Islamic Studies Hadith and Gender
Dina El Omari
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0299


The topic Hadith and gender is still quite underrepresented in Islamic studies. Gender here refers to the role of women, the concept of gender roles, and gender categories including gender binary. This underrepresentation may reflect a more general problem with Hadith and its treatment as a religious source. Since the systematization and canonization of Hadith began only around 150–200 years after the death of Muhammad and thousands of these oral traditions were in circulation, the question of their authenticity remains controversial, including those that are described as authentic (sahīh). This has been pointed out not only by some Islamic scholars, but also by Islamic studies since the end of the nineteenth century, a discipline that also deems it necessary to adopt a historical-critical approach with particular focus on the history of the transmission of the Hadith. However, by prohibiting any questioning of their authenticity and bestowing an ahistorical character upon their contents, mainstream Islamic scholarship rigorously rejects, and even dogmatically cordons off, the question of authenticity. Thus, all Hadith are understood synchronously and without their historical context. This ahistorical approach, as well as the uncritical attitude toward authenticity, are extremely problematic, especially regarding the image of women and gender roles, since the material passed down contains a series of misogynistic Hadith as well as problematic Hadith regarding gender roles. Dealing with the material from a gender perspective is necessary because the Hadith still represent an important basis for many areas of religious life. Analysis of the role of women and gender in the Hadith opens the opportunity to question perspectives on masculinity discourses and binary gender concepts, although study of these topics is still quite young. Another approach analyzes the role of women in the transmission of Hadith. In addition, there are questions of methodology for interpreting the material and issues related to authenticity. Therefore, this article first presents some overview works, followed by both primary and secondary sources according to the three main points mentioned.

General Overviews

Hadith and gender is a quite young topic in Islamic studies. The earliest works date to the 1990s and focus on women in Hadith and the behavior of the prophet Muhammad in dealing with his wives. Later works focused on women and their role in transmission of religious knowledge. More recent works try not just to interpret Hadith, but also give ideas of general hermeneutical strategies for analyzing and interpreting Hadith in a gender-equitable way. While the original main focus of analysis was the role of women and their treatment by Muhammad, other debates and discussions have been added more recently, including attention to gender binary, discussions about masculinity, and other gender categories. A general overview of hermeneutics regarding the Hadith can be found in a chapter in Duderija, et al. 2020, which discusses the different ways of understanding and treating Hadith from a gender-equitable perspective. Howe 2021 includes different discussions and perspectives on women in Hadith and as transmitters. Hidayatullah 2014 and Lamptey 2018 discuss in one chapter the treatment of Hadith in feminist exegesis. The latter also tries to combine classical methods with new hermeneutical strategies. Stowasser 1994 gives an overview of women in different Islamic sources including in the Hadith.

  • Duderija, Adis, Alina Isac Alak, and Kristin Hissong. Islam and Gender: Major Issues and Debates. Abingdon, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2020.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781003045182

    The book gives an overview of different topics regarding gender and Islam. Chapter 5 focuses on different concepts and methods of Hadith exegesis and hermeneutics, showing a range between traditional and modern ideas of analyzing, treating, and understanding Hadith in the context of gender equality.

  • Hidayatullah, Aysha. Feminist Edges of the Qur’an. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199359561.001.0001

    The book treats the different methods of feminist exegesis. In this context, Hidayatullah briefly mentions the treatment of Hadith in feminist exegesis, showing the lack of a consistent method.

  • Howe, Justine. The Routledge Handbook of Islam and Gender. London: Routledge, 2021.

    This anthology treats Hadith from a gender perspective and different points of view and in a wide thematic context. Some articles discuss different gender aspects and descriptions of women in the Hadith. Others focus on women and their role in the transmission of religious knowledge, but always as part of wider discussions around gender and Islam.

  • Lamptey, Jerusha. Divine Words, Female Voices: Muslima Explorations in Comparative Feminist Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190653378.001.0001

    Chapter 4 gives an overview of the different feminist engagements with the Hadith. The author focuses on the problems with this literature, and the different interpretative strategies, asking for more systematic engagement with the topic as there is a lack of methodology in the treatment of Hadith in feminist discourses. She also proposes a solution for this problem by combining classical Islamic methods of Hadith interpretation with a hermeneutic of suspicion.

  • Stowasser, Barbara. Women in the Qur’an, Traditions, and Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

    The book analyzes the images of women in sacred history and Muhammad’s wives in the Qurʾan, Qurʾanic exegesis, and Hadith.

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