The Impact of Women On Their Societies Throughout History by Hajjah Aziza Abdel-Halim, A.M., Vice President (RISEAP), Chairperson RISEAP Women’s Movement and Advisor, Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia, Inc.

According to the Quran, Allah (swt) created man and woman different, but equal in their rights and humanity. They are nafs (soul) , are of the same nature, possess equal capacity to intellectual and moral deed.

“O Human kind reverence your Guardian Lord, who created you from a single soul (nafs) created of like nature his mate and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women -Reverence God, through whom you demand your mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you) for God ever watches over you” Nisa (Women 4) Verse 1.

Both from the Islamic and Scientific points of view the question of physical equality is meaningless. It is like discussing the quality of a jasmine and a rose. Each has its distinctive perfume, colour, shape and beauty. Women are not equal to men, but neither are men equal to women. Islam wisely and realistically envisage their roles in society as complementing and not competing. Also, not every human being is equal in talent, endurance, capacity or intellect. But each has certain duties and functions in accordance with his/her nature and constitution.

In the dawn of Islam, we see women as the first believers (Sayyeda Khadija R.A.) , the first martyr (Somayya), the first of those who aided the Prophet (pbuh) (Asma’bint Abou Bakr). We also see Umm Salama almost loses her arm at Uhud defending the Prophets back (pbuh)

Allah (swt) has really honoured women in their roles as bearers and nurturers of children and put paradise under their feet.

“We enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents in travail upon travail did his mother bear him….show gratitude to Me and to your parents, to Me is your final goal” (S.31:V 11)

Blood ties are beautifully described in the Quran as silat arrahem (the ties of the womb) which the Quran recommends us never to break.

Allah (swt) also declares, “I am Rahman” , Merciful and created the womb (rahem) and the name Rahem is constituted from my name “Raheem”, the compassionate. Those who connect the relaitionships of the rahem will I keep hold and those who break this relationship, will I break”.(Hadith, Tirmidhi)

With such an elevated honour comes very serious responsibilities, not only raising children, but mostly towards building a truly cohesive family unit and naturally and equally a healthy cohesive society.

We cannot ignore the fact that the key role in the proper development of the family and particularly the Muslim family is played by women. As the homemaker, she is responsible for running the home in the best possible manner. She looks after its physical, emotional, educational, administrative and other needs. For her, her family and her home are her world in themselves, which involves a network of activities; intellectual, physical and organisational. She has to run this world with wisdom, responsibility and authority. This does not absolve the man from sharing as much as possible in these duties and activities. A woman is a guardian of her home and a man is also a guardian of his home, giving all the support possible.

In most societies today, there exist divergent and conflicting values. This has been, amongst other things, brought about by urbanisation, computerisation and consumerism. Islam has always maintained that the family is the most important social unit in society and that women play the most important role in inculcating proper Islamic values into the children within the home. As the family is constantly exposed to other surrounding factors such as media, popular literature, certain biased comic strips and even some seemingly iniquitous children’s books; the inculcation of proper Islamic values has to be understood in the contemporary situation. Inculcation of values has to be inclusive of bigger issues in relation to our daily life, such as social justice, integrity and corruption.

We women are chief consumers and the targets of the business world. They let men in Paris or Rome decide for them what to wear and how wear it. What products to use for the whole family. They should be concerned with the prevalence of consumer culture which seems to pervade everything else, as a measure of protecting the young. The emphasis in consumer culture is on materialism and exposure in advertising of women as sex objects which should be stopped by shunning such advertising and products. Muslim women have to be united in their efforts to eliminate such exploitation of women as a mere commodity especially in the media, especially in societies which claim to be non-sexist on the one hand and promote the exploitation of women in ads on the other.

Discrimination against women violates the basic principles and guidelines of Allah (swt) as stated in the holy Quran and Hadith where it is clearly defining the basic obligations of men and women. That men and women have complementary responsibilities in the development of family, community and nation. I refer here to Surah Al Ahzab verse 35:

“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient, constant; for men and women who humble themselves; for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast; for men and women who guard their chastity and for men and women who engage in Allah’s remembrance,

For them has Allah prepared Forgiveness and great reward.”

If we the Muslim women are to succeed in maintaining our integrity, identity and faith, we have to consider our role with serious dedication and commitment. We have to have education, organisation, strategy and planning. The first step has already been taken towards shaping ourselves into committed individuals who would happily follow Allah (swt) and His Prophet’s injunctions to pursue knowledge and to see that we become armed with education at all levels not only in the daily spheres, but also knowledge of our religion and our rights and duties in Islam.

The second step is to play an active and dynamic role in both our families and our communities. As mothers we can become good examples for our children (qudwa hasana). We can instil in them an understanding, love, and knowledge of Islam and Islamic traditions. We can also monitor their development and their immediate environment, now more than ever. We can select their halal food, guide their choice of reading material, their TV viewing, computer programs, their choice of friends, their value judgement to overcome the falacies of modern media, which advocate that everything must change with the changing times, making life devoid of meaning or purpose since nothing is of permanent value. This attitude is now responsible for the “throw away” culture which considers almost everything disposable. Children have, sooner than later, to come to terms with the fact that the Divine law is permanent and this gives us stability in ourselves and in our perception of life. As partners, sisters, daughters and fellow workers, we can always give support, strength and encouragement to our fathers, husbands, children, brothers and co-workers.

Islam would definitely bring to each and every individual meaning and purpose in life, which materialistic modern culture cannot provide. We must not forget that despite the drastic environmental transformation brought about by modern technology, the basic human needs remain the same. Therefore, humankind in this day and age is still thirsty for the spiritual sustenance which alone gives life its meaning and direction. Only Islam can fulfil and satisfy that need as the religion that appeals to our instincts, intuition and reasoning at the same time.

We have to be action oriented – doers. The educated among us must help the uneducated after all it is our religious duty. We must venture like early Muslim women, to build a sound Muslim Ummah in minority and in majority countries. Like the early Muhajireen, if we organise ourselves we would definitely succeed beyond belief in creating a dynamic, active and exemplary Muslim community that would be an example to follow by Muslims everywhere.

Today the world is a global village. So we have to concentrate our Da’wah activities on others. Our job is not to transform them into Muslims, but to show them the beauty of Islam in the best approach and manner. Our aim is to live in harmony with people of other faiths. Treating them with understanding, respect and equality. Remember Sisters that Allah (swt) guides whoever He wants to guide. So guidance first and last comes from Him.

I would like to share with you, in conclusion, an amazing experience for successful Da’wah work which affected me greatly. As part of a RISEAP project for women, I headed a delegation of RISEAP women, where I had the pleasure of getting to know Puan Fatimah Abdullah, we visited Muslim women’s organisations in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We were to observe and learn from these sisters’ experiences, projects and activities. In Indonesia we visited 2 of the oldest organisations in the region – “Aiyshia” and “Wanita Islam”. We saw such zeal, determination, dedication, ingenuity and unselfish, tireless work and wonderful achievements. We were amazed by their energy and productivity. For years they worked against odds, striking a balance between home and community work. Turning even negatives into positives. Maximising gains for their Ummah. I then remembered the Hadith, “Islam was born a stranger (meaning among pagan Arabs) and it will return strongly as a stranger (meaning non-Arab). Sisters the future of Islam is with you in this region.


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