Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
[This series of Khutbah was delivered during 1993 at the Islamic Center of Iowa City, Iowa. For brevity, the customary invocations toward the beginning and the end of the Khutbahs have been omitted.]
Intro Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII
II: Role and Contributions of Women in Islamic History
"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 guard their chastity,
for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise;
For them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward." [33/al-Ahzab/35]
A. Some General Observations
If one does not study the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet (s) with preconceived notions based on the culture that we are familiar with in Muslim societies, one cannot escape the fact that the historical experience during the life of the Prophet offers a remarkable contrast to our received or inherited culture. Is there any anomaly and, if yes, why? That will be the subject of another khutbah. This Khutba's focus is: the contribution of muslim women in light of our historical experience. Let us first shed some light on such role and contribution to set the record straight.
B. Illustrious Muslim Women during the Era of the Prophet
The person with whom the first compiled Mushaf of al-Qur'an was treasured: Hafsah bint Umar (r)
The narrator of the second largest number of hadith and a leading faqiha (jurisprudent): Ayesha bint Abu Bakr (r)
The first Muslim after the Prophet is a woman: Khadija (r)
The beginning of the Islamic society--the Ummah--began in the arms of this loving woman.
The first woman of this Ummah to seek her own marriage: Khadija (r)
The first businessperson to join the Ummah: Khadija (r). Before becoming the Prophet, Muhammad (s) became an employee of a woman: Khadija (r). He used to report to her directly.
The first shahid of the Ummah is a woman: Sumayyah bint Khabat (r)
Women involved in the formation of the Islamic State: Umm Ammara (r) (participant in the 2nd covenant of Aqabah)
She was also the valiant defender of the Prophet in the battle of Uhud. She used a shield, then picked up a sword and killed an approaching enemy; received twelve wounds; revenged for the wounded son; her son was tortured by the followers of Musaylama; she vowed to revenge; with her son, she did participate in the battle under the leadership of Khalid ibn Walid and, despite the loss of an arm, the swords of the mother and son took care of Musaylama.) [Thus, women DIRECTLY and FULLY participated in the battle not merely as support persons, but as warriors.]
Women served as an advisor to the Prophet (s) when the Prophet (s) was at a loss: Umm Salama (r)
This happened at the conclusion of the Treaty of Hudaybiyya with Makkans in AD 628. After the conclusion of the treaty, which was perceived by Muslims generally as thoroughly humiliating for themselves, the Prophet ordered the Muslims to shave their heads and put themselves in a state of penitence. None of them responded to his call, which he repeated three times. Very distressed, the Prophet went back to the tent of his wife, Umm Salama, whom he had brought with him. When she asked him the cause of his distress, he told her: "I ordered them three times to shave their heads, no one obeyed." Umm Salama said: "Do not worry at all, Apostle of Allah, but you yourself shave your head and carry out the sacrifice."
The Prophet stood up, cut the throat of the camel destined for the sacrifice that he himself was to make, and shaved his head. His Companions, seeing him do this, spoke of it to each other, and all shaved their heads and sacrificed their animals. [at-Tabari]
The woman to whom the Ummah is eternally grateful for her service during the hijrah (she brought provisions to the Prophet and his companion in the cave): Asma bint Abu Bakr (r).
Umm Salit (r) (an ansari woman who used to carry the filled waterskins for the soldiers on the day of the battle of Uhud [Bukhari: Vol. 4, #132] [Thus, WOMEN ASSISTED MEN IN THE BATTLEFIELD)
Umm Sulaim (r) participated in the Battle of Khaiber. [Muslim: Vol. II, Hadith # 3325]
Anas (r) reported: I saw Aisha and Um Sulaim (r) rolling up their dresses so that I saw their leg-bangles while they were carrying waterskins on their backs and emptying them in the mouths of the (wounded) people. They woud refill them and again empty them in the mouths of the (wounded) people. [Bukhari: Vol. 4: #131][ISLAM HAS DRESS CODES, BUT THERE IS A PRACTICAL LIMIT OR CONSIDERATION. IF LEG-BANGLES IS UNINTENTIONALLY REVEALED IN A SPECIAL CONTEXT, THAT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD AS FAR AS HIJAB IS CONCERNED.]
A woman and a man in the Paradise before the Prophet (s):
The Prophet said: I entered Paradise and heard the sound of steps. I said: Who is it? They said: She is Ghumaisa (Umm Sulaim).
I was shown Paradise and I saw the wife of Abu Talha (Umm Sulaim) and I heard the noise of steps before me and, lo, it was that of Bilal. [Muslim: Vol. 4: #6011-6012]
C. During the Period of Khulafa-i-Rashidoon
Umm Hakim: She was married to a Sahaba Ikrama (r) who became shahid. Upon receiving proposal from Khalid ibn Saeed, she married her at the battle field of Marjas-Safar. The next day while the walima was going on, the Roman army launched a surprised attack. Khalid ibn Saeed became shahid in that battle.
The fighting was heavy and at such a close distance that, according to Ibn Saad, all that could be heard was the clash of sword on sword. Umm Hakim fought all day, along with the other Muslims. She personally killed 7 Roman soldiers in the day long battle. Ibn Saad reports that in memory of martyred Khalid she was using the spiked end of the tent stake in which they had consummated their marriage. It was with this spear-like heavy stake that she killed the 7 Romans. While she fought she was wearing a chain armor battle shirt. According to the historians, the battle took place in Muharram in the 14th year of the Hijrah calendar, during the caliphate of Hadhrat Umar (r).
Umar's (r) wife's socially active role: Umm Kulthum, the daughter of Fatima (r) serves as a midwife. Umar: "Allah has brought an opportunity of great merit in your path." When the labor pain of a muslim lady was mentioned, she responded: "I am ready to attend her, if it pleases you." [Stories of Sahabah: p. 93]
Umm Haram participated in the first sea battle for the control of Cyprus during the period of Uthman (r). She sought the honor of this participation directly from the Prophet (s) himself. [Sahih al-Bukhari: Vol. 5, Book of Jihad, Hadith #129; Muslim: Vol. III, #4699]
D. During the Post-Rashidoon Period
We have to deal with this period as a separate Khutbah. [One should also read an eye-opening document, "Women Scholars: They Must Bloom Again".]
The background of the verse quoted in the beginning of this Khutbah:
"Some women came to the wives of the Prophet and said to them: 'Allah has spoken of you [the Prophets wives] by name in the Qur'an, but he has said nothing about us. Is there then nothing about us that merits?" [Tafsir at-Tabari: Vol. 22]
Umm Salama (r), wife of the Prophet (s), reported:
I had asked the Prophet why the Qur'an did not speak of us as it did of men. And what was my surprise one afternoon, when I was combing my hair, to hear his voice from the minbar. I hastily did up my hair and ran to one of the apartments from where I could hear better. I pressed my ear to the wall, and here is what the Prophet said:
"O people! Allah has said in his book: ... Verse 33 of Ahzab."'
[Tafsir at-Tababi, Vol. 22]
It was a revolutionary step and statement. It shows a genuine concern about the contemporary gender issues - at that time and for all time.
This verse can also be understood as a component of the Islamic charter for a society where men and women are ideologically co-equal. Their responsibility or duties as well as specific rights may somewhat vary, but as human beings they are equal from the Islamic viewpoint. Unfortunately, the reality of the Muslim world and society has little to do with the Islamic guidance about gender relationship.
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