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in category Messengers

Were there any female prophets?

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In a Nutshell:
Muslim scholarship has generally held the prophets were all males however some scholars like Ibn Hazm and al-Qurtubi differed.


Why did Ibn Hazm differ?

A largely rejected opinion but one that is worth considering is that of Zahiri scholar Ibn Hazm:

"Ibn Hazm names four women who were prophets, Mary, Sarah, Moses's mother and Asia bint Muzahim who was Pharaoh's wife.

He defines prophethood as 'the acquisition of certain, undoubted knowledge that cannot be acquired through personal endeavour or human experience.' Such knowledge must, then, come through God's revelation. These four women received such knowledge.

In the case of Mary, she not only spoke to Archangel Gabriel, but she is also mentioned with a group of prophets in the surah carrying her name. When these prophets have all been mentioned, God states: "These are the ones God has blessed with His favours among prophets, of Adam's progeny..." (19: 58)

In the case of Sarah, she received information through a delegation of angels and they gave her the 'impossible' information that she would conceive despite being past menopause and having an old man for a husband.

Moses's mother was told of what would happen to her infant son when she throws him in the Nile and is then picked up by God's enemy and his own enemy.

The evidence in the case of Asia is the hadith describing her, along with Mary, as the only women who attained perfection.

The issue however is not contentious in classical works. Even the Maliki scholar Qurtubi is of the view a woman can be a prophet and Maryam (as) she is a Prophet as according to him, divine inspiration is enough.)

What objections are there to this view?

Scholars who object to this view base their objection on the verse stating:

"We have not sent before you any other than men who received our revelations." (16: 43)

Ibn Hazm responds by stating the verse speaks of messengers, not prophets. A messenger is a prophet who had a message to deliver. Not all prophets were messengers, while all messengers were prophets. He agrees there were no women messengers.

Who is correct?

The difference of opinion generally revolves around what is "prophethood".

Scholars differ on the criteria.

Some scholars held that a Prophet is "someone who receives revelation of Shari'a". Thus whoever has not received revelation of Shari'a matters will not be considered a Prophet according to that view.

Others held that Prophethood is merely any form of divine inspiration whether through divine ilham or dreams from Allah etc. (even without revelation of Shari'a). Thus Maryam would be counted as a Prophet because of what Allah revealed to her even though they are non-shari'a in nature.


Conclusion

In conclusion, the view of the majority is that Prophethood is revelation of Shari'a and women are not Prophets.


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