We are now going to meet one of the greatest Faqeehah (woman-scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence) of her time. She was renowned for her grounded knowledge of Hanafi Jurisprudence and was no other than the daughter of the great scholar and jurist, Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Abu Ahmad `Ala' al-Din al-Samarqandi (rah), whose book ‘Tuhfat al Fuqaha’ is well-known by the scholars and students of knowledge. Not only did she learn Fiqh from her father, but she memorised his book ‘Tuhfat al Fuqaha’.
Being a jurist in itself is no small matter; one needs to be well-acquainted with the Qur’aanic verses, ahaadeeth of the Prophet (saws) and the principles of the Madhab they wish to base their ruling on. Further they need to have knowledge of the circumstances and needs of the contemporary world. Her knowledge was such that it exceeded her husbands, who would consult her for her opinions, especially when he erred in passing a fatwaa.
Her name was Fatimah bint Muhammad ibn Ahmad (rah) and her father had married her to ‘Alaa’ al Din Abu Bakr ibn Mas’ud al-Kasaani (rah), who was highly distinguished in the fields of al-usul and al-furu'. He wrote a commentary on Tuhfat al-fuqaha' entitled Bada'i` al-sana'i, and showed it to his Shaykh (the father of Fatimah), who was delighted with it and accepted it as a mahr (dowry) for his daughter, although he had refused offers of marriage for her from some of the kings of Byzantium. The fuqaha' of his time said,
"He commentated on his Tuhfah and married his daughter."
Before her marriage, Fatimah used to issue fatwas (religious edicts and verdicts) along with her father, and the fatwas would be written in her handwriting and that of her father. After she married the author of al-Bada'i', the fatwas would appear in her handwriting and that of her father and her husband. Her husband would make mistakes, and she would correct them. Ibn al-‘Adim says,
‘My father narrated that she used to quote the Hanafi madhab (doctrine) very well. Her husband al-Kasaanee sometimes had some doubts and erred in the [issuing of a] fatwa; then she would tell him the correct opinion and explain the reason for [his] mistake.’
Surprised? But, as we will come to see, there were many like Fatimah bint Muhammad who would follow her footsteps in the coming centuries.