The role of Muslim women in the history of Islam has often been downplayed, and especially Black Muslim women. As Black History month is one of both activism and education, we’ve created a short list of some of the pivotal Black Muslim women figures in history that you really should know about. This is just an introduction and we encourage our readers to learn more. Find a couple of book suggestions at the bottom of this article to dive deeper!
1. Nana Asma’u
Asma’u was a poet, historian, educator, and religious scholar who played a vital role in the political, cultural, and intellectual development in West Africa for about 50 years after the demise of her father in the early 1800s.
Nana Asma’u believed strongly that education is the tool for emancipation, and contributed greatly in helping educate Muslim women throughout her lifetime.
In addition to her lifelong work towards education, Nana Asma’u was quadrilingual and spoke Arabic, Hausa, Fulfude, and Tamachek. She was also of the Qadriyya Sufi order.
2. Sumayya Bint Khayyat (RA)
Among the first women to accept Islam, Sumayya was the wife of Yasir bn Amir and the mother of Ammar bn Yassir. Before embracing Islam, Sumayya, a Black Abyssinian (modern-day Ethiopia) woman, was a slave in Makkah. She regained her freedom after she gave birth to Ammar.
Summaya is also the first martyr in Islam. She became a martyr after being tortured by Abu Jahl Amr bn Hisham alongside her husband for their conversion to Islam.
3. Baraka bint Thalaba (RA)
Also known as Umm Ayman, she was an emancipated Ethiopian slave and regarded as one of the few people who knew the Prophet from birth to death. She participated in the Battle of Uhud, caring and tending for the wounded.
Baraka was married to Zayd bn Harith, the adopted son of the Prophet Muhammad. She was also among the closest and most trusted confidants of the Prophet.
Books to Dive Deeper:
Educating Muslim Women: The West African Legacy of Nana Asma'u is richly illustrated with maps and photographs, and recounts Asma'u's life and legacy. Read about this extraordinary woman whom daughters are still named after, her poems still move people profoundly, and the memory of her remains a vital source of inspiration and hope.
The History of Islam in Africa presents a detailed historic mapping of the cultural, political, geographic, and religious past of this significant presence on a continent-wide scale.
This article pulls information from Muslim Vibe's writer Mahdi Garba article on the same topic.