Even though it is not obligatory for a Muslim to get married, Muslim women who elect to remain single for whatever reasons they might have are sometimes frowned upon or criticized for doing so. Could you please give us some examples of eminent Muslim women from our history who had chosen to remain single and who were, at the same time, good role models and examples of piety and achievement?
Sheikh Muhammad al-Qannâs
Islam encourages its followers to get married. Allah says: “And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, Allah will make them free from want out of His grace; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing” [Sûrah al-Nûr: 32]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “O young people, whoever can afford it let him marry, as it will help him to lower his gaze and protect his chastity.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5065) and Sahîh Muslim (1400)]
Allah orders those who cannot get married to live in chastity. Allah says: “And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until Allah makes them free from want out of His grace” [Sûrah al-Nûr: 33]
For the question about pious women who never married, I would say that the biographical and historical source works mention some women who never married. It is difficult to be sure in some cases regarding the marital status of people discussed in classical historical and biographical works, since most of these books do not show much concern about marriage, maybe because they assume that naturally the people under discussion were married. However, I have come across some names of some eminent women who definitely had never married.
Among them are the following:
1. Umm Shurayk: A woman from Banî `Amir b. Lu’ay who granted herself to the Prophet (peace be upon him) but he did not accept her. She did not marry until she died. Her name is Ghaziyyah bint Hakîm. She was a pious woman. [al-Bidâyah wa al-Nihâyah (5/302)]
2. Umm `Abd Allah bint `Abd Allah b. Ja`far b. Abî Tâlib: Her mother was Zaynab bint `Alî b. Abî Tâlib. Al-Zubayrî mentions her in Nasab Quraysh (page 83). He said that she never married.
3. Umm al-Kirâm bint Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Hâtim al-Murwaziyyah: She spent her life in Mecca. She was a good writer and a scholar. She was a student of Muhammad b. Makkî al-Kashmihînî and she used to write with exceptional accuracy. She taught the Sahîh hadîth compilations several times. She was virgin and never married. She lived a long time and her chain of hadîth transmission was highly honored. She died in 465H. [Siyar A`lâm al-Nubalâ’ (18/233)]
4. Umm `Abd Allah Habîbah bint al-Khatîb `Iz al-Dîn Ibrâhîm b. `Abd Allah b. Abî `Umar al-Maqdasiyyah: She was a righteous and pious female sheikh. She died at the age of 91 years old. She never married. She narrated from Ibn `Abd al-Dâyim and others. In the year 654 AH, she was conferred with the authorization to teach by Muhammad b. `Abd al-Hâdî, Ibn al-Surûrî, Ibn `Awwah and others. She was a black woman. [Al-`Ibar (1/305)]
5. Umm `Abd Allah Fâtimah bint Sulaymân b. `Abd al-Karîm al-Ansârî: She died in Rabî al-Thânî 708H in Damascus when she was in her nineties. Shee learned from al-Musallam al-Mâzinî, Karîmah and Ibn Rawâhah. She earned her authorization to teach from al-Fath, Ibn `Afîjah and others. She was pious and narrated many hadîth and was the sole narrator of some. She never married. [al-`Ibar (1/270)
6. Atamm al-Rajâ’, the Preacher: She was a pious woman who used to be a preacher for women in Baghdâd. She died as a virgin and never married. She was known as Ibnat al-Dabbâs. She had a seminary in al-Rayâhîn.
She had studied under Abû al-Hasan `Ali b. Muhammad b. `Ali b. al-`Allâf. Her uncle was al-Mubârak b. Fâkhir b. Ya`qûb b. al-Dabbâs al-Nahawî . `Abd al-Wahhâb b. `Ali al-Amîn was one of her students. She lived eighty years. She died in 558H. [al-Wâfî bi al-Wifâyât (1/1465)]
7. Hâtûn, daughter if the pious king, Ismâ`îl b. al-`Adil b. Abî Bakr b. Ayûb b. Shâdî: She was a great stateswoman who never married. No one of the tribe of Ayûb enjoyed a similar rank to hers. She died on Thursday, the twenty-first of Sha`bân in the year 723 and she was buried in the graveyard of Umm Sâlih. [al-Bidâyah wa al-Nihâyah (14/108)]
8. Nawâb Zayn al-Nisâ’ Bîkum, the pious queen: She was the daughter of Sultan Muhyî al-Dîn Orank, considered by some to be the greatest and most honorable king of India. She was born on the tenth of Shawwâl in 1048AH. She grew up in the grace of her father and memorized the Qur’ân by heart. She studied under Sheikh Ahmad b. Sa`îd al-Hanafî and other eminent scholars. She also learnt poetry and literary composition from Sheikh Muhammad b. Sa`îd al-Mâzindrânî.
She had collected a considerable library of books and scholars and poets used to gather at her place as they would not gather anywhere else. She was the leading woman poet in India of her day. No one else was as articulate in their ideas about peetry nor as eloquent in the poems they crafted. She had never married. She had died in 1113 AH during her father’s life time. She was buried in Lahore [Nuzhat al-Khawâtir wa Bahjat al-Masâmi` wa al-Nawâzir]
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today
-- Al Arabiya Digital