Why were there no female Prophets?
Are Prophets only male?
Islam is a religion that encourages inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge at every turn, and I encourage you to never fear asking controversial questions with such respect and hikma=wisdom.
A few of the semantics of prophethood and how they relate to women had been skimmed over and not given proper weight.
Before we begin, we must address the fact that a lack of female prophethood was a deliberate decision and not an accident. We must acknowledge that, had Allah wanted to bestow the great burden and boon of prophethood on a woman, He would have for all things are possible for Him.
And if He wanted her to thrive among her peoples and become a great and renowned prophet, He could have done this too, for the hearts of man are between his fingers.
So why did he not?
One of these reasons is, of course, pregnancy. Women get pregnant. I think sometimes, what with our ability to control childbirth in the modern day, we forget how heavy a weight this fact had on the live if women only a couple generations ago. The pill has only been around since 1950 and legalised in most places after the 70s.
Before this, the lives of women could be counted from one pregnancy to the other. The large majority of married women would be pregnant almost every year. Most of these pregnancies would be dangerous to the point of fatality. Indeed, a large majority of pregnancies would end in still births.
This has an emotional toll on the father, of course, but anyone who has witnessed one of these situations will know that the toll on the mother is so much more extreme.
Female leadership was absolutely possible – if difficult – despite pregnancy in previous ages. The female leader would often choose to not get married, commit at the time dangerous procedures to make themselves infertile, or otherwise marry someone who lived a kingdom away so they would see very little of them.
Now I hear you ask why these possibilities were not employed for female prophethood?
he answer to this is that the function of a prophet is intrinsically different to that of a monarch. A prophet is an example of the people, the best of them all, a model that must be emulated.
To emulate a king is treason in most places for a king is a figure far greater than you will ever be (presumably), someone who has the right to rule over your life without question.
A female prophet would have to take measures against childbirth. This would be necessary to carry out semantics of prophetic duty like constant travel, war, sermons and most of all, constant emotional and physical availability to the community.
But for a woman to commit an act to render herself infertile, she is damaging her own body, throwing away a god-given gift. And if she is born infertile, then she is incapable of one of the defining acts of living creatures (reproduction), and thus less perfect.
And while for ordinary women this is a challenge that must be combated and overcome, for a prophet this would be a disqualifying factor as, except when they are being punished, or when illness is the specific ordeal they are to spend their lives combating, prophets are perfect physical specimens of mankind; healthy, capable and virile.
To have a female prophet unable to give birth is to throw away one of the greatest gifts God has given to all of mankind, and women more so than men; the ability to display rahm, or mercy.
This is one reason, but it is, to me, a major reason that holds much weight. Motherhood is the boon given only to women, the gift of being able to give unconditional love and mercy, to take part in a relationship that God tells us is the closest human equivalent to the love He has for his worshipper.
More than this, children are indebted far more to their mother than their father, and the prophet (Peace be upon him) tells us that even if a son were to carry out pilgrimage with his mother on his back, he will not have repaid the price of one contraction.
Motherhood is the greatest responsibility given to mankind, and to raise the next generation is both a burden and a gift that will reward you both in this life and the hereafter. Fathers and men have not been raised to this high pedestal by God and will never be able to reach it.
But with such a great gift, there comes a price; while we are able to become leaders, rulers, governers, etc., we are incapable of being religious leaders to the level of prophethood – and this is okay. Why?
Because our prophet ( Peace be upon him ), the last prophet alloted to mankind, was surrounded first and foremost by women. He had two mothers, while his father passed before he was born. His early influences were therefore women.
He married at a young age to a much older woman who was his advisor, his closest confidante, and the first person to convert to Islam. This pattern continued; he was a husband of women who advised him on every aspect of his life including political treaties and settlements.
Our prophet ( Peace be upon him ) was also known chiefly as a father of daughters, for he raised only daughters to adulthood and his sons passed young. After the prophet’s passing, the majority of his life was narrated through the eyes of women, with Aisha (RA) said to have narrated roughly half of the hadith deemed sahih.
Are Prophets only male?
Anyone who has studied history will know how rare this is; up until the last 30 or so years, our history, philosophy, science, mathematics, healthcare, and every other academic field you can name has been narrated by men.
Thus, it is ground breaking that most of what we know about the prophet of Islam has been told to us by women. I would challenge anyone to name something that could have increased how much our prophet was influenced and defined throughout his life and even after it by women. It would be difficult for him to be any closer to women, short of being a woman himself.
This much I have told you according to my own thoughts pertaining to the question and my own musings. You may find other reasons more appealing or convincing. But also remember this; after a certain amount of research and fikr, there comes a certain time when you are convinced of the ligitimacy of this religion and become comfortable with your place in it. I do not mean this as a criticism sister, trust me.
I say this as something to look forward to. You will reach a place in your life where, when you pursue the answers to questions, you will do so simply out of pure and genuine curiosity, because somewhere you can’t reach inside you will be an unshakeable beleif that whether or not you ever find the answer to your question, there is one, and it is compelling.
Among the scholars there are a few who count a couple of women among the prophets (Peace be upon them): abu al-Hassan al-Ash’ari, Imam al-Qurtubi and ibn Hazm.
And these have consensus in counting Mariam (Peace be upon her) as one of the female prophets, and they also counted Hawa’/Eve, Sarah, the mother of Musa/Moses, Hajar and Aassiya the wife of pharaoh among them!
When they have been confronted with the Verse (21:7)
And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message]
which excludes women from prophet-hood, they say we agree with this Verse, but we want to point at that this Verse is speaking about Messengers (only), while it doesn’t include the prophet-hood explicitly!
And prophets are not asked to spread the message! So they could keep it for themselves and live following it.
Why have they choose these women?
- The mother of Musa because the revelation or inspiration she was given in (28:7)!
- Mariam because of her dialog with the angle (Jibreel) in (19:17-19) and with other angles in (3:42-43).
According to fath al Bary abu al-Hassan al-Ash’ari considered anybody who has received an order or a prohibition via an angle as a prophet!
they also pointed at these women being chosen by Allah (For example Mariam in 3:42) and in the Sunnah you’ll find this hadith which one may find in Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Jami’ at-Tirmidhi and Sunan ibn Majah.
The other scholars rejected the idea of women being prophets because of Verse (21:7)!
They listed a few points to explain:
- there’s no difference in spreading the message between prophets and messengers
- the quoted revelation might have been through dreams and that could happen to any person no matter if he is a prophet or not!
- the fact that anybody who have talked to a angle is a prophet is unacceptable because of the hadith of Jibreel who let the prophet explain to people their religion and the hadith of the leprosy, the bald-headed and the blind etc.
- the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) never said that dhi-l-Quarnayn was a prophet even if he received a revelation (18:86)Allah said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of] goodness.”
- that the verses about choosing Mariam etc, are no evidence, because Allah said the same about the whole family of Ibrahim and ‘Imran but not all of them are prophets. See for example: for choosing (3:33) and here for choosing and excluding some of them (35:32)!
- the perfection quoted in the hadith is also no sign of prophet-hood, and as Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her) has been counted among the prefect women!
- As Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her) is -also- not a prophet and she has been called by the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) as the master (chief) of the ladies of paradise in many hadith like in Sahih al-Bukhari.
- Mariam has been described as a supporter of truth in (5:75), so if there has been a higher attribute Allah could give her then he would done so, but there’s neither a hadith nor a Verse calling her a prophet.
(Translated and summarized to some extent from this Arabic Article, which is entitled: is/was Hawa’/Eve a prophet)
Why Prophets are only male?
(My answer is basically a quote from this fatwa, which includes the previous part of my answer, which i translated myself!)
The major reasons for that, are due to the requirements of prophet-hood, which are very hard and may be easier to handle for men!
- The role of Messenger requires a great many tasks to be performed: addressing men and women, meeting people in secret and openly, moving throughout the land, confronting liars and establishing proof against them and debating with them … . All of that is suitable for men but not for women.
- The role of the Messenger demands that the Messenger should be in charge of those who follow him.
- Masculinity is more perfect (4:34)
“Men are in charge of women …“
- Women have to cope with things that prevent them from doing many tasks.
A secular view
A Secular writer asks: “Why didn’t Allah chose prophets and messengers among women?” explaining this based on the idea -which is already in the Jewish scripture- that Hawa’/Eve was created from a part of Adam (Peace be upon him), so that the part can’t be higher valuated then the whole thing!
Also the shari’a of Quran -according it- are giving the impression that women are less able, capable and perfect … which finds some backup in the sunnah.
Note that the article is written from a women’s rights perspective!
The article also quotes Freud saying that most prophets and messengers were men because of jealousy: men can’t give birth or give life which a man can’t so they needed a way to show that they can’t be useful by creating ideas, principles, philosophy, literature, create theological theories and pretend prophet-hood.
And in Islam especially the reason might be that the culture was lead by male. He also quotes an example that after Hijra the Quran has highlighted the efforts of the Mu’minyn (males) until Um Salmah asked the Prophet: “O Messenger of Allah! I have not heard Allah mentioning anything about women and emigration.” (see also Jami’ at-Tirmidhi and (3:195))
And Allah knows best!