Women in Islam rss

Confessions of an Ex-Feminist: What it Means to Be a Woman

Muslim woman and the shahadah

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!!!!)

Transformation

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.

Muslim female martial artist Sara Khoshjamal trains for Beijing Olympics

Muslim female martial artist Sara Khoshjamal trains for Beijing Olympics

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

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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.

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The Status of Women in Islam

Muslim women

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.

CONTENTS:

  • PREFACE
  • INTRODUCTION
  • 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
  • CONCLUSION
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY

PREFACE

Young Syrian women talking in a mosque courtyard

Group of young Muslim women talking in Omayad mosque courtyard, Damascus, Syria

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.

Anis Ahmad,
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

I. INTRODUCTION

Women students praying at CSU Sacramento

Women students praying at CSU Sacramento

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

Magda Amer, an Islamic teacher in Egypt

Magda Amer, an Islamic teacher in Egypt

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

A Muslim woman praying in the mosque

A Muslim woman praying in the mosque

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.

Noha Abd Roba of Egypt, an Olympic Taekwondo athlete

Noha Abd Roba of Egypt, an Olympic Taekwondo champion

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

Merve Kavakci, former Turkish parliamentarian and spokeswoman for women's rights

Merve Kavakci, former Turkish parliamentarian and spokeswoman for women

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.

IV. CONCLUSION

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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.

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Hajj and the Neglected Legacy of a Great Woman

Indonesian Muslim women at the Hajj

Indonesian Muslim women at the Hajj

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)

Any discussion of Hajj must include Hajar (may Allah be pleased with her)

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: farooqm59@yahoo.com
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A Glimpse at Early Women Islamic Scholars

Magda Amer works to spread Islamic education among women in Egypt.

Magda Amer works to spread Islamic education among women in Egypt. Women have historically played an important role in Islamic scholarship and education.

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

Dr. Aminah McCloud

Dr. Aminah McCloud, author, activist and professor of Islamic studies at De Paul University

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.”

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, and first female president of the Islamic Society of North America

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.

Umm Darda

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

Soad Saleh, a noted female Islamic scholar

Soad Saleh, a noted female Islamic scholar at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, one of the Islamic world’s most revered institutions

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

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.

Fatima al-Samarqandiyya

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.

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Should Muslim Nurses Expose Their Arms?

Muslim nurse at the first Muslim clinic in Moscow, opened in 2008

Muslim nurse at the first Muslim clinic in Moscow, opened in 2008

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.”

Overwhelming Response

A Nigerian physician scrubbing her arms clean

A Nigerian physician scrubbing her arms clean

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.”

Dr. Yunus Dudhwala

Dr. Yunus Dudhwala

“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. Abdul Majid Katme

Dr. Abdul Majid Katme

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?

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