Posted by Sarah on IGIC
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?
A struggle with what to wear ends in tears, a mother’s wisdom, and finally, tranquility.
The end of June was rolling by, and it was graduation season. Even though it wasn’t my time to graduate, my best friend was finally done, and I had to be there. It was a nice, breezy evening, and another friend and I had planned to go to the ceremony together. As I walked to my closet, shaytan went into action.
Everyone is going to be there, everyone is going to have their cameras. I just have to look my best, I thought; and mind you, it wasn’t even my graduation. Was that me really talking, or was that shaytan? As I put on my abaya, shaytan’s whispers increased rapidly. Take a break from your abaya and loose fitted clothes, maybe you should wear that pink skirt, you always look good in that. But wait? I hadn’t left my home without my abaya for a whole year; today was certainly not going to be the day. I tried to battle these on-going whispers; I couldn’t give in.
I looked through my clothes, trying to find that right jacket to wear over my abaya, and I finally found the nice long pink one. As I draped it on and looked in the mirror, shaytan began with his snickering whispers once again. This is way too big on you, look at how fat you look! Hmm, maybe I don’t look that good in it, after all? No! I told myself again, you look absolutely fine, it’s not too big and not too tight.
Now it came down to the hard part of finding the right hijab. I found the one I usually wore with that jacket, a simple striped scarf. But wait, why does it look so tacky? Again, shaytan rambled on. I spent a good hour with this internal dialogue, agonizing in the closet. I eventually felt tears finding their way down my cheeks. Why is he beating me down so much today? I felt totally insecure and unable to make a decision. I felt so insecure, I was going to even abandon going to the graduation.
My mom walked in and saw the huge pile of clothes scattered on my bedroom floor. She was shocked, as she’d never seen this happened before. She sat me down on the bed, and looked genuinely into the eyes.
She began to tell me about a graduation she had once attended: it wasn’t her own, it wasn’t her best friend’s, but it was her husband’s, my daddy’s graduation. When the time came, she got into her elegant jilbab and put on a nice hijab – nothing too fancy, but a decent outfit. She went to the graduation, and everyone was decked out. Chilling with her friends, they were dressed up beyond what the occasion asked for. But it didn’t really bother my mom; she was happy for my dad, and happy in what she was wearing.
The following day, my mom told me, one of her friends was talking to her, one of those ladies who had been all dressed up for the graduation. She told her with all honesty that she had felt “this small,” making a gesture with her hands to indicate the smallness, compared to my mom that day. She went on stating the fact that they had both had fun, they had both enjoyed their time. But one of them had displeased her Lord, while the other had pleased Him, and pleased herself as well. My mom. Alhamdulilah.
I was astounded, subhanaAllah. Verily, Allah guides whom He wills. You see, after my mom told me this story, I felt total relief taking over my heart. My soul was content. Why am I fretting over an abaya I have been wearing for a good seven months now? I’ve worn it all that time – I’ve volunteered at the hospital with it on, I’ve worn it for Eid, and I wore it every day at school. How are these two simple hours of my life going to be any different?
Tranquility overtook me. I looked in the mirror one last time, I made sure I still matched, but more importantly, I also considered what would please my Creator, and not His creation. We all go through ups and downs, we have our days where shaytan over comes us, but if you are upon the truth, then you know there is no other way. Shatyan was merely created as your enemy – so we should take him as one. It’s hard, and it takes time. But if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala brought me this much to the task He has ordained upon me, why would I suddenly chicken out, He will beyond doubt bring me through it.
Reflecting on the human need for appreciation, here are a few thoughts on keeping our intentions in check.
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” — William James
I find this quote to be ever so true. The Insaan (the human) has truly been created with a strange desire, a “craving” to be appreciated and for his merits to be recognized. Yet how many times do we hear the phrase “I am not appreciated” out of the mouths of stressed mothers? How many times has a lack of appreciation been the reason for the falling apart of marriages? How many frustrated employees have complained about their work and qualifications being underappreciated?
The thing with appreciation is that although humans crave to receive it, they seldom offer it. While discussing this with my mother once, she quoted the first part of a verse 67 in Surat Az-Zumar that translates into, “And they do not esteem God as He should be esteemed…”
She then told me: If people cannot esteem Allah the Almighty as He deserves to be esteemed, how on earth do you think people can esteem mere people?!
Appreciating others, despite this introduction, is not the core idea I wanted to discuss today – so allow me to shift the waves of ideas to another shore – why is it that we seek appreciation from other humans? Does this “craving” influence the things we do? The things we don’t do?
Could it be that perhaps we sometimes forget our intentions, forget Who we should really be seeking to please and serve, for the sake of fickle human appreciation?
Could it be that this need has been the reason for leaving either required or recommended actions in Islam? Because we know, deep down inside, that doing these things will not earn us the appreciation from others our egos beg to be fueled with?
Deep down inside, is the way we dress – whether it is not putting on the hijab, or not improving our way of wearing hijab – because we will know that an altered appearance will earn us nothing more than disapproving glances and looks from some? Is what we wear each day not what it should be because we cannot let go of the need to receive “appreciative” looks?
Could many of our sins be because we forget the magnitude of Allah’s reward and the beauty of His pleasure, and therefore we fill the void of this craving in the form of “mini-appreciation” from those around us?
So here is something the world doesn’t tell you everyday: while we should always strive to be appreciative of others, not being appreciated, not receiving appreciation may actually be a hidden blessing – it can help you test your sincerity and help train you to seek Allah’s pleasure alone.
It seems to me that appreciation is a flower we are all inevitably inclined to pick – but are we picking it from the right garden?
I randomly stick sticky notes on my desk with short and powerful statements or quotes. My school agenda is filled with lines of poetry. I cut out quotes and sayings from magazines and create collages that hang in my closet. Words mean the world to me. They keep me going and allow me to stay motivated on a daily bases. Now, I found an accessible way to write on my mirror and not leave a mess. My handy dandy Crayola markers lie on my desk, and permit me to write down what’s on my mind, from tasks to quotes, onto my mirror.
The lyrics of the nasheed “The Veil” by Dawud Wharnsby Ali were lingering in my mind one winter evening, when I impulsively decided to inscribe these words on my mirror. The words of the song stared back at me. I stood there in awe, for a few minutes, looking at my reflection and momentary looking to the words of the nasheed.
this mark of piety,
is an act of faith, a symbol
for all the world to see
It has been a month since those lines have been on my mirror. Every time I lay my eyes on those words, a rapid shiver goes down my spine and a smile takes over my face. I wake up everyday, and wrap my hijab over my head. I look at my reflection, examining if I have fulfilled the obligations of the hijab.
My eyes glance over at the words written in purple on my mirror. Those four lines, simple yet so meaningful, make my heart to beat hastily. I look again in the mirror, thinking why do I really wear the hijab? The straightforward words remind me to renew my intentions, and ponder upon the true meaning of the hijab, and why is it draped around my head in such a manner.
This simple hijab, you see, it protects my dignity. I think of all the times that this hijab has protected me. The various situations I have been through that my hijab allowed me to shine. I remind myself of how this hijab is an act of worship, and the amount of reward I will receive, inshaAllah, for enduring this responsibility.
“How often it is that a small action becomes great by its intention. And how often it is that a great action becomes small by its intention.”
Intentions are what mold our actions. Sisters, remember: You are performing an act of worship. You are pleasing your Lord by covering yourself. You are a symbol of this deen, you are truly a mark of piety, and you are upon the truth. This hijab that is so neatly assembled around your head, is more than a cloth. It signifies your true integrity. Remember to renew your intentions and think about the real purpose of the hijab. Remember the immense reward you have for taking on this commitment, and smile, because you are beautiful.