Khutbah Series: Gender Issues
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
VII: Some important myths
There are several key areas of gender related issues that need to be addressed. Below we discuss some widespread myths.
Myth #1: "The Voice of Women is Awrah"
The common understanding of this statement is inaccurate and unwarranted.
From the Qur'an: The Prophet Moses speak directly to his future wife, a non-Mahram.
And when he [Moses] came to the watering-place of Midian, he found at it a group of people taking water and he found as well as them two women holding back. He said, "What do you two have to say?" They said, "We cannot take water until the shepherds go away and our father is a very old man". So he took water for them two then he turned back to the shade and he said, "My Lord and Sustainer, surely I am one who needs what Thou mayest send to me of the good". Then one of the two (women) came towards him, walking shyly. She said, "My father invites you so that he may give you a wage for taking the water for us"... [al-Qasas: 23-25]
For example, in response to an inquiry by two visiting men, Aisha (r) said: "Allah's Apostle used to kiss some of his wives while he was fasting," and then she laughed. (Dwahiqat). [Bukhari: Vol. 3: # 150] Thus, a woman was asked question; she laughed, which was heard by two men.
Zaid b. Aslam reported that 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan sent some domestic goods for decoration to Umm Darda' on his own behalf, and when it was night 'Abd al-Malik got up and called for the servant. It seemed as if he (the servant) was late (in responding to his call), so he ('Abd al-Malik) invoked curse upon him, and when it was morning Umm Darda' said to him: I heard you cursing your servant during the night when you called him, and she said: I heard Abu Darda' as saying that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: The invoker of curse would neither be intercessor nor witness on the Day of Resurrection. [Sahih Muslim, #6281]
Narrated Aslam: Once I went with 'Umar bin Al-Khattab to the market. A young woman followed 'Umar and said, "O chief of the believers! My husband has died, leaving little children. By Allah, they have not even a sheep's trotter to cook; they have no farms or animals. I am afraid that they may die because of hunger, and I am the daughter of Khufaf bin Ima Al-Ghafari, and my father witnessed the Pledge of allegiance) of Al-Hudaibiya with the Prophet.' Umar stopped and did not proceed, and said, "I welcome my near relative." Then he went towards a strong camel which was tied in the house, and carried on to it, two sacks he had loaded with food grains and put between them money and clothes and gave her its rope to hold and said, "Lead it, and this provision will not finish till Allah gives you a good supply." A man said, "O chief of the believers! You have given her too much." "Umar said disapprovingly. "May your mother be bereaved of you! By Allah, I have seen her father and brother besieging a fort for a long time and conquering it, and then we were discussing what their shares they would have from that war booty." [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, #479]
Myth #2: Women are inferior to men.
Absolutely not. Islam recognizes only one criteria of superiority: Taqwa.
"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (the person who is) the most Allah-conscious (atqaakum. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things)." [49: al-Hujurat: 13]
Also, read one of my articles focused on this topic: A Cyber-discussion on Gender Equality.
Myth #3: Men can decide things for women
Absolutely not. There are many things that are already laid out in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Men can't interfere in or interpolate those. All other matters of life, including family relationships and pertinent decisions, must be based on a general Islamic principle and process: Shura (mutual consultation). This also means that life partners can't be imposed by parents or guardians on their children.
Myth #4: Women should have a relationship of subservience to men.
Absolutely not. According to Islam, men and women are AWLIYA (friends, protectors, guardians, patrons) of each other. Which also means that women are friends, protectors, guardians, patrons of men too. The Islamic framework of relationship is based on love, affection, mutual respect, and well-laid out set of rights and duties.
Myth #5: Men's education is more important than women's.
Absolutely not. Education is equally important for men and women. Muslim societies must ensure equal access to education for ALL Muslims. The Prophet (s) said: "Seeking knowledge is incumbent upon EVERY muslim" [Sunan Ibn Majah, #223].
Myth #6: Women shouldn't attend Jumuah prayer or congregational prayers
While it is true that women are not required to attend Jumuah prayer, those women who care about their Islamic growth as well as preserving their rights and status as given by Islam should build a close and active relationship with the Mosque as was the case during the time of the Prophet.
Umm Hisham, the daughter of Haritha bin Nau'man (r) narrates that our cook-out/eating place and that of the Prophet (s) were the same for two years . . . and I heard and memorized sura Qaf of the Glorious Qur'an from the Prophet (s), because he used to recite it in every Jumuah when he spoke to the people from the minbar. [Sahih Muslim: Vol. 2: #1894]
Myth #7: Women must be screened in a separate room in Mosques
Absolutely not. Except for the appropriate dress code and the general guidance about mutual interaction, women at the time of the prophet were not screened behind any curtain or in a secluded room. In this sense, screening can be considered a religious innovation. However, for women who might not be appropriately attired or for the convenience of mothers or nursing mothers, if women requests or if they endorse a separate room can made available. However, that should not be imposed on the general Muslimahs attending mosques.
For prayers in general, ask permission from your husband, if you are married. But husbands cannot refuse granting permission. If unmarried, you have the permission from the Prophet (s), but better to consult with the guardian, while the guardians are generally dutybound not to refuse.
Ibn Umar: The messenger(s) said: Let women go to the mosque at night. A son of ibn Umar, known as Waqid, retorted: Then they will start all sorts of bad things. Abdullah ibn Umar hit Waqid on the chest and said: I am narrating the words of the Rasulullah to you, and you are saying 'No." [Muslim: Vol. 2: #890]
Myth #8: Prayer, fasting, hijab are the main concerns of women
Any obligatory duty or injunction must be treated as such. However, Muslims should not lose sight of prioritized criteria of what is important to Allah. While prayers, fasting, hijab can't be refused or denied by a Muslim, there are other, additional aspects that are of even greater importance. These are not to be treated as substitutes. Rather, these aspects should be incorporated in an individual's life in a comprehensive and balanced perspective.
Someone asked: "O Messenger of Allah! A woman is famous for her prayers, fasting and many charities, but she talks rudely with her neighbors. Tell me, what will be her fate?" He replied: "She is of Hell." Then the person asked: "O Messenger of Allah! Another woman does not do much by way of prayers and fasting; gives pieces of cheese in charity and does not harm her neighbors." He replied: "She is of the Paradise." [Musnad Ahmad; Vol. 2, #9688; Narrated by Abu Hurairah]
Myth #9: Bearing and rearing children and household duties are primary and only domain of women's existence
Absolutely not. Yes, certain aspects of nature assigns exclusive functions to women, such as child bearing and nursing. It is also true that motherly disposition has a special dimension of compassion and care for the children that is uniquely proportioned to women. But even then we ought to remember two things. First, household duties are not exclusive domain of women. Men are also supposed to do their due share as the Prophet used to do, and this should also be decided based on mutual consultation within the family.
Narrated Al-Aswad: I asked Aisha (r): What did the Prophet (s) use to do at home? She replied: He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was the time for prayer, he would get up for prayer. [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8, #65]
Secondly, women, through mutual consultation within the family framework, are to have full and active participation in the full spectrum of life.
"And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye 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." [3/Ale Imran/195]
Overcoming these myths can take us long way as an ummah.
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