In the name of Allah
the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
I would like to begin this post by quoting a hadith from the Messenger of Allah – peace be upon him -. The Prophet said:
Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim; male and female.
There is a difference of opinion as to what the Prophet meant by the word ‘knowledge’ (al-’ilm) in this hadith. Some scholars say that the knowledge that is obligatory upon all Muslims is the basic knowledge of how to pray and fast. Others say that knowledge refers to religious knowledge: to know God. In any case, education in Islam is not only about formal qualifications but is mostly concerned with the training of the soul.
We also learn a very important point from this hadith which I want to emphasize here: Education is important for both men and women. The Prophet did not say that seeking knowledge is necessary only for men. He said that seeking knowledge is an obligation for men and an obligation for women. It is not a right but a duty. It is a religious obligation.
The Prophet also said:
Take half of your religion from A’isha.
That is true. Muslims should learn half of their religion from a woman. How many of our hadiths are narrated by A’isha? How many are narrated by Hmm-Salama, Hafsa, Maymunah, Fatimah, and by the women of the Sahaba? Did the collectors of the hadiths ever say that these hadiths are unreliable, because their narrators are women? No. That is why these traditions are part of our religious texts today. Those who wrote the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were all men. Christians know Jesus – peace be upon him – only through his male companions. But we know our Prophet – peace be upon him – through both his male and female companions. Many of these names i just mentioned are not knowed but i swear these women are such heroes of this world and religion its amazing
Where in Islam does it say that a woman cannot become a scholar? Was A’isha, the Mother of the Believers, not a scholar in her own right? Did not the companions ask her about various religious issues and did she not answer them; as it is recorded in our hadiths?
Where in Islam does it say that women cannot become jurists or theologians? Of course, if we look at the history of Islam, the first-rank scholars in every field were always men. That is true of every human civilisation. However, in the Islamic world, there were madrasahs for men, and madrasahs for women. Muslim women had the opportunity to learn the Qur’an, the hadith literature and other revealed and intellectual sciences either in their homes or in the madrasahs.
Some people think that education takes away a woman’s modesty and chastity. This is really an un-Islamic and un-Qur’anic way of thinking. As we all know, A’isha – the wife of the Prophet- had memorized thousands of verses of Arabic poetry. Urwah ibn Al-Zubair says about her:
“I have never seen anyone more knowledgeable in religion, medicine and poetry than A’isha.”
Now, is there a woman who is more chaste and modest than the wife of the Messenger of Allah? Faith is the protector of chastity. Knowledge is the protector of faith. A woman who is not well-trained in her religion is much more likely to lose her faith and her chastity.
Having said that, we should also note that women in earlier times did not allow their pursuit of knowledge to get in the way of their household duties, nor did they transgress the bounds of the Shariáh. Seeking knowledge increased their humility and obedience.
I hope you understand that I am not advocating “gender equality” but “gender
equity”. There is no doubt that men and women are different, and that they must have different but complementary roles in the society. Therefore, education must also prepare males and females for their respective roles. I totally reject Western feminism that wants to liberate women from being women and men from being men. This type of feminism destroys gender identity and the complementarity of the sexes by making women masculine and men feminine. I am not defending feminism. I am defending the rights of women in Islam as specified by the Shari’ah and the Sunnah; for it is Islam – and not any Western or Eastern philosophy – that is the criterion of all rights and responsibilities for Muslims.
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* Al-Muhaddithât: The Female Scholars in Islam