Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle
Were there ever any female prophets?
Thank you for your important question.
The majority opinion is that there were no female prophets.
Allah Most High says, “And We sent not before you [as messengers] except men to whom We revealed from among the people of cities.” [Quran, 12:109]
The wisdom behind this is that Allah has generally given roles of authority and leadership to men.
Equal Before Allah
Both men and women are equal before Allah, in that both have an equal opportunity of drawing near to Him.
Allah Most High says, “Indeed, Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, obedient men and obedient women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, charitable men and charitable women, fasting men and fasting women, men who guard their private parts and women who do so, and men who remember Allah often and women who do so – for them, Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” [Quran, 33:35]
And Allah Most High says, “Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you.” [Quran, 49:13]
We learn from these verses that Allah looks at our hearts, and does not look to our gender.
Women in Leadership
Allah has said in the Quran, “Men are in charge of women because We have given more to some than others.” [Quran, 4:34]
The general trend in Allah’s religion is that men are in leadership roles, such as being the caliph, judgeship, leading the household, leading the Eid and Friday prayers, etc…
Women can be and do many things: they can lead other women in prayer, be politicians, muftis, CEOs, millionaires, writers, revolutionists, mothers, and astronauts … But there is a general hierarchy in things that touch the structure and performance of the Muslim community.
For this reason, Allah sent men to fulfill the greatest role of leadership, that of prophethood.
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Women in Religious Scholarship
Just because women have a limited role in leadership, it doesn’t mean that they cannot be scholars.
In his list of jurists of the Prophetic Companions, Ibn Hazm mentions Our Mother ‘Aisha at the very top of the list. [Ibn Hazm, Ashab al-Futya min al-Sahaba wa al-Ta’biin].
Shaykh Akram Nadwi has compiled a forty-volume book on just female hadith narrators alone. [Mohammad Akram Nadwi, al-Muhaddithat Scholars]
Clearly, learning and teaching, both women and men, is something Muslim women have done, and can do.
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The vast majority of scholars have held that there has never been a female prophet. [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid]
This is because of the verse, “And We sent not before you [as messengers] except men to whom We revealed from among the people of cities.” [Quran, 12:109]
Some scholars opined that there were indeed female prophets. Ibn Hazm held that Our Mothers Eve, Sara, the mother of Musa (upon whom be peace), Hajar, and Asiya, and Maryam (Allah be well-pleased with them all) were prophetesses; and Qurtubi held that Our Lady Maryam was a prophetess. [Ibn Hazm, al-Milil wa al-Nihal; Qurtubi, Jami‘ Ahkam al-Quran]
Female Role Models
Perhaps the questioner asked the question in her search for individuals to act as role models in her life. After all, it is always easier to take as an example someone who is more similar to you in gender, age, background, etc.
There are countless biographies of outstanding women who may be emulated: Our Mothers Khadija, Aisha, Umm Salama, etc., among many, many others of Prophetic Companions, and early Muslims, all of whom can offer realistic, human, powerful, and deeply moving examples of what it means to worship Allah as a woman.
The majority opinion is that there were no female prophets, the wisdom being that roles of authority and leadership are normally assigned to men.
There are, nevertheless, countless women in the history of Islam whose lives can serve as role models for Muslim women and girls.
I pray this helps.
[Shaykh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years, he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.