| Introduction |
Female leadership is a question not unknown to the Muslim world. Although Muslim scholars have in the past discussed this topic, it first gained prominence in the twentieth century with the wake of the women's liberty movement. In recent years the question was further highlighted with the success of Benazir Bhutto in the 1989 elections in Pakistan and Khalida Zia in the 1991 election in Bangladesh.
Recently some women in South Africa also embarked on a similar campaign claiming the right of leadership even in Salâh. This article is a study of the position of female leadership in the Shariah and will be followed by a discussion on women leading the Salâh and delivering lectures from the mimbar (pulpit).
Can a Lady Rule a Country?
Prior to Islam, women were among the most oppressed creatures in the world. Neither did they have any rights nor were they regarded as human-beings in many communities.
Islam on the contrary, raised the social status of a woman and granted her many rights ranging from inheritance to the basic necessities of everyday-life. Regarding these rights Allâh Ta'âla says in the Qurân: "And women have rights similar to the rights against them (i.e. the right of men) according to what is equitable and men have a degree over them." [BAQARAH: 228]
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Saheb (RA) explains this verse: "The rights of women that men are responsible for are compulsory just as the rights of men that women are responsible for are compulsory. The right of both (men and women) have been given the same ruling ...... it is not necessary that the rights of both take the same form. Instead, if women are responsible for a specific duty then so are men. Household matters, training and looking after the children are the responsibility of the women whereas men are responsible for earning a living so that they may fulfil the needs of women (their wives). It is a lady's duty to serve and obey her husband and the mehr (dowry) and expenditure of the women is the husband's duty. (In short, even though each have different rights over the other, the rights of both are incumbent.....) There is however one quality on accord of which man have superiority over women. This is why Allâh Ta'âla, at the end of this verse says: "and men have a degree over them."
Mufti Shafi (RA) thereafter explains that this degree of superiority that men have over women is explained in the verse: "Men are overseers of women because Allâh Ta'âla granted virtue to some of them (i.e. men) over others (i.e. women) and because of their spending from their wealth." [NISâ 34]
Shaikh Muhammad Rashid Rida offers a similar explanation: "...... the lady equals the man in all rights (i.e. in the ruling of all rights) except one which Allâh refers to in the sentence 'and men have a degree over them.'" This degree is explained in the verse "men are overseers .....". (Huqooq-un-Nisâ fil Islâm)
It is therefore necessary that we now focus our attention on this verse of the Qurân in the light of some acclaimed commentators of the Qurân.
"Men are Overseers of Women"
Allamah Ibn-ul-Arabi (RA) comments on this verse:
The meaning of this verse is: I have made men overseers of women because I have granted the former superiority over the latter. This is due to three reasons viz.Before considering Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Uthmani's (RA) commentary, it is necessary that we first refer to the verse:
"And do not covet that which Allâh favours some of you with over others - men will receive the reward of what they earn and women will receive the reward of what they earn. And ask Allâh of his bounty. Verily Allâh has full knowledge of all things." [An Nisâ - 32]Hafiz Ibn Katheer (RA) narrates on the authority of Imam Ahmad and Imam Tirmidhi that Umme Salmah (RA) said: "O Messenger of Allâh! The men wage Jihad whereas we (women) do not and we receive half the inheritance." (i.e. blood-brothers receive double the share of blood sisters). Thereafter the verse "And do not covet......" was revealed. (Ibn Katheer vl.1, pg.498)
This verse would therefore mean that when Allâh has granted some of mankind (i.e. men) virtue over others (i.e. women) by means of certain actions, then it is incorrect to covet the favour of Allâh on them because each of them will be rewarded according to his actions. Envy and complaining is of no avail. On the contrary, it would be most beneficial to ask Allâh for more reward for one's actions. Complaining and envy yield no reward. However all good actions yield reward. Verily Allâh has knowledge of everything and knows fully well the wisdom in specifying certain actions for man only. He knows best which actions are appropriate for men and which are appropriate for women.
Commenting on the verse "men are overseers....." Maulana Shabeer Saheb Uthmani (RA) writes: "It was mentioned in the previous verse that the rights of men and women have been given full consideration. Had their rights been given a different consideration (women's right were not considered fully as men's rights) women would be justified in complaining. This verse now explains that men have a status higher than women, women cannot complain because the difference of rules (regarding men and women) that result on accord of this additional degree of men is in total agreement with divine wisdom.....". (Tafsir-e-Uthmâni Pg.128)
Just a few commentaries of the verses concerned have been mentioned above. Many other commentators have elucidated the meaning of these verses in a similar manner. The above discussions may be summarised in the following points:
It may thus be concluded that although men and women are equal in that both have rights, they do not have the same rights. Among the sole rights of a male is that he is always the head of a family since he is the guardian of the women. Leadership of a country is in a similar vein the sole right of men. Most commentators of the Qurân have explained the verse under discussion that just as men only rule a country, lead the salâh etc. only men can be the head of a family. A few examples are:
Another Verse from the Qur'ân
Describing women, Allâh Subhanahu Ta'âla says in the Qurân: "Is then one brought up among trinkets and unable to give a clear account in a dispute (to be associated with Allâh). (Az-Zukhruf: 18 ) i.e. women are normally brought up in decoration and adornment and are always occupied with jewellery. This is a proof of deficient intellect and understanding (because true beauty is the beauty of the Akhirah) and due to a weak understanding, women are unable to express themselves clearly when debating." (Tafseer-e-Uthmani pg. 652)
This verse substantiates the claim that women are physically weak and unable to fulfil the duties of leadership. It has thus been made the right of men only.
Hijâb and Female Leadership
Hijâb is generally understood to mean the donning of a veil. This is however incorrect. The scholars of Islam have included the following verses in the discussion of hijâb:
It is clear from the above that the implications of Hijâb are in direct conflict with the duties of leadership. In order to ensure the welfare of his subjects, the leader has to leave his home daily, meet and consult with people (men in particular) and travel to various parts of his country and sometimes to other countries as well. These cannot however be achieved if a lady has to be the ruler and at the same time observe the rules of hijâb. It is on this accord that Shariah has prohibited female leadership.
Warning of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam
A female leader would either be contravening the rules and regulation of Hijâb or neglecting the welfare of her subjects. Thus Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "A nation that has entrusted its affairs to a woman can never be successful."(Bukhari vl.5, pg.136, Bukhari vl. 4 Page 97, Nisai vl. 8 Page 227, Tirmidhi vl. 5 Page 457)
Imam Tirmidhi (RA), after narrating this hadith, says: "This is a sound and authentic hadith."
In another hadith we read: "Men are destroyed when they obey women."
Hakim (RA) writes that the chain of narrators is authentic and Hafiz Dhahabi (RA) has also agreed that this hadith is authentic. (Quoted by Ml. Y.Ludhyanwi on the authority of Mustadrak Hakim, vl.4, pg.291)
Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam also said: "When your rulers are the best among you, your wealthy are generous, and your matters are decided by mutual consultation, then the surface of the earth is better for you than the belly of the earth. However, when your rulers are the worst among you, your wealthy are miserly and your matters are in the hands of your women, then the belly of the earth is better for you than its surface." (Tirmidhi vl.4, pg.459)
Commenting on the quality of this hadith, Imam Tirmidhi writes: "This is a Gharib Hadith (i.e. a hadith that had been narrated by only one person in each era until the codification period) - we do not know it except from Salih-al-Murriy. There are some strange facts in the narrations of Salih in which he is unique (mutafarrid). He is however, a pious man."
Nevertheless all scholars of Islam; commentators of the Qurân, Hadith and jurisprudence have, on the basis of the Hadith "A nation will never be successful ...." unanimously agreed that female leadership is not permissible in Islam.
The reader has already seen the opinions of some leading commentators of the Qurân (âlusi, Ibn Katheer, Baidawi and Qurtubi). Here are a few more quotations from the writings of other scholars:
Consider the Following:
Protagonists of female leadership should consider the following:
"Bilqees: The Queen of Saba"
Protagonists of female leadership normally justify their claim with an analogy of Bilqees of Saba - whose story is mentioned in the Qurân (Al Naml 20-24). This analogy is however very strange and can in no way substantiate their claim, because:
Hadhrat Aisha (RA) and the Battle of Jamal (The Camel)
Protagonists of female leadership substantiate their claim from Hazrat Aisha's (RA) participation in the Battle of Jamal. Hazrat Uthmân (RA) had been murdered just after the days of Tashreeq. The wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam had, after completing the rites of Haj just left Makkah Mukarramah on their return journey to Madinah Munawwarah. Upon receiving the news of the murder of Hazrat Uthmân (RA) they changed the direction of their journey and returned to Makkah. The Muslims at that time were in utter turmoil. Hazrat Ali (RA) had taken the bay'at (pledge of allegiance) from the people of Madina and the assassins of Hazrat Uthmân (RA). He felt that it would be more appropriate to allow the turmoil and confusion to settle and thereafter avenge the blood of Hazrat Uthmân. Others however differed and thought it of greater importance to first avenge the blood of the assassinated Khalifah. Thus, a group of senior Sahabah (RA) including Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair gathered in Makkah and persuaded Hazrat Aisha (RA) to use her influence as Umm-ul-Mu'mineen to help them unite the Muslims and therafter demand the requital of the blood of Hazrat Uthmân (RA). Hazrat Aisha agreed and it was decided that they would proceed to Basrah. The rest of the wives of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam refused to join Hazrat Aisha (RA) and returned to Madina. Although Hazrat Hafsah (RA) agreed with Hazrat Aisha (RA), her brother, Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) did not allow her to join the campaign to Basrah. (Summarised from Al Bidayah wan Nihayah vl.7,pg.230)
A closer study of the battle of Jamal and the events leading to it (most of which were mentioned above), would reveal the futility of justifying female leadership from it because:
Can a Lady Lead the Salâh?
The Fuqaha (Muslim jurists) have discussed two types of Imamat viz:
Women Leading Men in Salâh
Most, if not all fuqaha (Muslim jurists) are of the opinion that women cannot lead men in salâh. If any man performs his salâh behind a female imam, his salâh would be null and void. Below are the opinions of each of the four madhahib.
Why Can She Not Lead the Men in Salâh?
Ibn Qudamah however disagrees with these Hambali scholars and refutes their claim explaining that Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam had only permitted her to lead the women of her home (nisâ-e-ahle-dâriha) - this is how Dâr-Qutni has narrated this hadith. When an addition of this nature is narrated, then it is compulsory to accept it. Had the extra word 'Nisâ' (women) not been narrated, there would have been some possibility of substantiating one's claim from this hadith. Besides, this hadith does not pertain to Taraweeh or any other nafl or sunnah salâh because the hadith also says that Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam had appointed a muezzin to call the azân for her. Azân is not called out for nafl or sunnah salâh. It is only called for the fardh salâhs. (Al Mughni vl.2,pg.199) There is however no difference of opinion even among the Hambali Fuqaha that women cannot lead men in fardh salâh. This hadith is therefore referring to a purely female congregation only.
Apart from the jamhoor (majority), Abu Thour and Tabri have allowed women to lead the salâh even it there are men in the congregation. Ibn Rushd said that they have based their claim on the hadith of Umme Waraqah.(Bidayatul Mujtahid vl.1,pg.105)
Ibn Qudamah's explanation of the hadith however leaves no doubt that they have erred. Other than Abu Thour and Tabri, the entire ummah has 'ijmâ' (unanimous agreement) that women cannot lead men in salâh.
Can a Lady Lead a Purely Female Congregation
It is similarly narrated that Hazrat Umme Salmah (RA) and Hazrat Aisha (RA) used to lead the women in Salâh. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah vl.2, pg.88-89)
While it is narrated from Hazrat Ali (RA) that "a lady cannot be an imâm"(Ibid) and from Nafi (RA) that: "I do not know that a lady can lead the women in salâh"(Ibid), Hanafi Scholars also explain that when a lady does lead a purely female jamât, she has one of two options:
Can a Women Deliver a Lecture from the Mimbar?
A few verses of the Qurân regarding hijâb have been previously mentioned under the caption "Hijâb and female leadership." Among these verses were: "And stay in your houses and do not make a dazzling display like that of the former times of ignorance." (Al Ahzâb:33)
This verse implies that it is necessary for a woman to remain in her home at all times. She may only leave her home on account of a shar'ie necessity. (eg. Haj, Umrah, visiting the ill and visiting her parents etc.)(Tafseer Ibn Katheer,vl.13,pg.491). Going to the musjid in order to perform salâh is not acceptable in the light of the general opinion of the Sahabah and the Ulama of Islam. A lady that leaves her home in order to deliver a lecture to a mixed gathering of men and women (from the mimbar) would firstly be contravening this important principle of the Shariah.
In another verse Allâh Ta'âla says:
"And when you ask them of anything, then ask it of them from behind a curtain." (Al Ahzâb:530 "... therefore be not soft in speech ..." (Al Ahzâb:32)These verses imply that if a lady has to communicate with a strange man while at home, then this communication should be from behind the curtain. (i.e. the lady should not be seen at all) and when speaking she should not speak in a lowered tone.
In yet another verse Allâh Ta'âla says:
"Oh Nabi! Tell your wives and daughters and the women of the Believers to draw over them their jilbâb." (Al Ahzâb:59) ii.e. If due to any necessity a lady is compelled to leave her home, she should cover herself with the jilbâb. The jilbâb is a large sheet that extends from above the head to the feet including the face. (in other words she is commanded to cover the entire body including the face).(Ibn Katheer vl.13, pg.526) (There is consensus of opinion that the face must also be covered in times of evil and corruption.)A lady that delivers a lecture from the mimbar is unable to fulfil the demands of the above-mentioned ayât and her action is contrary to the spirit of Hijâb. In a purely female congregation two, the lady imâm stands in the middle of the first row and not ahead of the first row as a male imam would do. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah vl.2,pg.88/89 ; Hidayah vl.1,pg.306 ; Al Mughni vl.2,pg.2)
In view of the above, it is not permissible for a lady to deliver a lecture from the mimbar.
Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: "A lady is 'AWRAH' (something to be concealed). Thus when she leaves, shaytân stares at her."[Tirmidhi Pg. VI]
Friday, August 26, 2011
Female Leadership in Islam by Moulana Muhammad Karolia
Posted by Abas at 12:54 PM