We cannot go on a mission to save the world unless we save ourselves first. Our younger generation is at the receiving end of the most vicious onslaught of western cultural influences. Our youngsters today are exposed to the pernicious effects of media like newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet. In this scenario, if the responsibility of bringing up a child is set aside and women spend more time in preaching outside their homes, then this is an adulteration of the priorities of their responsibilities.
As for stepping out of the home to preach other women, surely this needs to be done in a very organized manner. In this endeavor, middle-aged women are best suited for the task as the restrictions of Islamic dress code are relaxed to a great extent in their case. Surah Al-Noor states regarding the aged women:
“It is alright for them if they put aside their coverings.”
They certainly will continue to follow the orders of Satr , but the orders of Hijab  will now be relaxed in comparison to a young woman. However, what happens in our society is that the ladies who have always been observing Satr and Hijab and staying at home become so accustomed to it that they are reluctant to go out even in their old age. This attitude needs to be changed. They should not hesitate to participate in the activities that involve studying and teaching of the Holy Qur’an in their own cities, even if they are not accompanied by their Mahrams. As far as young women are concerned it is extremely inappropriate for them to go out alone. If they can afford to devote time to the propagation of their Deen, they should cover themselves properly and a Mahram should accompany them. Keeping these general guidelines in mind, Qur’anic study circles must be arranged and there should be a systematic and intensive effort to organize women’s gatherings on a regular basis for the purpose of effectively propagating the message of the Holy Qur’an to the masses. This is the most-pressing need of the time.
The third circle of women’s efforts in this regard is that of the. Mahram men i.e., husband, brothers, father, uncles and nephews, etcetera (please note that the husband’s nephews are not Mahram). You must have noticed that under the influence of various Islamic movements like the Tableeghi Jama’at and Jama’at-e-lslami, more and more young men and women belonging to the middle class are choosing to adopt the Islamic way of life. We see many bearded young men and veiled young women whose parents and other family members are oblivious of Islamic values. In this scenario, the younger generation needs to reach out to the older one to invite them to the right path of Islam. The third circle for Muslim women, therefore, involves their Mahram men.
In Pakistan we see that a particular Islamic group sends its female members from door-to-door canvassing prior to elections. As this group aspires to bring about change through the ballot box, naturally they need to get in touch with the masses for large scale campaigning which probably leaves them no choice but to send the women door to door. But whatever their compulsions are, this practice is highly inappropriate. Even though these women follow the Islamic dress code, which in itself is commendable, nonetheless, they go to houses of people who are completely alien to them. Islam does not allow Muslim women to freely mingle even with unfamiliar women. The list of Mahrams given in Surah Al-Noor includes “their women” — meaning familiar women who are known to be of decent, righteous character. Hence, Islam does not allow strange women into homes and it certainly does not allow women to go into strange houses.
We believe that the real change in the existing secular system can never be brought about through the prevailing election process. This change calls for a moral, ideological, and intellectual revolution that permeates all the spheres (i.e. political, social and economic) of life. We need to work towards forming a “Hizbullah” , and for that, women should ideally be working within the three circles that have been discussed above. In exceptional situations, their duties may exceed the ones already mentioned. However under the present conditions, working within the three spheres mentioned is all that they are required to do in the realm of Da’wah and Tableegh.
The Third Level: Women and the Struggle for the Establishment of Islam
The third level involves the struggle for an Islamic Revolution, the peak of all obligations, for bringing about an Islamic Order “so that Allah’s Word reigns supreme” At this stage the formation of an organized and dedicated group of individuals becomes inevitable. Such a group will consist of committed individuals who will stand united for a single purpose: abolishing tyranny of the status quo,, to set up in its place, the ideal Islamic System of Social Justice. These individuals will be ready to lay down their lives for this cause. This is the responsibility that women have been exempted from except in certain extreme cases.
Some people falsely assume that women too are required to participate in this highest level in the hierarchy of our responsibilities. They argue that in the glorious history of Islam, women did leave their homes and sacrifice their lives. Sumayyiah (radhyAllahu ‘anha) was martyred along with her husband Yasir (radhyAllahu ‘anhu). Ruqayyiah (radhyAllaha ‘anha) migrated to Madinah just as her husband ‘Usman (radhyAllahu ‘anhu) did. However, the people who quote these instances fail to realize that the migration’ and martyrdom of these women represent the essence and apex of the first level (not the third) of our building. It was for the sake of her staunch belief in Tauheed – the oneness of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) – that Sumayyiah (radhyAllahu ‘anha) did not yield before Abu Jahal. A woman giving her life in order to keep her faith is the foundation (representing Iman), in relation to our building, where there is no difference in men’s and women’s responsibilities. It was a matter of standing up for what one believes in and remaining steadfast even if one’s life is at stake. It was not a matter of encountering the disbelievers on the battlefield. Even today, if a believing woman is faced with a choice between her faith and her life, the best and the most honorable thing is to remain firm on her faith and not to care for her life. It is, however, permissible in Islam to profess disbelief verbally in such a life threatening situation. Sumayyah (radhyAllahu ‘anha) and Yassir (radhyAllahu ‘anhu) sacrificed their lives to uphold their faith, whereas their son ‘Ammar (radhyAllahu ‘anhu) saved his life by orally claiming faithlessness.
Similarly, when practicing Islam becomes impossible in a land then the Muslims should migrate in the way of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). Ruqayyah (radhyAllahu ‘anha) and Umm Habibah (radhyAllahu ‘anha) with few other women migrated with their Mahrams because life in Makkah became unbearable. Migration for keeping the Divine message alive while abandoning homeland and belongings is actually holding on to faith, the foundation of the building of Islam. In short, remaining loyal to Faith is something that applies to both men and women as does migrating in the way of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). In this connection, please note the following verse of Surah Aal-e-’Imran:
“And their Lord hath heard from them (and He says) Lo! I suffer not the work of any worker, male or female, to be lost. You are one and the same. So those who fled and were driven forth from their homes and suffer damage for My cause, and fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them unto gardens underneath zvhich rivers flow.” [Al-Qur’an, Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, 3:195]
Men and women were all put through the same ordeals during the thirteen-years stay of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in Makkah. They were the victims of the same hatred and persecution. And they were all forced to leave their beloved homes. They also sacrificed their lives for the noble cause of defending their faith. On the other hand, we do not find any instance of female participation in the armed conflicts in which Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and his valiant companions raised the flag of the Revolutionary Movement in Arabia.
The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) sent eight expeditions immediately after the migration to Medina and there is no mention of any women being sent. The first real battle fought in the way of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) in Islamic history was the battle of Badr and the books of Seerah make no mention that Muslim women took part in it. On the basis of this, we can easily determine what our religion requires from us. Instead of inventing fictitious duties for us, we should objectively understand our actual responsibilities.
Uhad is the only battle where we find, as an exception, when women participated in the battle but this was an emergency situation. The news that seventy Muslims were martyred had reached Medina. There was the rumor that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) himself had been martyred. Naturally there was a state of extreme panic in the city. Moreover, Uhad was only two and a half miles away from Madinah. Therefore, the Muslim women rushed to the scene of the battle to tend the wounded and supply water. In addition, we must keep in mind that the commands regarding Hijab had not been revealed at that time. It is important for us to keep in mind the chronological sequence of the events. The orders of Hijab were introduced for the first time in Surah Al-Ahzab, which was revealed following the battle of Ahzab after the fifth year of Hijrah. Surah Al-Noor was revealed in 6th year after Hijrah and contains explicit commands about Hijab.
Afterwards in the battle of Ahzab, which was the toughest battle of all, the Muslims fought while their women stayed inside a fortress. There is no evidence of any woman taking part in this battle. Only Safiya (radhyAllahu ‘anha) is said to have killed a Jew in self-defense. In 7th year after Hijrah, the battle of Khyber was fought. The following incident, narrated in the books of Hadith and Seerah, throws light on the role of women in this battle:
“Hashraj bin Ziyad narrates from his grandmother that she and five other women left for Khyber along with the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). She says, ‘When the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) learned of our presence, he called for us. When we came to him, he was furious and said, ‘With whom have you come and with whose permission?’ We said, ‘We will make wool and work in the cause of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). We have some bandages for the wounded; we will hand arrows to the fighters and give them water.’ The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, ‘Get up and go back.’ When Khyber was conquered the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) gave us a share from the spoils of the battle. ‘Hashraj says he asked his grandmother about what she received as share. She replied, ‘Some dates.’
There are lessons to be learnt from this story. The Prophet’s query: “With whom have you come and with whose permission” is very important. Whenever a woman comes out of her house she should see to it that she is accompanied by a Mahram. Sometimes women who want to work for their religion become over-zealous and cross certain limits that they are supposed to stay within. For example, they begin to neglect their household duties and their children. It will be useful for such ladies to bear in mind a certain incident from Seerah:
Asma bint al-Yazeed (radhyAllahu ‘anha) was an Ansari woman. She once came to the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and said, “Women have sent me to you as their representative. What all of them are saying is similar to what I will say and they have the same point of view as I. Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) sent you as a Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) to both men and women. Therefore we believed in you and obeyed you. However, as women, we are supposed to observe veil and remain inside our homes. Our duty is to keep our men satisfied and to look after their children. Men outdo us in matters such as the Friday congregational and funeral prayers and also in Jihad in the way of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). When they go to war, we protect their houses and tend their children. Will we get the same reward as them?” When the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) heard this eloquent speech, he turned to his companions and asked them, “Have you ever heard a woman give a more excellent speech about her religion than this one?” All the companions of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) swore that they had not. Then the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) turned to Asma (radhyAllahu ‘anha) and said, “O Asma, help me in conveying my answer to the women who sent you as their representative. Fulfilling your housekeeping responsibilities, keeping your husbands happy and co-operating with them, is equal to all those acts of the men that you have described.” Asma (radhyAllahu ‘anha) returned happily after listening to this answer and did not raise any objection.
What we must learn from this incident is that our actual aim is to carry out the tasks that Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) has assigned to us. If we assume certain duties that were never meant for us, it will be totally unfair to our own selves. Whenever an individual takes on unnecessary, self-assigned duties Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) lets him carry them out hut withdraws His help and support. And if, in the process, he happens to exceed Divinely ordained limits, he may end up among the unfortunate lot in the Hell according to the Qur’anic words:
“We appoint for him that unto which he himself has turned and expose him unto Hell, a hapless journey’s end.” [Al-Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa’, 4:115]
 Satar refers to the parts of body which, in normal conditions, must be covered at all times and may not be displayed to anyone but one’s spouse. The whole of a woman’s body is considered Satr except hands, feet, and face excluding ears and hair.
 Hijab refers to the parts of body which, in normal conditions, must be hidden from non-Mahrams. Hijab refers to Satr plus face excluding the eyes.
 Hizbullah is an organized and disciplined party working for the ascendancy of Islam.
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