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A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

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    A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

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    A Vision for Muslim Women in the West


    By Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad
    Women2 - A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    When the Qur’an mentions other women, it is very evident that in praising any believing woman it praises her for possessing similar qualities. If she is a married woman the Qur’an would praise her as a wife, supporting her husband and being dutiful to him. If she is a mother, the Qur’an would praise her for her important role as a nurturer of the next generation. I have not witnessed the Qur’an praising any woman for her contribution outside of this framework. For example, we don’t see the Qur’an praising a woman for her political involvement, da’wah activism, level of knowledge, social engagement or even leadership. This article cannot possibly include the stories of all women mentioned in the Qur’an, but a simple analysis should confirm this finding.
    When you sit down to reflect on what your vision is for your life, how do you know that the vision you’ve chosen is in fact the right one? Is it by the level of happiness you are convinced that your vision, if achieved, would give you? Or is it the fame and attention you know you’ll attain if you fulfilled it? It would be a shame if you spent years going up the ladder of life, only to find that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. Imagine if after all the effort you had exerted you found yourself on the Day of Judgment wishing you’d spent all that time and energy pursuing a different vision on Earth, one that would have given you a higher status in the hereafter which, after all, will last forever.On the Day of Judgment, things will become very clear to us in the starkest of ways. We will see reality as it truly is and realize how short was the opportunity that we had on Earth as the following hadith clearly illustrates:

    Anas ibn Malik narrates that the messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The most affluent of the people in this world, of those who will go to Hell, will be brought on the Day of Resurrection and dipped once in the Fire. Then it will be said: O son of Adam, did you ever see anything good? Did you ever have any pleasure? He will say: No, by Allah, O Lord. Then the most destitute of the people in this world, of those who will enter Paradise, will be brought and dipped once in Paradise, and it will be said to him: O son of Adam, did you ever see anything bad? Did you ever experience any hardship? He will say: No, by Allah, O Lord. I never saw anything bad and I never experienced any hardship.”[1]
    Imagine how such a wealthy man will feel about his supposedly successful life on Earth. What once seemed like the ultimate achievement for a human being will seem like a wasted opportunity. As the hadith shows us, any achievement in this life is worthless if it does not lead to success in the hereafter. Allah confirms this, in His saying:

    “Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).”[2]

    Therefore when we talk about having a vision for our lives, the vision should be one that leads us to maximum achievement in the Hereafter. It was reported by Mu’adh ibn Jabal that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The People of Paradise will not regret anything except one thing alone: the hour that passed them by and in which they made no remembrance of Allah."[3] So turning to the specific question of the ideal vision for Muslim women, we have to approach the discussion with a Hereafter-centred worldview.

    Although it is praiseworthy that many Muslim women think about how best to spend their lives, it is unfortunate that many Muslim women in the West have been heavily influenced by a Western materialistic understanding of life, values and the status of women. Ironically, increasing numbers of Western non-Muslim women have begun to realise the importance and value of their role in the home and reject the notion of a woman’s worth being defined by her career, even campaigning for the right of women to stay at home.[4]

    It seems that some of our Muslim sisters have bought into the career-oriented model of Muslim womanhood. They speak about empowering Muslim women to become successful businesswomen, company directors, financial advisors, police officers, members of Parliament and even actors, singers and dancers as if this is something Islam has endorsed.

    To add to their delusion, we find Muslim preachers or activists who promote such ideas without understanding the Qur’anic vision for women properly. We rarely hear them referring to the empowerment of Muslim women by means of being devoted wives and outstanding mothers. Despite the countless studies and research that has been conducted into the breakdown of society in general and the family unit in particular, all of which demonstrate that Western notions of female success have played a significant role in that breakdown, many Muslim women aspire to the very lifestyle that the West is now suffering the consequences of and recoiling from.

    What is the noblest Islamic achievement for a Muslim woman?


    I am sure that you may have come across various conflicting answers to this question, but instead of opting for what may feel right, we must identify the appropriate tools that enable us to identify what the shari’ah says, since it is the way of life given to us by our All-Wise Creator. I have been analysing the attitude of scripture towards the role of women for some time. We find that there a number of women mentioned in the Qur’an from amongst the believers and the disbelievers. Among the females mentioned in the Qur’an two of the noblest have been presented as role models for all Believers. Allah says,

    “And Allah has set forth an example for those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh, when she said: "My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his work, and save me from the people who are oppressors. And Maryam (Mary), the daughter of ‘Imran who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into her through Our spirit (Gabriel), and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and His Scriptures, and she was of the obedient.”[5]


    The Prophet’s Companion Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari narrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) described the status of these two women by saying, “Many amongst men attained perfection but amongst women none attained perfection except Maryam (Mary), the daughter of 'Imran, and Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh. And the superiority of Aishah to other women is like the superiority of tharid (a dish) to other meals."[6]

    Let us reflect on these two verses and the qualities of these two outstanding and noble women. They were explicitly presented as role models for humanity with their foremost qualities highlighted with candour. The first role model was Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh who was one of the worst tyrants in history. Her most important quality is her distinguished connection with Allah and her fervent desire for the hereafter. She supplicated, “My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise.” Her second core quality was rejecting Pharaoh, his actions and the wrong-doers. She was not taken by the splendour of this life that she could have easily attained as Pharoah’s queen. The second role model, Maryam, was primarily praised for guarding her chastity. Her second major quality was her submission to the will of Allah who tested her by causing her to become pregnant without marriage. She also believed in the reality of the word of Allah “be”, the outcome of the word, and was exceptionally obedient and submissive to Allah.

    When the Qur’an mentions other women, it is very evident that in praising any believing woman it praises her for possessing similar qualities. If she is a married woman the Qur’an would praise her as a wife, supporting her husband and being dutiful to him. If she is a mother, the Qur’an would praise her for her important role as a nurturer of the next generation. I have not witnessed the Qur’an praising any woman for her contribution outside of this framework. For example, we don’t see the Qur’an praising a woman for her political involvement, da’wah activism, level of knowledge, social engagement or even leadership. This article cannot possibly include the stories of all women mentioned in the Qur’an, but a simple analysis should confirm this finding.

    The wife of Imran mentioned in Surah ‘Aal ‘Imran is another example of an exemplary woman. She was a wife and a mother. The main quality mentioned in Qur’an about her is what is mentioned in the verse,

    “(Remember) when the wife of ‘Imran said, "O my Lord! I have vowed to you what is in my womb to be dedicated for your service, so accept this from me. Verily, you are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing."[7]
    According to the exegete Ibn Kathir, the wife of ‘Imran mentioned here is the mother of Maryam, and her name was Hannah bint Faqudh. Muhammad bin Ishaq, the famous biographer and historian, mentioned that Hannah could not have children and that one day, she saw a bird feeding its chick. She wished she could have children and supplicated to Allah to grant her offspring. Allah accepted her supplication and she became pregnant. She vowed to make her child concentrate on worship and serving Bayt Al-Maqdis (the Masjid in Jerusalem). She did not know then if she would give birth to a male or a female child. The fact that this is the only thing mentioned about her indicates that this is the most important contribution that distinguished her and placed her in this praiseworthy position. It is evident from the story that her goal was to be a mother and when she knew that this was likely to happen she vowed to dedicate her child to serve Allah’s cause in order to thank Him for what he had given her. Similarly, Maryam’s chief contribution was her giving birth to a great Prophet and then taking care of him. The same may be said about the contribution of Musa’s mother. Their role in the lives and achievements of these great men was indispensable.

    In this vein, a person might ask himself, why was it that Allah sent male Prophets and not female? He says, “And We sent not before you (as Messengers) any but men."[8] It is noteworthy that Allah sent over a hundred thousand Prophets, three hundred and fifteen of them messengers[9] and all of them were men.

    If we survey the sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), a similar understanding is found. The qualities of devotion to Allah and their families were at the centre of the praiseworthy qualities of women. For example, the Prophet clarifies the Islamic view regarding the best women and the central reason behind it saying, “The best women from the riders of the camels (the best Arab women) are the righteous among the women of Quraish. They are the kindest women to their children in childhood and the most careful of women in regards to the property of their husbands.”[10] In this hadith the Prophet explains their goodness by being good wives and good mothers.

    In another statement the Prophet explains that one of the main aims of marriage is to produce and nurture children who follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in worshiping Allah and glorifying him. The companion Ma’qil ibn Yasaar narrated that a man came to the messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said: “O messenger of Allah, I have found a woman who is from a good family and is pretty, but she does not bear children - should I marry her?” He told him not to. Then he came to him a second time and said something similar and he told him not to marry her. Then he came to him a third time and said something similar and he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Marry the one who is loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great numbers before the nations on the Day of Resurrection.”[11] Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeem Abaadi said in his commentary of this hadith, ‘Marry the one who is loving means the one who loves her husband; and the one who is fertile is the one who bears a lot of children.”[12]

    We also find in the following Prophetic statement narrated by Abu Hurairah and recorded by Ibn Hibbaan, “If a woman offers her five daily prayers, fasts her month (Ramadan), guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her, “Enter Paradise from whichever of the gates of Paradise you wish.” If entering paradise is your ultimate aim, then this hadith is a summary of how you may attain that goal and consequently, should be part and parcel of any vision you formulate for a truly successful life.

    It is true that there are a number of Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions that mention the contribution of women in military activities, their political participation and da’wah work, however an analysis of these incidents confirms that they were carried out as complementary activities to their principal role as wives or mothers. In fact, we can go so far as to say that we do not find an emphasis in the shari’ah on any role for a woman except her role as a mother, a wife or a righteous servant of Allah. For example, we find that the shari’ah considered jihad as one of the noblest activities for men but did not encourage women to take part in it despite the military contribution of a number of female Companions.

    There is a very clear hadith that demonstrates the Islamic position concerning women participating in jihad. A’ishah narrated that she asked the Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah, do women have to engage in jihad? He said, “a jihad in which there is no fighting: Hajj and ‘Umrah.”[13] Scholars either disliked women taking part in progressive jihad or prohibited it. Similarly, a number of textual evidences praise a just male ruler. The vast majority of Muslim scholars were men and women throughout Islamic history were never of a significant number.

    In conclusion, I posit that the best role, the most honorable and worthy role for a woman is striving to be a fine wife, a good mother, or both. This role does not only secure the best for a woman in the hereafter, but also fits perfectly with her natural disposition. In her study published by Centre for Policy Studies in 2009, Cristina Odone, former deputy editor of The New Statesman (1998-2004) concluded that “far from being committed to a career, the overwhelming majority of women would prefer to opt out of it. Instead of finding satisfaction in full-time work, most women realise themselves in their other roles as carers, partners, community members, and above all mothers”. Furthermore, McIntosh and Bauer concluded that working women are “often felt overwhelmed and unable to keep up with their job and family responsibilities”. They added that “the working mother felt she had two full time jobs.”[14]

    The embracing of this role is a fundamental element for the stability of the family which is the cornerstone of a stable society. There are a number of studies that confirm that housewives are the preservers of society in general and in many cases they offer their families more as homemakers than the income they might bring in from a career does. Other studies confirm that that the overall economic status of society at large is better when the women of that society are focused on the upbringing of children and maintaining the integrity of their families. In the aforementioned study the author suggested that what is needed is “a profound cultural shift.” She adds that “the establishment should stop forcing women into a mould, and allow them instead to realise their ambitions. This means accepting and supporting a value system that is family-centred, not work centred; and rehabilitating free emotional services, from cooking family meals to volunteering at the school fair. We need to redirect our thinking about women’s needs, to create a society in which women are freed from unnecessarily destructive pressures, children thrive and all can feel comfortable with the roles they fulfil not just as workers, but as parents, partners and citizens.”

    I ask our sisters in Islam to embrace their true role in society and reap the huge rewards that Allah has in store for them for fulfilling this role. I ask our brothers to support them in fulfilling this role. When we define a vision for our lives, we are seeking to make a contribution and leave a legacy. Your legacy, sisters is that if you take on the role that Allah has ordained for you, then you will positively affect the future of the Muslim ummah and ultimately the future of the world. That is a legacy beyond measure.

    In part two we will look at the role Muslim women can play if they are not yet married.



    Notes: This is the first article in this series
    Sources: www.islam21c.com
    Islam21c requests all the readers of this article, and others, to share it on your facebook, twitter, and other platforms to further spread our efforts.

    [1] Sahih Muslim

    [2] 3:185

    [3] Al-Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-Imaan and al-Tabarani

    [4] See: http://www.mothersathomematter.org/

    [5] 66:11-12

    [6] Sahih Al-Bukhari

    [7] 3:35

    [8] Al Quran 12:109

    [9] The number was mentioned in a few prophetic statements recorded by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and ibn Hibban.

    [10] Al-Bukhari and Muslim and reported by Abu Hurairah

    [11] Abu Dawood and al-Nasaa’i

    [12] ‘Awn al-Ma’bood (6/33)

    [13] Al-Bukhari and Muslim

    [14] A thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an MEd in the graduate school of Marietta College titled, “Working Mothers Vs Stay At Home Mothers: The Impact on Children.”
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    A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    And verily for everything that a slave loses there is a substitute, but the one who loses Allah will never find anything to replace Him.”
    [Related by Ibn al-Qayyim in ad-Dâ' wad-Dawâ Fasl 49]


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    Re: A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    Salaam Aliakum brother,

    You started your article asking questions that would force anyone to focus their attention on the hereafter without realizing that Islam balances human worship (Their Duty to God) and their right to make an earning (to provide for themselves). You’ve taken an absolute “Hereafter-Centred View”, when it comes to women and their ability to access resources. Applying such views on women who are born, raised, and buried in this world is quite unreasonable. We need a more holistic approach when dealing with women. They are fellow Muslims and humans, but more importantly, women experience worldly troubles and tribulations. Experiences and necessity moves us and influences our rationale. We adapt to our environment and the changing course of history. However, that does not mean that we neglect our duties to God. We have to also remember that women come from different backgrounds, with various perceptions and expectations. Our situation and position in this earth is neither homogeneous nor static.


    There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a housewife or a mother. Actually, if housewives were to be paid, they would be the richest humans on earth. However, men are quick to praise mothers and wives while paying little value to their conditions and sufferings. A whopping 1.4 million Muslim children die a year in seven Muslim countries from preventable disease. If people want to utterly encourage every woman to get married and have kids, then set up the necessary tools and facilities that will provide wives and mothers with the resources need to protect their health, their bodies, and their minds. Little resources are being poured into improving the lives of pregnant women in Muslim countries. You might say that “It’s God that controls life”, I’m not disagreeing, but if something is within the capacity of humans and they are not even making the efforts to ease the pain of pregnant women and their children, then stating that God controls life will not excuse the Muslim ummah from neglecting the needs of its own women and children.

    I think that every woman is unique, and has her own personal knowledge and experiences. The decisions they make are not completely irrational and neglecting of the hereafter. Allah sees them responsible enough to be judged on the Day of Resurrection the same way men will be judged.

    Aisya and Maryam are among the best of women, but that does not mean that women today have to take a completely “hereafter approach” when they are constantly facing worldly problems and challenges. Stating articles that are one sided does not give much credit to your argument. Women wrote some of the articles you have referenced, which shows just how valuable a woman’s academic and career background is when it comes to understanding women and society. I have no idea which societies the author has focused on, but it is quite clear that most housewives reside in developing countries and the economic figures of those nations are easily available and well documented.

    We live in a world where the poor are drastically increasing and the majority of them are women. Some NGOs and global health organizations estimate it as high as 70% being women. And that is mainly due to women having no social, academic, and economic skills. They are completely told to blindly depend on men who have failed to live up to their responsibilities. In this world today, something as simple as education could transform the living standards of a woman and her children. For the sake of the next generation of Muslims, Muslim women should not only be hereafter oriented by also adopt a realistic approach to life so they could provide a better future for thier children. The reason why there aren't many Muslim female scholars is because Muslim men have sadly monopolized Islamic teaching and education. The Prophet(PBUH) have set a beautiful example by teaching his wives, and especially Aisha. How many Muslim men encourage their wives to attend the Mosque and gain knowledge. How many Muslim men encourage their daughters to memorize the Quran. How many Muslim societies invest in producing prominent Muslim female Scholars. The answer is clearly barely any. And because of that there are far too many men who use their knowledge about Islam as a tool to infringe upon the rights of their wives, and female family members. Today, more than ever, we need Muslim women who are able to assist themselves, and if they can not do that, then they are probably unable to raise the next generation of Muslims because of lack of knowledge and agency.

    I’m sorry, but I do take a hereafter approach when it comes to my Islamic responsibilities, but I've also invested in social and economic securities. Each Muslim woman invests differently in various matters of life. Some invest heavily on the hereafter, some heavily on worldly gains, and others are able to balance both worlds. And that is why the Quran teaches us the supplication: "Our Lord! Give us the good in this world and the good of the Hereafter, and save us from the punishment of Hell."


    Islam is not solely a "Hereafter Oriented" religion, and imposing or even encouraging/promoting that approach to Muslim women is unfair and unrealistic.
    Last edited by TrueStranger; 03-17-2012 at 01:49 AM.
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    A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

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    Re: A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    ^

    Are you kidding me? Look I'm going to have to reply to you later because it's really late and I've got to get up for work tomorrow. I'll reply to you when I get the time tomorrow inshaa'Allah.
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    A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    And verily for everything that a slave loses there is a substitute, but the one who loses Allah will never find anything to replace Him.”
    [Related by Ibn al-Qayyim in ad-Dâ' wad-Dawâ Fasl 49]


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    Re: A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    format_quote Originally Posted by TrueStranger View Post
    I’m sorry, but I do take a hereafter approach when it comes to my Islamic responsibilities, but I've also invested in social and economic securities. Each Muslim woman invests differently in various matters of life. Some invest heavily on the hereafter, some heavily on worldly gains, and others are able to balance both worlds. And that is why the Quran teaches us the supplication: "Our Lord! Give us the good in this world and the good of the Hereafter, and save us from the punishment of Hell."
    how is asking for good in this world equal to balancing "both worlds?" Good comes from Allah, regardless of how much you try to "balance" your dunya. And what do you mean by balancing exactly. How do you balance when ppl take, for example, interest and riba to pay for law school and then at the same time focus on success in "hereafter?"

    your argument veers from one concept to other. First you talk about pregnancy and diseases and then control over their bodies and then balancing dunya and aakhira. Then you throw in the concept of economic security. What do you precisely mean by that?

    You talked about pregnancy and disease in developing countries, what about developed countries? how are pregnancy outcomes different in developed world? and how significant are these differences? What about autoimmune diseases in babies born to prengnay mothers in developed countries who supposedly have received "impeccable care" throughout three trimesters?

    What sort of control do you want women to have over their bodies? The control to express their bodily beauty in whatever ways they want? If you want women to be independent then why do you women expect their husbands to pay off bills for running the house (which includes bills incurred by the woman.)

    you compare Allah judging women in hereafter regarding their personal lives and sins with what they are supposed to do in community in this world. Of course Allah deems women resposible for their actions, and hence judges them, but one of those responsibilities include sticking to Sharia, which you keep on pushing under the carpet, in regards to women roles. No one wants to marry a woman who is a full-time neurosurgeon or a general surgeon. Sure, great career, good luck though to the family. And those who do get married, their husbands are miserable and wish they had never married, in general.

    In a country like Canada with public health care system, where more than 50% of family doctors are females, and who take more maternity leave and other leaves, the health system is in shackles. As a result, male family docs have started to take as much time off as female counterparts as "revenge" under the pretext of equality and the whole health care system is about to fall. What does it tell us? Vigilance in balancing jobs with biological needs.

    If both genders can perform all roles equally, I wonder why is not a single Prophet a female? It would be really progressive if our deen had some female prophets too. I could convert few feminazis just like that.
    Last edited by CosmicPathos; 03-17-2012 at 02:56 AM.
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    Re: A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    format_quote Originally Posted by CosmicPathos View Post

    What sort of control do you want women to have over their bodies? The control to express their bodily beauty in whatever ways they want?

    In a country like Canada with public health care system, where more than 50% of family doctors are females, and who take more maternity leave and other leaves, the health system is in shackles. As a result, male family docs have started to take as much time off as female counterparts as "revenge" and the whole health care system is about to fall.
    Control? Did I ever use that word in my previous post?

    Their health system is in shackles because of their economy.
    Last edited by TrueStranger; 03-17-2012 at 02:56 AM.
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    Re: A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

    format_quote Originally Posted by TrueStranger View Post
    Control? Did I ever use that word in my previous post?

    Their health system is in shackles because of their economy.
    lol. Our economy per capita is on par, if not better, than that of US. For some time, our dollar was more expensive than the Southerners'. Our health care costs/population ratio are also lower compared to that of US. But the costs are rising. And one reason is maternity leave and the resulting long wait lines which result in poor care and more expenses.

    Canada's health care problems are not JUST due to the maternity leave issue I have mentioned, there are other reasons, but maternity leave is also one reason. When most of your health care workforce is made up of females, and then they also want to get pregnant and take time off, who are you kidding if you believe that people will get best health care possible without long waiting lists?
    Last edited by CosmicPathos; 03-17-2012 at 03:11 AM.
    A Vision for Muslim Women in the West

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