Inspirational People

Inspiring Women Throughout History – Razia Sultan

If you have been following me for a while you know that I have a monthly feature where I post about Muslim women throughout Islamic history because they do not get the recognition they deserve. There are so many incredible women and we don’t ever hear about them and they are never included in books about female empowerment either so I decided to share them myself. You can find all the previous posts on my blog under the Inspirational People section.

This month I will be talking about an incredible woman called Razia who became a queen in India and the only woman to ever lead the Delhi sultanate.

She was the daughter of the then Sultan’s slave and eventually her father, who the Sultan adored found himself in line for the throne. When her father became Sultan he ensured she received the same education as her brothers. He taught her to be a warrior and a leader and before he died, he named her successor. However, people did not want her to rule and so her half brother became sultan even though he was unfit to rule. He was selfish and didn’t care about his people and it wasn’t long before he was assassinated. Razia then became Sultan.

When she became Sultan she devoted herself to running her empire. She led her armies into battles and strengthened her kingdom in many ways. She was a major patron of learning and set up schools, libraries and more. She supported the works of scholars and those who studied and taught Quran. She loved her people and they loved her. She proved herself to be was fierce, competent leader and Sultan.

However the nobles were jealous of her and bitter that a woman was ruling the empire and secretly plotted to overthrow her. They spead lies and discord among the people, saying she is unfit to rule and when Razia found out she raised an army and led them into battle against the nobles who had conspired against her. She was outnumbered however and lost to them, they took her throne and some say they killed her and other sources say they imprisoned her.

Even though her throne was taken from her, she remains an incredible woman who achieved so much in helping her empire and her people and will always be known as the fierce warrior queen.

Inspirational People

Inspiring Women Throughout History – Sumayyah (ra)

Before I begin, I want to share that this discusses torture and murder so please only continue if you are okay to read about these topics.

This is a woman who suffered so much because she became Muslim and was eventually murdered by Abu Jahal. Sumayyah is the Aasiyah of our Ummah and she was murdered by the firawn of our ummah. She was about 60 years old when she died. We don’t know much about her life except after she became Muslim.

She was an Abyssinian woman, from modern day Ethiopia, and was a slave woman to one of the most powerful tribes of Makkah. Her master gave her in marriage to Yasir, who was under the protection of the tribe. She had a son, Amar, who was around the same age as the Prophet (pbuh).

The tribe that her family were in service to were the people who were most resistant to Islam and the Prophet (pbuh). When she became Muslim she was 60 and one of the first seven people to accept Islam publicly. Because she was a slave she had no protection or status to protect her and her master tortured her to try to get her to stop being Muslim.

TW: discussions of torture

She was forced to wear mailcoats under the blazing sun and was beaten publicly to deter others from becoming Muslim. She was tortured in many ways from physical torture of beatings, whips and more but also emptionally tortured by being forced to watch her husband and son (who also became Muslim) being tortured. They all had to watch each other being tortured and because of they were slaves there was no one to stand up for them.

They couldn’t even be bought by anyone to free them from this torture as their tribe refused to sell them. They experimented with different torture techniques on her but she refused to say that she would stop being Muslim or insult the Prophet (pbuh). When they tortured her she would respond with remembrance of Allah.

When she became Muslim she said to the Prophet (pbuh): I bear witness that you are the messenger of Allah and that your promise is true.

This is what she held onto as she was being tortured. Because she refused to do what they wanted when they tortured her, they became more and more angry with her. Eventually Abu Jahal became so mad with her that he speared her, killing her in front of her family. She was the first person to die for Islam. She may have spent her whole life as a slave and spent her last days being tortured but she was the first of this ummah to enter paradise.

This is a woman who had such strength in her faith that no matter what she went through she refused to say what her master wanted her to say about Islam. She died so early on in the call to Islam that she knew very little about it, she only saw the persecutions of the Muslims yet her faith remained true.

Inspirational People

Inspirational Women throughout History – Lubna of Cordoba

There are so many amazing women that we never hear about unless we go looking and it is honestly so heart breaking that these women are not known to the majority of people. I hope that these posts inspire you to go look up more about them and find even more women who achieved amazing things.

Today I am going to share a little bit about Lubna of Cordoba who lived in Andalus in the 10th Century. She was born a slave but rose to become the personal secretary to the Sultan Abdur Rahman and also his son Al-Hakim. As she was not nobility it showed how much faith and trust they had in her ability and knowledge. Not only was she the personal secretary to the Sultan but also a mathematician, a poet and library master and she excelled in all these areas. Her role was even more extradordinary because not only was she a woman who excelled in a male dominated court but she also rose to such great heights while being born a slave.

She oversaw the royal library which had over 500,000 books and she was also one of the first female solo travellers. She travelled all over the middle east to acquire books for her library and also went to places like Baghdad and Cairo. Her library was one of the most famous and important libraries of her time. Not only did she acquire books for her library but she also also transcribed and annotated many books that she had acquired and also translated many books including important historic Greek texts.

She was also known as one of the greatest mathematicians and even taught children maths and it was well known that she loved maths. She was a scholar and known for her knowledge and skill not only in math but also sciences and became one of the most influential people in the palace.  

She was a strong, independent woman whose intellect and determination allowed her to rise to achieve amazing things and left a lasting legacy. We don’t know much about her but what we do know shows that she was incredible woman who excelled in many fields.

A famous Andalusian scholar, Ibn Bashkuwal said, “She excelled in writing, grammar, and poetry. Her knowledge of mathematics was also immense and she was proficient in other sciences as well. There were none in the Umayyad palace as noble as her.” 

I also have blog posts on several other Muslim women in this series which you can find here

Inspirational People

Inspirational Women Throughout History – Fatima Al Fihri

This post is about Fatima al Fihri who built the world’s first university.

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Fatima Al Fihri was born in Tunisia and then migrated with her family to Morocco. She came from a wealthy family and when her father passed away he left her a big fortune. Not much is known about her early life but her and her sister were well educated and deeply religious. She used the money her father left her to invest in and build a mosque and educational institute for her community.

Initially it was a smaller place of education with a courtyard, prayer hall, libraries and classrooms. At first the courses which were offered were religious studies and Quranic studies. When she thought about making a place for a higher level of learning she expanded on the institute. People would come from all over the world to study and it was expanded and built upon until it was made into a university.

The university was named the University of al-Qarawiyyin, named after Fatima’s birthplace, Qayrawan in Tunisia. It was established in 859 and was the first degree granting institute in the world. There was a wide range of areas of study available to study from, astronomy, maths to sciences, medicine, languages and more. Even Fatima studied there too. Notable scholars from all over the world studied there and it was considered a place of a major intellectual centre in the medieval times.

The university is still running now and there are also other places which are part of the university which you can visit too including the library which is one of the world’s oldest libraries! There are over 4000 manuscripts there and you can even see Fatima’s diploma on display there on a wooden board!

She has such an amazing lasting legacy that a woman was the first to build and establish a university where everyone was welcome to come and study at. As a result of her building this higher education institute it paved way for other places to be built including University of Oxford and helped advance opportunities for higher learning all over Europe.

You can read the previous posts in this series here:

Khadijah al Khuwaylid

Nusaybah bint Ka’ab

Inspirational People

Inspirational Women Throughout History – Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid (ra)

This post is about the woman that I love most, who has been my role model for most of my life, Khadijah (ra). Out of all the women I want to share with you, her post will be the most difficult for me to write because once I start talking about her, I just can’t stop. I have spent so long learning about her life that I have SO MUCH I want to say about her.

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She was an extraordinary woman in so many ways, a successful businesswoman, a wife, a mother, a leader, the first Muslim, a woman promised paradise. Who was given the honour of receiving salaam from Allah himself through Jibreel. If there was only one person throughout history that I could meet, it would be her.

She was a unique woman especially in pre-Islamic Arabia. Not only was she a successful businesswoman. She owned the most successful and wealthiest business in all of Quraysh. If you put her caravans next to the caravans of every other caravan of Quraysh, hers would be more. She became known as the Princess of Quraysh.

But being so wealthy and having such a high position in society didn’t make her arrogant or proud, she was known for being humble and generous with her wealth. She had a green silk pavilion over the roof of her home which was a sign for the poor and needy that they could go to her to get help.

She had been married and widowed twice by the age of 25 and then didn’t marry for 15years. When she did decide to marry, she proposed to him, who would eventually become the Prophet (saw). She told him that she fell for him because of his noble character and truthful tongue. And of course, their marriage is a love story for the ages.

Even after she married the Prophet (saw), he continued to work for her and they had a wonderful marriage. They were a very prominent couple in society, he was known as Amin (the truthful one) and she was known as Taherah (the pure one) and they were very involved in society. They adopted orphaned kids alongside raising their own. She continued to prosper in her business.

After revelation came to the Prophet (saw) their circumstances changed as they were shunned from society along with everyone else who became Muslim and when the tribes boycotted the Muslims and people began dying from thirst and starvation she used up all her wealth to buy as much food as she could to distribute to those suffering and eventually died as a result of the boycott. She was in her 60s by then and when she passed away that year became known as the year of sorrow because of how much it affected the Prophet (saw).

She was a woman who was smart and resourceful, she was a kind and generous person who helped those in need and she made a huge impact in society and history because it was through her support and faith in the Prophet (saw) that helped him to spread the message about Islam. She was instrumental in the beginning and despite her never having lived long enough after revelation to fast Ramadan or pray the 5 daily prayers she has the highest status in Islam and the Prophet (saw) said that four women perfected their faith and she was among those four.

You can also read my first post about Nusaybah here