Summary of 7.18 “Position of Women in Islam-Political Aspect II”

The first part was a continuation of Muslim women and public affairs or what we call today political life.’ We used the example during the days of Omar, the second Caliph after the Prophet, who was corrected by a woman in the Masijid.’ We made the analogy between that and political activities taking place today.’ Then we went on to discuss whether Islam sanctions a Muslim woman being in a position of leadership and responsibility.’ We quoted the saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that each of us is leader and it included women as leaders.’ We indicated that the role of a woman, who is not employed, as a mother and a wife is a role which carries importance, responsibility and direction which is what leadership is all about.’ If we mean by public office or leadership a position of sensitivity or prominence in a society we have indicated that as a basic rule there is no clear cut prohibition in Islamic Law and the only thing that was prohibited was the headship of state.’ This appears in the word of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and we discussed the possible reasons for this restriction under the totality of Islam and in regards to the nature of the role of a Muslim Caliph leading prayers (which is different from other frameworks).’ As far as anything beyond the headship of state we indicated that there is nothing conclusive about restricting a Muslim from’ applying to any other position.’ We indicated that some jurists (majority) that serving as a judge is analogous to serving as head of state.’ We also indicated that a great scholar, Al Tabari, said this is analogy is not correct and is a matter of interpretation.’ Abu Hanifa took a middle ground between both opinions, but there is nothing conclusive about it.’ Finally, we touched on the question of the witness of a Muslim woman and why particularly in financial dealings, as indicated in the Quran in (2:282), which indicated that the witnesses should either be two men or one man and two women.’ We indicated that on the whole most women would not be as involved in the details of financial dealings and as the verse says if one woman forgets or was not paying attention to what was going on the other one can perhaps step in and correct her.’ Basically, we said that this has nothing to do with the status but rather with the approach of establishing justice and making sure, before any rulings can be made, that all kinds of precautions are taken to achieve accuracy.

7.19′ Muslim Women in History I

Host:’ Is it acceptable for a woman to be a witness in matters other than financial dealings?

Jamal Badawi:

We find many scholars like Abu Hanifa and Ibn Alkime who hold the view that a woman’s witness is accepted in all areas excluding criminal law.’ Some jurists try to explain that the sight of the crime which might involve blood shed may be to much of a shock for most women (who are emotional by nature) which might result in inaccurate perception of what went on which might effect the life or death of the accused.’ Even then this is not a universal view that is held by all Muslims jurists.’ We find that other famous jurists like Al Zurhri and Al Awzai as quoted in ‘Criminal Law in Islam’ by Abdul Katir Oda, second volume page 215, in which he refers to these jurists as holding the view that the witness of a woman is to be accepted in any matter or any dispute including the issue of criminal law.’ There is a difference of opinion on this matter which has to do with interpretation as there is nothing conclusive in the Quran or words of the Prophet that restrict the Muslim woman from this particular activity.

Whether the rule that the witnesses are two men or two women and one man extends to matters past financial law is a matter of interpretation.’ There is nothing conclusive about it even though the majority of jurists extend it to apply to other areas.’ There are questions pertaining to the methodology of that analogy.’ In my humble opinion this analogy suffers from weaknesses on the basis of the Quran, Prophetic Tradition and on the basis of the overall spirit of Islamic Law.’ In the Quran we find at least seven places where the witness (in dealings or disputes) and in only one of them has the requirement that the witnesses should be either two men or two women and one man found (2:282).’ This is’ the only case where the witnesses are given a specific gender.’ In another verse in (24:6-9) we find that the witness of a man is equated with that of a woman.’ This was in the case when a spouse accuses the other spouse of committing adultery.’ In the remaining five the Quran does not specify if the witnesses should be men, women or both.’ These verses are found in (4:15), (5:109), (24:04), (24:13) and (65:02) which all talk about witnesses in dispute and all of them do not have specifications of the gender of the witness.’ I also mentioned that the requirement of two women for one man seems in all other cases seems to contradict the Prophetic Tradition.’ For example, in several references of Prophetic sayings in Muslim, Abu Dawood, Al Nassa’ai and Tirmithi it was reported that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a disputed decided on the outcome with one statement under oath and one witness without specifying the gender of that witness (which gives a fifty, fifty possibility).’ Furthermore, we find in newmerous sayings of the Prophet particularly in Abu Dawood and Al Tirmithi that Prophet Muhammad rejected the witness of a person who was untrustworthy, a person who is jealous of the person (he is being a witness against) and a person who is subordinate to another (who might be doing so to please his boss).’ In all of these cases he mentioned male and female gender.’ Finally, in my humble understanding it seems to contradict the spirit of Islamic Law because according to the Quran to give a witness is not a right or privilege but a duty.’ For example in (2:282) in the Quran ‘The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (For evidence).” In (2:283) it says that concealing truth or a witness is a sin.’ In (65:2) it says that one should come forth as a witness for the sake of God.’ All of these show that it is one’s duty.

Suppose that that there was an incident and the only witnesses were one man and one woman or even two women would it be conceivable under the spirit of Islamic Law to stick to technicalities and say no we need a man or another woman which would then result in the loss of the rights of others and lack of justice?’ So if we look at it in terms of all of these references we find that the requirement of two women for one male in other than financial dealings (which is what the Quran specifies) does not seem to have a very solid ground even though majority of jurists agreed to it.

Host:’ Are there specific examples of prominent Muslim women in Islamic history in matters of faith?

Jamal Badawi:

One of the greatest tributes that Islam made to pious Muslim women is that the very first Muslim who embraced Islam after Prophet Muhammad was given the mission was a woman, his wife Khadija.’ According to Islamic history when he would contemplate in the cave of Hirra’a, before he received the command (he used to go for as long as one month to this cave just outside of Mecca to contemplate, meditate in order to discover the truth) his wife did not object or stop him.’ Many times she would visit him and provide him with supplies.’ When the first revelation came to him he was alone and he was very scared when came down from the mountain.’ He did not know who the person who was claiming to be Angel Gabriel was and he thought it might be an evil spirit.’ He was trembling and he was in a very fearful state and ran to his home, instead of questioning or accusing him his wife Khadijah immediately comforted him.’ When he said could that have been an evil spirit that came to me in the cave she would say no.’ Some of her beautiful words went ‘By the name of God, God will never let you down after all you are kind to your relatives, you help those who are weak, you are charitable, you speak the truth, you are hospitable to your guest and you comfort those who suffer.” In other words she concluded from his character that what happened to him can never an evil spirit and that God would not let him down.’ When a person goes from this state of tension and finds these comforting words from his beloved one it helps one perseverance and carry their responsibility.’ The belief of Khadijah and the honor of being the very first person to accept Islam as completed through Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was not just a matter of faith or belief in the heart; she shared with him in all his suffering, difficulties, and sacrifices in his struggle against evil, falsehood and the persecution of his own people and relatives.’ Whenever he faced all of these difficulties outside of his home, he came back home to find a kind hear, support, comforting words and encouragement from his wife Khadijah.’ Her role was crucial him helping carry out his responsibilities.’ Even when the going became very tough and the pagans put a siege the Muslims (boycotting them and not selling them any food) Khadijah (who was very rich and could have separated her self from it) but joined her husband and the other Muslims in their suffering, hunger, thirst and depravation.’ This shows that she was really living with her heart, mind and physically with the hardships and sacrifices of the Prophet.

Host:’ Was there any recognition of Khadijah’s strong faith?

Jamal Badawi:

The highest recognition came from God.’ It was narrated in Bukhari that one time Angel Gabriel came to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and he’ said to him ‘In a few’ minutes Khadijah will come to you with food in a pot, when she comes to you convey to her greetings of Peace from God and from me.’ Giver her the glad tidings that God has prepared a house for her in Paradise which is made of pearls, wherein there is neither noise nor fatigue.” This is an interesting description of her abode because as some scholars explain it is described as a house wherein there is no noise because Khadijah never raised her voice at her husband and she suffered from the noise made by the unbelievers.’ Second, this house did not have any suffering because she never caused any fatigue or suffering to the Prophet as she was a very sincere and comforting spouse to the Prophet (PBUH).

Host:’ Did Prophet Muhammad recognize her support?

Jamal Badawi:

First, during their marital life the amount of love and affection that Prophet Muhammad showed towards his wife, Khadijah was exemplary.’ It suffices to say that when they got married Prophet Muhammad was twenty-five years old and Khadijah was forty years old (15 years older).’ She was his only wife for 25 years, she was 65 and he was 50 when she died.’ This marriage despite the difference in age proved to be a very happy, successful and stable marriage.’ It was built upon mutual appreciation of human qualities rather than other things in their lives.’ In some of the Prophet’s sayings about women who achieved perfection he mentioned Asia the wife of Pharaoh, Marry the mother of Jesus and Khadijah.’ In another version he also mentioned Fatima his daughter.’ It is quite interesting in the first version that he mentions three very perfect women (as is humanly possible) who played very significant rolls in the life of three major prophets and three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.’ Asia the wife of the Pharaoh acted as the foster mother for Moses.’ Mary the mother of Jesus played a crucial role in bringing up her child.’ Khadijah played a very important role in the life of her husband the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUT).’ In fact he repeated this appreciation so much that even after her death he was very faithful to her memory.’ He used to be generous to her relatives and friends and sometimes when he slaughtered an animal he would send part of it to a such and such lady because she was a friend of Khadijah.’ His praise was so continuos that one time his wife Aisha got jealous and she told him ‘you keep mentioning that old lady, didn’t God’ replace that old lady with one that is better than her?’ (referring to herself) and the Prophet got angry and said ‘No, God did not replace her with someone who is better than her.’ She accepted Islam when people disbelieved, she believed in me and was faithful when other people disbelieved and rejected me, she supported me with her property and put it under my disposal and the disposal of the faith when other people withheld their financial support and God gave me almost all my children through her’ (only one of his children was born to a wife other than Khadijah, Ibrahim who was born to Mary).’ Other than that all his other kids were born to Khadijah.’ They had two boys and four girls: Alqasim, Abd Allah (Altibe and Atahir), Rukaya, Zaynab, Um Kalthom and the youngest Fatima (another very prominent woman in Islamic history.

Host:’ Are there examples of prominent women in Islamic History who’s faith was independent of their spouse’s faith?

Jamal Badawi:

Yes, there are cases of women who were independent of their husbands, fathers and brothers which shows their independent personalities in the matter of faith.’ We will look at three examples which appear in the books of Hadith and in Tabakat Ibn Sa’ad and Al Isabah fi Tameez al Sahaba.’ The Prophet’s daughter, Zainab, became a believer but her husband Al Auss Ibul Rabi was not a believer.’ She did not care that he was not a believer and was separated from him because it was not permissible for her to live with him.’ We find that Um Habiba (daughter of Abu Sufian) became Muslim while her father was not a believer and she believed that the bonds of faith were more important than the bonds of blood relationships.’ We find the example of Fatima the daughter of Al Khatab who was Omar Ibn Al Khatab’s sister (later became a Muslim and the second Caliph).’ Before he became a believer he once went to his sister’s house and found her reciting the Quran and he was very angry (was not a believer yet) and he beat her and when he saw the blood on her face he felt ashamed of himself and asked to read the Quran and his heart was touched and he became a believer.’ This shows that despite the toughness of her brother and his disbelief, at the time, that she was still a Muslim.’ There were even Muslim women who migrated (leaving behind their families), like Um Kulthum the daughter of Ukbah after the Hutibia treaty she migrated to Madina leaving behind her folks.

Host:’ Are there any records of Muslim women being subjected to torture and other kinds of suffering?

Jamal Badawi:

Khaidjah was the first to become a Muslim and the first person to sacrifice their life for the sake of Islam was also a woman.’ Sumayyah mother of Ammar Ibn Yasir one of the great and prominent companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).’ When they became Muslims in the early period of Islam in Meccan when Muslims were persecuted, Sumayyah her husband her son were severely tortured by the pagans and especially by Abu Jahl.’ At one point he got so frustrated because of her perseverance and patience under all the different forms of torture that he stabbed her in her lower abdomen with his spear and she was the first martyr for the sake of her faith.’ There are other examples of women who were tortured and punished also by Abu Jahl and similarly ignorant people.’ One woman was tortured to the point that her sight was lost and she was taunted her by saying ‘Our idols were responsible for the loss of your eye sight.” She responded that they are lying because the idols could do no good or harm.’ It was reported that God restored her sight to her.

But women who were not directly tortured saw their beloved ones: fathers, children, husbands and brothers get tortured but they never cracked and they persevered and provided comfort and encouragement for their faithful relatives.’ Some of them accepted some very dangerous assignments which put their lives in jeopardy.

Host:’ Can you give us a quick illustration of the exposure to danger?

Jamal Badawi:

When Prophet Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr were migrating from Mecca to Madina the pagans were very angry and were demanding he be brought to them alive or dead.’ They had a generous reward for anyone who could kill him.’ Prophet Muhammad went to a cave called Thour which was south of Mecca (to evade the pursuers).’ The pagans lead by Abu Jahl went to the house of Abu Bakr and his daughter, Asma’a, cam out.’ The asked her where her father was and she said she did not know (she knew) so they slapped her to the point that her earring came out, but she still never cracked or told.’ In fact she carried the very dangerous responsibility of carrying food supplies secretly and the latest news to Abu Bakr and the Prophet while they were hiding in the cave.’ If she were caught she would have probably paid for it with her life.

Fatima the daughter of the Prophet used to defend him so much when he was attacked by others.’ It was narrated that one time he was making his prayers and someone brought intestines of a slaughtered camel and put it over his head, and Fatima rushed to him (despite the danger) to clean it off his back.’ There are numerous examples on the part of Muslim women being exposed to danger.