Social System of Islam- Position of Women in Islam (Spiritual Aspect)

Summary of 7.13 “Women in Judaeo-Christian and Muslim Scriptures II”

We continued with the comparison of the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic views by looking at how each deals with women in the case of rape (reference from the book of Deuteronomy 22).’ We dealt with the case of a man accusing his wife of committing adultery (referenced in the book of Numbers 5).’ We also dealt with the subject of marriage, dowry, divorce and the consent of the girl in which we quoted the Dictionary of the Bible and Encyclopedia Biblica.’ We indicated that Islam is quite different from the views that automatically assumed the woman to be guilty.’ Towards the end of the program we moved to comparison of the New Testament and we indicated that before we look into the Ne Testament that we look into the heritage of the Old Testament and how things progressed throughout history.’ We said that Jesus (PBUH) did not make statements that were against women but the second founder of Christianity, Paul, repeated the Old Testament’s views towards women.’ We quoted 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthian 11which pronounced that women should keep in silence and shouldn’t teach etc.’ We saw that the views of Paul did not end with him but persisted for quite some time as we quoted negative sayings from various well known Fathers of the Church.’ Even up till the 20th century there were still traces of this attitude.’ For example in 1977 the Pope’s decision on the question of ordaining women ‘The Catholic Church does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.’ Priests must have natural resemblance to Christ, if a woman celebrated mass it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ.” This again reflects the male image of God.’ In Islam a Muslim does not have a male or female image of God; there is no material image of God in Islam at all.

7.14′ Position of Women in Islam (Spiritual Aspect)

Host:’ Could you begin by sharing with us your basic thesis on the position of women in Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

There is no religion that I know of in philosophy or way of life in the past or the present that has dignified and restored to her, her humanity dignity and rights more than Islam did.’ If there are any deficiencies in the practice of these teachings of Islam on the part of men, women or both it has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam.’ This is something that can’t be documented in the scriptures of Islam which is like saying if people do not abide by the rule then the rule is wrong.’ The opposite of this is true; the rule but if Muslims as groups or individuals at any time or any place do not apply the rules then it is not a problem with the rule.’ Islamic Law with what the Quran and the Prophet (PBUH) indicate about the woman can not be superseded by any superior view.’ This has important implications for Muslim women in the Muslim world today who are seeking to improve the corrupt and improper practices or treatment that might not be consistent with Islamic Law.’ Once these women understand the nature of Islamic Law, the foundation of their reform should would only be base on it and no other philosophy or way of life because Islamic Law provides the best solution to these problems.

Even none-Muslim women who might be confused in the conflicting shades of liberation might find the Islamic view to be interesting in the Islamic system which deals with women.’ This topic can be covered in a series the deals with the spiritual human aspect, the rights and position from an economic point of view or sociopolitical point of view.’ These are all various angels that can be explored to see if this thesis stands or not.

Host:’ Can we clarify the position of a woman in Islam from the spiritual point of view?

Jamal Badawi:

To start with, woman is not regarded as the one who is responsible for tempting Adam or the one to be blamed for the first sin.’ We will not repeat the view of Islam towards women when it comes to giving birth and their cycle.

Up till the later part of the sixth century some religious conferences were held including one in Rome.’ The major topic of discussion was:

1.’ Does the woman have a soul?

2.’ 2. Should the woman be considered as part of human beings?

And this was a religious conference, which is not surprising in view of the attitude we discussed before about women in the Old Testament.’ But in the final resolution of the conference it say that after long and very heated discussion a small majority overtook in the decision to answer both questions positively:’ that women had a soul and were part of humanity.’ Today it might sound strange that anyone might question whether a woman has a soul or if she is a human.’ But what is interesting is that in the middle of these views (7th century) the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) less than thirty years after this conference was held.’ In (4:1) in the Quan ‘O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.” When it says that its mate was created of the same nature it ended to all questions and arguments that could be made about the spiritual nature of women.’ It is clear, that just as man is a creation of God she is also a creation of God.’ In (7:189) it repeats ‘It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love).” When the Quran says ‘from it’ it does not mean from the physical rib of Adam.’ There are three verses in the Quran in (42:11), (16:72) and (30:21) that show that minha does not necessarily refer to a rib because it is used in the plural.’ The Quran also indicates in (32:9) and (15:29) that when God created the human ‘But He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him something of His spirit.” This shows that every human being is created by God and that God breathed into the human of Himself (not physically) as every human being has spirituality engrained in their pure innate nature.’ There is no distinction whatsoever between male and female.

Host:’ Is there any indication in the Quran that a believing and righteous woman is rewarded in the same way as a believing and righteous man?

Jamal Badawi:

There are three explicit among many other explicit statements that are found in the Quran about this.’ In (74:38) it establishes the basic rule that every soul (not every man or woman) will be held accountable of for their deeds.’ This shows that in terms of responsibility before God there is no destination between man and woman.’ Second, in (3:195) describing the believer it says ‘And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: ‘Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another.” This shows absolute equality and notice the beauty of the expression ‘one of another’ which means a woman proceeds from man (seed) and a man proceeds from a woman (being in the womb).’ Every man and woman have to first go through the womb of a mother which shows the significance of the mother.’ The third quotation is even more explicit in (16:97) ‘Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.” The Prophet (PBUH) said ‘Women are but sisters of men.’

Host:’ What about the spiritual manifestations of religious duties and are they the same for the male and female?

Jamal Badawi:

Yes, they are the same with some concessions given to women.’ For example, the Five Pillars of Faith (Testimony of Faith, Prayer, Fasting, Charity and Pilgrimage) has no basic distinction between males or females.’ I said basically because there are cases where women are exempt or given certain concessions which are not given to men out of consideration of their female nature.

For example, the five daily prayers is required of both male and female under normal circumstances.’ In the case when a woman is going through her monthly cycle or is recuperating from childbirth (postnatal) a woman should not perform these five prayers.’ Also, during the month of fasting every Muslim be it male or female who is able should fast from dawn till sunset (no food, drinks or matrimonial relations).’ In the case of a woman during her cycle, postnatal period or a suckling mother is exempt from fasting which she can make up at a different time (she doesn’t have to make up the prayers, however).’ Jihad (in the broader sense this means struggle against evil in one’s self, evil in society and evil in the world which may be battles in order to defend the country or remove tyranny) in the last case is a collective requirement which is compulsory for men but is not compulsory for women.’ A woman can not be drafted according to Islamic teaching.

Host:’ Do these concessions create a hierarchy and a lower status for women?’ Why cant women worship God because of natural bodily functions?

Jamal Badawi:

If a woman fasts (not taking any food or liquids between dawn and sunset)

while recuperating from childbirth is it putting her at a lower status or is it just a tender consideration of her pain and suffering?’ Again this is the same during the monthly cycle which effects the body physiologically and psychologically.’ If a woman is nursing a baby, medical doctors say she should consume a lot of liquids to help the milk flow, and she doesn’t what kind of state would she be in and what about the welfare of the child and herself?’ When people say ‘Why cant she worship God?” Who said that she can’t worship God?’ The word worship ibadah in Islam means that all actions in one’s life can be regarded as continuous acts of worship so long as they are done correctly within the boundaries that God has set.’ There is nothing that forbids the woman from doing acts of charity like paying charity to the poor.’ These restrictions in terms of prayer or fasting are related to the requirement and specific nature of prayer and fasting.’ A woman in Islam is not prevented from prayer in the form of supplication.’ She is also not prevented from reciting Quran from memory.’ What confuses people perhaps is that prayer in Islam only refers to one specific type of prayer which is done five times a day with specific prerequisites and requires certain movements for both men and women.’ This specific ritual of prayer is the one where women is not supposed to practice while on her cycle or postpartum period.’ Men and women can’t perform this prayer after intimate relations unless they take baths.’ This is really a concession rather than a restriction.

Host:’ How does Islam respond to the ordination of women?

Jamal Badawi:

In Islam there is no ordination of men also.’ In Islam there is no concept of church as the soul directive and as such there is no clergy.’ There are scholars of course, people who specialize in Islamic studies just as people specialize in chemistry or other areas who could be authorities in the field.’ Religious leaders in the Muslim world might be given different titles because of different cultures or places but essentially it is quite different from the common notion understood by the clergy.

Second, the question of ordination is irrelevant and has nothing to do with the view that was held for a long time (and is held by some) that a woman can’t be ordained because she does not represent the image of God.’ For a Muslim there is no such thing as a male or female image of God.’ In the Judaeo-Christina context the function of a priest is to conduct rituals and offer services and religious education to the community.’ In regard to the rituals we find that in the Islamic framework they don’t constitute a major part of Islamic teachings and that the format of these rituals (like the five prayers) are not appropriate for a woman to lead.’ As far as the second basic function of religious teaching or services to the community of believers.’ In Islam I know of no restriction on a woman engaging in Islamic education at any point in her life.

Host:’ Why can’t women lead the prayer and why do they have to sit in the back of the Mosque?’ Does this not mean that they are second class?

Jamal Badawi:

In the Muslim prayer people don’t just sit and supplicate but it has special moves which involves prostration to the ground which leave us with three possibilities: women are in front of men bowing and going up and down, women and men mixed within the same lines standing shoulder to shoulder and foot to foot or that women are behind the men.’ In a highly spiritual act which include many movements and close body contact it would be out of the question for women to stand next to men and still concentrate on their prayer, or stand in front of men and bow down which would be uncomfortable.’ I suspect women themselves would prefer not to bow down to the ground and prostrate while men are watching behind them.’ The only logical place for women to stand is behind men.’ This is simply the etiquette and proper modesty that should be observed by both Muslim males and Muslim females.

Host:’ Why were all of the prophets male?’ Does this suggest that religions were male oriented?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, the Prophet did not select himself and was not selected by people.’ There is no question of male or female bias.’ The Prophet was selected by God who is neither male or female and has no interest in siding with either.’ Secondly, the Prophet is not just a person who has the gift of prophecy (nothing in Islam says that only men have the gift of prophecy) or God inspiring one to know what will happen in the future which God can give to both men and women.’ In the Islamic context the Prophet has very important responsibilities beyond prophecy and that is to strive against evil in a society, to always mix with people and to go in public and face all kind of mistreatment and opposition as we know from the history of all the prophets.’ A prophet is a leader of believers in the rituals that we described (should be lead by man because of the nature of the content), leads the believers in confrontation against their enemy (in the cases of Prophet Moses and Prophet Muhammad (PBUT) in a battle field.’ Given these duties of a prophet it wont be as easy for a woman to carry out this job.’ For example a woman who is pregnant tries to invite none-believers to the faith and gets stoned the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) got stoned when he went to the City of Al-Taif and his feet were bleeding.’ Suppose that a pregnant prophetess who is subjected to this kind of abuse, torture and ill treatment.’ It is not that a woman is not qualified or does not have spiritual qualities as fine as man but it is simply the nature of the hurt and suffering that Prophets have to go through that requires a male to withstand it.” Also, not every male can withstand this kind of job as God selects special males who have the fortitude to resist this opposition.

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