Will you give information about the role of women in business life in the Era of Bliss?

The Details of the Question

- As far as what I have read in this website, I have reached the following conclusion: "A woman can work unless it is contrary to Islam." My question is a bit related to this issue.
- Were the women in the Era of the Prophet (pbuh) involved in business life unless it was contrary to Islam?
- Will you give some women Companions as examples regarding the issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,


I. Crafting and manual work

It is stated that a woman is more delicate than a man physically, including the weight of the woman's bones and brain.(1)

It is known that women do fine works that require crafting and skill better than men, rather than some hard labor.

It is understood that women worked actively in working life, especially in handicrafts that required special skills. It is narrated that Zaynab bint Jahsh, one of the wives of the Prophet, tanned leather and sewed leather to make them ready to use.(2) It is also stated that Asma bint Umays had the same skill.(3)  It is also understood that women processed the skins of both domestic and wild animals and that they made clothes from them for their husbands.(4) Considering that items such as clothes, shoes, khuffs, cushions, beds, mattresses, linen, containers for liquid and solid food, leather water bottles commonly used in both war and peace were made from tanned leather, the importance of leatherworking will be understood better.

Rayta bint Abdillah, who, we think, made leather, said to the Prophet, "O Messenger of Allah! I am a craftswoman; my husband (Abdullah b. Mas'ud) and my child have nothing. I sell the things that I make with my craft." Then, she asked whether what she spent on her family gained her any thawabs. The Prophet (pbuh) said to her,   

"You definitely gain thawabs from what you spend on them."(5)

One of the jobs that necessitate skill is tailoring. It is accepted that women can be more successful in this job.(6) It is understood that the women living in the Arabian Peninsula in the era of the Prophet started with the production of thread and then made fabrics and clothes from thread. Tools used in the production of thread are mentioned in Madinah.(7) Hz. Aisha said,

"A spindle a woman uses is better than the spear a mujahid uses in the way of Allah holds."(8)

For, it meets an important need in the society.(9)

It is understood that there were weaving looms in the south and north west of the Arabian Peninsula and that women produced fabrics there.(10)

When a woman gave the cardigan she wove with her own hands as a gift to the Prophet, she said, "O Messenger of Allah! I have woven this cardigan with my own hands and brought it to you so that will wear it."(11) We can say that there were weaving looms, though few, in Madinah too.(12)

A woman from Hadramout sent a garment she sewed for the Prophet to him with her son.(13) Abu Nuaym writes that Hz. Aisha made her underwear herself.(14) It is understood that the women patched and mended the old clothes of the family members. It is also narrated that Hz. Aisha sewed a cardigan for the Prophet.(15)

II. Medical Services

It is known that the women living in the Era of the Prophet performed important medical services.

There were women who carried out these services in Madinah during the times of peace too. It is stated that a tent, which we can call the first official hospital in the history of Islam, was located in the mosque of the Prophet and that Kuayba bint Sa'd from the tribe of Aslam, who embraced Islam after the Migration, treated the patients and the injured. In fact, it is also stated that Kuayba took care of those who were hungry, all alone and needy. It is narrated that Sa'd b. Muadh, who was wounded in the Battle of Khandaq, was treated by Kuayba in that tent. (16)

We can say that Asma bint Umays, who was among the first Muslims and who migrated to Abyssinia together with her husband Jafar b. Abi Talib, was an intelligent, cultured and experienced woman and also a good doctor. Umm Salama states that Asma bint Umays made some medication from herbs from India and Yemen and olive oil for the Prophet. It is stated in this narration that Asma learned to make this drug in Abyssinia.(17)

It is pointed out that Umm Salama, who stayed in Abyssinia like Asma, was knowledgeable about some medical issues.(18)

It is understood that Hz. Aisha's sister Asma bint Abibakr treated the female patients who had fever and who were brought to her with cold water.(19)

We can also mention midwifery among the medical services carried out by women. It is reported that the midwife of the Prophet was Abdurrahman b. Awf’s mother ash-Shifa bint Awf. (Ibn Sa’d, at-Tabaqat, III, 124; al-Halabi, Insanul-Uyun, 1,103.) The midwives of the children of the Prophet (pbuh) and Hz. Hz. Fatima were Safiyya bint Abdilmuttalib and Salma (Umm Rafi'), whom the Prophet saved from slavery. (Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 147; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, IV, 274; at-Tabrizi, al-Ikmal (at the end of Mishkat), III, 672.)

It is understood that Arab women had some experience in medicine coming from the Era of Jahiliyya. As a matter of fact, it is stated that Zaynab, who was the doctor of Sons of Awd, prepared medication for the ill people and that her fame spread among Arabs.(20)

There were women called ash-Shifa both in the Era of Jahiliyya and the Era of the Prophet (pbuh). It is thought that this nickname was given to them due to performing medical services.

It is understood that those medical services were not carried out professionally but that they were carried out to serve people.

III. Housework and some works outside the house

There were women who served as nannies and wet nurses both in the Era of Jahiliyya and the Era of the Prophet (pbuh). Once, the Prophet asked the nanny of the two sons of Jafar b. Abi Talib about the state of the children.(21) It is narrated that the Prophet’s son Ibrahim had a wet nurse called Umm Burda from Sons of Najjar(22) and a nanny called Salma.(23) Sometimes the same woman served as both a nanny and a wet nurse; sometimes those duties were fulfilled by different women. However, it can be said that the children were usually taken care of by their own mothers.(24)

The main thing women did in their homes was related to food. The women living in the Era of the Prophet (pbuh) baked bread from the flour they produced in their hand mills.(25) It is stated that when Hz. Fatima was pregnant she had difficulty in baking bread in the oven in the ground; therefore, Hz. Ali asked the Prophet (pbuh) to give them a helper in order to relieve the hard work of his wife.(26)

Cooking was also among the most important tasks of women. Once, Hz. Aisha urged Sawda to eat the soup she made. Hz. Aisha was young and inexperienced; therefore, she could not cook as delicious meals as Sawda did.(27) It is narrated the Safiyya, the Prophet’s wife from Khaybar, cooked very delicious meals.(28) It is also reported that Sawda, one of the wives of the Prophet, was very good at cooking stews and baking barley bread.(29)

Women who were famous for vegetable dishes in Madinah are mentioned.(30)

It is understood that women carried water home in order to meet the water need of their homes for drinking, cleaning and other needs.(31)

Women took care of the cleanliness of their husbands and helped them in their clothes and cleanliness.(32) It is reported that Asma bint Abibakr brought date seeds from a distance of three farsakhs (about 16632 m.) for her husband’s horse.(33)

It is known that the women in the Era of the Prophet also worked outside their homes when it was necessary. When Zayd b. Haritha’s wife Umm Mubashshir, was in a date orchard belonging to her, the Prophet (pbuh) went over to her and said,

"If a Muslim plants a tree or sows some grains and if people, birds or wild animals eat from them, they will be sadaqah for him."(34)

It is stated that the female slaves also worked as shepherds along with other tasks.(35)

It is stated that Hz. Khadija had a black hairdresser called Umm Zafar.(36) It is also stated that there was a woman who did Hz. Aisha’s hair.(37) 

Two women who cleaned the mosque of the Prophet are mentioned. One of them is Harqa and the other is Mihjana, who is reported to have been from Madinah.(38) That both women were black and that some resources mentioned only one woman without mentioning her name can also suggest that those two names belonged to only one woman.

Lastly, we want to include the narrations stating that women were given official duties.

It is narrated that Samra bint Nuhayk al-Asadiyya, who met the Prophet and who lived for a long time after his death, wandered in the market and that she sometimes used the whip she had with her.(39)

IV. Women in business life

It is known that the first wife of the Prophet (pbuh), Hz. Khadija, dealt with trade and that she was one of the richest merchants of Makkah. It is understood that there were other women who had goods in the caravans sent to other cities from Makkah for trade.(40)

The resources state that Jews of Madinah were engaged in trade and they mention a market belonging to Sons of Qaynuqa Jews. Abdurrahman b. Awf, who was one of the Muslims who migrated to Madinah, asked whether there was "a market where goods were sold" in Madinah. They answered him by saying, "Qaynuqa Market"(41)

It is understood that the Muslim women went to that market for business. Ibn Hisham narrates the following incident regarding the issue:

"Abdullah b. Jafar b. al-Miswar b. Mahrama reports the following from Abu Awn: An Arab woman brought some animals with her and sold them in Sons of Qaynuqa market. She sat in a jewelry shop. They asked her to open her face but she rejected. The jeweler attached the end of her dress to her back without making her notice. When the woman stood up, the lower part of her body opened. When the people sitting there started to laugh, she shouted. A Muslim man attacked the jeweler and killed him. The jeweler was a Jew and the Jews killed that Muslim man…"(42)

This incident is mentioned as one of the causes of the war between Sons of Qaynuqa and the Muslims that took place in the second year of the Migration; it is stated that the animals she sold consisted of camels and sheep and that the woman mentioned in the narration was married to a Muslim from Ansar.(43)

A Muslim woman called Qayla al-Anmariyya, who is understood to be active in trade, narrates her talk with the Prophet about trade as follows:  

"In one of his umrahs, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came to Marwa to exit ihram. I went over to him by leaning on my walking stick, sat and said to him,

"O Messenger of Allah! I am a woman who buys and sells things. When I want to buy something, I offer a price that is lower than the price I intend to buy and then I increase it gradually to the price I intend to buy. When I want to sell something, I demand a price more than the price I intend to sell and then I decrease it to the price I intend to sell."

Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah said to me,

"O Qayla! Do not do so. When you want to buy something, offer the price that you intend to buy whether the seller sells it at that price or not. When you want to sell something, demand the price that you want to sell whether people buy it or not."(44)

The resources mention the names of some women who sold perfume in Madinah in the Era of the Prophet. Mulayka Ummus-Saib ath-Thaqafiyya, who was one of them, entered into the presence of the Prophet to sell perfume.

The Prophet asked, her, "O Mulayka! Do you want anything?" She said, "Yes." The Prophet said, "Tell me what you want; I will do it." She said, "I don’t want anything. I only want you to pray for my son." The Prophet went over to the child, caressed his head and prayed for him.(45)

After stating that Abu Jahl’s mother, Asma bint Muharriba, embraced Islam, paid allegiance to the Prophet (pbuh) and came to Madinah, Ibn Sa'd reports an incident from his teacher al-Waqidi between her and Ansar women when she sold perfume during the Era of Hz. Umar.(46) Asma sold the perfumes that her son, Abdullah b. Abi Rabia, whom Hz. Umar appointed as the governor of Yemen(47), sent her in Madinah. It is understood that Asma sold perfumes to Ansar women on account and that she recorded them.(48)

We can also mention Hawla bint Tuwayt, who became famous as Attara (perfume seller) among the women who were engaged in trade.(49)


(1) Muhammed Hamidullah, İslâm'a Giriş, Translated by: Kemal Kuşçu, Ankara, b.t.y., p.210. (5th impression)
(2) Ibn Sa’d, at-Tabaqat, VIII, 108; Muslim, Sahih II, 1021 (Nikah, 9); Ibn Abdilbar, al-Istiab, IW, 308; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, WII, 126.
(3) Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, VI, 370.
(4) al-Bukhari, Sahih, VII, 45 (Libas, 28).
(5) Ibn Sa’d, at-Tabaqat, VIII, 290; Nuaym, Hilya, II, 69; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, WII, 121.
(6) Şemseddin Sami, Kadınlar, Istanbul, 1311, p.27,28.
(7) Ibnul-Jawzi, Talqih, 158; Kattani, Taratib, II, 119.
(8) Ibn Abdirabbih, al-Iqdul-Farid, II, 258.
(9) Abu Nuaym, ibid, II, 46. It is understood that Hz. Aisha also spun yarn.
(10) Ibn Sa'd, at-Tabaqat, I, 277, 351, 453.
(11) Ibn Sa'd, ibid, I, 454; al-Bukhari, Sahih, II, 78. (Janaiz, 29).
(12) al-Azhari, Abu Mansur Muhammad b. Ahmad, Tahdhibul-Lugha, Egypt 1967, X, 591-592 (n-s-j item). al-Bukhari includes the narration related to the issue under the heading "Weaver" in the part where he lists professions like tailoring and carpentry. See al-Bukhari, Sahih, III, 13 (Buyu, 31).
(13) Ibn Sa'd, ibid, I, 351.
(14) Abu Nuaym, Hilya, II, 48.
(15) Abu Dawud, Sunan, IV, 339 (Libas, 22/4074). It is narrated that Jalila bint Abdiljalil dug wells and that she asked the Prophet a question about it. See Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, IV, 252. 
(16) al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, II, 510, 525; Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, III, 250; Ibn Sa’d, at-Tabaqat, VIII, 291; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, WI, 56; Ibn Habib, al-Muhabbar, 411.
(17) Ibn Sa'd, ibid, II, 236.
(18) Ibn Qayyim, Zadul-Maad, IV, 83.
(19) Malik b. Anas, Muwatta, 586 (Ayn 50, 6/15) Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, WI, 346.
(20) Jorji Zaydan, Tarikhu Adabil-Arabiyya, cairo 1957, I, 40; Jawad Ali, al-Mufassal, IV, 620.
(21) Malik b. Anas, al-Muwatta, 584 (Ayn 50, 2/3).
(22) al-Bayhaqi, Dalail, W, 429; Ibn Hazm, Jamhara, 352; as-Samhudi, Wafaul-Wafa, III, 868.
(23) al-Balazuri, Ansab, I, 453; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 144.
(24) Ibn Abdirabbih, al-Iqdul-Farid, II, 245.
(25) Muslim, Sahih, IV, 2091 (Dhikr wa Dua, 19/80); al-Balazuri, Ansab, II, 38; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 117.
(26) Abu Nuaym, Hilya, II, 41.
(27) Ibn Hanbal, Fadail, I, 350; Shabba, Tarikh, I, 39. For the preparation of the soup mentioned in the narration, see Ibn Manzur, Lisanul-Arab, IV, 184 (h-r-r-item).
(28) Abu Dawud, Sunan, III, 827 (Buyu, 91/3568).
(29) Ibn Qutayba, Uyun, II, 369; Ibn Abdirabbih, al-Iqdul-Farid, III, 119; Ibnul-Athir, ibid, VII, 86; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, IV, 278.
(30) al-Bukhari, ibid, I, 225 (Juma, 40) VII, 131 (Isti'dhan, 16).
(31) al-Balazuri, Ansab, II, 38; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 117.
(32) al-Bukhari, Sahih, VI, 60, 61 (Libas, 73, 81).
(33) Ibn Sa'd, at-Tabaqat, VIII, 250-251; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, VI, 347; al-Bukhari, ibid, VI, 156 (Nikah, 107).
(34) Ibn Sa'd, ibid, VIII, 458; Ibn Hanbal, ibid, VI, 420.
(35) Malik b. Anas, al-Muwatta, 486 (Itq, 6); Abdurrazzaq, al-Musannaf, IV, 481; Ibn Sa'd, ibid, I, 494, 495; al-Bukhari, ibid, VI, 225 (Dhabaih was-Sayd, 18).
(36) Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 333.
(37) Ibn Sa'd, ibid, VI, 9.
(38) al-Bukhari, ibid, 1,118 (Salat, 72); Abu Hatim, Asma, 106a; Ibnul-Jawzi, Talqih, 174; Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 85, 263.
(39) Ibn Abdilbar, al-Istiab, IV, 328, 333. 
(40) al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, I, 27.
(41) Kattani, Taratib, II, 4.
(42) Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, 111,51.
(43) al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, I, 176-177; al-Halabi, Insanul-Uyun, II, 475; Hamidullah, Islam Peygamberi, I, 621.
(44) Ibn Sa'd, at-Tabaqat, VIII, 312; Ibnu'l-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 245.
(45) Ibnu'l-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, VII, 270.
(46) Ibn Sa’d, at-Tabaqat, VIII, 300. cf: al-Waqidi, al-Maghazi, I, 39; al-Isbahani, al-Aghani, I, 70.
(47) Ibn Sa'd, ibid, V, 444.
(48) Ibn Sa'd, ibid, VIII, 300-301.
(49) Ibnul-Athir, ibid, VII, 75-76; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, IV, 270. 

(see Yrd. Doç. Dr. Rıza Savaş, Bütün Yönleriyle Asr-ı Saadet’te İslam, Beyan Yayınları: 4/297-306.)

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