Sister Anita Ahmad, Chairwoman, MSA’s Women Committee gave this talks to the women audience of Western Zone, Region IV, Training Camp at San Francisco on August 12-14, 1977.
We hope sisters will find it very useful.
Islam is the only way for the whole of mankind. It has addressed itself to the basic problems of mankind. As such, it is devoid of any understanding of God as male or female. Our understanding of Allaah is above any idea of sex; therefore, the guidance Islam has provided for both men and women.
In solving human problems Islam has taken a positive and constructive approach. But many Muslim thinkers, when they want to talk about Muslim women, start their discussion with a negative approach. Instead of counting what Islam has given to us, they go back to the past and compare the slavish position of women in the pre-Islamic history, with what Islam has bestowed upon us.
To start with, Islam recognizes women in their own right. It does not treat them as a footnote to the story of man. It ascribes a very high moral place to women in society. On the level of morality, there is no differentiation between Muslim men and women. Anyone who leads an ethical life deserves best rewards from Allaah. Similarly, it recognizes a very distinct and constructive role for women not only as individuals, but also as active members of society.
In the following, I will try to touch upon some of the roles Islam visualizes for women.
1. First and foremost, Islam wants us to free ourselves from all kinds of obedience and enslavement. It does not want us to become a slave of our stomach, desires, social customs, or our own ideas. It wants us to become free to submit to Allaah alone. Submission to Allaah means submitting to Him as our Lord, then He should rule not only in the prayer hall, but also in the market place, legislative and educational institutions,
This total submission and total change in the lives of human beings demands conscious and active struggle. That’s why our faith makes it obligatory on all of us, not only to submit to Allaah ourselves, but also convey this message to the whole of mankind . This message is to be conveyed not only by the word of mouth; but more so, with our actions and behaviour. Islam was never spread by intellectual speeches. It was the practical example of its followers, which helped its diffusion. Today, it is not lack of eloquence; it is lack of practise, that accounts for slow progress in the spread of Islam. Islam thus demands of us to convey its message through practise and not by mere word of mouth.
2. One cannot be a messenger of Islam without having a deep understanding of the meaning and message of Islam. That’s why acquisition of knowledge has been made obligatory on both sexes. Acquiring knowledge does not mean making one’s self a storehouse of knowledge. It simply means educating one’s self.
Self-education is a two-fold process. If the first place, one needs to develop will power to reject and resist all that is immoral. And in the second place, one needs to inculcate in one’s self moral virtues and habits, based on the consciousness of the presence of Allaah. We find that whenever a non-Muslim wanted to embrace Islam, the Prophet of Islam (may Allaah bless him) demanded a pledge that as a believer she will not commit any immorality.
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala says in Al-Qur’aan:
‘0 Prophet! If believing women come unto thee, take oath of allegiance unto thee that they will ascribe nothing as partner unto Allaah, and will neither steal nor commit adultery nor kill their children, nor produce any lie that they have devised between their hands and feet, nor disobey thee in what is right, then accept their allegiance and ask Allaah to forgive them, Lo! Allaah is Forgiving, Merciful (1X: 12).
Similarly, Islam demands creation of certain virtues from a believing Muslim.
‘Lo! Men who surrender unto Allaah, and women who surrender, and men who obey and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth, and men who persevere and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allaah much and women who remember — Allaah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.’ (XXX111: 35)
3. Communicating the message of Islam does not mean that everyone should go out into streets and talk with the people passing by about Islam, nor does it mean that everyone has to go out into battlefield and shoot a gun. Islam takes into consideration the differentiation of roles in society. It doesn’t lump different people into one category.It recognizes individuality of men as well as women, defines role for them and then gives equal emphasis to their roles and sphere of responsibility.
It is like in battlefield, where those who operate the guns are as much involved in the battle as those who sit in bunkers and work on maps. It is in this context that Al Qur’aan has outlined a preference for women to stay at home. Their battle start in their homes. It is from here, that they begin their struggle for a total comprehensive change in the history of mankind. Al-Qur’aan says that women should reject the customs and traditions of the age of ignorance and should start Islamic living with a new vision of life. It says:
"0 ye wives of the Prophet! ye are not like any other women. If ye keep your duty (to Allaah), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech. And stay in your houses. Dazzle not yourselves with the dazzlement of the Time of Ignorance. Be regular in prayer, and pay the poor due, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah ~s wish is but to remove uncleanness far from you, 0 Folk of the Household, and cleanse you with a thorough cleansing.’ (XXX111:32)
It is time for us to evaluate the age in which we are living and the customs that have become our habits, The word in this verse ‘Tabaraz al Jahelia’ is a comprehensive term which refers to all un-Islamic social and cultural (acts). It is a great injustice to Islam to say that Islam is a liberal religion and as such permits women to indulge in all kinds of activities, It is also an exploitation of women, because in this way the so-called modernists create confusion in the minds of Muslim women. Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala has made our faith very simple and very easy, but at the same time there are some hardships in it Anyone who wants to live an Islamic life has to develop a taste for Islam. There are liberties and freedoms but no freedom is ever without boundary walls. Human beings are free to move their hands but this does not mean that they should slap anyone who passes by them. Unlimited freedom is the anarchy. Therefore, Islam has provided a middle of the path. Women are free to move wherever they want to go provided Islamic requirements of covering their bodies and observing modesty are met. Nevertheless they are expected to start their efforts for correcting societies from their homes
4. A healthy family not only in the physical sense of the word, but in its social and cultural meaning, is a true starting point for total change in society. Among the last instructions of our Prophet (pbuh) were his words referring to home. Islam wants sharing of responsibilities in a family and tries to remind husband and wives as well as children and other relatives, of their important roles. Al-Qur’aan refers to the extended family in many places, wherever it talks about economic and social well-being, it reminds us of ‘Zoowial Qurba.’ One of the important responsibilities of a Muslim woman is taking care of her home in an Islamic way.
5. Islam demands that a Muslim woman should take care not only of herself, her children, but also provide all possible facilities to her husband. Both of them are d’uat, as such they must support one another emotionally as well as spiritually. The husband has to provide her all possible attention and she has to provide him with all possible comforts. This is because they are the two wheels of the chariot of life.
6. The Muslim women have to organize their time and energies. The Suraah Wal Asr reminds us that time has a great value and those who do not organize their time are in a big loss. She has to fix her priorities, she has to decide on every step what to do and when to do it. She can never waste her time in vainful talks nor can she misuse her time in unproductive activities. Suraah WaI Asr also reminds us that best use of time is by way of Tawasi bil Haq, which means that we have to call people around us for obedience to Allaah and we have to do it persistently without any excuse. That’s why the subsequent wording tells us that we have to do it with Sabr. The literal meaning of the verse are
"Mankind are at a loss except those who believe and do good deeds and call others to good persistently".
I pray to Allaah that He may give us the courage to live according to our faith and may give us strength to accept things which are easy and things which are difficult in fulfilling our responsibilities as Muslims.