24 Jul 2024

The History of the Qariyah: Women’s Quran Reciters

The History of the Qariyah: Women’s Quran Reciters


Zahra is an Indian Iranian creative who loves learning. Her particular areas of interest are culture & identity. Outside of researching, writing and collating stories together, she’s an avid reader and traveller.

The History of the Qariyah: Women’s Quran Reciters

Have you come across the term ‘Qariyah’ before? 

A Qariyah is a female reciter of the Quran.

As a young girl, I remember fondly listening to my mother’s readings of the Quran. As I grew older, this was replaced with chanting the Quran in unison at the Mosque, all of us desperate to keep up with one another.

Other than these experiences, male recitations of the Quran became the norm. This was something I didn’t give a second thought.

It was just the way it was, right?

It’s only when you hear a female reciting the Quran do you realise it’s been amiss your whole life.

The truth is, culture has grown to eliminate female reciters, especially in the UK, US and Europe.

Ironically to modern-day feminists, Muslim women of yesteryear had liberties that we do not see today.

Civilisations that proclaim to be a beacon of modernity and progressiveness are losing and forbidding Islamic practises that date back to the Prophet’s time (pbuh).

Whilst some may argue that a woman’s voice is their awrah and should be protected, this is a modern principle that has emerged.

Women are not forbidden by Islam to recite the Quran publically. The Prophet (pbuh) himself used to teach women how to read the Quran.

Umm Hisham Harithah reports;

I took the chapter, “Qaf, by the Glorious Quran,” (50:1) from the mouth of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, on Friday. The Prophet would recite it on the pulpit every Friday.

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 872

You can read a more detailed fatwa regarding the female recitation of the Quran here.

Whilst reciting publically as a woman in the Western world is almost unheard of, in many Muslim-majority countries it is still a common practice.

Islamic history is riddled with female reciters, and women’s voices, (quite literally) are invaluable.

Let’s dive into the history of a Qariyah.

The history of female Quran reciters

Umm Waraqa

She was a companion of the Prophet (pbuh) and was one of the few people who knew the entire Quran by heart.

She would teach the Quran to others and her recitations could be heard by those passing her house outside.

Shaikha Mabrukah

Sheikha Munir Abdou

She became the first female Quran reciter on the Radio in Egypt in the 1920s.

At the time, only blind or females were allowed to recite Quran at funerals.

She became quite notorious globally. In 1925, one of the wealthiest merchants in Tunisia offered her EGP 1,000 (a very large sum at the time) to travel to the coastal city of Sfax to recite Quran for him in his estate.

After she declined his offer, he travelled to Egypt and stayed in the country throughout the whole month in order to hear her voice.

The Qariyah App

Ustadah Maryam Amir felt that women’s voices weren’t being given a platform to recite.

A Hafidha and a black belt in Taikwando, she is passionate about representing Muslim women and bringing back their voices.

This is the reason she created the Qariyah app, a platform made by women, for women. It’s a place where women can search and listen to an archive of female recitations of the Quran.

Launched in 2021, the app is compiled of over 60 female reciters from across the world.

In an interview with Haute Hijab, Maryam stated the following.

“I didn’t even know women could be Quran reciters.

“When my local mosque organized an interfaith event and opened the event with a teenage girl reciting the Quran, I was shocked – and I recoiled.

“I had assumed the reason I never saw a woman in this capacity was because it was religiously forbidden for women to be in such a role.

“Women in the West NEED to see other women recite the Quran.

“We need to see other women know that the Quran is for us – how to approach the Quran, how to teach our children the Quran.

“How can we not even see the direct connection between women not even knowing the Quran is also a space for them and the pain and confusion women feel oftentimes when related to issues of Muslim community space and faith? It’s all connected.”

You can find more information on Qariyah’s FAQ page with evidence of female recitation being permitted. All information has been compiled by Ustadah Maryam Amir.




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