Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Al Muslimah

Between Irshad Manji and Osama bin Laden and those that follow them, their respective philosophies-often disingenuious, reactionary yet-always wrong dissemination about the Sahih and practical manifestation of Al Islam, there exists a large segment of our Ummah that remains silent. We call on perhaps just one, though we hope for more, to utilize the inherent power of her Allah-Granted voice and speak. The Harvard educated Orientalists and Professor Emeritus at the Univerity of California at Berkeley, Ira M. Lapidus wrote of this demographic within the Ummah in his A History of Islamic Societies:

One of the most difficult issues in the contemporary transformation of Muslim societies is the role of women…Our understanding of the nature of these changes is still extremely limited, partly due to the lack of adequate information and partly because the issues are clouded by intense and often ideological debate…In ancient pre-Islamic Near Eastern societies, the lives of women in the ruling classes were marked by seclusion and veiling…Women of other classes were  not secluded or veiled, and their roles were defined as household and craft work, care of children, and light agriculture, while heavy agricultural work, including plowing and irrigation, was done by men…The Qur’an found a middle ground between the conflicting Arabian precedents. In general it strengthed the patriarchial clan, and left the prerogatives of men largely intact, but it also enhanced the status of women. Women were no longer seen merely as mothers of warriors, but were recognized as persons of religious importance, entitled to modesty, privacy, and dignity. The Quran provided women with property rights, and rights to support in the case of divorce while pregnant. The Quran also favored mutuality in the relationships between husbands and wives, and counseled against hasty and willful divorces.[1]

Again, Abdul Malik al Sayed, a Muslim born scholar of political science, history, and public administration writes in his Social Ethics of Islam: Classical Islamic-Arabic Political Theory and Practice lines that confirm and further illuminate that of Lapidus:

From the start of Islam, Muhammad encouraged women to get their education, and appointed one of the most respected women of his time to teach his wife, Haifa. Women received their education at the same schools as men and were qualified to assume responsibilities in certain state areas, mainly in teaching. In the medical field female doctors were extensively employed as nurses to treat women. The Arab jurist Abu Hanifa declared in the eighth century that women were as entitled to practice the profession of law as men. In Iraq, women played a notable part, some devoting themselves to literature and some to good works. They were directed to work in colleges, orphanages, hospitals for the blind, the aged, and the infirm, and some of the institutions that exist today proudly bear the name of women founders. Despite the often repeated allegations in the West about the supposed subjugation of Muslim women, they were well-educated and were recognized as professors in the famous universities and the great mosques of the Islamic urban centers. Famed historians such as ibn Khallikan, al-Maqarri, and ibn Khaldun all made frequent mention of women as teachers in mosques and colleges. They also studied under the direction of women professors. The great Muslim theologian al Shafi’I informs us that he studied theology with a renowned woman professor in the main mosque in Cairo. In his autobiography, al Ta’Rif, ibn Khaldun stated that in certain schools and mosques, some of his courses were conducted by women professors. The famous prolific writer, Abu Hayyan, counted three women among the professors who taught him, one being the daughter of al Malik al Adil. There are numerous indications that women reflected a high degree of culture and urbanity in their governmental work; they often led a cultural life both in school and in public life. The profession of law, teaching, and administration required training and preparation before women could meet the competition.[2]

Juxtapose the aforementioned history of the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization as it relates to the status of the Muslimah and necessary public, professional exchange between the male and the female with an email I received just two days ago. With the authors identity remaining anonymous to the reader, I have been making any and all attempts at finding a Muslim woman who is strong enough to offer her voice into the public sphere, like the teachers of ibn Khaldun, al Adil, al Maraqqi, so that the adequate information Lapidus cites as missing can be collected and the Muslimahs Natural, i.e., Islamic Rights restored. The email reads:

I'm not sure why you think it's OK to use my friend list as a recruiting board for your blog. You are well aware of the cultural/religious problems that can arise from you requesting multiple times to be added to some woman's list when you don't even know them. This is NOT OK Ismail!! If you wanted to contact someone, you could have asked me first. I'm really annoyed right now and not sure what course of action I need to take. Please stop doing this immediately!! Thank you.

And for the sake of equity and fairness, my response:

I have not ASKED MULTIPLE times of anyone on your list...if you are referring to the sister from yesterday, I saw that she was a writer, but regardless, I will cease with those that have a connection to you...I have asked sisters and brothers from all over the world...You are welcome…I get requests for literary reasons from all over the world from WOMEN I DO NOT KNOW, after all this is a social network for which I AM USING TOWARDS an ISLAMIC PURPOSE…Do what you will...Inshallah, next time find out what is going on before you make a ton of assumptions

To which the Muslimah responded:

I'm sure you get all sorts of requests... But obviously you still don't realize the ramifications that can be involved. No worries, I WILL do what I need to. Thanks again.

It was an hour later that her friend sent me an email apologizing having confused with a completely different brother, but this is indicative of why the rights Guaranteed by Allah, The Lord of the Worlds, (SWT) are being denied to women all over the Ummah. First and foremost, these rights are too easily sacrificed on the altar of the idols of culture and convention, which is something I hate with my entire being. Culture is static. It changes, while it moves, morphing in and out of tastes of the masses as they eat, listen, and speak its influences. It is culture that has allowed men to draw clear lines of demarcation of public and private, placing women in the latter, to be controlled, subjugated, and denied her Natural, Islamic Right to Freedom of Expression and Happiness. The Muslimah has once again an oppressed piece of chattel in human form, and History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words of violent actions of the bad people, but appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and actions of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.[3]

Hijab is not oppression. The prophet Muhammad(SAAW) said, ‘all of a woman is awrah. When she leaves her home, satan looks at her’ The scholars of hadith and those of fiqh have stated that satan looks at her because of the lustful eyes of men, which I, as a man who lives in a American college-town, can attest validity. She is awrah, according to the scholars, for she is likened to a home with no walls, doors, or locks. She can be injured. Moreover, she has been Commanded by her Lord(SWT) to dress modestly, cover her hair, for again the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) has said, that in public a woman must cover her body except for her face and her hands. Imam Al Shaf'ie included the whole basis of his school of thought in his scholarly work entitled, Al-Umm. In this book he says: "All [of] a woman's body is awrah with the exception of the lower part of her hands and her face. The top of her feet is also awrah." It is well known that awrah is an Islamic term which refers to the parts of the body which must be covered at all times. Ibn Rushd, a leading Maliki scholar says: "The great majority of scholars agree that all of a woman's body is awrah, with the exception of her face and the lower part of her hands. However, Imam Abu Haneefah considers that her feet are not part of her awrah." The main book which records the view of the Hanbali school of thought is that known as Al-Mughni, written by Ibn Qudamah. It is indeed the book to which reference is made generally when we want to know the Hanbali view. In this book, Ibn Qudamah writes: "All [of] a woman's body is awrah, with the exception of her face. As for the lower part of her hands, we have two different views." This means that the Hanbali school of thought includes scholars who consider that the hands, and we are here talking about the lower part of the hands up to the wrist - must be covered, and other scholars belonging to the same school of thought who are of the view that a woman may leave that part of her hands uncovered. Imam Ibn Hazam who was the one to put the Thahiri school of thought on solid foundation comments on an authentic Hadith as follows: "We see in this Hadith that Ibn Abbas saw women's hands in the presence of God's Messenger (peace be upon him). This means that it is correct to say that the hands and face of a woman are not awrah.[4]

Between Irshad Manji and Osama bin Laden is the Muslim women as Allah Commands and His messenger(SAAW) has shown The Only Tariq. Why is it so hard to find one to write about what it means to belong to a group that numbers 1.2 billion people, Inshallah?

Ya Allah, just send me a true Muslimah writer! For I am not a narcissist, and my voice cannot, should not, be the only Voice of the Ummah!!! Ya Rab!!

[1] Lapidus pg. 851
[2] Al Sayed pg. 231-232
[3] Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


  1. Wow did i just stumble upon this extra ordinary piece of work. Bravo, you said it all, and so well too, mashaAllah.

    Albeit, i'd disagree to the Awrah part, where i happen to believe that the face needs to be covered at all times as well, as the face is the center point that is my identity, that reflects my emotions, and that reveals my age, and show how beautiful i am (if i am). If these traits are still open to a na-mehram man, then a major point of Hijab is wasted; i.e. "protection from evil".

    Btw, Muslimah Writer at your service, Brother. =)

  2. I would love to have you write for the blog Amna. Please friend me on FB or email me at

    It is hard to disagree with Imam Shaf'i though, in relation to the awrah...just saying