Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam

Publication Year



Asma Sayeed's book explores the history of women as religious scholars from the first decades of Islam through the early Ottoman period (seventh to the seventeenth centuries). Focusing on women's engagement with ḥadīth, this book analyzes dramatic chronological patterns in women's ḥadīth participation in terms of developments in Muslim social, intellectual, and legal history. Drawing on primary and secondary sources, this work uncovers the historical forces that shaped Muslim women's public participation in religious learning. In the process, it challenges two opposing views: that Muslim women have been historically marginalized in religious education, and alternately that they have been consistently empowered thanks to early role models such as 'Ā'isha bint Abī Bakr, the wife of the Prophet Muḥammad. This book is a must-read for those interested in the history of Muslim women as well as in debates about their rights in the modern world. The intersections of this history with topics in Muslim education, the development of Sunnī orthodoxies, Islamic law, and ḥadīth studies make this work an important contribution to Muslim social and intellectual history of the early and classical eras.

  • Comprehensive treatment of Muslim women's religious education over the first ten centuries of Islamic history
  • Accessible to an academic as well as a general audience
  • Integrates the history of women as hadīth transmitters into the history of Islamic law, hadīth transmission and educational history
Table of Contents

1. A tradition invented: the female companions
2. The successors
3. The classical rebirth
4. Traditionalism and the culmination of women's hadīth transmission.

 Reviews & endorsements

"… an excellent contribution to extending our understanding of the history of early Hadith transmission … The author is to be commended for her painstaking efforts in bringing out this wealth of insightful material for wider readership."
Muslim World Book Review

"This work by Sayeed is not merely another study on women or gender with a focus on Sunni Islam. Similarly, it is not just about Islamic education and the dissemination of Hadith (stories about the practices and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) that serve as norms for Islamic behavior, both religious and secular. Sayeed's perspectives are much more inclusive, bringing together various methodologies and disciplines … Highly recommended."
S. P. Blackburn, Choice


Series Title
Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization
Cambridge University Press
New York