The first obligation for a woman is to know her religion by studying the Holy Book, al-Quran, reciting and understanding it. She also has to be familiar with the science of Hadith and the life (Sirah) of the Prophet (peace be upon Him), and the other women Companions and those who followed them (Taba`un) and those who were model virtuous women.
Sayyidah A`isha (Allah be pleased with her) was excellent in knowledge. She possessed a good deal of knowledge about Poetry, Hadith, and Medicine. Imam Zahri said: “If the knowledge of the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) is put together, A`isha’s knowledge would be greater.” Urwa bin Zubair said: “None had more knowledge than A`isha, of the Holy Qur`an, Fundamentals, Fiqh, Poetry, Arabic History, and Genealogy.”
It is reported in Sahih Muslim that Sayyidah A`isha (Allah be pleased with her) said to her nephew Al Qasim when he committed an error narrating a Hadith: “What is the matter with you that you do not narrate as this son of my brother narrated the Hadith? Well, I know from where you picked it up. This is how his mother brought him up and how your mother brought you up." Qasim felt angered by this remark and showed bitterness towards her. When he saw that the table had been spread for A`isha, he stood up, A`isha asked him: “Where are you going?” He replied: “(I am going) to say prayer”. She said: “Sit down (to take the food)”. He said: “I must say prayer”. She said: “Sit down, faithless, for I have heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say: ‘No prayer can be (rightly said) when the food is there (before the worshipper), or when he is prompted by the call of nature.’”
Among the famous women who excelled in knowledge, was the daughter of Sayyid Ibn al Musaib, the scholar of his time. He refused to marry his daughter to the son of the Commander of the Faithful, Abdul Malik ibn Marwan, and married her to one of his students, Abdullah ibn Wada`a. On his wedding night, Abdullah discovered that he married not only a woman of beauty but also a great Hafiz of Qur`an and a great woman scholar. She was very knowledgeable in the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) and familiar with the rights of marriage. In the morning of the next day, when Abdullah prepared himself to leave she asked him where he was going. Abdullah answered: “to the circle of your father Sayyid to acquire Knowledge.” She said: “Sit, I will teach you the science of Sayyid.” He did not attend the circle of her father for a whole month, preferring his beautiful young wife as a teacher to his Shaykh.
Another outstanding woman of learning was Fatimah bint Ala ud Deen Samarkandi, who wrote “Tuhfatu al Fuqaha” (the Gift of the Jurisprudents) who died in the year 539 H. His daughter Fatimah was a luminary Jurisprudent instructed by her father, and who learned his book (the Gift) by heart. He married her to his student Ala ud deen Kasani who excelled in both doctrines of fundamentals and branches, and compiled his great book “Badai`u as Sanai`u” (the Wonders of Craftsmanship), which is a commentary on the book “Tuhfatu al Fuqaha”. When he presented his book “Budai`u as Sanai`u” to his Shaykh, the latter was very pleased and appreciated the work, by considering it a dowry for his daughter, for whose hand a number of Roman dignitaries had asked. The father refused them all and married her to his student. The scholars of that time said “He explained his book; he married to him his daughter.”
Al Hafiz ibn Asaker, who died in the year 571 H., was one of the most trustworthy and truthful narrators of Hadith. He was called “Hafiz of the Nation”. He had among his Shaykhs and teachers more than eighty women.
Among the women narrators of Sahih Bukhari were luminary Sayyidah al Wuzara Wazira bint Muhammad ibn `Umar ibn Asad ibn al Munji Tunukhia, and Karima bint Ahmad al Mirwazza. Both were mentioned in the introduction to the book “Fathu al Bari” by Ibn Hajr al Askalani.
Muslim womens' history was all the more illustrious because they sincerely and truthfully narrated the Hadith of the Prophet (pbuh), avoiding traps and treacherous grounds to a point that a great number of men didn’t achieve. Imam Hafiz al Thahbi testified to this in his book “Mizaan al Itidal” (The Balance of Moderation), in which he criticized the narrators of Hadith. He accused four thousand of them, considering them transposed (who put their own words instead) or neglectful (left out elements of the hadith) narrators. As for women narrators he said: “I didn’t know of any woman narrator who transposed or was neglectful.”