Over the next several months we will attempt to focus on different topics concerning Women in Islam as evidenced by verses in the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). One of the greatest areas of misunderstanding in the western (non-Muslim) world is that of the status of women. We will attempt to rectify some of these misconceptions regarding the spiritual status of women, intellectual status of women, relations between the sexes, rights and duties of women, marriage and family in Islam, divorce, right of inheritance, and society and dress.
First, let's begin with "Spiritual Status of Women". The Quran states categorically that men and women who practice the principles of Islam will receive equal reward for their efforts:
"For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and for women who engage much in Allah's remembrance for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward." (Quran 33:35)
And God says: "Whoever works righteousness, male or female, and has Faith, Verily to him will We give a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such reward according to the best of their actions." (Quran 16:97)
Each of the Five Pillars of Islam: Belief, Prayer, Fasting, Zakat, and Pilgrimage--is as important for women as for men, and there is no differentiation of their reward. One may also mention that one of the most famous mystics in Islam, Rabi'a al 'Adawiyya, was a woman.
Having established beyond question the spiritual equality of men and women in Islam, what of their intelligence, knowledge and education? The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "The search for knowledge is duty for every Muslim (male or female)." He (pbuh) also said: "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave."
Knowledge for a Muslim is not divided into sacred and secular, and the implication of these sayings of the Prophet (pbuh), in modern terms, is that every Muslim boy or girl, man or woman, should pursue his or her education as far as it is possible, bearing in mind the words of Allah in the Holy Quran:
"Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalt in Might, Oft-Forgiving." (Quran 35:28)
In Islam, therefore, both men and women are credited with the capacity for learning and understanding and teaching, and one of the aims of acquiring knowledge is that of becoming more conscious of God. It is considered in Islam that the more a person, male or female, studies the creation and observes its workings, the more he or she becomes conscious of the Creator, the Power who made and sustains the creation.
One of the most famous women in the history of Islam is Aisha, the Prophet's wife. And the quality for which she is remembered primarily is that of her intelligence and outstanding memory. She is considered to be one of the most reliable sources of hadith by virtue of these qualities. More that a thousand ahadith are reported by her and she is regarded as one of the greatest teachers of the hadith.
Generally speaking, in the Muslim world of the early medieval times, there was not any bar or prohibition on women pursuing studies--on the contrary, the religion encouraged it. As a result of this many women became famous as religious scholars, writers, poets, doctors and teachers in their own right, such as Nafisa, a descendant of Ali who was such a great authority on hadith that Imam al-Shafi'l sat in her circle in al-Fustat when he was at the height of his fame: and Shaikha Shuhda who lectured publicly in one of the principle mosques of Baghdad to large audiences on literature, rhetoric and poetry, and was one of the foremost scholars of Islam.
There is therefore every encouragement for a Muslim woman to pursue studies in any field for her intellectual benefit and to make use of her academic or professional training for the good of the community, subject to certain moral and familial conditions which will be dealt with in following issues.
The Islamic Bulletin
P.O. Box 410186, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186
|March / April 1993|
|Ramadan Is Here|
|Letters to the Editor|
|Islamic World News|
|Islamic Dietary Laws|
|Women in Islam|
|Miracles of the Qur'an|
|Why I Embraced Islam|
|Stories of the Sahabah|
|The Kid's Corner|
|Sayings of the Prophet|