A few reflections on how feminism has evolved, and women in light of Islam.
I recently read an article which brought to mind how Islam deals with women. All these years, women have been trying to please themselves, men, the world – all unattainable pleasures, whereas they don’t realize the immense rights they have been given by Allah Himself, the Supreme Creator, through the Qur’an and Sunnah. In the end, the only One we can truly please is Allah Himself – by obeying His Commands.
According to the article, women are now back to the point of being used for their bodies, and it’s okay with them since they “allow” it. Forget what the original feminists wanted to achieve. Women feel that, since they have what they fought for, they can now do whatever they want. Even though the early feminists worked hard to achieve certain rights, current feminists and women in general have changed the plan and decided to just “live their lives,” following the glam and glitter many industries offer them.
This leads us to a very important question during this state of confusion: What exactly does Islam say about women?
The Prophet salla Allahu ‘alayhi wasallam said “The whole world is a provision, and the best object of benefit of the world is the pious woman.” [Saheeh al-Jami']
In his last Khutbah, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he said:
O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.
It’s always interesting to note that these words were uttered at the time when, elsewhere in the world, it was being debated as to whether or not women were humans! With that in mind, I wanted to explore the place of women in Islam from several angles:
Even in the West, women today, if you read up on the issue, still haven’t achieved the social or economic status of men. If we look to the famous women in the time of the Prophet salla Alalhu alayhi wasallam, we can see that Khadija, radia Allahu ‘anha, was a business woman and A’isha, radhia Allahu ‘anha, was a scholar. Those could be the equivalents of today’s CEO and Professor. In some narrations, A’isha has even been described as being knowledgable in the medicine of the time – so she was a “doctor” too! Ibn Abi Dawood said, “Her peers in the realm of the taabi’aat (the generation of women following the Prophet’s companions) were Hafsa bint Seereen, Amrah bint Abdur-Rahman, followed by Umm Darda’aa.” This shows that even after the time of A’isha, education was encouraged for both men and women. Women rose up in the ranks of education. Women even accompanied the men to battles, nursing them, encouraging them, tending to them. These women were strong and knowledgeable in their religion. In turn, they raised amazing children. (Imam Bukhari and Imam Maalik, to name just two, were both raised by single mothers – and now they are scholars mentioned constantly, even to this day!)
Shaykh Saed Rageah once asked in class he taught: What exactly makes or breaks a society? Our answers were along the lines of money, righteous people, education, hikmah, and so on. Shaykh Saed kept asking and finally he turned to us and said “It’s women. If someone wants to destroy a society, they go for its women.” How true is that? Immodest women will break a society. They do whatever they want, not caring about themselves or anyone else. Modest women, focused women, educated women, become one-half of society – the “glue” that holds society together. They then raise the other half of society. A society like that will be successful, by the mercy of Allah.
An interesting example to compare this to is that of the Ancient Greeks. Their women just lived in their chambers of the house. They didn’t get out much or interact with the world. They just had children and raised them. Prostitutes of the time, however, were well-verse in current issues, music, and poetry. They could hold intellectual conversations with the men who came to them. In turn, the men probably spent more quality time with them than their wives. This shows the importantly crucial role of a woman, as an educated individual, a mother, a wife, and a member of society. The maintenance of society rests on the shoulders of women!
At the time of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, burying daughters alive was a prevalent practice. In Surat an-Nahl, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala paints a picture of a man’s common reaction to the birth of a daughter when He says, “And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief!” [16:58]. Today, in places like China and India, aborting your daughter has become a prevalent practice (to the extent that in China, they’re expecting men to outnumber women 30 million to 1!).
Anas, radia Allahu ‘anhu, reported that “The Prophet salla Allahu`alayhi wa sallam said: ‘He who raises two daughters until puberty will be with me in Paradise like this,’ and he symbolized the proximity by showing two of his fingers with a slight gap between them” [Muslim]. This is the status given to daughters, and the status given to men for raising their daughters – what more do we want?
Mothers are also given immense status in Islam. Jannah is at their feet, as the Messenger salla Allahu `alayhi wa sallam indicated. It is narrated (by Imam Ahmad and others) that if a woman dies during childbirth, she is a martyr. In some cultures, dying in childbirth is seen as a trip straight to Hell, whereas in Islam, dying in childbirth or in the forty days after is seen as martyrdom. So much emphasis and respect is placed on mothers.
Then there is the famous hadith so many of us are familiar with that reports:
A man came to the Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi wasallam and asked, “Who is most worthy of my love and respect?” The Prophet salla Allahu `alayhi wasallam replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “And then who?” He said, “Then your mother.” The man asked, “And then who?” He said, “Then your mother.” The man asked (a forth time), “And then who?” He said, ”Then your father.“
As Sheikh Muhammad ibn Faqih once put it, “If this was the Olympics, your mother would get the gold, silver and bronze, and your father would go home crying.” The sacrifice that mothers go through of time, effort, and giving their whole lives to raise children is not in vain. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gives them immense respect and massive reward in the Hereafter.
This is just a scratch on the surface of what women are given in Islam. In the end, we could sit here arguing day and night over women’s rights. It’s not worth it. Islam has given women their due right, from their Creator – seeing as He created them, He would know what exactly is best for them. We women need to submit – become true Muslims – and accpet our God-given statuses. Nothing else will make us happy, as we see in the ebb and flow of feminist movements, running after one thing and then another, never satisfied or content.
It is only through our God-given rights and duties that we will please Allah and enter Jannah. Is that not what we’ve been subconscioulsy searching for this whole time – an eternity of happiness?
Originally posted on IGIC: http://www.igotitcovered.org/2010/06/07/modern-feminisms/