In the western world, the majority of people don’t associate Muslim women with being educated and knowledge seeking. Muslim women are seen as shadows of people beneath veils. Subordinate creatures who are restricted and consigned to the kitchen. The western world has this perception because it compares Muslim women to its own standards.
Unfortunately, there are Muslim women, both living in the western world and in Muslim countries, who are oppressed by their male counterparts in many ways. These men either have little knowledge of their religion or they have no regard for it. They forbid women from going to school or work. They force their daughters to marry against their will. All of these things are completely against Islam.
Education is an important principle in Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” This applies to all Muslims – men and women! Therefore, every woman has the right to education in order to expand her knowledge. Another hadith (saying of the Prophet [pbuh]) also highlights the importance of women being educated in Islam: “A mother is a school. If she is educated, then a whole people are educated”.
Aisha (RA), one of the wives of the Prophet (pbuh), was an extremely significant woman in regards to Islamic history. She was intellectual and vastly knowledgable. When the Prophet (pbuh) passed away, she was a great source of knowledge in the area of the practices and sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). Aisha (RA) was reported to have narrated over 2000 ahadith. It is fair to say that without her scholarly contributions, the collection of ahadith which are invaluable to Muslims, would not be as extensive without the contributions of Aisha (RA).
Another Muslim woman who was not only well educated but also made notable contributions to the education of others, was Fatima al-Fihri. Fatima’s family settled in the city of Fes in Morocco. Her father became a successful and wealthy businessman. After the death of her father, brother and husband in a short space of time, Fatima and her sister inherited considerable wealth. After going through this extreme trial, Fatima dedicated herself to something else, the betterment and education of her fellow people. Having received a good education, both Fatima and her sister – Mariam, wanted to contribute to the education of their community. They wanted their wealth to be beneficial and they wanted good education to be easily accessible and also for a higher form of education to be established.
Fatima pioneered the founding of what is thought to be the oldest still functioning university. Yes, a Muslim woman founded the first university. The University of al-Qarawiyyin was founded in the year 859. It was first established as a mosque with a madrasa (education institution) which then developed further to issue the first degree style education.
In more recent times a young Muslim woman has inspired and influenced people all over the world with her struggle and determination to be allowed her right to education. Not only did she argue for her right to education but the right for all women. All people. Malala Yousafzi. She lived in the northwest of Pakistan during a time when the local Taliban banned girls from going to school. Due to her outstanding and influential efforts, the Taliban attempted to silence her. A gunman unsuccessfully tried to murder her. Since 2013 Malala has been based in Birmingham in the UK, where she has attended high school. A girl should not have to fight for her right to education, no matter where she lives.
On her 16th birthday, 12th July 2013, Malala addressed the UN, calling for worldwide access to education. She has received countless awards and recognitions and is universally revered – rightfully so.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.” Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”
“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”
“The extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. they are afraid of women.”
“With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.
– Malala Yousafzai