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Friday, May 27, 2005

The Role of Women in the Call of Islam

Dr. Mohammed H. Khlais Al-Harbi, Arab News

Women had a vital role in spreading the message of God. Throughout history women had participated in the intellectual and political struggle enduring all sorts of torture and intimidation. They spoke boldly and called for the true religion without fearing the loss of power or wealth. Lady Maryam (Mary), the mother of Jesus, is honored in the Qur’an and was revered by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). She is depicted in the Qur’an as an ideal model of virtue not only for women but for all mankind.

God addressed men and women alike. Historically, many women had played effective roles in the lives of prophets and their missions. They had their share in the Muslim society at all levels. This is illustrated in the story of Prophet Ibrahim who struggled against his people in Babylon, Iraq, fought Nimrod and was saved from fire by a miracle. He then migrated to Syria, then Egypt, with his faithful wife and companion Sarah. The Qur’an describes this trip and tells about the effective role of Hajara, Ibrahim’s second wife who came with him from Egypt to Hejaz. Hajara was the symbol of a woman with deep faith and endless patience, and she raised her son, Prophet Ismail in that valley to be the ancestor of the greatest Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an says: “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House” (Ibrahim: 37).

The Qur’an mentions the mother of Prophet Musa and describes how she understood the divine message and protected Musa against the tyranny of Fir’aun. Then Maryam, the mother of Jesus and Asya, the wife of Fir’aun are both set forth by God as examples to be followed by all those who believe. The verses say:

“And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe, the wife of Fir’aun: When she said; “O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Fir’aun and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong”; And Maryam, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (Servants).” (Prohibition: 11-12).

The fact that “Allah set forth” “an example to those who believe” proves a unique concept of faith related to woman: A role model for males and females. The wife of Fir’aun faced the power of that mighty ruler, and Maryam stood against the arrogance of the children of Israel and their plots against her. Similar to the important roles played in the lives of Ibrahim, Musa and Isa (Jesus) is Khadijah’s in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Khadijah who was a noble and rich social figure in Makkah was the second person — after Ali — to embrace Islam, and she supported the Prophet all her life enduring all persecution and hardships. This is why the Prophet described the year in which she died as the Year of Grief. The Prophet described Khadijah’s role and his respect for her several times. He also mentions his other wife, Ayshah and his daughter Fatimah. These sayings reflect the Prophet’s and Islam’s acknowledgement of the importance of women to the human race. Islam respects woman for
her vital role in protecting and supporting the prophets, notably Ibrahim, Musa, Ismail, Isa and Muhammad.

Allah in the Qur’an mentions women who received the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, migrated to Madinah with him, and strived to support Islam. The verses that mention women in general are abundant, such as: “The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: They enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil!” (Repentance: 71).

“O my Lord! Forgive me, my parents, all who enter my house in Faith, and (all) believing men and believing women: And to the wrongdoers grant Thou no increase but in Perdition! (Noah: 28).

“One Day shalt thou sea the believing men and the believing women; how their Light runs forward before them.” (Iron:12). In these verses women are exalted to the noblest position a human being can have on earth and in the hereafter. Under the mission of Islam, males and females are considered peers that collaborate in faith to reform society, combat vice, and crime and promote virtue, peace and prosperity on earth.

The Qur’an describes the aura of glory around all believers, men and women, on the Day of Judgment facing the Lord and being rewarded for their deeds on earth.

A manifestation of the nobility of woman’s position in Islam is the fact that the first martyr in Islam was a female. Umm (mother of) Ammar ibn Yassir who was a companion of the Prophet. She was killed by Abu Jahl, a polytheist leader. All the oppressed and persecuted found in Islam salvation of their human rights and liberation from ignorance and fellowmen’s slavery. Many wronged women believed in the Prophet’s teachings at the onset of his mission. They endured hardships and persecution and had to flee to Ethiopia and to Madinah. They persisted in their belief in God and support of His Prophet.

The Muslim woman has not yet discovered her real position in Islam, nor has the Muslim man known the real entity of women in Islam. This explains the imbalance in relations and treatment that can be corrected only by going back to Qur’anic principles that define the rights and responsibilities of men and women. Women can be sure that, through Islam, their roles are valued and their rights are protected.

— Dr. Mohammed H. Khlais Al-Harbi is human resources and training consultant, Saudi Arabian Oil Company, Dhahran.


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