The First Female Teacher in Islam: Al-Shifa bint Abdullah

Whilst looking for some information on the Shifa of Qadi Iyad I stumbled across a thread on the Arabic ‘ahl al-hadith’ forum which I thought may be of benefit to those who pass by this blog. I have summarized the main points from the biography posted on the site.
Shifa bint Abdullah bin Abd Shams bin Khalaf bin Shadad al-Qurashiyah al-Adawiyah was from Makkah. It is said her real name was Laylah, and her Kunyah was Umm Sulaiman, however she became well known as al-Shifa perhaps due to her healing some people with the permission of Allah (the Exalted).
Early Life
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah married Abi Khaithamah bin Hudhayfah bin Amir al-Qurashi al-Adawi, and embraced Islam at an early stage in Makkah. She perservered and exercised patience along with the other early Muslims with the distress caused to them by the Quraysh. This was until Allah (the Exalted) permitted these persecuted muslims to migrate from Makkah to Madinah, and she migrated along with them.
Literacy: A Rare Quality
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah al-Adawiyyah was one of the few individuals who knew how to read and write during the time of Jahiliyyah, having been blessed by Allah with a sharp intellect and beneficial knowledge. She was skilled in the art of Ruqyah (healing supplications) even at the time of Jahliyyah. When she embraced Islam she did not perform ruqyah until she spoke to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) and recited to him what she would read, and He (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) granted her permission to perform ruqyah.
Teaching in Madinah
Al-Shifa then continued to practice ruqyah, healing the muslims, and taught it to the mother of the believers Hafsah (Allah be pleased with her). This is known from the hadith where it is mentioned that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) entered upon the mother of the believers Hafsah bint Umar, and found al-Shifa bint Abdullah with her. He said to her: Teach Hafsah the ruqyah al-namlah like you taught her to write. Along with this she also taught other muslim women how to read and write seeking the reward and pleasure of Allah, and making her the first female teacher in Islam.
Respect of Umar
Biographical works have not mentioned much detail of the life of al-Shifa bint Abdullah. Ibn Hajar however did describe her in al-Isabah as being from the intelligent and notable women.
It is reported that Umar bin al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) trusted her view and judgement such that he gave her view precedence over others. It is also said that Umar made her responsible for some matters in the market place, some mentioning it could have been to do with proper conduct in the market place.
Hadith Narration
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah narrated from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) and from Umar bin al-Khattab. Her son Suleiman bin Abi Khaithamah in turn narrated from her along with some of her grandchildren. Al-Bukhari cites a narration of hers in Kitab al-Adab and Kitab Afal al-Ibad, alongwith Abu Dawud and al-Nasai.
Passing Away
The first female teacher in Islam passed away during the time of Umar bin al-Khattab in the year 20 Hijri. May Allah reward her the best of rewards for her service to this ummah, not least her healing the sick and teaching of women.

Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan and Sufism

Salam. Inshallah we hope to have the rest of the chapter of fasting from ‘It-haf al-Talib’ up soon. In the meantime we would like to mention something we alluded to in previous posts, namely Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khans (one of the leaders of the Ahl al-Hadith movement in India) turning towards Sufism in the latter stages of his life, and requesting to take bayah with Sh. Fadl al-Rahman al-Muradabadi.
A Shock to the System
Sh. Wahbi Suleiman Ghawji also mentions this ‘turnaround’ in his introduction to Sh. al-Luknawis critique of Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan wherein he says (pg.5-6):

Sh. Nur al-Hasan Khan the son of Sh. Siddiq (Hasan Khan) said regarding his father: When I saw prayer beads in his hand for the first time I was amazed and asked him about it. He replied to me that he was constantly making istighfar since Sh. Fadl al-Rahman al-Muradabadi had advised him to do so…He then said: He was overcome by enlightened states until he was fortunate to repent from his previous bad opinion of the Imams of fiqh and tasawwuf. He wrote this at the end of his ‘Maqalat al-Ihsan wa Maqamat al-Irfan’ which is a translation of ‘Futuh al-Ghaib’ of Sh. al-Imam Abd al-Qadir al-Jili (Jilani).

This incident is worth reflecting over for various reasons. Not least that it is evidence of Sh. Fadl al-Rahman al-Muradabadi’s lofty character. Here he has one of the most notable of the scholars of the anti tasawwuf movement contacting him asking to take bayah with him. His response was to send Nawab Siddiq his turban and advised him to make istighfar, dealing with him in a manner to honour him and show him respect, as opposed to humiliating him or parading him as a trophy in an attempt to show how great a Sheikh of tasawwuf he was.

It also shows Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khans sincerity and desire to make amends for his previous views, and courage in contacting a major sufi Sheikh and humbling himself before him to ask him to accept him as a murid of his.

This incident also reminds me of something I heard a while back about Sh. al-Sabuni, the Syrian expert in Tafsir taking bayah with Sh. Mahmud Effendi in Istanbul. Both of these scholars are of a similar age.

It is reported that when Sh. al-Sabuni met Sh. Mahmud he asked to take bayah with him, Sh. Mahmud refused saying to Sh. al-Sabuni that he was a major scholar and how could he make him a murid of his?. Finally after insisting he agreed to accept his bayah.
(It is reported that Sh al-Sabuni had seen Sh. Mahmud many years previously in a dream, he had travelled to many places trying to find this Sheikh he had seen. Many years later when he met Sh. Mahmud for the first time he realised that this was the person from his dream).
Both Sh. al-Sabuni and Sh. Mahmud are alive, may Allah (the Exalted) give them and the rest of our Shuyukh health and a long life so that we may benefit from them.

Hafidh Ibn Hajars Young Student: Imam al-Suyuti

Salam. The relationship between the great scholars of this ummah is an interesting one. I recently came across Allamah Abd al-Hay al-Luknawi’s work in which he corrects some of the mistakes found in the books of Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan. Inshallah I hope to write some more in the near future about some of the more finer points of what took place between these two scholars in India more than a century ago.

One matter which Sh. al-Luknawi and Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan discussed in their written works in response to each other was the issue of whether Imam al-Suyuti had actually studied with Hafidh Ibn Hajar

Hafidh Ibn Hajar and Imam al-Suyuti
I was unaware that there was a link between Hafidh Ibn Hajar and Imam al-Suyuti. I had assumed that the latter had come some time after than the former, however this is not the case.

Sh. al-Luknawi mentions in his ‘Nafi al-Kabir’ (p.44) that Hafidh Ibn Hajar passed away in 852 whilst Imam al-Suyuti was born in 849. Working out the dates of the death and birth of these scholars it appears that Imam al-Suyuti was three and a half years of age at the time of Hafidh Ibn Hajars passing away.

Possible Scenario
Sh. al-Luknawi postulated that it might have been possible that Imam al-Suyuti had been taken to Hafidh Ibn Hajars lesson whilst he was still a very young child, and had been present when a general ijazah had been given to the attendee’s, thus including him.
A Very Young Student
This possible scenario turned out to be true as mentioned by Imam al-Suyuti himself in Tadhkirah al-Huffadh in the biography of Hafidh Ibn Hajar that:
And I have a general ijazah from him, and I do not deem it far fetched that I have a specific Ijazah from him, for my father would visit him often.

Likewise in his Tadrib al-Rawi (2/407) he mentions the pattern chained (musalsal) narration of Huffadh wherein he mentions his narration from Hafidh Ibn Hajar by way of general Ijazah, adding that:

I do not narrate anything else by it (meaning the general ijazah) except this hadith

An Ijazah to a Child
What we also learn from this, as mentioned by the scholars (whilst discussing Imam al-Suyuti’s Ijazah from Hafidh Ibn Hajar whilst still a child) is that an ijazah given to a non discerning minor is correct and valid according to the scholars of hadith.

We can also perhaps reflect on the scene of Imam al-Suyuti as a child of three and a half or younger, with his father in the gathering of Hafidh Ibn Hajar, and also the possibility (as pointed out above) of Imam al-Suyuti being taken to Hafidh Ibn Hajar who grants this very young child a specific ijazah who then goes on to become one of the great scholars of this ummah. (An interesting scene to imagine and witness).

Nabi Allah Hud (Upon Him be Peace)

Salam. Found this following point of benefit about the fixing of a particular time for acts of worship which can sometimes confuse people, and specifically the visitation of Nabi Hud (Upon Him be peace) Found once again in Kashf al-Satoor (p.168) and adapted in my own words:

It is a common practice across the Muslim world for the singling out of certain times for acts of worship. Examples of this include the visitation of the grave of a certain pious person, or as the people of Hadramawt do (at their forefront the noble Ba Alawi’s) with the travelling to visit the grave of Sayiddina Hud (upon Him be peace) in the month of Shaban each year.[1]

This practice of theirs has a firm basis in the sacred law. Al-Bukhari reports in his Sahih (1193) and Muslim (1399) from Abdullah bin Umar (Allah be pleased with them both) that:

The Prophet (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) would come to Masjid Quba every Saturday walking and riding, and Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) would also do this.

Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Bari (3/69):
In this hadith, along with its various routes of transmission, is an evidence of the specifying of certain days for certain righteous acts, and to be regular in them. And in it is that the prohibition to travel to other than the three masjids does not mean that it is unlawful, as the Prophet (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) would come to Masjid Quba riding.

[1] For further information refer to ‘Nayl al-Maqsud fi Mashruiyyah Ziyarah Nabi Allah Hud Alaihi al-Salam’, by Allamah al-Faqih al-Sayyid Saalim bin Abdullah bin Umar al-Shatiri Ba Alawi

The Three Moons

Salam. I saw this version of a hadith which maybe known to some of you, I thought I would mention it as it is a little different to the other versions which are quoted frequently. Taken from Kashf al-Satoor (p.117) Wassalam


The mother of the believers Aishah (Allah the Exalted be pleased with her) saw (in a dream) that it was as if there were three moons in her room. She informed Abu Bakr (Allah the Exalted by pleased with him) of this, and he said: If your dream is true, then in your home will be buried three of the best of the people of the earth. He said: When the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) passed away and was buried in her home he said: O Aishah! This is one of your moons.

Referencing: This narration has a number of wordings, it was reported by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (3/60), al-Bayhaqi in al-Dalail (7/262) both of them from the hadith of Sufyan bin Uyaynah, from Yahya bin Saeed al-Ansari, from Saeed bin al-Musayyib from Aishah.
Al-Hakim said: This hadith is Sahih according to the criteria of the two sheikhs (Bukhari and Muslim) who did not relate it.
It was reported by al-Tabarani, al-Haithami said: Its narrators are those of the Sahih. Refer to ‘Kitab al-Ruya’ of Sayyidi Abdullah bin Siddiq (p.117).

1- The permissibility of burying in a building, whether with a roof or not, for the Prophets and other than them.
2- If it is permissible to bury in a building it would by extension mean it is permissible to build around a grave, or to have a roof over it. For the narrations forbidding built structures are specific to those which are on the actual grave itself and in contact with it, for there is a clear difference between ‘upon’ and ‘around’.

A Brief History of the Green Dome

Salam.  I wanted to share this brief point about the blessed green dome of the Masjid al-Nabawi al-Sharif, from Sh. Mamduh’s book ‘Kashf al-Satoor’ (p.99-100). I have summarised his points which Inshallah (it is hoped) will be of benefit and clarify any misunderstandings.
The Blessed Dome Above the Blessed Chamber

1- It is an accepted fact that the Prophet (Alah bless Him and give Him peace) was buried in His chamber which possessed a roof. Likewise His two companions (Allah be pleased with them) were buried next to Him in the room under this roof.

2- There is no significant difference between a roof and a dome, as every dome is form of roof covering, but not every roof is a dome. Therefore a dome has a specific distinguishing quality which can be seen by all. There is no evidence in the sacred law, whether explicit or indirect which points towards the forbiddance of building a dome on top of the roof.

Therefore when the blessed chamber became encompassed within the masjid, there occurred the existence of the roof of the chamber below the roof of the masjid, or that the roof of the masjid was the same as the roof of the chamber. All of this took place during the time of the salaf, and with the agreement of all of the muslims despite their differing schools of belief and law down the ages of Islamic history. This is therefore counted as being a strong consensus which clearly points to permissibility of burial within a building.

3- In the year 678 Hijri, during the reign of al-Mansur Qalawan al-Salihi, a dome was constructed on the highest roof of the masjid al-Nabawi in line with the blessed chamber, in order to differentiate the blessed chamber from the rest of the masjid. Importantly it is not recorded that any of the people of knowledge at that time condemned the construction of this dome nor viewed it to be shirk, kufr, bidah or the making a grave into a masjid.
[Note: al-Amir al-Sanani many years later in the 12th century wrote in his ‘Tatheer al-Itiqad’ against the construction of the green dome, however it is authentically reported that he later retracted it along with his other unorthodox positions as testified to in his well known poem.][1]

However the answer to any objections is that the Prophet (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) and His companions were buried in a roofed chamber by His order. The muslim community (ummah) unanimously agreed that this roofed chamber be entered within the masjid, therefore to distinguish one part of the roof from the other by painting or forming a dome is permissible as there is no evidence which points to it being disliked let alone unlawful (haram), not least when it is on the chamber and not on the grave itself.


[1] Allamah Ibn Taymiyyah also may have written something against the construction of domes over graves, however it is not clear from Sh. Mamduh’s words whether he wrote specifically about the blessed dome of Masjid al-Nabawi al-Sharif or not.

The Peak of Eloquence

Salam, came across this brief ‘faidah’ from Sh. al-Lahji in his wonderful commentary ‘Muntaha al-Sul’ (3/249), may Allah (the Exalted) enable us to gain more blessings from this painstaking effort of the Sheikh to serve the Shamail. He said:
Umar bin al-Khattab said to Him: O Messenger of Allah, How is it that you are the most eloquent of us when you have not lived away from us? He said: The language of Ismaeel had died out (darasat), Gibril came to me with it and I memorized it’.
Reported by Abu Nuaym in ‘Tarikh Isbahan’ with a weak chain.
And Salutations and Blessings upon the Light which manifested in the month of Rabi
And may Allah have mercy on Sh. Abdullah bin Saeed al-Lahji and all of the Muslims

The Prophetic Names

Salam, thought this maybe of interest to those who visit this blog. I came across this whilst looking up some information for the editing of the work mentioned in the previous post.

It should be noted that scholars have paid special attention towards the collating of all of His (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) different names. Sheikh al-Nabahani whilst discussing them mentions:
The seal of the Huffadh Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti authored a treatise called: ‘al-Bahjah al-Saniyyah fi al-Asma al-Nabawiyyah’ in which he compiled around 500 names.
It is mentioned in ‘al-Mawahib’ from the book ‘Ahkam al-Quran’ of Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi that: Allah the Exalted has 1000 names, and the Prophet Allah bless Him and give Him peace has 1000 names.
Al-Qastallani said:…That which I have seen in the words of our Sheikh – meaning al-Hafidh al-Sakhawi- in ‘al-Qawl al-Badi’, al-Qadi Iyad in ‘al-Shifa’, Ibn al-Arabi in ‘al-Qabas’ and ‘al-Ahkam’, Ibn Sayyid al-Nas and others exceeds 400 (names)…from them Imam al-Jazuli mentioned in his ‘Dalail al-Khayrat’ 201 (names). Muntaha al-Sul (1/166-172).

Divine Protection

Salam. I was looking over the draft translation of a wonderful classical work on the virtues/excellence of the Prophet (Allah bless Him and give Him peace), soon to be released by a publisher I work with. A discussion related to the subject matter below comes up in the text, I submitted the following footnotes lest any confusion may ensue in the mind of the unwary reader who may misunderstand the authors intent. I will post more details closer to the release date of this short booklet which is a must read. Wassalam
Imam Abu Hanifah said in ‘Fiqh al-Akbar’ p.48:
The Prophets (upon them be peace) are free from minor and major sins

Abul Muntaha adds to this in his commentary:
Meaning before Prophethood and after it

Mulla Ali al-Qari in his ‘Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar’ p.69 comments:
This protection/immunity is established for the Prophets before Prophethood and after it according to the more correct opinion

Going on to add importantly that p.73:
In it is a proof that His Prophethood was not limited to that which is after 40 (years of age) as a group have said. Rather there is an indication that from the day of His birth He is attributed with the quality of Prophethood. Rather the hadith: ‘I was a Prophet when Adam was between a soul and body’ is a proof that He was attributed with the quality of Prophethood in the world of souls before the creation of bodies.

Imam Ibn Abidin said in his ‘Rasail’ p.307:
They are protected/immune from minor and major (sins) before Prophethood and after it, whether deliberately or forgetfully

(Taken from Mufti Madarullah Madar’s book on the issue)