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Are There Any Female Prophets in Islam?

13 May, 2022
Q Dear scholar, I have a question related to the position of women in Islam. Did Allah send female prophets?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

The majority of scholar are of the view that there were no female prophets, while a minority say that there were female prophets. 


In responding to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

The answer to this question is not black and white as it is wrong to say that there were no female prophets. It is, however, true to say there were no female messengers (rusul pl of rasul) who were sent with a dispensation or new laws or commissioned to preach to the general public.

Stated differently, the issue is contentious among scholars. The majority are of the view that there were no female prophets, while a minority say that there were female prophets.

Difference between a Prophet and a Messenger 

The difference of opinion is due to the differences in the way they define the terms nabi and rasul. Nabi can be roughly defined as a prophet and rasul as a messenger.

While all agree that God only chose men as messengers to proclaim a new law or dispensation, they all agree there were quite a few women who received inspiration or communication from God. Among them were Mary, the mother of Jesus (peace be upon him), mother of Musa, Hajar, and Sarah (both of whom wives of the Prophet Ibrahim).

Allah spoke to them through angels or communicated glad tidings or messages to them. However, none of them were sent out to preach, as we find in the case of Prophets Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, `Isa, Muhammad, and others. 

Ibn Hazm, Al-Ashari, al-Qurtubi, Ibn Ashur are of the view that nubuwwah is not reserved exclusively to men. It is reported that Imam Al-Ashari, one of the great leaders of Ahl al-sunnah, said,

“Six women were blessed with the gift of nubuwwah, including Hawwa, Sarah, Hajar, mother of Musa, Asiyah and Maryam (peace be upon them all).”

According to the scholars mentioned above, a nabi is one who received communication, orders, or good news from Allah via angels.

Ibn Hazm says: “Only people of Cordova in his time have disputed the issue. He cites three views held by them: One group refuses to express an opinion, positively or negatively on the issue.

As for those who deny the existence of female prophets altogether, they cite the following verse: {We sent before you (O Muhammad,) only men as messengers.} Ibn Hazm counters the argument saying, ‘There is no shred of evidence for them in the verse for no one disputes the fact there were no female messengers’; the issue, however, is only about nubuwwah. The verse refers solely to risalah and not nubuwwah.

Interpretation of a Quranic verse

Ibn Ashur comments on the verse in Surat Al-Anbiya: {And as for she who preserved her chastity, We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and made her and her son a sign for the worlds.} (Al-Anbiya 21:91)

“When Allah mentioned a number of prophets among men, He mentioned the case of the prophethood of Maryam to show that such divine favors are not confined to men. That is consistent with the theme of the following verse: 

{For submitting men and submitting women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, charitable men and charitable women, men who fast and women who fast, men who guard their private parts and women who guard [their private parts], men who remember God often and women who remember [God often], God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.} (Al-Ahzab 33:35)

Is Prophethood exclusive to men?

📚 Read Also: Why Do We Need Guides for Guidance?

In conclusion, prophethood in the sense of receiving divine communication is not exclusively a gift of men; instead, there are few women, that we know, were favored with the same.

Furthermore, the important concept that we learn from the Quran is that men and women enjoy perfect equality in spiritual status: {I will never deny any of you—male or female—the reward of your deeds. Both are equal in reward. You proceed one from another.} (Aal Imran 3:195)  

Almighty Allah knows best.

Source: www.askthescholar.com