6 Muslim women who changed the world

Muslim women have been changing the world for the better for centuries. Excelling in the fields of science, medicine, architecture and politics, Muslim women have been paving the way.

Their struggles and victories have inspired us to continue to work towards equality and a better world for us all. Here are six Muslim women from past and present that are definitely worth commemorating.


Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto | WARN

Benazir Bhutto’s life and legacy have broken endless barriers for women in Pakistan and across the world.

The first woman to lead a major political party in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007, but her memory has lived on to inspire women to smash glass ceilings and get out there and make it happen.

Benazir Bhutto’s life was not free of controversy, yet she continues to be an inspiration for women and girls in Pakistan and beyond. Those who set out to carve a life and career based on the idea that, against the odds, gender cannot and will not stop females from achieving their potential and their dreams. And that is Benazir Bhutto’s real legacy.


Rufaida Al- Aslamia

Rufaida Al-Aslamia was an Islamic medical and social worker at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

As one of the first women to accept Islam in Madinah, Rufaida was at the centre of the birth of Islam and is widely recognised as the first Muslim nurse. She also trained a group of women as nurses who accompanied soldiers in battle and received equal pay.

Her influence did not stop there, as a talented social worker, Rufaida helped with social issues, child care, providing support and assistance to orphans, the disabled and the poor.

Rufaida Al-Aslamia’s work helped save lives and promote wellbeing at a critical time in Islamic history, which is why she is still remembered today as a pioneer in her field.


Tawakkul Karman

Tawakkul Karman | WARN

Tawakkul Karman is a journalist, politician, human rights activist and the first Arab woman to win Nobel Peace Prize.

The Yemeni born, multi talented woman has supported human rights activists and movements for change in the Middle East and beyond.

Tawakkul Karman co-founded ‘Women Journalists without Chains’, an organisation that promotes human rights, freedom of expression and democratic rights.

On female empowerment, Tawakkul Karman said, “Women should stop being or feeling that they are part of the problem and become part of the solution. We have been marginalised for a long time, and now is the time for women to stand up and become active without needing to ask for permission or acceptance.”


Razia Sultan

Razia Sultan was the first female ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, a vast Muslim kingdom in the Indian subcontinent that lasted more than 300 years. Despite the objections of the Turkish nobility against a woman becoming a ruler, Razia triumphantly claimed her rightful throne.

This impressive woman was not only trained to lead armies and manage the kingdom from a young age, she also refused to be addressed as ‘Sultana’, as it implied that she was the wife or consort of a Sultan. She would only answer to the title of Sultan.

Amongst other tradition defying acts, Razia chose to dress in men’s clothes and rode an elephant as she led her army into battle. She built schools, research centres and public libraries while fighting off opponents and juggling relationships with the nobility.

A great inspiration for a Muslim woman in power.


Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid | WARN

Dame Zaha Hadid was a world renowned British Iraqi architect who dazzled the world with her incredible designs.

Widely regarded as the best female architect of the modern age, Zaha was the first woman and the first Muslim to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004.

Zaha Hadid was also seen as an inspiration to her peers, a highly experimental visionary who defied the odds to create designs that are as impressive as they are cutting edge. Her work was not limited to buildings, she also designed furniture, cars and footwear.

The formidable Zaha Hadid sadly passed away earlier this year, but her groundbreaking legacy lives on in her work across the world.


Zaynab bint Ali

Zainab was the daughter of Imam Ali and his wife Fatimah, daughter of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who was highly respected and revered for her tremendous courage and audacity in defending her family and her blood line.

A symbol of strength in the face of adversity, Zainab was a pious Muslim who taught women the essence of the Quran. She also played a heroic role in protecting members of her family against tyranny and gave one of the most passionate sermons in Islamic history.

Zainab bint Ali’s story has lived in the memory of Muslims across the world as a source of might and defiance against adversity.


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