When it comes to Islamic studies, women are often viewed as sitting on the sidelines making minimal contributions. But, this is far from reality.

Though their achievements are overshadowed by their male counterparts', female Muslim scholars have actually made major contributions to the advancement of Muslim societies throughout history. 

They studied Islam in depth, issued their very own fatwas, wrote binders of academic work, acted as religious authorities, and even taught some of the most celebrated male scholars.

Though Muslim scholars are exclusively male? Here are 6 prominent female Muslim scholars you should know about:

1. Nafisa Bint Al-Hassan (762-824)

Sayyida Nafisa mosque
Sayyida Nafisa mosque in Cairo Source: Wikipedia

The great-great granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca and spent her later life in Cairo, where a mosque now bears her name. 

She was raised with an extensive Islamic education and learned from great scholars, memorizing the Qur'an and learning ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) and Islamic jurisprudence at a young age. 

Bint Al-Hassan was renowned for her excessive devotion to worship, having reportedly fasted during the day, prayed all night, and performed Hajj around thirty times in her life.

She taught two of the most prominent scholars of all time, Abu Abdullah Muhammad Idris Al-Shafi’i and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, whose teachings lead to the Shafi'i School of Jurisprudence and the Hanbali School of Jurisprudence, respectively. 

2. Umm Al-Darda Al-Soghra (7th century)

Umm Al-Darda refused to conform to gender norms ever since she was a child, as she often prayed in the men's rows and sat among males learning the Qur'an.

As a grown-up, she continued to pray shoulder to shoulder with men and went on to issue a fatwa (a ruling by a recognized Islamic authority) allowing the practice.

She grew up to become a jurist, Islamic scholar, and teacher of hadith and fiqh, and eventually began lecturing both men and women in the Damascus Mosque.

According to the Saudi Gazette, Umm Al-Darda became a reliable authority for ahadith and taught several prominent Islamic figures and scholars, including the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Bin Marwan, as well as the celebrated scholar, theologian, and judge Hasan Al-Basri.

She viewed the exchange of knowledge as a form of worship and said:

"I have sought worship in everything. I did not find anything more relieving to me than sitting with scholars and exchanging [knowledge] with them."

3. Shuhdah al-Baghdadiyyah (10th century)

Known as Fakhr an-Nisa (Pride of Womankind) and "The Writer of Baghdad," Al-Baghdadiyyah was born in Iran and died in Iraq.

Having studied under the guidance of her father, the famous traditionist Abu Nasr al-Dinawari, as well as several reputed scholars, Al-Baghdadiyyah was known for accurately transmitting and explaining ahadith.

She gave lectures at universities and mosques in Baghdad and her teachings of the hadith were held in high regard.

Apart from her extensive knowledge on the Prophet's sayings, she was known for her impeccable skills in calligraphy.

"Her style of writing (mansub) gained much popularity and was taken up generation after generation," Dean of Cambridge Islamic College, Muḥammad Akram Nadwi, writes

"In her time, there was no one in Baghdad who had handwriting like hers."

4. Fatima al-Samarqandi (12th century)

Taught by her father, distinguished jurist Mohammed Al-Samarqandi, she grew up to become a respected scholar and jurist who issued her own fatwas. 

She mastered Hanafi jurisprudence and the sciences of hadith, with her legal judgments and transmissions of hadith considered greatly reliable. 

She taught Islamic sciences to both male and female students, with students travlling all the way to Syria just to learn from her, according to Dr. Umar Farooq Abdallah.

She notably served as a personal counselor for Nur-al-Din Zangi, one of the most famous rulers in Islamic history.

Despite being pursued by kings and princes, she went on to marry one of her father's students, Alaa al-Kasani, a top Hanafi jurist. 

Interestingly, Al-Samarqandi played a major role in Al-Kasani's work, having corrected and edited his legal opinions.

"His esteem for her was so great that he would not sign the legal opinions he issued until Fatima signed them first," Dr. Abdallah writes. 

5. Fatima Al-Fudayliyya (18th century)

Source: Pinterest

Known as Al-Shaykha Al-Fudayliyya, she mastered in the art of calligraphy and excelled in different Islamic sciences, with a special interest in hadith.

Having studied from reputed scholars, she became a reliable source on hadith, with students attending her lectures and receiving certificates from her. 

Among her prominent students were Sheikh Omar Al-Hanafi and Sheikh Muhammad Salih.

Towards the end of her life, Al-Fudayliyya settled in Mecca where she founded a public library.

6. Amina Wadud (1952- present)

Muslim scholar Amina Wadud
Source: Facebook

In 2008, Wadud sent shockwaves around the world when she became the first woman in Britain to lead British Muslims in mixed congregational prayers and deliver the Friday sermon.

She has actually led mixed-gender prayers ever since 1994, drawing both praise and criticism.

"There is nothing in the Qur'an or the hadith that forbids me from doing this. The prophet did it himself during his time, when he assigned a woman to lead a mixed prayer," she said, according to The Guardian.

The African-American academic, who had converted to Islam at 20 years old, is a professor and international consultant on Islam, gender, and justice.

She gives lectures on Islamic and gender studies in several universities, including the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and the Starr King School for the Ministry in California.

Wadud is known for her progressive and groundbreaking views on Islam, having persistently shed light on the influence of the patriarchy on the interpretation of the Qur’an and Muslim practices.