I LOVE this because there has always been this belief that Muslim women, besides Hadhrat Khadija (RA), did not participate in society and were simply good mothers and wives. At least that is how the version of Islam was taught to me. In regards to Hadhrat Khadija (RA) I was even taught that it does not matter that she worked, because she worked in the pre-Islamic era and therefore the laws on how women should stay at home had not been revealed yet.
I love this also, because when I DID learn about how women participated in their communities, it usually was how they participated as Islamic jurists or hadith collectors. There was little mention of them participating in society as something not related to Islam. Look at this, this lady was appointed as a public administrator by Caliph Umar (RA)! She was one of the few literate people (which included men and women) in the pre-Islamic era, which is a HUGE thing. She was a scholar and her opinions were trusted by both Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Caliph Umar (RA). She participated in society, helped her Muslim community, with the knowledge and skills she had.
I wish our Islamic school classes focused on learning about other women, but it’s sad how little we learn about other women and focus on ‘being good wives and mothers.’ Even today, from the Masjid classes I have attended, there is little focus on how wonderful the women during the time of the Prophet (SAW) were.
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah (Radi Allahu Anha) was among one of the few individuals during the pre-Islamic era who could read and write. She is considered to be one of the first female teachers in Islam, and even taught Hadhrat Hafsa (Radi Allahu Anha) how to read and write. During the time of the Caliphate of Hadhrat Umar (Radi Allahu Anhu) she was appointed as a public administrator in charge of Madina market. Her position was similar to the combined position of an administrator and accountant. She was considered to be a scholarly and intelligent woman, and Hadhrat Umar (Radi Allahu Anhu) would regularly consider her opinions.
She was also skilled in medical practices, particularly in the practice of ruqyah*. Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) even asked her to teach her knowledge of ruqyah to other women.
*More information on Ruqyah