Subj: reply to: women in leadership positions
( > = person who posed question )
Assalamu alaikum everybody,
I just have some comments about the e-mail that brother *** forwarded to us a while ago and I thought of sharing them with you. I apologize for the delay in writing this but I was really busy.
Before I go to the e-mail itself I'll begin by introducing myself as I did not get the chance to know all of you.
My name is Ahmad Ammar and I'm the former Canada East Zone Representative for the MSA of the US and Canada. I'm doing my degree in computer engineering at McGill University (insha'Allah I'll be done June 28).
When the previous e-board of MSA National assumed it's responsibilities 2 years ago, one of the most important issues on our agenda was the sisters' issue. Being a problem in a lot of MSA in North America, we spent a lot of time researching and debating the various aspects of this problem, and I just wanted to share with you some of the things that I learnt from this research.
I pray to Allah to guide us all to his right path insha'Allah.
I apologize if this e-mail is long but I felt that the 2 issues in the original e-mail are important and they deserve a closer look so please take the time to read the discussion below and please forward it to anybody who received the original post and that is not on the "To" list.
On Thu, 27 Apr 1995, ***** wrote:
>Can a sister have the position of the President of an MSA at university?
> >In addition to this, what is your advice in regard to having sisters who
> >do not wear hijaab as executives in a Muslim Student Association.
> My brother *****, forgive me for not replying to you much sooner, and I hope
> that my reply at this time has not come too late. Your message came during a
> time when I was literally swamped with work with little time to reply to my
> mail. In brief however, the answer to your first question is no; a sister
> cannot hold the position of the President of an MSA at a university. This is
> based on an authentic statement of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa salam),
> that Allah curses a people who take a woman as their leader.
Although the Hadith quoted above is indeed an authentic Hadith, it does *NOT* apply to the MSA situation. Before I explain this statement I have to mention that the translation above is inaccurate. The Hadith does not use the word "curses" at all in the arabic script. Wallahu A'alam the hadith should translate: "Those who let a women be their leader will not succeed". (the arabic is:"Ma aflaha qawmon wallow amrahum imra'ah"). Now based on this Hadith the majority of scholars consider that it is haram for a women to be THE KHALIFAH OF THE MUSLIM UMMAH. Some scholars said that even this is allowed in very specific situations that are not the subject of our discussion here. Now, why can't we apply this Hadith for MSAs? and why did some scholars make exceptions to the "haram" of presidency of women?
The answer to the first question is summerized in the bold letters above! What the scholars said is haram is a woman being the leader of the MUSLIM UMMAH, that is being the KHALIFAH, not anything else. In fact Umar radia allahu ta'ala 'anhu appointed a woman over the management of the suq (market) of Madina. This is a situation more akin to the MSA today being an organizational structure rather than "dawlatul khilfah". In addition, in the first islamic centuries after the Prophet PBUH it is documented that women were judges in the Muslim community and they were not judging women only. We have to realize that at the time of the prophet PBUH there were no Islamic organizations in the form we know today simply because there was no need for them, and if we are going to equate the responsibility of leading the Muslim Ummah to the responsibility of leading an MSA then there is something seriousely wrong with us. The Khalifah has an enormous burden to carry way more than an MSA president can even dream of. Calling for Jihad (and carrying it out), Collecting Zakat, Leading the prayers, managing the economic and social systems of the country, etc...
In addition an MSA president is just an elected person to coordinate the work of active Muslims on campus, and if some member wants to leave MSA for any reason he/she can do that without being sinful. In the case of Khalifah, no Muslim person has the right to leave the Islamic Ummah just like that. The famous Hadith "Listen and obey even if your Khalifah is a black man from Habashah and his head is like a raisin" tells us that our bay'ah or commitment to obeying the Khalifah is not a joke. This is not the case for an MSA president.
As for the second question the answer is a little bit technical so please bear with me. We all know that in Islam if a certain Hadith contradicts with Quran we have to study it deeply and look at the circumstances it was said in and then try to reconcile that Hadith. If this cannot be acheived then the Hadith has to be droped and it's no longer considered. An example of that is the Hadith narrated by Imam Malik about the creation of the heaven and earth in 7 days, while Quran says that this was done in 6 days. This Hadith is therefore not a valid Hadith to consider because it contradicts with the Quran.
The leadership Hadith we have here actually contradicts with Quran, but we cannot drop it because it can be reconciled. The contradiction comes with the story of the Queen of Sheeba and Prophet Solayman PBUH. When Prophet Solayman PBUH sent a letter to the Queen to surrender to him, she asked her "parliment" (who were men) about their openion. Their openion was to fight Prophet Solayman PBUH, but the Queen's openion was NOT to fight and because of her, her people became Muslims and we all know that converting to Islam is the biggest success of all, hands down. (This story is in Surat An-Naml(27) verses 20-44). Therefore, the people of Sheeba succeeded even though (and because) their leader was a women!
How do we explain the hadith then? The answer is simple if we look at the reason the Prophet PBUH said this Hadith. What happened is that at the time there was a big fight over leadership between 6 brothers in the Persian Empire and to solve their fighting they assigned a woman to be the leader of the Empire. The Sahabah were telling the Prophet PBUH about this issue so the Prophet PBUH said the Hadith. Knowing this and the story of Sheeba above, the scholars reached the conclusion that this Hadith was meant for the Persian Empire and for that woman specifically, and not as a general rule for the Muslim Ummah!
In addition to the above, we have to remember a very important point when dealing with fiqh issues; Simply because a hadith exists on something, we should not take it and run as if it is the position of Islam on the issue. ie the drawing of a religious ruling from a single hadith is unacceptable and dangerous. One has to know all the other related issues and material.
Based on the above discussions we see that, wallahu a'alam, it is not haram for a sister to be the president of an MSA if the sister is properly observing the teachings of Islam.
This openion is not my own, it has been adapted by a lot of organizations and scholars including: The fiqh council of North America, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Sheikh Abdullah Idris, Shaikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali; Dr. AbdulHaleem Abu Shoqqa and a lot of other scholars.
> As for those sisters not observing hijab yet occupying positions of authority
> and representation of the Muslims, this also is not permissable, as it is a
> flagrant disregard for the commandments of Allah, and such a woman who does
> such an act is a sinner and disobedient to Allah and His Prophet (sallallahu
> alaihi wa salam).
> The Sahabah were very stern on this and regarded non-observance of hijab in
> public as an indicator of a woman's lack of belief. Al-Qurtubi reports a
> narration from `Aishah (radhi Allahu anha) that some women from Banu Tamim
> came to see her wearing transparent clothing. `Aishah said to them: "If you
> are are believing women, these are not the clothes of believing women." He
> also reports that a bride came to see her wearing a thin khimaar, whereupon
> `Aishah (radhi Allahu anha) said: "A woman who wears such clothing does not
> believe in Surat An-Nur."
> Moreover, the following hadeeth makes this point graphically clear. Allah's
> Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa salam) said: "There will be in the last of my
> Ummah (nation of believers), scantily dressed women, the hair on the top of
> their heads like a camel's hump. Curse them, for verily they are cursed. In
> another version he said: ...scantily dressed women, who go astray and make
> others go astray; they will not enter Paradise nor smell its fragrance,
> although it can be smelled from afar." [At-Tabarani and Sahih Muslim]
> "Scantily dressed women" are those who wear clothing which reveals more than
> it conceals, thereby increasing her attractiveness while opening the path to
> a host of evils.
> Thus, these sisters who do not wear hijab should be told to fear Allah and
> use their good senses; as strict adherence to the divinely-revealed Shari'ah
> is our only escape from the evils of our selves and from our weaknesses and
> evil deeds. As for the excuse of some of these people that Imam Ash-Shaafi'ee
> or Imam Abu Haneefah or "so-and-so" said this or that, I reply in the
> following way:
> None of the Imams have allowed women to appear in public without hijab.
> Whosoever claims such a thing regarding the Imams is asked to bring the proof
> of what they say, as the Quraan says: "Present your proof (of what you claim)
> if, indeed, you are truthful." [Al-Baqarah, 2: 111]
> Let us have the name of the book and page number wherein such a statement is
> authentically related up to one of the Imams. Whosoever does not bring such a
> proof carries the rumors and hearsay of the common folk, and would be guilty
> of slander, Allah forbid!
I have to be honest with everybody here that I was really furious when I read the above discussion about hijab. May Allah forgive all of us for our shortcomings.
Some or even all of the Hadiths mentioned above might be authentic but there is a small problem here; These Hadiths are completely irrelevant and have nothing to do with our sisters at MSA. The above discussion is accusing all sisters that don't wear hijab of being the type of women mentioned in those Hadiths. This is an extremely *FALSE* and *ISLAMICALLY UNACCEPTABLE* accusation.
Before I go on let me make sure that we all know that *HIJAB IS COMPULSORY*, no question about that. The above Hadiths, however, are talking about a completely different type of women than those who just don't wear hijab. For example the last Hadith referred to above (the one in Tabarani and Muslim) describes women that are "dressed but not dressed (i.e. scantily dressed). They walk in a bad way and seduce men by doing so (they go astray and make others go astray) their heads are like a camel's hump". Now, I don't know about you guys but NONE of the active sisters I've seen in any MSA are like that!!! Subhana Allah!!! All of the sisters that don't wear hijab that I've seen in all MSAs are very decently dressed. In fact, just about the only thing missing for them to have an islamic dress is hijab. That even does not come close to what's described in the Hadiths above. We have to watch ourselves when generalizing like that.
Now, if we all already agree that hijab is "fard" (compulsory) doesn't that mean a sister without hijab is commiting a sin? YES, indeed. However, that is not enough reason to prevent sisters from being on e-boards of MSAs. This will become very clear to us if we recall the Hadith of the Prophet PBUH "All humans are sinful, and the best among them are those who repent" (arabic: "kollo ibn Adam khatta' wa khayrul khatta'eena at-tawwaboon"). As we see from this Hadith (and a lot of other similar ones), if being sinful is a reason to prevent people from Islamic work then we all should quit because we are all sinful as per the Hadith we just mentioned!!!
In addition, a sister who is active enough to be willing to be an e-board member of an MSA, usually has great love and commitment for Islam and MSA. In which case after being there for a while and getting a chance to learn more about Islam, a lot of sisters start wearing hijab. I've seen this happen myself and I can pinpoint a lot of cases if need be. We usually assume that sisters without hijab lack faith, but we never bothered to find out the real reason for that, and believe me you'll be surprised if you do! Some sisters don't know that Hijab is compulsory, some would love to wear it but their parents won't let them, etc... Let's not jump to conclusions about people that fast.
It seems that many of us treat the MSA as if it was HeSn al-islam wa dawlatul khilafa. The fact of the matter is that the MSA is a tool by which we are trying to bring people closer to Islam - both Muslims and non-Muslims. And in so doing we have to deal with people's shortcomings and use Hikma (wisdom) and good example. We have to deal with people each according to their abilities and try to rise with them above their limitations. We can not merely say may Allah curse them they will go to hell. The Prophet alaihi assalatu wassalam never called Abu Jahl that. He referred to him as Abul Hakam. We should not refer to our sisters as being kasiyat 'araiyat.
To summerize, I think Wallahu A'alam, we have no right to prevent our "hijabless" sisters from being on MSA e-boards. In fact being on MSA e-boards will give them a chance to enhance their knowledge and experience in various aspects and the pros of that greatly outweighs the cons.
I apologize again for taking so much of your time and I ask all of us to continue to make dua' for each other insha'Allah.
Sub7anak Allahumma wa be7amdek. Nash-hadu Alla ilaha illa ant. nastaghferoka wa natoobo ilayk.
wal3asr, inna el-insana lafi khusr. illa allatheena a'amanoo wa3amelo assaleha7at. watawasaw bel7aq watawasaw bessabr.
Subhana rabbika rab el-3ezzati 3amma yasifoon. wa salamon 3ala-lmorsaleen walhamdulillahi rabil-3alameen.
Your brother in Islam,