
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectHadith studies
PublisherDar al-Minhaj
Publication date
An introductory note in English for the book Al-Muhaddithat, released in 2007

Al-Wafa bi Asma al-Nisa (Arabic: الوفاء بأسماء النساء, romanizedal-wafāʿ bi-ʿasmāʿ an-nisāʿ, lit.'Loyalty with the Names of Women') is a 43-volume Arabic biographical compendium that documents the lives of women who participated in the narration of hadiths or played crucial roles in their dissemination. Authored by Akram Nadwi, the work took two decades to compile and is recognized as the largest work in its genre, with over 10,000 entries.[1][2] Initially intended for release in Morocco, the compendium eventually found publication through Dar al-Minhaj in Jeddah in January 2021. The English translation of its preface, titled Al-Muhaddithat, was first introduced in 2007. This work highlights the often-overlooked role of women, and examines the status of women in Islam, focusing on their roles, authority, and responsibilities in religious contexts.


The work is composed of forty-three volumes. The first volume introduces details of hadiths with a focus on women narrators, while volume two examines the women of the Prophet's household. Subsequent volumes detail female Companions (3–10), Tabi'un (11–13) and scholars (14–42) chronologically by centuries. Volume 43 shifts to modern scholars, including some that are still active.[3] The book prioritizes factual biography over analysis, and attempts to take a global perspective by including female hadith scholars beyond the Middle East. Biographical entries vary in depth, with the most extensive exceeding two hundred pages and emphasizing corrections to works of other, primarily male, scholars.[3] The compilation is derived from documents such as class registers and ijazahs, which feature women granting men the authority to teach. It also uses commendations from 'ulema who have been taught by women.[1]


In 1989, Akram Nadwi assumed the role of a Research Fellow at the University of Oxford's Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, responding to a specific request from Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi. During his tenure, he encountered an article in Time magazine asserting that Islam obstructed women's education, contending that women played no role in educational and knowledge-based research within Islam. The author offered to retract the statement contingent upon the identification of five knowledgeable women.[4]

Motivated to challenge this viewpoint, Nadwi embarked on extensive research, compiling biographies of women who had narrated hadiths. Initially envisioning a list of 20 to 30 women, his research expanded globally, spanning countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, India, and Turkey. Over a span of 15 years, his efforts culminated in a 43-volume collection.[5] The initial release of the first part occurred in Morocco, but due to concerns about its quality, the second part faced a delayed release of almost a year. Finally, in January 2021, Dar al-Minhaj in Saudi Arabia published this entire work.[6]


The Dhaka Post highlighted the importance of this work in shaping 21st-century Islamic intellectual history, serving as a reference and potent rebuttal against misrepresentations of Islam, particularly addressing false accusations related to women's progress and education.[7] The Majalla lauded this work as a comprehensive encyclopedia dedicated to notable female hadith narrators.[8]


  1. ^ a b Khan, Rushda Fathima (18 March 2021). "Rediscovering The Role Of Muslim Women Scholars In Islamic History: 43 Volume Work With 10,000 Biographies Published". The Cognate. Archived from the original on 25 July 2023. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  2. ^ Ruegel, Wafa (19 January 2021). "Devotion to Women's Names: Biographical Encyclopedia of Women in the Noble Prophetic Traditions". Muhammadiyah Association of Scholars. Archived from the original on 20 November 2023. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  3. ^ a b "al-Wafāʼ bi-Asmāʼ al-Nisāʼ: A 43 volume biographical dictionary on the lives of 9,328 female scholars". Aga Khan Library. 5 May 2023. Archived from the original on 21 November 2023. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  4. ^ Hedayatullah, Muhammad (14 January 2021). "Cambridge Teacher's 43-Volume Compilation: Chronicles of 10,000 Women Muhaddis". Kaler Kantho (in Bengali). Archived from the original on 14 November 2022. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  5. ^ Iqbal, Amin; Qasmi Nadvi, Ashraf Alam; Saad, Arif Khan (4 November 2022). "Interview with Dr. Akram Nadvi: Advocating the Balanced Tenets of Islam". Shomoyer Alo (in Bengali). Archived from the original on 21 November 2023. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  6. ^ Mumtaz, Mardia (2021). "Al-Muhaddisat: A Holistic Analysis". Center for Social and Cultural Studies, University of Chittagong (in Bengali). Archived from the original on 20 November 2023. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  7. ^ Minhaj Uddin, Muhammad (14 January 2021). "Exploring the Contributions of Muslim Women Scholars: A 43-Volume Compilation". Dhaka Post (in Bengali). Archived from the original on 27 July 2021. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  8. ^ Al-rashid, Abdullah (17 October 2023). "The 'unknown' Arab and Muslim women scholars, who taught some of history's most esteemed men". The Majalla. Archived from the original on 20 November 2023. Retrieved 21 November 2023.