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I'm in the U.K. on a lecture tour and yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Sheikh Muhammed Akram who has researched Islam's female Hadith scholars. He set out to write a short book about what he thought would be a handful of female scholars, and now has completed 55 volumes about more than 10,000 of them. He continues his research but had to cap the number for the volumes purely for practical reasons. He says there are thousands more.
I asked him when Muslim female scholarship began to decline and his answer was fascinating. He said 10 centuries after Hijra with the rising influence of the "philosophers" on Islamic scholarship. Their heavy reliance on ancient Greek sources and methodologies included being influenced by anti-women Western ideas.
It was amazing to learn how many of the scholars we consider the pillars of our tradition had female teachers (not just students). It was also worth noting that he set out to study just scholars of Hadith. Many of these women also were scholars of fiqh, Tafseer and other sciences along with Hadith. But I wondered what the number would be had he set out to study Islam's women scholars in general.
And as many have pointed out he did confirm that not a single one of the female Hadith scholars were found to be fabricators, while hundreds of male fabricators have been identified.
It is worth noting something else for anyone arguing Islam holds a woman's word with less weight than a man's: female muhadithat (Hadith narrators) are equal to their male counterparts in the weight of their testimony. You don't need two women to narrate a Hadith for example to weigh it against the word of one man. And these teachings impact how Muslims understand and practice their faith for the rest of time.
May Muslim female scholarship again be the norm not the anomaly