The Islamic Movement And Women's Activity :: Islam the Eternal Path to Peace :: Jannah.Org
The Islamic Movement And Women's Activity
by  Sh. Yusuf al-Qaradawi  

The Islamic Movement And Women's Activity

from Priorities of The Islamic Movement in The Coming Phase

The Islamic Movement has given attention to woman since the dawn of the call. Imam Hassan Al­Banna established the "Muslim Sisterhood" section and assigned it the task of spreading the idea among Muslim women and raising up a generation of women who could shoulder part of the burden carried by the men of the "Muslim Brotherhood" in their endeavor to establish Allah's religion in the land.

This section played a significant role, and the Sisterhood had its share of hardship, especially where caring for the families of imprisoned members of the Brotherhood and delivering food supplies and money to them were concerned, despite the risk they ran against the agents of Criminal­ Investigations Department. Some of them suffered extreme hardship for Allah's cause, such as our sister Zainab Al­Ghazali.

The deficiency of Islamic Work in Women's Circles

However, we have to admit that women's Islamic work has not yet reached the desired level, though the call has spread among women, especially university students and secondary school pupils.

Although over sixty year have passed since the Movement emerged into existence, no women leaders have appeared that can confront secular and Marxist trends single-handedly and efficiently.
This has come about as a result of men's unrelenting attempts to control women's movement, as men have never allowed women a real chance to express themselves and show special leadership talents and abilities that demonstrate their capability of taking command of their work without men's dominance.

When Will Women's Islamic Work Succeed?

I believe that women's Islamic work will succeed and prove itself in the arena of the Islamic Movement only when it gives birth to female Islamic leaders in the fields of Call, thought, science, literature and education.

I do not think that this is impossible or even difficult. There are genius women just as there are genius men. Ingenuity is not a monopoly for men. It is not in vain that the Holy Quran tells us the story of a woman who led men wisely and bravely and made her people fare the best end: it is the Queen of Sheba, whose story with Solomon is told in Surat Al­Naml.

I have observed in the University of Qatar that girls make better students than boys. Other colleagues in the university made the same observation. This is particularly true because girls have more time for study than boys, who are occupied by many things and have cars in which they roam the streets all the time.

The Spread of Hardline Ideas in This Field

I must say frankly here that Islamic work has been the scene of spreading hardline ideas that now govern the relationship between man and woman, adopting the strictest opinions to be ever found on this issue.

This is what I saw for myself in many conferences and symposiums even in Europe and the United States. For several years in a row, I attended the annual conferences of the Muslim Student Union in the United States and Canada in the mid­ 1970's. Both men and women attended the lectures and debates, listening to comments, questions, answers and discussions in every major Islamic issue, including the academic, social, educational and political. The only sessions restricted to women were those allocated to dealing with the questions that concerned women alone.

However, I attended some conferences in the United States and Europe in the 1980's, and found that women were kept away from a good part of the important lectures and debates. Some of the women also complained that they had become bored with the lectures that focus on woman's role, rights, responsibilities and position in Islam and had come to regard the repetition of those lectures as a sort of punishment imposed on them. I denounced that in more than one conference I attended, telling the participants that the rule in worship and religious learning was participation and that there never existed in Islam a mosque that had been reserved to women alone and not visited by men.

Women attended the sessions in which the Prophet taught Muslims the Religion. They also participated in (or at least attended) the Jumaa' (Friday), the two Id s (bairams) and congregational prayers together with men. They asked questions about minute female matters without being prevented from learning the Religion by their shyness, as Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) herself said.

The books of Sunna abound in questions that were directed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) by women, including those asked by women who wanted answers to questions that concerned only themselves and those asked by women on behalf of all women, as the woman who said "O Messenger of Allah, I have been sent to you by women".

Women also asked the Prophet to allocate a separate day for them that they would have to themselves without the men, so that they might have the time and privacy to ask whatever they liked without being inhibited by the presence of men.

This was another privilege given to women besides the public lessons they attended together with men.

The Problem of Islamic Work in Women's Activity

The problem of women's Islamic work is that it is men who direct it, not women, and men are careful to maintain their grip on it, so they would not allow female readerships to emerge. Men impose themselves on women's Islamic work, including even women's meetings, as they exploit the shyness of reticent Muslim women and never allow them to take command of their own affairs. This way, no female talents are given a chance to prove themselves in the pursuits of the Islamic Movement or to be seasoned by experience and struggle and taught in the school of life by trial and error.

However, our Muslim sisters are not wholly free of blame, for they have surrendered to this sorry state of affairs' contenting themselves with a life of ease and tranquility in which men thought and chose for them. It is high time they took the initiative, opened wide the doors of effort and work for the Call and shut up those self-appointed female voices that have imposed themselves on the doctrine, laws and values of this Nation. These strange voices, loud as they are, represent only a defeated, downtrodden minority that has no weight both in religion and in worldly affairs. I was invited to give a lecture to female students of an Algiers university last year. As is customary after a lecture, I started taking questions from the girls in written or oral forms. Some young men were present, and one of them took it upon himself to collect the questions, sort them out and pass along to me what he thought should be answered and abandon what should not. I objected to his conduct, saying "Why does not one of the girls do that on behalf of her colleagues"? "Why do you men have to 'poke your nose' in women's affairs?. Take your hands off them! Let them do whatever they like, sorting out their own questions and choosing what they deem fit and then making one of their kind read them aloud", I said. It was as if I had lifted a heavy burden off the chests of the girls, and one of them hurriedly came forward to assume the role that one of the men who had escorted me to the gathering was playing.

A similar incident took place this winter in Manchester City in Britain, where a Muslim student convention was held. A lecture to Muslim women had been scheduled for me, to be followed by questions and answers. Again, one of the good young men assumed responsibility for receiving and sorting out questions, but I said to him bluntly, "There is no reason for you to be here. It would be better if one of the girls did that for her colleagues, for they have a right to run their own affairs here". However, the good brother told me that he had been assigned that task according to the practice followed there and could not abandon it. He did have his own explanation, which I had to accept in fact.

Another complaint from our sisters in Egypt and Algeria is that when an active, motivated and religion serving girl marries a conscientious, abiding man whom she came to know through Call related work, he forces her to stay at home and denies her participation in the Movement, putting out a torch that was lighting the path of other Muslim girls. It has apparently become so common that an Algerian girl working in the Islamic field once wrote to me asking whether it was harem for her to refuse marriage for the sake of avoiding the end of others of her sisters in Islam who had ended up in a life of laziness and idleness away from the field of the Movement and the Call, at the time when work was allowed to communist and secular women.

A Potential Objection and Its Rebuttal

Hardliners may ask how we want Muslim women to play an active role in the Islamic Movement and act as leaders to prove their presence in the field of Islamic work while they are ordered in the Holy Quran to stay in their homes (And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance) [Surat Al­Ahzab: 33].

My answer to such zealous questions is that this verse was addressed to the Prophet's women, who had a special position that no other women would have, and were subject to restrictions that do not apply to other women. Allah the Almighty says to them in the Holy Quran, (O consorts of the Prophet! You are not like any of the [other] women) [Surat Al­Ahzab: 32].

However, this verse did not prevent Aisha from going to war in the Battle of the Camel, to demand what she thought right in politics, supported by two of the senior Companions of the Prophet who had been nominated for the caliphate and are among "the Ten Who Received Glad Tidings" (of sure entrance into Paradise).

Her regret of that situation, as told by historians, was not because her going out of her house was illegal, but because her political view was not successful, may Allah grant her forgiveness and bless her soul.

However, if we examine the opinion of those who claim that this verse was meant for all women, we will find that it does not mean confining them to the houses and never letting them out, as such confinement was stipulated by the Quran as a punishment for sinning women who proved to have committed adultery with evidence given by four witnesses before the Shari'ah set their punishment at the hadd [pi. Hudud, major punishments in Islam] mentioned in the Quran and hadith. Allah the Almighty says (If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, take the evidence of four [reliable] witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death claims them, or Allah ordains for them some [other] way} [Surat Al­Nisa: 1 5].

Moreover, Allah's saying (And make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance) [Surat Al­Ahzab: 33] indicates that it is legal for women to go out if they are dressed modestly and do not make a dazzling display, for a woman is not to be prohibited from displaying herself within her home, as she is allowed to dress and make herself beautiful as she likes at home. What a woman is ordered to refrain from is to make herself beautiful and display herself when she goes out on the street or goes to the market or anywhere else, so as to avoid any suspicion of dazzling display.

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