The Believing Woman is Alert
One of the most prominent distinguishing features of the Muslim woman is her deep faith in Allah (SWT), and her sincere conviction that whatever happens in this universe, and whatever fate befalls human beings, only happens through the will and decree of Allah (SWT); whatever befalls a person could not have been avoided, and whatever does not happen to a person could not have been made to happen. A person has no choice in this life but to strive towards the right path and to do good deeds - acts of worship and other acts - by whatever means one can, putting all his trust in Allah (SWT), submitting to His will, and believing that he is always in need of Allah's (SWT) help and support.
The story of Hajar offers the Muslim woman the most marvellous example of deep faith in Allah (SWT) and sincere trust in Him. Ibrahim `May peace be upon him' (PBUH) left her at the Ka`bah in Makkah, above the well of Zamzam, at a time when there were no people and no water in the place. Hajar had no-one with her except her infant son Isma`il. She asked Ibrahim, calmly and with no trace of panic: "Has Allah (SWT) commanded you to do this, O Ibrahim?" Ibrahim (PBUH) said, "Yes." Her response reflected her acceptance and optimism: "Then He is not going to abandon us." Reported by Bukhari in Kitab al-Anbiya1
Here was an extremely difficult situation: a man left his wife and infant son in a barren land, where there were no plants, no water, and no people, and went back to the distant land of Palestine. He left nothing with her but a sack of dates and a skin filled with water. Were it not for the deep faith and trust in Allah (SWT) that filled Hajar's heart, she would not have been able to cope with such a difficult situation; she would have collapsed straight away, and would not have become the woman whose name is forever remembered night and day by those who perform hajj and `umrah at the house of Allah (SWT), every time they drink the pure water of Zamzam, and run between the mounts of Safa' and Marwah, as Hajar did on that most trying day.
This deep faith and awareness had an amazing effect on the lives of Muslim men and women: it awoke their consciences and reminded them that Allah (SWT) witnesses and knows every secret, and that He is with a person wherever he may be. Nothing gives a clearer idea of that consciousness and fear of Allah (SWT) at all times than the story of the young Muslim girl related in Sifat al-Safwah and Wafiyat al-A'yan and cited by Ibn al-Jawzi in Ahkam al-Nisa' (pp. 441, 442):
"Narrated `Abdullah ibn Zayd ibn Aslam, from his father, from his grandfather, who said: `When I was accompanying `Umar ibn al-Khattab on his patrol of Madinah at night, he felt tired, so he leant against a wall. It was the middle of the night, and (we heard) a woman say to her daughter, "O my daughter, get up and mix that milk with some water." The girl said, "O Mother, did you not hear the decree of Amir al-Mu'minin (chief of the believers) today?" The mother said, "What was that?" The girl said, "He ordered someone to announce in a loud voice that milk should not be mixed with water." The mother said, "Get up and mix the milk with water; you are in a place where `Umar cannot see you." The girl told her mother, "I cannot obey Him (Allah) in public and disobey him in private." `Umar heard this, and told me: "O Aslam, go to that place and see who that girl is, and to whom she was speaking, and whether she has a husband." So I went to that place, and I saw that she was unmarried, the other woman was her mother, and neither of them had a husband. I came to `Umar and told him what I had found out. He called his sons together, and said to them: "Do any of you need a wife, so I can arrange the marriage for you? If I had the desire to get married, I would have been the first one to marry this young woman." `Abdullah said: "I have a wife." `Abd al-Rahman said: "I have a wife." `Asim said: "I do not have a wife, so let me marry her." So `Umar arranged for her to be married to `Asim. She gave him a daughter, who grew up to be the mother of `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz.'"
This is the deep sense of awareness that Islam had implanted in the heart of this young woman. She was righteous and upright in all her deeds, both in public and in private, because she believed that Allah (SWT) was with her at all times and saw and heard everything. This is true faith, and these are the effects of that faith, which raised her to the level of ihsan. One of the immediate rewards with which Allah (SWT) honoured her was this blessed marriage, one of whose descendants was the fifth rightly-guided khalifah, `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz `May Allah be pleased with him' (RAA).
The Aqeedah (faith) of the true Muslim woman is pure and clear, uncontaminated by any stain of ignorance, illusion or superstition. This Aqeeda is based on faith in Allah, (SWT) the One, the Most High, the Eternal, Who is able to do all things, Who is in control of the entire universe, and to Whom all things must return:
( Did you then think that We had created you in jest, and that you would not be brought back to Us [for account]?) (Qur'an 23:115)
( Blessed is He in Whose hands is
Dominion; and He over all things has Power - He Who created Death and Life, that
He may try which of you is best in deed; and He is the Exalted in Might,
Oft-Forgiving.) (Qur'an 67:1-2)
She Worships Allah (SWT)
It is no surprise that the true Muslim woman enthusiastically worships her Lord, because she knows that she is obliged to observe all the commandments that Allah (SWT) has enjoined upon every Muslim, male or female. So she carries out her Islamic duties properly, without making excuses or compromises, or being negligent.
She Regularly Prays Five Times a Day
She offers each of the five daily prayers at its appointed time, and does not let domestic chores or her duties as a wife and mother prevent her from doing so. Prayer is the pillar of the - whoever establishes prayer establishes faith, and whoever neglects prayer destroys the faith.2 Prayer is the best and most noble of deeds, as the Prophet `Peace and Blessing be upon him' (PBUH) explained in the hadith narrated by `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud (RAA):
"I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say: `What would you think if there were a river running by the door of any of you, and he bathed in it five times every day, would any trace of dirt be left on him?' The people said: `There would be no trace of dirt on him.' He said: `This is like the five daily prayers, through which Allah (SWT) erases sins.'"4 (Sharh al-Sunnah 2/175).
Jabir (RAA) said:
"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: `The five daily prayers are like a deep
river flowing by the door of any of you, in which he bathes five times every
"I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say: `There is no Muslim person who,
when the time for prayer comes, performs wudu' properly, concentrates on
his prayer and bows correctly, but the prayer will be an expiation for the sins
committed prior to it, so long as no major sin has been committed. This is the
case until the end of time.'"6 (Sahih Muslim 3/112).
She May Attend the Jama`ah (Congregational)
Prayer in the Mosque
Islam has excused women from the obligation to attend the jama`ah prayer in the mosque, but at the same time, they are permitted to go out of the house to attend jama`ah on condition that they dress up well enough not to cause any temptation. Indeed, the first Muslim women did go out and pray in the mosque behind the Prophet (PBUH).
"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to pray fajr, and the believing women would pray with him, wrapped up in their outer garments; then they would go back to their homes, and nobody would recognize them."7
"If the wife of any of you asks for permission to go to the mosque, do not
The mosque was, and still is, the centre of light and guidance for Muslim men and women; in its pure environment acts of worship are performed and from its minbar messages of truth and guidance are transmitted. From the dawn of Islam, the Muslim woman has had her role to play in the mosque.
There are many sahih reports, which confirm the woman's presence and role in the mosque. They describe how women attended salat al-jumu`ah, the eclipse prayer, and the Eid prayers, responding to the call of the muezzin to join the prayer.
A report in Sahih Muslim tells us that Umm Hisham bint Harithah ibn al-Nu`man said:
Another hadith, reported by Bukhari, deals with giving the women room to leave the mosque before the men, after the prayer is over. Hind bint al-Harith said that Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (PBUH), told her that at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), when the obligatory prayer was over, the women would get up to leave, and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and the men who were with him would wait as long as Allah (SWT) willed. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) got up to leave, then the men would get up.23
But women's going out to the mosque should not be a cause of fitnah, and women should behave in accordance with Islamic teachings of purity of thought and behaviour. If for any reason there is the fear of fitnah associated with women's going out to the mosque, then it is better for women to pray at home, and they should do so. This is what is indicated by the hadith of Ibn `Umar, quoted above, in which the Prophet (PBUH) said:
Bilal ibn `Abdullah ibn `Umar reported from his father that the Prophet (PBUH) said: "Do not deny the women their share of the mosque, if they ask your permission." Bilal said, "By Allah (SWT), we will most certainly prevent them (from going to the mosque)!" `Abdullah (his father) said to him: "I tell you that the Messengeof Allah (PBUH) said such-and-such, and you say `We will most certainly prevent them'!"27
The Prophet (PBUH) said:
"Do not prevent your women from attending the mosque if they seek your permission to do so."28
"Do not prevent the female servants of Allah (SWT) from attending the mosques of Allah (SWT)."29
"If your womenfolk seek your permission to go to the mosque, then let them do
"Any women who has perfumed herself with incense should not attend
`isha' prayers with us."33
Islam has honoured woman and made her equal with man as regards obligatory acts of worship. Women are also encouraged to attend public gatherings on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, so that they may take part in these blessed occasions. This is demonstrated in a number of Hadith reported by Bukhari and Muslim, in which we see that the Prophet (PBUH) commanded that all the women should come out on these occasions, including adolescent and prepubescent girls, those who usually remained in seclusion, and virgins; he even commanded that menstruating women should come out, to take part in the joyous occasion, but they were to keep away from the prayer-place itself. His concern that all women should attend the prayer on the two Eids was so great that he ordered the one who had more than one jilbab (outer garment) to give one to her sister who had none. In this way he encouraged both the attendance of all women at Eid prayers and mutual support and help to do good and righteous deeds.
Umm `Atiyyah said:
"We (women) used to be commanded to go out on the two Eids, including those who usually stayed in seclusion, and virgins. The menstruating women went out too, and stayed behind the people, joining in the takbirat."35
"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) commanded us to take them out on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the adolescent and prepubescent girls, the menstruating women, and those who usually remained in seclusion, so that they could share in the festive occasions of the Muslims, but the menstruating women were not to pray. I said, `O Messenger of Allah (PBUH), one of us does not have a jilbab.' He said, `Let her sister dress her in one of her own jilbabs.'"36
A woman came and stayed at the castle of Banu Khalaf, and reported something from her sister. Her sister's husband had taken part in twelve military campaigns with the Prophet (PBUH), and her sister herself had accompanied him on six of them. She said: "We used to take care of the sick and wounded." Her sister asked the Prophet (PBUH): "Is there anything wrong if one of us does not have a jilbab and never goes out for that reason?" He said: "Let her friend give her one of her jilbabs, so that she can come out and join the righteous gatherings of the Muslims."' Hafsah said: `When Umm `Atiyyah arrived, I went to her and asked her, "Did you hear the Prophet (PBUH) say that?" She said, "May my father be sacrificed for him, yes I did. [She never mentioned him without saying "may my father be sacrificed for him"]. I heard him say, `Let the young girls who usually stay in seclusion, or the young girls and those who usually stay in seclusion, and the menstruating women, go out and attend the righteous gathering of the believers, but let the menstruating women keep away from the prayer-place itself.'"' Hafsah said: `I asked her, "Even the menstruating women?" She said, "Yes, are menstruating women not present at `Arafah and on other occasions?"'"37
The Prophet (PBUH) was concerned with the teaching and guidance of women, and wanted them to play a part in building the Muslim society, so he devoted part of his khutbah to women. He would come to the place where the women were gathered, and exhort and remind them, and he made doing this a duty of the imam. We find this in a hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Jurayj, who said:
Although Islam does not oblige women to attend congregational prayer in the mosque, whenever women gather together, they are encouraged to offer the fard prayers in congregation. In this case, the one who is leading them in prayer should stand in the middle of the (first) row, not in front, and they do not have to recite the adhan or iqamah. This is what Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (PBUH), used to do when she led other women in prayer.42
She Prays Sunnah and Nafil Prayers
The Muslim women does not limit herself to the five daily obligatory prayers; she also prays those sunnah prayers which the Prophet (PBUH) used to perform regularly (al-rawatib), and prays as many of the nafil (supererogatory) prayers as her time and energy allow. These prayers include salat al-duha, sunnah prayers following maghrib, and prayers offered at night. Nafil prayers bring a person closer to Allah (SWT), earn him or her the love and pleasure of Allah (SWT), and make him or her one of the victorious, obedient and righteous ones. There is no clearer indication of the great status attained by the believer who draws closer to Allah (SWT) by performing nafil deeds than the hadith qudsi:
The Prophet (PBUH) used to pray so much at night that his feet would become swollen. `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) asked him: "Why do you do this, O Messenger of Allah (PBUH), when has forgiven all your past and future sins?" He answered, "Should I not be a grateful servant?"45
The Prophet's wife Zaynab (May Allah be pleased with her) used to perform nafil prayers, and make them lengthy. She put up a rope between two columns (in the mosque), so that when she felt tired and exhausted she could lean against it and restore her energy. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) entered the mosque, saw the rope, and asked, "What is this?" The people told him, "It belongs to Zaynab: she prays, and when she feels tired, she leans against it." He said, "Untie it; let any of you pray as long as he has the energy to do so, and if he feels tired, he can sit down (or: let him sit down)."46
A woman of Banu Asad, whose name was al-Hawla' bint Tuwayt, used to pray all
night, and never sleep. One day she called on `A'ishah when the Prophet (PBUH)
was present. `A'ishah told him, "This is al-Hawla' bint Tuwayt. They say that
she never sleeps at night." The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "She never
sleeps at night! Do only as much as you can, for by Allah (SWT), Allah (SWT)
never gets tired, although you do."47
The true Muslim tries hard to perform her prayers properly, with deep concentration and precision of physical movements. She thinks about the meaning of the ayat she is reciting, and the words of praise and glorification that she is uttering. Her soul is flooded with fear of Allah (SWT), and with gratitude to Him and sincere worship of Him. If the Titan happens to whisper some idea to her during the prayer, to distract her from concentrating properly, to keep him away she focuses on the words that she is reciting from the Qur'an, and the words of praise that she is uttering.
The Muslim woman does not rush back to her housework and chores when she has finished her prayer. Rather, as the Prophet (PBUH) used to do, she asks Allah (SWT)'s forgiveness by saying "Astaghfir-Allah" three times, and repeats the du`a': "Allahumma anta al-salam wa minka al-salam, tabaraka ya dha'l-jalali wa'l-ikram (O Allah (SWT), You are Peace and from You comes peace, Blessed are You, O Lord of majesty and honour.)"50 Then she repeats the adhkar and du`a's that the Prophet (PBUH) is known to have recited after completing his prayer. There are many such adhkar51, one of the most important of which is to repeat "Subhan Allah" thirty-three times, "La ilaha ill-Allah" thirty-three times, "Allahu akbar" thirty-three times, then to complete one hundred with "La illaha ill-Allah wahdahu la shaika lah, lahu'l-mulk wa lahu'l-hamd, wa huwa `ala kulli shayin qadir." According to a sahih hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) said:
Thus the Muslim woman finishes her prayers, purified in heart and mind and reinvigorated with a dose of spiritual energy, which will help her to cope with the burdens of everyday life, knowing that she is under the protection of Allah (SWT). She will not panic if anything bad befalls her, nor will she become miserly if she enjoys good fortune. This is the attitude of those righteous women who pray and fear Allah (SWT):
She Pays Zakat on Her Wealth
It is clear to the true Muslim woman that Islam - although it has given her the right to financial independence, and has not obliged her to support herself or others, which is, rather, the duty of men - has indeed enjoined zakat on her, and has made zakat a right to which the poor are entitled. So the Muslim woman would not hesitate to pay it in the ways prescribed by shari`ah. She cannot claim to be excused because she is a woman and no woman is obliged to spend on others. Any woman who makes such a claim has a poor understanding of Islam, her faith is weak and there is some fault in her personality. Or else she is a woman who appears to be religious, but she is ignorant and negligent, or is stingy and loves money, and it would never occur to her to pay zakat even though she fasts, prays and performs Hajj, and occasionally gives a small charitable donation from her great wealth. These types of women - ignorant or stingy - are nothing like the true Muslim woman as envisaged by Islam.
She Fasts During the Day and Prays
at Night in Ramadan
The true Muslim woman fasts the month of Ramadan, and her soul is filled with faith that: "Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven."54 She has the attitude of one who truly fasts, whose faculties keep away from all kinds of sins that may invalidate the fast or diminish its reward. If she finds herself exposed to the trials of hostility or argument, she follows the Prophet's advice to men and women who fast:
"Whoever does not give up false speech and evil actions, Allah (SWT) has no
need of his giving up his food and drink."56
`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said:
"Whoever spends the night of laylat al-qadr in prayer and worship out of faith and hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven."62
The true Muslim woman and her family should live an Islamic life during Ramadan, striving to organize themselves in such a way that when they all come back from tarawih prayers, they do not stay up for too long, because in a few short hours' time, they will get up to pray qiyam al-layl and then eat suhur, for the Prophet (PBUH) commanded us to eat suhur, as there is much benefit in it:
"Eat suhur, for in suhur there is blessing."63
The true Muslim woman helps all the members of her family to get up for suhur, in obedience to the command of the Prophet (PBUH) and in the hope of obtaining the blessings of suhur, such as the reminder to pray qiyam al-layl, and encouragement to go out to the mosque to pray fajr in congregation, awell as the physical benefits of strengthening the body for the day's fast. This is what the Prophet (PBUH) used to do and trained his Companions to do likewise:
Zayd ibn Thabit (RAA) said:
The true Muslim woman also observes nafil fasts at times other than Ramadan, if it is not too difficult for her to do so. So she fasts the day of `Arafat, and `Ashura', and the ninth day of Muharram, because fasting on these days and others is one of the righteous deeds that may expiate sins, as the Prophet (PBUH) told us:
Abu Qutadah (RAA) said:
Ibn `Abbas (RAA) said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) fasted the day of `Ashura', and commanded others to fast on this day too.66
Abu Qutadah (RAA) said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was asked about fasting on the day of `Ashura', and he said: "It is an expiation for the sins of the previous year."67
Mu`adhah al-`Adawiyyah said:
House of Allah (SWT).
The true Muslim woman intends to go on Hajj to the House of Allah (SWT) when she is able to do so and it is easy for her to travel. Before she sets out on her journey, she takes the time to study the rules (ahkam) of Hajj in depth, so that when she begins to perform the rituals of Hajj, her actions will be based on true understanding and her Hajj will be complete according to the conditions laid down by the shari`ah. It will also be the equivalent of jihad for men, as the Prophet (PBUH) described it in a hadith narrated by `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her):
She goes for `Umbra
The true Muslim woman does not forget that she is duty bound to perform all the religious duties that Allah (SWT) has commanded her to do. In this regard her situation is the same as that of a man, and there is no difference between them except in a few regulations which apply exclusively to either men or women. Other than that, women and men are equally responsible before Allah (SWT).
Allah (SWT) says:
( Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, and life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.) (Qur'an 16:97)
( And their Lord has accepted of them, and answered them: `Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another; those who have left their homes and were driven out therefrom, and suffered harm in My Cause, and fought and were slain - verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath - a reward from the Presence of Allah, and from His Presence is the best of rewards.) (Qur'an 3:195)
Islamic history is filled with the stories of great women who kept the rule of Allah (SWT) in mind at all times and did not deviate from it or look for alternatives. Among these stories is that of Khawlah bint Tha`labah and her husband Aws ibn al-Samit, narrated by Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawud, and quoted by Ibn Kathir in his tafsir of the beginning of Surat al-Mujadilah. Khawlah said:
( Allah has indeed heard [and accepted] the statement of the woman who pleads with you concerning her husband and carries her complaint [in prayer] to Allah: and Allah [always] hears the arguments between both sides among you: for Allah hears and sees [all things]'. If any men among you divorce their wives by zihar77 [calling them mothers], they cannot be their mothers: none can be their mothers except those who gave them birth. And in fact they use words [both] iniquitous and false: but truly Allah is One that blots out [sins], and forgives [again and again]. But those who divorce their wives by zihar, then wish to go back on the words they uttered - [it is ordained that such a one] should free a slave before they touch each other: this are you admonished to perform: and Allah is well-acquainted with [all] that you do. And if any has not [the wherewithal], he should fast for two months consecutively before they touch each other. But if any is unable to do so, he should feed sixty indigent ones. This, that you may show your faith in Allah and His Messenger, those are limits [set by] Allah. For those who reject [Him], there is a grievous Penalty.) (Qur'an 58:1-4)
He told me, `Let him release a slave.' I said, `O Messenger of Allah (PBUH), he does not have the means to do that.' He said, `Then let him fast for two consecutive months.' I said, `By Allah (SWT), he is an old man, he is not able to do that.' He said, `Then let him feed sixty poor people with a wasq78 of dates.' I said, `O Messenger of Allah (SWT), he does not have that much.' He said, `Then we will help him with a faraq79 of dates.' I said, `And I will help him with another faraq, O Messenger of Allah (SWT).' He said, `You have done right and done well. Go and give it in charity on his behalf, then take care of your cousin properly.' And I did so."80
It comes as no surprise that this great woman enjoyed such high standing among the Sahabah who were her contemporaries and knew her virtues, above all `Umar ibn al-Khattab (RAA). She met him one day outside the mosque, when al-Jarud al-`Abdi was with him. `Umar, who was the khalifah at that time, greeted her, and she said to him, "O `Umar, I remember you when you were called `Umayr in the marketplace of `Ukaz, taking care of the sheep with your stick. So fear Allah (SWT) in your role as khalifah taking care of the people, and know that the one who fears the threat of punishment in the Hereafter realises that it is not far away, and the one who fears death fears missing some opportunity in this life." Al-Jarud said, "You have spoken too harshly to Amir al-Mu'minin, woman!" `Umar said, "Let her be. Do you not know that this is Khawlah, to whose words Allah (SWT) listened from above the seven heavens? By Allah (SWT), `Umar should by rights listen to her."
Obedience to Allah (SWT) and His Messenger is much more important than one's own whims and desires; it comes before pleasure and individual choice. Zaynab bint Jahsh (May Allah be pleased with her) set the best example of obedience to the command of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger when he asked her to agree to marry his freed slave and adopted son Zayd ibn Harithah. This marriage achieved two legislative (tashri`i) aims:
(1) To achieve total equality among people: the beautiful woman of Quraysh, the noblewoman of the sons of `Abdu Shams, and the cousin of the Prophet, married a freed slave. Freed slaves were of a lower class than the nobility; indeed, the differences between the classes was so great and so deep that nothing could abolish it except a decisive, public act on the part of the Prophet (PBUH), that the Muslim community would have to take as an example, so that these barriers might be torn down and people would not be viewed as superior except in terms of their level of taqwa.
(2) to abolish the custom of adoption which was widely spread at the time of jahiliyyah. Hence the Prophet (PBUH) married Zaynab, after she had been divorced by his adopted son Zayd, to demonstrate in practical terms that if Zayd had been his real son, Allah (SWT) would not have commanded him in the Qur'an to marry Zaynab.
The choice fell to Zaynab, the cousin of the Prophet (PBUH), to achieve these two legislative aims within the environment of the Prophet's household, so that the people could accept them in obedience to the command of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (PBUH). When he chose her tbe the wife of Zayd ibn Harithah, she disliked the idea, and said, "O Messenger of Allah (PBUH), I will never marry him, for I am the noblewoman of the tribe of `Abdu Shams." The Prophet (PBUH) replied, calmly but firmly, "You have to marry him." Whilst they were discussing the matter, Allah (SWT) revealed to His Messenger (PBUH):
( It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision: if anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.) (Qur'an 33:36)
Then Zaynab accepted the command of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger, and said: "I will not disobey Allah (SWT) and His Messenger, and I will give myself in marriage to him."
Subsequently, the differences between Zaynab and Zayd led to their divorce. When Zaynab had completed her `iddah, Allah (SWT) revealed the following ayah:
( Behold! You did say to one who had received the grace of Allah and your favour: `Retain [in wedlock] your wife, and fear Allah.' But you did hide in your heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: you did fear the people, but it is more fitting that you should fear Allah. Then when Zayd had dissolved [his marriage] with her, with the necessary [formality], We joined her in marriage to you: in order that [in future] there may be no difficulty to the Believers in [the matter of] marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary [formality] [their marriage] with them. And Allah's command must be fulfilled.) (Qur'an 33:37)
The Prophet (PBUH) recited this ayah, smiling, then he said, "Who will go to Zaynab and tell her the good news that Allah (SWT) has arranged my marriage to her from heaven?"
It was as if Allah (SWT) was rewarding Zaynab for her absolute obedience to
Allah (SWT) and His Messenger. She had accepted their decision that she should
marry Zayd, then she became the wife of the Prophet (PBUH) by the command of
Allah (SWT), in ayat which the Muslims will recite when they worship
Allah (SWT) by reciting the Qur'an, until the end of time. This honour was
bestowed only on Zaynab, who was unique among the wives of the Prophet (PBUH).
She was proud of the favour of Allah (SWT) to her, and used to boast to the
other wives of the Prophet: "Your families arranged your marriages, but Allah
(SWT) arranged my marriage from above the seven heavens."81
Obedience to Allah (SWT) and His Messenger can only be achieved by following their commands and keeping away from that which they have prohibited. One way in which the Muslim woman obeys Allah (SWT) and His Messenger is by not sitting alone with a "stranger" (ajnabi) i.e., a man to whom she is not related, because doing so is haram according to the consensus of the scholars, on the basis of the hadith:
The ajnabi or "stranger" is a man to whom marriage is allowed in principle, even if he is a relative, especially the husband's brother and other similarly close relatives. It is forbidden for a woman to sit alone with all of these, because the Prophet (PBUH) said :
The true Muslim woman does not fall into such errors as are committed by so many careless people nowadays.
She wears correct hijab
The Muslim woman wears correct hijab when she goes out of her house. Hijab is the distinctive Islamic dress whose features have been clearly defined by the Qur'an and Sunnah. She does not go out of the house, or appear before non-mahram men, wearing perfume, make-up or other fineries, because she knows that this is haram according to the Qur'an:
It is Muslim girls such as this who will build Muslim homes and families, and raise a virtuous generation which will fill society with constructive and noble elements. Today there are many such young women, al-hamdu lillah.
Proper dress for women was not something novel introduced by Islam; it existed in all the laws of Allah (SWT) revealed before Islam. This can be seen in what remains of those laws in the altered books (i.e. the Bible). We also see it in the modest dress of the Christian nuns who live in the Islamic world and also in the West, and in the fact that the women of the people of the Book cover their heads when they enter their churches. The modern rejection of the idea that women should be covered and modest goes against all divine laws, from the time of Ibrahim, Musa and `Isa (PBUH), until the hanifi way brought by Islam. This attitude is an attempt to escape the decree of Allah (SWT), which Allah (SWT) has sent to mankind throughout the ages, brought time after time by His Messengers to guide mankind to truth and righteousness, so that they would become one nation, worshipping and obeying one Lord:
( O messengers! Enjoy [all] things good and pure, and work righteousness; for I am well-acquainted with [all] that you do. And verily this Brotherhood of yours is a single Brotherhood. And I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore fear Me [and no other].) (Qur'an 23:51-52)
( And [remember her who guarded her
chastity: We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and We made her and her son a Sign
for all peoples. Verily, this Brotherhood of yours is a single Brotherhood, and
I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me [and no other].) (Qur'an 21:91-92)
Dr Nawal al-Saadawi, who for a long time attacked hijab and those who wear it, vehemently calling for women to take off hijab, now condemns the vulgarity and scandalous nakedness of women in the West. She says:
"In the streets of London . . . I see women who are nearly naked, showing off their bodies like merchandise. Clothing has a function, which is to protect the body from the natural environment, not to transmit messages of temptation. If a woman saw herself as a human being, and not as merchandise, she would not need to show her nakedness."88
It became clear to Nawal al-Saadawi after a while, that the veil should be removed from the mind, not the body, especially in the case of those men and women who are educated. Those women of lesser education, but with intelligence and openness of mind, who wear hijab, are worth tens of those foolish educated women who make a wanton display of themselves, uncovering their faces, heads and bodies whilst veiling their minds and instincts! This is why she describes her future plans as "lifting the veil from the minds of educated men and women."89 She adds: "I know many female professors, doctors and engineers who are politically, socially and culturally illiterate."90
The famous novelist Ihsan `Abd al-Quddus, who flooded the literary marketplace with his stories that called for women to go out of the house and mingle with men, dancing with them at parties and night-clubs, said in an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anba' (18 January 1989):
"I think that the basic responsibility of any woman is her house and children. This applies to me above all. If it were not for my wife, I would not have been able to enjoy success, stability and family life, because she is devoted to the house and children . . ."
In the same interview, he said: "I never in all my life envisaged marrying a woman who works, and I am well-known for this, because I knew from the beginning that the house is a heavy burden or responsibility for women."
She avoids mixing freely with men
The true Muslim woman avoids mixing with men as much as possible; she does not pursue it or encourage it. Thus she follows the example of Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH), the Prophet's wives, the women of the salaf (the Sahabah and Tabi`in), and those who followed their way sincerely.
The harm that may be done to both sexes as a result of free mixing, that is obvious to the Muslim woman, is now becoming clear to Westerners who have practised free mixing on the widest scale. They have seen that it leads to a fall in standards of education, so they have now begun to segregate male and female students in some universities and institutes of education. A number of the greatest Muslim educators, who have visited Europe, America and Russia have witnessed this segregation, for example, Professor Ahmad Mazhar al-`Azmah, who was sent by the Syrian Ministry of Education to Belgium, where he visited a number of schools. On a visit to a girls' elementary school, he asked the principal, "Why do you not let boys and girls mix at this level of education?" She replied, "We noticed the harm that mixing can to do children even at the elementary level."
There was news that Russia had reached a similar conclusion, and had established separate, segregated branches of universities, where male and female students did not mix.
In A, there are more than 170 university branches in which male and female students do not mix. They were set up because the educators and supervisors noticed the harm that was caused by mixing, even in a society that is used to mixing in every area of social life.
The evidence of the harm caused by mixing is too vast to be enumerated. All of it points to the wisdom of Islam in putting an end to mixing, and protecting the Muslim societies which adhere to Islamic guidance from its destructive, harmful effects.
She does not shake hands with
a non-mahram man
It is natural that a Muslim woman who does not mix with men would not wish to shake hands with anyone who is not her mahram, in accordance with the teaching and example of the Prophet (PBUH). Bukhari reports that `A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said:
She does not travel except with a mahram
One of the rulings of Islam concerning women is that a woman should not travel without a mahram, because travel is full of dangers and hardships and it is not right for a woman to face all this alone, without a mahram to protect her and take care of her. So the Prophet (PBUH) forbade women to travel alone without a mahram; this is recorded in numerous Hadith, but it will suffice to quote just two of them here:
"It is not permitted for a woman who believes in Allah (SWT) and the Last Day
to travel the walking-distance of three days without a
In this way the Muslim woman is truly obedient to Allah (SWT), following His commands, heeding His prohibitions, and accepting His rulings. She adheres to the teachings of Islam and bears with patience any difficulties that may be involved in obeying Allah (SWT), even if this goes against many of the prevalent social ideas. She is filled with hope that she will ultimately be successful and victorious, as the Qur'an states:
The Muslim woman who is obedient to the command of her Lord naturally accepts His will and decree, because this is one of the greatest signs of faith, obedience, taqwa and righteousness in a person. So the Muslim woman who is guided by the teachings of Islam always accepts whatever befalls her in life, whether it is good or bad, because this attitude of acceptance is good for her in all cases, as the Prophet (PBUH) explained:
With this deep faith, the Muslim woman faces the upheavals and calamities of life with a calm soul that accepts the will and decree of Allah (SWT). She seeks his help with patience and prayer, and hoping for reward from Him. She voices her praise to Allah (SWT) for what He has willed and decreed, as al-Khansa' did on the day when she heard the news about her four sons and said: "Praise be to Allah (SWT) Who has honoured me by their martyrdom; I hope that Allah (SWT) will gather me with them under His Mercy."96 She goes to the places where she usually prays, and seeks Allah's (SWT) help with prayer and patience, as Asma' bint `Umays used to do when disasters and tragedies stuck one after the other. She lost her first husband, Ja`far ibn Abi Talib (RAA), then she was stricken by the death of her second husband, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (RAA), and of her son, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (RAA).
There are many other examples in history of Muslim woman who had faith, hoping for reward from Allah (SWT) and facing difficulties with patience and fortitude. Allah (SWT) will reward them greatly:
The Muslim woman may find herself becoming neglectful and slipping from the Straight Path, so she may fall short in her practice of Islam in a way that does not befit the believing woman. But she will soon notice her error, seek forgiveness for her mistakes or shortcomings, and return to the protection of Allah (SWT):
She feels a sense of responsibility for
the members of her family
The responsibility of the Muslim woman for the members of her family is no less, in the sight of Allah (SWT), than that of the man. Her responsibility is in fact even greater than a man's, because of what she knows of the secret life of her children who live with her most of the time: they may tell her things that they do not tell their father. The Muslim woman feels this responsibility every time she hears the words of the Prophet (PBUH):
Her main concern is the pleasure of Allah (SWT)
The true Muslim woman always seeks to earn the pleasure of Allah (SWT) in everything she does. So she measures everything against this precise standard, and will retain or discard any practice accordingly.
Whenever there is a conflict between what pleases Allah (SWT), and what pleases other people, she chooses what pleases Allah (SWT), with no hesitation or argument, even if it will angeother people. She does this because she knows, with her deep understanding of Islam and her own common sense, that pleasing the people is a goal that can never be achieved, and it will only bring about the wrath of Allah (SWT). The Prophet (PBUH) said:
There are women whom one sees praying perfectly, but in many instances they follow their own desires and deviate from the right path. In social gatherings they involve themselves in gossip and backbiting, criticising people, plotting against anybody they dislike, and putting words in their mouths so as to discredit them. These people are suffering from weakness of faith and a failure to understand the true reality of this holistic religion which Allah (SWT) revealed to guide mankind in all aspects of life, both public and private, so that people might seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT) by obeying His commands and emulating the behaviour of the Prophet (PBUH).
There are also women who obey Allah (SWT) in some matters, but disobey Him in others, acting according to their own whims and desires. Such people are, as it were, half-Muslims, and the split personality of those who have deviated from the guidance of Islam is one of the most dangerous psychological and spiritual disorders facing modern man.
She understands the true meaning of
being a servant of Allah (SWT)
The true Muslim woman has the firm belief that she has been created to serve an important purpose in life, which Allah (SWT) has defined in the Qur'an:
She works to support the religion of Allah (SWT)
The most important act of worship that the Muslim woman can do is to strive to establish the rule of Allah (SWT) on earth, and to follow the way of life that He has prescribed, so that Islam will govern the life of the individual, the family, the community and the nation.
The sincere Muslim woman will feel that her worship is lacking if she does not strive to achieve the purpose for which Allah (SWT) created jinn and men, namely promoting the supremacy of the authority of Allah (SWT) on earth, which is the only way in which mankind can truly worship Allah (SWT):
The first Muslim women had a sound grasp of this meaning, which penetrated deep into their souls. They were no less enthusiastic than the men when it came to sacrifice and courage for the sake of Allah (SWT). Some of the women of the early generations of this ummah excelled many of the men in this regard.
Asma' bint `Umays, the wife of Ja`far ibn Abi Talib, hastened to embrace Islam along with her husband in the earliest days of Islam, the days of hardship and suffering. She migrated with him to Abyssinia, in spite of the risks and hardships involved, for the sake of Allah (SWT) and to support His religion. When `Umar ibn al-Khattab joked with her and said, "O Habashiyyah (Abyssinian woman)!
We beat you to Madinah," she said, "You have most certainly spoken the truth. You were with the Messenger of Allah, feeding the hungry and teaching the ignorant, whilst we were far away in exile. By Allah (SWT), I shall go to the Messenger of Allah and tell him that." She came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said, "O Messenger of Allah, some men are criticizing us and claiming that we were not among the early muhajirin." The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "But you have two hijrahs; you migrated to the land of Abyssinia, whilst we were detained in Makkah, then you migrated to me afterwards."100
Asma' bint `Umays was successful in establishing the virtue of those who had migrated to Abyssinia in the early days of Islam, and she understood from the Prophet (PBUH) that this distinguished group would have the reward of two hijrahs. This was a great honour which was theirs because they had not hesitated to support the Prophet (PBUH), even though it meant leaving behind their families and homeland for the sake of Allah (SWT).
Muslim women were also present at the Treaty of `Aqabah, which took place in secret, under cover of darkness, and which played such an important role in supporting the Prophet (PBUH). Among the delegation of Ansar were two women of status and virtue: Nasibah bint Ka`b al-Maziniyyah, and Umm Mani` Asma' bint `Amr al-Sulamiyyah, the mother of Mu`adh ibn Jabal (RAA); the latter was present with the Prophet (PBUH) at Khaybar, where she performed extremely well.
When the Prophet (PBUH) began his Mission, calling for pure Tawhid and the abandonment of idol-worship, the mushrikin were very angry with him, and plotted to break into his house at night and kill him. The conspirators kept quiet and vowed to let their plot to kill the Prophet remain a secret amongst themselves. Nobody even sensed that there was a plot, apart from one Muslim woman, who was over one hundred years old. Her name was Ruqayqah bint Sayfi, and she did not let the weakness of old age stop her from hastening to save the Prophet's life. She made her way to him, and told him what the people were planning to do. He embarked upon his hijrah straight away, leaving the land that was the most beloved to him on earth, and leaving his cousin `Ali (RAA) sleeping in his bed, so that the conspirators surrounding his house would think that he was there, and this would keep them from following him and killing him on the road.101
What a tremendous service this great woman did for Islam and the Muslims! How great was her jihad to save the life of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) at the most dangerous time he ever faced.
When the Prophet (PBUH) and his companion left Makkah, and stayed out of sight in the cave of Hira' at the top of Mount Thawr, it was a young girl who brought them food and water, and news of the people who were lying in wait for . Her name was Asma' bint Abi Bakr al-Siddiq (May Allah be pleased with her).
This brave young girl used to cover the great distance between Makkah and Mount Thawr at night; the difficulty and isolation of this journey, and the presence of watchful enemies, did not deter her. She knew that by saving the life of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companion, helping them to reach their goal of going to Madinah, she was supporting the religion of Allah (SWT), and working towards making His word supreme on earth. So she undertook her difficult mission every day, ever alert and striving to conceal herself as she walked and climbed up the mountain, until she had brought whatever supplies and news she was carrying to the Prophet (PBUH) and his companion. Then she would go back down to Makkah under cover of darkness.102
This mission, which even the strongest of men could have failed to achieve, is not all that Asma' did to support the Prophet (PBUH) and Islam. She was tested severely, and proved to be as solid as a rock, on the day when the mushrikin surrounded her and asked about her father. She denied knowing anything, and they placed severe pressure on her, so much so that Abu Jahl struck her a blow that sent her earring flying from her ear. But this did not weaken her resolve or her determination to keep her secret hidden. She kept up her mission of taking food and news to the Prophet (PBUH) and his companion, until the time came for them to leave the cave and head for Madinah. She had already brought them provisions for the journey, but when she checked the cloth in which they were wrapped, she found that she had nothing with which to tie it apart from her own girdle. She told her father, who told her to tear it in two and use one piece to tie the water skins and the other to tie the cloth holding the food. Hence Asma' became known as Dhat al-Nitaqayn (she of the two girdles).103
It was the attitude of the early Muslim women to support the religion of Allah (SWT) and join the forces of da`wah, because their hearts were filled with strong, vibrant faith. They could not bear to stay in the land of kufr, far from the centre of Islam, so they migrated - with their husbands, if they were married - and their hijrah, like that of the men, was in obedience to Allah (SWT) and in support of His religion. Their faith was like that of the men, and they made sacrifices just as the men did.
This deep faith is what motivated Umm Kalthum bint `Uqbah ibn Abi Mu`ayt to migrate to Madinah alone, at the time of the Treaty of al-Hudaybiyah, where the Prophet (PBUH) had promised to return to the mushrikin anyone who came to him to embrace Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) had already kept his promise and sent two men back. When Umm Kalthum reached Madinah, she said to the Prophet (PBUH): "I have fled to you with my religion, so protect me and do not send me back to them, for they will punish me and torture me, and I do not have the patience and fortitude to endure that. I am a mere woman, and you know the weakness of women. I see that you have already sent two men back." The Prophet (PBUH) said: "Allah (SWT) has cancelled this treaty with regard to women."104
Allah (SWT) knew the faith of Umm Kalthum bint `Uqbah ibn Abi Mu`ayt, and other muhajir women who had migrated solely out of love for Allah (SWT) and His Messenger and Islam.
He revealed Qur'an concerning them, abolishing the treaty between the Prophet and the mushrikin in the case of women only, and forbidding their being sent back to the mushrikin once the Prophet (PBUH) had tested them and ensured that they had not migrated for the sake of a husband or wealth or some other worldly purpose, and that they had indeed migrated for the sake of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger:
Lubabah was the wife of the Prophet's paternal uncle al-`Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib, and was diametrically opposed to Umm Jamil bint Harb, the wife of his other paternal uncle Abu Lahab, whom the Qur'an described as the carrier of firewood who would have a twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre around her neck (see Qur'an 111:4-5), because of her determination to harm the Prophet (PBUH), whilst Lubabah was the first to come to his support and to make sacrifices to support his religion during the most testing days that the early Muslims faced.
Lubabah, her husband al-`Abbas and their sons used to conceal their Islam, in obedience to the Prophet's command and in accordance with a well-thought-out plan.
Thus they were able to learn the secrets of the mushrikin and pass them on to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). When the battle of Badr was waged between the Muslims and the mushrikin, and news came of the defeat of Quraysh, Umm Fadl urged her sons and her freed slave Abu Rafi` to conceal their joy at this defeat, because she feared that the mushrikin, especially Abu Lahab who was filled with hatred towards Muhammad (PBUH), his companions and his message, might do them some harm.
But her freed slave Abu Rafi` was not safe from the wrath of Abu Lahab; when he expressed his joy at the Muslims' victory, Abu Lahab was enraged and vented his fury on the poor man, beating him in the presence of Umm Fadl. At this point, Umm Fadl became like a fierce lioness, and attacked him shouting, "You pick on him when his master is absent!" She struck him with one of the (wooden) pillars of the house and dealt him a fatal blow to the head. Abu Lahab did not live more than seven days after that.
Umm Fadl bore her separation from her husband al-`Abbas with patience, for the sake of Allah (SWT) and in support of His religion, when the Prophet (PBUH) issued a command that al-`Abbas should stay in Makkah, and she should migrate to Madinah. Their separation was a lengthy and difficult one, but Umm Fadl bore it patiently, hoping for reward and seeking help from Allah (SWT) through prayer and fasting, waiting for her beloved husband to finish what he had to do in Makkah and come to Madinah. As it turned out, he was one of the last to migrate to Madinah. The only thing that helped to ease the pain of this separation was seeing her eldest son `Abdullah, accompanying the Prophet (PBUH) daily and drinking deeply from the pure wellspring of Islam. It never occurred to her that history was preparing her to enter its widest gate, for she was to be the great mother of the great authority on Islamic teaching and the interpretation of the Qur'an: `Abdullah ibn al-`Abbas (RAA).
Another one of the early Muslim women who thought little of the sufferings and torture they endured for the sake of Islam was Sumayyah, the mother of `Ammar ibn Yasir. When the mid-day heat was at its most intense, and the desert sands were boiling, Banu Makhzum would drag her and her son and husband out to an exposed area, where they would pour burning sand over them, place heated shields on them, and throw heavy rocks at them, until her son and husband sought to protect themselves from this appalling torture by saying some words to agree with the mushrikin, although they hated to do so. Concerning them and others in similar situations, Allah (SWT) revealed the ayah: ( Anyone who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief, except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith . . .) (Qur'an 16:106)
But Sumayyah remained steadfast and patient, and refused to say what the mushrikin wanted to hear. The despicable Abu Jahl stabbed her with a spear, killing her, and thus she had the honour ofbeing recorded as the first martyr in Islam.
The history of Islam is filled with other women who endured even worse torture for the sake of Islam. This suffering did not weaken their resolve or exhaust their patience; rather they willingly accepted whatever befell them, hoping for reward from Allah (SWT). They never said anything that would undermine their religion, and they never humiliated themselves by begging for mercy. Historians record that many of the men who were oppressed - apart from Bilal, may Allah (SWT) have mercy on him - were forced to say something that would please their oppressors, in order to save their lives, but not one of the women who were similarly oppressed was reported to have given in.
These brilliant Muslim women welcomed the oppression they suffered for the sake of Allah (SWT) and making His word supreme on earth. They never stopped preaching the word of Islam, no matter what trials and suffering came their way.
In the story of Umm Sharik al-Qurashiyyah al-`Amiriyyah, Ibn `Abbas gives an eye-witness account of the depth of the women's faith and how they rushed to devote themselves to Allah's (SWT) cause, patiently enduring whatever trials this entailed.
Ibn `Abbas said:
"Umm Sharik began to think about Islam whilst she was in Makkah. She embraced Islam, then began to mix with the women of Quraysh in secret, calling them to Islam, until this became known to the people of Makkah. They seized her and said, `If it were not for your people, we would have done what we wanted to you, but we will send you back to them.' She said, `So they seated me on a camel with no saddle or cushion beneath me, and left me for three days without giving me anything to eat or drink. After three days I began to lose consciousness. Whenever they stopped, they would leave me out in the sun whilst they sought shade, and keep food and drink away from me until they resumed their journey . . .'"
This was not all that Muslim women did in support of Islam; they also went out on military expeditions with the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions where, when the forces of iman and the forces of kufr met in armed combat, they performed the important duty of preparing the waterskins and bringing water to the fighters, and tending the wounded, and carrying the dead away from the battlefield.
At the most critical moments, they never shrank from taking up weapons and entering the fray alongside the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions.
Bukhari and Muslim narrate many Hadith which illustrate the brilliance of the Muslim women during that golden age, when hearts were filled with vibrant faith, deep love for Allah (SWT) and His Messenger, and the desire to make Islam victorious.
One of these reports is the account given by Imam Muslim of Umm `Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah, who said:
For this reason, the Rightly-Guided khalifah `Umar ibn al-Khattab (RAA) preferred Umm Salit over his own wife Umm Kalthum bint `Ali when he was sharing out some garments among the women of Madinah. Because she had sewn waterskins on the day of Uhud, and this had played an important role in helping the mujahidin and renewing their energy. Bukhari reports from Tha`labah ibn Abi Malik:
At Uhud, the Prophet's cheek and upper lip were wounded and his tooth was
broken. His daughter Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) washed his wounds,
whilst `Ali poured the water. When Fatimah saw that the water only made the
bleeding worse, she took a piece of matting, burned it, and applied it to the
wound to stop the bleeding.110
Safiyyah was also present at the battle of al-Khandaq (the trench). When the Prophet (PBUH) set out from Madinah to fight his enemies, he put his wives and womenfolk in the fortress of the poet Hassan ibn Thabit, which was the most secure fortress in Madinah. A Jewish man came by, and began to walk around the fortress. Safiyyah said, "O Hassan, this Jew is walking around the fortress, and by Allah (SWT) I fear that he will go and tell the other Jews out there where we are. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and his Companions are too busy to come and help us, so go down and kill him." Hassan said, "May Allah forgive you, O daughter of `Abd al-Muttalib. By Allah (SWT), you know that I am not like that." When Safiyyah heard this, she stood up, took hold of a wooden post, and went down from the fortress herself. She struck the Jew with the wooden post and killed him, then went back to the fortress and said, "O Hassan, go down and strip him of his arms and armour; the only thing that is preventing me from doing so is that he is a man." Hassan said, "I have no need of this booty, O daughter of Abd al-Muttalib." Safiyyah was also present at the battle of Khaybar.
One of the most distinguished women who took part in the battle of Uhud, if not the most distinguished of them, was Nasibah bint Ka`ab al-Maziniyyah, Umm `Umarah (May Allah be pleased with her). At the beginning of the battle, she was bringing water and tending the wounded, as the other women were doing. When the battle was going in the favour of the Muslims, the archers disobeyed command of the Prophet (PBUH), and this turned the victory into defeat, as the Qur'an described it:
Her son `Umarah also described what happened on that tremendous day: "On that day, I was wounded in my left hand. A man who seemed to be as tall as a palm-tree struck me, then went away without pursuing me to finish me off. The blood began to flow copiously, so the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) told me, `Bind up your wound.' My mother came to me, and she was wearing a waist-wrapper, which she had brought, for the purpose of wrapping wounds. She dressed my wound, whilst the Prophet (PBUH) was looking on. Then she told me, `Get up, my son, and fight the people.' The Prophet (PBUH) said, `Who could bear what you are putting up with, O Umm `Umarah?' She said: The man who had struck my son came by, and the Messenger of Allah said, `This is the one who struck your son.' I intercepted him and hit him in the thigh, and he collapsed. I saw the Messenger of Allah smiling so broadly that I could see his back teeth. He said, `You have taken your revenge, O Umm `Umarah!' Then we struck him with our weapons until we killed him, and the Prophet (PBUH) said: `Praise be to Allah (SWT), who granted you victory over him, gave you the satisfaction of taking revenge on your enemy, and let you see the vengeance for yourself."
On this day, Nasibah herself received many wounds whilst she was fighting the people and striking their chests. The Prophet (PBUH) saw her, and called to her son, "Your mother! Your mother! See to her wounds, may Allah (SWT) bless you and your household! Your mother has fought better than so-and-so." When his mother heard what the Prophet (PBUH) said, she said, "Pray to Allah (SWT) that we may accompany you in Paradise." He said, "O Allah (SWT), make them my companions in Paradise." She said, "I do not care what befalls me in this world."111
Umm `Umarah's jihad was not confined to the battle of Uhud. She was also present on a number of other occasions, namely the treaty of `Aqabah, al-Hudaybiyah, Khaybar and Hunayn. Her heroic conduct at Hunayn was no less marvellous than her heroic conduct at Uhud. At the time of Abu Bakr's khilafah, she was present at al-Yamamah where she fought brilliantly and received eleven wounds as well as losing her hand.
It is no surprise that the Prophet (PBUH) gave her the good news that she would enter Paradise, and that she was later held in high esteem by the khalifah Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (RAA) and his commander Khalid ibn al-Walid (RAA), and subsequently by `Umar ibn al-Khattab (RAA).112
During this golden age of the Muslim woman's history there was another woman who was no less great than Nasibah bint Ka`b: Umm Sulaym bint Milhan. Like Umm `Umarah, `A'ishah, Fatimah and the other women, she also brought water and tended the wounded, but here we will tell another story. When the Muslims were preparing to go out with the Prophet (PBUH) to conquer Makkah, her husband Abu Talhah was among them. Umm Sulaym was in the later stages of pregnancy, but this did not stop her from wanting to accompany her husband Abu Talhah and to earn alongside him the reward for jihad for the sake of Allah (SWT). She did not care about the hardships and difficulties that lay ahead on the journey. Her husband felt sorry for her and did not want to expose her to all that, but he had no choice but to ask the Prophet's permission. The Prophet (PBUH) gave his permission, and Umm Sulaym was delighted to accompany her beloved husband and witness the conquest of Makkah with him, on that great day when the hills of Makkah echoed with the cries of the believers and mujahidin: "There is no god but Allah (SWT) alone. He has kept His promise, granted victory to His servant, and alone has defeated the confederates. There is nothing before Him or after Him. There is no god but Allah (SWT), and we worship Him alone, adhering faithfully to His religion although the disbelievers may hate this." This was the day when the bastions of idolatry and shirk in the Arabian Peninsula were forever destroyed, and the idols were thrown down by the Prophet (PBUH), as he declared,
A report in Sahih Muslim states:
Umm Sulaym stood firm with the Prophet (PBUH) when the battle intensified and
even the bravest of men were put to the test. She could not bear even to see
those who had run away and left the Prophet (PBUH), so she told him, "Kill those
who ran away and left you . . ." It comes as no surprise that the Messenger of
Allah (PBUH) gave her the glad tidings that she would enter Paradise. In a
hadith reported by Bukhari, Muslim and others from Jabir ibn `Abdullah
(RAA), he (PBUH) told her: "I saw myself in Paradise, and suddenly I saw
al-Rumaysa'115 bint Milhan, the wife of Abu Talhah . .
Bukhari reports that Anas ibn Malik (RAA) said:
The Prophet's words came true, as Anas (RAA) reported: "She married `Ubadah
ibn al-Samit, and went out for jihad with him, and she travelled across
the sea with the daughter of Qarazah.117 When she came back, her
riding-beast threw her, and she fell and died."118
Another of the women who took part in military campaigns and jihad with the Prophet (PBUH), helping to defend Islam, was Umm Ayman, the nurse of the Prophet (PBUH). She was present at Uhud, Khaybar, Mu'tah and Hunayn, where she worked hard, tending the wounded and bringing water to the thirsty.120
There was also Kabshah bint Rafi` al-Ansariyyah, the mother of Sa`d ibn Mu`adh (RAA). During the campaign of Uhud, she came running towards the Prophet (PBUH), who was on his horse, and Sa`d ibn Mu`adh (RAA) was holding onto its reins. Sa`d said, "O Messenger of Allah, this is my mother." The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "She is most welcome." He stopped for her, and she came closer; he offered his condolences for the death of her son `Amr ibn Mu`adh, told her and her family the glad tidings of the martyrs in Paradise, and prayed for them.121
Among these great women are al-Furay`ah bint Malik, and Umm Hisham bint Harithah ibn al-Nu`man (RAA). They were among those who gave their oath of allegiance to the Prophet (PBUH) under the tree at Hudaybiyah. This was Bay`at al-Ridwan, which the Prophet (PBUH) called for when the mushrikin prevented the believers from entering Makkah; the Prophet (PBUH) had sent `Uthman ibn `Affan to Quraysh, and they detained him for so long that the Muslims though Quraysh had betrayed their trust and killed him. Allah (SWT) honoured His Messenger and those who were present on this blessed occasion, and He bestowed upon them His pleasure which many die before they can attain it, and beside which all other hopes and aspirations pale into insignificance. Allah (SWT) revealed ayat of the Qur'an on this occasion, which will be recited until heaven and earth pass away:
Asma' bint Yazid ibn al-Sakan al-Ansariyyah took part in the battle of al-Khandaq with the Prophet (PBUH). She was also present at al-Hudaybiyah and Bay`at al-Ridwan and at the battle of Khaybar. She continued her worthy efforts for the sake of Islam until the Prophet's death, and he died pleased with her. After his death, she never stopped working in support of Islam. In 13 AH, she travelled to Syria and was present at the battle of Yarmuk, when she brought water to the thirsty, tended the wounded and encouraged the fighters to stand firm. Yarmuk is one of the most famous battles in which the Muslim women took part alongside the fighting men. The Muslim army was sorely tested, and some of them retreated. The mujahid women were fighting a rear-guard action, rushing towards those who were running away with pieces of wood and stones, urging them to go back and stand firm. Ibn Kathir noted the courage of the Muslim women and the important role they played in this battle:
"The Muslim women fought on this day, and killed a large number of Romans. They struck whoever among the Muslims ran away, and said, `Where are you going, to leave us at the mercy of these infidels?!' When they told them off in this manner, they had not choice but to return to the fight."122
The Muslim woman's stance and encouragement played a major role in making the mujahidin stand firm until Allah (SWT) decreed that they would be victorious over the Romans.
On this tremendous day, Asma' bint Yazid did extremely well, and demonstrated a type of courage that was unknown among many of the men. She went forth into the battle lines, and struck down a number of the mushrikin. Ibn Hijr also noted her bravery:
"Umm Salamah al-Ansariyyah, i.e., Asma' bint Yazid ibn Sakan, was present at al-Yarmuk. On that day she killed nine Romans with her tent-pole. She lived for a while after that."123
It seems that this great heroine spent the rest of her life in Syria, where the battle of Yarmuk took place, as she went with those of the Sahabah who went there. She lived until the time of Yazid ibn Mu`awiyah, and when she passed away, she was buried in the cemetery of al-Bab al-Saghir. Her grave is still there, bearing proud testimony to the jihad of Muslim women for the sake of Allah (SWT).124
These golden pages of Muslim women's history were written by those virtuous women themselves, through the depth of their faith and the completeness of their understanding of the Muslim's woman's mission in life and her duty towards her Lord and her religion. What I have cited represents only a small part of a vast and noble record of rare sacrifice, proud determination, unique talents and deep faith. Undoubtedly Muslim women today may find in these accounts an example worthy of following as they seek to form their own modern Islamic character and identity.
She is distinguished by her Islamic character
and true religion
No doubt the true Muslim woman is distinguished by her Islamic character, and she is proud of the high status which Islam gave her at a very early stage, before women in other nations attained anything like it. Fifteen centuries ago, Islam proclaimed the full rights of women for the first time in history, and Muslim women enjoyed human rights centuries before the world had ever heard of human rights organizations or witnessed any "Declaration of Human Rights."
At that early stage, Islam declared that women were the twin halves of men, as stated in the hadith narrated by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, al-Darimi and Ahmad. At a time when the Christian world doubted the humanity of woman and the nature of her soul, the Qur'an declared:
The level of respect, rights and competence attained by the Muslim woman is astonishing for Western women. I remember the comment of an American woman at a lecture given in the U.S. by the Syrian scholar Shaykh Bahjat al-Bitar on the rights of women in Islam. This lady was amazed at the rights which the Muslim woman had gained fifteen hundred years ago; she stood up and asked, "Is what you say about the Muslim woman and her rights true or is it just propagan? If it is true then take me to live with you for a while, then let me die!" Many other Western women have also expressed their astonishment at the status and respect given to women in Islam.
The modern Muslim woman, if she understands all this, is also filled with admiration for her true religion; her faith deepens and her conviction of the greatness and perfection of this divine program for human happiness, the well-being of men and women alike - grows ever stronger. It is sufficient for her to know that fifteen hundred years ago Islam achieved more for women in one blow than any other nation has achieved in the twentieth century.
It is sufficient to know that the French Revolution of the late eighteenth century produced a human-rights document entitled "Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens" The first clause of this document states: "Men are born free and equal under the laws." There was an attempt to add the words "and woman," but this was rejected, and the statement remained confined to men only: "Man is born free, and he should not be enslaved." A century later, the great French scholar Gustave le Bon, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, stated in his book "The Psychology of Peoples" that woman had never been equal to man except in periods of decline; this comment came in his refutation of demands that women should be made equal with men by giving them the same right to vote.
This is how the situation remained until the advent of the League of Nations, following the First World War, and the United Nations Organization following the Second World War. Women's-rights advocates succeeded in stating the equality of women with men only after a great deal of hard work, because they were faced with the obstacle of quasi-religious traditions and customs; they did not have access to any text of national or international law that treated women with any measure of justice, which they could have used to overturn these obstacles and free women from the oppressive legacy of the past. Meanwhile, fifteen hundred years ago, Islam had definitively shown, in the Qur'an and Sunnah, that men and women were equal in terms of reward, punishment, responsibility, worship, human worth and human rights.
When Islam made men and women equal in terms of human rights, it also made them equal in terms of human duties, as they were both charged with the role of khalifah (vicegerent) on earth and were commanded to populate and cultivate it, and to worship Allah (SWT) therein. Islam gave each of them his or her unique role to play in establishing a righteous human society; these roles are complementary, not opposite, and they apply to every man and woman. Each sex must play the role for which it is better suited and qualified, in order to build solid individuals, families and societies and achieve solidarity, mutual assistance and co-operation between the two sexes, without preventing anyone from doing any permitted deed which he or she wishes to do. Men and women are equally governed by whatever is in the interests of humanity, and both will be rewarded in accordance with their deeds in this life, as Allah (SWT) says:
The Muslim woman who understands the high status which Islam gave her fifteen centuries ago knows full well that the position of women in every nation governed by ancient laws was appalling, especially in India and Rome, in the Middle Ages in Europe, and in Arabia prior to the advent of Islam. So her pride in her Islamic identity, true religion and high human status increases.
The position of women under ancient laws may be summed up in the comment of the Indian leader Jawarharlal Nehru in his book "The Discovery of India": "The legal position of women, according to Manu, was undoubtedly very bad. They were always dependent on either a father or a husband or a son." It is known that inheritance in India always passed from male to male, and excluded females completely.
Nehru commented on this: "In any case, the position of women in ancient India was better than that in ancient Greece or Rome, or during the early Christian period."
The position of woman in ancient Roman law was based on a complete denial of her civic rights, and on requiring her to be constantly under the tutelage of a guardian, whether she was a minor or had reached the age of majority, simply because she was female. So she was always under her father's or husband's tutelage, and had no freedom whatsoever to do as she wished. In general, she could be inherited, but she had no rights of inheritance.
Under Roman law, a woman was simply one of the possessions of her husband, deprived of her own identity and freedom of conduct. The effects of this law are still visible in the twentieth century, in most of the modern states whose laws are still influenced by Roman law.
As a result of the influences of Roman law, women's position during the early Christian period was as appalling as Nehru suggests. Some religious councils shed doubts on the humanity of woman and the nature of her soul; conferences were held in Rome to debate these matters, and to discuss whether woman possessed souls like men, or were their souls like those of animals such as snakes and dogs? One of these gatherings in Rome even decided that women did not possess a soul at all, and that they would never be resurrected in the afterlife.
In the Arabian Peninsula, most tribes prior to the advent of Islam regarded women as something to be despised and abhorred. They were seen as a source of shame, which many would try to avoid by burying infant girls alive as soon as they were born.
Islam condemned this appalling situation of women in more than one place in the Qur'an. Referring to the low esteem in which women were held at the time of jahiliyyah, Allah (SWT) said:
The Muslim woman understands the great blessing, which Allah (SWT) bestowed upon her the day when the brilliant light of Islam shone upon the Arab world:
The Muslim woman's soul is filled with happiness, contentment and pride, and
her status and position are raised by the fact that Islam gives the mother a
higher status than the father. A man came to the Prophet (PBUH) and asked him:
"O Messenger of Allah, who among people is most deserving of my good company?"
He said, "Your mother." The man asked, "Then who?" The Prophet (PBUH) said,
"Your mother." The man asked, "Then who?" The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Your
mother." The man asked, "Then who?" The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Then your
Islam raised the status of women by placing the status of the mother above that of the father, and it has also given women the right to keep their own family names after marriage. The Muslim woman keeps her own surname and identity after marriage, and does not take her husband's name, as happens in the West where the married women is known by her husband's name as "Mrs. So-and-so," and her maiden name is cancelled from civic records. Thus Islam preserves the woman's identity after marriage: although the Muslim woman is strongly urged to be a good wife, obeying and respecting her husband, her identity is not to be swallowed up in his.
If we add to this the fact that Islam has given women the right to complete freedom in how they dispose of their own wealth, and that they are not expected to spend on anyone else's upkeep, the high status to which Islam has raised women becomes crystal-clear. Hence we can understand how much Islam wants women to be free, proud, respected, and able to fulfil their tremendous mission in life.
Her loyalty is to Allah (SWT) alone
One of the results of the Muslim woman's pride in her Islamic identity is that she will never be loyal to anything or anyone other than Allah (SWT), not even her husband or her father, who are among the closest people to her. We see the epitome of this loyalty (wala') in the life of the Prophet's wife Umm Habibah (May Allah be pleased with her), Ramlah bint Abi Sufyan, the chief of Makkah and leader of the mushrikin. She was married to the Prophet's cousin (son of his paternal aunt) `Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh al-Asadi, the brother of the Prophet's wife Zaynab. Her husband `Ubaydullah embraced Islam, and she entered Islam with him, whilst her father Abu Sufyan was still a kafir. She and her husband migrated to Abyssinia with the first Muslims who went there, and left her father in Makkah, boiling with rage because his daughter had embraced Islam and there was no way he could get at her.
But the life of this patient Muslim woman was not free from problems. Sadly, her husband `Ubaydullah left Islam and became a Christian, joining the religion of the Abyssinians. He tried to make her join him in his apostasy, but she refused and remained steadfast in her faith. She had given birth to her daughter Habibah, and was now known as Umm Habibah. She withdraw from people, and felt as if she would die of grief and sorrow because of all the disasters that had befallen her. She and her daughter were alone in a strange land, and all the ties between her and her father and husband had been cut. The father of her small daughter was now a Christian, and the child's grandfather at that time was a mushrik and an enemy of Islam who had declared all-out war on the Prophet in whom she believed and the religion that she followed.
Nothing could save her from this distress and grief except the care of the Prophet (PBUH), who was losing sleep over the believers who had migrated, concerned for their welfare and checking on them. He sent word to the Negus to request him to arrange his marriage to Umm Habibah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan, one of the immigrants to his country, as is explained in the books of sirah and history. Thus Umm Habibah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan, became one of the "Mothers of the Believers."
Time passed, and as the conquest of Makkah drew closer, the threat to Quraysh, who had broken the treaty of al-Hudaybiyah, became ever more apparent. Their leaders met and realized that Muhammad (PBUH) would never keep quiet about their betrayal or accept the humiliation they had inflicted on him. So they agreed to send and envoy to Madinah, to negotiate a renewal and extension of the treaty with Muhammad (PBUH). The man chosen for this task was Abu Sufyan ibn Harb.
Abu Sufyan came to Madinah, and was nervous about meeting Muhammad (PBUH). Then he remembered that he had a daughter in the Prophet's household, so he sneaked into her house and asked her to help him achieve what he had come for.
Umm Habibah (May Allah be pleased with her) was surprised to see him in her house, as she had not seen him since she had left for Abyssinia. She stood up, filled with confusion, not knowing what to do or say.
Abu Sufyan realised that his daughter was overwhelmed with the shock of his sudden arrival, so he asked for her permission to sit down, and went over to sit on the bed. He was stunned when his daughter Ramlah rushed to grab the mattress and roll it up. He said, "O my daughter, I do not understand. Is this mattress not good enough for me or am I not good enough for it?" She said, "It belongs to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), and you are a mushrik, so I do not want you to sit on it."
Ramlah bint Abi Sufyan affirmed her loyalty (wala') to Allah (SWT). She had no regrets about her worthless husband, who had sold his religion for this world. She remained steadfast in her faith, bearing the pain of grief and loneliness in a strange land, where she was most in need of a husband to protect her and take care of her daughter. Allah (SWT), the Munificent Bestower, compensated her with the best that any woman could have hoped for at that time, and made her the wife of the Prophet (PBUH), and so her status was raised to that of one of the "Mothers of the Believers."
The shock of seeing her father so suddenly after many years did not make her forget her loyalty to Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (PBUH). She pulled the Prophet's mattress away from her father because he was a kafir, and she did not want to let him contaminate it by sitting on it. This is the attitude of a Muslim woman who is proud of her religion: her soul is filled with faith and there is no room for tribalism or loyalty to any other than Allah (SWT) and His religion.
Throughout history, Muslim women's pride in their Islamic identity gave them the strength and determination to resist temptations and threats, and protected them from being overwhelmed by the forces of kufr and falsehood, no matter how powerful these were. The Muslim women's souls were filled with the unquenchable fire of faith, as we see in the steadfastness of Pharaoh's wife, who challenged the entire Pharaonic world with all its temptations and pleasures, caring little about the punishments heaped upon her by her husband because of her faith, and repeating her prayer:
She enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil
The Muslim woman who understands her religion reads the ayah:
When Islam gave women the duty of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, it gave her the status of a human being who, for the first time in history, was giving orders whereas under other systems she was the one to whom orders were always given.
Islam declared that in the sight of Allah (SWT), both sexes were equally qualified to worship Him, and were equally deserving of His mercy. There is a great deal of proof of this in the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Our history is filled with women whose words and deeds reflect their noble Islamic character. They spoke the truth, and felt that they had a responsibility before Allah (SWT) to do so, and were never afraid to do so.
One example of the strength and maturity of Muslim women's character, and the freedom that they had to express their opinions, is the criticism voiced by a woman who was listening to the khalifah `Umar ibn al-Khattab forbidding excessive dowries and advocating that they should be limited to a certain amount. This woman stood up and said, "You have no right to do that, O `Umar!" He asked, "Why not?" She said, "because Allah (SWT) says:
The khalifah `Umar listened to this woman, and when it became apparent that she was right, he admitted that she was right, and he was mistaken. Thus a Muslim woman set the earliest historic precedent of criticizing the head of state, and what a head of state! This was the rightly-guided khalifah, the greatest ruler of his age, a man who was feared, the conqueror of Persia and Byzantium. This woman could not have criticized and opposed him if it were not for her deep understanding of the religion that had given her the right to freedom of expression, and commanded her to enjoin that which was good and forbid that which was evil.She reads Qur'an often
In order to reach this high level of obedience, righteousness and taqwa, the Muslim woman has no choice but to seek guidance in the blessed Book of Allah (SWT), sheltering herself in its shade every day. She should read Qur'an regularly, reciting it carefully and thinking about the meaning of the ayat. Then its meaning may penetrate her mind and emotions, and her heart and soul will be filled with the light of its pure guidance.It is enough for the Muslim woman to know the status of the one who reads Qur'an in the sight of Allah (SWT), as the Prophet (PBUH) described it in a number of Hadith. So she should read Qur'an whenever she has the opportunity, and her days and nights should be filled with recitation of its ayat and reflection upon its meaning.
"The one who reads the Qur'an fluently is with the honourable pious scribes130, and the one who reads the Qur'an and struggles to read it even though it is difficult for him, will receive a double reward."131
In conclusion, this is the attitude of the true Muslim woman towards her Lord: she has deep faith in Allah (SWT) (and willingly submits to His will and decree; she worships Him sincerely, obeying all His commands and heeding all His prohibitions; she understands what it means to be a true servant of Allah (SWT); she constantly strives to support His religion and to make His word supreme on earth; she is proud of her Muslim identity, which draws its strength from her understanding of the purpose of human existence in this life, as defined by Allah (SWT) in the Qur'an: