Monday, May 08, 2006

Women in Islam

We as an ummah have seen the rights of women steadily erode over the last 1400 years, to a point that cultural and social practices supersede the rights guaranteed to women by Allah, as seen in the Quran and Hadith. The rights that are inherent in Islam are taken for granted by societal misconceptions leading to the degradation of our women.

Allah has given us the guide by which we live our lives, and he has offered the perfect example to model ourselves after. I feel it is imperative that we look closer at the way we treat or allow others to treat women, and judge these actions according to the way of Allah. Let us begin our work in understanding a woman’s role in Islam by going to the source of Allah’s words:

“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.” Holy Quran 33:35

This is one of the most prolific versus in stating the significance of women in Islam because her role is stated unequivocally as that with a man. The term “men and women” associating their actions as the same is repeated not once or twice, but it is mentioned ten times ending in “for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.”. Men and women, for them, not him and not her, but for them is a great reward.

Is man somehow a more perfect creation then his counterpart? Again let us look to the most definitive source for the answer:

“O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from this pair scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and reverence the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you.” Holy Quran 4:1

“And among His signs is this that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” Holy Quran 30:21

In the abovementioned verses it is clear that Allah has created man and woman from a single “person” and of “like nature” and that He has created us to “dwell in tranquility” and he put “love and mercy” between us. If you look at the verses closely you notice that Allah mentions man and woman were created the same, with similar natures and are to live together in peace. It was not revealed with one in a position of superiority over the other.

Marriage gives special importance to women as well as evidenced in the Quran and the Hadith. Women have been given rights in Islam that were not seen elsewhere for hundreds of years. The nature of marriage was revealed in many ways, one of which describes the family unit that comes from wedlock:

“And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best.” Holy Quran 16:72

Describing a man and his wife Allah once again uses a most beautiful metaphor to describe them:

“They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.” Holy Quran 2:187

This simple statement means so many things if one but looks sincerely. “The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them." – A garment helps preserve our modesty, just as a husband and wife protect each others modesty; a garment offers comfort and security to ones body just as husband and wife offer security and comfort to each other. Such a simple statement that means so much. The relationship between man and woman is described further ensuring certain protections for her; Allow me to offer a few evidences:

“Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good” Holy Quran 4:19

“Then keep them in all decency or part from them decently. It is not lawful for you to take anything you have given them” Holy Quran 2:229

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! How can we know her permission?" He said, "Her silence (indicates her permission)." Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 67

The afore mentioned versus describe three very important aspects regarding women and marriage; First we find the Quran warns men, not women to live in kindness with his wife because Allah knows what we do not, and surely his wife can have goodness that he will not see until he opens his heart. We then move onto another verse directed to men regarding their wives, and it is a command “keep them in decency” and if that can not be done then to “leave them decently” and this too is something that seems so simplistic today, but when one sees how Allah wanted men to treat women over 1400 years ago, it becomes an amazing change of social and cultural customs that were so prevalent during this period of history. The last verse is in fact a Hadith chosen for the subject that it clarifies. Through social and cultural traditions it had become common then and even today to force ones daughter into a marriage she had no choice in. This hadith clearly demonstrates that women should not be given against their will, and even more important is that it says "Her silence (indicates her permission).” the significance of which is that if her silence is her permission, then it is not only allowing but promoting that a woman actually voice her objection and be heard. This is something not always common even by todays standards.

I will leave off with the most important role of a woman. We have seen the woman as an individual, and as a wife, now let us look at her as a mother. The most important role of a woman is as a mother, so important that the Rasool Allah said:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

A man came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man said. "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man further said, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man asked for the fourth time, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your father." Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 2:

I could say so much more about the importance, and significance of women in Islam but for now I will save that for another article. I urge all Muslims to carefully look at the role of women in Islam and take a closer look at some of the most influential women in Islam – Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Aishah bint Abi Bakr, Sumayyah Bint Khabbab, Nasibah bint Ka'b al-Maziniyyah to name but a few of the many Muslimah who helped forge the path of Islam and shape our Ummah in their own ways.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Definition of Occupation

“Nu'man b. Bashir reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” Sahih Muslim Book 032, Number 6258:

When I read this Hadith, my heart fills with sadness because so many of us do not realy feel the importance of it. We do not see the significance of feeling the pain and sorrow of our brothers and sisters around the world. The ummah of the prophet Muhmammed (PBUH) is indeed one body, but perhaps our sickness has gotten so bad it has made us numb to the pain we should be feeling from our hurting limbs. I recently came across this poem written by an 11th grade Palestianian and perhaps the first dose of medicine to heal ourself will come from not forgetting -

The Definition of Occupation

Occupied, terrorized, genocide / while the whole world is hypnotized,

Sixty years, incessant tears / no day passes by without countless fears

For our lives, our wives, our children cry / yet the world turns away, and our spirits die.

For my land, I do stand / but I remain hopeless without a helping hand,

Oppression, suppression, depression / of every aspect of my life, you've taken possession,

Our weapons are stones, to protect our homes / but your bulldozers win and terror roams,

Yours are tanks, helicopters, and military jeeps / to kill the young man, as his mother weeps,

You control our electricity, you control our seas / you control our streets, and uproot our trees,

You close our schools, our children can't learn / you deny the refugees their right to return,

Suffering orphans, under your persecution / when they rise up, they face execution,

Families are separated, and farmers (merely) recall / the land they lost by your Apartheid Wall,

Through your diplomacy and your foreign relations /you attempt to justify and give credence to your occupation,

Palestine is my land, and I won't let you take it /and while you put the world to sleep, I try to wake it.

Abdelnasser Rashid,
April 15, 2006
11th Grade student

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Charity - A Muslim's Obligation

With over 1 billion people in the world living with a consumption level below $1, and nearly 3 billion with consumption levels below $2, poverty has become a global catastrophe. Poverty wears many faces, changing from place to place, and has been described in numerous ways. Poverty is a call to action, a call to change the world so that more people may have enough to eat, have adequate shelter, or access to education and health.

Charity as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: 1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity. 2: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need

Charity as defined by Islam: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. An aspect of our din that is so important it is specifically mentioned in 57 different ayat in al-Quran and 284 sahih hadith from Bukhari and Muslim.

There is Zakat which is obligatory upon every Muslim; however we often forget the rewards of everyday charity. Giving above and beyond what is required of us. In Islam we understand the varying degrees of charity and whom they apply to; One should work and offer of his earnings, if one can not work, then they can volunteer their time and efforts to the poor and needy, if at last the can not do that, then they should encourage others to do good deeds.

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr:
A person asked Allah's Apostle "What (sort of) deeds in or (what qualities of) Islam are good?" He replied, "To feed (the poor) and greet those whom you know and those whom you don't know." Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 27

As you can see, the virtue of charity is looked upon with the utmost importance. The often forgotten attribute of our Islamic character, charity is so important that time and time again in the Quran Allah ties prayer and charity together in the same verses.

And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship)” Holy Quran 2:43

“But those among them, who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practice regular charity and believe in Allah and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.” Holy Quran 4:162

In the second Surah of the Quran, Al-Baqara, the references to prayer followed by charity is mentioned no less then 5 times. Is this by accident? No, we know that Allah chose for us the most perfect message in Al-Quran and the lessons he repeats throughout are the lessons that are more important then others. Should not we take heed to these words? The command for charity, for support of your family, friends, and community is something fundamental to the Muslim Ummah.

Narrated Anas:
The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself." Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12

The command for charity is something that is something that is enjoined upon every Muslim, often referring to both men and women, or to “people” in general making his commands universal:

“For those who give in Charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward.” Holy Quran 57:18

Narrated Haritha bin Wahab:
I heard the Prophet saying, "O people! Give in charity as a time will come upon you when a person will wander about with his object of charity and will not find anybody to accept it, and one (who will be requested to take it) will say, "If you had brought it yesterday, would have taken it, but to-day I am not in need of it” Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 492

Charity is something best done for no other reward then the pleasure of Allah; No want of reward or expectations should be placed on charity because it is a good deed meant for the heart of the giver and the recipient. Islam asks for and rewards selflessness.

“Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” Holy Quran 2:274

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His. They are: …
(6) A person who practices charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given (i.e. nobody knows how much he has given in charity). Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 504

The act of charity is something meant for all of mankind to participate in for the benefit of all mankind. Muslims have been commanded by Allah and shown the examples of the Rasool Allah, we can not and should not want, except for wanting Allah; we should not need, except needing Allah; Our duty, our desire; For Allah, for ourselves and for all mankind let us endeavor to put and end to crisis of world poverty.