She has a right to learn and Islam grants that right to her. Educate her and the society will be all progress and emancipation, writes
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2005
The poet of the Nile, Hafiz Ibrahim said: Mother is a school, if well prepared; An entire healthy society is prepared.
Islam has made it a duty on every Muslim male and female to gain knowledge, which is considered to be a superior act of worship in Islam. Preventing a Muslim woman from gaining an education is therefore an un-Islamic act.
The Qurân and the Hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) both obligate Muslim men and women to acquire knowledge and education. It is a duty for every Muslim. For example, concerning knowledge and education Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “The search for knowledge is a duty for every Muslim (male or female)”. “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”.
“Knowledge” for a Muslim is not divided into sacred and secular, and the implication of these sayings of the Prophet, in modern terms, is that every Muslim boy or girl, man or woman, should pursue his or her education as far as it is possible, bearing in mind the words of Allah in the Qur’an: “Only those of His Servants who are learned truly, fear Allah” (Al-Qurân, 35:28).
Another Hadith states that, “The Father, if he educates his daughter well, will enter Paradise”. Yet another Hadith states that, “A mother is a school. If she is educated, then a whole people are educated”.
In Islam, therefore, both men and women are credited with the capacity for learning and understanding and teaching, and one of the aims of acquiring knowledge is that of becoming more conscious of Allah. It is considered in Islam that the more a person, male or female, studies the creation and observes its working, the more he or she becomes conscious of the Creator, the Power who made and sustains the Creation.
The primary objectives of woman’s education is to prepare them for the biological and emotional aspects of their roles as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. So they need a different type of education. Women need to transmit culture to the next generation (both boys and girls). As some one has rightly said: “When you teach a man, you only taught a person; when you teach a child, you taught a family; but when you teach a woman, you taught the whole nation”.
The woman’s role within the family is a crucial one, because it is in the family that the next generation of Muslims are raised. The woman as the mother has the crucial role as the early socializer and educators of the children. This role has a long lasting effect on the behaviour, character and attitudes of the future generation of Muslims.
Women have played a significant role in the cultural and intellectual advancement of Islam. Many Muslim women attained eminent ranks in the scientific and literary profession. History is a witness to this all.
The role of women scholars of hadith is unique in the human history, prior to our modern times. There is simply no parallel to this special and valuable role played by women scholars in the development, preservation and dissemination of Islamic knowledge.
In early of Islamic history there were many women scholars who had very significant roles in the Islamic world. For example ‘‘A’isha (r.a.), the Prophet’s (saws) wife was one of the most famous Muslim scholars. Not only was she very intelligent, she had an exceptional memory. That is why she was considered one of the most important sources of Hadith. It has been stated in some Islamic reports that the Prophet (saws) told the Muslims to go to ‘Aisha (r.a.) for guidance and learning of religious duties. The Prophet (saws) also told the Muslims to trust ‘Aisha’s (r.a.) teaching and guidance.
A woman named Nafisa who was related to Ali (r.a.), the fourth Caliph, had a vast knowledge of and was an expert on the Hadiths of the Prophet (saws). Many famous Muslim scholars of the time, such as Imam Shafi-ai would participate in Nafisa’s scholarly discourse and learn from her.
Muslims are generally familiar with a handful of female luminaries from the time of the Prophet (saws). However, they are generally unfamiliar with is a large number of women scholars over many centuries after the first generation. This is an unforgivable lapse for the Ummah.
Just to mention a few, hopefully would spark our interest in learning about this neglected dimension of our remarkable history.
Umma al-Darda (d. 81 A.H. / 700 C.E.) was regarded as “superior to all other traditionalists of the period”.
Zaynab bint Sulayman (d. 142 A.H. / 759 C.E.) gained a reputation as one of the most distinguished traditionalists of the time.
Fatima bint Muhammad (d. 539 A.H. / 1144 C.E.) received from her contemporary hadith specialists the proud title of “Musnida Isfahan” (the great hadith authority of Isfahan), Shuhda, the Writer, (d. 574 A.H. / 1178 C.E.) was a famous calligrapher and a traditionalist of great repute.
One may also mention that one of the most famous mystics in Islam, Rabia al-Adawiyya (Basri), was a woman.
‘Amra was specially recognized for her authority on traditions related by A‘isha (r.a.) and among her many notable students was Abu Bakr ibn Hazm, the celebrated judge of Medina, who was ordered by none other than the caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz himself to write down all the traditions known on her authority.
There were women scholars whose field of expertise went far beyond hadith. Umm Hani Maryam (778 A.H. - 871 A.H. / 1376 C.E. - 1466 C.E.), for instance, learnt the Qurân by heart when still a child, acquired all the Islamic sciences then being taught, including theology, law, history and grammar.
Although one can’t draw a superficial connection between the decline of the Islamic civilization and the gradual disappearance of the women scholarship and participation, the reality is that our collective foundation of knowledge and heritage is based on the proud and noble contribution of scholarship of both men and women, as students and teachers, and there must have been substantive consequence from this loss of women scholarship.
The absence of women scholars has caused a great imbalance in our Islamic discourse in general and Islamic law (fiqh) in particular. In our contemporary time, there are Muslim women, particularly educated in the west or in the western tradition, who are establishing themselves as scholars of Islam. This is very encouraging development towards quality scholarship.
--To be concluded
(The columnist is a Ph.D scholar and can be mailed at [email protected])