Torchbearers of knowledge in Islam

Female Scholars in Islam

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons) and al-Jamalullail

The transmission of hadith collections and even the compilation of new ones with very elevated isnads in the post-canonical era was an area in which women could excel. Because they often lived longer than men, women could become the most sought after transmitters of books. Major hadith scholars like al-Khatib al-Baghdadi traveled to Mecca to read Sahih al-Bukhari in the presence of Karima al-Marwaziyya (d. 463/1071, who had an especially elevated elevated isnad in the book, and Fatima al-Juzdaniyya was the main transmitter of al-Tabarani’s works. Until her death in 2008, Muslims students flocked to a small village in Yemen’s Hadramawt Valley to receive a hadith ijaza from the 105-year-old woman Safiyya al-‘Amdiyya.

Independent collections of hadiths by women were very rare; in the early period of hadith they were non-existent. But we know of at least two selections of hadiths from the post-canonical period compiled by women. A twelfth-century woman named Shuhda al-Katiba (d. 574/1178-9) put together a list of 115 hadiths that she picked from books she had been authorised to transmit, often with shorter isnads than the hadiths in the actual books themselves. The Musnad of Amat Allah Miryam al-Hanbaliyya of Nablus (d. 758/1357) has also survived until today.

(Jonathan A.C. Brown. Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle) [1]

In the time of the companions the beloved wife of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., Aishah r.a. soared prominently over both women and men as Cambridge scholar Timothy J. Winter(now Sheikh Dr. Abdul Hakim Murad) and John A. Williams of College of William and Mary cites a Sunni source that says, “‘A’isha was, of all the people, the one who had the most knowledge of law, the one who was most educated, and compared to those who surrounded her, the one whose judgment was the best.'” [2] Both men and women are obligated to search for and acquire knowledge as the hadith of the Prophet s.a.w. says:

في مسند أبي يعلى الموصلي عن أنس عن النبي (ص) :  طلب العلم فريضة على كل مسلم

 وهذا الحديث وإن لم يكن ثابتاً فمعناه صحيح  

“In the Musnad of Abu Ya’la al-Mawsuli, from anas who relates that the prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.”

The meaning of this hadith, though the hadith itself is not well authenticated, is true.” [3]

Hence it is no surprise that many of the greatest minds in Muslim history were women. Winter and Williams make mention of Bint al-Kamal who lectured in Damascus to several leading scholars including the celebrated Muslim jurist/scholar and traveller Ibn Batuta whose journeys spanned more than 75, 000 miles (unsurpassed by any other until 450 years later in the Steam Age). Other reknown female scholars mentioned by Winter and Williams include Karima al-Marwaziyya (who was one of the most famous scholars during her time), Fatima bint al-Hasan, Shuhda the Scribe, Ajiba bint Abi Bakr (Bint al-Kamal’s teacher) and Umm hani who in Winter and Williams’ words “mastered all the great academic disciplines of her time including theology, law, history and grammar, before taking up senior lectuering positions in many of the great academies of Cairo.”[4]

One of the great scholars in the Shafi’i madhhab or school of thought is Imam Al-Suyuti who is described as “…one of the Friends of God and His Signs to creation, the Mujtahid Imam and Renewer of the ninth Islamic century, foremost hadith master, jurist, Sufi, philologist, Ash’ari theologian, and historian, he authored works in virtually every Islamic science.” [5] Among his numerous teachers and instructors were over thirty female scholars. [6]

The following is a rather long, yet non-exhaustive list of more than 259 Muslim female scholars excluding those from among the Prophet’s companions and their successors taken from the Oxford scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi’s preface to his magnum opus Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam [7] *:

Blood or no blood?

Forgiveness comes without blood

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

What exactly is the  cause behind the fascination with blood sucking vampires in the western culture that has given rise to a plethora of vampire themed movies like Twilight and the like? Christianity is the predominant religion in the west. It spends so much time talking about drinking blood and its importance for the attainment of “eternal life”. Could it be that this blood based salvation/atonement doctrine is the impetus behind the popular culture phenomenon of vampires? In the vampire myth the creature sustains its existence by consuming blood. In Christian theology to attain eternal life one must accept the blood of Jesus and in Catholicism in particular the partaking of the Eucharist which involves the drinking and eating of the actual blood and flesh of Jesus is foundational. Can you see the parallel? Is it possible that the popular vampire myth has its roots in the Christian obsession with blood? I leave that for the readers to dwell upon. In this article we shall explore the issue of forgiveness in Christianity and if what it teaches is coherent and true or just plain false.

As we have mentioned above in Christian theology the shedding of Jesus’ blood is foundational. In fact, it is the key to forgiveness and salvation. One Christian blogger named John Chingford wrote an article entitled “Reply to a Rabbi Why There Can’t Be Forgiveness Without Blood Sacrifice”  in which he argues for the Christian case that blood is absolutely necessary to render void the sins of man. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary in its commentary on Hebrews 9 says, “God’s principle is that blood must be shed before sin can be forgiven (Lev. 17:11).”[1] The People’s New Testament Commentary on Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission. Every sin under the law required atonement, and no atonement could be made without blood.” [2] The average Christian says that the only way for sins to be absolved or atoned is through the blood of Jesus.

Mark 1:2 is still an error

Response to Sam Shamoun on Mark 1:2

by Ibn Anwar

I have been away from Unveiling Christianity for a good long while due to engagements elsewhere. However, a couple of days ago a friend of mine brought my attention to an article written by Sam Shamoun in rebuttal to my article on Mark 1:2. Though Shamoun raises some interesting points in his “examination”, his main argument really boils down to a standard Christian apologetic ploy. In this article we will illustrate the deficiencies of Sam Shamoun’s position and reaffirm the conclusion that was made in my previous article on mark 1:2.  This is a counter-rebuttal to his claim “Mark’s Prologue Examined In light of the assertions of an Incompetent Dawagandist”. To begin, let us reproduce the short article that I wrote for the benefit of the readers.

Human Error or Divine Incompetence?

by Ibn Anwar

Can you imagine a book that claims to convey factual information and data making a terrible factual error in its first paragraph? Let’s say we have a book called “101 Facts on Animals” and in the first supposed fact it makes an UNFACTUAL claim. Would you be taking that book seriously anymore or will you consider chucking it in the bin and find other books instead? This is the predicament that Christians face when the claim is made that the Gospel according to Mark is divinely inspired or “god-breathed”. At the very beginning of the book and in the first chapter of Mark we have a truly irreconcilable textual error.

In the beginning was an error….. “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I am sending my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way;” (Mark 1:2) I challenge every Christian in the world to show me where I can find in Isaiah the verse “Behold, I am sending my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way”. Believe me when I say that not even the Pope can help you here. That is because the verse does not exist in Isaiah, although you can actually find it in the Old Testament. To be more specific it is in the Torah. To be even more specific it is in Exodus! The words are different but the meaning is basically the same. “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20) How far apart exactly is Exodus from Isaiah? The answer to that is about 1000 years! How could such a mistake happened if God was guiding the hand of the anonymous author of Mark? Did God forget that it was His prophet Moses and not Isaiah who mentioned the verse? God forbid! It is more reasonable to contend that the reason for the unequivocal error is because Mark was written by anonymous individual who was not guided by God. The text is a clear corruption that should not be attributed to the divine. Some might try to argue that the verse actually reads, “in the Prophets” as opposed to “in Isaiah” as found in the King James Version. No doubt that the KJV based on manuscripts containing such a reading does say that. But that reading is only to be found in the majority of rather late manuscripts e.g. A, E, F, G, H, P, W, S, family 13, the majority of minuscules, Syriac Harclean of the Byzantine version and others. The earliest witness for the reading “in the Prophets” dates only to the fourth century. On the other hand the reading for “in Isaiah” as retained in most Bibles today are based on the most ancient witnesses(manuscripts) such as in Aleph, B, L, D, Q, family 1, 33, 205, 565, 700, 892, 1071, 1241, 1243, 2427, Itala MSS (a, aur, b, c, d, f , ff2, l, q, Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta, Syriac Palestinian, Coptic and so on. The reading is widespread and is found in almost all the Alexandrian, Caesarean and Western witnesses.* Thus the reading “in Isaiah” is closer to the original. Even if for the sake of argument we were to entertain the veracity of the KJV reading “in the Prophets” the textual predicament still remains. Exodus was not by Prophets but by a Prophet i.e. Moses. The Old Testament according to Jewish tradition is divided into three categories namely, Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim. Nevi’im means Prophets referring to the books attributed to Prophets. If the reading “in the Prophets” were to be true then it would be referring to the category of Nevi’im which does not include the Torah wherein Exodus is found. Whichever position one takes Mark 1:2 remains nothing more than a corruption! Mark 1:2 is yet another falsehood in “the book of God”. *Daniel Wallace on Mark 1 -end of article on Mark 1- (

In his response Sam Shamoun makes the claim that I have simply recycled “liberal attacks and criticisms” against the Bible:

Muslim dawagandist Ibn Anwar has become rather fond of rehashing the same old liberal attacks and criticisms against the Holy Bible that have been refuted over and over again. Just recently Ibn Anwar produced a short piece (1; 2) attacking Mark for ignorantly attributing a wrong quote to the Prophet Isaiah in Mark 1:2-3.

He then says that if I was honest I would do good to consult Bible commentaries that will provide me with the data to understand “what Mark was doing here”.

If Ibn Anwar was honest and truly interested in finding an answer to this alleged discrepancy all he had to do was consult some Biblical commentaries which would have provided him with the data to understand what Mark was doing here. In fact he could have found the answer on our site since we have addressed this assertion before, namely in response to another Muslim polemicist named MENJ.

The fact of the matter is that it is Ibn Anwar who is ignorant, not Mark, and he is the one who has made a gross blunder by erroneously assuming that Mark was mistaken since this exposes his ignorance of the Jewish exegetical practices employed during the time of Christ. It was a common practice amongst the Jews to take citations from different biblical writings – especially when such references touched on similar themes or ideas and/or used the same words – and attribute them to a single author. The rabbis even coined a term for this particular method of exegesis, namely gezera shewa.

From the above we can adduce that his main argument that I am wrong is that it was common practice for Jews to make citations  to different sources that have similar themes, ideas or words and attribute them to a single author. He then says that this is a particular method of exegesis used by Rabbis that is called gezera shewa. First of all, let us understand what this word means in the Judaic tradition.

The word itself literally means “equal category”. It is one of the Seven Rules of Hillel who is attributed as the earliest source for the said midrashic or Jewish exegetical principle.[1] Former Dean of the Yale Divinity school Harold W. Attridge explains:

“…the Rabbinic technique gezera shewa, which draws together two passages linked by a common word. At its simplest, this technique interpreted an ambiguous word in one context by its clear meaning in another. The technique could also link passages whose themes or motifs might be mutually illuminating.” [2]

The New Testament Greek manuscripts

Greek New Testament manuscripts vs. Arabic Qur’an and hadith manuscripts

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

Many Christian apologists argue that the Qur’an and hadith are historically unreliable. It is claimed that this is due to the scarcity of early manuscript evidence for either Qur’an or hadith. The latter is claimed to be far more unreliable because the earliest compilations date back to only Bukhari about 200 years after the fact. The following quotation is taken from a Christian paper on the subject captures the essence of such arguments raised against Islam by Christian missionaries :

“Documentary evidence for the Qur’an has always been difficult, due to the paucity of primary documents at our disposal (as was mentioned in the previous section). The oldest Muslim documents available are the Muslim Traditions, which were initially compiled as late as 765 A.D. (i.e. The Sira of Ibn Ishaq). Yet the earliest documents which we can refer to today are those compiled by Ibn Hisham (the Sira of the prophet), and the large Hadith compilations of al-Bukhari, Muslim and others, all written in the ninth century, and thus 200 to 250 years after the fact. They are much too late to be useful for our study here. Therefore we must go back to the seventh century itself and ascertain what documents are available with which we can corroborate the reliability of the Qur’an.” [1]

There are several erroneous claims made in the above quotation. The oldest surviving Muslim documents are not the ‘Muslim Traditions’, but rather the Qur’an itself. The so called “Qur’an of Uthman” at the Topkapi museum date to the late first century or early second century(hijri). Another so called “Qur’an of Uthman” which is kept at the Turk ve islam Eserleri muzesi is also dated to the late first century or early second century(hijri). Two other “Qur’an of Uthman” are found in Egypt (Masjid Al-Hussain, Cairo and Darul Kutub al-Misriyya) with similar dates. Then there are the first and late first century or early first century San’a manuscripts and codices. All of these and many more predate the the biographical works of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham and also the hadith compilations of Bukhari and Muslim. The quotation also erroneously claim that all the hadith compilations date to the ninth century(200-250 after the fact). This is also false. The earliest documentation of hadith that has been discovered predate the Sihah Sittah(six authentic compilations e.g. Bukhari and Muslim) and it is the Sahifa of Hammam bin Munabbih written in the mid-first century(hijri). This has been noted by the hadith scholar Dr. M. Hamidullah in Sahifa Hammam bin Munabbih: The Earliest Extant Work On The Hadith. The compilations of hadith by the four great imams are also readily accessible today. All of them and others predate the compilations of Bukhari and the rest of the sihah sittah. The Christian missionary in the quotation claims that “They are much too late to be useful for our study here”. However, it has just been illustrated that this is an extremely inaccurate assertion. Nevertheless, the Christian author has made the judgment that anything that exceeds 200 years is too late to be of any use. Let us employ this criterion that he has used against Islam on his Holy Bible and see how it fairs. In order to do this I will produce scanned pages from Kurt and Barbara Aland’s The text of the New Testament [2] which was translated from their original Der text des Neuen Testaments in German. Both husband and wife(especially Kurt Aland) are notable textual critics and have worked with other prominent textual critics like Bruce Metzger. Kurt Aland was the head of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Germany and editor of the Nestle-Aland edition of Novum Testamentum Graece (Greek New Testament). Kurt and Barbara Aland list all the papyri, uncials and minuscules from the earliest to the latest. In the table one can easily ascertain that there are only two documents that can be definitely said to belong to the second century C.E. namely, p52 and p90. The other earliest papyri are p32, p46, p64+67, p66 and p77. They are dated to either the late second century or early/mid third century. Note that no single surviving document dates back to the first century in the table! The overwhelming majority of all the Greek texts date from the 3rd to as late as the 17th century! The following is the table from pages 159 to 162 of The text of the New Testament listing all the Greek texts and manuscripts.

Isaiah prophecises Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Isaiah 21:7 and the camel rider

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

Some Christians (not all) cite Isaiah 21:7 as an example of a prophecy concerning Jesus. Jesus is said to have rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as mentioned in John 12:14 and elsewhere in the other gospels.  Tying that with Isaiah 21:7 which mentions a rider on an ass(donkey) they propose that Isaiah saw Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem. That’s all fine, but what about the other part of the verse that mentions a rider on a camel? The gospels do not mention at all Jesus riding on a camel into any city. The following verse is from the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible which is based on the Septuagint.

“And he saw a chariot with two horsemen, a rider upon an ass, and a rider upon a camel: and he beheld them diligently with much heed.” (Isaiah 21:7)

A Critique on the Crucifixion

Difficulties, Contradictions and Problems in the Crucifixion tale

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

“…but they killed him not, nor crucified him…”(Qur’an 4:157)

Jesus’ Crucifixion is the bedrock of mainstream Christianity. It is such an important foundation in Christianity that even sects that have departed from “Orthodoxy” such as Unitarianism and the Jehovah’s Witness have retained the crucifixion. Paul says, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). Without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Because the preaching of Christianity is based on the resurrection it goes without saying that the crucifixion is equally significant and important which is also why the official symbol in mainstream Christianity is the cross.

It is often claimed in Evangelical circles and by Christian missionaries that there is a consensus among scholars and historians both conservative and liberal that Jesus certainly died on the cross. This is misleading. There are scholars who argue that because there is such a paucity in early reliable historical records attesting to Jesus’ existence  that must mean that he is a myth, a legend, a fiction. Granted that the circle of scholars of this persuasion is small in number that does not discount the fact that they are up and about. Tom Harpur who was professor of New Testament and New Testament Greek at Wycliffe(The Pagan Christ), Bruno Bauer (Critique of the Gospels and History of Their Origin), Earl Doherty(The Jesus Puzzle), Prof. G.A. Wells(The Historical Evidence for Jesus), Prof. Michael Martin(The Case Against Christianity) are some of the scholars who have questioned Jesus’ existence. Thus to continue claiming that all scholars both liberal and conservative agree on the crucifixion is untrue. Undoubtedly, a vast majority of scholars say the crucifixion happened, but not without  serious qualification. They do not say it as a fact, but rather as a probable occurence. Historians involved in this area of study base their judgment on probabilities rather than conclusive historical data. Using the historical method scholars comb through available  historical materials, assess them and thereafter produce what they think to be the most probable conclusion. Historians using the critical historical method do not recognise supernatural events because they are the least probable occurences which is why God cannot be in the equation hence discounting both resurrection and Jesus’ ascent to heaven as historical(at least according to the historical method). A person living 2000 years ago would be regarded as dead because it is highly improbable(or impossible) for a man to live for centuries.  Because Jesus lived around 2000 years ago historians conclude that he must have died.  This is of course according to the critical historical method. The real question that historians are interested in is how he died.  And for this they look at the historical records surrounding the person Jesus. According to their perspective based on their research the most probable explanation or cause for Jesus’ death is the crucifixion. Thus many modern (non-Muslim) historians have no qualms over Jesus’ death  itself not because they think that Jesus was factually and definitely crucified but because a man living 2000 years ago cannot still be alive.  In this article we will be looking closely at some of those major data and sources used to propose that Jesus died by crucifixion. God willing, we will illustrate  by proposing nine contentions(using historical and theological arguments) that the historical material employed are insufficient in  proving the crucifixion and that Jesus certainly did not die the shameful death of a crucified man.

Biblical Christian Taqiyyah

Christians lie to promote their religion

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

The activity of Christians promoting their faith through deceit all over the world is not something new to Muslims. We are well aware of the sly tactics employed by Evangelical and Christian missionaries in delivering the message of Christianity to the unbelievers. We know about the Christian Evangelical ship Logos that sails around the world making stops in third world countries like Indonesia and luring the people by giving them gifts in exchange for belief in Christ. How many times have you heard missionary propagandists like Christian Prince and Sam Shamoun throwing accusations of so called “Islamic taqiyyah” at Muslims saying that Islam teaches its followers to use deceit as one of the ways to deliver Islam. The word Taqiyyah comes from the root waqa which means to “to shield/protect oneself”. However, when Christian missionaries talk about Taqiyyah what they mean is that Muslims lie to spread their religion. In this article we will unequivocally show that Christians are the ones who lie and deceive to spread their faith which is incidentally taught by  their Holy Bible(s).