We live in the times, when a Muslim woman is constantly being questioned about her choices and challenged to raise or lower her status. She is being questioned for her choice to cover up or her choice to not do so. If she is covering, then she probably considers herself holier than thou, and people will take several steps away from her. If she is not covering, then she must be ridiculed for her choice to do so and made to feel like trash.
If she sets out her heart on studying more and acquiring a certain degree, her parents are shamed for allowing their daughter freedom. If she does not study more, she is shoved aside as another ordinary woman with nothing more to her than marital dreams. She is criticised for pursuing a career, and she is mocked for abandoning one over a modest home life. She does nothing but wastes her parents’ wealth.
Her communication skills are under scrutiny. If she speaks less, she certainly lacks self-confidence and worldly virtues. If she talks more, she probably left her manners at home. Her shyness is seen as a symbol of weakness, and her confidence is seen as arrogance. She is bashed for holding an opinion and scorned for being naïve.
In a society, where liberation means getting rid of religion, social norms are in direct contradiction to her beliefs. She, therefore, carries with her a list of do’s and don’ts that she must follow. And when she does that, she is responded with frowns and growls of those, who oppose the very idea of religion.
In such a situation, the Muslim woman questions, who should she look up to? Where are the examples? Who are her role models? How can she bring a balance to her life?
The role models for the Muslim women are the same as there are for the Muslim men – the companions of Rasulallah (sa).
There were female companions of the Prophet (sa), who had been chosen by Allah (swt). These women were brave and virtuous, active in their society and fulfilling their responsibilities at home. They were found in the battlefield taking care of the sick and the injured, and they were found at home nurturing their families. They preached alongside their male counterparts and helped in the propagation of Islam. They neither ridiculed each other for their choices nor allowed critics to rule their minds and control their lives. These were self-assured women, working only for the sake of Allah (swt) and for the sake of pleasing none but Him. These honourable women were active in politics and well-versed in Islamic jurisprudence. They were seen in education, in business and trade, and in the comfort of their homes. They knew that being a woman does not restrict them from pursuing their dreams. And at the same time, they knew how to carry themselves in the crowd. They were gentle and kind, but never appeared as flirting.
They understood their responsibilities in the society and in their homes; therefore, they never took housework as a burden. We read that when Fatima bint Muhammad (ra), the beloved daughter of Rasulallah (sa), approached her father for a domestic help, her father taught her some words of remembrance instead.
These women lived a strenuous life in the absence of modern technology that we enjoy today; yet, they accomplished more than we can ever imagine. Not only were they conscious of their relationship with their Creator, but they connected their offspring to Allah (swt) as well. The mother of Anas bin Malik (ra) dedicated her son to the service of the Prophet (sa) and asked him to pray for her son’s increase in knowledge. Her supplication was answered by Allah (saw); thus, we see a number of sayings and traditions of the Prophet (sa) recorded by this young man.
To truly take these women as our role models, we will have to study their unique characteristics that made them live a content life, accomplish their goals and, most importantly, be pleasing to Allah (swt).
From here onwards, we will be beginning a series on the Seerah of the Sahabiyat – we will delve into their lives and challenges for learning how to improve our own lives, Insha’Allah.