Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Little did she know: Women in the history of Islam

Before i embraced Islam, 8 years ago, i asked a Muslimah, "why were there no Muslim females who took on authoritative positions in our society and more particularly our mosques." She replied rather boldly "a women lecturing in a mosque, in a mosque full of men! That's not Islam." Little did she know....

Most Muslims today are under the impression that it is only a man who has authority to lecture in a mosque with a mixed gender congregation. Society has been forced into thinking that men are superior to women when it comes to Islamic knowledge, issues over jurisprudence and being active in society. Like my dear friend, most young women believe that they cannot grow up with the dream of becoming a great Hadith scholar or an influential jurist. They grow up confining themselves to their homes or careers that are accepted for a Muslim women to embark on. Are they even aware of the greatest women ever lived?

The Prophet (s.a.w) demonstrated that women possess independent religious responsibility that has no connection to gender.

There are many female scholars in our history, especially in Hadith. Both men and women could learn directly from these female scholars without any questions being raised. Imam Hakim states that 1/4 of Islam depends on the narrations of these women. If we did not have that 1/4 we would lose Islam. There is no single Hadith that has been rejected from a women on account of her being a fabricating liar. This is something that is truly astounding when one compares this to the number of men who have fabricated Hadith. This clearly shows us that women have always been truthful conveyors of knowledge.

- Ribyah bint Muawidh, whose family dies in the battle of Uhud. She taught many students who were actually in fact family of the beloved Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w). She was one of the greatest experts on Hadith relating to wudhu. People would rather go to her to be taught Hadith, even though Abu Bakr and Umar were in Medina.

- Amrah Bint Abdur Rahman; she was a great female successor. She was a jurist, mufti and Hadith specialist. The great Caliphs would encourage people to learn Hadith from her.

- Umm Darda, who was a wife of the Sahabi Abu al-Dard. She taught in the mosques of Damascus and Jerusalem. Her classes were attended by Imams, Muftis and Jurists.

- Zaynab bint Sulayman, who was a princess by birth, gained the reputation of one of the most distinguished scholars of Hadith. She too, taught many powerful and influential men.

And these are just to name a few. The fact that these women taught men, who were also regarded as great Islamic Scholars, indicates their respect and status earned. These women were allowed to teach in mosques and in a todays society the debate as to whether women are actually allowed to enter a mosque still exists. This is how ignorant some Muslims still are. If you start learning about Islamic History, you will see that women were allowed to give binding verdicts about religion and even if they differed with the male scholars, there was never any objections concerning her judgment. Her faith was never questioned not were any sanctions issued against her and they didn't prevent her form narrating Hadith. This shows you how important women were in the times of the Prophet (s.a.w) and after.

Women are not inferior to men and nor are they superior. The Prophet (s.a.w) brought a message that says women are equal to men in their value. The Quran says that the person who is the most noble in the eyes of God is the one who has the most awareness of God, this can be gained by both men and women. Your gender has nothing to do with whether you can submit yourself to God. Both men and women have a direct connection to God. As Muslims, we should not see one gender as being superior over the other, the most valuable people in Islam are the ones who submit themselves to God and who have the highest Imaan.

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