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Female Religious Scholars of Classical Islam: Between Creativity and Copying with Asma Sayeed


Institute for Middle East Studies

Asma Sayeed will explore the history of women as religious scholars from the first decades of Islam through the early Ottoman period. Focusing on women’s engagement with hadīth, she analyzes dramatic chronological patterns in women’s hadīth participation in terms of developments in Muslim social, intellectual and legal history, challenging two opposing views: that Muslim women have been historically marginalized in religious education, and alternately that they have been consistently empowered thanks to early role models such as ‘Ā’isha bint Abī Bakr, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad.


  • Asma Sayeed received her PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. She was previously Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Lafayette College, where she taught courses in Islam and World Religions. She has published on topics related to Muslim women and their religious participation in journals such as Studia Islamica and Islamic Law and Society and has contributed a number of encyclopedia articles on women’s history in early and classical Islam. In 2010, she undertook archival research in Syria on Muslim women’s education in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods under the auspices of a Fulbright fellowship. Her current project relates to Muslim education and in particular to an examination of texts and textual practices in diverse regional and historical contexts.