Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Muslim woman – East, West or Islam?

The following is a transcript of a talk.

Allah (swt) says: “I have not created jinn and humankind except to worship me” [TMQ 51:57]

We all know that our objective in life as Muslims is to worship Allah (swt), this means that we must follow the commands and prohibitions of Allah in all the aspects of life whether in the Masjid, home, market, hospital or school.

Many of us may be aware of this objective in general, however unfortunately when it comes to the role of the Muslim woman our roles and responsibilities we find that there is much confusion.

Today the Muslim women are being pulled between two cultures, the Western culture which many of the youth are being attracted to and the Eastern culture which a lot of the elder generation are influenced by. Often people have a confusion between the Eastern cultural view of a woman and her role and the Islamic view of women, they mix these together and see them as one.

People unfortunately don’t realise that there is a third option and true alternative – Islam and its view of the woman and her role

The Western culture promotes freedom, liberation of the woman and so-called equality – that a woman can be like a man and do whatever a man can do, that she should not be restricted by her parents, family or even religion. This view seems appealing to some, especially the youth as the media continuously spreading these ideas

For example:
· If we look at Sania Mirza, she is portrayed in the media as a successful Muslim woman, so some of our daughters may look at her as a role model
· Also if we look to the famous bollywood stars they are also seen as role models to some
· Especially amongst the youth the issue of fashion, looking good when going out of the house, especially at weddings – so it is common to see on the streets of Muslim women who are not covered according to the Islamic rules of wearing the Khimar (headscarf) and the Jilbab (outer garment).
· The issue of boyfriend and girlfriend relationships is also penetrating the Muslim community, where our daughters even hide from their parents their relationships with boys

On the other hand we see people especially some from the elder generation affected by the Eastern culture. For example:

· According to the Eastern culture, women are slaves to their husbands and exist to fulfil their needs – this becomes their objective in life
· The concept of arranged marriage where the family chooses someone for the girl without her consent or sometimes without even seeing the man before marriage
· Tribalism and nationalism is deeply rooted where even amongst the Muslims people only give their daughter in marriage to a certain tribe or family which is similar to them – so the Siddiqi’s may only marry other Siddiqi’s, Sayyid’s, Choudry’s, etc. This is very common.
· The Eastern concept of modesty and dress does not emanate from Islam, so women may be wearing Salwar Kameez, Saari’s with a dupatta when they go out and they think they are dressing properly even though in the eyes of Allah they are naked if they are showing their hair, necks and other parts of their body in front of non-mahram men.
· Backbiting (Gheebat) is common where people talk negatively about other Muslims

As a result of these different views it is common to see arguments in households between mothers and daughters on a variety of issues such as dress code, modesty and marriage.

However we need to realise that the solution to our problems does not lie in the sick Western culture where the women is seen as a commodity, where the charms of women are used to sell everything from ice creams to cars, where fornication (Zina) and adultery are commonplace where they think they have equality but in reality they are slaves to the lusts of men.

Nor does the solution lie in the disgusting Eastern culture which comes from the idol worshipping religions who worship animals and even deny the oneness of Allah, who follow their forefathers blindly as the Quraysh at the time of the Prophet (saw) did without thinking whether it is right or wrong.

We need to think - who can define the role and responsibilities of women correctly, the one who created men and women or limited human beings?

Have we ever really questioned what our role should be or do we simply just imitate and follow what we see people around us doing?

Since Allah (swt) created the male and the female and He knows best the situation of the man and the woman, then we must limit ourselves to the rules which He (swt) has legislated and not overstep them. This applies to whether these rules are intended solely for the men or exclusively for the women or whether they are for humans irrespective of their being men or women, because He (swt) knows best what is suitable for the human.

Both the Western and Eastern view of the woman are wrong as they don’t come from Allah (swt), the creator of the Universe. The source of guidance for us is the Quran and Sunnah, not tradition, not what the media says, not what our parents say, not what the community says, not what the government says. So let us understand what Islam says about women, obviously in this short talk I cannot go into all the details, however I want to address some key points:

a) The primary role of the woman: The Shari’ah has made the woman a mother and a housewife. It addressed her with rules relating to pregnancy, childbirth, to suckling, custodianship and to the waiting period (‘Idda). These rules are specified to women and not to men. Allah (swt) obliged men to earn income for himself and his family and he did not oblige this on women. Both men and women are equal in the sight of Allah, however they are different and have different roles and responsibilities according to the Shariah.

According to Islam the primary role of the woman is that she is a mother and housewife because it is through this action the human race survives and because she is distinguished by this from the men. However, the woman’s primary role as mother and housewife does not mean she is confined to this role and prevented from pursuing other activities.

So we as women must link our actions to what the Shariah has said and not just to engage in them because that’s what people do in society. So when we breastfeed our children, we should know that will be rewarded by Allah (swt) for that.

When we look after our husbands, we don’t just do it due to public opinion or because of what the community thinks, rather we do it to please Allah (swt).

One woman said to the Prophet(saw) ‘O Rasulallah, you brought tidings to men but not to women’. He said, “Does it not please any of you that if she is pregnant by her husband and he is satisfied with her that she receives the reward of one who fasts and prays for the sake of Allah? And when the labour pains come none in heaven or earth knows what is concealed in her womb to soothe her. And when she delivers, not a mouthful of milk flows from her and not an instance of child’s suck that she receives for every mouthful and for every suck, the reward of one good deed. And if she is kept awake by the child at night, she receives the reward of one who frees 70 slaves for the sake of Allah” [Tabarani]

Some rules may be specific to men like praying Jumm’uah (Friday) Salah, some may be specific to women such as the exemption from Salah during period (menstruation).

However there are many shariah rules that are applicable to both men and women such as the obligation of Salah, fasting, working for Khilafah, seeking knowledge, prohibition of backbiting, riba (usury) etc.

b) Women are not slaves: Contrary to how the media portrays it, in Islam the man is the guardian of the woman and not the master as is in Eastern culture. Allah (swt) said:

“Men are the guardians of women” [TMQ An-Nisa: 34]

Unlike in Eastern culture, in Islam the aim of marriage is for the man and women to gain tranquillity by having companionship with each other. Although the man is the guardian of the women, she is not his slave. Allah (swt) has given rights to the man and the woman and they should cooperate in helping each other achieving these. The best of examples, the Prophet (saw) used to come back from Jihad and help his wife with the housework. The wives of the Prophet (saw) used to discuss with him and even debate with him, he used to treat them with respect and honour, he used to be kind and gentle with them and used to show compassion, love and mercy.

c) Tribalism and nationalism completely contradict Islam and we should never use them as a basis for marriage.

The Prophet gave his cousin Zaynab bin Jahsh (ra), who was from the exalted people of the Quraish, in marriage to Zayd bin Haritha (ra) who used to be a slave and was freed. We should look for Taqwa (piety) more than anything else.

d) Muslim women can participate in society: If we look to the Sahabiyat they participated in society, it is allowed for Muslim women to work, to be doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, etc of course with the permission of their guardians. For example Khadija (ra), the first wife of the Prophet (saw) was a businesswomen, Aisha (ra) was a scholar of Islam – many of the Sahaba used to come and ask her questions about the Deen, Shifaa bint Abdullah (ra) was a doctor at the time of the Prophet (saw) – she was literate and he (saw) even asked her to teach one of his wives to read and write, she was appointed as a Qadi (judge) of the marketplace during the Khilafah of Umar (ra).

Today it is good for Muslim women to be successful in different fields without compromising their Islam

e) The importance of da’wa: This is a neglected obligation, the obligation to work to resume to the Islamic way of life and re-establish the Khilafah is a Fard on both men and women without distinction. The evidences to work for change are general upon both men and women, for example the Prophet (saw) said:

“Whosoever sees a munkar (evil) must change it with their hand, if they cannot then with their tongue and if they cannot then they must hate it in their heart and that is the weakest of Iman.”

The Prophet (saw) said “whoever” meaning whether male or female

Today we must be active in spreading the message of Islam within our communities, to raise the awareness of our sisters about the Deen. Many are even unaware that Islam has solutions for all problems including how to raise our children and how to solve the problem of Iraq, how to treat our husbands and how to liberate Palestine for the Israeli occupation, how to deal with our parents and how to eliminate poverty in the world.

There are two things we must be engaged in:

1) Seeking knowledge: How can we engage in Da’wa without having knowledge, of course seeking knowledge is an obligation. We must continuously seek knowledge by reading, thinking and asking questions about the Deen. We should be thinking women like the Sahabiyat and women of the past. We should be aware about the problems of the Ummah and not just consumed in our own family problems where we think more about whether the roti gets burnt rather than thinking about our children being burnt by the bombs of the Kuffar in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and other lands. We are consumed in thinking about what clothes we are going to wear on some wedding or on Eid rather than thinking about how to solve the problem of the Muslims in our lands who have no clothes due to the poverty created by our corrupt rulers who are agents of the West.

2) Giving Da’wa: The Prophet (saw) said: “Even if you know one ayah (verse) propagate it”.

We as Muslim women are in a good position to help create the atmosphere of Da’wa within our families and communities. So when we meet other women instead of only talking about petty things like what we have cooked, or what has been happening in the dramas on Zee TV, what new films are out, etc – we should discuss issues of the Deen. We should learn knowledge from each other and help each other in this.

Some of you may feel that it is difficult to be engaged in Da’wa due to household responsibilities and time constraints. However we must think practically of how to instil Da’wa into our normal lives, day to day we meet many people and interact with our families, we must ensure that we instil the correct Islamic culture within our children and not allow them to be brought up by the Kufr society.

The Sahabiyat were da’wa carriers we should look at their examples. They were also mothers, wives and daughters, but they were also Da’wa carriers.

Summayah (ra) was the first martyr of Islam who was struggling with the rest of the Sahaba to establish the Deen of Allah (swt), she was tortured to death by Abu Jahl, but she never gave in. The sister of Umar ibn al-Khattab did not turn away from the Deen and gave Da’wa to Umar even though he beat her very badly. Asma bint Abu Bakr (ra) continued to be a da’wa carrier even until she was an old woman when she spoke out against an oppressive leader Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. Women like A’isha (ra) had a remarkable memory and reported over 2000 ahadith. She had a deep understanding of tafseer, hadith and fiqh. At the age of 18 people came from all over Arabia to ask her questions about the deen because she was one of the most knowledgeable scholars.

Umm Amarah (ra) even participated in Jihad, she was a skilled fighter and fought in many battle, most famously in the Battle of Uhud where she protected the Prophet (saw) with her own body, not caring about herself. The Prophet (saw) is reported to say that wherever he turned, whether to his left or right, he saw Umm Amarah (ra) fighting to defend him.

May Allah (swt) give us the strength to carry this da’wa like the Sahabiyat in the past!

Shifaa bint Mukhlis Miah


Farida Yasmeen said...

Alhamdulillah, very nice article.very much useful for a girl. may Allah give a great reward who wrote this article. Ameen.

Anonymous said...

Salaam, Please correct the ayah no. of the initial verse. It should be 51:56 instead of 51:57

Allah (swt) says: “I have not created jinn and humankind except to worship me” [TMQ 51:57]