Famous Women in Islam
Muslim Mujahida`s by Khadeeja Bassier
Nusayba bint Ka`ab
Nusaybah was one of the early converts to Islam. She formed part of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), hence was of the first generation Muslims (Sahabiyyat). She was one of the few people who personally took allegiance to the Prophet (pbuh) in Makkah at Al-Aqabah. There were 75 people who bore allegiance and she was one of the two women.
Nusayba was born into the Banu Najjar tribe. Her debut in Islamic history was that of the Battle of Uhud. The Battle of Uhud was one where the Makkans waged vengeance on the Muslims for the resounding defeat at Badr. Abu Sufyan led the charge. The Muslim archers were specifically commanded not to leave their posts as they protected the men engaged in fighting from the right while the Mount Uhud protected them from the left. When the Muslims pierced through the Makkan lines, the majority of the archers (in direct contravention to the Prophet’s very strict orders) left their posts in view to enjoy the spoils of war. This exposed the vulnerabilities of the Muslims and the Makkans pressed forward. At this time, the Muslim cavalry was outnumbered by a ratio of more than 50 to 1.
Nusaybah was busy tending the wounds of her son who had been severely injured. Subsequent to bandaging him, she encouraged him to go back into battle and continue fighting. Such was her love and belief in the cause. She then unsheathed her sword and went into battle; this despite the imminent defeat. She did everything in her power to protect the Prophet (pbuh) and the Prophet is reported to have said:
“Wherever I turned, to the left and to the right, Nusaybah was there fighting for me.”
She sustained over 12 wounds. Her love for the Prophet (pbuh) was such that when she accompanied them in subsequent battles, the Prophet would not return home until he heard she was safe. He prayed for her to be of his companions in the hereafter and upon hearing this, she said: “I do not care what else befalls me in this world”.
Her devotion to the cause of Islam is remarkable as is her embodiment of bravery and courage. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:
“Who can bear what Nusaybah bears?”
In one of the subsequent battles she had her hand amputated and loses consciousness. Upon waking her first enquiry (which to me signifies beyond human strength) was
“Is the Prophet (pbuh) okay?”
May God’s choicest blessings be upon her soul.
Khawlah bint Al-Azwar
Khawlah is a Muslim Joan of Arc. She embodied courage, strength and the mastery of her arts (both weaponry and poetry). She was of the Tabi`in (2nd generation of Muslims). She learnt her crafts alongside her brother Dirar as a child. She adored Dirar and the two of them had an extremely strong bond.
In one of the battles, Dirar (also famed for his courage) went into battle without armour. He aimed to weaken the enemy at the head, and plunged his sword into the Emperor’s son. He was quickly surrounded and kidnapped. The men feared he was dead and went to tell Khawlah the news. She wept and was wracked by grief. But she channelled her grief to find her brother.
She donned black armour, threw her green shawl over her body and donned the Niqab (face veil). The Niqab was worn by both the men and the women to protect them from the elements and harsh dusty plains and hence would render her indistinguishable from the men. She rode into battle and fatally wounded 9 men at a time. The rest of the men in battle were astounded by the prowess of this knight in black armour and assumed it was their general Khalid Ibn Walid. Subsequent to the battle all the men clamoured to claim this knight of awesome prowess for their particular tribe. She did not affirm her lineage, however, given her gender. Khalid Ibn Walid took her aside and she then affirmed her identity. He did not question her gender but instead, enquired as to her motivation for joining. She then recounted the tale of Dirar, her brother. Khalid Ibn Walid then took her along (for her skill and the link to her brother) to subsequent battles and she was the tracker who eventually recovered her brother.
Why do we not hear much of these famous women in Islam? I contend that it is because our histories are actively being buried. In this regard the following Qur’anic warning in instructive:
“For whenever any of them is given the glad tiding of [the birth of] a girl, his face darkens, and he is filled with suppressed anger avoiding all people because of the [alleged] evil of the glad tiding which he has received, [and debating within himself:] Shall he keep this [child] despite the contempt [which he feels for it] - or shall he bury it in the dust? Old, evil indeed is whatever they decide” Quran 16:58-59
In the above verse God says that whether we bury our females literally (in sand) or whether we allow them to live but treat them with disdain, humiliation and as second class citizens, the two are equally evil. Uncovering our Divine Rights is our battle as female warriors of today.
The First Muslims: History and Memory (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008), Asma Afsaruddin
“The Women of Islam”. Transition 83 (2000): 78-97, Leila Ahmed