The 12 Female Muslim Scientists Paving The Way To A Better Future

Muslim women have made tremendous contributions to the world of science. Read more about their fascinating achievements!

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Muslim women have made tremendous contributions to the world of science. Read more about their fascinating achievements!

Recently the world marked International Day for Women in Science, making it a great opportunity to celebrate the contributions of female Muslim scientists.

Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) has said:

Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female).”

Sunan ibn Majah

These women have embodied this and shown the world what it means to be an active achiever in the world in which we live. Here is a roundup of 12 powerful and influential female Muslim scientists from different parts of the world.

elsafty egyptEgypt: Aisha Elsafty

Elsafty is a Computer Scientist at the University of Cambridge. She specialises in ‘AdHoc networking,’ the connecting of computational devices via wireless technology that is used to establish networks in disaster areas and developing countries.

“My faith inspires my work in many different ways. The Qur’an gives emphasis on putting our actions and beliefs into an analytical test, and to continuously challenge the views of our predecessors. This attitude is essential for all scientists and it is very clear in computer science where claims can be interpreted, understood and verified in mathematical and logical formats.”

sameena shah indiaIndia: Sameena Shah

Shah is a Senior Research Scientist at Thomson Reuters, New York. She is the winner of the 2009 Google India Women in Engineering Award. Shah works extensively in Artificial Intelligence. She presented an algorithm in computerised cognitive learning that she and a team of colleagues developed at IIT Delhi, India.

“I love research in Computer Science because it satiates my inherent desire to understand the logic behind things. Things, which are seemingly random, may have an underlying structure. The joy for me lies in discovering patterns, creating algorithms, proposing a theory and making my own little contribution to the world.”

anousheh ansari iranIran: Anousheh Ansari

Ansari immigrated to the US as a teenager; she immersed herself in education, earning a BSc in Electronics and Computer Engineering from George Mason University, followed by a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University. She captured headlines on 18th September 2006 for being the first female private space explorer. She also earned a place in history as the fourth private explorer to visit space and the first astronaut of Iranian descent.

“I hope to inspire everyone—especially young people, women, and young girls all over the world, and in Middle Eastern countries that do not provide women with the same opportunities as men—to not give up their dreams and to pursue them. It may seem impossible to them at times. But I believe they can realize their dreams if they keep it in their hearts, nurture it, and look for opportunities and make those opportunities happen. Looking back at my life, I’m hoping that I could give them a positive example of how that could happen.”

Malaysia: Professor Khatijah Mohammad Yousoffkhatijah-01

After receiving her early education in Penang, Malaysia, she won a Colombo Plan Scholarship to La Trobe University, Australia for Tertiary Education, where she graduated with a degree in Microbiology. Her current research is on the development of therapeutic and diagnostic reagents from NDV (Newcastle Disease Virus), a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting most species of birds.

She is a strong believer in the need to translate science into tangible benefits for people around the world. She enjoys teaching students and, through this interest, she instils in them, many of her undergraduate students have continued their studies to the postgraduate level and have themselves become academics.

She was accorded UNESCO’s Carlos Finlay Prize for microbiology in 2005, the second Asian scientist to receive such an honour. She was earlier honoured by the Houghton Trust to deliver the 3rd Houghton Lecture at the XIIth World Veterinary Poultry Association (WVPA) Congress in 2002 for her contributions to the poultry industry, the first Asian scientist to be bestowed such an honour. In 2008, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from her alma mater, La Trobe University, the ninth person to receive this honour from over its 120,000 alumni.

Saudi Arabia: Samira Ibrahim Islam

Samira Ibrahim Islam currently heads the King Fahd Medical Research Center’s Drug Monitoring Unit at King Abdulaziz University. Samira’s actions were a turning point for all women in Saudi Arabia after she successfully secured a formal university education for them. Samira is also responsible for opening the first faculty of nursing in Saudi Arabia.

Her main area of interest is drug metabolism. Samira is also on the board of the Arab Science and Technology Foundation and received a Makkah Award of Excellence for her contributions to science and research.


Morocco/Canada: Dr Ismahane Elouafiismahane elouafi

Elouafi was awarded a PhD in Genetics from Cordoba University and she believes that science has to be the basis of decisions and development plans in order to achieve efficiency and alleviate discrimination and poverty. She is currently the Director-General of ICBA, a leading research facility that aims to help poor farmers in places where water is scarce. Prior to her appointment as head of the ICBA, she held a number of positions in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“Wherever I went, I had to work harder to prove myself, and often not just once, but twice or three times. Eventually, I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about what people thought of me and just concentrate on my job. It pains me to say it, but I have reached where I am today not because I’m a woman but in spite of being a woman.”

download-1Pakistan: Professor Dr Bina Shaheen Siddiqui

Professor Dr Bina Shaheen Siddiqui holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Karachi. She has made significant contributions to medicine and agriculture through her study and classification of indigenous plant materials.

Siddiqui has written more than 250 research articles and has been honoured with several prestigious awards, including the Khwarizmi International Award of Iran and the Salam Prize in Chemistry.

Syria/UK: Dr Rim Al Turkmanidr rim turkmani

Dr Turkmani is a Syrian born astrophysicist. She gained her BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Damascus before moving to Sweden to study her Masters and then her PhD in Astrophysics. Dr Turkmani works on the physics of the solar corona – the halo around the sun – and through the use of computer simulation, observations and theoretical modelling, she tries to understand the dynamics of energy release in solar surface explosions, known as solar flares.

“My faith is important to me and I was always taken by verses in the Qur’an which ask people to ponder the universe. Scientists were given a special status with the verse ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ When I was a young woman studying the Qur’an I used to find such verses inspiring. I adore and respect whatever encourages me to think, and I definitely found that element in the Qur’an. Who would encourage thought and logic if it wasn’t to be found on the pathway of free-thinking? Knowledge, in general, deepens my personal beliefs and knowledge of the natural world deepens my belief in what is behind this creation.”

hayat sindiSaudi Arabia: Dr Hayat Al Sindi

Dr Hayat Al Sindi is a Saudi Biotechnologist from Makkah. She was the first woman from the Middle East to hold a PhD in Biotechnology. She was also headhunted to join George Whitesides’ famous laboratory. Sindi co-founded ‘Diagnostics-For-All,’ which aims to bring easier technology to developing countries. She raised money for the project by winning the prestigious Harvard Enterprise Competition and the $100,000 MIT award, attracting a further $10m from Bill Gates.

“When I came to Cambridge I was told by a famous scientist that I would fail because I am female and religion doesn’t go with science. I want to tell women scientists around the world – not just Muslims – that we should cross bridges and find the good in people. I want women to believe in themselves. I want to tell the whole world: do not let people belittle your dreams, if you believe in who you are, go for it.”

United Arab Emirates: Dr Maryam Matardr-maryam-matar

Born in 1975, Dr Matar holds a B.A. in Medicine and Surgery and a degree from the Family Medicine Residency Program with distinction. She is the founder and Executive Director of two non-profit civil associations, ‘UAE Down’s Syndrome Association; and ‘UAE Genetic Diseases Association’, which support families from 17 different nationalities.

“Being a woman is very challenging, but anything is possible to achieve with dedication, a clear goal and teamwork. Men have played a major role in the success of all my achievements.”

Palestine/Jordan: Dr Rana Dajani

Dr Rajani is one of the most powerful and influential female scholars of her time, ranking number 13 in ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women’  list.

Rana’s core research areas include molecular biology, genetics and stem cells. Her genome-wide association studies on diabetes and cancer on stem cells in Jordan led to the development of the Stem Cell Research Ethics Law framework in the country. She is a strong believer in linking the concept of the biological evolution theory to Islam.

In addition to her professional work, Rana staunchly believes in educating and empowering women, which led to her sitting on the board of the United Nations Women Jordan Advisory Council.

The UK-based Muslim Science Magazine praised her as one of the most influential women scientists in the Islamic world!

Qatar: Hessa Al Jaber

Dr Al Jaber is the inaugural minister of Information and Communication Technology in Qatar. She has played a leading role in drastically revolutionising Qatar’s ICT infrastructure and telecommunications. Furthermore, she has led the way to protect children who use the internet and was an influential member in the Gulf state’s attempt to build their first high-capacity satellite, E’Shail. Her other achievements include being the first Qatari woman to be appointed to the supervisory board of an international company (Volkswagon). Hessa’s efforts have earned her a long list of awards including:

  • National Figure of the Year in Qatar (2008)
  • Being ranked 20th in ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women’ list (2013)
  • Being listed as one of the 500 most powerful Arabs in the world (2013)
  • Being inducted as one of eight international Internet leaders to the Internet Hall of Fame Advisory Board (2013)
  • Being named as one of the eight most impressive women working in technology throughout the world during the 2000s by Mashable.

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