Female figures in the Quran

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This article is about female figures that appear in the Qur'an. For the roles, rights, and duties of women as laid out in the Qur'an, see Women in Islam.

Female figures in the Qur'an are important characters and subjects of discussion in the stories and morals taught in Islam. Some of the women in the Qur'an are portrayed in a positive light, while others are condemned for their actions. Mary (Maryam - مريم) is the only woman mentioned in the Qur'an by name. The others' names come from other traditions. Most of the women in the Quran are represented as either the mothers or wives of certain leaders and prophets. Women in the Quran retained an amount of autonomy from men in some respects; for example, the Quran describes women who converted to Islam before their husbands did, or women who took an independent oath of allegiance to Muhammad.1


Eve is not mentioned by name in the Quran. God created Adam and Eve and bestowed them a place to live in namely Paradise. The first human sin was by Adam and Eve who both ate a fruit forbidden to them by God:

"So We said: O Adam! This is an enemy to you and to your wife; therefore let him not drive you both forth from the garden so that you should be unhappy; "

— Qur'an, Sura 20 (Ta-Ha), ayat 1172

Wives of Noah and Lot

The Quran speaks of the wives of Noah (Arabic:Nuh) and Lot (Arabic:Lut) in contempt:

"God sets forth an example to those who disbelieve: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot, they were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they availed them naught against God, and it was said: Enter both the fire with those who enter."

— Qur'an, Sura 66 (At-Tahrim), ayat 103

Daughters of Lot

The Qur'an speaks of them in suras 11 (Hud) and 15 (Al-Hijr):

And his people came rushing towards him and they had been long in the habit of practising abominations. He said: "O my people! Here are my daughters: they are purer for you (if ye marry). Now fear God and cover me not with shame about my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man?" They said: "Well dost thou know we have no need of thy daughters: indeed thou knowest quite well what we want!"

—Qur'an, Sura 11 (Hud), ayat 794

Sarah, Wife of Abraham

Sarah, the wife of the Prophet Abraham, is also mentioned in the Qur'an; where it recounts how she was astonished by the news received by her two children despite of her old age:

And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed. But We gave her glad tidings of Ishâq (Isaac), and after Ishâq, of Ya'qûb (Jacob). (71) She said (in astonishment): "Woe unto me! Shall I bear a child while I am an old woman, and here is my husband, an old man? Verily! This is a strange thing!"

— Qur'an, Sura 11 (Hud), ayat 71-725

Aziz's Wife and the Ladies

The story of Yusuf and the wife of the 'Aziz is also recounted in the Qur'an.

But she in whose house he was, sought to seduce him from his (true) self: she fastened the doors, and said: "Now come, thou (dear one)!" He said: "God forbid! Truly (thy husband) is my lord! He made my sojourn agreeable! Truly to no good come those who do wrong!"

—Qur'an, Sura 12 (Yusuf), ayat 236

"When she heard of their malicious talk, she sent for them and prepared a banquet for them: she gave each of them a knife: and she said (to Joseph), "Come out before them." When they saw him, they did extol him, and (in their amazement) cut their hands: they said, "God preserve us! No mortal is this! This is none other than a noble angel!"

— Qur'an, Sura 12 (Yusuf), ayat 317

"The king said (to the ladies): "What was your affair when ye did seek to seduce Joseph from his (true) self?" The ladies said: "God preserve us! No evil know we against him!" Said the 'Aziz's wife: "Now is the truth manifest (to all): it was I who sought to seduce him from his (true) self: He is indeed of those who are (ever) true (and virtuous)."

— Qur'an, Sura 12 (Yusuf), ayat 518

Mother and sister of Moses

The Qur'an narrates that Mūsā is watched by his sister, refuses the milk of other nurses and is suckled by his own mother.9

"And We revealed to Musa's mother, saying: "Give him suck, then when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear nor grieve; surely We will bring him back to you and make him one of the apostles." And the heart of Musa's mother was empty she would have almost disclosed it had We not strengthened her heart so that she might be of the believers. And she said to his sister: "Follow him up. So she watched him from a distance while they did not perceive."

— Qur'an, Sura 28 (Al-Qasas), ayat 7-1110

Wife of Moses

"And when he arrived at the watering (place) in Madyan, he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said: "What is the matter with you?" They said: "We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take back (their flocks): And our father is a very old man. So he watered (their flocks) for them; then he turned back to the shade, and said: "O my Lord! truly am I in (desperate) need of any good that Thou dost send me! Afterwards one of the (damsels) came (back) to him, walking bashfully. She said: "My father invites thee that he may reward thee for having watered (our flocks) for us." So when he came to him and narrated the story, he said: "Fear thou not: (well) hast thou escaped from unjust people. Said one of the (damsels): "O my (dear) father! engage him on wages: truly the best of men for thee to employ is the (man) who is strong and trusty. He said: "I intend to wed one of these my daughters to thee, on condition that thou serve me for eight years; but if thou complete ten years, it will be (grace) from thee. But I intend not to place thee under a difficulty: thou wilt find me, indeed, if God wills, one of the righteous."

— Qur'an, Sura 28 (Al-Qasas), ayat 23-2711

Asiyah, Wife of the Pharaoh

The wife of the Pharaoh, known in some traditions as Asiyah, is mentioned in the Quran:

"And Allâh has set forth an example for those who believe; the wife of Fir'aun (Pharaoh), when she said: "My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Fir'aun (Pharaoh) and his work, and save me from the people who are Zâlimûn (polytheists, wrong-doers and disbelievers in Allâh)."

— Qur'an, Sura 66 (At-Tahrim), ayat 1112

The Queen of Sheba (Bilqis)

The Quran speaks of the Queen of Sheba, also known as Balqees:

"I found (there) a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne. Quran 27:23

"I found her and her people worshipping the sun besides God: Satan has made their deeds seem pleasing in their eyes, and has kept them away from the Path,- so they receive no guidance,- Quran 27:24

She said: "Kings, when they enter a country, despoil it, and make the noblest of its people its meanest thus do they behave. Quran 27:34

"But I am going to send him a present, and (wait) to see with what (answer) return (my) ambassadors." Quran 27:35

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 God (in Islam)." Quran 27:42

She was asked to enter the lofty Palace: but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water, and she (tucked up her skirts), uncovering her legs. He said: "This is but a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass." She said: "O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul: I do (now) submit (in Islam), with Solomon, to the Lord of the Worlds." Quran 27:44

Wife of Imran

The wife of Imran (father of Mary), and thus Isa's grandmother is not named in the Qur'an, but referred to in narratives. In Judeo-Christian tradition she is identifeid as Hannah. According to the Qur'an, Imran and his wife were old and childless, and she invoked God for a child:13

"Behold! a wife of Imran said: "O my Lord! I do dedicate into Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things." "When she was delivered, she said: "O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!"- and God knew best what she brought forth- "And whatever no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from Satan, the Rejected."

— Qur'an, Sura 3 (Ali Imran), ayat 35-3614


Mary (Maryam)

A key female character in the Quran is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The name of Maryam frequently appears in the Qur'an alongside that of Isa (Jesus) in the format "ʿĪsā Ibn Maryam" (meaning Jesus the son of Mary).15 surah 19 is named after her:

When she was delivered, she said: "O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!" - and God knew best what she brought forth - "And not is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected." Quran 3:36

God sent Gabriel to Mary to give her tidings of a son:

Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God; Quran 3:45

The Qur'an also states that the conception of Jesus by Mary was miraculous:

She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: God createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is!"' Quran 3:47

"Mary the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants)." Quran 66:12

Mary is especially revered by many Muslims, and she is praised much by the Quran:

"Behold! the angels said: 'O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified thee - chosen thee above the women of all nations.'" Quran 3:42

Wives of Muhammad

The wives of Muhammad are known to Muslims as the "Mother of the believers", or in Arabic, "umm'ul mu'mineen', and they are mentioned in several places, but never by name.

"The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers."

—Qur'an, Sura 33 (Al-Ahzab), ayat 616

'O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to God), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner."

—Qur'an, Sura 33 (Al-Ahzab), ayat 3217

Daughters of Muhammad

The Qur'an speaks of their in surah 33 ver. 59

"O Prophet! tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."

— Qur'an, Sura 33 (Al-Ahzab), ayat 5918

The woman who complained to Muhammad

The Qur'an speaks of her in surah 58 (Al-Mujadila), her name being Khoulah bint Thalabah.

"God has indeed heard (and accepted) the statement of the woman who pleads with thee concerning her husband and carries her complaint (in prayer) to God: and God (always) hears the arguments between both of you: for God hears and sees (all things)."

— Qur'an, Sura 58 (Al-Mujadila), ayat 119

The verses that follow are to restore her rights (as well as those of any other woman in her position), when the husband does a specific pre-Islamic tradition.

Wife of Abu Lahab "Umm Jamil bint Harb"

The Qur'an mentions wife of Abu Lahab in Sura Al-Masadd (Sura 111), where it mentions how she will be punished in Hell for hurting Muhammad alongside her husband, Abu Lahab.

"His wife shall carry The (crackling) wood as fuel. A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre Round her (own) neck."

—Qur'an, Sura 111 (Al-Masadd), ayat 4-520

See also


  1. ^ "From the article on Women and Islam in Oxford Islamic Studies Online". Oxfordislamicstudies.com. 2008-05-06. doi:10.1093/0198297688.003.0006. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  2. ^ Quran 20:117
  3. ^ Quran 66:10
  4. ^ Quran 11:79
  5. ^ Quran 11:71–72
  6. ^ Quran 12:23
  7. ^ Quran 12:31
  8. ^ Quran 12:51
  9. ^ "Musa", Encyclopaedia of Islam
  10. ^ Quran 28:7–11
  11. ^ Quran 66:23–27
  12. ^ Quran 66:11
  13. ^ "Maryam", Encyclopaedia of Islam
  14. ^ Quran 3:35–36
  15. ^ "Maryam", Encyclopaedia of Islam
  16. ^ Quran 33:6
  17. ^ Quran 33:32
  18. ^ Quran 33:59
  19. ^ Quran 58:1
  20. ^ Quran 111:4–5

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