Field: Hadith
Title: al-Muhaddithat
Publication: Interface publications 2007
ISBN: 978-0-9554545-1-6
Rating: aaaa
Level: Intermediate
Reviewed by: Safwan

‘The people said: O Abu Nasr, narrate hadith to us. He (Abu Nasr) said: Do you pay the zakah on hadith? One man among them asked: O Abu Nasr, is there zakah on hadith? He said: Yes. When you hear hadith or remembrance of God you should apply it.’

The writer started off elegantly by answering one of the feminists’ favourite questions- “If men can, why can’t women?” to which the commonly derived answer is- “Men can and women can too”, which, according to Akram, is correct, but not right.

Akram tells us in this work that women’s status, if compared rightly, is nothing less than what men are predisposed to. He convincingly argues the legitimacy of women’s authority as established in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and by their own actions. Concerning matters that are most important to the religion, such as fiqh and practice, not even a trace of gender bias can be found. For example, in establishing the fiqh and the transmission of ahadith (sing. hadith), men and women are equally preferred; their integrity and depth in knowledge being the criteria where lines are drawn.

Numerous examples are beautifully presented in this work, illustrating how women from many generations have contributed to Islamic learning and development. Fatimah bint Sa’d al-Khayr, a muhaddithah of 6 century A.H., traveled from China to many places, only to eventually settle down in Cairo and made it prosperous in hadith learning, undoubtedly due to her presence. Umm al-Darda’, a women in the generation of tabi’in, was a reputed muhaddithah admired by her contemporaries. ‘A’ishah bint al-Hadi (d. 816) was appointed the principal teacher of Sahih Bukhari in the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, unchallenged by men in her time. There is of course a longer list of similar feats in this book.

Other than such accounts of great learners and teachers of ahadith, Akram also presents some categorisation and arguments that have been going on in this field that are worth knowing. This work, being only to serve as a muqaddimah (introduction) to his 40-volume-dictionary of muhaddithat, ends with some re-establishment of his points.

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