The ḥadīth of Umm Waraqah and the issue of female Imāms

By Mawlānā Zameelur Rahman

Question

A Female named Amina Wadud of Usa started to revive the Islamic topic that a female can be Imam and lead prayer in congregation and also deliver Jumma Khutba and lead Jumma prayer as Rasool (pbuh) permitted UMM WARAKA to lead prayer of DAR.
Do you think this is a FITNA? [sic]

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh.
At the outset, we will present a brief discussion on the hadīth of Umm Waraqah.

Source and Text

There are several versions of this hadīth. Three such versions are presented below:

Imām Ahmad narrates:

حدثنا أنو نعيم، قال: حذثنا الوليد بن عبد الله بن جميع، قال: حدثني عبد الرحمن بن خلاد الأنصاري وجدتي: عن أم ورقة بنت عبد الله بن الحارث أن نبي الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يزورها كل جمعة، وأنها قالت: يا نبي الله – يوم بدر – أتأذن لي، فأخرج معك، أمرض مرضاكم وأداوي جرحاكم، لعل الله يهدي لي شهادة؟ قال: قري فإن الله عز وجل يهدي لك شهادة. وكانت أعتقت جارية لها وغلاما عن دبر منها، فطال عليهما، فغماها فى القطيفة حتى ماتت، وهربا، فقام عمر فى الناس فقال: إن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يزور أم ورقة يقول: انطلقوا نزور الشهيدة، وإن فلانة جاريتها وفلانا غلامها غماها ثم هربا فلا يؤويهما أحد، ومن وجدهما فليأت بهما، فأتي بهما، فصلبا، فكانا أول مصلوبين

Translation: Abū Nu‘aym narrated to us, he said: al-Walīd ibn ‘Abdillāh ibn Jumay‘ narrated to us, he said: ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Khallād al-Ansārī and my grandmother narrated to me from Umm Waraqah bint ‘Abdillāh ibn al-Hārith that the Prophet of Allāh (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would visit her every Friday, and that she said on the Day of Badr: “O Prophet of Allāh, do you give me permission to come out with you, and attend to your sick ones and treat your injured, that perhaps Allah may grant me martyrdom?” He said: “Stay (in your house), for verily Allah (Great and Glorious is He) will grant you martyrdom.” She freed a female and male slave upon her death, and it became (overly) long for them, so they suffocated her in a cloak until she died, and they fled. ‘Umar stood amongst the people and he said: “Verily, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) would visit Umm Waraqah, saying: ‘Come, we will visit the martyr.’ And indeed so-and-so, her female slave, and so-and-so, her male slave, have suffocated her and fled. No one should grant them shelter, and whoever finds them must bring them.” They were brought and crucified. They were the first to be crucified.[1]

This version of the report has no mention of Salāh, adhān or imāmat.

Imām Abū Dāwūd narrates:

حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا وَكِيعُ بْنُ الْجَرَّاحِ، حَدَّثَنَا الْوَلِيدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ جُمَيْعٍ، قَالَ: حَدَّثَتْنِي جَدَّتِي، وَعَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ خَلَّادٍ الْأَنْصَارِيُّ، عَنْ أُمِّ وَرَقَةَ بِنْتِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ نَوْفَلٍ الْأَنْصَارِيَّةِ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَمَّا غَزَا بَدْرًا، قَالَتْ: قُلْتُ لَهُ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، ائْذَنْ لِي فِي الْغَزْوِ مَعَكَ أُمَرِّضُ مَرْضَاكُمْ، لَعَلَّ اللَّهَ أَنْ يَرْزُقَنِي شَهَادَةً، قَالَ: «قَرِّي فِي بَيْتِكِ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى يَرْزُقُكِ الشَّهَادَةَ»، قَالَ: فَكَانَتْ تُسَمَّى الشَّهِيدَةُ، قَالَ: وَكَانَتْ قَدْ قَرَأَتِ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَأْذَنَتِ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنْ تَتَّخِذَ فِي دَارِهَا مُؤَذِّنًا، فَأَذِنَ لَهَا، قَالَ: وَكَانَتْ قَدْ دَبَّرَتْ غُلَامًا لَهَا وَجَارِيَةً فَقَامَا إِلَيْهَا بِاللَّيْلِ فَغَمَّاهَا بِقَطِيفَةٍ لَهَا حَتَّى مَاتَتْ وَذَهَبَا، فَأَصْبَحَ عُمَرُ فَقَامَ فِي النَّاسِ، فَقَالَ: مَنْ كَانَ عِنْدَهُ مِنْ هَذَيْنِ عِلْمٌ، أَوْ مَنْ رَآهُمَا فَلْيَجِئْ بِهِمَا، فَأَمَرَ بِهِمَا فَصُلِبَا فَكَانَا أَوَّلَ مَصْلُوبٍ بِالْمَدِينَةِ

Translation: ‘Uthmān ibn Abī Shaybah narrated to us: Wakī‘ ibn al-Jarrāh narrated to us: al-Walīd ibn ‘Abdīllāh ibn Jumay‘ narrated to us, he said: my grandmother and ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Khallād al-Ansārī narrated to me from Umm Waraqah bint ‘Abdillāh ibn Nawfal al-Ansārīyyah that when the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) fought at Badr, she said: I said: “O Messenger of Allah, permit me (to participate) in the battle with you. I will attend to your sick ones, that Allah may grant me martyrdom.” He said: “Stay in your house, for verily Allah (Exatled is He) will grant you martyrdom.” She used to be called “the martyr.” She would recite the Qur’ān, so she asked permission from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) to keep a muezzin in her private land, and he gave her permission. She had freed a male and female slave that belonged to her upon her death, so they came to her at night and suffocated her with her cloak until she died, and they fled. ‘Umar stood amongst the people in the morning and he said: “Whoever has knowledge of these two or whoever saw them must bring them.” He gave instructions and they were crucified. They were the first to be crucified in Madīnah.[2]

This version only mentions adhān but not her imāmat.  

Imām Ahmad also narrates:

حدثنا أبو نعيم: قال: حدثنا الوليد، قال: حدثتني جدتي: عن أم ورقة بنت عبد الله بن الحارث الأنصاري، وكانت قد جمعت القرآن، وكان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قد أمرها أن تؤم أهل دارها، وكانت لها مؤذن وكانت تؤم أهل دارها

Translation: Abū Nu‘aym narrated to us, he said: Al-Walīd narrated to us, he said: My grandmother narrated to me: From Umm Waraqah bint ‘Abdillāh ibn al-Hārith al-Ansārī, who had gatherered (i.e. memorised) the Qur’ān, and the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) would order her to lead the people of her private land (in Salāh), and she had a muezzin, and she would lead the people of her private land.[3]

This version mentions both the adhān and the imāmat.

The story of Umm Waraqah is found in the Musnad of Imām Ahmad ibn Hanbal[4]; the Mussannaf of Imām Ibn Abī Shaybah[5]; the Sunan of Imām Abū Dāwūd[6]; the Sunan of Imām al-Dāraqutnī[7]; the Sahīh of Imām Ibn Khuzaymah[8]; the Mustadrak of Imām al-Hākim[9]; the Sunan of Imām al-Bayhaqī[10]; al-Mu‘jam al-Kabīr of Imām al-Tabrānī[11]; and others.

All the chains of transmission for this report funnel through one narrator, Walīd ibn ‘Abdillāh ibn Jumay‘, as represented in the flowchart below (based on Tuhfat al-Ashrāf and Tahdhīb al-Kamāl of al-Mizzī and al-Nukat al-Zirāf and al-Isābah of al-‘Asqalānī):

In brief, there are 3 layers of transmission:

  1. Those who narrated from Walīd ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Jumay‘
  2. Walīd ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Jumay‘ himself
  3. Those Walīd narrated from and beyond

The narrations mention that Umm Waraqah wished to participate in the battle of Badr by attending to the injured fighters, that perhaps she may attain martyrdom. Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) instructed her to stay in her house and informed her she will be granted martyrdom in her house. She asked permission to have a muezzin call adhān in her private land, which she was allowed. She was also ordered to lead the people of her private land (dār) in Salāh. In the time of ‘Umar (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu), two of her slaves murdered her. They were later caught and crucified. Some of the narrations do not have any mention of the imāmat or adhān, and some only have mention of adhān and not the imāmat.

This is the only narration of its kind, which is why al-Hākim said after citing it:

وهذه سنة غريبة لا أعرف فى الباب حديثا مسندا غير هذا

“This is a strange practice. I do not know of a connected hadīth on the subject besides this.”[12]

Analysis

With respect to the chain of narration, the reporters of the first layer of transmission are all impeccable masters of hadīth with the exception of Muhammad ibn Ya‘lā al-Sulamī who is an unreliable narrator.

The second layer of transmission reveals that the story hinges entirely on Walīd ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Jumay‘. There is some criticism of him. Although Imāms Ahmad, Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn, Abū Dāwud, Abū Zur‘ah and al-‘Ijlī praised his reliability; Ibn Hibbān included him in his work on unreliable narrators, al-Majrūhīn, and he said:

كان ممن ينفرد عن الأثباث ما لا يشبه حديث الثقات، فلما فحش ذلك منه بطل الإحتجاج به

“He was of those who were isolated (in their reports) from firm reporters (in narrating) what does not resemble the narration of trustworthy men. When that is excessive from him, adducing evidence from him is nullified.”[13]

Al-‘Uqaylī said in his work on weak reporters, al-Du‘afā’:

في حديثه اضطراب

“There is inconsistency in his hadīth.”[14]

We see inconsistency in this very narration of his: Walīd narrates the story through a number of different chains (numbers correspond to those in the chart):

  1. He sometimes narrates it from his grandmother, Laylā bint Mālik, who narrates directly from Umm Waraqah
  2. He sometimes narrates it from Laylā bint Mālik who narrates from her father, Mālik, who narrates from Umm Waraqah
  3. He sometimes narrates it from Laylā bint Mālik who narrates from her mother (name unknown), who narrates from Umm Waraqah
  4. He sometimes narrates it from his grandfather, Jumay‘ who narrates from Umm Waraqah
  5. He sometimes narrates it from ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Khallād who narrates directly from Umm Waraqah
  6. And he sometimes narrates it from ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Khallād who narrates from his father, Khallād, who narrates from Umm Waraqah.[15]

Moreover, some narrations, as stated above, mention her imāmat and Salāh, and others do not. Inconsistency in a narrator’s reports is an indication of weakness.

Due to this problematic nature of Walīd and his narrations, Imām al-Hākim said:

لو لم يخرج له مسلم لكان أولى

“It would have been better if Muslim did not transmit his (hadiths).”

With respect to the third layer of transmission, either the person or the reliability of all the narrators, meaning Walīd’s grandfather (Jumay‘) and grandmother (Laylā bint Mālik), Mālik, ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Khallād and Khallād, are unknown.

Hence, there are many reasons to regard the narration as unreliable. The team of editors of Musnad Ahmad led by Shaykh Shu‘ayb al-Arnā’ūt graded the chains of this report weak upon a detailed analysis.[16]

Imamate of Women

The vast majority of the scholars have said that the most the narration of Umm Waraqah can prove is the validity of women leading other women in jamā‘ah and that it cannot be cited as valid evidence for women leading men in Salāh[17]. Although the hadīth does not specify who she led, it could not have been men because they are required to offer their Salāh in the masjid, not on private land. Describing the situation in the time of the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd (radiyAllāhu ‘anh) said:

لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُنَا وَمَا يَتَخَلَّفُ عَنِ الصَّلَاةِ إِلَّا مُنَافِقٌ قَدْ عُلِمَ نِفَاقُهُ، أَوْ مَرِيضٌ، إِنْ كَانَ الْمَرِيضُ لَيَمْشِي بَيْنَ رَجُلَيْنِ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ الصَّلَاةِ

“Verily, I observed us at a time when none stayed behind from Salāh (in the masjid) besides a hypocrite whose hypocrisy was known or a sick person, and indeed a sick person would walk between two men until he attended the Salāh.” (Sahīh Muslim)[18]

The ‘ulamā’ have mentioned that the view of the validity of women leading men in Salāh is a marginal opinion rejected by almost near-consensus.[19] Ibn Qudāmah writes in his al-Mughnī:

أما المرأة فلا يصح أن يأتم بها الرجل بحال في فرض ولا نافلة في قول عامة الفقهاء

“As for the woman, it is invalid for a man to follow her in any circumstance, in fard or nāfilah, in the view of the totality of the jurists.”[20]

Following rare and isolated juristic opinions which were condemned by the vast majority of the ‘ulamā’, such as the validity of women leading men in Salāh, is extremely reckless and against the Islāmic spirit of adopting caution in one’s relationship with Allāh. Imām al-Awzā‘ī said: “The one who takes the odd opinions of the scholars leaves Islām.” Sulaymān al-Taymī said: “If you took the slip of every scholar, all evil would gather in you.”[21]

The Fitnah of Amina Wadud

Amongst the fitnahs of end-times which Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) foretold is that true knowledge will diminish and ignorance will become widespread. He (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

من أشراط الساعة: أن يقل العلم ويظهر الجهل

“From the portents of the Hour is ‘ilm will diminish and ignorance will prevail.” (Sahīh al-Bukhārī)[22]

Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) also said:

إن الله لا يقبض العلم انتزاعا ينتزعه من العباد، ولكن يقبض العلم بقبض العلماء حتى إذا لم يبق عالما اتخذ الناس رؤوسا جهالا، فسئلوا فأفتوا بغير علم فضلوا وأضلوا

“Verily, Allāh will not take up knowledge by extracting it from (the hearts) of the slaves, but He will take up knowledge by taking (the lives of) the ‘ulamā’, until He leaves no ‘ālim, people will adopt the ignorant as leaders. They will be asked (questions) so will issue (answers) without knowledge. They will be misguided and misguide (others).”[23]

The knowledge that will begin to disappear near the end of times is the authentic teachings passed down from generation to generation amongst the inheritors of Nabī (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). This is true knowledge which generates fear of Allāh Ta‘ālā and is transmitted via the hearts of men. It does not refer to mere bookish knowledge. ‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd (radiyAllāhu ‘anh) said:

ليس العلم عن كثرة الحديث إنما العلم خشية الله

“Knowledge is not from excessive reporting, but knowledge is fear of Allāh.”[24]

And the scholars would say:

كل من أخذ العلم عن السطور ضال مضل

“All who take knowledge from lines (of books alone and not the hearts of men) are misguided and misguide (others).”[25]

Amina Wadud is one of many modern claimants to Islāmic scholarship and reform. Her views on women-led jamā‘ats and khutbahs circumvents the established view of all four madhhabs, and represents her personal “research,” based on her “progressive” leanings. It is not based on an effort to present the authentic and orthodox teachings of Islām.  Claimants to Islāmic reform like Amina Wadud represent the prevalence of ignorance and the decay of real knowledge in these end-times. Muslims must safeguard their īmān by keeping themselves aloof from such fitnahs. Refer only to reliable ‘ulamā’ of Ahlus Sunnah who have maintained the pristine knowledge of revelation passed down with authentic transmission from the time of Nabī (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) to our time.

And Allah Ta‘ālā Knows Best

Zameelur Rahman

Student Darul Iftaa
UK

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

www.daruliftaa.net


[1] مسند الإمام أحمد، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج٤٥ ص٢٥٣

[2] بذل المجهود، دار الكتب العلمية، ج٤ ص٢٠٥-٧

[3] مسند الإمام أحمد، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج٤٥ ص٢٥٥

[4] مسند أحمد، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج٤٥ ص ٢٥٣-٦

[5] مصنف ابن أبي شيبة، شركة دار القبلة، ج١٨ ص٢١٩

[6] بذل المجهود في حل سنن أبي داود، دار الكتب العلمية، ج٤ ص٢٠٥-٩

[7] سنن الدارقطني، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج٢ ص٢٦١

[8] صحيح ابن خزيمة، المكتب الإسلامي، ص٨٠٩-١٠

[9] مستدرك الحاكم، دار المعرفة، ج١ ص٢٠٣

[10] السنن الكبرى للبيهقي، دار الكتب العلمية، ج٣ ص١٨٦

[11] المعجم الكبير، مكتبة ابن تيمية، ج٢٥ ص١٣٤-٥

[12] مستدرك الحاكم، دار المعرفة، ج١ ص٢٠٣

[13] كتاب المجروحين من المحدثين، دار الصميعي، ج٢ ص٤٢٠

[14]  كتاب الضعفاء، دار الصميعي، ص١٤٤١

[15] تهذيب الكمال للمزي، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج٣٥ ص٣٩٥

[16] مسند أحمد، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج٤٥ ص ٢٥٣-٧

[17] بذل المجهود في حل سنن أبي داود، دار الكتب العلمية، ج٤ ص٢١٠

[18] فتح الملهم، دار إحياء التراث العربي، ج٤ ص٣٠٨

[19] في تحفة المحتاج: يبطل إجماعا إلا شذ (من حاشية بذل المجهود)

[20] المغني، ج٣ ص٣٣

[21] أصول الإفتاء وآدابه للمفتي تقي العثماني، مكتبة معارف القرآن، ص ٢٠٦

[22] فتح الباري، دار السلام، ج١ ص٢٣٥

[23] فتح الباري، دار السلام، ج١ ص٢٥٦

[24] معالم إرشادية، دار اليسر، ص١٥

[25] المصدر السابق، ص١٢٣

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