Belief & Worship History Women

Be Amazing Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) was sitting with his companions when he began to draw four lines into the sand. When he was done, he turned to his companions and asked, “Do you know what these are?” They replied humbly, not even trying to guess, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Messenger replied “The best women of the women of Paradise are Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Fatima bint Muhammad, Maryam bint Imran, and Aasiyah bint Muzahim.” After some time, when Aisha got older, the Prophet ﷺ said, “The virtue of Ayesha over all the women of the world is like the virtue of tharîd (a meat dish) over all other food,” (at the time Tharid was a very precious food). These five women are women who attained perfection—who have been gifted to us by our Lord as examples for us to follow. These women attained perfection because of who they were. They were all different, none of them a carbon copy of the other. They were unique, they were special, and most importantly they loved God.

Our mother, Khadijah, radi Allahu `anha (may God be pleased with her), was an amazing role model for all the women who came after her. She was loved by the Prophet ﷺ and was loved by the Almighty. Khadijah was a business woman, taking care of the financial matters during the time in which the Prophet was spreading the message of Islam. She was a mother, and the only woman to whom the Prophet was married who bore him children. She gave birth to and raised another perfect woman, the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima. She was a business woman, a mother, and a giant part of our history.

Her daughter Fatima, may God be pleased with her, had a special place in the heart of the Messenger ﷺ. Not only was she the daughter of our beloved, but she was also the wife of Ali (ra) and the mother of Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein. She was known to be extremely forbearing and caring with people in need. Hussein (ra), said that he would find his mother absorbed in her prayer from dusk until dawn. He said that her generosity and compassion for the poor was so immense that no poor person or beggar ever walked away from her door without being attended to.  She was a mother and a wife, and one of the most inspirational women in our past.

The next woman that was mentioned was Maryam `alayha as-salam (peace be upon her). Maryam’s story is as unique as they get. She attained perfection and was granted many miracles by God including being provided for in ways that were strange to others, such as receiving fruits out of season. But of course the great miracle in her life is universally known, her being the virgin mother of Jesus alayhi as-salam (peace be upon him). It is at this time that we should take a moment and put this into perspective. Maryam was unmarried and a single mother. Her story is one of the most well-known stories of history despite the fact that she wasn’t married. She attained perfection because of who she was not because of who she was married to or a lofty status in the community. Her perfection came from within.

Aasiyah  (as) was also an inspirational figure that can never be forgotten. She was the wife of the Pharaoh, one of the most oppressive men of history. In essence, she was a victim of domestic abuse. But her situation didn’t stop her from becoming the best she could be. She continued to push her relationship with God and called out to Him in her despair asking for a house in Jannah (Paradise). She attained perfection and was granted one of the greatest honors, being spoken about in the Qur’an for all of humanity to read about for the rest of time.

Lastly, but definitely not least, our Mother Aisha, may God be pleased with her. Aisha was not a mother, nor was she a business woman. Aisha was a wife, and a scholar. She was one of the greatest scholars of all time, hands down. Her focus was not to be an amazing housewife; rather her main focus was being a woman of knowledge and standing up for the rights of women. She was not a weak, timid woman. She spoke up whenever she felt the need and was not afraid to fight for her rights. She wasn’t a mother, yet she was one of the women who was known to have been held to high esteem by Allah and the Messenger himself.

These five women were nothing short of amazing based on the most important criteria, the criteria set forth by Allah and spoken to us by his Messenger ﷺ. They were amazing because of who they are. There was no set cookie cutter for them to fit into. They were amazing despite any hardships in their lives or pressures they may have faced. Whether she was a mother, a wife, single, a business woman or a victim of domestic abuse, it didn’t limit her ability to rise in the site of Allah. So whoever you are, whatever position you may be, do your best and be amazing. Because you, despite your circumstances, can rise high in the sight of Allah, if only you focus on that which is most important—Him.

About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.


  • Very good article, however Khadija was not the only wife to bare the Prophets children. Maria (who I believe was a slave that was gifted to him and he married) also bore him a son, who died very young.

    • Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I’m not sure if he actually married her. In Islam a man is allowed his wives and female slaves.

      • I cannot reconcile this fiqh position with the Qur’an and Islam’s general view on marriage.

        Explain some things to me brother:

        1.) Can Islam or the Qur’an be as strict as they are about pre-marital or extra-martital sex, then turn around and allow a man as many slaves as he wants that he is not married to?

        2.) What is the point of capping wives at four if I’m allowed as many slaves as I want?

        3.) Do we need the slaves permission for this “allowance” or they have no say in the matter?

        4.) How do we uphold the idea of marriage being a sacred moral contract and criticize Shi’ites for mu’tah or anyone else for girlfriends and mistresses, but we can have as many female slaves as we can questions asked.

        I have never read the Qur’anic verses this way.
        I have always thought the Qur’an says (FREE) believing women and believing slaves (whom your right hand possess) are valid partners FOR MARRIAGE, unlike unbelieving women…and the distinction of free and slave is only made because mahr is required for believing women,whereas for a slave her manumission is accepted in leiu of mahr.

        If this is not the case, why the heck would I even get married? Why would I care if I could have one wife, three wives or four wives? I could just have a thousand or ten thousand female slaves…Whatever I could afford.

        I don’t see how this practice is even remotely Islamic and it is wrought with illogical inconsistencies that do not blend in at all with the overall Islamic view of marriage… and frankly I really need Imam Suhaib or another scholar to address this fiqhi issue.

        As for Mariyah Kubtiyah, it is my understanding she was a wife and she was kept seperate from the other wives because the Prophet’s(s) and his wives homes were located in the Masjid, but she had not accepted Islam. So it was a way of respecting her religious rights as a Christian woman.

        Allahu Alim!

        • Salaam, I personly think zai previous question doesn’t need to be answer by Imam, but rather zai himself should seek real knowkedge of the Deen. Whatever that was permisable to our prophet (may peace and blessing be upon him) should not be seen wrong, but we should learn our deen the right way. Allah (swt) made this permisable for him. Also once he receive she was no longer a slave but was emancipated and the prophet married her. We cant expect every question like this for the imam to respond to my advise learn your deen!

        • Sister,
          I do not disagree with you Mariyah was not a slave, was emancipated and the Prophet (s)married her. Reread the last paragraph of my comment.

          “Whatever that was permisable to our prophet (may peace and blessing be upon him) should not be seen wrong”

          Absolutely right! But if Mariyah was not a slave, then the prophet DID NOT engage in this practice, right?

          ..and that’s where the questions come in. By what logical and Quranically consistent argument do some scholars allow this practice?

          Asking these questions is ABSOLUTELY permissible in the deen. The Sahaba asked questions, and we Muslims ask questions to the scholars. You say “learn your deen”…exactly! That’s WHY I’m here. To learn the deen from scholars. I do not need Imam Suhaib to answer these questions…any qualified Imam will do!

        • Thank you, brother Zai. May Allah swt look with grace on your quest for understanding and help you find the knowledge you seek.

    • I wish there was a like button for your comment maryam:P

      Awesome post, May Allah truly help us reach that level of perfection 🙂

  • Truly amazing! Great reminder for us to always be the best we can. Has definitely inspired me! JazakhAllah.

  • Such a beautiful article and a well needed reminder about the great women in our tradition. I find it an especial mercy that Allah azza wajal made these noble women so different, as women ourselves are so complex and varied, we find in them all, each of us a role model despite whatever situation we are in. Allah Kareem!

  • I am uneasy with this Hadith.
    Maryam, mother of Jesus, is called “sister of Haroun” in the Qur’an and we explain that against Jewish or Christian polemical attacks by saying it’s not meant literally but as a descendant, which is valid in Arabic usage.

    But this Hadith calling her daughter of Imran taken TOGETHER with this hadith strengthens the argument that the two Maryams were confused with eachother. If she is called sister of Aaron only in the Qur’an it can be explained away as being a valid usage since she is his descendant. But to take that WITH this hadith and she is both SISTER of Aaron specifically and DAUGHTER of Imran specifically suggests literalism in the relationship.

    If she is sister of Imran in the hadith and sister of Imran in the Qur’an or hadith, no problem. But daughter of one and sister of another when she is a descendant of both…PROBLEM. Strenghthens Christian and Jewish criticisms.

    The question would arise why is she not daughter of both or sister of both. Why specifically daughter of one and sister of the other, which matches perfectly with Maryam who is literally the daughter of Imran and sister to both Moses and Aaron?

    Qur’an cannot be wrong. Hadith can be. I simply cannot believe this hadith, I don’t care what the isnad is. Either it’s wholly fabricated with a misappropriated isnad attached or someone IN the isnad has made a major mistake. We cannot allow a hadith or anything else to leave the Qur’an open to attack. The Qur’an and it’s veracity must be preserved at all cost, even if that cost is a hadith.

    • 1) In surah al imran (watch out the name!) ayah calls.. Maryam (AS)’s mom as wife of Imran…In addition, the hadeeth is in musnad ahmad .. supported by one in both bukhari and muslim!!..
      So the disagreement isn’t between quran and hadeeth.. but somewhere else? … Allah knows best

      • Yes, But also Quran uses “the woman of Imran” not the wife.. so may be we can go saying it refers to woman of Imran’s clan.. But then aren’t we double guessing!, which is kinda unlikely.. Wallah u aalum

        • If the Qur’an says “woman of Imran” this would be accurate as it would refer to descendants of his family & fit fine with the other Qur’anic verse calling Mary “sister”…

          The problem is with these Quranic verses being read in CONJUNCTION with that hadith.
          There is a problem somewhere, and the problem cannot be with the Qur’an…so that leaves only one possibility: the hadith.

          Either the hadith is wholly false or someone in the isnad made a mistake. There ARE weak hadith with isnad issues in both Muslim and Bukhari brother.

          I’m no scholar and it is not for me to do any thorough examination and make a final verdict, but at a level of pure consistency there is an issue there the scholars should look at so as to protect the Qur’an from any attacks that would mislead any Muslims.

    • Let me clarify what I meant to say. In general when we say “woman of Imran” it means his wife.. Otherwise more appropriate would be woman from (min) Imran, I think…
      Now if we take both places in the most plausibe meaninings like wife in this case and sister in other case .. the meanings go perfectly with ahadeeth so far. The only issue is it contradicts biblical history..
      Where as if we go with the metaphoric meanings: we have to do that twice (which I suppose isn’t healthy logically) and we also contradict 2 ahadeeth in 3 books.
      I suppose questioning biblical history!

      • “Let me clarify what I meant to say. In general when we say “woman of Imran” it means his wife.. Otherwise more appropriate would be woman from (min) Imran, I think…”

        Brother Ajaz,
        This is not necessarily accurate. The Qur’an might say “woman of Imran” literally, but MEAN woman FROM Imran. This is perfectly acceptable usage in tribal cultures. I myself am from a tribal culture, Pashtun, and we use this denotation in Afghanistan saying “zan-e” or “Da _______ shedza” in Farsi or Pashto and it can refer to a tribal ancestor or the tribe itself, not a wife.

        Kurd, Baluchi or Gulf Arab can also testify to this. It’s a common reference in tribal cultures where we tend to consider each other one large extended family who are all descended from a particular known ancestor, especially at the clan level.

        From what I understand, this is how most mufasiroun have interpreted this verse. That Maryam is a sister of Haroun in that she is descended from his house.

        Ask yourself brother…if she is the literal sister of Haroun and we know Haroun is the brother of Musa, why wouldn’t she just be called sister of Musa? Musa is more well known and of a higher maqam than his brother if that was the connection.

        “Now if we take both places in the most plausibe meaninings like wife in this case and sister in other case .. the meanings go perfectly with ahadeeth so far. The only issue is it contradicts biblical history..
        Where as if we go with the metaphoric meanings: we have to do that twice (which I suppose isn’t healthy logically) and we also contradict 2 ahadeeth in 3 books.
        I suppose questioning biblical history!”

        Brother, the question here is WHO Maryam is. Is Maryam the mother of Isa a DESCENDANT of Haroun & Musa or is she the LITERAL sister of Haroun and Musa, and her mother the LITERAL wife of Imran? Musa and Haroun were NOT Isa’s literal uncles ya baradar jaan. They are separated by a 1000+ years and even the Quran states so.

        Further if you read the Quran itself it gives the story of Mary’s mother and how she wished for a boy, but Mary was born instead and given to Zakariyyah to be raised in the temple. It is clear she is not the sister of Moses and Haroun. Maryam the literal sister of Haroun and Musa is not even mentioned in the Qur’an to my knowledge. So the question of whether biblical history is accurate on this account is irrelevant…not only the bible but the Quran make clear these were two different people.

        The hadith complicate matters though by suggesting a mix up of the two Maryams. The Quran alone does not do this, but if you add the hadith it seems like there IS a mix up of two totally different people from the bible. If you read the hadith ALONE or the Quran ALONE, there is no issue…but BOTH read together strengthen Jewish and Christian arguments that Muslims have mixed up two different Marys…

        Either we admit the Hadith has an issue, or it leaves the Qur’an open to a very easy attack which would convince a LOT of people, including Muslims!

        • we have to remember that translation of the Quran is translation and all ways be translation…
          we should be very carefull in coming to conclusions… woman in the Quran meas that there were issues between the husband and wife..and when then were resolved,,they are mention as wife!! Lokk it up all thru the Quran and you will understand..i am not a scholor but got this info from a great qualfied scholor!! A

          All the prophets mentioned with their wive’s in the Quran without children ,,are mentioned as woman and when they had the child .they are mentioned as wife…even though they were husband and wife!

          The language of the Quran is unique and distinctive ,not like english and Spanish…. we will never be able to completely understand the Quran thru a different language until we learn Arabic..

          ALLAH knows best!

  • Jazak’Allah Khair for this beautiful piece! I got to see these incredible woman in a different context I hadn’t seen before and apply the teachings of their lives to our times and insh’Allah start working on applying them to my life.

  • I am hoping to see Imam Suhaib’s response to Zai’s first comment above and the four questions he has. I never understood this either (about marrying up to 4 women and having access to unlimited slaves).

  • Wow. A truly exceptional article, MashaAllah!

    If I ever have a daughter InshaAllah, this is the rhetoric I would like to raise her with. These are the valuable, inspirational stories I hope for her to hold on to, as she experiences each phase of her life, InshaAllah.

    May Allah (swt) bless these five remarkable women (peace be upon them all) and may He (swt) bless you and us all with their company in Jannah – Aameen!


  • JazakAllahu Khairun, really really beautiful article! May (swt) help us all to do our best and be amazing, ameen.

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