This is a glimpse into some of the
intellectual debates Muslim scholars had in the past. This is a debate
about the question of the prophethood of women, from Ibn Hazm's al-Milal
wal-Nihal. Muslims debated this issue without fear of sanction, and
without relying on accepted dogmas. Ibn Hazm (d. 456 Hijri) lived in the
11th century in Muslim Spain (Andalucia). This is a piece from that era.
This is his position about this sensitive issue which is the Prophethood
of women. He has a strong argument. What follows is his view and some
other views of other Muslim scholars such as Qurtubi, Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani,
Imam al-Nawawi and other Muslim scholars. This piece is very relevant as
we try to find out the position of women in our society and understand
the differences between what we inherited as customs and what the
Shari'a wants from us.
Nubuwwa (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 Koranic verse:
" (O Muhammad!) Whenever we sent before
you Messengers to whom we have revealed Our messages, they were but
(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
" 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
"...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 glory.'" (5)
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
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 son." (6)
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
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 institution).
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
" 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 seeks
guidance. 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 Allah says:
" (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).