Islamic Sufism Spirituality

Archive for the ‘Islam and Women – مكانة المرأة في الإسلام’ Category

Once a woman has confirmed her pregnancy, she should express her gratitude before Allah Ta’ala as this is indeed a great bounty of Allah Ta’ala. This is such a boon that many people beseech Allah Ta’ala throughout their lives for pious children but Allah Ta’ala has destined otherwise. In fact one of the greatest Nabîes of Allah Ta’ala, Hadrat Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) used to supplicate to Allah Ta’ala most profoundly and frequently. Even Hadrat Zakariyya (Alayhis salaam) used to supplicate for children most passionately and fervently during the latter part of his life.

Hence, a Muslim woman is required to express her gratitude unto Allah Ta’ala for this great bounty. Gratitude may be expressed in the following ways:

1. Recite the following Du’aa very frequently:

Allahummâ Lakal Hamdû Wa Lakash-Shukru
Translation: O Allah! All praises are due to You alone and I express my gratitude unto You alone (for granting me the honour of motherhood).

2. Allocate a fixed time for two Rak‘aat of Nafl Salaat. Whilst in Sajdah, make Du‘aa abundantly. Recite the following Du’aa as well:

Rabbi Hab Liy Min-Ladunka Zurriyatan-Tayyibah Innaka Sam‘iud-Du’aa
Translation: O my Lord! Bless me from your side with pure children. Verily You are all-hearing of the Du’aa.

3. Recite the following Du’aa as well:

Rabbi-j‘alniy Muqeema-Salaati wa min Zurriyatiy Rabbanaa wa Taqabbal Du’aa
Translation: O my Lord! Render me as well as my progeny as establishers of Salâh and accept our Du’aas.

4. Similarly, express your gratitude from the heart in such a manner that you stay happy and try to stay happy at all times. Try to forget all your past sorrows. Build your dreams and keep your hopes and spirits high. Ponder over the bounties of Jannat.

Instead of embroiling yourself in the daily disputes with the mother-in-law and sisters-in law and instead of involving yourself with the unbecoming behaviour of your husband, maintain strict silence. On the impending happiness of the birth of your child, maintain a friendly and trouble-free relationship with all. If you do tend to hurt anyone, apologise immediately and try to forget about the dispute. If you continue vexing others, the evil effects of this nature will fall on the unborn child as well. The conditions of the mother during pregnancy, in fact even her spirit and perceptions during this state has a profound effect on the unborn child.

Hence, a Muslim woman should express gratitude at all times especially during the period of her pregnancy. This gratitude should in turn develop in her the love of Allah Ta’ala. She should ponder that since Allah Ta’ala has blessed us with so many bounties, we should also devote ourselves to Him. To disobey such a majestic benefactor – by strutting about veil-less, watching television, videos, backbiting etc. – at any time and especially during pregnancy is not acceptable. Allah Ta’ala showers His bounties upon us and we in turn disobey Him!?
The first month of pregnancy

Remember that you are not a single entity now. Now a child is being nourished within your own body. With a bit of precaution on your part, this child may become healthy, intelligent, understanding, pious and religious. However, with your negligence and indifference, the child may turn out to be weak, sickly and incompetent.

Hence, your life should not be the same as it was before you fell pregnant. Every moment should be passed with caution and concern over the well-being of yourself as well your child. Therefore, pay careful attention to the following points:

1. Be careful with your diet. Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. Avoid over-eating and abstain from food that can cause constipation.

2. Eat green, fresh vegetables, like salads, cucumbers etc. in abundance. Make sure that they are clean and washed before use.

3. Drink lots of sour-milk and milk. Drink as much milk as your digestive system can handle. Milk is a very blessed form of nutrition. After consuming other types of food, Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) would utter:

Allahummâ At‘imnâ Khayran-Minhu
Translation: O Allah! Grant us food better than this (in Jannat).

However, milk is of such a blessed nature that there is no food better than milk since after drinking milk Rasûlullâh ? recited the following Du’aa:

Allahummâ Bârik Lanâ Fîhî wa Zidnâ Minhu
Translation: O Allah! Bless us in this and increase it for us.

In other words, whilst drinking milk, Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) did not ask for something better (as he did in the case of other foods), because there is no better food than milk. This is why he beseeched Allah Ta’ala for Barkat (blessing) and increase in it.

In short, a pregnant woman should drink lots of milk because Allah Ta’ala has placed the vitamins and proteins required by the human body in milk.

If pure or raw milk is detrimental to you, consume it in other forms like Lassî (curds), sour-milk, custard, Khîr etc. This is beneficial to the mother as well as the child.

4. Abstain from tea, coffee, Pân (betel leaf), oil, Ghee, chillies and oily foods. Besides affecting the digestive system, these foods are detrimental to the muscles and nervous system of the mother and may also affect the child.

5. Ensure that you refrain from all types of medication during pregnancy especially pain-relievers. If you are really desperate, consult a reliable female (or male) doctor explaining your pregnancy and conditions to her. It should not be such that you are prescribed medication that is injurious to pregnant women. Some medication clearly states on the lable that it is not advisable for pregnant women. Hence, if you are really desperate to use some medication, make sure you scrutinize the lable and make thorough investigation before use.

6. In the first three months and the last month, in fact from the seventh month onwards, avoid sexual contact with your husband. This at times, adversely affects the mother and the child.

7. Avoid sleeping late. Try to get at least eight hours of peaceful sleep. This will ensure that your body and mind is well rested. This in turn is beneficial for the child as well and it may simplify delivery of the child.

8. Avoid excessively hard work and picking up very heavy objects as this may lead to a miscarriage. If your cruel mother-in-law or hard-hearted sister-in-law compels you to pick up heavy objects or forces you to carry out some difficult task, then excuse yourself very politely and explain to them that this task is beyond you and that you will pay a labourer to carry out this task.

However, if your cruel mother-in-law or hard-hearted sister-in-law fails to take pity on your condition, explain your helplessness to your husband and with his permission, go to your mother’s house to rest. If you are a sister-in-law to another woman (your brother’s wife), don’t be cruel to her as well. The moment she falls pregnant, try to make her comfortable and relaxed at all times. Your benevolence won’t be directed to your sister-in-law alone but you will be showing mercy to a sinless child, a priceless gem, a blossoming flower, the coolness of your brother’s eyes, a luminance of this worldly life and a source of perpetual reward for the hereafter. The degree of happiness and comfort of your sister-in-law or daughter-in-law will, Inshâ Allah Ta’ala, determine the well-being, health, robustness and happiness of the new arrival.

[Source: Madrasa In’aamiyyah]

Allah, the Most High, says:

“The men have authority over the women due to the excellence which Allah has given to the man over the women, and due to the wealth that they spend upon them.”[1]

Ibn Katheer says,”The man is in charge (qayyim) of the woman, i.e. he is the one in-charge of her, her chief, the one having authority over her and the one who corrects her if she inclines away from what is correct.”[2]

Abdur-Rahmaan as-Sa’dee said (regarding the above mention Aayah). “That is due to the excellence of men over women, and the eminence which they have given over them. So the pre-eminence of the men over the women is from many aspects: holding positions of leadership and authority is particular to men, likewise Prophethood and Messengership. They are also particularized by many acts of worship such as jihaad, the eids and the Jum’ah prayers. Also due to the characteristics given to them by Allaah, the like of which are not possessed by women such as sound intellect, composure, patience and endurance.

Likewise they are particularized with having to spend upon their wives, and indeed spending in many ways which are particular to the men – which distinguish them from the women. So perhaps this is the reason for His saying: “…due to the wealth that they spend…” – and exactly what they spend is not stated to indicate that the spending referred to is general. So from all this is known that the man is like a governor and master for his wife, and she is with him like a captive. So his role is to take care of that which Allaah has placed him in-charge of, and her role is to be obedient to her Lord and to obey her husband.[3]

Al-Qaasimee said. “The men have authority (qawwaamoon) over the women”[4] – qawwaamoon is the plural of qawwaam. Qawwaam is the one who is responsible for taking care of their welfare, managing their affairs and disciplining them. That is, they are in-charge of and are to take care of all manners and behavior of the women; ordering them and forbidding them, just as the ruler is responsible for his subjects. This is due to two reasons: (i) Due to the nature, which Allaah gave them, and (ii) due to the role, which they carry out.

The first is indicated by the Sayings of Allah:

“Due to the excellence which Allaah has given to the man over the woman.”[5]

This refers to the relation between the men and the women, and means that the men have a position of dominance over them due to the superiority which Allaah has given to the men over the women.[6]

Allah, the Most High, says:

“Men have a degree over the women.”[7]

Ibn Katheer said, “Meaning: in excellence; in the nature given to them; in manneres; in status; in the obedience to then; in their spending and taking care of the (women’s) welfare; and in excellence in this life and Hereafter.”[8]

The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said, “Every soul from the children of Aadam is a master; so the man is the master of his family, and the woman is the mistress of her household.”[9]

Allaah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) said, “If I were to order anyone to prostrate to other than Allaah, I would have ordered the woman to prostrate to her husband. By Him in whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the woman will not fulfil the rights of her Lord until she fulfils the rights of her husband; and even if he were to request her for herself (i.e. to have intercourse with her) whilst she was sitting upon a camel’s saddle[10], she should not refse him.”[11]

The Messanger of Allaah (S.A.W.) said, “It is not right that any human being should prostrate to another human being I would have ordered the woman to prostrate to her husband due to the greatness of his rights upon her. By Him in whose Hand is my soul, if from his foot to the crown of his head there was a wound pouring forth pus, and she (the wife) came and licked that, then she would (still) not have fulfilled
his right.”[12]

The Messenger of Allaah (S.A.W.) said, “The right of the husband over the wife is such that if he had a wound, or his nostrils were pouring forth pus or blood, then she were to swolloe that down – then she would (still) not have fulfilled his right.”[13]

Aboo Hurayrah, radiyallaahu ‘anhu, reports that Allaah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) said, “It is not right for a woman to fast[14] whilst the husband is present except with his permission;[15] and whatever wealth she spends in charity without his order, then half of the reward is for him.”[16]

Shaykh al-Albaanee said, “Since it is obligation upon the woman to obey her husband with regard to fulfilment of his desire with her, then it is even more fitting that it is obligatory upon her to obey him with regard to that which is even more important than that – such as what pertains to bringing up the children, correcting her family and the like – all such rights and obligations.[17]

Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr said, “The hadeeth shows that the right of the husband upon the wife has priority over her performing optional good deeds, since his right is an obligation, and fulfilment of an obligation, takes precedence over carrying out something optional.”[18]

Also Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, raheemahullaah, was asked about a man who has a wife who fasts during the day and stands in prayer throughout the nights. Whenever he calls her to his bed she refuses and gives precedence to praying in the night and fasting during the day over the obedience to the husband. So is this permissible? Shaykhul- Islaam replied, “That is not permissible for her by agreement of the Muslims. Rather it is obligatory upon her to obey when he calls her to bed, this is a binding obligation upon her. How ever standing the night in prayer and fasting during the day is optional over an obligation… and there is no right, after the rights of Allaah and His Messenger (S.A.W.) more binding upon the woman than the rights of the husband.[19]

Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, (RA), said that the Messenger of Allaah (S.A.W.) said, “If the woman knew the right of the husband, she would not sit when his morning and evening meals were presented until he finished.”[20]

1. Soorah an-Nisaa’ (4):34
2. Tafseerul-Qur’aanil-Adheem (1/194)
3. Tayseerul-Kareemir-Rahmaan (1/344)
4. Soorah an-Nisaa’ (4):34
5. Soorah an-Nisaa’ (4):34
6. Mahaasinut-Ta’weel (abridged) (5/130)
7. Soorah al-Baqarah (2):228
8. Tafseerul-Qura’aanil-Adheem (1/271)
9. Reported by ibn as-Sunnee in ‘Amalul Yawm wal Laylah and it occurs in Saheehul Jaami’ is Sagheer (no.4565)
10. They used to sit upon that whilst giving birth – as mentioned in an-Nihaayah: “Its meaning is an exhoration for the women to be obedient to their husbands, and that it is not for them to refuse even if they are in that state – so how about at other times?!”
11. Reported by Ibn Maajah (no.1853), Ibn Hibbaan (6/186 – Ihsaan) and Ahmad (4/381) from ‘Adullaah ibn Awfaa. Shaykh al-Albaanee declared the chain of narration of Ahmad to be saheeh to the standard of the Muslim in as-Saheehah (3/202).
12. Reported by Ahmad (3/159) and others. It’s of narration is declared to be good by al-Mundhiree in at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (3/75), and it occurs in Saheeul Jaami’ (no. 3148)
13. Al- Bazzaar reports it (no. 1465: al-Kashf) from Aboo Sa’eed al-Khudree, (RA) with a good chain of narration whose narrators are reliable and famous – as declared by al-Mundhiree in at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (3/74). Also reported Ibn Hibbaan (6/184, Ihsaan), al-Haakim (2/189) and others, and it occurs in Saheehul-Jaami’ (no.3148)
14. Translator’s note: i.e. optional fast.
15. An-Nawawee said (Sharh Shaheeh Muslim [7/115]), “It’s reason is that the husband has the right to enjoy his wife on all days, and his right is an immediate obligation and not to be denied him due to optional nor something obligatory which may be performed at anytime.”
16. Reported by al-Bukhaaree (Eng. Transl. 7/94/no. 123)
17. Aadaabuz Zifaaf p.282 1st Edition.
18. Al-Fath (9/296)
19. Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa (32/274-275)
20. Reported by al-Bazzaar (al-Kashf, 2/180) and others. It occurs in Sheehul Jaami’ (no.5259)

Letting the fingernails grow is something that goes against the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings be upon him) He said:

“From the acts of the fitrah (natural state of a human) are five: Circumcision, Removing the public hairs, Trimming the mustache (so that it does not go over the lip), cutting the (finger and toe) nails and plucking the hair from under the arm pits.”

It is not allowed to leave them (the nails) for more than 40 nights. This is based on the Hadith of Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) who said “The Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings Be upon him) set a time limit for us for trimming the mustache, trimming the nails, removing armpit hairs, and removing public hairs. They cannot be left for more than 40 nights.”

Letting them (the nails) grow long resembles the animals and some of the disbelievers. As for nail polish, it is better to avoid it. One must remove it when making wudu since it prevents the water from reaching the nails

The marital life is an interesting and necessary institution. If one fails to understand the core of the conjugal relation between man and woman he will lead a life of oblivion and disorientation.

I hope that the prospective spouse study the technique of marriage before getting into it. Unless we teach our prospective spouses the correct way of their new marital life, they may resort to erotic books or stories that mislead them. There are many misconceptions about marriage and man-woman relationship.

Therefore, I decided to write this beneficial treatise and authenticated treatment clearly explaining the way to a happy marital life. I pointed out certain issues important to everyone who marries, and with which many wives in particular have been tested. I ask Allah Most High to bring about some benefit from this treatise, and to accept this work solely for His glorious countenance. Surely, He is the Righteous, the Merciful.

It should be known that there are many etiquette in the area of marriage. All that I am concerned with here in this quickly compiled work is the Qur’anic verses and that which is authenticated of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, that which is irreproachable from the standpoint of its chain of narration and upon which no doubt can be cast in terms of its constructions and meanings. In this way, whoever reads and follows this information will be on a clearly established basis in religion, and will have full confidence in tl1e source and validity of his actions. I hope for him that Allah will put the final seal of felicity on his life, in reward for beginning his married life with the following of the Sunnah, and to make for him among His slaves.

I openly discussed sexual relation between husband and wife. No wonder, Islam is a realistic religion. Sex is a natural and creative urge. Hence, Islam lays down great importance on marriage and the constitution of a new family. When talking about sex, the Glorious Qur’an is very euphemistic though clear. Particularly, the Qur’an uses euphemism and figurative speech when dealing with matters pertaining to sex and man-woman relationship.

The Qur’an deals with the human life and all what it contains. It permeates into the personal relationship between husband and wife to organize it. It further provides the remedy to one’s passion and passionate love.

When recounting the story of Yusuf (pbuh), the Qur’an highlights the conflict between the blazing sexual urge and the suppression of that urge by adhering to Allah’s Guidance. Allah Almighty says: {But she in whose house he was, sought to seduce him and she fastened the doors, and said: ‘Now come,” He said: “Allah forbid! Truly (thy husband) is my lord! he made my sojourn agreeable! Truly to no good come those who do wrong and (with passion) did she desire him, and he would have desired her, but that he saw the evidence of his Lord: thus (Did you order) that We might turn away from him indecent deeds: For he was one of Our servants chosen.}} [Yusuf: 23-24]

The evidence which Yusuf saw was the evidence of faith. In the Prophetic Hadith we have also another story which emphasizes that faith is the safety belt that protects man against whatever he might face of worldly appeals.

Allah’s Messenger said, “While three persons were traveling, they were overtaken by rain and they took shelter in a cave in a mountain. A big rock fell from the mountain over the mouth of the cave and blocked it. They said to each other. ‘Think of such good (righteous) deeds which, you did for Allah’s sake only, and invoke Allah by giving reference to those deeds so that Allah may relieve you from your difficulty.

One of them said, ‘O Allah! I had my parents who were very old and I had small children for whose sake I used to work as a shepherd. When I returned to them at night and, milked (the sheep), I used to start giving the milk to my parents first before giving to my children. And one day I went far away in search of a grazing place (for my sheep), and didn’t return home till late at night and found that my parents had slept. I milked (my livestock) as usual and brought the milk vessel and stood at their heads, and I disliked to wake them up from their sleep, and I also disliked to give the milk to my children before my parents though my children were crying (from hunger) at my feet. So this state of theirs and mine continued till the day dawned. (O Allah!) If you considered that I had done that only for seeking Your pleasure, then please let there be an opening through which we can see the sky.’ So Allah made for them an opening through which they could see the sky.

Then the second person said, ‘O Allah! I had a she-cousin whom I loved as much as a passionate man loves a woman. I tried to seduce her but she refused till I paid her one hundred Dinars. So I worked hard till I collected one hundred Dinars and went to her with that But when I sat in between her legs (to have sexual intercourse with her), she said, ‘O Allah’s slave! Be afraid of Allah! Do not deflower me except legally (by marriage contract). So I left her O Allah! If you considered that I had done that only for seeking Your pleasure then please let the rock move a little to have a (wider) opening.’ So Allah shifted that rock to make the opening wider for them.

And the last (third) person said ‘O Allah! I employed a laborer for wages equal to a Faraq (a certain measure: of rice, and when he had finished his ,job he demanded his wages, but when I presented his due to him, he gave it up and refused to take it. Then I kept on sowing that rice for him (several times) till managed to buy with the price of the yield, some cows and their shepherd Later on the laborer came to me and said. ‘(O Allah’s slave!) Be afraid O Allah, and do not be unjust to me an give me my due.’ I said (to him). ‘Go and take those cows and their shepherd. So he took them and went away. (So, O Allah!) If You considered that I had done that for seeking Your pleasure, then please remove the remaining part of the rock.’ And so Allah released them (from their difficulty).”

This book consists of a scientific and realistic discussion of man woman relationship. Spouses should know each other spiritually, physically and sexually. They must not feel shy when discussing such matters that to sex. They should feel that they are one entity. Platonic love is not enough to unify the spouse hearts. Sexual satisfaction may be the fruit of their physical and spiritual unity. Therefore, they must be creative and cooperative.

Man-woman relationship is not only innate but also acquired. It needs much study to be understood. It needs developing and renovating so that the partners might not feel bored or monotonous.

Mahmud Mahdi Al-Istanbulli

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Once there was a very handsome, pious, well educated young man, whose parents emphasized for him to get married. they had seen so many marriage proposals, and he had turned them all down. The parents thought it was becoming a little ridiculous or suspected that he may have someone else in mind.

However every time the parents left the girls house, the young man would always say ‘she’s not the one!’

The young man only wanted a girl who was religious and practicing, however one evening his mother arranged for him, to meet a girl, who was religious, and practicing. On that evening, the young man, and girl, were left to talk, and ask each other questions. (As one would expect).

The young man, being a gentleman that he was allowed, the lady to ask first.The young girl asked the young man so many questions, she asked about his life, his education, his friends, his family, his habits, his hobbies, his lifestyle, his enjoyment, his pastime, his experiences, his shoe size..

The young man replied to all of her questions, without tiring, and politely, with a smile the young girl took up nearly all of the time, over an hour, and felt bad, and asked the young man do you have any questions?

The young man said, it’s ok. I only have 3 questions…The young girl thought, wow, only 3 questions okay, shoot.

The young man’s first question was, Who do you love the most in the world, someone who’s love nothing would ever overcome?

She said, this is an easy question; my mother.

He smiled second question, he asked, you said that you read a lot of qur’an, could you tell me which surahs you know the meaning of?

Hearing this she went red and embarrassed and said, I do not know the meaning of any yet, but I am hoping to soon insha’allah I’ve just been a bit busy.

The third question the young man asked, was I have been approached for my hand in marriage, by girls that are a lot more prettier than you, why should I marry you?

Hearing this the young girl was outraged, she stormed off to her parents with fury, and said I do not want to marry this man he is insulting my beauty, and intelligence. And the young man and his parents, were once again, left without an agreement of marriage.

This time, the young mans parents were really angry, and said what did you do to anger that girl, the family were so nice, and pleasant, and they were religious like you wanted. What did you ask the girl?? Tellus!

The young man said, firstly I asked her, who do you love the most?

She said, her mother, The parents said so, what is wrong with that?? The young man said, ‘no one, is Muslim, until he loves Allah, and his messenger (saw) more than anyone else in the world’

If a woman loves Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) more than anyone, she will love me and respect me, and stay faithful to me, because of that love, and fear for Allah (swt). and we can share this love, because this love is greater than lust for beauty.

The young man said, then I asked, you read a lot of qur’an, can you tell me the meaning of any surah?

And she said no, because I haven’t had time yet. so I thought of that hadith ‘ALL humans, are dead except for those who have knowledge’ She has lived 20 years and not found ANY time, to seek knowledge, why would I marry a woman, who does not know her rights, and responsibilities, and what will she teach my children, except how to be negligent, because the woman IS the madrasa (school) and the best of teachers. And a woman who has no time for Allah, will not have time for her husband.

The third question I asked her was, that a lot of girls, more prettier than her, had approached me for marriage, why should I choose you?

That is why she stormed off, getting angry. The young man’s parents said that is a horrible thing to say, why would you do such a thing, we are going back there to apologies. The young man said I said this on purpose, to test whether she could control her anger.

The Prophet (saw) said ‘do not get angry, do not get angry, do not get angry’ when asked how to become pious; because anger is from Satan. If a woman cannot control her anger with a stranger she has just met, do you think she will be able to control it with her husband??

So, the moral of this story is, a marriage is based on:

  • knowledge, not looks,
  • practice, not preaching,
  • Forgiveness, not anger,
  • spiritual love, not lust.
  • and compromise

One should look for a person who

  • Has love for Allah (swt) and the messenger (saw)
  • Has knowledge of the deen, and can act upon it.
  • Can control their anger
  • and willing to compromise.

And it goes both ways, so women seeking a man, should look for the same things.

Translator’s Foreword

As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum

Verily the praise and thanks is due to Allah. We offer to Him all praise and gratitude, and we seek His assistance and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of our souls and the wickedness of our deeds. Whoever Allah guides there is none who can lead him astray and whosoever Allah misguides there are none who can bring him to the path. I bear witness that there is nothing truly worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave servant and Messenger. May Allah send his salaat and salaam upon His Prophet Muhammad, his family, companions, and all those who follow them in righteousness until the Day of Resurrection. Ameen

We thought it prudent to preface the translation of this brief work by our sister Nawaal Bint Abdullah (may Allah preserve her) with a few words about the background and context of the booklet. This is because the author is describing a common phenomenon in Muslim countries, especially in the Arabian Gulf region. It is an appeal that is full of emotion and concern and even a bit of outrage that may not be readily understood by not only non-Muslims but Muslims living in other parts of the world. Her outrage may seem strange to many in places where what she is complaining of and describes commonly occurs and largely goes unnoticed. Such behavior however, has far more of an impact where the Islamic environment or local culture is relatively more conservative than in most places. The author’s evident dismay and distress at what would seem a relatively mild lack of adherence may indeed appear extreme to those outside her context. Indeed we realize that perhaps most Muslim women would find absolutely nothing wrong with what she describes and may even view some women whom she even points to who wear niqaab in their midst as quite conservative considering that most other women in their locale may not consider a face veil at all necessary as opposed to the majority view in Saudi Arabia from where the author wrote. Many commonly wear merely a scarf and slacks, dresses that do not reach the ankles, no abaayah (A lightweight overgarment worn by Muslim women that covers the dress underneath. It is commonly black in Gulf countries) or jibaab (see the Appendix: Requirements of Women’s Hijaab) some make-up, perfume, or maybe nothing close to Islamic hijaab and often interact with members of the opposite sex.

What should be considered is if the author is comparing the state of affairs to the actual requirements of Islamic Hijaab, and not merely local culture, and if those requirements are being adhered to or not by the majority. If they are not, what does that tell us about the state of the ummah and its women as a whole?

We must also mention that in a relatively conservative Islamic environment, men often become far more sensitive to the attractions of women and the sight of merely a woman’s hands or even feet, much less a pretty face, can be enough to cause a great trial upon them! The great Imaam, Muhammad Idrees Shaafi once remarked that he was in the marketplace when he happened to see a woman’s ankle and thought he would lose half of his knowledge! Imagine the impact on such people of the satellite dish, videos, magazines and other media where the beauty of women is highlighted and exploited!

Sister Nawaal fervently points to the dangers and the negative influence of western culture and moral values upon the habits and thought processes of many Muslim women. She asserts that such influence is neither passive nor haphazard and that it is a serious and substantial threat not just to Islamic values but to livelihood and values once held precious by mankind as a whole. Can it not be so when the evidence of reality is before our eyes! Could a clear-thinking believer see otherwise? Ours is a world where pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry. Sexual practices of all types are commonly and openly broadcast on television. Men and women speak openly on talk shows and other venues of the most graphic and lurid details of their sexual exploits, and women suffer more physical and sexual abuse than any other group. Even the president of the most revered nation on the earth has his most illicit sexual encounters graphically described for the world to read.

Those living in Islamic environments are in stark contrast to those (including Muslims) living in places wherev women are almost always uncovered and beautified and often practically naked in public places. The latter are usually far less sensitive and even rarely shocked at anything. Western civilization is built upon the appreciation of the naked form in art and in life. (Even ancient eastern cultures heavily emphasized sexuality such as the Indian Karma Sutra)

It is well known that in the west, today’s “modern and progressive” women are encouraged to be as unashamed of their bodies as possible and to never allow themselves to be restricted. Every day life is full of images and interaction between the sexes involving every type of woman. Sexual openness is considered healthy while anything limiting that is considered repressive and backward. How must such a woman like the author feel in light of this reality? Additionally, she is seeing these things in the Heartland of Islam where there is relatively easy access to many scholars whom one can listen to and speak with (women included) in person or by phone, through audio tapes, or even the radio and television. Not to mention the treasure trove of good Islamic books, the presence of institutions of learning and memorizing the Qur’aan and hadeeth for women. On top of all that she sees it among women whose native tongue is Arabic and whose heritage is Islam and should therefore have little excuse to be uninformed.

There is a hadeeth that goes: This world is like a prison to the believer but it is the paradise of the disbeliever. [Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah, Ahmed & others] Our sister Nawaal, and many other men and women like her, face a seemingly unwinnable battle to stem the tide of western influence in Islamic areas. They are painted as fanatics and regressive while those who advocate relaxation of Islamic shari’ah are deemed reasonable and progressive, especially with regards to women, and their usual first target is
observance of Islamic hijaab.

We ask Allah to reward the author and we are grateful to her for granting permission to translate and publish her work in English. We have attempted to do justice to her Arabic style though we have always found this almost unrealistic due to the vast difference between Arabic and English prose. In this regard my greatest thanks goes to Mr. Ahmed Ezzat whose revision of the translation was invaluable. We hope to have successfully overcome most of the difficulties of translating such a work like this and pray that we are successful in conveying the meaning of this heartfelt message from a member our most precious and respected Islamic sisterhood to her sisters in faith.

Abdul-Qaadir Abdul-Khaaliq

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The first of the stories of the holy people of Allah is that of Rabi`a al-Adawiyya, or Rabi`a al-Qaysiyya who was born in Basra, Iraq between the years 95 A.H. and 99 A.H. (about 717 C.E.).

In those turbulent years of the first century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him, records of the lives of the early Sufis were not always accurate and were sometimes even based on supposition. This led to certain variations in the details of the events in their lives and in the case of Rabi`a al-Adawiyya, a confusion on occasion between her story and that of the Rabi`a bint Isma`il of Syria. It is generally agreed, however, that her father’s name was, nevertheless, Isma`il who was a very poor and holy man.

The account which has been used for the main events of Rabi`a’s life is as follows: Isma`il married and went to live with his wife on the edge of the desert not far from the town of Basrq.

After a while Allah, the All-Mighty, gave them a daughter whom the father named Rabi`a. Then they had another daughter whom the father named Rabi`a ath-thani, and a third daughter he named Rabi`a ath-thalata, and yet again another daughter whom he named Rabi`a ar-rabi`a who was to become the beloved Saint of Allah.

It is said that on the night that Rabi`a was born there was not even a drop of oil in their house with which to anoint the navel of the new-born daughter and no cloth in which to swaddle her. So in despair, Rabi`a’s mother told her husband to go to their neighbor’s house and to beg them for some oil so that she could light their lamp.

The father Isma`il had made a promise never to ask a human being for anything. So he went out and put his hand on the neighbors’ door and without saying anything to them, returned to his own house. “They will not open the door,” he said.

Upon hearing this, Rabi`a’s mother wept bitterly. Full of anxiety and feeling helpless in the matter, Rabi`a’s father put his head on his knees and fell asleep.

While he was sleeping he dreamed that the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, came to him and said, “Do not be sad. The girl child which has just been born is a queen amongst women who shall be the mediator for seventy thousand of my Community. Tomorrow you must go to `Isa Zadan, the Governor of Basra. Write this message on a piece of paper which you will take to him: Every night you send upon me a hundred blessings and on Friday night four hundred. Last night was Friday night and you forgot me. To set right your forgetfulness, give this man four hundred dinar, which he has lawfully earned.”

When he awoke and remembered his dream Rabi`a’s father burst into tears, but he got up straight away and wrote exactly what the Prophet had told him to write, then took his letter and presented it to one of the Governor’s chamberlains.

As soon as the letter reached the Governor and he had read it, he said to his Minister, “Give two thousand dinar to the poor people immediately because I thank the Master for reminding me of my forgetfulness. Also give four hundred dinar to the old man and say to him: I would like you to come to me so that I may see you. But I do not hold it proper for a man like you to come to me. I would rather come to you and rub my beard on the floor of your threshold. But I swear by Allah that whatever you need you may let me know about it.”

Rabi`a’s father was overjoyed and took the money, thanking Allah and his Prophet, and he bought all that was necessary for his holy daughter.

The story continues: As the four girls grew up, their father Isma`il worked, as he could, to make a living for his family in the desert. When the eldest daughter was about twenty years old and Rabi`a ar-rabi`a was about eleven, their father died, leaving behind him his wife and four daughters, all of whom were very poor.

The mother, now finding herself alone and the life of the desert being very hard for them, decided to take her four daughters and set out for Basra where she hoped to make a better living for herself and her children.

However, on their way they were set upon by bandits and in the resulting fray the mother was killed, and each of the daughters was taken as a slave by the robbers.

Rabi`a’s master took her to Baghdad where he immediately set about using her in the way that was most profitable for himself. She was very beautiful and she also had a lovely voice, so her master taught her how to sing and play the `oud, made her dance and entertain people, and above all, to make money in this way for himself.

He sent her to weddings and celebrations where she would dance and sing, and the people would give her money for whatever they wanted from her. In this way she came to have many bad habits and ways, living a very low life amongst all sorts of people and not caring about anything that she did. This continued until she was about thirty-six years old, when one day as she was singing at a wedding she found herself singing in a different way. Songs were coming from her heart for her Beloved Who was her true Love because now Allah, the All-Mighty, had awakened Rabi`a.

From that moment she left everything that she had been doing before, and she refused either to sing or to dance, or to play any music for anyone except for her Beloved God.

This made her master very angry because he could no longer use her to make money for himself. He began to ill-treat her, to beat her, and even to put burns on her body hoping that this would frighten her into returning to her former ways.

But she refused everything that her master tried to do to her. She had begun to pray all through the night, crying to her Beloved God to help her in her desperate state.

After a time her master, seeing that he could not influence her in any way, and because she was no longer of any use to him, decided to sell her. So he put a cord around her neck and took her to the slave market of Baghdad. There a holy man took Rabi`a to his home, gave her food and simple clothes, and told her that he did not want anything from her, except that she could pray and be free in his house.

Rabi`a thanked him with all her heart and said, “If you want anything from me for the Face of Allah, He will give you your reward, but if you want anything from me for yourself only, I have nothing to give you. I have everything that I need from my Beloved God and I do not need anything from any human being.”

The holy man replied that he would like to marry her, and to free her from being a slave, but that he did not ask anything from her except what she wanted to give.

Rabi`a thanked him for his kindness and consideration, and she said that she did not want to marry anyone, but was grateful for the way that he cared for her in her deep need.

Then Allah, the All-Mighty, sent a very holy person to Rabi`a, some say that it was Hasan al-Basri.

There seems to be some doubt about who this holy person was, because it is recorded that Hasan al-Basri was born in al-Madina in the year 21 A.H./642 C.E. to a servant of the Prophet’s wife, prayers and peace be upon him, Umm Salamah. As a young child he had lived with his mother in Umm Salamah’s household. In manhood he followed a follower (at-tabi’un) of `Ali ibn Abu Talib, the Prophet’s cousin and close Companion, and the fourth of the ‘Righteous Caliphs’ (al-khulafa ar-rashidun) from whom the Line of the Prophet’s Inheritors descended. It is recorded that Hasan al-Basri died in 110 A.H, at which time Rabi`a would have been about eleven years old and had perhaps just arrived in Baghdad as a slave-girl for her master.

In spite of this discrepancy of dates, Hasan al-Basri is usually referred to as being one of the closest of the Beloveds of Allah around Rabi`a in her early life. It is he who is recorded as being the person who said to Rabi`a, “Do you desire for us to get married?” To which she replied, “The tie of marriage is for those who have being. But here being has disappeared for I have become as nothing to my self, and I exist only through Allah for I belong wholly to Him, and I live in the shadow of His control. You must ask for my hand from Him, and not from me.”

Hasan then replied, “How did you find this secret, Rabi`a?”

She answered him, “I lost all found things in Him.”

Hasan then replied, “How did you come to know Him?”

She said, “You know of the how but I know of the howless.”

For Rabia`s case was that she had heard the Voice of her Beloved Who was Allah and none other than He, and she had no need for any earthly husband because the only true marriage for her was with Allah Himself alone.

Like many of the ascetic sufis, Rabi`a made no separation in her love between man and woman if they lived for the Face of her Beloved God. Many people loved her and needed her and wanted to take from her something of the special Gift which she had been given from Allah. She had many followers who yearned to feed themselves from her Love which she gave to all those whom she loved. Allah himself was her real Beloved but she kept company with her fellow beings, as she said, “Everyone who obeys (and she meant by this the true lover) seeks intimacy.”

Then she recited these lines:

“I have made You the Companion of my heart.
But my body is available to those who desire its company,
And my body is friendly toward its guest,
But the Beloved of my heart is the guest of my soul.”

She never married nor did she have any children but as she, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “My peace is in solitude but my Beloved is always with me. Whenever I witness His Beauty He is my prayer niche (mihrab); toward Him is my qibla. Oh Healer of souls, the heart feeds upon its desire and its striving towards Union with You has healed my soul. You are my Joy and my Life to Eternity. You were the Source of my life; from You came my ecstasy. I have separated myself from all created beings, for my hope is for Union with You; for that is the Goal of my searching.”

Not only did Rabi`a never marry but she also never had a Shaykh to guide and instruct her. She received everything that she knew directly from Allah (the Most High) without the intermediary of any Shaykh.

At about this time she left Baghdad and returned to Basra where she remained for many years, until she finally travelled to Jerusalem where she died and is buried. She, may Allah be pleased with her, had a long life in this dunya (material world) during which she continued, to her last days, to give of everything that Allah inspired her to give to all who loved her, because she was His special Light for them all.

She is often referred to as the first true Saint (waliya) of Islam and was praised, not because she in any way represented womankind, but because as someone said, “When a woman walks in the Way of Allah like a man she cannot be called a woman.”

The same writer also said that Rabi`a was “That one set apart in the seclusion of holiness; that woman veiled with the veil of sincerity; that one enflamed by love and longing, lost in union with God; that one accepted as a second spotless Mary.”

Although, as she said herself, she was always busy with her Beloved God all the time and she did not have any moment for anybody or anything else but Him, she also knew the meaning of what she said, for her Beloved Allah revealed Himself to her in every face around her. She said,

“The groaning and yearning of the lover of Allah will not be satisfied until it is satisfied in the Beloved.” And Rabi`a was, for many people, that Beloved. May Allah protect her secret, and that of all His true holy lovers. Many of the incidents recorded about Rabi`a’s early life are said to concern her relationship with Hasan al-Basri, in spite of the discrepancy in the dating of their lives. Nevertheless it is the sayings themselves that are important, and the incidents which brought them about are, in themselves, irrelevant.

It is said that she, may Allah be pleased with her, once sent Hasan al-Basri a piece of wax, a needle and a hair, and said, “Be like wax and illumine the world and burn yourself. Be like a needle and work naked. When you have done these two things a thousand years will be for you like a hair.”

Another story tells of how one day Hasan al-Basri saw Rabi`a near a lake. Throwing his prayer rug on top of the water, he said, “Rabi`a come! Let us pray two ruk`u here.” She replied, “Hasan, when you are showing off your spiritual goods in the worldly market, it should be things which your fellow men cannot display.” Then she threw her prayer rug into the air and flew up onto it. “Come up here, Hasan, where people can see us,” she cried. But seeing his sadness Rabi`a sought to console him, so she said, “Hasan, what you did fishes can do, and what I did flies can do. But the real business is outside these tricks. One must apply oneself to the real business.”

Rabi`a once said that there are three kinds of men: The first believes that his hands and his sons’ hands are all that is necessary to succeed in the only world they know-the material world. The second kind prays with his hands so that a reward will be earned in the next life. The third kind has his hands tied at the wrist, bound with love to serve without thought of return.

Her life and sayings became a source of deep inspiration and yearning (himma) for all those who were drawn to her and followed her, both in her time and afterwards. This was because her love, manifesting directly from the Spirit and for the Face of her Beloved alone without any trace of self in it, brought a special fragrance from the deep Secret Love into the more austere teachings of those early Sufis. She was the Word which gave life to the hearts of those beloved people of Allah who followed after her in the same Line of the Love of God, as she had done. Particularly, this was the case later for Abu Bayazid al-Bistami, Abu ‘lHusayn an-Nuri, Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, and Abu Bakr ash-Shibli, may Allah be pleased with them, who, around their leader and Master al-Junayd, came to be known as The Baghdad School.

Someone said, “The ascetics regard the beauty of the Unknown with the light of belief and certainty and they despise the world, but they are still veiled by a sensuous pleasure, namely-the thought of Paradise, whereas the true Sufi is veiled from both worlds by the sight of the Primordial Beauty and the Love of the Essence.”

One of the early stories about Rabi`a relates how she set about making the Pilgrimage to Mecca. She joined a caravan of other pilgrims and she had a small donkey on which she put her baggage for her journey. However, in the middle of the desert the donkey died. Some of the people in the caravan offered to carry her baggage for her, but she said to them, “Go on your way for I must not depend upon you for help, but I trust myself to Allah.” So, seeing that they could not persuade her otherwise, the other pilgrims continued and Rabi`a remained behind alone in the vast desert all around her. She prayed to her Lord, saying, “O my God, do kings deal thus with a woman, a stranger who is weak? You are calling me to Your House (the Ka`ba) but in the middle of my way You have suffered my ass to die, and You have left me alone in the desert.” Hardly had she finished praying when her ass began to move, and finally it stood up. Rabi`a put her baggage again on it and continued on her way. The person who related that said that he saw the same little donkey for sale in the market-place.

Once Rabi`a fasted for a whole week, neither eating nor sleeping. All night she prayed and became very hungry. Then a visitor came bringing her a bowl of food. She accepted it and went to fetch a lamp. When she returned, she found that a cat had overturned the bowl of food. She then said to herself: “I will fetch a jug of water and break my fast by drinking.” But by the time that she had fetched the jug, the lamp had gone out. She then tried to drink the water in the dark, but the jug slipped from her hand and broke into pieces. She lamented and sighed so much, as the story-teller said, “that it was to be feared that the whole house would be consumed with fire!” “O Allah!” she cried, “What is this that You are doing with this helpless slave?”

Then she heard a voice say, “Be careful lest you desire Me to bestow on you all worldly blessings, but take away from your heart the caring for Me, for care for Me and worldly blessings can never be together in a single heart. Rabi`a, you desire one thing and I desire another. My desire and your desire can never be joined in one heart.”

She said then, “When I heard this admonition I so cut off my heart from the world and curtailed my desires that whenever I have prayed during the last thirty years I have thought it to be my last prayer.”

Our Shaykh, may Allah benefit us by him, has said, “This is the state of the Essence of the lovers of Allah in the station (maqam) of the Special of the special ones (al-hawass al-hawass) of the Sincerity, or Integrity (al-ikhlas). These lovers are those who are nearest to Him and their Order is La ilaha illa ‘llah. Their offering and trust is to be dying for the Truth and to kill themselves so as to live in Allah, and to be like wool in His Hands until they reach the station (maqam) of completion. Then they rest face-to-Face with their Mighty King. The tongue of their asking is Rabi`a, who said:

“Everyone prays to You from fear of the Fire;
And if You do not put them in the Fire,
This is their reward.
Or they pray to You for the Garden,
Full of fruits and flowers.
And that is their prize.
But I do not pray to You like this,
For I am not afraid of the Fire,
And I do not ask You for the Garden.
But all I want is the Essence of Your Love,
And to return to be One with You,
And to become Your Face.”

It was told of Rabi`a that she was seen one day carrying a brand of fire in one hand and a pitcher of water in the other, and that she was running very fast. When they asked her what she was doing and where she was going, she said, “I am going to light a fire in the Garden and pour water onto it so that both these veils may disappear from the seekers, and that their purpose may be sure, and that the slaves of Allah may see Him, without any object of hope or motive of fear. What if the Hope for the Garden and the Fear of the Fire did not exist? Not one would worship his Lord, nor obey Him. But He is worthy of worship without any immediate motive or need.”

And she said:

” I love You with two loves-a selfish love
And a Love that You are worthy of.
As for the selfish love, it is that I think of You,
To the exclusion of everything else.
And as for the Love that You are worthy of,
Ah! That I no longer see any creature, but I see only You!
There is no praise for me in either of these loves,
But the praise in both is for You.”

Here Rabi`a was referring to the Love which is of the complete integrity, steadfastness and patience, which is for nothing but the Face of Allah Who is the only true Beloved. It is the worship of the heart which only witnesses the perfect Union of the Beloved and the Lover.

It was said that Rabi`a was the first person to teach about the necessity for truthfulness and sincerity in the lover’s bondsmanship to the Beloved Who is Allah. She was one of those referred to as the spies of the heart for she often spoke out clearly against all who claimed to be lovers of Allah, but whose hearts were not always pure in intention and devotion.

This was the case of those who could not unquestioningly surrender to the Will of the Beloved in everything. She said to them, “You rebel against Allah, yet you appear to love Him. I swear by my faith that this is most strange. For if your love were truthful you would have obeyed Him, since the lover obeys the one whom he loves.” So that whenever someone said to her, “Alas, for my sorrow (my sins),” she replied, “Do not lie, but say rather, ‘Alas for my lack of sorrow,’ for if you were truly sorrowful, life would have no delight for you.”

One of her companions, Sufyan al-Thawri, asked her, “What is the best thing for the servant to do who desires proximity to his Lord?” She said, “That the servant should possess nothing in this world for the Next, save Him.” Rabi`a, may Allah preserve her secret, never had any doubts about her Beloved being present or absent, because she was not concerned only to have His good pleasure and bounties. She lived for a Love which does not seek for any answer, reward or reciprocity. It was related how one day one of her followers said in her presence, “Oh Allah, may You be satisfied with us!” Whereupon Rabi`a said, “Are you not ashamed before Him to ask Him to be satisfied with you, when you are not satisfied with Him?” By this she meant that first we must be truly satisfied with Allah, Most High, before we can ask Him to be satisfied with us.

Then this was followed by the question to her, “When then is the servant satisfied with Allah Most High?”

She replied, “When his pleasure in misfortune is equal to his pleasure in prosperity.”

Someone asked Rabi`a, “What is Love?” She, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “Love has come from Eternity and passes into eternity, and none has been found in seventy thousand worlds who drinks one drop of it until at last he is absorbed in Allah, and from that comes His words: “He loves them, and they love Him.” (5:59).

Once when she was sick a number of people went to visit her. They asked her, “How are you?” She replied, “By Allah! I know of no reason for my illness except that Paradise was displayed to me and I yearned after it in my heart; and I thank that my Lord was jealous for me and so He reproached me; and only He can make me happy again.”

She said:

“O God, whatsoever You have apportioned to me of worldly things, Give that to Your enemies, And what You have apportioned to me in the Hereafter, Give that to Your Friends, For You suffice me.”

She also said:

“O God, if I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, And if I worship You in hope of Paradise, Exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship You for Your Own sake, Grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

When Rabi`a was urged to speak, her words perfectly manifested her love, her belief and her faith, for she was so totally immersed in her Lord that she became a shining Light which attracted many people to her presence to drink from the same Spring from which she drank. She said, “If I will a thing and my Lord does not will it, I shall be guilty of unbelief.” So that her faith came from her total surrender to her Beloved God, as she said, “I have fled from the world and all that is in it. My prayer is for Union with You; that is the goal of my desire.” Then, since she always attributed her illnesses and misfortunes to the Will of her Beloved God, how could she oppose Him in trying to rid herself of them?

Once she was heard to say, “If You had not set me apart by affliction, I would not have increased Your lovers.”

It was part of her faith that she welcomed an asceticism which accepted everything as a Gift from Allah, the Lover to his beloved slave. Therefore, she regarded misfortune in the same way as she regarded favors and happiness, and this was the ultimate of bondsmanship to her. About this she said, “You have given me life and have provided for me, and Yours is the Glory.” And she added, “You have bestowed upon me many favors, and gifts, graces and help.” In this she acknowledges her bondsmanship to the Giver and Bestower of all Bounty.

The sole object of Rabi`a’s life was bound up in her yearning and passionate love (shawq) for her Beloved, which meant not merely the destruction of her self (nafs) but surrender to Allah every moment in the perfect Union in which there is no Lord and slave, no Creator and created being, only He in Himself. In that state she came to realize that she existed in Him without any possibility of separation from His indivisible Oneness.

There is a story related that she once said, “I praised Allah one night with the praises of dawn, then I slept and I saw a bright, green tree, not to be described in size and beauty, and lo, upon it were three kinds of fruit, unknown to me amongst the fruit of the world, like virgins’ breasts, white, red and yellow and they shone like spheres and suns in the green spaces of the tree. I admired them and said, ‘Whose is this?’ And one said to me, ‘This is yours, for your praises aforetime.’ Then I began to walk around the tree, and lo, underneath it were eighteen fruits on the ground of the color of gold, and I said, ‘If only these fruits were with the fruits on the tree it would be better.’ That person said to me, ‘They would have been there but that you, when you offered your praises, were thinking, ‘Is the dough leavened or not?’ So this fruit fell off. This is a warning to those of insight, and an exhortation to those who fear Allah and worship Him.”

One day a man, who was said to be a knower of Allah, met Rabi`a who asked him of his state, whereupon he replied, “I have trod the Path of obedience and I have not sinned since Allah created me.” She, may Allah be pleased with her, said to him, “Alas my son, your existence is a sin wherewith no other sin may be compared.”

Her attraction to a life of poverty was also part of her need not to be distracted from her inner journey by the necessity for material considerations. There is a story about this poverty of hers, as one of her companions said, “I went to visit Rabi`a and saw her in her house with nothing but a broken water pitcher out of which she drank and made her ablution. There was also an old reed mat and a brick which she sometimes used as a pillow. When I saw this, I felt very sad and I said to her, ‘I have rich friends. If you wish I will get something from them for you.’ She said, ‘You have committed a grievous error. Is not my Provider and theirs one and the same?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ Then she said, ‘And has the Provider of the poor forgotten the poor on account of their poverty? And does He remember the rich because of their riches?’ I replied, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Then since He knows of my state, how should I remind Him? Such is His Will and I too wish what He wills.'”

Rabia’s love, which was passionate (shawq) and all-consuming was also full of humility, fear (hawf) and reverence (taqwa) for her Beloved, and when she was asked about how she had such a degree of intimacy, she said, “By constantly saying: I take refuge in You from everything which has distracted me from You and from every hindrance which has hindered me from You.”

She also said, “You must conceal your good deeds as you conceal your evil deeds.”

In the same way, she said, “What appears of any (good) works, I count as nothing at all.”

There is a story that Rabi`a was once on her way to Mecca. When she was half-way there she saw the Ka`ba coming to meet her and she said, “It is the Lord of the House Whom I need. What have I to do with the House? I need to meet with Him Who said: ‘Whoso approaches Me by a span’s length I will approach him by the length of a cubit.’ The Ka`ba which I see has no power over me. What does the Ka`ba bring to me?”

And again, a story of the same nature is as follows: It is related that Ibrahim ibn Adhan, a very holy person, spent fourteen years making his way to the Ka`ba because in every place of prayer he prayed two ruk`u and at last when he reached the Ka`ba he did not see it. He said to himself, “Alas, what has happened to my eyes. Maybe a sickness has come to them.” Then he heard a voice which said, “No harm has befallen your eyes, but the Ka`ba has gone to meet a woman who is approaching.” Ibrahim was seized with jealousy and said, “O indeed; who is this?” He ran and saw Rabi`a arriving, and the Ka`ba was back in its place.

Once when Rabi`a, may Allah be pleased with her, was asked, “Where have you come from?” She said, “From that World.” They then asked her, “Where are you going?” She replied, “To that World.” They asked, “What are you doing in this world?” She said, “I am sorrowing.” They asked, “In what way?” She said, “I am eating the bread of this world and doing the work of that World.” Then someone said, “One so persuasive in speech is worthy to keep a guest-house.” She replied, “I myself am keeping a rest-house. Whatever is within I do not allow to go out, and whatever is without I do not allow to come in. If anyone comes in or goes out, he does not concern me, for I am contemplating my own heart, not mere clay.”

Rabi`a’s companions spoke about how she was always weeping and when she was asked, “Why do you weep like this?” she said, “I fear that I may be cut off from Him to Whom I am accustomed, and that at the hour of death a voice may say that I am not worthy.”

We can perhaps find both the inner depth and the height of the meaning of her need for poverty in a story relating to a period in the early days of Rabia’s walking on the Path of Allah. This was always to be a reminder to her of the need to strive and surrender all her existence to her Beloved Lord if she was to reach to the Goal of what He desired of her. She, may Allah hallow her secret, told of how when she was making the Pilgrimage, and upon reaching the standing on `Arafat she heard a voice saying to her, “O you who call upon Me, what request have you to make to Me? If it is Myself that you desire, then I will show you one flash of My Glory, but in that you will be absorbed and melt away.” She said then, “O Lord of Glory, Rabi`a has no means of reaching to that degree, but I desire one particle of Poverty.” The voice said, “O Rabi`a, Poverty is the drought and famine of Our Wrath which We have placed in the way of men. When but a hair’s breadth remains between them and Union with Us, everything is changed and Union becomes separation. As for you, you still have seventy veils of existence, and until you have come forth from beneath these veils you will not benefit even to speak of that Poverty.”

The key to Rabi`a’s reaching and living in the loving Presence of her Lord was her constant praying, remembrance and asking for forgiveness for all her shortcomings, and a knowing that her Union with her Beloved God could not come in the way that she desired, but only in the way that He desired for her. She was also well aware that her remembrance and repentance did not come from herself, but from Him, her Beloved God. It is said that someone once said to her, “I have committed many sins; if I turn in repentance (tawba) toward Allah, will He turn in His Mercy toward me?” She said, “No, but if He will turn toward you, you will turn toward Him.” For Rabi`a, repentance was a Gift from Allah. As she said, “Seeking forgiveness with the tongue is the sin of lying. If I seek repentance of myself, I shall have need of repentance again.” Or as she also said, “Our asking for forgiveness of Allah itself needs forgiveness.”

She, may Allah be pleased with her, said:

“O God, my whole occupation And all my desire in this world, Of all worldly things, Is to remember You. And in the Hereafter It is to meet You. This is on my side, as I have stated. Now You do whatever You will.”

Our Shaykh says that in her nightly prayers she loved to commune with her Beloved God, saying, “O God, the night has passed and the day has dawned. How I long to know if You have accepted my prayers or if You have rejected them. Therefore console me, for it is Yours to console this state of mine. You have given me life and cared for me, and Yours is the Glory. If You want to drive me from Your Door yet would I not forsake it for the love that I bear in my heart towards You.”

As for the rest of the story of her life in this world, it is said: About seven years before she died, she travelled to Jerusalem with a woman companion and attendant, and she bought a small house with some land surrounding it on top of the holy Mountain of Olives (at-Tur). There she lived, and from there she used to walk down, every day, to al-Aqsa Mosque where she prayed and gave Teachings to the people, both men and women, who came to listen to her. Although she was a woman, nobody could prevent her from doing this because it was Allah Who moved her in this way to be the means of manifesting Himself to the people who sought Him through her. Then after praying and teaching in the Mosque she would walk back up the mountain to her house. This she did every day until she died in the year 185 A.H. / 801 C.E.

After she died her followers built a tomb for her which still exists near the Christian Church of the Ascension on top of the Mountain of Olives. It is visited by those who remember her and thank Allah for the blessing which He granted through her life-the example of a holy soul filled with Hi.

The topic of this paper was chosen out of the conviction that humanity is suffering today from a number of serious social problems related to women and to the interrelations of the two sexes in society. Although these problems may be more pronounced, disturbing, more debilitating for some of us than for others, there are probably few if any regions of the contemporary world whose citizens have not felt in some way the repercussions of these problems. Therefore, there is a pressing need for exploring possible solutions. The problem of women is linked, for the present study, with the Qur’an, and what I have called the “Qur’anic society,” out of strong conviction that the Qur’an offers the most viable suggestions for contemporary social reform which can be found in any model or any literature. Many of you may be puzzled by the title of this paper-“Women in a Qur’anic Society.” You may ask yourselves, “Why didn’t she say “Women in Muslim Society” or even “Women in an Islamic Society?” Let me explain why the expressions “Muslim” and “Islamic” were rejected for this paper, and how the use of the rather unusual appellation, “Qur’anic society,” is justified.

There are at least three reasons for my choice of that title. The first of these derives from the concern that many beliefs and practices have been labelled “Muslim” or “Islamic” without warranting those names. There are approximately 40 nations of the world which claim to have a Muslim majority population and therefore to be exemplary of “Muslim” or “Islamic” societies. This of course results in a great deal of confusion as the question is asked: Which of these regions represents most faithfully the true “Islamic” society? Among Muslims that question is most frequently answered by the claim that their own national or regional society is the truest to the intentions of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Non-Muslims, on the other hand, and especially the Western anthropologists who travel around the world to investigate the customs and mores of its peoples, tend to treat each variation within the Muslim World as equally valid. This results from their adherence to what I call the “zoo theory” of knowledge. Adherents of that theory regard all Muslims-and of course similar treatment of other non-Western people is discernible-as different species within the human zoo. The “zoo theory” protagonists go to the field, record and snap pictures of every strange or exotic practice they see and hear; and for them, this is Islam or Islamic practice. A trip to another part of the Muslim World with the ubiquitous devices for recording and photographing generates a different body of materials documenting superficial variations in customs. But this, too, is Islam or Islamic practice for the “zoo theory” investigator or ethnographer. There is far too little effort spent on understanding Islam as a whole. As a result, the basic premise of scepticism and relativism is confirmed in the mind of the researcher; and he/she returns home convinced that there is not one Islam, but scores of Islams existent in the world. In like fashion, the researcher reports that there are many definitions or descriptions of the status and role of women in Muslim society. Each one of the resultant definitions or descriptions is dubbed as “Muslim” or “Islamic” even if we as Muslims may hold some of these practices to be distortions or perversions of our principles and beliefs by the misguided or uninformed among us.

It was partly to avoid confusion with these variant descriptions and misunderstandings that I have chosen the appellation “Qur’anic” for the present discussion. In this way, I hope to move beyond the limited relevance and particularism of a “zoo theory” of investigation to a presentation which avoids such fragmentation and is ideologically in conformance with the true prescriptions of Islam. In regard to matters so determining of our destiny and very existence, we can never be satisfied with mere reportage about certain human animals in the “zoo” who are statistically “Muslim” or whose customs have been labelled as “Islamic.” Those designations have sometimes been misapplied. “Qur’anic,” on the other hand, is a term which is unequivocal. It points clearly to the topic of this paper.

Secondly, “Qur’anic society” was judged to be the most suitable title for it orients us towards discovering those core principles in the Qur’an itself which form the underlying framework for our societies throughout the Muslim World. It is the society based on Qur’anic principles which is the goal of all of us, even though we may unknowingly deviate from time to time from those principles. It is the conformance to a Qur’an-based society for which we must all work if the Muslim peoples are to enjoy a felicitous future. It is not an Indonesian, Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, Egyptian or Nigerian version of that society that we should regard as indisputable norm, but one firmly based on the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. Only therein can we find a proper definition of woman’s role in society. Since it is these teachings which are the subject of my paper, “Women in a Qur’anic Society” seemed the most proper title.

Thirdly, I wish by this choice of title to emphasize that we should regard the Holy Qur’an as our guide in all aspects of our lives. It is not only the prime source of knowledge about religious beliefs, obligations, and practices, it is also the guide, whether specific or implied, for every aspect of Islamic civilization. In the centuries of past glory, it determined the political, economic, social and artistic creativity of the Muslim peoples. If we are to succeed as members of an Islamic society in the coming decades and centuries, it must again determine our thinking and our actions in an all-inclusive way. Din is not limited to the Five Pillars of the shahadah, salat, siyam, zakat, and the hajj. Din in fact defies simple equation with the English term “religion,” for the former’s significance penetrates into every nook and cranny of human existence and behaviour. Surely it should be our goal to relate every action to our Din. We can only do this by allowing the Holy Qur’an to in-form and re-form every realm of our lives.

As a step in this direction, let us consider what the Qur’an has to teach us about the society towards which we should be striving, and ponder its effect on the position of women. What are the basic characteristics of a Qur’anic society which particularly affect women?

Five characteristics – which seem basic, crucial and incontrovertible – of Qur’anic society will be considered. Although they are presented in a series, each one rests upon the others and affects them. The interdependence of these five characteristics makes it difficult to speak of any one of them without mention of the others, and of course they do not and cannot exist in isolation from one another.


The first of these characteristics of a Qur’anic society which affect women is that both sexes are held to be equal in status and worth. In other words, the Qur’an teaches us that women and men are all creatures of Allah, existing on a level of equal worth and value, although their equal importance does not substantiate a claim for their equivalence or perfect identity. This equality of male and female is documentable in the Qur’an in passages pertaining to at least four aspects of human existence and interaction.

A. Religious Matters

The first of these Qur’anic confirmations of male-female equality are contained in statements pertaining to such religious matters as the origins of humanity, or to religious obligations and rewards. 1. Origins of Humanity. The Qur’an is devoid of the stories found in the Old Testament which denigrate women. There is no hint that the first woman created by God is a creature of lesser worth than the first male, or that she is a kind of appendage formed from one of his ribs. Instead, male and female are created, we read, min nafsin wahidatin (“from a single soul or self”) to complement each other (Qur’an 4:1; 7:189). Whereas the Torah or Old Testament treats Eve as the temptress of the Garden of Eden, who aids Satan in enticing Adam to disobey God, the Qur’an deals with the pair with perfect equity. Both are equally guilty of sinning; both are equally punished by God with expulsion from the Garden; and both are equally forgiven when they repent. 2. Religious Obligations and Rewards. The Qur’an is not less clear in commanding equality for men and women in its directives regarding religious obligations and rewards. We read:

Lo! Men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give aims and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah and women who remember-Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (33:35)

B. Ethical Obligations and Rewards

Secondly, the Qur’an reveals to mankind the desired equality of the two sexes by establishing the same ethical obligations and rewards for women and men:

And who so does good works, whether male or female, and he (or she) is a believer, such will enter Paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date-stone. (4:124) Whosoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily We shall quicken with good life, and We shall pay them a recompense according to the best of what they do. (16:97)
If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had not deemed the two sexes of equal status and value, such explicit statements of their equality in ethical obligations and rewards would not have been made in the Qur’an.

C. Education

Although the more specific commands for the equal rights of women and men to pursue education can be found in the hadith literature, the Qur’an does at least imply the pursuit of knowledge by all Muslims regardless of their sex. For example, it repeatedly commands all readers to read, to recite, to think, to contemplate, as well as to learn from the signs (ayat) of Allah in nature. In fact, the very first revelation to Prophet Muhammad (S) was concerned with knowledge. In a Qur’anic society, there can never be a restriction of this knowledge to one sex. It is the duty of every Muslim and every Muslimah to pursue knowledge throughout life, even if it should lead the seeker to China, we are told. The Prophet (S) even commanded that the slave girls be educated, and he asked Shifa’ bint ‘Abdillah to instruct his wife Hafsah bint ‘Umar. Lectures of the Prophet (S) were attended by audiences of both men and women; and by the time of the Prophet’s death, there were many women scholars.

D. Legal Rights

A fourth evidence in the Qur’an for the equality of men and women is its specification of legal rights which are guaranteed for every individual from cradle to grave. Unlike the situation in the West, where until the last century it was impossible for a married woman to hold property on her own, to contract with other persons, or to dispose of her property without the consent of her husband, the Qur’an proclaims the right of every woman to buy and sell, to contract and to earn, and to hold and manage her own money and property. In addition to these rights, the Qur’an grants woman a share in the inheritance of the family (4:7-11), warns against depriving her of that inheritance (4:19), specifies that the dower (mahr) of her marriage should belong to her alone and never be taken by her husband (2:229; 4:19-21,25) unless offered by the woman as a free gift (4:44). As with any privilege, these rights of women carry corresponding responsibilities. If she commits a civil offence, the Qur’an tells us, woman’s penalty is no less or no more than that of a man in a similar case (5:41; 24:2). If she is wronged or harmed, she is entitled to compensation just like a man. It is clear that the Qur’an not only recommends, but is even insistent upon, the equality of women and men as an essential characteristic of a Qur’anic society. The claim of the non-Muslim critics that Islam denigrates women is denied emphatically by the Qur’an. Similarly denied are the arguments of certain Muslims that women are religiously, intellectually and ethically inferior to men, as Jewish and Christian literatures had earlier maintained.


Now let us consider the second basic characteristic of the Qur’anic society which affects the position of women. This is found in the directives for a dual sex rather than a unisex society. While maintaining the validity of the equal worth of men and women, the Qur’an does not judge this equality to mean equivalence or identity of the sexes.

Probably all of you are familiar with the contemporary move toward unisex clothes and shoes, unisex jewellery and hair styles, unisex actions and entertainments. In fact, it is often difficult in America to decide whether one is looking at a boy or a girl. This results from the current notion in Western society that there is little if any difference between the two sexes in physical, intellectual and emotional endowment; and that, therefore, there should be no difference in their functions and roles in society. The dress and the actions are but superficial evidence of this deeper conviction. Accompanied by a downgrading of the qualities and roles traditionally associated with the female sex, this current idea has generated a unisex society in which only the male role is respected and pursued. Although meant to bring a larger measure of equality for women, the idea that men and women are not only equal, but equivalent and identical, has actually pushed women into imitating men and even despising their womanhood. Thus it is generating a new type of male chauvinism. Tremendous social pressures have resulted in stripping women of their role-responsibilities formerly performed by them, and they are forced to live a life devoid of personality and individuality.

The society based on the Qur’an is, in contrast, a dual-sex society in which both sexes are assigned their special responsibilities. This assures the healthy functioning of the society for the benefit of all its members. This division of labour imposes on men more economic responsibilities (2:233, 240-241; 4:34), while women are expected to play their role in childbearing and rearing (2:233; 7:189). The Qur’an, recognising the importance of this complementary sexual assignment of roles and responsibilities, alleviates the greater economic demands made on male members of the population by allotting them a larger share than women in inheritance. At the same time it grants women the right to maintenance in exchange for her contribution to the physical and emotional well being of the family and to the care she provides in the rearing of children. The unisex ideology generates a competitive relationship between the sexes which we find in America and which is disastrous for all members of society: the young; the old; the children; the parents; the single and the married; the male and the female. The dual-sex society, by contrast, is a more natural answer to the question of sexual relationships, a plan encouraging co-operation rather than competition between the sexes. It is a plan which has been found suitable in countless societies through history. Only in very recent times did the idea of sexual non-differentiation or identity achieve prominence, and then primarily in the Western society. Even the medical evidence for mental or emotional difference between the sexes is suppressed in Western research, for it threatens the prevailing trends of thought. How long this socially disastrous movement will continue before it is rejected as bankrupt is not known. But certainly we as Muslims should be aware of its deficiencies and dangerous consequences, and make our societies and young people aware of the disaster caused by it.

Protagonists of the unisex society have condemned the dual-sex human organisation as dangerous for the well-being of women. If dual sex means that one sex is superior to the other, such a situation could have arisen. But in the true Qur’anic society, toward which we all aspire to move, this is not possible. As we have seen above, the Qur’an advocates eloquently the equal status of women and men at the same time as it recognises their generally relevant differences of nature and function. Thus while acknowledging the religious, ethical, intellectual and legal equality of males and females, the Qur’an never regards the two sexes as identical or equivalent. It justifies this stand in its assignment of variant responsibilities and its provisions regarding inheritance and maintenance which match those responsibilities.


The third characteristic of the Qur’anic society which is strongly assertive of women’s position is the insistence on the interdependence of the members of society. Contrary to the contemporary trend to emphasize the rights of the individual at the expense of society, we find the Qur’an repeatedly emphasising the interdependence of the male and female as well as of all members of society. The wife and husband, for example, are described as “garments” (libas) of each other (2:187), and as mates living and dwelling in tranquillity (33:21;see also 7:189). Men and women are directed to complement each other, not to compete with each other. They are the protectors of each other (9:71). Each is called upon to fulfil certain assigned responsibilities for the good of both and the larger group.

In order to insure this interdependence which is so necessary for the physical and psychological well-being of both men and women, Allah, in the Holy Qur’an, stipulated the reciprocal or mutual duties and obligations of the various members of the family-men and women, fathers and mothers, children and elders, and relatives of all degrees (17:23-26; 4:1, 7-12; 2:177; 8:41; 16:90; etc.). The care of and concern for other members of society is equally a duty of the Muslim:

It is not righteousness that you turn faces to the east and the west; but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and gives his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free … (2:177)

The Qur’an thereby instils in the Muslim a sense of a place within, and responsibility to society. This is not regarded or experienced as a repression of the individual. Instead the Muslim is constantly encouraged in this interdependence by experiencing the benefits it brings. The economic, social and psychological advantages of such close relationships and concerns within the social group provide more than ample compensation for the individual to sublimate his/her individualistic aspirations. The anonymity and lack of social interdependence among its members in contemporary Western society have caused many serious problems. Loneliness, inadequate care of the aged, the generation gap, high suicide rates, and juvenile crime can all be traced back to the ever-worsening breakdown of social interdependence and the denial of the human necessity for mutual care.


Closely intertwined with interdependence is the fourth basic characteristic of the Qur’anic society which serves to improve male-female relations. This is the institution of the extended family. In addition to the members of the nucleus that constitutes the family- mother, father and their children-the Islamic family or ‘a’ilah also includes grandparents, uncles, aunts and their offspring. Normally Muslim families are “residentially extended;” that is, their members live communally with three or more generations of relatives in a single building or compound. Even where this residential version of the extended family is not possible or adhered to, family connections reaching far beyond the nuclear unit are evident in strong psychological, social, economic and even political ties.

The extended family solidarity is prescribed and strengthened by the Holy Qur’an, where we find repeated references to the rights of kin (17:23-26; 4:7-9; 8:41; 24:22; etc.) and the importance of treating them with kindness (2 :83; 16: 90; etc.). Inheritance portions, for not only the nuclear family members but those of the extended family as well, are specifically prescribed (2:180-182; 4:33,176). Dire punishment is threatened for those who ignore these measures for intra-family support (4:7-12). The extended family of Islamic culture is thus not merely a product of social conditions, it is an institution anchored in the word of God Himself and buttressed by Qur’anic advice and rules.

The extended family is an institution which can provide tremendous benefits for both women and men when it exists in conjunction with the other basic characteristics of a Qur’anic society.

1) It guards against the selfishness or eccentricity of any one party, since the individual faces not a single spouse but a whole family of peers, elders and children if he or she goes “off course.”

2) It allows for careers for women without detriment to themselves, spouse, children or elders, since there are always other adults in the home to assist the working wife or mother. Career women in an Islamic extended family suffer neither the physical and emotional burden of overwork nor the feeling of guilt for neglecting maternal, marital or familial responsibilities. In fact, without this sort of family institution, it is impossible to imagine any feasible solution for the problems now facing Western society. As more and more women enter the work force, the nuclear family is unable to sustain the needs of its members. The difficulties in the single parent family are of course magnified a hundred-fold. The strain that such family systems put on the working woman are devastating to the individual as well as to the marriage and family bonds. The dissolutions of families and the psychological and social ramifications of the high divorce rate in America and other Western nations are the growing concern of doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists and sociologists as well as, of course, of the unfortunate victims of these phenomena.

3) The extended family insures the adequate socialisation of children. A mother’s or father’s advice in a nuclear or single parent family may be difficult to be followed by an unruly or obstinate child, but the combined pressure of the members of a strong extended family is an effective counter to non-conformance or disobedience.

4) The extended family provides for psychological and social diversity in companionship for adults as well as children. Since there is less dependence on the one-to-one relationship, there are less emotional demands on each member of the family. A disagreement or clash between adults, children or between persons of different generations does not reach the damaging proportions it may in the nuclear family. There are always alternative family members on hand to ease the pain and provide therapeutic counselling and companionship. Even the marriage bond is not put to the enormous strains that it suffers in the nuclear family.

5) The extended family or a’ilah guards against the development of the generation gap. This social problem arises when each age group becomes so isolated from other generations that it finds difficulty in achieving successful and meaningful interaction with people of a different age level. In the ‘a’ilah, three or more generations live together and constantly interact with one another. This situation provides beneficial learning and socialisation experiences for children and the necessary sense of security and usefulness for the older generation.

6) The ‘a’ilah eliminates the problems of loneliness which plague the isolated and anonymous dwellers in the urban centres of many contemporary societies. The unmarried woman, or the divorced or widowed woman in an Islamic extended family will never suffer the problems that face such women in contemporary American society, for example. In a Qur’anic society, there is no need for the commercial computer dating establishments, the singles’ clubs and bars, or the isolation of senior citizens in retirement villages or old people’s homes. The social and psychological needs of the individual, whether male or female, are cared for in the extended family. As marriage-bonds grow more and more fragile in Western society, women tend to be the chief victims of the change. They are less able to re-establish marriage or other bonds than men, and they are more psychologically damaged by these losses.

7) The extended family provides a more feasible and humane sharing of the care of the elderly. In the nuclear family unit, the care of the elderly parent or parents of one spouse may fall entirely on one individual, usually the mother of the family. She must provide for the extra physical care as well as for the emotional well-being of the elderly. This is a tremendous burden on a woman who probably has children’s and husband’s needs to attend to as well. If she is a working mother, the burden can be unmanageable; and the elderly are put in an old peoples’ home to await death. With the shared responsibilities and duties that the extended family provides, the burden is significantly lightened.


The fifth basic characteristic of a Qur’anic society is that it is patriarchal. Contrary to the goals of the Women’s Liberation movement, the Qur’an calls for a society which assigns the ultimate leadership and decision-making role in the family to men.

Any society is made up of smaller organisations of humans, governments, political parties, religious organisations, commercial enterprises, extended families, etc. Each of these organs needs to be stable, cohesive and manoeuvrable if it is to be beneficial to its constituents. In order to acquire these characteristics, the organisation must assign ultimate responsibility to some individual or some group within its ranks.

Therefore, the citizens may vote, parliament may legislate, and the police may enforce the law; but it is ultimately the head of state that carries the burden of making the crucial decisions for the nation, as well as the onus or approval, i.e., the responsibility, for those decisions. In like manner, the work of a factory is conducted by many individuals, but all of them are not equally capable of making the ultimate decisions for the company. Neither is each employee equally charged with the responsibility for the organisation’s success or failure.

The family also has need for someone to carry the burden of ultimate responsibility for the whole. The Qur’an has assigned this role to the most senior male member of the family. It is this patriarchal assignment of power and responsibility which is meant by such expressions as “wa lil rijali ‘alathinna darajatun ” (2.228; see supra, pp. 40, 41), and “al-rijalu qawwdmuna ‘ala al-nisa’i…. ” (4:34). Contrary to misrepresentations by the Qur’an’s enemies, these passages do not mean the subjugation of women to men in a gender-based dictatorship. Such an interpretation shows a blatant disregard of the Qur’an’s repeated calls for the equality of the sexes and for its command to show respect and kindness to women. The passages in question point instead to a means for avoiding internal dissension and indecision for the benefit of all family members. They advocate for a patriarchal society.

In addition, we would draw attention to the use of the word qawwamun in the statement, al-rijalu qawwamuna ‘ala al-nisa’i … (4:34). Certainly the verb qawwama, from which the verbal noun qawwamun is derived, does not imply despotic overlordship. Instead, the term refers to the one who stands up (from qama, “to stand”) for another in a protective and benevolent way. If an autocratic or domineering role for the male half of the society had been meant, there are many other verbal derivatives which would have been more applicable, for example, musaytirun and muhayminun Other instances of the Qur’anic use of the term qawwamun confirm this supportive rather than authoritarian or tyrannical meaning of the term (see 4:127-135; 5:8). Ascription of a different significance to the passage in question is, therefore, ideologically inconsistent as well as linguistically unsupportable.

Why should the Qur’an specify male leadership for the ‘a’ilah, i.e., a patriarchal family, rather than a matriarchal organisation? The Qur’an answers that question in the following manner:

Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women)….(4:34)

Physical and economic contributions and responsibility are, therefore, the Qur’anic reasons for proposing a patriarchal rather than a matriarchal society.

Some Westerners, confronted by the problems of contemporary society, are beginning to ask such questions as: Where can we turn for help? What can we do in the face of the present social disintegration? It is a time of despair and searching as Western society reels under the blows of steadily increasing personal disorientation and societal dissolution.

What can we do as Muslims to help? First of all, we must build true Qur’anic societies throughout the Muslim World. Without these, we cannot establish equitable and viable accommodation for the interaction of men and women in society. In addition, we cannot hope to establish in the coming generations a respect for and loyalty to our societies and their accompanying institutions if pseudo-Islamic societies are the only ones we are capable of producing and maintaining. Pseudo-Islamic measures or institutions are actually anti-Islamic; for they posit a model which cannot be respected, and attach to it the label of “islam” in the minds of many Muslims as well as non-Muslim. This results in a wrongful transfer of the onus of the faulty institution to the religion of Islam itself.

We must educate our fellow Muslims-and especially the youth for they are the leaders of tomorrow-with regard to the importance and viability of their (Qur’anic) traditions concerning women, the family and society. Despite the failure of alternative contemporary Western social patterns, some Muslims seem to hanker after the Western brand of sexual equality, its unisex ideas and modes of behaviour, overemphasis on individualism or personal freedom from responsibility, and the nuclear family system. We must awake to the dangers which accompany such social ideas and practices. If the consequences of these ideas and practices are not pointed out and combated, we are doomed to an unfortunate future as such social experiments are to fail ultimately.

But even this is not an adequate response for us as Muslims. As vicegerents of Allah on earth (2:30), it is our duty to be concerned about the whole world and about all of God’s creatures. In the light of the command to propagate the will of Allah in every corner of the earth, we should not neglect to suggest or offer the good that we know to others. It is time for Islam and the Muslims to present their solutions of the problems of contemporary society, not only to the Muslim audience, but to the non-Muslim audience as well. This can and should be done through the living example of true Qur’anic societies in which the problems of men and women are resolved. It should also be done through informative writings and discussions by our scholars which could be made available to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

There is no better way to serve the will of Allah and the whole of mankind. There is no better da’wah than such offering of a helping hand to the struggling victims of contemporary society.

I. Introduction & Methodology

When dealing with the Islamic perspective of any topic, there should be a clear distinction between the normative teachings of Islam and the diverse cultural practices among Muslims, which may or may not be consistent with them. The focus of this paper is the normative teachings of Islam as the criteria to judge Muslim practices and evaluate their compliance with Islam. In identifying what is “Islamic,” it is necessary to make a distinction between the primary sources of Islam (the Qur’an and the Sunnah) and legal opinions of scholars on specific issues, which may vary and be influenced by their times, circumstances, and cultures. Such opinions and verdicts do not enjoy the infallibility accorded to the primary and revelatory sources. Furthermore, interpretation of the primary sources should consider, among other things:

  • The context of any text in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This includes the general context of Islam, its teachings, its world view, and the context of the surah and section thereof.
  • The occasion of the revelation, which may shed light on its meanings,
  • The role of the Sunnah in explaining and defining the meaning of the Qur’anic text.

This paper is a brief review of the position and role of woman in society from an Islamic perspective. The topic is divided into spiritual, economic, social, and political aspects.

II. The Spiritual Aspect

1. According to the Qur’an, men and women have the same spiritual human nature:

O mankind: Reverence your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, and created of like nature his mate, and from them twain 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. (Qur’an 4:1)

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 they are united she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy they both pray to Allah their Lord (saying): “If You give us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.” (Qur’an 7:189)

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things.) (Qur’an 42:11)

2. Both genders are recipients of the “divine breath” since they are created with the same human and spiritual nature (nafsin-waahidah):

But He fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding): little thanks do you give (Qur’an 15:29)

3. Both genders are dignified and are trustees of Allah on earth.

We have honored the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors above a great part of Our Creation. (Qur’an 17:70)

Behold your Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said “Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?” He said: “I know what you do not.” (Qur’an 2:30)

4. According to the Qur’an, woman is not blamed for the “fall of man.” Pregnancy and childbirth are not seen as punishments for “eating from the forbidden tree.” On the contrary, the Qur’an considers them to be grounds for love and respect due to mothers.

In narrating the story of Adam and Eve, the Qur’an frequently refers to both of them, never singling out Eve for the blame:

O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and enjoy (its good things) as you [both] wish: but approach not this tree or you [both] run into harm and transgression. Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them (before): he said “Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you [both] should become angels or such beings as live forever.” And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: “Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?” They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: if you forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy we shall certainly be lost.” (Allah) said: “Get you [both] down with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood for a time.” He said: “Therein shall you [both] live and therein shall you [both] die; and from it shall you [both] be taken out (at last).” O you children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you but the raiment of righteousness that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah that they may receive admonition! O you children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden stripping them of their raiment to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a position where you cannot see them: We made the evil ones friends (only) to those without faith. (Qur’an 7:19-27)

On the question of pregnancy and childbirth, the Qur’an states:

And We have enjoined on the person (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear his/her and in years twain was his/her weaning: (hear the command) “Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal. (Qur’an 31:14)

We have enjoined on the person kindness to his/her parents: in pain did his/her mother bear him/her and in paid did she give him/her birth. The carrying of the (child) to his/her weaning is ( a period of) thirty months. At length when he/she reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years he/she says “O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to You and truly do I bow (to You) in Islam [submission].” (Qur’an 46:15)

5. Men and women have the same religious and moral duties and responsibilities. They both face the consequences of their deeds:

And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you be it male or female: you are members of one another …” (Qur’an 3:195)

If any do deeds of righteousness be they male or female and have faith they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them. (Qur’an 4:124)

For Muslim men and women and 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 (and deny themselves), 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. (Qur’an 33:35)

One Day shall you see the believing men and the believing women how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (their greeting will be): “Good news for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein for ever! This is indeed the highest Achievement!” (Qur’an 57:12)

6. Nowhere does the Qur’an state that one gender is superior to the other. Some mistakenly translate “qiwamah” or responsibility for the family as superiority. The Qur’an makes it clear that the sole basis for superiority of any person over another is piety and righteousness not gender, color, or nationality:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Qur’an 49:13)

7. The absence of women as prophets or “Messengers of Allah” in prophetic history is due to the demands and physical suffering associated with the role of messengers and prophets and not because of any spiritual inferiority.

III. The Economic Aspect

1. The Islamic Shariiah recognizes the full property rights of women before and after marriage. A married woman may keep her maiden name.

2. Greater financial security is assured for women. They are entitled to receive marital gifts, to keep present and future properties and income for their own security. No married woman is required to spend a penny from her property and income on the household. She is entitled to full financial support during marriage and during the waiting period (‘iddah) in case of divorce. She is also entitled to child support. Generally, a Muslim woman is guaranteed support in all stages of her life, as a daughter, wife, mother, or sister. These additional advantages of women over men are somewhat balanced by the provisions of the inheritance which allow the male, in most cases, to inherit twice as much as the female. This means that the male inherits more but is responsible financially for other females: daughters, wives, mother, and sister, while the female (i.e., a wife) inherits less but can keep it all for investment and financial security without any legal obligation so spend any part of it even for her own sustenance (food, clothing, housing, medication, etc.).

IV. The Social Aspect

First: As a Daughter

1. The Qur’an effectively ended the cruel pre-Islamic practice of female infanticide (wa’d):

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed. (Qur’an 81-8-9)

2. The Qur’an went further to rebuke the unwelcoming attitudes among some parents upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl, instead of a baby boy:

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child) his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hides himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on! (Qur’an 16:58-59)

3. Parents are duty bound to support and show kindness and justice to their daughters. Prophet Muhammad said:

Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, Allah will enter him into Paradise. [Ahmad]

Whosoever supports two daughters till they mature, he and I will come in the day of judgment as this (and he pointed with his two fingers held together).” [Ahmad]

4. Education is not only a right but also a responsibility of all males and females. Prophet Muhammad said:

Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim (“Muslim” is used here in the generic meaning which includes both males and females).

Second: As a Wife

1. Marriage in Islam is based on mutual peace, love, and compassion, not just the satisfaction of man’s needs:

And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Qur’an 30:21)

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Qur’an 42:11)

2. The female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals. Her consent is prerequisite to the validity of the marital contract according to the Prophet’s teaching. It follows that if by “arranged marriage” is meant marrying the girl without her consent, then such a marriage is nullifiable if she so wished.

Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice … (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it). (Ahmad, Hadeeth no. 2469). In another version, the girl said: “Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them.” [Ibn Majah]

3. The husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection, and overall headship of the family (qiwamah) within the framework of consultation and kindness. The mutual dependency and complementary of the roles of males and females does not mean “subservience” by either party to the other. Prophet Muhammad helped in household chores in spite of his busy schedule.

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child nor father on account of his child. An heir shall be chargeable in the same way if they both decide on weaning by mutual consent and after due consultation there is no blame on them. If you decide on a foster-mother for your offspring there is no blame on you provided you pay (the mother) what you offered on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what you do. (Qur’an 2:233)

The Qur’an urges husbands to be kind and considerate to heir wives even if they do not like them.

O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness that you may take away part of the marital gift you have given them except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings about though it a great deal of good. (Qur’an 4:19)

4. Prophet Muhammad taught:

I command you to be kind to women …

The best of you is the best to his family (wife) …

Marital disputes are to be handled privately between the parties whenever possible, in steps (without excesses or cruelty). If disputes are not resolved then family mediation can be resorted to.

Divorce is seen as the last resort, which is permissible but not encouraged. Under no circumstances does the Qur’an encourage, allow or condone family violence or physical abuse and cruelty. The maximum allowed in extreme cases is a gentle tap that does not even leave a mark on the body while saving the marriage from collapsing.

5. Forms of marriage dissolution include mutual agreement, the husband’s initiative, the wife’s initiative (if part of her marital contract), court decision on the wife’s initiative (for a cause), and the wife’s initiative without a cause provided that she returns the marital gift to her husband (khul’ [divestiture]).

6. Priority for custody of young children (up to the age of about seven) is given to the mother. A child later chooses between his mother and father (for custody purposes). Custody questions are to be settled in a manner that balances the interests of both parents and well-being of the child

Question of Polygyny (Polygamy)

1. One of the common myths is to associate polygyny with Islam as if it were introduced by Islam or is the norm according to its teachings. While no text in the Qur’an or Sunnah states that either monogamy or polygyny is the norm, demographic data indicates that monogamy is the norm and polygyny is the exception. In almost all countries and on the global level the numbers of men and women are almost even, with women’s numbers slightly more than men.

As such, it is a practical impossibility to regard polygyny as the norm since it assumes a demographic structure of at least two thirds females, and one third males (or 80 percent females and 20 percent males if four wives per male is the norm!). No Islamic “norm” is based on an impossible assumption.

2. Like many peoples and religions, however, Islam did not out-law polygyny but regulated it and restricted it. It is neither required nor encouraged, but simply permitted and not outlawed. Edward Westermarck gives numerous examples of the sanctioning of polygyny among Jews, Christians, and others.

3. The only passage in the Qur’an (4:3) which explicitly mentioned polygyny and restricted its practice in terms of the number of wives permitted and the requirement of justice between them was revealed after the Battle of Uhud in which dozens of Muslims were martyred leaving behind widows and orphans. This seems to indicate that the intent of its continued permissibility is to deal with individual and collective contingencies that may arise from time to time (i.e., imbalances between the number of males and females created by wars). This provides a moral, practical, and humane solution to the problems of widows and orphans who are likely to be more vulnerable in the absence of a husband/father figure to look after their needs: financial, companions, proper rearing, and other needs.

If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans marry women of your choice two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one … (Qur’an 4:3)

4. All parties involved have options: to reject marriage proposals as in the case of a proposed second wife or to seek divorce or khul’ (divestiture) as in the case of a present wife who cannot accept to live with a polygynous husband.

While the Qur’an allowed polygyny, it did not allow polyandry (multiple husbands of the same woman). Anthropologically speaking, polyandry is quite rare. Its practice raises thorny problems related to the lineal identity of children, and incompatibility of polyandry with feminine nature.

Third: As a Mother

1. Kindness to parents (especially mothers) is next to worship of Allah:

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in you life say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them but address them in terms of honor. (Qur’an 17:23)

And We have enjoined on the human (to be good) to his/her parents: in travail upon travail did his/her mother bear him/her and in years twain was his/her waning: (hear the command) “Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) destiny.” (Qur’an 31:14)

2. Mothers are accorded a special place of honor in Hadeeth too:

A man came to the Prophet Muhammad asking: O Messenger of Allah, who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said, your mother. The man said then who is next: the Prophet said, Your mother. The man further asked, Then who is next? Only then did the Prophet say, Your father. (al Bukhari)

Fourth: As a Sister in Faith (Generally)

1. According to the Prophet Muhammad’s saying:

Women are but sisters (or the other half) of men (shaqa’iq).

2. Prophet Muhammad taught kindness, care, and respect of women in general: “I command you to be kind to women”

Fifth: Issue of Modesty and Social Interaction

1. There exists, among Muslims a big gap between the ideal and the real. Cultural practices on both extremes do exist. Some Muslims emulate non-Islamic cultures and adopt the modes of dress, unrestricted mixing and behavior resulting in corrupting influences of Muslims and endangering the family’s integrity and strength. On the other hand, in some Muslim cultural undue and excessive restrictions if not seclusion are believed to be the ideal. Both extremes seem to contradict the normative teachings of Islam and are not consistent with the virtuous yet participative nature of the society at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

2. Parameters of proper modesty for males and females (dress and behavior) are based on revelatory sources (the Qur’an and authentic Sunnah) and as such are seen by believing men and women as divinely-based guidelines with legitimate aims, and divine wisdom behind them. They are not male-imposed or socially imposed restrictions.

3. The notion of near total seclusion of women is alien to the prophetic period. Interpretation problems in justifying seclusion reflect, in part, cultural influences and circumstances in different Muslim countries.

V. The Legal/Political Aspect

1. Both genders are entitled to equality before the law and courts of law. Justice is genderless.

Most references to testimony (witness) in the Qur’an do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and female.

And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence but their own their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a life. But it would avert the punishment from the wife is she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth. (Qur’an 24:6-9)

One reference in the Qur’an distinguishes between the witness of a male and a female. It is useful to quote this reference and explain it in its own context and in the context of other references to testimony in the Qur’an.

O you who believe! When you deal with each other in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate but let him fear his Lord Allah and not diminish aught of what he owes. If the party liable is mentally deficient or weak or unable himself to dictate let his guardian dictate faithfully. And get two witnesses out of your own men and if there are not two men then a man and two women such as you choose for witnesses so that if one of them errs the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period whether it be small or big: it is just in the sight of Allah more suitable as evidence and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves; but if it be a transaction which you carry out on the spot among yourselves there is no blame on you if you reduce it not to writing. But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If you do (such harm) it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; for it is Allah that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. (Qur’an 2:282)

A few comments on this text are essential in order to prevent common misinterpretations:

  • It cannot be used as an argument that there is a general rule in the Qur’an that the worth of a female’s witness is only half the male’s. This presumed “rule” is voided by the earlier reference (24:6-9) which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders in the issue at hand.
  • The context of this passage (ayah) relates to the testimony on financial transactions which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make a blanket generalization which would otherwise contradict 24:6-9 cited earlier.
  • The reason for variations in the number of male and female witnesses required is given in the same passage. No reference was made to the inferiority or superiority of one gender’s witness or the other’s. The only reason given is to corroborate the female’s witness and prevent unintended errors in the perception of the business deal. The Arabic term used in this passage (tadhilla) means literally “loses the way,” “gets confused or errs.” But are females the only gender that may err and need corroboration of their testimony? Definitely not, and this is why the general rule of testimony in Islamic law is to have two witnesses even if they are both males. This leaves us with only one reasonable interpretation that in an ideal Islamic society as envisioned by Islamic teachings the female members will give priority to their feminine functions as wives, mothers, and pioneers of charitable works. This emphasis, while making them more experienced in the inner function of the family and social life, may not give them enough exposure and experience to business transactions and terminology, as such a typical Muslim woman in a truly Islamic society will not normally be present when business dealings are negotiated and if may present may not fully understand the dealings. In such a case, corroboration by two women witnesses helps them remind one another and as such give an accurate account of what happened.
  • It is useful to remember that it is the duty of a fair judge, in a particular case, to evaluate the credibility, knowledge and experience of any witness and the specific circumstances of the case at hand.

2. The general rule in social and political life is participation and collaboration of males and female in public affairs:

The believers, men and women, are protectors one of another; they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (Qur’an 9:71)

3. Now there is sufficient historical evidence of participation by Muslim women in the choice of rulers, in public issues, in lawmaking, in administrative positions, in scholarship and teaching, and even in the battlefield. Such involvement in social and political affairs was done without losing sight of the complementary priorities of both genders and without violating Islamic guidelines of modesty and virtue.

4. There is no text in the Qur’an or the Sunnah that precludes women from any position of leadership, except in leading prayer due to the format of prayer as explained earlier and the headship of state (based on the common and reasonable interpretation of Hadeeth).

The head of state in Islam is not a ceremonial head. He leads public prayers in some occasions, constantly travels and negotiates with officials of other states (who are mostly males). He may be involved in confidential meetings with them. Such heavy involvement and its necessary format may not be consistent with Islamic guidelines related to the interaction between the genders and the priority of feminine functions and their value to society. Furthermore, the conceptual and philosophical background of the critics of this limited exclusion is that of individualism, ego satisfaction, and the rejection of the validity of divine guidance in favor of other man-made philosophies, values, or “ism.” The ultimate objective of a Muslim man or woman is to selflessly serve Allah and the ummah in whatever appropriate capacity.


1. Textual injunctions on gender equity and the prophetic model are sometimes disregarded by some if not most Muslims individually and collectively. Revision of practices (not divine injunctions) is needed. It is not the revelatory Qur’an and the Sunnah that need any editing or revision. What needs to be reexamined are fallible human interpretations and practices.

2. Diverse practice in Muslim countries often reflect cultural influences (local or foreign), more so than the letter or spirit of the Shariiah.

3. Fortunately, there is an emerging trend for the betterment of our understanding of gender equity, based on the Qur’an and Hadeeth, not on alien and imported un-Islamic or non-Islamic values and not on the basis of the existing oppressive and unjust status quo in many parts of the Muslim world.


1. The term equity is used instead of the common expression ‘equality” which is sometimes mistakenly understood to mean absolute equality in each and every detailed item of comparison rather than the overall equality. Equity is used here to mean justice and overall equality of the totality of rights and responsibilities of both genders. It does allow for the possibility of variations in specific items within the overall balance and equality. It is analogous to two persons possessing diverse currencies amounting, for each person to the equivalence of US$1000. While each of the two persons may possess more of one currency than the other, the total value still comes to US$1000 in each case. It should be added that from an Islamic perspective, the roles of men and women are complementary and cooperative rather than competitive.

2. The Sunnah refers to the words, actions, and confirmations (con-sent) of the Prophet Muhammad in matters pertaining to the meaning and practice of Islam. Another common term which some authorities consider to be equivalent to the Sunnah is the Hadeeth (plural: Ahadeeth) which literally means “sayings.”

3. In both Qur’anic references, 15:29 and 32:7, the Arabic terms used are basharan and al Insaun both mean a human being or a person. English translations do not usually convey this meaning and commonly use the terms “man” or the pronoun” him” to refer to “person” without a particular gender identification. Equally erroneous is the common translation of Bani Adam into “sons of Adam” or “men” instead of a more accurate term “children of Adam.”

4. The emphasis is ours. The explanatory “both”{ was added whenever the Qur’anic Arabic text addresses Adam and Eve, like “lahoma, akala, akhrajahoma.” This was done in order to avoid misinterpreting the English term “you” to mean an address to a singular person. For the Biblical version of the story and its implications, see The Holy Bible, RSV, American Bible Society, New York: 1952: Genesis, chapters 2-3, especially 3:6, 12, 17-17; Levi-ticus 12:1-7; 15:19- 30; and Timothy 2:11-14.

5. A common question raised in the West is whether a Muslim woman can be ordained as a priest as more “liberal” churches do? It should be remembered that there is no “church” or “priesthood” in Islam. The question of “ordaining” does not arise. However, most of the common “priestly” functions such as religious education, spiritual and social counseling are not forbidden to Muslim women in a proper Islamic context. A woman, however, may not lead prayers since Muslim prayers involve prostrations and body contact. Since the prayer leader is supposed to stand in front of the congregation and may move forward in the middle of crowded rows, it would be both inappropriate and uncomfortable for a female to be in such a position and prostrate, hands, knees and forehead on the ground with rows of men behind here. A Muslim woman may be an Islamic scholar, In the early days of Islam, there were several examples of female scholars who taught both genders.

6. This contrast with the legal provisions in Europe which did not recognize the right until nearly 13 centuries after Islam. “By a series of acts starting with the Married Women’s Property Act in 1879, amended in 1882 and 1997, married women achieved the right to won property and to enter into contracts on a par with spinsters, widows, and divorcees.” See Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968, vol. 23, p. 624.

7. This period is usually three months. If the wife is pregnant, it extends until childbirth.

8. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (compiler), Musnad Ibn Hanbal, Dar al Ma’arif, Cairo: 1950 and 1955, vols. 3 and 4. Hadith nos. 1957 and 2104.

9. Narrated in Al Bayhaqi and Ibn Majah, quoted in M. S. Aftfi, Al Martah wa Huququhafi al Islam (in Arabic), Maktabat al Nahdhah, Cairo: 1988, p. 71.

10. Ibn Majah (compiler), Sunan Ibn Majah, Dar Ihya’ al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo: 1952, vol. 1, Hadith #1873.

11. Matn al Bukhari, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 257.

12. Riyad al Saliheen, op. cit, pp. 140.

13. In the event of a family dispute, the Qur’an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects. If the problem relates to the wife’s behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however where a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one. Following is the related Qur’anic text:

Men are the protectors and maintains of women because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (Qur’an 4:34)

Even here, the maximum measure is limited by the following:

a) It must be seen as a rare exception to the repeated exhortation of mutual respect, kindness and good treatment discussed earlier. Based on the Qur’an and Hadeeth, this measure may be used in the case of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband’s reasonable requests on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then other measures such as exhortation should be tried first.

b) As defined by the Hadeeth, it is not permissible to strike anyone’s face, cause any bodily harm or even be harsh. What the Hadeeth qualified as dharban ghayra mubarrih or light beating was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolical) use of the miswak (a small natural toothbrush).

They further qualified permissible “beating” as beating that leaves no mark on the body. It is interesting that this latter fourteen centuries old qualifier is the criterion used in contemporary American law to separate a light and harmless tap or strike from “abuse” in the legal sense. This makes it clear that even this extreme, last resort and “lesser of the two evils” measure that may save the marriage does not meet the definitions of “physical abuse,” “family violence,” of “wife battering” in the twentieth century laws in liberal democracies, where such extremes are commonplace that they are seen as national concerns.

c) Permissibility of such symbolical expression of the seriousness of continued refraction does not imply its desirability. In several Ahadeeth, Prophet Muhammad discouraged this measure. Among his sayings: “Do not beat the female servants of Allah,” “Some (women visited my family complaining about their husbands (beating them). These (husbands) are not the best of you,” “[Is it not a shame that], one of you beats his wife like [an unscrupulous person] beats a slave and maybe he sleeps with her at the end of the day.” See Riyad Al Saliheen, op cit., pp. 130-140. In another Hadeeth, the Prophet said:

How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?” Shaheeh Al Bukhari, op. cit., vol. 8, Hadeeth no. 68, pp. 42-43.

d) True following of the Sunnah is to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad, who never resorted to that measure regardless of the circumstances.

e) Islamic teachings are universal in nature. They respond to the needs and circumstances of diverse times, cultures, and circumstances but unnecessary in others. Some measures may work in some cases, cultures, or with certain persons but may not be effective in others. By definition a “permissible” it is neither required encouraged, or forbidden. In fact, it may be better to spell out the extent of permissibility such as in the issue at hand, than leaving it unrestricted and unqualified or ignoring it all together. In the absence of strict qualifiers, persons may interpret the matter in their own way lending to excesses and real abuse.

f) Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any “Muslim” can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur’an and Hadeeth). Such excesses and violations are to be blamed on the person(s) himself as it shows that he is paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and is failing to follow the true sunnah of the Prophet.

14. For more details on marriage dissolution and custody of children, see A. Abd al Ati, Family Structure in Islam, Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1977, pp. 217-49.

15. For more details on the issue of polygyny, see Jamal A. Badawi, Polygyny in Islamic Law, Plainfield, IN: American Trust Publications, also Islamic Teachings (audio series), Islamic Information Foundation, 1982, album IV.

16. See for example, Edward A. Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, 4th ed. (London: Macmlllan, 1925), vol 3, pp. 42-43; also Encyclopedia BibRca, Rev. T. K. Cheyene and J. S. Black, eds.) (London: Macmillan, 1925), vol. 3, p 2946.

17. A. M. B. 1. Al- Bukhari (compiler) Matn al Bukhari, Cairo: Dar Ihya al Kutub al Arabiyah, n.d., vol. 3 Kitab al Adab, p. 47. Translated by the author. For a similar English translation of this Hadeeth, see Sahih al Bukhari translated by M. M. Khan Maktabat al Riyadh al Hadeethah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, i982, colt 8, the Book of ai Adab, Hadeeth no. 2, p. 2.

18. Narrated by Aisha, collected by Ibn Asakir in Silsilat Kunaz al Sunnah 1, Al./ami Al Sagheer, Ist ed. 1410 AH. A computer program.

19. Riyadh al Saliheen, op. cit., p. 139.


I. The Qur’an and Hadeeth

1. The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary by A. Y. Ali, The American Trust Publication, Plainfield, IN 1977.

2. Matn al Bukhari, Al Bukhari (compiler), Dar Ihya al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo, Egypt, n.d.

3. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hanbal (compiler), Dar Ihya’ al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo Egypt, 1950 and 1955.

4. Riyadh al Saliheen, Al Nawawi, (compiler) New Delhi, India n.d.

5. Sahih Al Bukhari, M. Khan (translator), Maktabat Al Riaydh Al Hadeethah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 1982.

6. Silsilat Kunuz Al Sunnah: Al-Jami al Sagheer, 1st ea., 1410 AH, a computer software.

7. Sunan Ibn Majah, Dar Ihya al Kutub al Arabiyah, Cairo: 1952.

II. Other References

1. Al Martah wa Huququha fi al Islam, M. S. Aftfi, Maktabat AlNadhhah, Cairo: 1988.

2. Holy Bible, RSV, American Bible Society, New York: 1952.

3. Encyclopedia Biblica, vol. 3, Rev. T. K. Cheyene and J. S. Black, editors, London: Machollan, 1925.

4. Encyclopedia Britanica, Vol. 23, 1968

5. The History of Human Marriage, vol. 3, Edward A. Westermarck, London: Macmillan, 1925

The various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) are all so sublime, that in the matter of choice, a writer on the subject soon finds himself baffled and selection becomes very nearly impossible. In consideration of present day needs, however, I wish to take up that side of the Holy Prophet’s life which concerns the way in which he purged the world of that form of utter slavery which had been for all time the curse of humanity. I mean the slavery of women.

Before the advent of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) women in all countries were in the position of slaves and chattels, and their slavery could not but have reacted adversely even on men; for sons of slaves cannot assimilate the spirit of freedom.

There is no doubt woman, either because of her beauty or because of her sterling character, has always been able, in individual cases, to dominate over men, but freedom thus obtained could not be termed true freedom, for the simple reason that it was not hers by way of right. It was only a matter of exception to the general rule, and freedom which is exceptional, can hardly lead to the culture of true aspirations.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had his advent about 1,350 years ago. Before his time, no religion or nation afforded to woman such freedom as she could use by way of right. Of course in countries where no law prevailed, she was free from all disabilities. Yet even this kind of freedom cannot be called true freedom. It is rather described as license. True freedom is that which is reaped out of a state of civilization and conformity to law. The sort of freedom we get when we break the bounds of the law is not freedom at all because such freedom does not generate any strength of character.


At the time of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and before, woman was placed in a condition in which she was not the owner of her property; her husband was regarded as the owner of her property. She did not have a share in the property of her father. Nor could she inherit the property of her husband, though in some cases she had the right of managing it during the husband’s lifetime. When married, she was either assigned to her husband for good as his property, and in no circumstances could she be separated from him; or in the alternative, it was given to the husband to divorce her but not given to her to separate herself from the husband, however afflicted she might have been.

Should the husband desert her, cease to discharge his obligations towards her or run away from her, there was no law to protect her. It was obligatory on her to be resigned to her lot, and work for a living both for herself and her children. The husband was entitled, out of bad temper, to beat his wife; she was not to raise a voice against it. Should the husband die, the wife, in some countries, fell into the hands of her husband’s relatives, who could then marry her to whomsoever they liked, either in charity or in return of some benefits received. In some places, on the other hand, she was merely the property of her husband. Some husbands would sell their wives or lose them in gambling and betting, and when they did so, they were all considered to be within their rights.

A woman had no right over her children whether in her position of dependence as wife, or in a position of independence of her husband. In domestic affairs she had no privilege. Even in religion she had no status. Of the abiding spiritual blessings, she was to have no share. In consequence, husbands used to squander the property of their wives and abandon them without providing for their subsistence. She could not, even out of her own property, give away, in charity, or help her relatives except with the consent of her husband, and a husband who looked with greed on the property of his wife could hardly give his consent in such a matter.

Of the property of her parents, to whom children are bound by a most deep and affectionate tie, woman was deprived of all share. And yet daughters have as much claim on their parents as have the sons. Parents who out of a sense of justice, would give away during their lifetime some of their property to their daughters, prepared only for strife in their families. It would not occur to the sons that after the parent’s death they (the sons) would inherit the whole of their property (and therefore should not grudge their sisters receiving occasional gifts from their parents); all they considered was that their sisters, for the time being were having more than they.

Of the property, similarly, of her husband — with whom a wife has the relation of complete union — woman was again, deprived altogether. Distant relatives of the husband could each claim a share, but not the wife — one, indeed, who was the possessor of his confidence, a life-long partner of his and whose labour and care must have so largely contributed to his income. On the other hand, when she managed all her husband’s property, she did not have any genuine right over any portion of it. While she could spend out of the income of that property she could not dispose any part of it. In acts of charity, therefore, she was prevented from taking part in the manner she liked.

When the husband oppressed his wife, she could not be separated from him. In communities in which separation was at all possible, it was on conditions under which self-respecting women preferred death to separation. For instance, a condition of separation was that proof should be furnished establishing the misconduct of either party, as well as ill treatment on the part of the husband. What was still worse was that in cases in which it was impossible for a woman to live with her husband instead of complete separation, she was only allowed to live apart, a state of living which itself is a form of torture, for in this way she was compelled to lead an empty, purposeless life.

In some cases it happened that while the husband could divorce his wife whenever he liked, the wife in no case could demand a divorce. If the husband deserted her, or abandoned the country without providing for her, she was obliged to linger through life without the right to devote herself usefully to her country or community. Married life, instead of being a life of happiness, became for her a life of misery. Her obligation it was, not only to undertake the duties of her husband and of herself but also to wait for her husband. The duty of the husband, namely to find a living for the household, became hers, as also her own duty, the care and upbringing of her children?mental discomfort on the one hand, and material responsibilities on the other.

All this, in short, was tolerated in the case of this poor, unprotected creature. Women were beaten and considered the property of their husbands. When the husbands died, widows were forcefully married to the relatives of their husbands, or else sold for money. In fact, husbands themselves sold away their wives. Indian princes like the Panawas lost their wife (there was one for many) in gambling, and against the law of the land, a noble princess like Dropadi could not raise the slightest voice.

In the education or upbringing of their children, the mothers were not consulted and they had no rights over their children. If the father and mother separated, the children were handed over to the father. Woman had nothing to do with the household. Whenever the husband liked, he could drive her out of the house, and she was condemned to wander about homelessly.


By the advent of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) all these iniquities were wiped away, as it were, with one stroke. He declared that God had particularly entrusted to him the task of safeguarding the rights of women.

He proclaimed in the name of God that man and woman by virtue of their humanity, were the equal of each other, and when they lived together, just as man had certain rights over woman, so had woman certain rights over man. Women could own property in the same way as men. A husband had no right to use the property of his wife, as long as the wife, of her own free will, did not let him have some of it. To seize her property by force, or in a manner which made it doubtful whether her natural shyness had not stood in the way of her refusal, was wrong. Whatever the husband of his own free will should give away to the wife, would be the property of the wife and the husband would not be able to take it back from her. She was to inherit the property of her parents just as well as her brothers. Only considering that all the family responsibilities fall on man, and woman’s concern is her own self alone, her share was to be one half of the share of man, that is, out of the property of their (deceased) parents.

Similarly a mother was to have a share in the property of her (deceased) son as well as the father. Only according to differing circumstances and the nature of her responsibilities in particular cases, she was to have a share at times equal to, and at times less than that of the father. On the death also of her husband she was to inherit, whether or not there were any children, because she was not to be condemned to a state of dependence on others.

Her marriage (it was granted) is, without doubt, a holy alliance, which, after man and woman have cultivated mutual intimacy to the extreme, it is very detestable to break. However, it cannot be that, even after a frightful divergence of nature has been found between the parties, or in spite of a religious, physical, economic, social or mental discrepancy between them, they should be compelled, in the interest of sheer alliance, to ruin their lives and kill the purpose of their existence.

When differences of this kind appear, and man and woman agree that they cannot live together, they can (it was taught), by mutual consent, revoke the alliance. If, however, only the husband should take this view, but not the wife, and if they fail to adjust themselves to each other, their affairs should be considered by a committee of two members, one representing the husband and the other the wife. If the committee should decide that the parties should yet make an effort to live together, it would be worthwhile on their part to try to settle their differences in the way recommended by the committee. Then if the understanding along this line should prove impossible, the husband could divorce the wife, but in such a case he would have no right to the return of whatever he might have (before divorce) given away to her, including the full value of mahr (marriage settlement).

If, on the other hand, the wife should seek separation, and not the husband, she should apply to the Qazi (Judge), and if the Qazi is satisfied that there is no unfair motive behind her application, he should order her separation. Only in such a case she will make over to the husband such of his property as had been entrusted to her, as also the value of mahr (marriage settlement). Should the husband fail to fulfil his marital obligations or cease to speak to her, or should ask her to sleep apart, he should not be able to go beyond a certain limit of time. If he persists for four months in this kind of treatment, he should be compelled either to reform himself or to divorce her.

Should he stop the allowances due to the wife or go away from her and no longer take care of her, their marriage should be regarded as null and void. (Three years have been assigned as the limit of the period of abandonment by Muslim jurists). The wife would now be free to marry again.

The husband was always to be responsible for the maintenance of his wife and children. He was to exercise only appropriate discipline, but should this discipline ever take the form of punishment, he should have proper witnesses and declare her guilt and base his judgment on evidence. Punishment should not leave any permanent ill effects behind.

A husband does not own his wife. He cannot sell her, nor reduce her to the office of domestic drudge. His wife shares with him the amenities of the household, and his treatment of her will have to correspond to the position to which he himself belongs. A treatment which is below that which should belong to the status of the husband would be wrong.

On the death of her husband, his people were to have no right over her. She would be free, and a suitable opportunity occurring, she would have the right to marry again. Nobody can stop her from doing so. Nor can a widow be compelled to live in a particular place. Only for about four months and ten days, she would live in her husband’s house, so that all those conditions which can have a bearing on her rights and on those of her husband’s people, should have time to manifest themselves.

For a year after the death of her husband a widow, whatever else is due to her, is to have in addition, the use of her husband’s house, so that she should be able, out of what has been left to her, to make arrangements for her residence.

Should the husband find himself not on good terms with his wife, he himself is to keep out of the house, not ask his wife to go out of it, because the household is supposed to be the possession of the wife. In the upbringing of the children, woman has her part. She is to be consulted.

In the matter of children, her interest is not to be ignored in any way. Wet nursing, general caretaking, are to depend on her advice. If husband and wife, finding it impossible any more to live together, should want to separate from each other, the care of the small children should be entrusted to the mother. When they grow up, they should for purpose of education, come back to the father. As long as the children live with their mother, maintenance would be provided for by the father. The father would also pay for the time and labour the mother would have to spend on account of the children.

Woman, in short, was to have an independent status. All the spiritual rewards were to be open to her. She was to command the highest excellences of life after death and even in this life she could take part in the different departments of civil administration. In this regard she was to have the same consideration paid to her claims as that accorded to man.


This is the teaching which the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) promulgated at a time when the standards of the world were altogether opposed to it. Through these injunctions, he reclaimed women from the slavery which had been their lot for thousands of years, to which they were forced in every land, and the yoke of which every religion had put on their neck. One man, in one time, cut asunder all these chains of serfdom! Bringing freedom to mothers, he at the same time saved their children from slavish sentiments, and provided for the germination and nourishment of great ambition and high resolve!

However, the world did not value the teachings. What was indeed a boon, it branded as tyranny. Divorce and separation it regarded as strife, inheritance as ruining the family, independence of woman as means of the disruption of domestic life. For thirteen hundred years, it went on ridiculing, in its blindness, the things which this one man who could see, had communicated to mankind for their good. It went on condemning his teachings as against human nature. Then came the time when the exquisiteness of the word of God (transmitted through the Holy Prophet) should reveal itself. The very peoples who looked upon themselves as the bearers of civilization, began to obey the civilizing injunctions of the Holy Prophet. Everyone of these peoples in turn, changed their laws in increasing conformity to the principles preached by the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace).

The English Law which required misconduct, ill treatment and beating on the part of either party as essential conditions of divorce, was changed in 1923. Misconduct by itself was accepted by the new law as a sufficient excuse for divorce.

New Zealand decided, in 1912, that a wife who has been insane for seven years, should have her marriage dissolved. In 1925, it further ruled that if either husband or wife should not discharge his or her marital obligations, they could be allowed a divorce or separation. If three years elapse without one caring for the other, divorce was in order. A good imitation of Muslim jurists, of course, but made after 1,300 years of attacks on Islam!

In the Australian State of Queensland, insanity of five years’ duration was regarded as a sufficient reason for divorce. In Tasmania, a law was passed in 1919 that misconduct, desertion for four years, drunkenness, indifference for three years, imprisonment, beating, insanity, should, one and all, be sufficient conditions of divorce. In Victoria, law was passed in 1923 that should a husband fail to look after his wife for three years, be guilty of misconduct, refuse allowances, or ill-treat his wife, divorce would be possible. Further, it was granted that imprisonment, beating, misconduct on the part of the wife, insanity, unfair treatment and constant strife shall be sufficient excuses for divorce or separation.

In Western Australia, besides the laws outlined above, the marriage of a pregnant woman has been declared to be void. (Islam, too, holds the same view).

In the island of Cuba it was decided in 1918 that forcing into misconduct, beating, using foul language, undergoing conviction, drunkenness, gambling habit, failure to discharge obligations, refusing allowances, infectious disease, or mutual agreement, shall be accepted as sufficient conditions for divorce or separation.

Italy enacted in 1919 that a woman shall have rights over her property. She can spend out of it in charity or sell it as she likes (Up to this time, in Europe, she was not recognized as the owner of her own property).

In Mexico, too, the above conditions have been accepted as being sufficient for divorce. Besides, mutual agreement has also been accepted as sufficient. This law has been passed in 1917. Portugal in 1915, Norway in 1909, Sweden in 1920, and Switzerland in 1912, have passed laws by which divorce and separation have been made permissible. In Sweden, a father is compelled by law to provide, at least up to eighteen years, for the maintenance of every child of his.

In the United States of America although the law of the land continues to maintain the right of a father over his child, yet in practice the judges have begun to pay regard to the susceptibilities of mothers, and a father is now even compelled to pay for the children (living with their mother). There are, of course many drawbacks in their law. Even though, the man’s rights have been more strictly guarded, woman is being allowed to exercise right over the property. At the same time, in many States it has been passed that if the husband should become a permanent invalid, his wife will have to provide for him.

Women are now being granted the right to vote, and avenues are being opened by which they can come to have a voice in matters of national concern. Yet all these things are coming after full thirteen hundred years have passed since the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) promulgated his teachings. There are many things which yet await coming. In many countries a woman has still no share in the inheritance of either her parents or her husband. Similarly, in several other matters Islam continues to provide guidance to the world, though the world has not acknowledged such guidance. The time is not distant, however, when the world will accept the guidance coming from the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in these matters as it has already done in others, and which the Holy Prophet initiated on behalf of the freedom of women will bring forth its fruits to the full.

There is a deep-seated concern about the tragic plight of our Muslims and their vile social habits displayed to their “close supposedly loved ones”

Many homes are burning with the flames of anger, arguments and fights. Emotional and physical abuse have become a norm in many a Muslim domain. Women are often on the receiving end of this painful, resentful plight. To add to the pain her confidence and self-esteem are broken down to such an extent that she is often made to be the guilty party.

Why does she stay in the situation?

The violence/abuse cycle continues. A build up of anger from the husband…she treads on eggshells not to upset him … tension mounts. And over a small issue…and the storm erupts- Anger, violence, beating, abuse – screams, shouts, blood, weeping and children terrified, hearts broken, palpitating with fear…. The storm subsides ….the honeymoon period of apologies, chocolates, flowers, pleas of forgiveness or just a plateau of kindness.

The wife stays because of children? Shelter? Fear of rejection of families? Etc.

Our beloved Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), our great leader and guide, expressed such concern even in his last sermon. So MEN take heed.. Women are an Amanat…-Treat them with love, care and kindness and overlook their faults for perchance Allah Ta’ala may love something in them.

To the Women! The Oppressed! The Abused!

“Never despair in the mercy of Allah Ta’ala” Allah Himself gives women hope.

With sincere repentance from all sins, turn to our Beloved, Kind, Merciful, Loving Creator.

Make an effort to change in all aspects of life, from giving up sins, to correct dressing, from abstaining from watching haraam programmes, movies or music and other sinful habits.

Build your love and fear of Allah Ta’ala and confidence as a beautiful strong Muslim Woman.

Seek correct help and good counsel to resolve your problem.

Pray, Supplicate, raise your hands for Dua!

Allah lifts the Dua of the oppressed above the clouds and opens onto it the doors of Heaven, and Allah says: “I swear by My Honour, verily I shall assist you even though it may be after some time”

Supplicate with your precious tears for everything you desire (halaal) in a positive manner.

And Resign to the WILL OF ALLAH TA’ALA the Most Caring, Compassionate and Merciful.

Your options if suffering from violence

It most certainly hurts seeing another sister going through the pain of physical and verbal abuse and unhappiness. You sound as if your confidence and self-esteem is broken. From what you say is inflicted on you, is most certainly unacceptable in Islaam. In fact when Zulm (oppression) is inflicted on a person, your duas reach Allah Ta’ala above the heavens and your duas are surely answered even if not immediately.

However from the ayaats recited in the Nikah khutba (from the Quraan), strong warning is given to the believers to fear Allah and not to do things that would displease Him. Furthermore one of the ayaats instructs men “to treat the women with kindness” (exemplary character/good conduct).

However despite the instructions and warnings in the Quraan and Hadith, it is sad that man persists in disobedience to his Creator and harms the creation. May Allah forgive him and guide him.

Nevertheless, there are possible solutions.

Firstly assess your situation – have you thought of possible options to stop the abuse? Say no? Protect your self? All with the intention of firmly stopping – not fighting back neither submitting and allowing out of fear? Try but ensure that you are near on exit to allow easy escape and inform some reliable neighbour, friend or family. Alternately seek intervention of a sound balanced just family member from your side to speak to someone on his side to jointly put a stop to the abuse and to build love, care and family bonding between you both. Seek intervention of a caring, rightly guided Aalim.

At the same time build your confidence by pondering on your beauty and positive qualities Allah Ta’ala has bestowed you with. Beautify yourself, indulge and spoil yourself to uplift your moods eg. Be it a new look (within something that you wanted pleasing to you etc.).

Become strong and believe you are good, smart and beautiful. Insha-Allah your husband would take interest in this new positive attitude and outlook.

Should all attempts fail perhaps seek temporary separation – not divorce with the intention of some elderly family member or Aalim. Try resolving and discussing with your husband possible options and solutions during this separation, to resolving your disputes with commitment.

However if you still consider divorce, look at long-term outcomes and feasibility. Would you manage? What is the need to separate? Would you manage financially? How would you manage? What about effects of divorce on the children? Was there ever a time that your husband was good to you and never beat you up? Is there then a possibility that he could change? Is he having an affair? Does he suffer from an inferiority complex? Or has he had a disturbing past or unfortunate experience? Was he beaten up as a child or learnt this habit from his father or other family members? Is there a financial problem?

May Allah Ta’ala resolve your difficulties, grant you the great reward of Sabr that you have made and are making and grant you lifelong happiness in this world and the next. Ameen!!!

What can you do?

Majority of Muslim men beating their wives, take cover of Quranic verses mentioning beating women. By doing so, they commit a bigger wrong of interpreting Quran for their own sinful purposes. The whole purpose of such verses was to make sure Allah’s orders are implemented, not played in hands of such violent men. It is a crime against humanity, and Allah’s shariat allows a woman to take the revenge as permissible by the Islamic courts of law (shariat) and Islamic principles of criminal justice.

Further, Islam comes to help such oppressed women by offering them an option to get divorce via Khulaa as mentioned above. You should seek a help from a Muslim lawyer, scholar, Police or any law authority to seek justice in this regard. Those committing such a heinous crime in the name of Islam are simply doing nothing, but earning hell for themselves forever. They must be brought to justice on this earth and hereafter.

If there is any such problem and you don’t find anyone to help you, get in touch with us so that we can guide you to the right direction for solving this problem at our earliest. Our contact information is displayed on this website as well.

If you wish to help her in such a situation!

This is addressed to one who sees a woman being oppressed or a victim of such violence and he/she wishes to help her.

For a woman in an abusive cycle you would need extra patience and need to give her your utmost support. You won’t understand her need to be in this vicious cycle for that is currently what her life of normality is. However in this time she would have lost herself confidence and self-esteem, asking herself ‘What is wrong with me?’

Help her by talking positively about her beauty, her good characteristics, her achievements. HELP HER ENJOY NATURE, IT SEEMS THAT SHE MAY BE UNDERGOING DEPRESSION. GET HER OUT OF HER DARK CORNERS HER HOME/ ROOM TAKE HER TO ENJOY A MEAL. Encourage her with positive people who would laugh and smile, encourage her to some craftwork, or home business. Help her to find alternatives to her present condition. Present to her the options if she lives with him will he change, is there a possibility will she have the capability to bear with patience sabr and make attempts to reconcile, or what of the option of separation? Will she be able to move on with her life? Allowing herself to develop emotionally and socially? Would she be able to maintain herself? Perchance she may be better off and more stable?

Pose the options and let her decide. You don’t tell her what to do. In the interim advise her to obtain her legal documents, important items, monies, etc. left at her place, should she decide to go for a separation. Also to note since some husband is a drug addict or a criminal in nature, the possibility of him requiring large sums of monies is there, hence valuable items should also be removed.

Teach her skills on defending herself in an abusive situation if he does approach her. The honeymoon period after an abusive situation is what melts her heart to have the hope but the cycle continues. Assess her need for staying in the situation: Is it society, Not comfortable in parents home feeling like a dependant, Need to be loved and security and finance?

Encourage her with excellent choice of turning to Allah Ta’ala – “The duas of an oppressed person reaches the throne of Allah Ta’ala.”

“Do not grieve Allah Ta’ala is with you.”. How fortunate as with you. Help her develop and focus on becoming the beloved of Allah Ta’ala. Man lets you down, but Allah Ta’ala will never let you down.

And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best.

Khula is an Arabic term, which is derived from the root Khal’a, which means to “remove”.

In the terminology of Shariah (Islamic Jurisprudence) it refers to the termination of a Nikah (marriage) in exchange for something using the word Khula. (Fathul Qadeer v.4 pg.58)

Khula is just like any other mutual transaction, which is contracted by offer and acceptance.

If a woman, after having tried, cannot come to common grounds with her husband, and all avenues of reconciliation have been exhausted, then she may ask her husband for Talaaq (divorce). The husband in such circumstances should be reasonable and issue the talaaq.

The method of talaaq is to say to the wife, “I have divorced you,” when she is not in the state of menses and the husband has not copulated with her in that clean period. Thereafter, he should allow her to complete the Iddat. It is very unfortunate to note that many people are unaware of these rulings and their implications and in extreme anger blurt out the dreaded words of talaaq thrice. There is only regret as the husband and wife cannot reconcile unless she marries someone else, consummates that marriage and the second husband thereafter issues her a talaaq should that marriage not work out.

However, if the husband is not happy to issue a talaaq then the wife has the option of offering a monetary exchange or anything of value in lieu of divorce. If the husband accepts, then the wife will be free of the marriage bond. The Hanafi Jurists have counted Khula as Talaaq-e-Baain (irrevocable Talaaq). The procedure for Khula would be, the wife should say to her husband, “Release me of my marriage by way of Khula in exchange of eg. R1000.” The husband will then say, “I have released you from the marriage by way of Khula.”

Allah Ta’ala says in the Holy Quran:

“If you fear that they (husband and wife) are not able to keep the limits ordained by Allah, then there is no sin on either of them in that which the wife gives (in lieu of freedom). These are the limits ordained by Allah. And whosoever transgresses the limits of Allah, then such are the wrong-doers.”

(Surah Al Baqara verse 229)

Allah Ta’ala clearly states that there is no harm for the wife in such a case to pay something for a divorce.

Ibne Abbas (radiyallahu anhuma) reports that the wife of (the Sahabi) Thabit ibne Qays (radiyallahu anhu) came to Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and said, “O Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), I have no complaints about the character and piety of Thabit, but I fear ungratefulness (of my husband) after accepting Islam.” Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) asked her, “Are you prepared to return to him his garden, (which he had given as mahr)?”

She replied in the affirmative. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) then asked Thabit (radiyallahu anhu) to accept the garden and divorce her.

(Sahih Al Bukhari)

This Hadith also clearly expresses the permissibility of Khula.

The Fuqaha (Jurists) have mentioned: –

1. The husband should not ask for more than what he had given as mahr if the wife is at fault.

2. It is highly reprehensible for the husband to take anything if he is at fault. This is based on Verse no. 20 of Surah An-Nisaa, which states: –

And if you intend to replace a wife by another and you have given one of them a qintaar (great amounts) (as Mahr), take not the least bit of it back. Would you take it wrongfully without a right and (with) a manifest sin.”

It is commonly heard nowadays that husbands demand thousands of rands/dollars from the wife. Such people should really ponder over this ayah. May Allah Almighty guide us all.

Islam has held in high esteem those parents who nurture daughters and has made the undertaking of this task a means of entering Jannah (paradise). Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) has given glad tidings of his closeness and proximity to the parents who bring up daughters.

Hazrat Anas (radiyallahu anhu) reports Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, “The person who successfully brings up two daughters until they reach maturity, then on the day of Qiyamah (Judgement) Myself and that person will be like this (Rasulullah r) indicated closeness by bringing together his index and middle fingers) (Sahih Muslim)

Imam Bukhari (rah) has brought several ahadith in his book Adabul Mufrad, stating that the person, who has two or three daughters, and he gives them an Islamic upbringing then those very daughters will become a shield for him from the fire of Jahannam (Hell).

It has been recorded in Abu Dawood, the famous compilation of Hadith, the person who brings up three daughters, gets them married, and thereafter maintains affable relationship with them; will enter Jannah (paradise).

With regards to kindness and fairness Islam has ensured that boys and girls are treated equally. We should not unjustly discriminate between our children on the basis of their gender.

Hazrat Saad bin Abi Waqqas (radiyallahu anhu) was a wealthy Sahabi. He had only one daughter. Incidentally he became so ill that there remained no hope of his survival. Rasulullah (sr) visited him during this illness. He spoke to Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) saying, I have abundant wealth and my heir is just one daughter, I desire to bequest two thirds of my wealth in charity. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) replied, “No”, Saad (radiyallahau anhu) then offered half his wealth in charity, Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) again refused and instructed him to bequest just one third and remarked that too is plenty, he further stated that to leave your heirs in a financially healthy position is much better than leaving them dependant on others. (Bukhari /Muslim)

Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) practically demonstrated to this Ummat how a father should care for and treat his daughter. It was the infinite wisdom of Allah Ta’ala that dictated the progeny of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) would continue only through his daughter Fathima (radiyallahu anha). Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) had the deepest love and compassion for her and thus use to say, “Fathima is a portion of my flesh, whosoever hurts her, certainly hurts me”

When Fathima (radiyallahu anha) use to visit Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) he use to stand up to embrace and welcome her, kiss her on the forehead and seat her beside him.

Another remarkable gesture of compassion for his beloved daughter was that whenever Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) used to go on journey then the last person he used to greet was Fathima (radiyallahu anha) and upon returning, he would meet her first.

The books of Ahadith are also replete with stories of how Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) used to play with and enjoy his two grandsons Hasan and Husayn (radiyallahu anhuma). This was all the result of the fervent love and time he had for his beloved daughter Hazrat Fathima (radiyallahu anha).

May Allah Ta’ala grant us the ability and realisation to cherish the valuable lamps that we have in our homes and emulate Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) in treating them.

There are several reasons for which a woman can leave the home, attired in the manner prescribed by Shariah. Among them are:

  • There is no one to support her and her children and she has no option but to leave the home to earn a basic living. She will however have to uphold all the laws of hijaab that have been mentioned under the hijaab of men. If she has any other option, such as working from home, or the assistance of any relative or other person, and this enables her to make ends meet, she may not leave the home to work.

  • She may also leave the home to visit her parents, relatives, the sick and for other similar purposes.

  • In general, she may leave the home for any need which the Shariah has recognised as a valid need. This includes spiritual needs, such as Haj or material needs, as explained above.

  • There are however, various aspects that certainly do not qualify as needs and a woman who truly observes hijaab or purdah will certainly refrain from. Some of these aspects are:

  • Roaming the market place just for “shopping.” “Shopping” in the context that it is often used is to roam around and “see what is for sale.” If there is no male at home who can provide the household requirements, a woman may leave the home to do so, observing the laws of hijaab.

  • Joining the gym or “health club.” This is the latest craze, where niqaab clad women also have found it fashionable to go to such places which are dens of great fitna. If exercise is indeed the intention, avoid using the electrical appliances and physically do the work of the machines. Also reduce the workload of the maid and do that yourself! Laughable? Ridiculous? For those who do not mind getting entangled in all types of terrible marriage-breaking fitnas, it is ridiculous. For those who value their Imaan, treasure their hayaa and are truly in purdah, it is a practical solution. Certainly, some form of physical exercise within the confines of the home can also be undertaken.

  • Attending social events, competitions, fairs and the like, whether organised by a cigarette company or a Muslim organisation. In the case of the latter, using the name of Islam does not make the gross intermingling and various other violations of Shariah tolerable. Rather it makes it much worse.

Indeed, women who are not in hijaab or purdah, even though they are in niqaab (the veil), will be found at all the above places. One should make dua for them. Women in “purdah” will certainly not venture to such places.

1. No Monasticism in Islam

The stand of Islam is, on the one hand, against sexual license; consequently it prohibits fornication and adultery, and blocks all ways leading to them. On the other hand, Islam is also against suppressing the sexual urge; accordingly, it calls people toward marriage, prohibiting renunciation and castration. (Renunciation means remaining celibate and renouncing worldly activity for the sake of devoting oneself to the worship of God. Castration denotes suppressing sexual desire by removing the testicles.)

As long as he possesses the means to marry, the Muslim is not permitted to refrain from marriage on the grounds that he has dedicated himself to the service or the worship of Allah and to a life of monasticism and renunciation of the world.

The Prophet (peace be on him) noted a tendency toward monasticism among some of his Companions. Declaring this to be a deviation from the straight path of Islam and a rejection of his sunnah (recommended practice), he thereby rid Islam’s conceptual framework of such a Christian notion. Abu Qulabah narrated “Some of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) decided to relinquish the world, forsake their wives, and become like monks. The Prophet (peace be on him) told them with asperity, People before you perished because of their asceticism; they made excessive demands on themselves until Allah brought hardships on them: you can still see a few of them remaining in monasteries and temples. Then worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him, perform the Hajj and the ‘Umrah, be righteous, and all affairs will be set right for you.” (Reported by ‘Abdur Razzaq, Ibn Jarir, and Ibn al-Mundhir.)

Abu Qulabah said the following verse was revealed concerning them: O you who believe! Do not make haram the good of things which Allah has made halal for you, and do not transgress; indeed, Allah does not like transgressors. (5:90 (87)) Mujahid narrated, “Some people, including ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, intended to renounce their wives, castrate themselves, and wear coarse clothing. Then the above verse and the verse following it were revealed.” (Reported by Ibn Jarir in his Tafsir.)

It is reported by al-Bukhari and others that three people came to the Prophet’s wives and asked how the Prophet (peace be on him) conducted his worship. When they were told about it, they seemed to consider it but little, saying, “What a difference there is between us and the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him), whose past and future sins have been forgiven him by Allah!” One of them said, “As for me, I will always pray during the night.” The other said, “I will have nothing to do with women and will never marry.” When the Prophet (peace be on him) heard about this, he explained to them their error and deviation from the straight path, saying, I am the one who fears Allah the most among you, yet I fast and I break my fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. He who turns away from my sunnah has nothing to do with me. S’ad ibn Abi Waqqas said, Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) objected to ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un living in celibacy. If he had given him permission (to do so), we (others) would have had ourselves castrated. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Addressing the young men of all times, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at women and preserves your chastity.’ (Reported by al-Bukhari.) From this statement some scholars have inferred that marriage is obligatory for the Muslim who is able to support a wife and that the avoidance of it is not permissible, while other scholars add the further condition for its obligatoriness that he should be afraid of falling into sin.

In fact, it is not befitting that a Muslim should refrain from marriage out of fear of poverty or of not being able to meet his obligations. He should make every possible attempt to find employment, seeking help from Allah, for He has promised to help those who marry in order to protect their chastity and purity. Says Allah Ta’ala: “And marry those among you who are single and the virtuous ones among your slaves, male or female. If they are in poverty, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty”…. (24:33) And the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said, “There are three who have a right to the help of Allah: the one who marries out of the desire to live a chaste life, the slave whose master has agreed to his buying his freedom when he wishes to pay the sum, and the one who fights in the cause of Allah.” (Reported by Ahmad, al-Nisai, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim.)

2. Seeing the Woman to Whom One Proposes Marriage

It is permissible for a Muslim man to see the woman to whom he intends to propose marriage before taking further steps so that he can enter into the marriage knowing what is ahead for him. Otherwise, if he has not seen her before marriage, he may not find her looks to his liking and may have regrets after he is married to her.

The eye is the messenger of the heart; when the eyes meet, the hearts and the souls of man and woman may meet as well. Muslim reported Abu Hurairah as saying that a man came to the Prophet (peace be on him) and told him that he had contracted to marry a woman of the Ansar. “Did you look at her?” the Prophet (peace be on him) asked. “No,” he said, ‘Then go and look at her,’ said the Prophet (peace be on him), ‘for there is something in the eyes of the Ansar,’ meaning that some of them have a defect of their eyes

Al-Mughira ibn Shu’bah said, I asked for a woman in marriage and Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) asked me whether I had looked at her. When I replied that I had not, he said ‘Then look at her, for it may produce love between you.’ I went to her parents and informed them of the Prophet’s advice. They seemed to disapprove of the idea. Their daughter heard the conversation from her room and said, ‘If the Prophet (peace be on him) has told you to look at me, then look.’ I looked at her, and subsequently I married her. (Reported by Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, and Darimi.)

The Prophet (peace be on him) did not specify either to Mughirah or to the other man how much of the woman they were permitted to see. Some scholars are of the opinion that looking is limited to seeing the face and hands. However, it is permissible for anyone to see the face and hands as long as no desire is involved; therefore, if asking for woman in marriage is an exemption, obviously the man making the proposal should be able to see much more of the woman than that. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “When one of you asks for woman in marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so.” (Reported by Abu Daoud.)

Some scholars have gone to one extreme or another in relation to this permission, but the best course seems to be the middle one. One researcher considers it quite appropriate in our time that the man who is proposing be allowed to see the woman as she normally appears before her father, brother, and other muharramah. He says: In the context of the above hadith, he may even accompany her, together with her father or some other mahrem as chaperone, on her usual visits to relatives or to public places, while clad in full hijab. (Hijab denotes the proper Islamic dress. (Trans.)) In this way he will have the opportunity to get an insight into her reasoning, behavior, and personality. This is a part of the meaning of the hadith, “…to look at what will induce him to marry her.” (Al-Bahee al-Khooly, Al-Mar’ah Bain al-bayn al-bait wal-Mujtamah’.)

If the man’s intention of marriage is sincere, he is permitted to see the woman with or without her and her family’s knowledge. Jarir ibn ‘Abdullah said concerning his wife, “(Before marriage) I used to hide under a tree to see her.”

From the hadith concerning al-Mughira we understand that the father of a girl cannot, out of deference to custom and tradition, prevent a suitor who is in earnest from seeing her, for customs and traditions must be governed by the Shari’ah. How is it possible that the Divine Law should subjected to the whims of human beings? On the other hand, however, neither the father, the suitor, or the fiancee can stretch this permission to such an extent that the young man and woman, under the pretext of betrothal or engagement, go to movie theaters, clubs, and shopping places together without being accompanied by a mahrem of hers, a practice which has become common today among Muslims who are fond of imitating Western civilization and its customs.

3. Prohibited Proposals

It is haram for a Muslim man to propose to a divorced or widowed woman during her ‘iddah (that is, the waiting period during which she is not allowed to remarry), for this waiting period is part of the previous marriage and may not be violated. Although one may, during this period, convey his desire for marriage through indirect hints or suggestions, it may not be done through an explicit proposal. Says Allah Ta’ala: And there is no blame on you in what you proclaim or hide in your minds concerning betrothal to women….(2:235)

It is likewise forbidden to the Muslim to propose to a woman who is already betrothed to a brother Muslim; the one whose proposal has already been accepted has acquired a right which must be safeguarded in consideration of goodwill and affection among people, especially among his brother Muslims. However, if the first suitor terminates his betrothal or gives the second suitor his permission, there is no harm in proceeding with it.

Muslim reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said, “A Believer is a brother to another Believer. It is therefore not lawful for him to outbid his brother in buying something or to propose to a woman when his brother has done so, unless he gives him permission.” And al-Bukhari reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “A man must not propose to anther man’s betrothed unless he withdraws or gives him permission.”

4. The Consent of the Girl

It is the girl’s right to make a decision concerning her marriage, and her father or guardian is not permitted to override her objections or ignore her wishes. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, A woman who has been previously married has more right concerning her person than her guardian, and a virgin’s consent must be asked about herself, her consent being her silence. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Ibn Majah and some other transmitters report the following hadith: A girl came to the Prophet (peace be on him) and informed him that her father had married her to her cousin against her wishes, whereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) allowed her to exercise her choice. She then said, ‘I am reconciled to what my father did but I wanted to make it known to women that fathers have no say in this matter.’

The father of a girl must not delay marriage of his daughter if a proposal is received from a man of equal status who is of sound religion and character. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Three matters should not be delayed: salat when its time comes, burial when the funeral has arrived, and the marriage of a single woman when a man of equal status has proposed.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi.) He further said, “When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied asks for your daughter in marriage, accede to his request. If you do not do so there will be corruption and great evil on the earth.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi.)

5. Women To Whom Marriage is Prohibited

It is permanently haram for a Muslim to marry a woman who belongs to one of the following categories:

(1) The father’s wife, whether divorced or widowed. During the period of jahiliyyah such marriages were allowed. Then Islam prohibited them, for once a woman is married to a man’s father she acquires the status of his mother, and this prohibition is out of honor and respect for the father. Moreover, as this inviolable prohibition leaves no room for sexual attraction between the son and his step-mother, they are able to develop a relationship of respect and honor.

(2) The mother, including the grandmothers on both sides.

(3) The daughter, including the granddaughters from the son or daughter.

(4) The sister, including the half, and step-sisters.

(5) The paternal aunt, whether she is the real, half, or step-sister of the father.

(6) The maternal aunt, whether she is the real, half, or step-sister of the father.

(7) The brother’s daughter, i.e., his niece.

(8) The sister’s daughter, i.e., his niece.

All these female blood-relatives are a man’s muharramat and he is mahrem to his corresponding female relatives. Marriage to any mahrem whomsoever is permanently prohibited. The reasons for this prohibition are as follows.

(A) Entertaining any sexual thoughts concerning such close relatives as one’s mother, sister, and daughter is instinctively abhorrent to human nature; there are even certain animals which avoid mating with such closely-related animals. The respect a man feels for his aunts is like the respect he has for his mother, and likewise uncles are regarded as fathers.

(B) Since the family must live together in intimacy and privacy but without incestuous relations, the Shari’ah intends to cut at the roots of any sexual attraction among such close relatives.

(C) Since there is natural love and affection among such close blood relatives, the intent of the Shari’ah is to expand the circle of love and kinship by prohibiting incest and thereby directing the man’s search for women outside the family. Thus each marriage extends the sphere of love, bringing new people within this ever-expanding network of affection: “And He has put love and mercy between you.” (30:21)

(D) The natural sentiments of love and affection between a man and the above-mentioned female relatives must be kept strong forever. If marriage were permitted between such relatives, it would cause jealousies, dissensions, and the disruption of families, destroying the very sentiments of love and affection which give cohesiveness and permanence to the family structure.

(E) The offspring of marriages to such close blood relatives would most probably be defective and weak. Moreover, if physical or mental defects are present in the members of a family, they would become more pronounced among the children of such marriages.

(F) The woman needs someone to champion her rights and support her case against her husband, especially when relations between the two of them become strained. If those women who could defend her became rivals, how would this be possible?

6. Marriages Prohibited by Reason of Fosterage

(9) The foster mother: It is haram for a Muslim to marry a woman who has suckled him during his infancy, for suckling makes her like his real mother, since milk has gone into the making of his flesh and bones. Nursing consciously or unconsciously produces feelings of motherhood in a woman and of kinship in a child, and although these feelings might seem to disappear as the child grows and becomes a man, they remain hidden in the unconscious.

However, the prohibition of marriage based on fosterage is effective only if the suckling occurred before the time of weaning; that is, when milk was the primary source of food. Another condition is that the child has suckled his fill on five separate occasions, a fill being defined as when the child leaves off suckling of his own accord. After a survey of all the ahadith on this subject, the fixing of five sucklings as the minimum seems to be the preferred view.

(10) Foster sisters: Just as a woman become a mother to a child by virtue of suckling, likewise her daughters become his sisters, her sisters his aunts, and so on. The Prophet (peace be on him) said: “What is haram by reason of genealogy is haram by reason of fosterage.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Thus the foster-sisters, foster-aunts, and foster-nieces are all muharramat and marriage to them is permanently prohibited.

7. In-Law Relationships

(11) The mother-in-law: Marriage to the wife’s mother is permanently prohibited from the time a man enters into a marriage contract with a woman, whether he and his wife have engaged in sexual intercourse or not. The act of marriage itself gives the mother-in-law the same status as the mother.

(12) The step-daughter: A man cannot marry his step-daughter (his wife’s daughter by a previous marriage) if sexual intercourse has taken place with her mother, his wife. However, if a man divorces his wife without having had intercourse with her, it is permissible for him to marry her daughter by a previous marriage.

(13) The daughter-in-law: That is, the wife of the real son, not that of the adopted son. In fact, Islam abolished the permissibility of the system of legal, formalized adoption, because this is contrary to fact and to reality, resulting in the prohibiting of what is essentially halal and the permitting of what is essentially haram. Allah Ta’ala says: …Nor has He made your sons by adoption your (real) sons. Those are simply words from your mouths….(33:4) meaning that it is merely an expression of the language which does not alter reality nor transform an outsider to the family into a blood relative.

These three types of female relatives are forbidden in marriage in order that peaceful relationships may be maintained among the in laws.

8. Sisters as Co-Wives

(14) As opposed to the practice of the period of jahiliyyah, Islam forbade taking two sisters as co-wives at the same time, because the feeling of love and sisterliness which Islam wants to maintain between sisters would be destroyed if one sister became the co-wife of the same husband. While the Qur’an mentioned the two sisters, the Prophet (peace be on him) added, “A man may not be married to a woman and her paternal aunt (at the same time), nor to a woman and her maternal aunt”. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) and he said, “If you do this, you will sever your ties of kinship.” (Reported by Ibn Hibban.) And how could Islam permit the breaking of such kinship ties when it places so much importance on them?

9. Married Women

(15) As long as a woman is married, her marriage to any other man is prohibited. She may marry another man only when two conditions are fulfilled:

1. Her marriage tie is broken either because of the death of her husband or because of divorce;

2. She has completed the period of waiting (‘iddah) ordained by Allah. For a pregnant woman this period ends when she delivers the baby. If she is widowed but not pregnant, the period of ‘iddah is four months and ten days, while if she is divorced and it is not known whether or not she is pregnant, the ‘iddah is three menstrual cycles. This ‘iddah relates to the woman who has menstrual periods; for a woman who does not menstruate, the ‘iddah is three months. Allah Ta’ala says: “And divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. And it is not permissible for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day.” (2:228) “…and As for those who have no further expectation of menstruation among your women, if you are in doubt, the waiting period is three months, as well as for those who have no menses. And for those who are pregnant, their period is until they deliver their burdens.” (65:4) And, “For those of you who die and leave behind widows, they shall wait concerning themselves for four months and ten days…” (2:234)

Of these fifteen categories of female relatives to whom marriage is prohibited, fourteen are mentioned in Surah al-Nisa: “And do not marry those women whom your fathers married, except what is past; indeed, it was an indecency and an abomination, and an evil path. Forbidden to you are your mothers and your daughters, and your sisters and your father’s sisters and your mother’s sisters, and your brothers’ daughters and your sisters’ daughters, and your foster mothers and your foster sisters, your wives’ mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship born of your wives to whom you have gone in—and if you have not gone into them there is no blame on you—and the wives of your sons proceeding from your loins, and that you should marry two sisters at one time, except what is past; indeed Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (4:22-23) The prohibition against being married to a woman and any of her aunts at the same time is derived from the hadith cited above.

10. Mushrik Women

(16) A woman who is mushrik (mushrik denotes someone who commits shirk, or ascribes partners to Allah by his polytheistic beliefs or idolatrous practices. – Trans.), that is, who worships idols or associates other deities with Allah, is also among those who are prohibited. Allah Ta’ala says, “And do not marry mushrik women until they believe, for a believing bondmaid is better than a mushrik woman, even though you may admire her. And do not marry (your girls) to mushrik men until they believe, for a believing bondsman is better than a mushrik, even though you may admire him. They (mushrikeen) invite you to the Fire, but Allah invites you to the Garden and to forgiveness by His grace….(2:221)

This verse proclaims that a Muslim man may not marry a mushrik woman nor may a Muslim woman marry a mushrik man, because there is a great, unbridgeable gulf between the two systems of belief. Islam invites people to the Garden of Paradise, while shirk (idolatry or polytheism) leads them to the Fire of Hell. While Muslims believe in God, His messengers, and the Hereafter, mushrikeen associate others with God, reject His messengers, and deny the Hereafter. Marriage means living under one roof in harmony and love; how then would it be possible for such conflicting beliefs and practices to co-exist peacefully together in one abode?

11. Marriage to the Women of the People of the Book

Islam has made marriage to Jewish or Christian women lawful for Muslim men, for they are Ahl al-Kitab, that is, People of the Book, or people whose tradition is based upon a divinely revealed Scripture. Although they have distorted and altered it, they do possess a religion of divine origin, and hence Islam has made some exceptions in dealing with them. The Qur’an says: …And the food of those who were given the Scripture (before you) is permitted to you and your food is permitted to them. And (lawful to you in marriage are) chaste women from the Believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture before you, when you give them their due cowers, desiring chastity, not lewdness or secret intrigues….(5:6: (5) )

Tolerance of such a degree is a characteristic of Islam which is hardly to be found among other faiths and nations. Despite the fact that Islam takes the People of the Book to task for their unbelief and error, it permits the Muslim to marry a Christian or Jewish woman who may, as his consort, the mistress of his house, the mother of his children, the source of his repose, and his companion for life, retain her own faith—all this, while the Qur’an says concerning marriage and its mystique, “And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell with them in tranquility, and He has put love and mercy between you….(30:21)

However, a warning is in order here. In order of preference, a believing, practicing Muslim woman who loves her religion is preferable to a nominal Muslim woman who has inherited Islam from her parents. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Get the one who is religious and prosper.” (Reported by al-Bukhari.) It is also obvious that a Muslim woman, regardless of who she is, is better suited to a Muslim man than a woman of Christian or Jewish faith, regardless of her merits. If a Muslim man has the slightest suspicion that a non-Muslim wife might affect the beliefs and attitudes of his children, it becomes obligatory on him to exercise caution.

If the number of Muslims in a country is small—for example, if they are immigrants residing in a non-Muslim country—their men ought to be prohibited from marrying non-Muslim women because, since Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslim men, their marriage to non-Muslim women means that many Muslim girls will remain unmarried. Since this situation is injurious to the Muslim society, this injury can be avoided by temporarily suspending this permission.

12. The Prohibition of a Muslim Woman’s Marrying a Non-Muslim Man

It is haram for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, regardless of whether he is of the People of the Book or not. We have already mentioned the saying of Allah Ta’ala, …And do not marry (your girls) to idolaters until they believe….(2:221) And He said concerning the immigrant Muslim women, …Then if you know them to be Believers, do not send them back to the unbelievers. They are not halal for them (as wives), nor are they halal for them (as husbands). (60:10) No text exists which makes exceptions for the People of the Book, hence, on the basis of the above verses, there is a consensus among Muslims concerning this prohibition.

Thus, while a Muslim man is permitted to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish man. There are many sound reasons for this difference. First, the man is the head of the household, the one who maintains the family, and he is responsible for his wife. And while Islam guarantees freedom of belief and practice to the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim, safeguarding her rights according to her own faith, other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, do not guarantee the wife of a different faith freedom of belief and practice, nor do they safeguard her rights. Since this is the case, how can Islam take chances on the future of its daughters by giving them into the hands of people who neither honor their religion nor are concerned to protect their rights?

A marriage between a man and woman of different faiths can be based only on the husband’s respect for his wife’s beliefs; otherwise a good relationship can never develop. Now, the Muslim believes that both Judaism and Christianity originated in divine revelation, although later distortions were introduced into them. He also believes that God revealed the Taurat to Moses and the Injeel to Jesus, (Taurat refers to the original scripture revealed to the Prophet Moses by God, and Injeel to the Prophet Jesus. These are not to be confused with either the existing Torah or Old Testament, or the four Gospels of the New Testament. (Trans.)) and that both Moses and Jesus (peace be on them) were among the messengers of Allah who were distinguished by their steadfast determination. Accordingly, the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim lives under the protection of a man who respects the basic tenets of her faith, her scripture, and her prophets, while in contrast to this the Jew or Christian recognizes neither the divine origin of Islam, its Book, or its Prophet (peace be on him). How then could a Muslim woman live with such a man, while her religion requires of her the observance of certain worships, duties, and obligations, as well as certain prohibitions. It would be impossible for the Muslim woman to retain her respect for her beliefs as well as to practice her religion properly if she were opposed in this regard by the master of the house at every step.

It will be realized from this that Islam is consistent with itself in prohibiting the Muslim man to marry a mushrik woman, for since Islam is absolutely opposed to shirk, it would obviously be impossible for two such people to live together in harmony and love.

13. Fornicatresses

(17) Here “fornicatresses” (al-zaniyah) denotes women who earn money through prostitution. It is reported that Marthad ibn Abu Marthad asked the Prophet’s permission to marry a prostitute named ‘Anaq with whom he had relations during the pre-Islamic period. The Prophet (peace be on him) did not give him an answer until Allah revealed, “The fornicator shall not marry anyone except a fornicatress or an idolatress, and the fornicatress shall not marry anyone but a fornicator or an idolater, and that (marrying them) is haram for the Believers.” (24:3)

The Prophet (peace be on him) then recited this verse to Marthad and said, “Do not marry her.” (This story is reported by Abu Daoud, al-Nisai, and al-Tirmidhi.)

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala has permitted Muslims to marry chaste believing women or chaste women of the People of the Book. Similarly, He has made marriage lawful to men on the condition that they seek it “in honest wedlock, not in lust.” (4:24). Accordingly, if someone does not accept this command from the Book of Allah, nor considers it binding, he is a mushrik (As we saw in Chapter One in the discussion concerning Allah’s sole right to legislate the halal and haram for His servants, anyone who disobeys or disregards this explicit command of Allah Ta’ala is considered a mushrik or an associator), and no one will agree to marry him except another mushrik. If someone accepts this command as binding, but despite this he marries a fornicatress to whom marriage has been prohibited, he becomes a fornicator himself.

This ayah just cited comes after the ayah prescribing the punishment of flogging for fornicators (This punishment has been prescribed for the unmarried fornicator and his partner, while the punishment of death by stoning, if the crime is proved either by four male adult eye witnesses to the act or by self confession, has been prescribed for the married adulterer and his partner. (Trans.)): “Flog the woman and the man guilty of fornication each with a hundred stripes….(24:2)

While this is a corporal punishment, the punishment mentioned in 24:3 is a civil punishment, for depriving fornicators of the right to marry chaste women is like depriving someone of citizenship, nationality, or some other civil right as a punishment for a crime.

Ibn al-Qayyim, after explaining the meaning of the previously-cited verse goes on to say: “This explicit injunction of the Qur’an is what human nature and reason demand. Allah Ta’ala prohibits His slave (the Muslim man) to become a pimp to his wayward wife, as He made man’s nature with an instinctive abhorrence and contempt for acting as a pimp. This is why, when people want to abuse someone in the most disparaging manner, they call him ‘the husband of a whore;’ and Allah does not permit the Muslim to be like that. Further light is thrown on this prohibition by considering the crime of the woman against her husband and society. She defiles the bed of her husband and perverts the lineage which Allah desires to preserve for the integrity and smooth functioning of society, which He counts as one of His favors upon mankind. Adultery leads to the confounding and doubting of parentage. It is thus one of the beauties of the Islamic Shari’ah that it prohibits marriage to a prostitute until she repents and demonstrates that she is not pregnant (that is, until she has a menstrual period in order to ascertain that she is not carrying a child).” (lghathat al-Lahfan, vol. 1, pp. 66-67.)

Moreover, a prostitute is a vile and degraded woman. Allah has ordained that marriage be a source of affection and mercy between the spouses. How then could a vile woman be the object of love of a virtuous man, since the partners in a marriage must be akin in their ideas, attitudes, and characters if true love and understanding are to develop between them? As vileness and virtue are antithetical to each other both by nature and by considerations of morality, there cannot even be a sympathy, much less love and affection, between the two. Indeed, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala has spoken truly in His saying, Vile women are for vile men, and vile men are for vile women; virtuous women are for virtuous men and virtuous men are for virtuous women. (24:26)

14. Temporary Marriage (Mut’ah)

Marriage in Islam is a strong bond, a binding contract, based on the intention of both partners to live together permanently in order to attain, as individuals, the benefit of the repose, affection, and mercy which are mentioned in the Qur’an, as well as to attain the social goal of the reproduction and perpetuation of the human species: “And Allah has made for you spouses of your own nature, and from your spouses has made for you sons and grandsons….(16:72)

Now, in temporary marriage (known in Arabic as mut’ah), which is contracted by the two parties for a specified period of time in exchange for a specified sum of money, the above-mentioned purposes of marriage are not realized. While the Prophet (peace be on him) permitted temporary marriage during journeys and military campaigns before the Islamic legislative process was complete, he later forbade it and made it forever haram.

The reason it was permitted in the beginning was that the Muslims were passing through what might be called a period of transition from jahiliyyah to Islam. Fornication was very common and wide-spread among the pre-Islamic Arabs. After the advent of Islam, when they were required to go on military expeditions, they were under great pressure as a result of being absent from their wives for long periods of time. Among the Believers were some who were strong in faith and others who were weak. The weak ones feared that they would be tempted to commit adultery, a major sin and an evil course, while the strong in faith, on the other hand, were ready to castrate themselves, as stated by Ibn Mas’ud: “We were on an expedition with the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) and did not have our wives with us, so we asked Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him), ‘Should we not castrate ourselves? (The reason for this request was the desire to maintain their purity of mind and body, which was in danger of being affected by their unmet needs. (Trans.)) He forbade us to do so but permitted us to contract marriage with a woman up to a specified date, giving her a garment as a dower (mahr).” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Thus temporary marriage provided a solution to the dilemma in which both the weak and the strong found themselves. It was also a step toward the final legalization of the complete marital life in which the objectives of permanence, chastity, reproduction, love, and mercy, as well as the widening of the circle of relationships through marriage ties were to be realized.

We may recall that the Qur’an adopted a gradual course in prohibiting intoxicants and usury, as these two evils were widespread and deeply rooted in the jahili society. In the same manner the Prophet (peace be on him) adopted a course of gradualism in the matter of sex, at first permitting temporary marriage as a step leading away from fornication and adultery, and at the same time coming closer to the permanent marriage relationship. He then prohibited it absolutely, as has been reported by ‘All and many other Companions. Muslim has reported this in his Sahih, mentioning that al-Juhani was with the Prophet (peace be on him) at the conquest of Makkah and that the Prophet (peace be on him) gave some Muslims permission to contract temporary marriages. Al-Juhani said, “Before leaving Makkah the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) prohibited it.” In another version of the hadith we find the Prophet’s own words, “Allah has made it haram until the Day of Resurrection.”

The question then remains—Is temporary marriage (mut’ah) absolutely haram, like marriage to one’s own mother or daughter, or is it like the prohibition concerning the eating of pork or dead meat, which becomes permissible under real necessity, the necessity in this case being the fear of committing the sin of zina ?

The majority of the Companions held the view that after the completion of the Islamic legislation, temporary marriage was made absolutely haram. Ibn ‘Abbas, however, held a different opinion, permitting it under necessity. A person asked him about marrying women on a temporary basis and he permitted him to do so. A servant of his then asked, “Is this not under hard conditions, when women are few and the like?” and he replied, “Yes.” (Reported by al-Bukhari.) Later, however, when Ibn ‘Abbas saw that people had become lax and were engaging in temporary marriages without necessity, he withdrew his ruling, reversing his opinion. (Zad al-Mi’ad,vol.4,p. 7. Bayhaqi transmitted it and Muslim as well.)

15. Marrying More Than One Woman

Islam is a way of life consonant with nature, providing human solutions to complex situations and avoiding extremes. This characteristic of Islam can be observed most clearly in its stand concerning the taking of more than one wife. Islam permits the Muslim to marry more than one woman in order to resolve some very pressing human problems, individual as well as social.

Many peoples and religions prior to Islam permitted marriage to a host of women, whose number reached tens and sometimes hundreds, without any condition or restriction. Islam, on the other hand, laid down definite restrictions and conditions for polygamy.

With regard to the restriction, it limited to four the maximum number of wives a man might have. When Ghailan al-Thaqafi accepted Islam, he had ten wives. “Choose four of them and divorce the rest,” the Prophet (peace be on him) told him (Reported by al-Shafi’i, Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Abi Shaybah, al-Darqutni, and Bayhaqi.). Similarly, some men who had eight (Reported by Abu Daoud in his Musnad.) or five wives at the time of embracing Islam were told by the Prophet (peace be on him) to retain only four (Reported by Ahmad, al-Darimi, Ibn Hibban, al-Hakim, and the compilers of Sunan (Abu Daoud, al-Nisai, and Ibn Majah).)

The case of the Prophet (peace be on him), who himself had nine wives, was exempted from this by Allah for the sake of da’wah (the propagation of the message of Islam) during his lifetime and because of the need of the Muslim ummah after his death.

16. Justice Among Wives – A Condition

The condition which Islam lays down for permitting a man to have more than one wife is confidence on his part that he will be able to deal equitably with his two or more wives in the matter of food, drink, housing, clothing and expenses, as well as in the division of his time between them. Anyone who lacks the assurance that he will be able to fulfill all these obligations with justice and equality is prohibited by Allah Ta’ala from marrying more than one woman, for Allah Ta’ala says: …But if you fear that you will not be able to do justice (among them), then (marry) only one….(4:3) And the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Anyone who has two wives and does not treat them equally will come on the Day of Resurrection dragging one part of his body which will be hanging down.” (Reported by the compilers of Sunan and by Ibn Hibban and al-Hakim.)

The equal treatment mentioned here pertains to the rights of the wives, not to the love the husband feels towed them, for equality in the division of love is beyond human capacity and any imbalance in this regard is forgiven by Allah Ta’ala who says: And you will not be able to do justice among (your) wives, however much you may wish to. But do not turn away (from one of them) altogether….(4:139) This is why the Prophet (peace be on him) used to divide his time among his wives equally, saying, “O Allah, this is my division in regard to what I can control. Then do not take me to task regarding what Thou controllest and I do not control” (Reported by the compilers of Sunan.), referring to the attachment and affection which he felt for one particular wife. And when he planned to go on a journey, Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) would cast lots among his wives, and the one who was chosen by lot would accompany him. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

17. Why Marriage to More Than One Woman is Permitted in Islam

Islam is the last and final word of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, ending the series of His messages to mankind. It therefore came with a general law suitable for all times and places, and for the whole of humanity. It did not legislate for the city dweller only, while neglecting the nomad, nor for the cold regions while ignoring the hot ones, nor for one particular period of time, forgetting later times and the generations to come.

Islam recognizes the needs and interests of all people, of individuals as well as groups. And among human beings one finds that individual who has a strong desire for children but whose wife is barren, chronically ill, or has some other problem. Would it not be more considerate on her part and better for him to marry a second wife who can bear him children, while retaining the first wife with all her rights guaranteed?

Then there may also be the case of a man whose desire for sex is strong, while his wife has little desire for it, or who is chronically ill, has long menstrual periods, or the like, while her husband unable to restrain his sexual urge. Should it not be permitted to him to marry a second wife instead of his hunting around for girlfriends?

There are also times when women outnumber men, as for example after wars which often decimate the ranks of men. In such a situation it is in the interests of the society and of women themselves that they become co-wives to a man instead of spending their entire lives without marriage, deprived of the peace, affection, and protection of marital life and the joy of motherhood for which they naturally yearn with all their hearts.

Only three possible alternatives exist for such surplus women who are not married as first wives:

(1) to pass their whole lives in bitter deprivation, (2) to become sex objects and playthings for lecherous men; or (3) to become co-wives to men who are able to support more than one wife and who will treat them kindly.

Unquestionably, the last alternative is the correct solution, a healing remedy for this problem, and that is the judgement of Islam: And Who is better than Allah in judgement, for a people who have certain faith? (5:53 (50) )

For this is the Islamic “polygamy” which people in the West consider so abhorrent and to which they react with such hostility, while their own men are free to have any number of girlfriends, without restriction and without any legal or moral accountability, either in respect to the woman or to the children she may bear as a result of this irreligious and immoral plurality of extra-marital relationships. Let the two alternatives—plurality of wives or plurality of illicit affairs — be compared, and let people ask themselves which is the proper course of action, and which of the two groups is correctly guided!


I would like to make clear all the visitors of my blog that I am not Rqaqi, Aamil, or Spiritual Healer. Any Raaqi you contact via my blog, know they do not represent this blog or me.


In my knowledge these are few dedicated places where you can get your spiritual healing according to Quran and Sunnah. I can recommend these places as in my knowledge they works according to Quran and Sunnah; but I cannot be made responsible either individually or severally for any untoward incidents.


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