al-Muhaddithat: the women scholars in Islam by Mohammad Akram Nadwi
This book is an adaptation in English of the prefatory volume of a 40-volume biographical dictionary (in Arabic) of women scholars of the Prophet's hadith. Learned women enjoyed high public standing and authority in the formative years of Islam. For centuries thereafter, women travelled intensively for religious knowledge and routinely attended the most prestigious mosques and madrasas across the Islamic world. Typical documents (like class registers and ijazahs from women authorizing men to teach) and the glowing testimonies about their women teachers from the most revered ulema are cited in detail. An overview chapter, with accompanying maps, traces the spread of centres of hadith learning for women, and their eventual decline. The information summarized here is essential to a balanced appreciation of the role of women in Islamic society.