This article examines the roles women played in the transmission of knowledge in Cairo in the fifteenth century. The main source base is the life stories of the 1075 women in the last volume of Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Sakhawi’s (d. 1497) al-Daw’ al-Lami‘ li-Ahl al-Qarn al-Tasi‘. This work provides clear evidence that women of Cairo, who received their initial education from their family members, could participate in educational activities in different places such as mosques, madrasas, khanqahs and studies circles in the fifteenth century. Many women pursued education in the fields of Qur’anic exegesis, prophetic tradition, jurisprudence and Sufism. After establishing themselves as scholarly authorities, women acted as teachers and taught people, including men. Especially, the female scholars, who acquired the knowledge of the prophetic tradition with the shortest chain of transmitters (‘ali isnad), attracted even the best scholars to their teaching sessions. Beyond all these, women, especially those from the elite families, contributed to the development of education and transmission of knowledge by founding new educational institutions and making generous foundations for them.

Büşra S. Kaya
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