well-known teacher and a recognized authority on religious questions. Being especially close to her brother Husayn, she left her family in Medina to accompany him on the journey that was to end in the tragedy of Karbala. In a well-knownspeech afterwards, she reproached Yazid for his behaviour against the Prophet's family members and thus savedher nephew Ali Zainul-Abidîn's life with her courageous intervention, exposing injustice and cruelty so that thefear of the public opinion compelled him to set his prisoners free.
born in 762 C.A. in Madinah profited from numerous centres of scholarship in her home city. Besides being familiar with the Qur'an and its explanations and commentaries, she had a profound knowledge of Islamiclaw. After moving to Cairo with her husband, Nafisa taught in public lectures and classes and was soon well-known as a scholar. Even ash-Shâfi'i to whom one of the Sunni schools of law is traced back was among her regular audience, discussing various theological and legal issues with her and sharing part of her spiritual life.She was respected and loved far beyond the circles of scholars and students because of her friendly, open andgenerous manner.
has become proverbial for the exclusive love of God. She was born around 717 C.A., losther parents at an early age, and was enslaved. However, her master who had ambitious plans with her was soimpressed with her conscientiousness and religious devotion that he set her free. After a pilgrimage to Mecca,Râbi'ah settled in Basra, studying and teaching. Among her companions there were scholars and mystics likeSufyan ath-Thawri who used to challenge her with complicated questions, and she had several male and femalestudents. Some of her prayers and poems are still available today. Râbi'a was one of the first to teach the purelove for God for His sake rather than for the sake of His gifts.In a completely different field,
Ijlîya bint al-Ijlî al-Asturlâbi
was an astrolab builder who had learned her father's trade and took over his business. An astrolab, like its successor the sextant, is used for variouscalculations in astronomy and navigation. Obviously successful, she was employed at the court of Saif ad-Dawla(in Northern Syria, 944 - 967 C.E.).Let us stop for a while to consider how teaching and research was done in those days. In pre-industrial age,children usually learned their profession from their parents or relatives, normally boys from their fathers andgirls from their mothers. Higher religious and scientific studies were more a matter of interest and opportunities.It was not uncommon that well-trained women were employed as house teachers for the children of well-to-dofamilies. Mosques were not only places of prayer but important centres of teaching religious and generalknowledge and for intellectual and spiritual exchange. Teachers used to offer lectures and classes there - unlessthey offered them in their homes. In the Classical Age, the more important mosques developed into academiesand universities, and hospitals had an important role in training doctors and nurses. We hear of cooperation between a male and a female doctor in a highly gender-segregated society: a doctor married a doctor, then theyshared their work: the female doctor treated the female patients while her husband treated the male ones.From contemporary accounts, we get a rather clear idea of intellectual activities. Women scholars and teacherswere highly respected. One example is
(d 1178 C.A.), nicknamed al-Kâtiba (the Writer), because of her brilliant mastery of calligraphy; she taught male and female students at Baghdad university in various branchesof theology. A younger contemporary was
Zaynab bint Abil-Qasim Abdurrahman ash-Shari
who studiedwith the commentator of the Qur'an as-Zamakhshari; among her students there were some who became famouslater on, like Ibn Khallikan, who wrote her biography.
(d. 1070 C.A.) was known as the best contemporary expert for the hadith collection by al-Bukhari.
Zaynab bint Ahmad
(d. 1322 n.C.) who wasfortunate enough to be able to travel in order to complete her studies, taught in Egypt and Medina, and thestudents came from far away to attend her lectures. If travelling in search of knowledge proved difficult for women - after all, contemporary criminals were not only interested in a woman's purse but also in herself for theslave market - they often overcame this obstacle by accompanying male family members or by meeting scholarsfrom all over the world during the pilgrimage to Mecca. The world traveller Ibn Battuta mentions among thewomen with whom he studied in Damascus, Jerusalem and Baghdad one
(d. 1339 C.A.) who hadacquired "a camel load of certificates". In Andalusia and some other places, women scholars opened salons for