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Summary of 7.19 "Muslim Women in History I"

 

In the very early part of the program we continued the discussion of the expectancy of the witness of a Muslim woman and we went into some final details  in order to clarify the issue.

 

The focus of the program was focused on actual examples of prominent women in Islamic history and it was quite clear that they were very involved in many respects of belief and faith.  We indicated that the very first person to become a Muslim was not a man but a woman, Khadijah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  She supported the Prophet by soothing him, by her kindness, and support with her property throughout her lifetime with him (they were together for 25 years that he was married to her, alone).  Recognition were given to Khadijah in the words of God as communicated by God and also the by the Prophet during her lifetime and extending after her death.

 

We gave examples of Muslim women believing irrespective of what their fathers, brothers or even their husbands believed or did.  In some cases they separated from their families in pursuit to freely practice their faith.  Finally, we touched briefly on women being subjected, like men, to all kinds of torture and suffering.  Again we mentioned that women scored another first in the fact that the first martyr in Islam was was Sumayyah, the mother of Ammar Ibn Yasir, who was stabbed while being tortured.  We gave examples of women who participated in dangerous examples like Asma’a who was a teenager (daughter of Abu Bakr) who provided supplies and news to the Prophet despite the fact that people were seeking his head and the head of his companion.

 

7.20  Muslim Women in History II

 

Host:  Are there any examples of women playing crucial roles in the propagation of the faith?

 

Jamal Badawi:

The obligation of a Muslim to communicate the message of Islam is not just a privilege or right but is a duty.  There is no reference in the Quran or Prophetic Tradition that exclude women from this laudable act.  Historically speaking we find that Urwah the daughter of Abd Al Muttalib used to support the Prophet even in the most critical of times.  She was also quite outspoken in urging people to believe in him and to give him their support.

 

Another example is Umm Salim the mother of a very prominent companion of the Prophet who was young at the time, Anaas Ibn Malik.  After the death of her husband a rich man came to Umm Salim by the name of Abu Talha to seek her hand in marriage and she told him “Abu Talha a man like you should not be turned down, however, I am sorry because you are an unbeliever and I am a believer and it is not permissible for me in Islam to get married to an unbeliever.”  Then she told him “Abu Talha do you realize that the god you worship has grown from the earth (he used to worship a statue that was made of wood)?  He said “Yes.”  She said “Don’t you feel ashamed of praying to something that comes out of the earth?”  Then he started talking about the gold and silver trying to tempt her because he was rich.  She said “I have no need for your gold or silver but if you turn to the truth and become a believer I will marry you.  I don’t even want a mahr (marital gift).  Your belief will be my mahr.”  In fact he did become Muslim, and was a very good one too.  This again showed how women propagated faith even on a personal level; when the future of a woman as a possible wife is at stake from very good individual.  Faith was very important to her and so she spread it through these means.

 

Umm Sharik is another example, that even in the most critical time for Muslims when they were tortured and even killed she never hesitated to go around secretly visiting other women and inviting them to the truth of Islam and asking them to give up all their pagan practices and she succeeded with many of them.

 

Host:  Did women distinguish themselves in the area of knowledge and scholarship?

 

Jamal Badawi:

In various points of Islamic history this has been the case.  One of the most prominent examples is Aisha the wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and she was regarded as a very important source of Prophetic Tradition.  This also can relate back to the question we discussed in a previous program about women being witnesses.  My wife brought this to my attention when we were discussing this topic and she mentioned that if a woman is accepted as a source of Prophetic Tradition which is the basis of Islamic Law how could her witness be rejected in other minor disputes.  Aisha, Umm Salama and other women were sources of Prophetic Tradition.

 

Abu Musa Al Asha’ari one of the prominent scholars of Islam put it very humbly as narrated in Tabkat Ibn Sa’ad “Whenever we had any complex problem pertaining to Islamic law we used to go to Aisha and ask her and we always found that she had some knowledge of it.”  She used to give what we call today fatwah or verdicts according to Islamic teachings.

 

Another example is Asma’a Bint Yazeed an Ansari woman from Madina who made Bia’ah (oath of allegiance) to the Prophet and she learned a lot from him and proved to be a scholar in her own right.  It was narrated that many future scholars learned through her; she like a professor an educator to many other important jurists.  There are so many bright examples like this.  And as far as Islam is concerned there are no barriers.

 

Host:  What about women’s involvement in social service and charitable activities?

 

Jamal Badawi:

Charitable activities from an Islamic perspective is perhaps one of the most suitable areas where women can excel more than men even because of the nature of compassion, kindness, concern and self sacrifice they can do a much better job with this.  In fact if we go back to the early (near perfect) era of Islamic practice we will find very touching examples.

 

After the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when Islam spread to different lands and wealth increased Abd Allah Ibn Zubire who was a relative of Aisha (wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)) brought her a hundred thousand durhams, and she immediately distributed the entire amount to the poor and needy.  That day Aisha was fasting (and one can only break their fast after sunset) and when it was time to break her fast she discovered that she did not have any food at home to break her fast on.  From this we can see the amount of self sacrifice; when earlier that day she had a massive amount of wealth which she distributed.

 

Another interesting example took place during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad  (PBUH) and the heroin was Fatima (the Prophet’s daughter) who was so close to her father that they used to call her “her daddy’s daughter” and he used to love her so much.  She was married to his cousin Ali, who was a poor person.  One time Ali told Fatima that “the situation of Muslims improved and your father is the Prophet“why don’t you go to him and ask him to assign a servant to help us as I keep carrying water on my back ant it is aching.”  She replied “Me too, I keep grinding the grains until my hands are full of blisters.”  He said “Why don’t you go and ask the Prophet to help us with a servant?”  She went first to the Prophet on her own but she felt shy to make this request so she went back home to her husband and told him that they should go together.  They both went and explained to the Prophet that they need a servant.  The Prophet replied “I can not provide you with this service while there are so many Muslims who’s tummies are aching from hunger.”  Compare this to many rulers today who spend and squander millions of dollars just on a wedding of their son or daughter.  Here is the Prophet who has command over all that wealth refusing to assign a servant to his own beloved daughter, despite the fact that they needed it.  Then the Prophet continued “Instead of a servant, could I teach you something?”  Then he told them that after prayer they should make supplication and when they go to bed they should make supplication (special types of supplications and prayers to God) and both Fatima and Ali reported that they never left this practice.  This shows that this spiritual elation and worship was better in the mind of the Prophet, Fatima and Ali than having a more comfortable and more luxurious life.

 

Not only were women participating in charity by just helping the poor but some of them even participated in consumer protection.  One of the laddies was known as Um Alshifa’a, the daughter of Abd Allah, who was so wise and liked that Omar used to give her opinion a lot of weight.  One time it was reported that he appointed her in the market place in order to supervise and make sure one was cheating.

 

Host:  How were Muslim women involved in war efforts?

 

Jamal Badawi:

It is quite evident historically, from a variety of sources, that Muslim women did volunteer in many of the battles that Muslims had to fight in order to defend themselves and their faith.  They participated in logistical services such as providing food, drink, nursing those who are wounded and carrying back to the city.  The helped by providing whatever help they could to support the fighting men.  It is interesting to notice that in the most authentic collection of Prophetic Tradition in Bukhari there is a chapter about women's’ participation in the warfare.

 

In Bukhari and Ahmad it was reported that a lady by the name of Al Rabi Bint Maouth said “We used to go into the battle field with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) providing drinks, serving them and taking the injured and the dead back to Madina.”  In another narration in Ahmad, Muslim and Ibn Majja another lady by the name of Um Atiya, an Ansari woman, said “I went to seven battles with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)” and she described similar duties that they used to preform like getting them supplies, making food for them and looking after those who were injured.  Even Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (PBUH), was reported to have carried water in a water bag along with another woman Um Aiman to give drinks to people in the front lines.  Another woman, Ummaiah Bint Quise Alghafaria, made her oath of allegiance to the Prophet (PBUH) when she was very young (at the age of 14) and once she came along with other women and she told the Prophet “We would like to go out with you on the battle field in order to take are of the injured and provide you with what you need.” The Prophet simply said “Come, with the blessings of Allah.”  He did not object to their participation.

 

If we look at history we find names like Nasseb Um Salim, Naseeba Bint Kab, Umm Salam Al Aslamiah, Lilah Algafariah, Um Aldahat, Safia Bint Abd Al Mutalib, and Hamma Bint Jahsh.  There are literally dozens of them and these are only the women who took the lead in leading other women to support the fighting men.  This does not cover the multitudes of Muslim women to provide the best help they could to support the men on the battle field.

 

Host:  Are there case of Muslim women who were actually involved and participated in the battle field and actually carried arms?

 

Jamal Badawi:

Yes, there were examples of that also.  We mentioned earlier the name of a prominent woman Umm Salim who was married to Abu Talha in the battle of Hunine when Muslims were in great danger she did not depend on men to protect her and wore a dagger on her waist and she mentioned to her husband that if someone gets close to me or tries violate me I will not hesitate to use the dagger in defense.  When the Prophet heard of this he simply said “Allah has already protected us from the danger” but he did not object that she was careful and tried to defend herself.

In the battle of Uhud when Muslims were in great danger, and the tide was against the Muslims and the Pagans started all attacking with the aim of reaching the Prophet (PBUH) and killing him and getting rid of Islam.  At that moment, a very trying and critical moment, one of the ladies by the name of Nasibah Bint Ka’b while providing logistical support she felt that there was a great deal of danger on the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  So she threw everything and she took a sword and started defending the Prophet; she put herself in the face of the pagans in order to protect the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  The Prophet recognized her courage and he said “Whenever I turn my face to the right or left there was this lady, Nasibah Bint Ka’b, defending me along with other believers.”  In fact it was reported that she received twelve injuries while defending the Prophet.  I don’t know of very women who have that kind of courage and perseverance.

 

Earlier we mentioned Asma’a Bint Yazeed an Ansari woman who was not only a scholar in her own right but was a very courageous woman who participated in battles.  Many historians refer to her participation in the battle of Yarmouk initially to nurse the injured and give them water.  But at one point when the Roman army was attacking the Muslims she took the pole of her tent and it was reported that she succeeded in killing nine of the enemy who tried to attack the Muslims.

 

Similarly we find that Safia Bin Abd Al Mutalib was left in the battle of AlKhandak (The Trench) and Hassan Ibn Thabit was with them trying to guard them.  At one point she was in danger and she immediately got rid of the soldier who was near her.  So there are several examples of women being in the position of having to fight or participate in the battle field.

 

Host:  Many argue that these examples are not applicable today because they occurred in the very early days of Islam and when they were in grave danger under exceptional circumstances.  How do we respond to this view?

 

Jamal Badawi:

To use this argument to bar a Muslim woman from the battle field, even if she wanted to volunteer does not have any definite and solid support.  The Prophet (PBUH) consented to this.  In case one wants to raise the issue of the danger to which muslims were exposed to in the early days then the same argument would be applicable to any other time after the Prophet where similar danger may arise.  Muslims are being persecuted in a variety of places around the world, with internal oppressive regimes and external occupying forces.  Till this day we hear about the heroic struggle of Muslim women in Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan and Iran.     If the argument is based on danger, danger does not know any specific time or place.  To be fair however we must say that women are not obliged to participate in the front lines of the battle field.  In other words a woman can not be drafted in the Muslim army.  The primary responsibility falls on men when it comes to this point.  To say that God relieved her from the possibility of being drafted because of many reasons (has small children at home).  This is one thing and saying that women are prohibited from participating in war efforts if need be is another.  Some people refer to a saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when people asked him if they are obliged to engage in jihad (struggle in the path of God, which is also used for battles) and his answer that their jihad is a good pilgrimage.  Again this does not mean that they can’t participate but simply that if one is not able to participate in the battle field that God will give her as much reward as he gives men when they do jihad when a woman does other types of worship like pilgrimage.  This was a compensation factor rather than prohibition.  In any case one has to indicate that Islam does not have to leave her children at home simply to participate in the battle field.  Those who are able to should be allowed to participate if they wish to do so (especially with logistical support).

 

I should mention one text that people might use to say that women should not participate about a lady known as Umm Kabsha, which is narrated in Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Al Nassai, went to the Prophet to take his permission to participate in the battle of Hunayn and the Prophet said “I am afraid that if I allow you that it will become an established practice.”  This text does not mean that women should be forbidden but it could mean that he was afraid that Muslims would interpret it as a regular pattern and that Muslim women would be forced to participate in the battle fields against their wishes.  If we take this argument did allow it and did not have any clear cut prohibitions and the fact that these things happened with the approval of the prophet shows that even in the issue of participating in the battle field that women were not barred from this.

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