Person of the YearThe Muslim 500

Woman of the Year 2023 – Aisha Abdurrahman Bewley

Aisha Abdurrahman Bewley (b. 1948) is one of the world’s most prolific and accomplished translators of classical Islamic works from Arabic to English. Since converting to Islam in 1968, she has spent the past 5 decades faithfully learning the Islamic tradition and making its key texts available to the global English-speaking Muslim community, sometimes in collaboration with her husband, Abdalhaqq Bewley, with whom she translated The Noble Qur’an. The subjects she has covered in translation and in her own writings range from the Noble Qur’an, commentary on the Qur’an (tafsir), Hadith, works on Islamic law, sufism, and Islamic history among others. The WorldCat union catalog lists her as the author or translator of “73 works in 172 publications in 3 languages and 855 library holdings.”

Born in the United States in 1948, Hajja Aisha obtained an MA in Near Eastern Languages from the University of California at Berkeley. She spent a year at the American University in Cairo and attended a seminar on Sufism at Cairo University’s Philosophy Department. In the early seventies she met and became a murid of Sheikh Dr Abdalqadir as-Sufi al-Murabit (d. 2021). Hajja Bewley started her traditional Islamic learning following the teachings of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib of Meknes (d. 1972) under the late Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi al-Murabit. Under the former’s guidance and inspiration she began to translate classical Islamic works from Arabic to English. She has continued this work unstintingly; making available many key Islamic texts to the global English-speaking Muslim community, many of whom are introduced to these texts for the first time through her translation.

Many of Hajja Aisha’s works are available for free on the internet on her website, or have been published through popular Muslim publishers. Her translation of Imam Malik’s Al-Muwatta (Madinah Press, 1991) and Qadi Iyad’s Ash-Shifa are especially well-known and form the backbone of thousands of teaching circles throughout the world. Another of her notable translations is the Tabaqat of Ibn Sa’d series of books.

In collaboration with her husband, Shaykh Abdalhaqq Bewley, Hajja Aisha has translated The Noble Qur’an, and the Tafsir of al-Qurtubi (so far 6 volumes have been published). In her own right she is an author on a wide range of topics. Some of her titles include: The Subatomic World in the Qur’an (Diwan Press, 1980); Islam: the Empowering of Women (TaHa, 1999), and Democratic Tyranny and the Islamic Paradigm (Diwan Press, 2018). She has lectured at Dallas College in Cape Town and Lady Aisha College in Cape Town. Alongside this work, she travelled with her husband and family to many countries, including Nigeria, Bermuda, Germany and Spain, spreading knowledge of Islam and helping establish communities of Muslims, seeking to follow the first Madinan model. Her life’s work has been remarkable and her intellectual output truly significant; long may it continue.

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