- The history of Muslim women entrepreneurs is replete with remarkable stories of empowerment and innovation.
- These women have not only achieved success in their respective fields but have also contributed to their communities and societies.
- From the pioneering Khadija bint Khuwaylid (RA), to the astute business strategist Razia Sultana, who defied gender norms as the Sultan of Delhi in medieval India these women have left an indelible mark on history.
Across history, Muslim women entrepreneurs have been shattering conventional boundaries and forging a path for the generations to follow. Starting with Khadija bint Khuwaylid, may Allah be pleased with her, the trailblazing inaugural Muslim female entrepreneur, and extending to Roxelana, the astute business strategist and Ottoman Empress, these women have etched an enduring heritage that serves as a wellspring of inspiration and empowerment for women worldwide.
Their significant contributions in the realms of education, innovation, and philanthropy have not solely impacted their immediate communities but have also exerted a far-reaching influence on the global economic landscape.
Muslim women have continued to make a name for themselves over time, from Fatima Jinnah who helped in the struggle of Pakistan’s Fight for Independence to Benazir Bhutto, the first woman elected to head a democratic government in a Muslim-majority country. In recent times Malala Yousoufzai has helped changed the lives of countless of young girls from Pakistan, campaigning for their education and human rights. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in the world.
Let’s take a look at powerful muslim women entrepreneurs who have helped shape history:
Khadija bint Khuwaylid (RA) – The First Muslim Women Entrepreneur
Khadija bint Khuwaylid (RA) lived in the 7th century and is widely recognised as the first female Muslim entrepreneur. She was born into a wealthy family and inherited her father’s successful business, which she skillfully managed and expanded. Khadija ra was known for her business acumen, and her trading caravans traveled far and wide, reaching as far as Syria and Yemen. She was the first wife of Rasul Allah (SAW)
Despite being a successful businesswoman, Khadija (RA) was also known for her generosity and compassion. She used her wealth to support various charitable causes, including the poor and needy. Her legacy as a pioneering Muslim woman entrepreneur continues to inspire women around the world today.
Fatima Al Fihri – Founder of the World’s Oldest University in Morocco
In the 9th century, Fatima al-Fihri, a pioneering Muslim female entrepreneur, left an indelible mark on history. She is renowned for establishing the University of Al Quaraouiyine in Fez, Morocco, a highly reputable institution that stands as the world’s oldest continually operational university.
Hailing from a prosperous family, Fatima inherited a substantial fortune from her father. Rather than solely pursuing personal enrichment, she chose to invest her wealth in the realm of education. She utilized her inheritance to erect a mosque and a madrasa (Islamic school) in the city of Fez. Gradually, the madrasa metamorphosed into a comprehensive university, offering a diverse curriculum encompassing Islamic law, theology, grammar, mathematics, and an array of other subjects.
Razia Sultana – Sultan of Delhi and Business Innovator
In medieval India, Razia Sultana emerged as a formidable Muslim ruler who boldly defied the prevailing gender norms and societal conventions of her time. Her accession to the throne of Delhi in 1236 marked a historic milestone, as she became the sole female sultan in the annals of the Delhi Sultanate.
Razia demonstrated her competence as a leader and exhibited a shrewd acumen in matters of governance and commerce. Under her reign, she instituted a series of economic reforms improving the economy and forging trade relations with nations. She also introduced a new currency system that was used to streamline commercial activities across her kingdom. At the time when women were given no seat at the table, Razia was a ruler amongst all men.
Maryam Al Isirlabiyya – Mathematician and Inventor
Maryam al-Istirlabiyya, a renowned astronomer from the 10th-century Islamic Golden Age, hailed from Baghdad, Iraq. Her remarkable contributions to astronomy, especially in the art of crafting astrolabes, instruments used to measure celestial body altitudes, earned her world-wide recognition.
Despite facing gender-related obstacles in the scientific realm of her era, Maryam’s perseverance left a lasting mark on astronomy, aiding advancements in navigation and timekeeping. Her mathematical prowess and innovative insights into planetary movements challenged existing theories, enhancing our understanding of the cosmos. Most of her work is still being used to date and has helped advance the field of astronomy.
Lubna of Cordoba, Spain – Calligrapher, Linguistic and Mathematician
Lubna of Cordoba, a brilliant Muslim woman from 10th-century Spain, stood out for her remarkable intelligence, wit, and literary prowess. Overcoming societal barriers, she began her career as a scribe and swiftly ascended to become the personal secretary of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III. Her role encompassed drafting official documents, including diplomatic letters and treaties, thanks to her proficiency in Arabic, Latin, and Hebrew. Lubna’s enduring legacy serves as an inspiration for women, demonstrating the power of education and determination in a male-dominated society.
Al-Malika al-Ḥurra Arwa al-Sulayhi – Ruler of Yemen
Arwa, born in 1048 AD, was orphaned and raised by her ruling uncle and aunt in Yemen. She married at 17. After a series of tragic events left her husband unable to rule, Arwa became Yemen’s sole leader. She relocated the capital to Jibla, avenging the late king’s death in 1088. Arwa built schools, boosted the economy, and was renowned for her intellect and bravery, earning the title ‘little queen of Sheba.’ She ruled until her passing in 1138, never losing the people’s support.
Roxelana – Ottoman Empress
Roxelana, also known as Hürrem Sultan, was a remarkable figure in Ottoman history during the 16th century. Her influence and entrepreneurial skills extended far beyond her role as a queen. She used her position to foster economic relations between the Ottoman Empire and other nations, particularly the trading powers of Venice and Poland. Her diplomatic efforts helped to strengthen the empire’s economic ties and boost trade, bringing wealth and prosperity to the Ottoman state.
Roxelana also played a vital role in cultural and architectural endeavors. She sponsored the construction of various mosques, schools, and charitable institutions throughout the empire. One of her most notable projects was the Haseki Hürrem Sultan Mosque in Istanbul, which still stands as a testament to her influence.
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