Teaching Women to Write: Prohibited in Hadith?
Question: There is a hadith that says don’t teach women ‘kitabat’ (to write). (Al-Mishkat and Abu Da’wud) First of all what did Rasulullah ( mean by ‘kitabat’? Is it the compilation of books? I read in the explanation of this hadith in the book ‘Behnon ki Chadar’ by Abu Talha Muhammad Younis that it means: do not teach your women how to write. So, I’d like to know why he said this when there is another hadith saying the exact opposite, that ‘knowledge is compulsory for every male and female’. So what is the difference between ‘Ilm and ‘kitabat’?
Answer: Unfortunately, we were unable to locate this hadith in al-Mishkat nor in Abu Dawud. However, in the light of what the experts of hadith have ruled, this hadith, ‘Do not teach your women kitabah (writing)’ is classified as very weak. Such a hadith cannot be used to prove anything. (See al-La’ali al-Masnu’ah vol.2 pg.168; al-Kamil of Ibn ‘Adi vol.2 pg.395; Ithaf al-Maharah of Ibn Hajar vol.17 pg.344 and Imdad al-Ahkam vol.1 pg.214-215)
Hence, it’s contradiction of the second hadith quoted by yourself will not be taken into consideration.
On the contrary, Imams Abu Dawud and Hakim (may Allah have mercy on them) have recorded the following narration on the authority of Sayyidatuna al-Shifa bint ‘Abdillah (may Allah be pleased with her) that she said, ‘The Messenger of Allah visited Sayyidatuna Hafsah (may Allah be pleased with her) and I was with her. So the Messenger of Allah asked me, ‘Why don’t you teach her the treatment for namlah (an ulcer on the forehead) just as you have taught her to write.’ (Sunan Abi Dawud hadith 3883; Mustadrak al-Hakim vol.4 pg.56-57)
Imams Hakim and Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on them) have classified this narration as sahih (authentic) according to the standard of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim (may Allah have mercy on them). (Ibid)
‘Allamah Khattabi and Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on them) have stated that this hadith proves the permissibility of teaching women to write.
(Ma’alim al-Sunan vol.4 pg.210; Zad al-Ma’ad vol.4 pg.170)
Muhaddith ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad Thanwi (may Allah have mercy on him) has stated that the hadith which prohibits teaching women how to write is very weak and is even classified as a fabrication by some muhaddithun, hence it is obvious that it cannot be used to challenge this sahih (authentic) hadith which proves permissibility. (Imdad al-Ahkam vol.1 pg.215)
Mawlana ‘Abd al-Hayy Laknawi (may Allah have mercy on him) has offered a similar argument. He has also cited a few examples of some of the pious, knowledgeable women of the past who learnt and knew how to write. (Majmu‘ah Fatawa Laknawi vol.1 pgs.131-136)
And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best