Hamna Salman and Umm Zahra – Hiba’s team writers
As the International Women’s Day approaches, we again ask the same question: Where does a woman belong – beside a man, or behind? The simple answer to this question is neither.
Allah (swt) answered this question, through Islam 1450 years back, for the humanity to understand and Muslims to establish rule of law in their lives and communities ensuring social justice and moral reform for all of His creation.
The beauty of Islam lies in the perfect balance it establishes as it is the religion of moderation and commands to tread on the middle path, rejecting extremes. Most Muslims do not bother to take heed from the Quran and Sunnah, hence are ignorant of their roles and responsibilities causing big time abuse to those around them. Some blindly follow their desires and thus suffer, asking the same questions repeatedly.
Physiologically, men and women are very different. From their hormones, to their psyche, the way men and women think and operate cannot ever be the same. This means there are some tasks women are better suited for, and some that men perform better. A society working at its optimum is achieved by the contributions of both men and women which will be based on their individual attributes and strengths.
If Allah (swt) has given men a leadership position (with clear conditions based on justice and mercy) by making them the “Qawwam” of their wives, they have been given the primary financial responsibility of the household too. But there have been occasions in Islamic history where women have been given leadership over men too by Allah’s (swt) Divine wisdom.
Hundreds of years ago when Prophet Musa (as) was placed in a basket by his mother, his mother sent his sister to follow the basket instead of his older brother Prophet Haroon (as). This was Allah’s (swt) command, the Creator of men and women.
Prophet Musa’s (as) mother, believing her daughter to be better equipped to carry out this task, opted to give her the responsibility of keeping an eye on her brother. His sister proved herself capable of taking on this leadership role by not only trailing it till it reached the palace, but also helping Prophet Musa (as) reunite with his mother.
Taking another deep look at Prophet Musa’s (as) life brings to surface his interaction with two sisters in the valley of Madyan. These two sisters were the caretakers of their aged father. Not only were they taking on a leadership role by themselves, they were also working out of their homes trying to get water from a well for their animals.
In fact, their situation is quite like a modern-day scenario. They were females working in a hostile, male-dominated environment, and the likeliness between them and some women working in the corporate sector is striking.
Allah (swt) does not express any disapproval at their venturing out of their homes and working alongside men, proving there is nothing wrong with women providing for and financially supporting their family. However it is amazing how Allah (swt) has explicitly mentioned the way these women walked over to Musa (as) for a conversation. We know that every word of the Quran has been deliberately used by Allah (swt) for our divine guidance.
In this story too, the girl’s noble character is described when she approaches a strange man she can trust because he had helped her earlier, respectfully fetch water from the well with nothing in return. No giggling, no useless small talk, no under currents but a very dignified, confident girl who exhibits modesty and a high character.
Her father has faith in her character and competence too to be asking her to call prophet Musa (as) over, to offer a job, boarding and lodging. She has a powerful observation to recommend Musa (as) as a worthy employee to begin with.
Women can work if they are the sole breadwinners of the family and also when there are men in the family present, such as in the case of Prophet Musa’s (as) sister. But firstly they must have knowledge of the Divine Quran, and it’s understanding to apply it correctly for their own benefit and protection.
Women at the time of the Prophet (sa) were God fearing, well-versed in the Quran, educated and resourceful. That is how they helped the Muslim society grow. Islam did not reach us due to the contributions of men only – it was the contribution of women alongside those men which enabled Allah’s (swt) Word to be propagated within and outside the cities of Makkah and Madinah.
Women accompanied men to battle, serving Islam and doing Jihad by nursing the wounded soldiers, or helping to carry the martyrs after the battle ended, showing not just nerves of steel but physical strength as well. There are instances of women as courageous warriors too, such as Umm Ammarah who defended the Prophet (sa) in the Battle of Uhud.
Within the parameters of Iman and Haya ordained by Allah (swt), they walked on the streets, visited each other’s homes, went to the marketplace, and travelled alongside the male Companions of the Prophet (sa).
If women, who form roughly 50% of our society, are made to sit at home, without a mission, we can only expect them to waste their own lives and not benefit their families or the economy in any way, which will only increase the dependency ratio . There is nothing stopping a woman from exploring professions beyond teaching and medicine as long as she is a practicing slave of Allah (swt) adhering to His Divine commands- and this command applies to men too.
One should explore the abilities Allah (swt) has granted him/her, enjoy this world, and appreciate it as a blessing from the Ar-Rahman (The Most Merciful). Most of all men and women must be slaves of Allah (swt) which is the right place for both!