The Importance of Making a Good Space for Women in the Masjid
Imam Umar Aboul Sharif
Adilah S. Sharif
Challenges of Women Space in Masjids
Last Friday, I was all set to give a Khutba about the need for Muslims to plan ahead on an individual and community level. My notes were ready and I was in full “Khutba mode”. But before sermon time, I decided to change the topic completely — to talk about the exclusion of Muslim women from the mosque and community life.
It wasn’t an earth-shattering event that made me change the topic. It was an email. And it proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was one of five emails I received last week about Islamic events with a clear “brothers only” statement. One notice for a regional conference even stated categorically that there was no space for women and children under 15 at the event.
But the emails were only part of the story. A week before, I had given a Khutba in another, brand-new mosque in the heart of Chicago. After the prayer, while in the elevator, I overheard four Muslim sisters speaking angrily about their experience in the Masjid.
“If I wanted to watch TV, I’d stay home,” said one of the women, disgusted. I asked them what was wrong, and they told me how they could only see the Imam through a TV system set up in the women’s section. Moreover, the space was inconvenient, uncomfortable and was changed twice that day. This was despite the fact that months ago, the leadership of this mosque had promised me that they would involve sisters in decision-making about how the women’s space would be set up.
I was speaking in Chicago’s oldest mosque where the main prayer hall accommodates about a thousand people. It has a small, curtained off space in the corner for about 40 or so women. Due to the sensitive nature of my topic, it did occur to me before the Khutba that I might not be invited to give a Friday sermon there in the future. Nonetheless, I made the following points and asked these questions:
Who decides how women’s space in the mosque is allocated and organized?
How many women sit on the Board of Directors of our mosques?
If women are part of the Board of Directors, are they elected, chosen by women, selected by both men and women or are they simply the wives of male board members?
I also reminded the audience that in the Prophet’s mosque, women could hear and see the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings are upon him, and later, the leaders of the Muslims (Khulafa) when they spoke from the pulpit. Actually there are reports of interaction with the Prophet when women raised questions. Caliph Omar even went back to give another sermon to withdraw his opinion when a women from the audience gave him critical feedback after his Khutba.
Moreover, when the Prophet felt that the women were too far away to hear or he had specific points to make, he would walk over to their section and present a Khutba for them.
Examples from Islamic history
Women in early Islamic history were active not just as “mothers and wives” but contributed as individual Muslim women in all aspects of the community.
On a scholarly level, there was Aisha, may God be pleased with her. She is credited with disseminating the knowledge of Islam and information about almost all aspects of Islamic life. Today, nearly half of the Islamic jurisprudence of the Hanafi school of thought (which is followed by about 70 percent of the Muslim world) comes through the students of Aisha alone.
On a political level, there was Umm Salama. During the signing of the Treaty of Hudaibiya, when none of the Muslim men agreed to forego Hajj due to the demands of the pagan Meccans, the Prophet consulted Umm Salama. Her advice to him was to perform the rituals indicating that they would not be performing the pilgrimage, and the Muslims would follow. He heeded her advice, and as she suggested, the Muslims accepted this.
After the death of the Prophet, one major issue was how to preserve the authenticity of the Quran. Although the Quran had always been committed to memory and writing, the written pages were scattered. When a master copy was put together at the time of the first Khalifa, Abu Bakr, that copy was not kept with him or any other Muslim man. It was kept with a woman — Hafsa (may God be pleased with her).
Finally, in Madina during the leadership of Omar (may God be pleased with him) Al Shifa Bint Abdullah was made in charge of trade and commerce in the city.
These are just a few examples of the dynamic role women played in early Islamic history. But they are of no use if the inclusion of Muslim women in the mosque and community is reflected only in theory.
“Men’s Islam” or Islam for All
While sisters are a full part of the community, many mosques are run as though Islam is just for men. This is evident by looking at women’s spaces, their decoration, their uncomfortable size and design, the absence of women from the Board of Directors of most mosques and the relegation of their activism and ideas to a “women’s committee”.
Muslim women in North America are as professional as Muslim men and contribute as generously. I remember fundraising in a New Jersey Masjid. Five Muslim women contributed $25,000 each within the first 12 minutes. It inspired me to ask the audience: is there a man who can match these donations?
And that’s how women’s participation is. They know they will not get to Jannah because of the good deeds of their husbands. Each man and women has to find his or her own way to success in this world and next, knowing that God’s promise is this:
“I will deny no man or woman among you the reward of their labors. You are the offspring of one another.” (Quran 3:195).
“Each person shall reap the fruits of his/her own deeds: no soul shall bear another’s burden.” (Quran 6:164)
The Reaction to the Khutba
Normally, two or three people will approach me after a Khutba to thank and compliment me for it. This time, ten times more people came over, appreciating what I had said, Alhamdu lillah. That’s one of the most positive instances of feedback I’ve ever gotten in years of giving Khutbas! Although I have yet to hear the response from the leadership of the Masjid, this gives me hope that the community is ready for change.
A few board members also spoke very positively about the points I raised, including one of the founding members. The question is, who is stopping the change?
Current Chicago Masjid Spaces for Women
In Chicago, I estimate that in about ten percent of the Friday prayer locations, there is proper space for sisters’ participation. In these places men and women are in the same location without a curtain or wall separating them. In terms of the remaining 80 percent of mosques that do have a space for women, these are often cramped and inconvenient. By inconvenient, I mean that women cannot see the Imam or do not know what is happening in the congregational prayer. In about 10 percent of the Chicago-area mosques there are no spaces for women.
One Muslim sister in the city related to me her experience after visiting one of the largest mosques in Chicago that had an inconvenient room for women. When she entered the women’s area, a group of sisters was standing in line, thinking prayer had started because the recitation of the Quran could be heard. Taking Quran recitation as a cue for congregational prayer, the sister joined the others in line. After several minutes, when the man ended his recitation without calling for the next step of prayer, Ruku, the women learned that it was not a prayer. Needless to say, the women were humiliated and upset about this confusing situation. This is just an example of the practical problems this segregation in prayer places causes.
An additional problem in mosques where women cannot see the Imam is the fact that the noise level often becomes unacceptable. This tends to be because most men dump the responsibility for taking care of their active children on their wives when they go to the men’s section of mosque. Also, since women can’t see what’s going on, they end up talking to each other. This leads to the Imam asking women to “be quiet please,” furthering tension and exclusion.
When women are out of sight, it’s also more likely that they will be out of mind. That means their discourse and participation are ignored on a Masjid and community level. Moreover, few women have easy access to the Imam, which worsens the problem, since the Imam is the one man who can make a significant difference in bringing women’s issues and problems to the attention of other Muslim men in the community. This perhaps explains why you don’t normally hear many Khutbas on women’s challenges here in America or abroad.
The situation becomes worse when non- Muslims visit. They see there are hardly any women present in the mosque. Or, if there are a few, they are confined to a small and less ceremonious corner. What kind of Dawa is this? What kind of impression does this give in our current context, where the battle against stereotypes is ten times harder than it was pre-9/11 America? This visual impact is far greater and far more lasting then tens of books lauding the status of women in Islam. Since Shahadah (witnessing) is the first pillar of Islam, this obstacle to outreach must be dealt with.
Of course, women, unlike men, are given a choice by the Prophet to pray at home or in the mosque. But the Prophet was categorical in telling men “do not stop women from coming to the Masjid.” Friday prayers are also optional for women. But considering that Friday sermons are the only Islamic educational opportunity available to most women in the North America Muslim women should attend Friday prayers. This is especially important because we do not yet have a widespread tradition of female teachers, as is the case in the Muslim world. I am pretty sure Caliph Omar would have encouraged Friday prayer attendance by women if he was alive today in the United States, may God be pleased with him.
Who is stopping women from the Masjid
Knowing both of these Masjids, their volunteer leadership, and the fact that women are on their boards, I don’t think either of them stops women from attending and participating. The first Masjid’s president did make an announcement twice in front of me inviting women to visit the new location to help determine the sisters’ space. I think, perhaps, need sisters taking these issues more seriously instead of accepting the current situation.
In the second Masjid, I learned that some sisters prefer to pray behind a curtain. An easy solution could be to make a larger area where women who do not want a curtain between the men and women, as was the practice in the mosque of the Prophet, can pray. Behind them, women who are comfortable praying behind a curtain can do this.
With lower donations as a result of donor chasing by the FBI, extra expenses for security and legal battles, which six or seven Masjids in the Chicago-area are going through, the last thing on the mind of Muslim leadership is women’s space. About 80 percent of the Masjids in the Chicago area do not have any permanent Imam. Volunteers like me are asked to offer the Friday sermon on a rotational basis. Almost all of these Masjids’ leaders are busy professionals who volunteer their time to run the community centers, schools and Masjids. Unless someone is pushing for something, things will continue as they have been.
This is why I have come to the conclusion that the agenda of women’s space will not come to the forefront unless Muslim women take it upon themselves.
Establishing a Muslim Women’s Caucus
It is time that sisters come together and provide leadership in clearly defining a Muslim women’s manifesto for change in mosques in North America. If these sisters are practicing Muslims, they will have a far higher level of success in demanding change and leading it.
I would like to make a plea to leading Muslim women in North America who are respected and honored by the community to call a national women’s caucus on these issues. In this conference, the following things need to be discussed and tackled:
1. An agenda outlining change in the Muslim community centers and Masjids in which
* Each Masjid should formally declare that it is unIslamic to stop women from attending a mosque
* The need to restore women’s space in the mosque as it was at the Prophet’s time (i.e. without a curtain or a wall separating men and women) is stressed
* Develop a welcoming space where they have a clear view of the Imam
2. One-third of Masjids’ Board of Directors should be composed of sisters, one-third of brothers, and one-third of people born in North America.
3. A mechanism for an ongoing Muslim Women’s Caucus needs to be developed
On the issue of women’s exclusion from the mosque, this Muslim Women’s Caucus may want to do the following:
1. Invite the leadership of major mosques, as well as national and continental Muslim organizations to a closed-door dialogue with an equal number of Muslim women leaders present.
2. Give a deadline to all Masjids that do not have a space for women to allocate one in consultation with women.
3. If space is extremely limited and there is no cultural and ideological objection to it, then allocate time for additional congregational prayer for women lead by women as was done by Umm Waraqa with the Prophet’s permission when she lead her staff regularly in prayers in her own home as reported by Sahih Abu Dawud. (If thousands of women lead other women in prayers throughout Pakistan, it can be done in a mosque here as well).
Shura (consultation) has been a way of life for Muslims (42:38). If our families and our communities are not run on Shura, open communication and proper representation, how will we grow?
“The true believers, both men and women, are friends to each other. They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil; they attend to their prayers and pay the alms and obey God and His apostle. On these God will have mercy. He is Mighty and Wise.” (Quran 7:71)
Top 5 Complaints of Wives and What to Do About Them
Top 5 Complaints of Wives and What to Do About Them
By Haleh Banani, M.A. Clinical Psychology
Reprinted from MuslimMatters.org
Coming soon: Win His Heart: A Psychological Approach for WOMEN
Every man dreams of having a woman who can please him on many different levels. One that fulfills his desires, stimulates him intellectually and soars with him to new spiritual heights. A unique woman that will not only be a source of comfort, but also a source of strength.
It is very easy to dream and have expectations of your spouse but what do YOU have to do in order to attract a woman with these qualities and keep her giving at that level?
Generally, men are quite puzzled by women. They are not sure what to do or say to please the women in their lives. Whatever they do seems to get them in trouble. Since most men have this confusion, they simply stop trying.
This lack of effort from men creates frustration and discontentment. Most women feel extremely dissatisfied in their marriages. Within my practice as a marriage therapist, I have heard from dozens of women who have a long list of complaints about their husbands. These complaints lead to deep rooted unhappiness and many times divorce.
Top 5 complaints of women about their husbands
- Financial issues
- Lack of compassion
- Too strict/too jealous
Almost every couple I have ever done marriage counseling with has complained about problems in communication. Most of the time women complain that their husband does not share his feelings, he shuts off, he doesn’t listen and he doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants in a diplomatic way.
Lack of communication or miscommunication is the bulk of the problem in most marriages. If people don’t know how to get their message across, how to listen or how to resolve conflicts they will face perpetual problems in their lives. Here are some suggestions in effective communication skills:
- Make I statements…. never start the sentence with YOU. Say: “I feel neglected when you don’t prepare dinner” rather than saying, “You never prepare dinner.”
- Always keep your voice down and refrain from name calling.
- Seek first to understand then to be understood. Tough one, but very effective!
- Share your thoughts and feelings with your spouse to make her feel a part of your world. Don’t shut her out or else she will feel extremely insecure and suspicious.
- Don’t give one word answers – try to elaborate and fulfill her need to know. She shows you she cares by asking many questions.
- Listen attentively – that means no checking emails while she talks and no watching T.V. Simply look in her eyes, listen and acknowledge her. Women loved to be looked at!
- Give your wife compliments on everything you like about her – she needs constant reassurance on her beauty, on your love for her, on her cooking. Say it again and again with a smile. It will never get old!
- Validate her feelings – say things to make her feel understood. Tell her you understand that she is sad, that she has a right to feel hurt or neglected. The worst thing you could ever do is tell a woman she is wrong to feel a certain way.
- Ask for things with gentleness and kindness without being harsh or demanding. If a woman feels like she is being told what to do and how to do it – she will resist. If she is asked kindly and made to feel special she will rush to do it to in order to fulfill her need to please others.
- Never compare her to anyone to get her to change. This is detrimental to the relationship, brings about hostility and a feeling of inadequacy. If you want her to improve in any given area compliment what she is already doing right.
Each person is brought up with different views and experiences with money. Some are brought up in affluent families that spend frivolously while others come from more modest backgrounds that are trained to save. When individuals with such striking differences unite there is bound to be tension and arguments. That is why money is one of the biggest reasons people fight and even get a divorce. Here are some suggestions for peacefully dealing with money issues.
- Learn about each other’s view of money. Become acquainted with their experience with money in order to better understand each other.
- Discuss openly issues or concerns you have about your financial situations.
- Avoid getting into debt at all cost. If you can’t afford it – just don’t buy it. Simple as that.
- Set a budget together and try your best to stick to it. If you slip, and go over the budget, quickly get back on track.
- Increase your knowledge about resolving financial problems by reading books, attending seminars or listening to CDs.
- Be honest and never hide or deceive your partner about financial issues because it could really damage the trust.
- Try to compromise and come up with a win/win solution when you disagree.
- Agree to disagree.
- Consider the pros and cons of having a two house income or even having a part time job that can help alleviate the financial burden.
- Save….Save….Save! You never know what the future holds so always be prepared.
The area of a couple’s life which offers the most potential for embarrassment, hurt, and rejection is sex. The majority of couples I have done therapy with have had issues in this area of their life. It is such an essential part of the marriage and yet very few couples ever talk about it. The goal of sex is to be closer, to have more fun, to feel satisfied, and to feel valued and accepted in this very tender area of your marriage. “Your wives are a tilth unto you; so go to your tilth when or how you will.” [Qur’an 2:223] Here are some suggestions to having a more satisfying sex life.
- Fulfill your wife emotionally so that she can be receptive to you. Women shut off sexually if they don’t feel loved, appreciated or desired.
- Set the mood…light candles, make dinner, give a massage, get flowers or anything that makes her feel special and loved.
- Prolong foreplay. Make sure she is ready.
- Take your time and don’t rush her.
- Share your likes and dislikes in a gentle, positive way making her feel safe. Instead of saying you never do such and such say: I loved it when you…..or I would love it if you would….
- Never criticize or make fun when getting intimate.
- Always accentuate the positive – make your suggestions in a way that you are making a good thing even better. Even if you are dissatisfied don’t let her feel it.
- When receiving your partner’s request, try not to see it as criticism. Have the attitude of a professional chef that is not insulted if a customer doesn’t crave a particular meal, but makes accommodations that will satisfy the customer’s palate.
- Make her feel attractive and desired. The more you give her compliments, the more confident she will feel which will help her to relax and enjoy.
- Make sure you try to fulfill her first in order to create a strong, positive association to intimacy.
Lack of Compassion
Men have different ways of expressing their feelings and emotions. Some express their love and concern for the family by simply working hard and providing the very best. They feel that the time they spend at work is an emotional deposit because they are putting so much effort so that their family can be comfortable. Unfortunately, this form of expression of love is generally not sufficient for most women. Women expect the men in their lives to connect with them on an emotional level, provide support and have fun together. “The best of you are those who are the best to their wives.” (at-Tirmidhi)
Here are some suggestions in showing compassion so that you can connect with your wife on an emotional level.
- Tell your wife you love her daily – don’t make it just a once a year event.
- Never enter or leave the house without a proper greeting. Let her feel that you are happy to see her and that you will miss her when you leave.
- Make daily deposits in your emotional bank account with your wife by being understanding, forgiving, cooperative and by using words of endearment.
- Call your wife or send sweet messages during the day. “…And live with them in kindness…” (Nisaa 4:19)
- Eat at least one meal a day together and spend time sharing what you have done.
- Give lots of compliments.
- If she is feeling sad or angry, show her love and compassion by hugging her. If she says she doesn’t want to talk about it, she doesn’t mean it… you just have to insist sweetly.
- Learn to apologize. Even if you were not wrong apologize for making her feel bad. Win her heart not the argument! Amazing what two little words (I’m sorry) can do.
- Get her gifts and flowers so she feels that you thought of her. It doesn’t have to be something expensive – just a gesture that you were thinking of her. “And do good. Truly, Allah loves the good-doers.” (Baqara 2:195)
- Be supportive and helpful with the kids. Offer to take care of the kids while she does something (anything) for herself. If she has the chance to recharge she will be a much better wife and a nicer mom!
Too Strict or Too Jealous
It is understandable that a man feels responsible for his wife and wants to make sure that she does not exceed beyond the boundaries that Allah has established. “Everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for those in his charge; the man, in his home, is a guardian and responsible for his household.” (Bukhari and Muslim). It takes diplomacy and gentleness to set guidelines without coming across as too strict and unreasonable. It is always a little flattering when a husband becomes jealous, but when it becomes excessive it is unhealthy and a source of stress for women. There needs to be mutual trust and respect in order to live in harmony and peace. Here are some suggestions for maintaining boundaries without being too strict or too jealous.
- Be a spouse to your wife not a father. Don’t treat her like a little girl with a long list of rules. If you treat her like a child she will act like one.
- Give her space to make decisions – if you hold her too tight she will feel suffocated.
- Respect her and treat her like a partner not an employee.
- Trust her – don’t interrogate her for every little thing. Gently ask questions.
- Be reasonable in setting boundaries – if you are too strict she will either resent you or not abide by them when you are not around.
- Don’t assume anything – check your assumptions and verify before accusing her of anything.
- Be kind and understanding so that your wife will happily try to please you. Don’t be a harsh dictator that needs to be overthrown.
- If she dresses or acts inappropriately just talk to her, educate her and help her to understand. Make her feel that you are concerned about her. Never be forceful.
- Try to make excuses when she falls short.
- Be playful with your spouse if you feel some jealousy. Make her feel how much you are attracted to her, how appealing she is to you that you simply don’t want to share her. This will flatter her and make it more likely that she will be more careful.
When you become more sensitive to the needs of your wife and you put effort in supporting her and connecting with her you will reap the rewards of having a more content wife. A happier wife means a happier home which means more peace and tranquility for you. By becoming more aware of these common complaints and implementing the suggestions you will definitely score big with the woman in your life!
14 Benefits of Marriage in Islam
by Shahina Siddiqui, Soundvision.com
The Basis of Marriage in Islam: Equality of All Human Beings
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Quran 30:21).
“O Humans revere your Guardian Lord, Who created you from a single person created of like nature its mate, and from this scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah through Whom you claim your mutual rights.” (Quran 4:1).
The above verses of the Quran lay out the framework as to what are the basis, the objectives and the goal of marriage in Islam. In the ultimate Wisdom of Allah we are first told that both partners man and woman are created from the same source. That this should be paid attention to as it is one of His signs.
The fact that we come from the same soul signifies our equality as humans, when the essence of our creation is the same, the argument of who is better or greater is redundant. To stress on this fact and then to talk about marriage in the same verse is of great significance for those of us who are in the field of marriage counseling.
The shift in this attitude of equality of genders as human beings cause a imbalance in marital relation ship that leads to dysfunctional marriage. When ever one party considers themselves superior or above the law there is a shift in the balance of power that may lead to misuse or abuse of power as the less valuable partner is seen as an easy prey. Many marital difficulties are based on or caused by control and rule stratagem.
By stressing on the equality of all humans men or women and making it the basis of marriage, Allah in His infinite wisdom has laid the ground rules for establishing peace, as well as the assigning of different roles to husband and wife as functional strategy rather than a question of competence as humans.
Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has stated that: “men and women are twin halves of each other” (Bukhari). This Hadith also brings home the fact that men and women are created from single source. Furthermore, by using the analogy of twin half the Prophet has underlined the reciprocal nature and the interdependent nature of men and women’s relationship.
Five Conditions for a Peaceful Marriage
The objective and the goal of marriage in Islam according to the above Quranic verse is to enable us to dwell in peace and tranquility. It is important for us to reflect on these words and their significance in the Islamic frame of reference.
In order to have peace certain condition must be met. These prerequisites to peace are:
- Fulfillment of mutual rights. Therefore any injustice whether it is oppression, or persecution, cannot be tolerated if there is to be peace in Muslim homes.
In the domestic realm oppression is manifested when the process of Shura (consultation) is compromised, neglected or ignored. When one partner (in most cases the husband) makes unilateral decisions and applies dictatorial style of leadership, peace is compromised. Persecution is present when there is any form of domestic abuse being perpetrated.
Tranquility on the other hand is a state of being which is achieved when peace has been established. Tranquility is compromised when there is tension, stress and anger. It is a mistake to take tranquility to mean perpetual state of bliss. Since being Muslims does not make us immune to tragedies and catastrophes.
In fact Allah tells us in the Quran that we will be tried (2:155,57). What a state of tranquility does is to empower us to handle life’s difficult moments with our spouses as obedient servants of Allah. Allah in His infinite Mercy also provides us with the tools by which we can achieve this state of peace and tranquility.
The second principle besides Shura on which the Islamic family life is based is Mercy (Rehma), and in this verse Allah is telling us that He has placed mercy between spouses. We are therefore inclined by our very nature to have mercy for our spouses. Mercy is manifested through compassion, forgiveness, caring and humility.
It is obvious that these are all ingredients that make for a successful partnership. Marriage in Islam is above all a partnership based on equality of partners and specification of roles. Lack of mercy in a marriage or a family renders it in Islamic terms dysfunctional.
Allah further states that He has also placed in addition to mercy, love between spouses. It should however be noted that Islamic concept of love is different from the more commonly understood romantic love so valued in the Western cultures.
The basic difference is that love between man and woman in the Islamic context can only be realized and expressed in a legal marriage. In order to develop a healthy avenue for the expression of love between man and woman and to provide security so that such a loving relationship can flourish, it is necessary to give it the protection of Shariah (Islamic law).
14 Benefits of Marriage in Islam
Marital love in Islam inculcates the following:
1. Faith: The love Muslim spouses have for each other is for the sake of Allah that is to gain His pleasure. It is from Allah that we claim our mutual rights (Quran 4:1) and it is to Allah that we are accountable for our behavior as husbands and wives.
2. It sustains: Love is not to consume but to sustain. Allah expresses His love for us by providing sustenance. To love in Islam is to sustain our loved one physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, to the best of our ability (to sustain materially is the husbands duty, however if the wife wishes she can also contribute)
3. Accepts: To love someone is to accept them for who they are. It is selfishness to try and mould someone as we wish them to be. True love does not attempt to crush individuality or control personal differences, but is magnanimous and secure to accommodate differences.
4. Challenges: Love challenges us to be all we can, it encourages us to tap into our talents and takes pride in our achievements. To enable our loved one to realize their potential is the most rewarding experience.
5. Merciful: Mercy compels us to love and love compels us to have mercy. In the Islamic context the two are synonymous. The attribute Allah chose to be the supreme for Himself is that He is the most Merciful. This attribute of Rehman (the Merciful) is mentioned 170 times in the Quran, bringing home the significance for believers to be merciful. Mercy in practical application means to have and show compassion and to be charitable.
6. Forgiving: Love is never too proud to seek forgiveness or too stingy to forgive. It is willing to let go of hurt and letdowns. Forgiveness allows us the opportunity to improve and correct our selves.
7. Respect: To love is to respect and value the person their contributions and their opinions. Respect does not allow us to take for granted our loved ones or to ignore their input. How we interact with our spouses reflects whether we respect them or not.
8. Confidentiality: Trust is the most essential ingredient of love. When trust is betrayed and confidentiality compromised, love loses its soul.
9. Caring: Love fosters a deep fondness that dictates caring and sharing in all that we do. The needs of our loved ones take precedence over our own.
10. Kindness: The Seerah (biography) of our beloved Prophet is rich with examples of acts of kindness, he showed towards his family and particularly his wives. Even when his patience was tried, he was never unkind in word or deed. To love is to be kind.
11. Grows: Marital love is not static it grows and flourishes with each day of marital life. It requires work and commitment, and is nourished through faith when we are thankful and appreciative of Allah blessings.
12. Enhances: Love enhances our image and beautifies our world. It provides emotional security and physical well being.
13. Selflessness: Love gives unconditionally and protects dutifully.
14. Truthful: Love is honesty without cruelty and loyalty without compromise.
Confessions of an Ex-Feminist: What it Means to Be a Woman
By Lamya Sadeq
Business Management & Self Development – Egypt
“Am I a woman?”
No, I am not questioning my gender.
What I mean is…
Do I think of myself in that sense? Do I use that word, proudly, when referring to – or even thinking of myself?
Growing up, I was your regular tomboy. I did not play girl games, and I did not own dolls either. I did not wear dresses unless I was dragged to a wedding or a family function. I did not like to let my hair grow long.
Come to think of it, I did not have many girl friends all the way through college.
I did not wear makeup. Umm … I did not own makeup was more like it. I viewed the attempts of some girls to be understanding, cute, feminine, compassionate, and my best-friends to be a true testament to the shallowness of women. I used to pride myself on the fact that I talk like guys, think like they do, and even shop like they do (Go to the mall – Enter only one store – Buy what I need – Get out in less than 30 minutes)
However, as fate would have it, I grew out of it, because I learnt to embrace who I am. It was very strange being aware of the fact that I am now proud to be a woman. Actually I am thankful to be a woman. Wait… I am thrilled to be a woman.
I learnt that being a woman does not mean that I have to talk too much, wear makeup, alienate myself from my beliefs and causes or ‘Oooh’ and ‘Ahh’ over every passing baby (I mean, really… Leave the babies and their mothers alone for God’s sake!!!!)
I began to realize that I was force-fed an idea of what makes a woman. I realize now, sadly, that pop-culture has had a huge impact on shaping my ideals and notions on many gender-related concepts. I never thought that I would be a poster-image of the magnitude of damage pop-culture (stereotypical, negative, untrue, agenda-based and sexist) can have on one’s life.
I was blown away by the recognition that I let myself be manipulated into becoming ashamed of who I was. I kid you not!!!!! I was furious and shocked at how much I have missed out on.
So, I did what I thought was the only right thing to do in light of the circumstances; I went back to my most trusted reference, my belief system.
– What do I know of how Allah (SWT) views women?
– How did Allah (SWT) refer to us in the Qur’an?
– Were we viewed as shallow beings?
– Were we viewed as objects of enjoyment?
– Were we viewed merely as mothers or wives?
Answers to those questions have filled volumes of books. I will not attempt to further educate myself or you (who I am sure are all more knowledgeable than yours truly) on the empowerment of women in Islam.
“I’ve been a woman for a little over 50 years and I have gotten over my initial astonishment. As for conducting an orchestra, that’s a job where I don’t think sex (gender) plays much part.” – Nadia Boulanger, conductor.
“I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner.” – Sir, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
“O mankind, We have created you a male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another.” - Quran, Surat al-Hujurat 49:13
From IslamOnline.net. Lamya Sadeq is a qualified expert in the field of international business development, and information systems. As well as holding a Masters in Training and Development, Lamya Sadeq runs courses and workshops in aspects of Islamic self development and outreach, as well as workshops in business development.
The Status of Women in Islam
The Status of Women in Islam
Jamal A. Badawi provides a brief and authentic exposition of the teachings of Islam regarding women.
- HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
- Women in Ancient Civilization
- WOMEN IN ISLAM
- 1. The Spiritual Aspect
- 2. The Social Aspect
- (a) As a Child and Adolescent
- (b) As a Wife
- (c) As a Mother
- 3. The Economic Aspect
- 4. The political Aspect
Family, society and ultimately the whole of mankind is treated by Islam on an ethical basis. Differentiation in sex is neither a credit nor a drawback for the sexes. Therefore, when we talk about status of woman in Islam it should not lead us to think that Islam has no specific guidelines, limitations, responsibilities and obligations for men. What makes one valuable and respectable in the eyes of Allah, the Creator of mankind and the universe, is neither one’s prosperity, position, intelligence, physical strength nor beauty, but only one’s Allah-consciousness and awareness (taqwa). However, since in the Western culture and in cultures influenced by it, there exists a disparity between men and women there is more need for stating Islam’s position on important issues in a clear way.
Dr. Jamal Badawi’s essay, The Status of Women in Islam, was originally published in the quarterly journal, Al-lttihad, Vol. 8, No. 2, Sha’ban 1391/Sept 1971. Since then it has been one of Al-Ittihad’s most-demanded publications. We thank Br. Jamal for permitting us to reprint his essay. We hope it will clarify many of the misconceptions.
Director Dept. of Education and Training
MSA of U.S. and Canada
P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168 USA
Jumada al Thani 1400 April 1980
The status of women in society is neither a new issue nor is it a fully settled one.
The position of Islam on this issue has been among the subjects presented to the Western reader with the least objectivity.
This paper is intended to provide a brief and authentic exposition of what Islam stands for in this regard. The teachings of Islam are based essentially on the Qur’an (God’s revelation) and Hadeeth (elaboration by Prophet Muhammad).
The Qur’an and the Hadeeth, properly and unbiasedly understood, provide the basic source of authentication for any position or view which is attributed to Islam.
The paper starts with a brief survey of the status of women in the pre-Islamic era. It then focuses on these major questions: What is the position of Islam regarding the status of woman in society? How similar or different is that position from “the spirit of the time,” which was dominant when Islam was revealed? How would this compare with the “rights” which were finally gained by woman in recent decades?
II. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
One major objective of this paper is to provide a fair evaluation of what Islam contributed (or failed to contribute) toward the restoration of woman’s dignity and rights. In order to achieve this objective, it may be useful to review briefly how women were treated in general in previous civilizations and religions, especially those which preceded Islam (Pre-610 C.E.). Part of the information provided here, however, describes the status of woman as late as the nineteenth century, more than twelve centuries after Islam.
Women in Ancient Civilization
Describing the status of the Indian woman, Encyclopedia Britannica states:
In India, subjection was a cardinal principle. Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependence says Manu. The rule of inheritance was agnatic, that is descent traced through males to the exclusion of females.
In Hindu scriptures, the description of a good wife is as follows: “a woman whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjection, acquires high renown in this world, and, in the next, the same abode with her husband.”
In Athens, women were not better off than either the Indian or the Roman women.
“Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male – to their father, to their brother, or to some of their male kin.
Her consent in marriage was not generally thought to be necessary and “she was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and receive from them her husband and her lord, even though he were stranger to her.”
A Roman wife was described by an historian as: “a babe, a minor, a ward, a person incapable of doing or acting anything according to her own individual taste, a person continually under the tutelage and guardianship of her husband.”
In the Encyclopedia Britannica, we find a summary of the legal status of women in the Roman civilization:
In Roman Law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband . . . the wife was the purchased property of her husband, and like a slave acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office . could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make will or contract. Among the Scandinavian races women were:
under perpetual tutelage, whether married or unmarried. As late as the Code of Christian V, at the end of the 17th Century, it was enacted that if a woman married without the consent of her tutor he might have, if he wished, administration and usufruct of her goods during her life.
According to the English Common Law:
…all real property which a wife held at the time of a marriage became a possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and to any profit which might be made from operating the estate during the joint life of the spouses. As time passed, the English courts devised means to forbid a husband’s transferring real property without the consent of his wife, but he still retained the right to manage it and to receive the money which it produced. As to a wife’s personal property, the husband’s power was complete. He had the right to spend it as he saw fit.
Only by the late nineteenth Century did the situation start to improve. “By a series of acts starting with the Married women’s Property Act in 1870, amended in 1882 and 1887, married women achieved the right to own property and to enter contracts on a par with spinsters, widows, and divorcees.” As late as the Nineteenth Century an authority in ancient law, Sir Henry Maine, wrote: “No society which preserves any tincture of Christian institutions is likely to restore to married women the personal liberty conferred on them by the Middle Roman Law.”
In his essay The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill wrote:
We are continually told that civilization and Christianity have restored to the woman her just rights. Meanwhile the wife is the actual bondservant of her husband; no less so, as far as the legal obligation goes, than slaves commonly so called.
Before moving on to the Qur’anic decrees concerning the status of woman, a few Biblical decrees may shed more light on the subject, thus providing a better basis for an impartial evaluation. In the Mosaic Law, the wife was betrothed. Explaining this concept, the Encyclopedia Biblica states: “To betroth a wife to oneself meant simply to acquire possession of her by payment of the purchase money; the betrothed is a girl for whom the purchase money has been paid.” From the legal point of view, the consent of the girl was not necessary for the validation of her marriage. “The girl’s consent is unnecessary and the need for it is nowhere suggested in the Law.”
As to the right of divorce, we read in the Encyclopedia Biblica: “The woman being man’s property, his right to divorce her follows as a matter of course.” The right to divorce was held only by man. “In the Mosaic Law divorce was a privilege of the husband only …. ”
The position of the Christian Church until recent centuries seems to have been influenced by both the Mosaic Law and by the streams of thought that were dominant in its contemporary cultures. In their book, Marriage East and West, David and Vera Mace wrote:
Let no one suppose, either, that our Christian heritage is free of such slighting judgments. It would be hard to find anywhere a collection of more degrading references to the female sex than the early Church Fathers provide. Lecky, the famous historian, speaks of (these fierce incentives which form so conspicuous and so grotesque a portion of the writing of the Fathers . . . woman was represented as the door of hell, as the mother of all human ills. She should be ashamed at the very thought that she is a woman. She should live in continual penance on account of the curses she has brought upon the world. She should be ashamed of her dress, for it is the memorial of her fall. She should be especially ashamed of her beauty, for it is the most potent instrument of the devil). One of the most scathing of these attacks on woman is that of Tertullian: Do you know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserters of the divine law; you are she who persuades him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert – that is death – even the Sop of God had to die). Not only did the church affirm the inferior status of woman, it deprived her of legal rights she had previously enjoyed.
III. WOMAN IN ISLAM
In the midst of the darkness that engulfed the world, the divine revelation echoed in the wide desert of Arabia with a fresh, noble, and universal message to humanity: “O Mankind, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate (of same kind) and from them twain has spread a multitude of men and women” (Qur’an 4: 1).
A scholar who pondered about this verse states: “It is believed that there is no text, old or new, that deals with the humanity of the woman from all aspects with such amazing brevity, eloquence, depth, and originality as this divine decree.”
Stressing this noble and natural conception, them Qur’an states:
He (God) it is who did create you from a single soul and therefrom did create his mate, that he might dwell with her (in love)…(Qur’an 7:189)
The Creator of heavens and earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves …Qur’an 42:1 1
And Allah has given you mates of your own nature, and has given you from your mates, children and grandchildren, and has made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of God that they disbelieve? Qur’an 16:72
The rest of this paper outlines the position of Islam regarding the status of woman in society from its various aspects – spiritually, socially, economically and politically.
1. The Spiritual Aspect
The Qur’an provides clear-cut evidence that woman iscompletely equated with man in the sight of God interms of her rights and responsibilities. The Qur’an states:
“Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds” (Qur’an 74:38). It also states:
…So their Lord accepted their prayers, (saying): I will not suffer to be lost the work of any of you whether male or female. You proceed one from another …(Qur’an 3: 195).
Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the their actions. (Qur’an 16:97, see also 4:124).
Woman according to the Qur’an is not blamed for Adam’s first mistake. Both were jointly wrong in their disobedience to God, both repented, and both were forgiven. (Qur’an 2:36, 7:20 – 24). In one verse in fact (20:121), Adam specifically, was blamed.
In terms of religious obligations, such as the Daily Prayers, Fasting, Poor-due, and Pilgrimage, woman is no different from man. In some cases indeed, woman has certain advantages over man. For example, the woman is exempted from the daily prayers and from fasting during her menstrual periods and forty days after childbirth. She is also exempted from fasting during her pregnancy and when she is nursing her baby if there is any threat to her health or her baby’s. If the missed fasting is obligatory (during the month of Ramadan), she can make up for the missed days whenever she can. She does not have to make up for the prayers missed for any of the above reasons. Although women can and did go into the mosque during the days of the prophet and thereafter attendance et the Friday congregational prayers is optional for them while it is mandatory for men (on Friday).
This is clearly a tender touch of the Islamic teachings for they are considerate of the fact that a woman may be nursing her baby or caring for him, and thus may be unable to go out to the mosque at the time of the prayers. They also take into account the physiological and psychological changes associated with her natural female functions.
2. The Social Aspect
a) As a child and an adolescent
Despite the social acceptance of female infanticide among some Arabian tribes, the Qur’an forbade this custom, and considered it a crime like any other murder.
“And when the female (infant) buried alive – is questioned, for what crime she was killed.” (Qur’an 81:8-9).
Criticizing the attitudes of such parents who reject their female children, the Qur’an states:
When news is brought to one of them, of (the Birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance) and contempt, or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on? (Qur’an 16: 58-59).
Far from saving the girl’s life so that she may later suffer injustice and inequality, Islam requires kind and just treatment for her. Among the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (P.) in this regard are the following:
Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise. (Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957).
Whosoever supports two daughters till they mature, he and I will come in the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together).
A similar Hadeeth deals in like manner with one who supports two sisters. (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 2104).
The right of females to seek knowledge is not different from that of males. Prophet Muhammad (P.) said:
“Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim”. (AlBayhaqi). Muslim as used here including both males and females.
b) As a wife:
The Qur’an clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two halves of the society, and that its objectives, beside perpetuating human life, are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are love and mercy.
Among the most impressive verses in the Qur’an about marriage is the following.
“And among His signs is this: That He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.” (Qur’an 30:2 1).
According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.
Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad (P.), and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice . . . (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it). (Ibn Hanbal No. 2469). In another version, the girl said: “Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)” (Ibn Maja, No. 1873).
Besides all other provisions for her protection at the time of marriage, it was specifically decreed that woman has the full right to her Mahr, a marriage gift, which is presented to her by her husband and is included in the nuptial contract, and that such ownership does not transfer to her father or husband. The concept of Mahr in Islam is neither an actual or symbolic price for the woman, as was the case in certain cultures, but rather it is a gift symbolizing love and affection.
The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. In consideration of the physiological and psychological make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man.
The Qur’an thus states:
“And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, and men are a degree above them.” (Qur’an 2:228).
Such degree is Quiwama (maintenance and protection). This refers to that natural difference between the sexes which entitles the weaker sex to protection. It implies no superiority or advantage before the law. Yet, man’s role of leadership in relation to his family does not mean the husband’s dictatorship over his wife. Islam emphasizes the importance of taking counsel and mutual agreement in family decisions. The Qur’an gives us an example:
“…If they (husband wife) desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, there is no blame on them…” (Qur’an 2: 233).
Over and above her basic rights as a wife comes the right which is emphasized by the Qur’an and is strongly recommended by the Prophet (P); kind treatment and companionship.
The Qur’an states:
“…But consort with them in kindness, for if you hate them it may happen that you hate a thing wherein God has placed much good.” (Qur’an 4: l9).
Prophet Muhammad. (P) said:
The best of you is the best to his family and I am the best among you to my family.
The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives. (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 7396)
Behold, many women came to Muhammad’s wives complaining against their husbands (because they beat them) – – those (husbands) are not the best of you.
As the woman’s right to decide about her marriage is recognized, so also her right to seek an end for an unsuccessful marriage is recognized. To provide for the stability of the family, however, and in order to protect it from hasty decisions under temporary emotional stress, certain steps and waiting periods should be observed by men and women seeking divorce. Considering the relatively more emotional nature of women, a good reason for asking for divorce should be brought before the judge. Like the man, however, the woman can divorce her husband with out resorting to the court, if the nuptial contract allows that.
More specifically, some aspects of Islamic Law concerning marriage and divorce are interesting and are worthy of separate treatment.
When the continuation of the marriage relationship is impossible for any reason, men are still taught to seek a gracious end for it.
The Qur’an states about such cases:
When you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness and retain them not for injury so that you transgress (the limits). (Qur’an 2:231). (See also Qur’an 2:229 and 33:49).
c) As a mother:
Islam considered kindness to parents next to the worship of God.
“And we have enjoined upon man (to be good) to his parents: His mother bears him in weakness upon weakness…” (Qur’an 31:14) (See also Qur’an 46:15, 29:8).
Moreover, the Qur’an has a special recommendation for the good treatment of mothers:
“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none save Him, and that you be kind to your parents. . .” (Qur’an 17:23).
A man came to Prophet Muhammad (P) asking:
O Messenger of God, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company? The Prophet (P) said, Your mother. The man said then who else: The Prophet (P) said, Your mother. The man asked, Then who else? Only then did the Prophet (P) say, Your father. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
A famous saying of The Prophet is “Paradise is at the feet of mothers.” (In Al’Nisa’I, Ibn Majah, Ahmad).
And he said,
“It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
3. The Economic Aspect
Islam decreed a right of which woman was deprived both before Islam and after it (even as late as this century), the right of independent ownership. According to Islamic Law, woman’s right to her money, real estate, or other properties is fully acknowledged. This right undergoes no change whether she is single or married. She retains her full rights to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the Law that a woman is a minor simply because she is a female. It is also noteworthy that such right applies to her properties before marriage as well as to whatever she acquires thereafter.
With regard to the woman’s right to seek employment it should be stated first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as the most sacred and essential one. Neither maids nor baby-sitters can possibly take the mother’s place as the educator of an upright, complex free, and carefully-reared children. Such a noble and vital role, which largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as “idleness”.
However, there is no decree in Islam which forbids woman from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in positions which fit her nature and in which society needs her most. Examples of these professions are nursing, teaching (especially for children), and medicine. Moreover, there is no restriction on benefiting from woman’s exceptional talent in any field. Even for the position of a judge, where there may be a tendency to doubt the woman’s fitness for the post due to her more emotional nature, we find early Muslim scholars such as Abu-Hanifa and Al-Tabary holding there is nothing wrong with it. In addition, Islam restored to woman the right of inheritance, after she herself was an object of inheritance in some cultures. Her share is completely hers and no one can make any claim on it, including her father and her husband.
“Unto men (of the family) belongs a share of that which Parents and near kindred leave, and unto women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, whether it be a little or much – a determinate share.” ((Qur’an 4:7).
Her share in most cases is one-half the man’s share, with no implication that she is worth half a man! It would seem grossly inconsistent after the overwhelming evidence of woman’s equitable treatment in Islam, which was discussed in the preceding pages, to make such an inference. This variation in inheritance rights is only consistent with the variations in financial responsibilities of man and woman according to the Islamic Law. Man in Islam is fully responsible for the maintenance of his wife, his children, and in some cases of his needy relatives, especially the females. This responsibility is neither waived nor reduced because of his wife’s wealth or because of her access to any personal income gained from work, rent, profit, or any other legal means.
Woman, on the other hand, is far more secure financially and is far less burdened with any claims on her possessions. Her possessions before marriage do not transfer to her husband and she even keeps her maiden name. She has no obligation to spend on her family out of such properties or out of her income after marriage. She is entitled to the “Mahr” which she takes from her husband at the time of marriage. If she is divorced, she may get an alimony from her ex-husband.
An examination of the inheritance law within the overall framework of the Islamic Law reveals not only justice but also an abundance of compassion for woman.
4. The Political Aspect
Any fair investigation of the teachings of Islam o~ into the history of the Islamic civilization will surely find a clear evidence of woman’s equality with man in what we call today “political rights”.
This includes the right of election as well as the nomination to political offices. It also includes woman’s right to participate in public affairs. Both in the Qur’an and in Islamic history we find examples of women who participated in serious discussions and argued even with the Prophet (P) himself, (see Qur’an 58: 14 and 60: 10-12).
During the Caliphate of Omar Ibn al-Khattab, a woman argued with him in the mosque, proved her point, and caused him to declare in the presence of people: “A woman is right and Omar is wrong.”
Although not mentioned in the Qur’an, one Hadeeth of the Prophet is interpreted to make woman ineligible for the position of head of state. The Hadeeth referred to is roughly translated: “A people will not prosper if they let a woman be their leader.” This limitation, however, has nothing to do with the dignity of woman or with her rights. It is rather, related to the natural differences in the biological and psychological make-up of men and women.
According to Islam, the head of the state is no mere figurehead. He leads people in the prayers, especially on Fridays and festivities; he is continuously engaged in the process of decision-making pertaining to the security and well-being of his people. This demanding position, or any similar one, such as the Commander of the Army, is generally inconsistent with the physiological and psychological make-up of woman in general. It is a medical fact that during their monthly periods and during their pregnancies, women undergo various physiological and psychological changes. Such changes may occur during an emergency situation, thus affecting her decision, without considering the excessive strain which is produced. Moreover, some decisions require a maximum of rationality and a minimum of emotionality – a requirement which does not coincide with the instinctive nature of women.
Even in modern times, and in the most developed countries, it is rare to find a woman in the position of a head of state acting as more than a figurehead, a woman commander of the armed services, or even a proportionate number of women representatives in parliaments, or similar bodies. One can not possibly ascribe this to backwardness of various nations or to any constitutional limitation on woman’s right to be in such a position as a head of state or as a member of the parliament. It is more logical to explain the present situation in terms of the natural and indisputable differences between man and woman, a difference which does not imply any “supremacy” of one over the other. The difference implies rather the “complementary” roles of both the sexes in life.
The first part of this paper deals briefly with the position of various religions and cultures on the issue under investigation. Part of this exposition extends to cover the general trend as late as the nineteenth century, nearly 1300 years after the Qur’an set forth the Islamic teachings.
In the second part of the paper, the status of women in Islam is briefly discussed. Emphasis in this part is placed on the original and authentic sources of Islam. This represents the standard according to which degree of adherence of Muslims can be judged. It is also a fact that during the downward cycle of Islamic Civilization, such teachings were not strictly adhered to by many people who profess to be Muslims.
Such deviations were unfairly exaggerated by some writers, and the worst of this, were superficially taken to represent the teachings of “Islam” to the Western reader without taking the trouble to make any original and unbiased study of the authentic sources of these teachings.
Even with such deviations three facts are worth mentioning:
- The history of Muslims is rich with women of great achievements in all walks of life from as early as the seventh century (B.C.)
- It is impossible for anyone to justify any mistreatment of woman by any decree of rule embodied in the Islamic Law, nor could anyone dare to cancel, reduce, or distort the clear-cut legal rights of women given in Islamic Law.
- Throughout history, the reputation, chastity and maternal role of Muslim women were objects of admiration by impartial observers.
It is also worthwhile to state that the status which women reached during the present era was not achieved due to the kindness of men or due to natural progress. It was rather achieved through a long struggle and sacrifice on woman’s part and only when society needed her contribution and work, more especial!; during the two world wars, and due to the escalation of technological change.
In the case of Islam such compassionate and dignified status was decreed, not because it reflects the environment of the seventh century, nor under the threat or pressure of women and their organizations, but rather because of its intrinsic truthfulness.
If this indicates anything, it would demonstrate the divine origin of the Qur’an and the truthfulness of the message of Islam, which, unlike human philosophies and ideologies, was far from proceeding from its human environment, a message which established such humane principles as neither grew obsolete during the course of time and after these many centuries, nor can become obsolete in the future. After all, this is the message of the All-Wise and all-knowing God whose wisdom and knowledge are far beyond the ultimate in human thought and progress.
The Holy, Qur’an: Translation of verses is heavily based on A. Yusuf Ali’s translation, The Glorious Qur’an, text translation, and Commentary, The American Trust Publication, Plainfield, IN 46168, 1979.
Abd Al-Ati, Hammudah, Islam in Focus, The American Trust Publications, Plainfield, IN 46168, 1977.
Allen, E. A., History of Civilization, General Publishing House, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1889, Vol. 3.
Al Siba’i, Mustafa, Al-Alar’ah Baynal Fiqh Walqanoon (in Arabic), 2nd. ea., Al-Maktabah Al-Arabiah, Halab, Syria, 1966.
El-Khouli, Al-Bahiy, “Min Usus Kadiat Al-Mara’ah” (in Arabic), A 1- Waay A l-lslami, Ministry of Walcf, Kuwait, Vol.3 (No. 27), June 9, 1967, p.17.
Encyclopedia Americana (International Edition), American Corp., N.Y., 1969, Vol.29.
Encyclopedia Biblica (Rev.T.K.Cheynene and J.S.Black, editors), The Macmillan Co., London, England, 1902, Vol.3.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, (11 th ed.), University Press Cambridge, England, 191 1, Vol.28.
Encyclopedia Britannica, The Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, III., 1968, Vol.23.
Hadeeth. Most of the quoted Hadeeth were translated by the writer. They are quoted in various Arabic sources. Some of them, however, were translated directly from the original sources. Among the sources checked are Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal Dar AlMa’aref, Cairo, U.A.R., 1950, and 1955, Vol.4 and 3,SunanIbnMajah, Dar Ihya’a Al-Kutub al-Arabiah, Cairo, U.A.R., 1952, Vol.l, Sunan al-Tirimidhi, Vol.3.
Mace, David and Vera, Marriage: East and West, Dolphin Books, Doubleday and Co., Inc., N.Y., 1960.
Hajj and the Neglected Legacy of a Great Woman
By: Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
Reprinted from IslamiCity.com
Islam teaches us to submit completely and whole-heartedly. “O you who believe! Enter into Islam completely, whole-heartedly…” (Quran 2:208)
It also calls for a submission that is spontaneous and conscientious, without any hesitation or resistance against the will and guidance of God. “But no, by your Rabb, they can have no (real) faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.” (Quran 4:65)
There is great – truly great – news from God. “Those who have faith and do righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures, their reward is with God: Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein forever; God is well pleased with them, and they with Him: All this for such as fear their Rabb (the cherisher and sustainer).” (Quran 98:7-8)
Eid al-Adha revolves around sacrifice
Eid al-Adha is a great and unique occasion of joy and celebration. Ironically, this joy and celebration revolve around sacrifice. It would probably make sense to only those who understand that the joy of giving that touches others’ lives is far greater and deeper than the joy of receiving.
This great occasion of Eid al-Ad’ha is tied to an unique event, the Hajj; a unique city, Makkah; and a unique family, the family of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). Indeed, what the Quran refers to the Milla of Ibrahim is essentially rooted in the legacy of a model family. Say: “God speaks the Truth: follow the Milla of Ibrahim, the True in Faith; he was not of the Pagans.” (Quran 3:95)
We cannot discuss Eid al-Ad’ha without remembering Ibrahim, who represents in the Quran an ideal submission. He never hesitated to respond to the call and command of his Rabb (the Creator, the Sustainer and the Evolver). He never considered anything too precious to be withheld when it came to fulfilling the wish of his Rabb. Everything he did was commanded by God, and was fulfilled by him conscientiously with honor and nobility. We are all too familiar with the story of his unwavering faith and conviction, and his supreme sacrifice as embodied in the event when he was ready to sacrifice his dear and only son to fulfill the wish of his Rabb. “Behold! his Rabb (Lord) said to him: “Bow (submit your will to Me): He said: “I bow (submit my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe.” (Quran 2:131) We know, of course, God didn’t really want him to slaughter his son, he just wanted to see if Ibrahim was ready to submit entirely and unconditionally. No loving God would have exacted such a sacrifice of one’s own child in reality.
Another member of this ideal family was the first son of Ibrahim, Ismail. The Quran presents him as like father like son. “… (Abraham) he said: ‘O my son! I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!’ (The son) said: ‘O my father! Do as you are commanded: You will find me, if God so wills, one practicing patience and constancy!” (Quran 19:102)
In his submission to the will of his Rabb, Ismail was no less ideal. He submitted to the will of God whole-heartedly and with a heart full of peace and tranquility. Once again, there are very few among us who are not already familiar with the role and position of Ismail in the heritage of Tawheed and the eternal truth.
The legacy of Hajar (Radhiallahu ‘anha)Going beyond the customary commemoration of the stories of Ibrahim and Ismail, I want to focus here on the not-so-mentioned legacy of a great woman, Mother Hajar (Radhiallahu ‘anha, May Allah be pleased with her) the wife of Ibrahim and the mother of Ismail. Indeed, she is an integral and as important part of the legacy of Tawheed and the Milla (community) of Ibrahim. Her submission to the will of her Rabb and her sacrifice were as ideal as that of Ibrahim and Ismail. God has ennobled her in the Quran by making Safaa and Marwah integral to the performance of Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
These are the two hills between which she ran back and forth in search of water for her beloved infant son, while she was all alone according to the plan of God Himself. “Behold! Safaa and Marwah are among the symbols of God. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeys his own impulse to Good, be sure that God is He Who recognizes and knows.” (Quran 2:158)
If the readers have not read already, I invite them to read the Hadith containing details of her story in Sahih al-Bukhari (Vol. 4, #583, Book of Ambiya or Prophets).
Mother Hajar was not just a wife of Ibrahim, but she was deeply loved by him. But, once again, to fulfill the wish of God, he brought Mother Hajar and their beloved infant son, Ismail, to this abandoned, desolate, barren valley of Makkah. There was no such inhabited place called Makkah at that time.
As Ibrahim brought Mother Hajar and Ismail to that barren, rugged valley, she asks (as in the Hadith): ‘O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is neither any person nor anything else (to survive)?’ She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, ‘Has God instructed you to do so?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’…
That was enough for Mother Hajar. Now she knew that it was according to the Divine Will. With the same nobility and dignity of faith as it ran in that family, “She said, ‘Then God will not neglect us.’ (In another version): ‘I am pleased to be (left) with God.’
Then Ibrahim left and she was alone with her infant. Makkah was not an inhabited place yet. Food and water that Ibrahim provided them with were consumed by the mother and baby. Desperately, she started searching for water running back and forth through the valley between the hills of Safaa and Marwah. Surly Allah would not abandon the family of Ibrahim and so, she was visited by the arch-angel Jibril . This is an significant point to ponder: What kind of person is visited individually by Jibril?
Water, in the form of an ever flowing spring, the Zamzam, was made available to them by direct intervention of God. Right during that time, the tribe of Jurhum, passing by the valley saw birds flying. Realizing that water must be available, they searched and discovered Mother Hajar and Ismail. They sought permission to settle there. Thus, the desolate valley of Makkah became an inhabited area. Ibrahim returned there much later and laid the foundation of Ka’ba. Makkah ultimately was to emerge as a city and as the perennial heartland of Tawheed, the belief in oneness of God.
Subhanallah, God is glorified. He took such a significant and noble service from a woman. But consider another aspect. What kind of situation Mother Hajar was placed into? In that desolate, uninhabited valley, what might have been going on in her mind?
While unconditionally committed to her Lord, she was constantly searching, moving and struggling not thinking about herself any longer, but to find some water and save her child. What could she think about herself? Dr. Ali Shariati, in his well known book Hajj, attempts to provide a glimpse. Once she was slave only to be given away by her Master, a king representing the owning class; now a victim and a stranger, exiled and abandoned by her family all alone with her child in her arms! She hardly ever had a dignified identity. Had she not been the mother of Ismail, who would have given her any recognition and worth? There, in that barren place, her identity did not matter any further. Yet, she reposed her complete trust in her true Lord (Rabb) and was determined to pursue whatever she could in the Way of God.
What can we learn from her sacrifice?
Now ask yourself. If any human being needs to be identified, whom would you consider the foremost as far as founding of Makkah as a city?* Is there any other civilization, or even a city of this stature, that has been brought about by such primary contribution and sacrifice of a woman? How ironical, unfortunate, insulting and utterly unacceptable that the city that came into existence through the sacrifice and struggle of a lone woman now does not allow a woman to drive a car by herself. Nor does it allow a woman to travel to hajj by herself, even though the Prophet Muhammad himself had the vision that woman would travel someday alone to perform hajj and indeed, the vision did materialize. (Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 4, #19397, 19400; Also Sahih al-Bukhari: Vol. 4, #793)
It is so unfortunate that so little about her is talked about even on such pertinent occasion of which she is an integral part. I don’t recall myself listening to any Khutbah that highlighted her faith, sacrifice, and contribution that were second to none; yes, second to none. Indeed, I have read Sahih al-Bukhari before too, until the work of a Muslim intellectual of our time, whose mind is keen about women’s contribution in the heritage of Tawheed, drew my attention to this.*
What can men and women learn from a woman, whose service and contribution ennobled the Hills of Safaa and Marwah to the status of “among the Sign of God,” which must be visited, and whose quest for saving the object of her love must be reenacted?
From far away as the pilgrims perform this reenactment, we also want to be like Ismail and have a share of this noble woman’s affection. But there is a greater symbolic implication!
This community of believers follow the Way of Prophet Muhammad, a way that primarily was designed after the Way of Ibrahim and his family. The role that was played primarily by the family of Ibrahim, was broadly assumed by the Prophet Muhammad , but now involving not just his family, but the larger community of believers. This community (Ummah) is created for mankind! (Quran 3:110)
As it was true then, it is also true now, the humanity is in pursuit of doom and destruction. Should we not think of the humanity as Ismail destined for death, to save which love, affection, and restless passion of Mother Hajar are needed again and again? Did not the Prophet Muhammad carry on that mission of mercy and affection, and thus he was the Rahmatullil Alamin (mercy for the universe), according to the Quran? Did not his loyal companions fulfill the same mission? Then, does not this community (Ummah) need to be conscious of the trust God has given to them, for which the community will be accountable? What could be a better occasion for us to remind ourselves of that trust and invite ourselves to reflect on this and respond accordingly?
In conclusion, what is there, then, to celebrate?
“Our Lord! Grant us what you did promise to us through your Prophets, and save us from the shame on the Day of Judgment: for you never break Your promise.” And their Rabb (Lord) has accepted of them, and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another; those who have left their homes, or been driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain; Verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; A reward from the Presence of God, and from His Presence is the best of rewards. (Quran 3:194-195)
For all the toil and struggle, the hardship and sacrifice, the efforts and pursuits, is it not truly deserving of celebration that our works will not be in vain, will not suffer any loss? This is a guarantee from none other than God.
For me, that is more than good enough. With all the worldly promises, guarantees, and warranties that give us a sense of security, one tends to forget that there is also a vast world of deceptions. If we cannot have peace of mind with the promise from God, we have nowhere to turn to. Thus, what could be more worthy of our celebration than the invitation of God to an eternal life of peace, happiness, and prosperity, an invitation that comes with the unfailing promise of God. This, of course, requires that we commit ourselves to the positive and constructive pursuit of bringing peace, happiness and prosperity to the humanity.
* I became enlightened about this particular aspect from an important work of Dr. Kaukab Siddique. I can’t speak for his positions on many other matters, but his contribution to issues related to Islam and women is quite relevant, enlightening and valuable.
Abridged from a Khutbah delivered on Eid al-Ad’ha in Iowa City, Iowa. The author is a professor of economics and finance at Upper Iowa University; Homepage: http://www.globalwebpost.com/farooqm; The author requests volunteers if anyone is interested in translating this piece in their native language. email: email@example.com
A Glimpse at Early Women Islamic Scholars
Reprinted from NewIslamicDirections.com
A Glimpse at Early Women Islamic Scholars
04 September 2007
The following is a transcript of a lecture delivered by Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwi of Oxford University, on the role of women scholars in preserving and transmitting prophetic tradition (Hadith) in Islam. The original transcript has been edited by Imam Zaid Shakir to enhance readability.
The Female Scholars of Islam
O Mankind! Fear your Lord who has created you from a single soul, and from it He created its mate; and from them both, He brought forth multitudes of men and women. Be mindful of Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and revere the wombs that bore you. Surely, Allah is ever watching over you. (4:1)
From the very beginning of the human saga, Allah makes it quite clear that men and women are equal beings created from one single soul, sharing the same father and mother, and subservient unto the same Lord.
The verse mentioned above came to the Messenger of Allah, peace upon him, at a time when women were being humiliated and tortured. Allah says: …and when the female child, buried alive, will be asked: For what sin was she killed. (81:8-9) This is in reference to an ancient practice of the Arabs (and even some modern societies through abortion) who would kill their female children from fear of being humiliated in the community, or out fear that they would not have the means to provide for them. Islam came to eradicate these ignorant practices, amongst others, and after twenty-three years of Prophetic teachings it had conferred unto women a status that was previously unthinkable.
Women’s Independence in Faith
The first revelation: Read in the name of your Lord who created… (96:1) left the Prophet, peace upon him, severely shaken, for he could not comprehend such an event happening to an unlettered, orphaned, desert Arab. It is related that he was consoled by Khadijah, May Allah be pleased with her, who believed in him and comforted him in a time of great need and distress. She was the backbone of his initial efforts for the advancement of the new faith, and a noble business woman of high lineage.
After three years of secrecy he was ordered by Allah to call his own family to the faith. He, peace upon him, gathered his family and openly called upon the tribe of Hashim and the tribe of Abdul Muttalib to believe in his message. Towards the end of the narration of this event, he, peace upon him, specifically says to ‘Abbas b. ‘Abdul Muttalib, May Allah be pleased with him: “I cannot benefit you on the Day of Judgment.” He uttered the same statement to his aunt, Safiyyah bint ‘Abdul Muttalib and to his daughter, Fatima, May Allah be pleased with both of them. He added: “Ask me of my wealth in this world, but on the Day of Judgment I cannot avail you in any way.” In this address the Prophet, peace upon him, specifically named two women and one man, demonstrating that women possess independent religious responsibility that has no connection to their gender.
This independence in faith is exemplified by the fact that the wives of Noah and Lot, peace upon them, both rejected faith. Hence, the Qur’an affirms that even the wife of a Prophet is free to believe or disbelieve.
Furthermore, Umm Habiba became a believer while her father, Abu Sufyan, May Allah be pleased with them both, was a staunch opponent of the Prophet, peace upon him. He possessed neither the power nor priviledge to influence her independent choice.
At the second Pledge of Aqabah, a covenant that involved specific political and strategic obligations, the Prophet, peace upon him, took an oath from both men and women. He was not content to have women confined to their houses, totally divorced from any involvement in public affairs.
Hafsah bint Umar, Protector of the Quran
The Quran, the most sacred and important source in Islam, was memorized by many of the companions. After the Battle of Yamama, where a large number of those memorizers were killed, Umar, May Allah be pleased with him, advised Abu Bakr to issue a standardized edition of the entire Qur’an in the dialect of Qureish, whose protection he vouchsafed. Abu Bakr, May Allah be pleased with him, issued such an edition. After his death it passed into the protection of Umar, May Allah be pleased with him, and after his passing, it was given to Hafsah bint Umar, may Allah be pleased with her, to be carefully guarded and preserved.
During the caliphate of Uthman, May Allah be pleased with him, it was noticed that divergent and erroneous recitations of the Qur’an were emerging among the newly converted non-Arab people in places like Armenia and Azerbaijan. Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, then borrowed the edition of the Qur’an in Hafsah’s protection, may Allah be pleased with her, to make six standardized copies to send to the major political and cultural centers in the Islamic realm. He ordered all non-standardized editions to be burned. It is clear here that no one questioned Hafsah’s trustworthiness, May Allah be pleased with her, as it was unthinkable that she would have altered the edition vouchsafed to her in any way.
Women’s Role in the Narration of Hadith
In the time of the Companions, the question never arose concerning the validity of learning directly from women. If we were to consider, for example, the books of prophetic tradition (Hadith), in every chapter you will find women narrating as well as men. Imam Hakim Naisapuri states: “One fourth of our religion depends on the narrations of women. Were it not for those narrations, we would lose a quarter of our religion.”
For example, Abu Hanifah considers there to be four units of supererogatory prayer before the obligatory noon prayer, whereas the remaining Imams say that there are only two. The latter depend on the narration of Abdullah b. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, while Abu Hanifah relies on Umm Habiba, may Allah be pleased with her, and the other wives of the Prophet, peace upon him. Abu Hanifah argues that since the prophet, peace upon him, used to pray supererogatory prayers in his house, the narration of his wives, may Allah be pleased with them, is stronger.
Similarly, major events, such as the beginning of the call to the prophetic office, were specifically narrated by women. Ayesha alone narrates the tradition detailing the circumstances of the first revelation, as recorded by Imam Bukhari, immediately after the Hadith mentioning that actions are judged based on the intention accompanying them.
To give similar examples, we all know that performing ablution is essential for the validity of Ritual Prayer (Salat). A female companion, Rubiyya bint Muawidh b. Afrah, may Allah have mercy on her, whose family members died in the Battle of Uhud, was a great narrator of Hadith. Her narrations can be found in Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, and other compilations. She narrated how the Prophet, peace upon him, performed ablution after actually witnessing his performance of the purificatory ritual. The companions would go to learn from her despite the fact that Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Muadh b. Jabal, and Abdullah b. Masood, may Allah be pleased with them, were all present in Madinah. She was regarded as the expert in the performance of ablution.
Rubiyya’s students included the likes of Abdullah b. Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, the great Qur’anic exegete, and also a member of the family of the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah upon him. He never asked: “Why should I learn from her when I am from the family of the Prophet and a great exegete?” The same is true for Ali Zain ul-Abideen, the great grandson of the Prophet, peace upon him, and a great scholar himself. Their philosophy was to go to whoever possessed knowledge, irrespective of their gender.
Interestingly, there is no single Hadith which has been rejected from a woman on account of her being a fabricating liar. Imam Dhahabi affirms: “There are many men who have fabricated Hadith. However, no woman in the history of Islam has been accused of fabrication.” In light of this, if the intellectual integrity of anyone should be questioned, it should be that of men. Women have always truthfully conveyed religious knowledge.
Amrah bint Abdur Rahman
Amrah bint Abdur Rahman was amongst the greatest of the female Tabi’een or Successors, the generation that came after that of the companions of the Prophet, peace upon him. She was a jurist, a mufti, and a Hadith specialist. The great Caliph Umar b. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz used to say: “If you want to learn Hadith go to Amrah.” Imam Zuhri, who is credited with compiling the first systematically edited compilation of Hadith used to say: “Go to Amrah, she is the vast vessel of Hadith.”
During that time, the Judge of Madinah ruled in a case involving a Christian thief from Syria who had stolen something. The judge had ordered that his hand to be severed. When Amrah bint Abdur Rahman heard of this decision, she immediately told one of her students to go tell the judge that he cannot severe the man’s hand because he had stolen something whose value was less than a single gold coin (Dinaar). As soon as he heard what Amrah had said, he ordered that the man be released, unharmed. He did not question her authority, nor did he seek a second opinion from other scholars, who were quite numerous in Madinah at the time. They included the likes of Sa’id b. Al Musayyib. This incident is recorded in the Muwatta of Imaam Malik, and this ruling is also his opinion in such cases.
Another of the great Successors, Umm Darda, taught in both Damascus, in the great Umayyad Mosque, and Jerusalem. Her class was attended by Imams, jurists, and Hadith scholars. The powerful Caliph Abdul Malik b. Marwan, who ruled an empire stretching from Spain to India, had a teaching license from Abdullah b. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, who was considered the greatest jurist of his time in Madinah. When ‘Abdullah reached old age, the people asked him: “Who should we seek religious verdicts from after you?” He replied: “Marwan has a son (Abdul Malik), who is a jurist so ask him.” Hence, Abdul Malik was endorsed by Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him. Yet even Abdul Malik b. Marwah would attend the classes of Umm Darda and he would never feel ashamed of learning from her. Furthermore, he would humbly serve her. It has been recorded that when Umm Darda was teaching she would lean on the shoulder of Abdul Malik b. Marwah, due to her being advanced years, to go to mosque for Salat. He would help her return to her place of teaching after the prayer. The fact that these women taught men who were themselves regarded as great scholars indicates the respect and status they had attained.
Fatima bint Ibrahim b. Jowhar
The mosque of the Prophet, peace upon him, is undoubtedly one of the most sacred places in Islam, and his blessed grave is even more sacred. Around the beginning of the Eighth Century of the Muslim calendar, Fatima bint Ibrahim b. Jowhar, a famous teacher of Bukhari, under whom both Imams Dhahabi and Subqi studied the entirety of Sahih Bukhari appeared. When she came for the Pilgrimage (Hajj) her fame was such that as soon as the students of Hadith heard that she had reached Madinah, they requested her to teach in the Mosque of the Prophet, peace upon him. Ibn Rushayd al-Subki, who traveled from Marrakech, describes one of her classes thus: “She was sitting in front of the blessed head of Prophet, peace upon him, and [due to her advanced years] she would lean on his grave. She would finish by writing and signing the license to transmit her narrations (Ijaazah), personally, for all of the Hadiths that were read by every student present.”
This, and similarly stories, makes it clear that women can teach in the best of mosques. Pathetically, today there are debates as to whether they can even come to the mosque for prayer! This is an indication of our ignorance of our own Islamic heritage, and of our digression from the practices of our pious predecessors.
Ayesha bint Abdul Hadi
Ayesha bint Abdul Hadi used to teach in the grand mosque of Damascus. She was appointed by the Sultan of that time as the Master of Hadith and taught the compilation of Imam Bukhari. She represented the whole community and they could not find any man better than her. Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, considered by many to be the greatest of all latter day Hadith scholars traveled to Damascus and studied more than one hundred books with her. Today, it would be difficult to find a “shaykh” who even knows the names of her books, to say nothing of having read them. In addition to her intellectual acumen, her chain of narration in Hadith is regarded as the strongest from her generation back to the Prophet, peace upon him. Between her and Imam Bukhari are eight transmitters, and between Imam Bukhari and the Prophet, peace upon him, there are variously, three, four or five transmitters. No other chain of narrators allows one to reach the Prophet, peace upon him, with an equal or smaller number of narrators.
If we consider the great role of women such as Hafsah, may Allah be pleased with her and her father, in the compilation of the Qur’an, and the role of women like Ayesha bint Abdul Hadi in preserving and accurately conveying Hadith, it is clear that the two most fundamental sources of our religion have been secured with the aid and blessing of women.
Fatima al-Juzdani, a great scholar from Isfahan in present-day Iran, read one of the great books of Hadith, Al-Mu’jam Al-Kabeer, with Abu Bakr b. Rida, who himself studied the entirety of the book with its author, Imam Tabarani. This book has been published in thirty-seven volumes (unfinished). After mastering the book, she subsequently taught it many times. Not a single scholar alive today has studied this book, or even part of it with a teacher. Furthermore, we do not have a single narration of this book except from women, because it was forgotten by the male Hadith scholars!
In the time of Ibn Taymiyya, there were other scholars like Imam Dhahabi, al-Mizzi, al-Birzali, Tajuddin al-Subqi, and a little later, Ibn Kathir, Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn Nasiruddin al-Dimishqui, and Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. This was the golden age of Hadith, when the development of Hadith literature and teaching was at its peak. Not only were these men scholars, they were also reformers of their society. At this very time, there was a woman in Syria, who was also known for her scholarship and the powerful positive influence she had on society. She helped in the reformation of communities in Damascus and Cairo by enjoining good and forbidding evil. Ibn Kathir, the student of Ibn Taymiyya, has written in his highly acclaimed work of history, Al-Bidaya w’al-Nihaya: “She reformed society by enjoining good and forbidding evil, she accomplished what men are unable to do, that is to say, she did more than the male scholars of her time.” This testimony was written by a man. Hence, no one can say it is the biased opinion of a woman, and thereby question its authenticity. This was a golden age full of proactive, confident and talented women.
Fatima bint Mundhir
Hisham b. Urwah b. Zubair, May Allah be pleased with him, is the teacher of Imam Malik, Abu Hanifa, Sufyaan al-Thawri, Saeed Qahtan, and is acknowledged as a great Hadith scholar of that era. The most reliable Hadiths narrated by him, found in both Bukhari and Muslim, are those he narrates from his wife, Fatima bint Mundhir. Sadly, many Muslim men today would not marry a woman more knowledgeable than themselves. The men of our past would proudly marry and learn from them.
One of the best compilations in Hanafi fiqh is the masterpiece Badaya’ al- Sanaaya’ by Imam Kasani, whose wife was Fatima al-Samarqandiyya, daughter of Ala’addin al-Samarqandi. This book is a commentary on Tuhfa al-Fuqaha’ written by the latter. Fatima was a great expert in Hadith and other religious sciences. Imam Kasani’s students narrate: “We saw our teacher at times would leave the classroom when he could not answer a certain difficult question. After a while he would return to elucidate the answer in great detail. Only later on did we learn that he would go home to put the same question to his wife in order to hear her explanation.” Clearly, he depended on his wife in his scholarly life.
Opinions of Women Scholars Were Respected
Not only were women scholars allowed to give binding religious verdicts (fatwas), but if they differed with their male contemporaries there would be absolutely no objections concerning their pronouncements. This was apparent from the earliest period. Illustrative of this is the opinion of Fatima bint Qais, may God be pleased with her, who said that a husband need not provide support for his irrevocably divorced wife during her period of waiting (‘Iddah). She based her opinion on a narration from the Prophet, peace upon him.
Despite the fact that Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, and other senior companions disagreed with her, based on their understanding of a verse in the Quran, they did not question her faith, impose sanctions on her, nor did they prevent her from continuing to narrate the Hadith and issuing her fatwa. This incident is interesting in that it presents the opinion of a woman that advances a ruling that is not deemed favorable to woman. In so doing she opposes an opinion advanced by men that is deemed favorable to women. If this incident had occurred in our times it would have surely been the point of much contention and discussion.
The above are just some of the evidence that establishes the enormous contribution of women to the Islamic scholarly enterprise. The book it is excerpted from contains many more arguments and can be found at http://www.interfacepublications.com. I hope that this article empowers us to help women attain the status and dignity that was given to them by our pious predecessors, based on the inspiration they received from the leader of all the Prophets, our exemplary master, Muhammad, the Chosen One, peace and mercy of God upon him.
Should Muslim Nurses Expose Their Arms?
Bare Below the Elbows: A British Debate
By Emdad Rahman
IOL Correspondent – UK
Controversy has once again reared its head after British media reported on the reluctance of Muslims to adhere to major hygiene rules. Minutes of a clinical academics conference at Liverpool University publicized the apparent refusal of female Muslim students at Alder Hay hospital to roll up their sleeves.
Further media reports confirmed that parallel fears were also flagged up at Leicester University, along with Birmingham and Sheffield universities.
Reports based on minutes of meetings between the various hospital hierarchies revealed that “A number of Muslim females had difficulty in complying with the procedures to roll up sleeves to the elbow for appropriate hand washing, whilst adding that some students would prefer to resign their courses rather than go against their religious convictions.”
The new guidelines on hospital attire and health etiquette are designed to tackle medical superbugs and infections such as Clostridium difficile and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA).
Naafis Saliha, one of the medical students of Imperial College London, believes that misunderstanding is fuelling hatred toward Muslims “by providing ammunition to racist media.”
“This story is working to portray Muslims as unhygienic and un-cooperative, and it has worked a treat, judging by the overwhelming response.” Saliha added.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Dr. Mark Enright, professor of microbiology at Imperial College London, said, “To wash your hands properly, and reduce the risks of MRSA and C. difficile, you have to be able to wash the whole area around the wrist.”
“I don’t think it would be right to make an exemption for people on any grounds. The policy of ‘bare below the elbows’ has to be applied universally,” Enright stated.
Dress Code Conflict
Amir Khan, who has just completed TA foundation year What is this for newly qualified doctors, said, “Muslims were pioneers in medicine and science. Those who feel it a burden to raise sleeves to wash up as part of medical procedures are misguided and they are certainly in the wrong profession.”
“Cleanliness is next to godliness, and nobody is asking anyone to perform a teasing strip show for their colleagues or patients. Do it in the privacy of a room or washroom for heaven’s sake, but there’s no need to be difficult. We have enough ill will as it is,” Khan added.
Through a research paper on implementation of dress codes and its conflict with individual religious beliefs, Newham University Hospital (NHS) Trusts multifaith manager Yunus Dudhwala stated many critical facts.
Dudhwala highlighted some cited cases in which many female Muslim — local and national — clinicians, nurses, and students have raised concerns about the introduction of this guidance and how it conflicts with their religious belief. In fact, some members of the Sikh faith have also found difficulty with the implementation of this guidance re the bangle.
“From an Islamic law viewpoint, a woman must cover her arms up to and including the wrist at all times except in front of her close family members. As we are quite aware, not all Muslim female clinicians wear wrist-length uniform and therefore this guideline will not pose a problem for that group that most probably will be the majority from the Muslim female group. It will be a problem for those Muslim females who may ask to cover their arms as they strictly adhere to wrist-length Islamic uniform,” he stated.
Dudhwala insisted that, “Muslim female clinicians along with all medical staff are concerned about the welfare of their patients and would never consider doing anything that may put the patient at risk. This includes following all policies relating to health and safety, infection control, and uniforms.”
“A Wake Up Call”
Miriam Hooper, a hospital receptionist, said, “Anyone flouting these rules should be sacked as a professional measure. There is a very real threat of MRSA in this country. These rules are set to deal with and target bugs, whilst promoting hygiene. These people are not fit to serve in hospitals in a civilized country; they should be sent to medical establishments in Rwanda or Afghanistan or Iraq as a wake up call.”
Neelufar Yasmin and Amaal Ali are unrepentant medical students; “The war on Muslims is still going strong – there is no evidence to support the notion that Muslims are unhygienic and flouting rules” said Yasmin. In fact this mudslinging is so pathetic that even hardcore Islamophobes are beginning to question the motives of the individuals spreading such remarks.” Yasmin wears full sleeves and sees that there is no qualms about this, and her colleagues respect her choices and agree with her totally.
Ali went further; “this is a throwback to the days when black people were viewed as sub humans, supported by the spreading of malicious rumours to sway the public – the only difference is that Muslims are a bit more difficult to enslave, what with the worlds eyes being wide open and the public are less gullible and don’t view the Daily Telegraph as society’s purveyors of truth. I actually wear short sleeves, but if my convictions stretched that far, I would not hesitate to cover up. After all, there is no risk to patients and minimal or equal risk of spreading superbugs as those with exposed arms.”
As part of his advisory role, Dudhwala has bought several points to the fore, “Employers must be aware of the risks of discrimination. When devising or reviewing a dress code, employers must ask themselves whether the dress code will require employees to dress in a way that contravenes their religion or belief.”
The Department of Health (DoH) guidance document Uniforms and Workwear, which is the basis of introducing “Bare Below the Elbows” says the following,
“There is no conclusive evidence that uniforms (or other work clothes) pose a significant hazard in terms of spreading infection.”
Based on empirical research conducted by University College London Hospital NHS Trust (UCLH), the DoH document concluded that, “Not all staff need to wear uniforms, and it seems unlikely that uniforms are a significant source of cross-infection.”
“Bare Below the Elbows”
In September 2007, the British Medical Association (BMA) launched its latest statement, in which Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, head of BMA Science and Ethics, said, “The BMA is pleased that the government has taken on board many of the recommendations outlined in our report on reducing hospital-acquired infections, for example the call for doctors to stop wearing ties and white coats in hospitals and how it was preferable for clinicians to wear short-sleeves.” However, Nathanson warned any new guidelines on dress code must be “practical, realistic, and sensitive to different religious groups.”
The guidance from the Central Consultants and Specialists Committee (CCSC) stated that, “However, the policy must be seen as a corporate image and identity issue, for negotiation, rather than an infection control issue which LNCs are asked to agree with without question.”
The guidance clarified that, “The CCSC is particularly concerned that the Secretary of State’s “Bare Below the Elbows” policy is not supported by demonstrable scientific evidence and was issued hastily in response to an intense period of media focus on the issue. The CCSC and the wider BMA support evidence backed policies aimed at fighting infection rates in hospitals but believes that such policies should be introduced on the basis of clear evidence and in partnership with clinicians locally.”
Muslims Clinicians Using Alcohol
Dudhwala’s research concluded that Muslim female clinicians working in the NHS fully support all measures taken to reduce infection risks to patients as long as these measures are based on evidence. “This is why they consistently make use of alcohol gel as a hand rub and encourage its use despite the Islamic view of prohibition toward alcohol. There are currently no better alternatives, and they recognize that fact, and the evidence is clearly available,” the research emphasized.
Dudhwala continued, “However in this case, according to what has been quoted above, the current guidance used for the introduction of ‘Bare Below the Elbows’ does not have the evidence base to be introduced and implemented across-the-board.”
An Opt-Out Option
Dudhwala has advised trusts to look at ways in which they can support their staff who feel they have no other choice except to choose between their religion and profession and look at options that allow compliance with infection-control policies as well as adherence to their religious beliefs.
He has also advised the trust to formulate a policy that incorporates ‘No Sleeves Below the Elbow.’ However, within the policy there should be an option for an individual to opt out due to personal religious or belief reasons. The individual who wishes to opt out will agree in writing (in a pre-prepared Trust form) that they will roll up their sleeves during every clinical episode and wash hands above the wrists after every patient contact according to Infection Control Policies and that this can and will be observed closely.
Pro-life, Pro-family Muslim Campaigner in the UK and in the UN, Dr. Abdul Majid Katme, the spokesman of the Islamic Medical Association has spoken at length regarding issues pertaining to the controversy.
Observing Islamic Modesty
Dr. Katme has also highlighted avoiding exposure of the body, except for the hands and face, is an essential feature of a Muslim woman’s faith.
“Arms that are exposed are likely to pick up germs and there is available evidence that suggest and argue the case for skin being covered as being safer for patients,” he added.
During numerous interviews, Dr. Katme has suggested the use of long-length, sterile, medical gloves that reach up to the elbows; “all these prescribed washing rituals in Islam, which are done many times during the day will make no doubt, any Muslim female medical student or doctor less risky to their patients and will avoid them a lot of infections.
He insisted that exposed arms can pick up germs by the skin and the skin can be more protected and is safer if is covered. An idea, if needed,” it might be useful to consider producing some long sterile disposable non transparent gloves, which can reach the elbows for female Muslim medical student or doctor and to use when they are coming across some patients or in hospitals.”
“Last year one hospital in the Midlands manufactured some new dressing for the female Muslim women surgeons, who wished to keep and observe their Islamic modesty while carrying out operations.” He added.
Finally, he warned that “It will be a great loss to the NHS and to the community, if Muslim medical students are forced to leave their medical studies because of one small important modest decency measure. There is an urgent need now to discuss this important matter for our Muslim medical students with the Dept of Health and the hospital’s trusts in order to sort it out.”
What do you think of the stance of those Muslim female doctors? Do you have any suggestions for overcoming such an obstacle?