Through their activities, they brought a lot of revenue to Tichit and enriched many families. This was perhaps the reason for the popular Mauritanian proverb, “The woman is the man’s trousers” (Limra’ sirwal al-rajul), for it was a testament to the fact that the women of Tichit were providers and protectors for their husbands and, by extension, their family.
The rule of Usman Dan Fodio was revolutionary, improving the status of women and ensuring that they had equal rights as their male counterparts. Little wonder Nana Asma’u, his daughter became the epitome of women’s liberation at the time. West African Muslims glorify her, celebrate her efforts in expanding the rights of women to intellectualism and to active participation in the affairs of society, reasserting rights that had been selfishly snatched away in preceding generations.
Umm Ad-Darda’ was held by Iyas ibn Mu`awiyah, as an important scholar of hadith of the time and a judge of undisputed ability and merit, to be superior to all the other hadith scholars of the period, including the celebrated masters of hadith like Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Ibn Sirin.
Patriarchal studies along the years had relegated her work as emotional, typical of a woman, and even hysteric and obsessive. However, in a world, where Arabs believed themselves the fathers of poetry, her poetry would not have risen to popularity let alone survived had it just been emotional or beautiful.
It particularly surprised non-Muslims to learn that women, living under an Islamic legal system, could be scholars, holding the authority that comes with being knowledgeable about what Islam commands, and therefore making them sought after and deferred to for their fiqh, for their fatwas, and for their tafsir.
Documentation from Ibn Hajar indicates that Zainab bint al-Kamāl never married. It also tells us that she suffered from ophthalmia – an inflammation of the eye, though it did not seem to impair her career.
Modern analysis on Rabi’a often plagues her spiritual legacy by placing her in contemporary debates of feminism. Without falling within the paradigms set out by Western feminism and the notions that string along with it, Rabi’a focused on the inward unseen immaterial rewards in her life.
Her students came from faraway places, and among them was Al-Shafi’i, the man behind the Shafi’i school of Sunni fiqh. She financially sponsored his education.
“Sitt” at the time was a title attributed to women rulers or women of that calibre. The queen of the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt in 980 bore the title Sitt al-Mulk. There were also female chief qadis who were addressed as Sitt al-Qudat, for their expertise in the fields of hadith and fiqh in Damascus during the 14th century. Transmissions of the hadiths from Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Contemporary historians failed to do justice to Lubna’s legacy. The why can be easily answered by the fact that she was a woman. A woman no less who earned her right to fame through skills and hard work. A woman who wasn’t the wife of someone influential, nor the daughter of a famous man.