A true believing woman understands the holistic Islamic view of life and humanity; She is aware, well-informed, true to herself as well as to others. She is righteous, faithful and knows how to balance her obligations to Allah (SWT), her parents and children.
Women, prior to the advent of Islam, had no dignity, no status and no honor. They were treated like animals. They were mere a property of men. They were in appalling and humiliating situations. In so-called modern society in Europe, they were not considered as human. To the prominent reformer Martin Luther, the only benefit from a woman is bringing into the world as many children as possible: “If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there” (Death and Dying). The women were removed from playing their original role in home. Islam has elevated the status of women. It regarded the women as important as men. Their role in raising the children and making the society better is upheld. The modern society is becoming increasingly aware of the status a Muslim woman granted in Islam. They are amazed at the rights and astonished at the status and respect given to women in Islam.
Muslim women fascinated by the European culture and society are losing their characteristics, virtues and values Islam has bestowed upon them. They are in dire need to revive themselves and return to pure Islam. They need to relearn the Islamic view which gives everything the due place it deserves in life, without neglecting any one aspect at the cost of another. A true believing woman understands the holistic Islamic view of life and humanity; She is aware, well-informed, true to herself as well as to others. She is righteous, faithful and knows how to balance her obligations to Allah (SWT), her parents and children. Her role models are the she-companions of the Messenger (PBUH). She strives to follow them in all the walks of life.
In this article I intend to discuss about how Islam treats women and how she is guided by the Islamic teachings, its wisdom, and commandments and strives to realize and experience the Transcendent.
Status of Woman in Islam
Allah (SWT) has bestowed great mercy upon Muslim woman. She was regarded valueless. Islam came and rescued her from the abyss of humiliation and raised her to the highest level of honorable and valued femininity.
An entire chapter is named after women, as it is called An-Nisa’a. This chapter deals with many important affairs concerning the woman, the family, the community. Islam has never differentiated between men and women. Almighty addresses the men and women equally in the Quran.
“Whoever does an evil deed, will not be requited except the like thereof; and whosoever does a righteous deed, whether male or female and is a true believer in the oneness of Allah, such will enter Paradise, where they will be provided therein with all things in abundance, without limit.” [Quran 40:40].
It is pertinent to understand that the Quranic view of women is no different than its view of men. Both are created by Allah, and for both the ultimate goal on earth is to worship their Lord, strive to do righteous deeds, and abstain from evil. Both will be judged according to their deeds. They differ, however, in terms of responsibilities as per nature and physical makeup.
The greatness of blessings of Islam lies in raising women from humiliation to honor, security and protection. It also laid stress on developing each aspect of her personality which involves her relationship with her family and society in order to make her distinguished and highly developed, to be worthy of her role as Allah’s vicegerent on earth.
Believing Woman and her duties towards Allah
Muslim woman has unshakable faith in Allah (SWT). She enjoys sincere conviction. She believes that nothing happens in this universe except by the will and decree of Allah (SWT); whatever befalls men or women could not have been avoided, and whatever misses could not have been made to happen. She understands the purpose of creation of human being; to strive towards the right path and to do good deeds putting all the trust in Allah (SWT) and submitting to His will.
A Muslim woman derives her deep faith in Allah (SWT) and sincere trust from the story of Hajar. Being left at Ka`bah in Makkah, with no people and no water, alone with her infant son Isma`il, she asked Ibrahim without any trace of panic: “Has Allah (SWT) commanded you to do this, O Ibrahim?” Ibrahim (PBUH) said, “Yes.” Her response demonstrated her acceptance and optimism: “Then He is not going to neglect us.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 3364]
A true believing woman is concerned about her faith more than anything else. She is aware that the pure, deep faith bound to increase the character of the Muslim woman in strength. It helps her understand the life reality, a place of testing whose results will be declared on the Day of judgement:
“Say: `It is Allah Who gives you life, then gives you death; then He will gather you together for the Day of Judgement about which there is no doubt’: but most men do not understand.” [Qur’an 45:26]
The true believing woman never forget that she is duty bound to perform all the religious duties that Allah (SWT) has ordered her to do. She understands that both women and men are equally responsible before Allah (SWT).
“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, and life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.” [Qur’an 16:97]
She worships her Lord enthusiastically without any excuses or compromises. She does not limit to perform only obligatory prayers, rather she strives to perform sunnah and nafil (supererogatory) prayers as her time and energy allow for she believes that these non-obligatory prayers are critical to bring her closer to Allah (SWT), earn her the love and pleasure of Allah (SWT), and make her among the victorious, obedient and righteous ones.
She finds in Islamic history numerous stories of great women who accepted the rule of Allah (SWT) with firm resolve and remain obedient and sincere to Allah and His messenger throughout the life. One of the best example of obedience found in the life of Zaynab bint Jahsh (May Allah be pleased with her) when she agreed to marry Prophet’s freed slave and adopted son Zayd ibn Harithah. The marriage did not last, and she was separated from Zayd. Zaiban just like a believing woman was fully aware that the reward for the acceptance of Allah (SWT) commands was great. Almighty rewarded her for her absolute obedience to Allah (SWT) and His Messenger, by arranging her marriage with the Prophet (PBUH).
An ideal believing woman follows the commands of Allah in every aspects of her life. She dresses Islamically. She distances herself from those dressed-but-naked women who have deviated from the guidance of Allah (SWT). A believing woman truly guided by her faith, and received sound Islamic education, does not preserve the Islamic dress because of custom or tradition, rather she wears hijab on the basis of her belief that it is a command from Allah (SWT). She is convinced that hijab enhances her character, goes a long way in keeping her away from the slippery slope of immorality and error. She derives the inspiration from women of the Muhajirin and Ansar who accepted it with strong conviction when the wise command concerning hijab revealed.
According to a report narrated by Bukhari, `A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: “May Allah have mercy on the Muhajir women. When Allah (SWT) revealed (And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty) [Qur’an 24:31], they tore their wrappers and covered their heads and faces with them.”
The aforementioned hadith clearly demonstrates the strong faith, sincerity, and absolute obedience to the commands of Allah. A believing woman is inspired by example of these virtuous women and put on distinctive Islamic dress with no intention to display her beauty. For she believes that the real beauty is the beauty of character. We can also see many Muslim women in our time who are admiring others, like of the women of the Muhajirin and Ansar, may Allah (SWT) be pleased with them, wearing distinctive Islamic dress, covering themselves decently without making any excuses to uncover any part of the body, for they know what Quran says: “Say: `The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat.” [Qur’an 9:81].
It is Muslim woman such as this who is capable to build Muslim homes and families. She is expected to raise a virtuous and capable Islamic leader who will guide the Ummah and befit the humanity with their knowledge and intellect.
It is heartening to see that many Muslim women in current time seem to be determined to disobey Allah and ignore the wise commands of Allah in regards to hijab. They do it despite the warning of being put in test in this life and the humiliating torment in the Hereafter for those who disobey Allah (SWT) and His Messenger:
“ . . . Let those who disobey his orders beware, lest some trial befall them or a painful punishment be inflicted on them.” [Qur’an 24:63]
A true believing woman avoids going to places crowded with people so she may not mix with men. Her role model is Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH), the Prophet’s wives, the women of the salaf (the Sahabah and Tabi`in), and those who followed their way sincerely. She always adheres to the teachings of Islam and faces all hardships with patience and fortitude in obeying Allah (SWT), without paying any dead to prevailing social norms contrary to Islam. What is driving her to bear all the difficulties involved in obeying the commands of Allah and His Messenger, is the Quranic statement:
“By [the Token of] Time [through the Ages], Verily Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and [join together] in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.” [Qur’an 103:1-3]
The believing woman accepts the will and decree of Allah, and seeks His pleasure in everything she does with no hesitation, even if it causes anger to other people. She never try to pleasing the people at the expense of displeasing Allah. She knows that disobeying Allah will ultimately bring about the wrath of Allah (SWT). Her ultimate goal is to please Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Whoever seeks Allah’s pleasure by the people’s wrath, Allah will suffice him from the people. And who ever seeks the people’s pleasure by Allah’s wrath, Allah will entrust him to the people.” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2414]
She is guided by the teachings of Islam. She is convinced that whatever happens, happens according to the will and decree of Allah (SWT). With this deep faith and strong conviction, she faces the upheavals and calamities of life patiently.
The true believing woman firmly believes that she has been created for a purpose. She is required to serve that purpose constantly in life, as Allah (SWT) defined in the Qur’an:
“I have only created jinns and men, that they may serve Me.” [Qur’an 51:56]
Hence a believing woman is in a continuous state of worship provided her intentions are pure and she is carrying out her mission in life as per Allah’s command. All she does in her life becomes an act of worship, treating her parents with kindness and respect, serving her husband, taking care of her children, upbringing and educating them, upholding the ties of kinship, etc., as long as she does all this in adherence to the commands of Allah (SWT).
A true believing woman never feel inferiority complex. She feels pride in her Islamic identity. She is proud to be a Muslimah. She is distinguished by her Islamic character. She is grateful to Allah for Islam which protected the dignity of women and raised their status. She is convinced that the divine message is the only way to guarantee the peace and tranquility. Her loyalty to her Allah is above all. History is the witness that believing women’s pride in their Islamic identity made them stronger and capable of resisting any temptations and threats and falsehood propagated by enemies of Islam. She follows the examples of Pharaoh’s wife who showed her steadfastness and challenged the kingdom of Pharaoh and faced the calamities and accepted the punishments by her husband with patience and peace of soul, seeking the reward from Allah. Almighty, by recording her prayer in the Quran, made it a source of inspiration for all the women of Islam:
“O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to You, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong.” [Qur’an 66:11]
A sincere believing woman strives to please Allah and to establish the rule of Allah (SWT) on earth. She believes that Islam is a comprehensive religion which governs the life of the individual, the family, the community and the nation. She accepts the supremacy of authority of Allah and strives to promote it. She is aware of her responsibility towards Ummah. She does it by raising the courageous, sincere and upright Muslim children who can lead the Ummah and sacrifice in the way of Allah. She herself prepares for this noble task and nurtures her faith and polishes her soul to be able to endure for the sake of Allah. She reads the life stories of first Muslim women and learn good virtues and values from their examples. She finds that they were enthusiastic like men and did tremendous services for the Islamic cause.
A true believing woman never forget this truth that seeking the pleasure of Allah and striving to make His word supreme on earth is the ultimate goal of life. Islamic history is filled with such obedient and loyal Muslimah who became the champions of noble Islamic character.
Believing Woman and Knowledge
The sensitive believing woman does not only takes care of her body, she also takes care of her mind by pursuing useful knowledge. She understands that the pursuit of knowledge has been made obligatory on women just like on men. She knows that teaching of Quran and Sunnah about seeking knowledge is directed at men and women both alike. She strives to seek the obligatory knowledge which will benefit her in this world and the life hereafter. A true believing woman recognizes the importance of seeking beneficial knowledge, it develops her mind and enhances her emotional growth and maturity. She is well aware of the positive effects knowledge has on developing her personality, building her character, raising her children, dealing with families and contributing to societies. She is keen to learn her religion, as she is responsible for the raising and educating her children. She finds prominent examples of great women who pursued knowledge and became highly talented and capable to benefit the Ummah. The Mother of the Believers `A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) is remarkable example who was the primary source of hadith and knowledge of the sunnah, and known the first faqihah (jurist) in Islam while she was still young.
The basic knowledge essential for a Muslim woman is to learn how to read the Qur’an properly, and be able to understand its meaning. Then she needs to learn sciences of hadith, the biography of the Prophet (PBUH), and life stories of Prophet’s wives, Sahabiyat and Tabiyat, who are eminent personalities in Islam. She also needs to learn about fiqh (jurisprudence) as much as it is essential for worshiping and guiding her personal and social affairs.
It is unwise to think that a woman should seek the education precisely the same as that of men. Before deciding to learn and specialize in any field, she should bear in mind that her intellectual, psychological and social make-up is different of that of man. It is not appropriate for her to compete with men in all walks of life. She is required to prepare herself to fulfil the purpose for which she is created. This way she can contribute to the wellbeing of her family, society and ummah.
A true believing woman also takes care of her soul. She pays the great attention to refine her soul through worship, dhikr, and reading Qur’an. She strives to strike a distinguished balance between body, mind and soul. And none is taken care of at the expense of another.
She frequently repeats the supplication and dua to strengthen her soul and draw herself closer to Allah (SWT. She memorizes the morning and evening supplications and all related to different occasions and put them into practice. She follows the examples of distinguished wives of sahaba and thus encouraged to learn du`a’s and adhkar and repeats them constantly at appropriate times. This connects her soul to Allah and her heart remains longing for Him.
Such is the ideal believing woman, and such is the character she preserves that is described in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and thus distinguished by her sound morality in thinking, behavior and appearance from all other women in the world.