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
IV. The Ideals vs. the Realities
"Never will I suffer to be lost the works 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 Allah, and from His presence is the best of rewards. [An-Nisaa: 175]
I. Women are not to be confined to home and they can work outside if they choose and need
A companion named Qaila said to the Prophet: "I am a woman who buys and sells things (in other words, a trader)." Then she asked him several questions about buying and selling (Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, Vol. 8, p.228) [Afzal: p. 69]
Women used to work in agriculture (farming outside), take care of cattles (grazing) etc. And, yes they would go shopping too.
It is reported about Shifa' Bint Abdullah: "Umar often entrusted her with market responsibilities (i.e., as a market inspector) Al--Isti'ab fi Asma' al-Ashab by Jalal U. Ansar Umri. [Afzal: p.86]
Ibn Abd al-Barr, Al--Isti'ab fi Asma' al-Ashab: writes about Samra Bint Nuhaik, "She commanded good and forbade evil while going around in the markets. She had a whip in her hand with which she punished those who committed any evil or vice (Munkar). [Afzal: p.77]
Once Umar thought that people had unnecessarily raised the amount of mahr (dower) and, while addressing to those gathered in the masjid, he told them to keep the amount of dower low. One old woman stood up and interrupted Umar and told him that he had no right to fix the dower of women when Allah Himself says: ... Surah an-Nisaa: 20-21. This shows, she argued, that there is no limit to mahr. [Fath al-Bari, Vol. 9, p.161] [Afzal: p. 79]
Umar conceded and made the historical remark:
"A woman scored right and a leader erred."
"Everyone is a better faqih than Umar, even the women."
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALL THESE ACTIVITIES -- NORMAL PARTS OF HUMAN LIFE -- WERE NOT DISCOURAGED IN ANY WAY BY ISLAM. HOWEVER, THESE ACTIVITIES WERE CARRIED OUT IN AN ISLAMIC ENVIRONMENT AND WITHIN ISLAMIC FRAMEWORK OF INTERACTION.
II. The anomaly regarding women's participation in Masjid
In the last Khutbah, I identified the anomaly that on one hand it seems that there are hadith that encourages women to pray at home or indicates about FITNA due to participation of women in the Masjid. On the other hand, it appears that many women insisted on coming to the Masjid and participating in the Masjid-bound life.
Questions about these companions of the Prophet:
Were those women who insisted on a Masjid-bound life for themselves ignorant about Islam?
Were they stupid that they did not understand that there is greater reward for them for praying at home?
Were they disobedient to the commandments of Islam?
Only answer that would be valid in this case is: NO. These female companions of the Prophets were not ignorant, stupid, or disobedient. If they were not, how do we then explain these anomalies?
1. Once we study all the hadith in this context, one cannot escape the conclusion:
Islam DID NOT PROHIBIT women from a Masjid-bound life.
Islam DID NOT make women's participation in congregational activities in masjid obligatory.
Islam HAS given a choice to women, a choice that must not be thwarted by husbands or guardians.
2. Women of that time chose to live a Masjid-bound life. Why?
Some men, including such as Umar ibn al-Khattab (r) appeared to be not in favor of their participation. Why?
There are two sides of viewpoints and then there is the Qur'anic and the Prophetic vision.
As far as women's side is concerned, it is not really difficult to understand. They have never been considered equal to men. Often in family as well as social life, they have been subjected to the kind of treatment that is worse than the treatment to slave. They did not have ANY right! There was tremendous violence and injustice against women.
Umm Kajja: A Ansari woman complained to the Prophet: "My husband is dead, and they are preventing me from inheriting." Her husband's brother had told her, by way of justifying his decision to hold to tradition and ignore the new laws: "Women don't mount horses and don't go into battle." The Prophet as guided by Qur'an sided with women. Indeed, from Islamic viewpoint women can mount horses or drive cars and they can and did go into battle.
Women were subjected to prostitution and extreme form of humiliation, which the Qur'an vehemently castigated. [24: Surah Nur: 33]
Even ill-founded prejudice was not altogether absent, against which Islam began a long-term, sustained campaign:
Sahih al-Bukhari: Abdullah ibn Umar narrated: the Prophet (s) said: "Bad omen is in the women, the house, and the horse." [Vol. 7, Kitabun Nikah, Hadith 30]
Imam Zarakshi [Al-Ijaba, p. 113] provides with proper chain of narration a refutation of the above statement by Hadrat Ayesha.
Islam, as contained in Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammd (s), offered a new foundation of the society: Equality of men and women, except on the basis of Taqwa.
Once they were given such status and dignity by Islam, those women were not to lose their dignity and status again. They were claiming full range of right and honor granted to women. They did not consider the verses about Salat and masjid-bound life revealed about men only. They also knew the value of the masjid-bound life and they were fully engaged with the Masjid.
Afzalur Rahman. Role of Muslim Women in Society (London: Seerah Foundation, 1986).
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