"There is instruction in their stories for people of intelligence. This is not a narration that has been invented, but a confirmation of all that came before, a clarification of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for people who believe" (Quran, Surah Yusuf: 111).
We are constantly reminded of the pearls of wisdom found in the stories and examples of people found in the Quran; in this case, the narratives and stories of women. Our holy book serves as a universal manual for moral guidance and historically relevant accounts. All the women mentioned in the Quran are represented not only in the historical realm but also in light of certain lessons to be gained by humanity. Some are depicted as role models while others are condemned for their actions.
The approximate number of women to have been mentioned in the Holy Quran is twenty-four. In His book, Allah (SWT) talks about pious women who dedicated their lives to Allah (SWT) and submitted to Him wholeheartedly so people from every time and era, can look upon them and learn from their exemplary characters. However, Allah (SWT) also means to warn His believers by mentioning those women who disobeyed Him, refused to believe, and suffered the consequences of their actions.
This article will seek to highlight six of the most prominent female characters in the Quran and delve deeper into their characters and the roles they played. Their lives serve as timeless lessons for all of us, so let us take a closer look:
1) Hawaa (Eve)
In the Quran, hawaa is not referred to by her name, but as the ‘the spouse of Adam’. Being the first female that Allah (SWT) created, along with her husband, Adam, the first man, they were both sent to Paradise. Upon persuasion by satan, they ate from a certain tree bearing fruit, despite Allah’s (SWT) forbiddance. They were then, taken out of Paradise and sent on earth, as punishment for their sin, for which they spent the rest of their lives repenting for. They continuously begged for Allah’s (SWT) forgiveness as stated in the Quran:
“Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost!” (Quran, Al-A’raf; Verse 23)
Hawaa stands for human equality, in all respects. Her character also highlights the significance of repentance and gives hope to those who fall in sin and think they can never make amends. There is always hope for those who repent constantly and ask for Allah’s (SWT) forgiveness, for He will surely listen.
2) Maryam - (Mary)
She is the only woman who has been mentioned in the the Holy Quran by her first given name. She stands for everything that is virtuous and pure and holds an esteemed position in Islam. Allah (SWT) named a whole surah after her in His Holy book, which is a magnificent honor in itself.
“Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations” (Qur’an 3:42).
Maryam (AS) held an inherent link with Allah (SWT) ever since childhood. Upon her maturity, Maryam (AS) was visited by an angel who gave her glad tidings of being blessed with an offspring, even though she had never been touched by a man. She gave birth to our Prophet, Hazrat Issa (AS) and died a few years after her son’s death. She has been exalted amongst all women in Islam for her chastity and purity, for she always stood strong and had undying faith in Allah (SWT).
3) Umm-e-Musa (The mother of Hazrat Musa (AS))
She gave birth to Hazrat Musa (AS) during the dangerous reign of the Pharaoh Rameses, who decreed the killing of all male Hebrew infants in the land. Hazrat Musa’s mother was addressed by Allah (SWT) through a ‘wahi’(a direct message from Allah SWT)), where she was instructed to have faith in His plans and cast him in the river so Hazrat Musa (AS) may live.
“Suckle him and, when thou fearest for him, then cast him into the river and fear not nor grieve. Lo! We shall bring him back unto thee and shall make him (one) of our messengers” (Quran, 28:7).
She did as instructed and Hazrat Musa (AS) lived to become an apostle of Islam. Her actions give her an elevated status in our religion for her faith in Allah (SWT) was unshakable and she did as Allah (SWT) willed despite her motherly instincts.
4) Bilquis (Queen of Sheeba)
She was the queen of Sheeba and was given the name ‘Bilquis’ by the Arab Jews. She’s described in the Quran as a powerful and wise sovereign of her people. She was invited by Sulemaan (AS) (the great king) to accept Islam. Despite her advisor’s wishes, she saw truth and purity in Sulemaan’s (AS) words and became convinced of the truth that is Islam.
“He said: ‘Transform her throne out of all recognition by her: let us see whether she is guided (to the truth) or is one of those who receive no guidance.’ So when she arrived, she was asked, ‘Is this thy throne?’ She said, ‘It was just like this, and knowledge was bestowed on us in advance of this, and we have submitted to Allah (in Islam)” (Qur’an 27:41-42).
Amidst great paganism and disbelief, she converted to the ultimate faith of monotheism and the path of righteousness.
5) Wife of Hazrat Lutt (AS) and Wife of Hazrat Nuhh (AS)
In the Quran, Allah (SWT) not only points out the believing women, but also those who purposely denied Him and suffered their abominable fates. What’s interesting to note here is that both of these women were the wives of Prophets.
The wives of Hazrat Lutt (AS) and Hazrat Nuhh (AS) refused to believe in the monotheistic faith of Islam, despite being blessed with Prophetic husbands, who were chosen by God Himself and who received spiritual revelations and possessed great characters. Both of them failed to see their righteousness and chose to betray them, and in turn, betrayed Allah (SWT). It’s mentioned in the Quran:
“Allah has made an example for those who are an unbelieving people: the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut. They were married to two of Our servants who were believers, but they betrayed them and were not helped at all against Allah. They were told: "Enter the Fire along with all who enter it." (Quran, Surat at-Tahrim: 10)
Despite having such good fortunes and such close relations with Allah’s (SWT) prophets, they chose not to benefit from God’s infinite mercy and blessings. They incurred Allah’s (SWT) wrath by their own actions and brought it upon themselves.
The wife of Hazrat Lutt (AS) was wiped out along with the rest of the disbelievers in the land, and the wife of Hazrat Nuhh (AS) drowned in the great flood. Such was the fate of the disbelievers.
Conclusion: It is important to note that Allah (SWT) refers to certain individuals in the Quran for a greater purpose of learning for His servants. These individuals illustrate different lessons and teachings for us to learn from and implement in our daily lives. If we wish to improve ourselves and bring change in our spiritual lifestyle, one needs to look upon the role models and tragic lessons of Islam, and these women serve that purpose.