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She is warm and straightforward, considerate and humble. She is not a hypocrite or a cheat, does not speak falsely and offers good advice in a prudent way and for the general welfare. She has a word and keeps it. She is modest in appearance and in manners. She respects others as she respects herself and keeps out of matters where she is not part of. She does not sow dissension or seek out hidden faults. No matter how achieved or excellent she may feel, she does not show off. She is not oppressive, but is, instead, fair and generous. She does not delight in the misfortune of another person but endeavors to help overcome it.
The bigots who put her down have ironically benefited the ideal Muslimah. They believe that the Muslim woman or any woman should keep her mouth shut as a result of her "original sin" in leading the first man to fall from Allah's grace (al-Hashimi 1998). Islam directs the Muslimah to keep out of malicious gossips, cursing and obscene language and talk. She takes no pleasure in demoralizing or degrading another person, rather, takes the side of the oppressed and shows them compassion. Then she forgets about her generosity. She is easy to be with, not imposing or dominant, nor dependent and bothersome. She is keen about Muslim concerns and proud about these concerns. In fact, she uses only the greeting taught by Islam and always ascertains her acts according to Islamic standards, no less. She is not conceited, chooses do to work that is suitable to her gender, not trying to be like a man. She does not enter another house without the occupant's permission.
The ideal Muslimah is a truth-seeker and truth-lover and leads others to be the same (al-Hashimi 1998). She can be expected to do what is good and right and avoid what is evil and wrong. She is gracious and grateful towards favors. She contributes towards rebuilding destroyed but proper relationships. She visits the sick and impoverished but does not attend funerals. With this collection of traits and patterns of behavior, the Muslim woman or ideal Muslimah is the finest realization of womanhood in human society (al-Hashimi 1998). This ideal possesses wisdom, spiritual purity and a high level of spirituality, a stable and realistic life view, and a working awareness and appreciation of her person and role in society. With this high-level of intellectual, psychological, spiritual and moral development, the Muslimah can only be an extraordinary or exceptional blessing in the world. It is, in fact, the goal of every life, more than just a cultural achievement. This ideal Muslimah personality is the rule for the Muslim woman and Islam treats these traits as givens rather than goals in every sincere follower of Allah.
It is quite easy to enumerate the ideal qualities of an ideal Muslimah, but it is quite difficult to confront the stark reality that resists the ideal. In many parts of the Muslim world, women suffer from backwardness and fail to attain the standards set by the Islamic faith (al-Hashimi 1998). Many who claim to be servants of Allah have actually deviated from the stated path and pure source of Islam and are now lost in false and corrupt jahiliyyah or intellectual and psychological traps that depend on others. Every Muslim, especially every Muslim woman, would have kept right and self-sufficient if the Muslims maintained and followed only their pure Islamic traditions, which alone can afford them immunity, originality and distinction.
Great efforts have been exerted towards Westernizing the Muslim woman by diverse feminist societies, organizations and movements (al-Hashimi 1998). Although some gave in, there was a consequent wave of re-awakening among educated Muslim women who kept within the Islamic path or experience new fervor for it. Those who fell were restored to the path upon realizing the depth of the Muslim woman's belief, the originality of her faith and its power in shaping her thoughts and feelings. With a new or more vigorous awareness and commitment to her original faith, the Muslim woman experiences a stronger sense of identity and genuineness as a creature and follower of Allah. It also contributes to reviving the ummah where she belongs and the country of her origin.
The Muslim woman had and has a historical public life. The Qur'an distinctively mentions that those who wish to ask about something from the Prophet's wives could do so by "addressing them from behind a screen (33:53). The Mother of all Believers provided quizzers with fatwas and narrated hadiths to those transmitting them. Moreover, women were used to posing questions with the Prophet even when men were present. Those women did not show embarrassment when they asked him questions and neither did the Prophet forbid or discourage them from doing so (al-Qaradawi). Omar was challenged by a woman during his khutba and he took the challenge, even admitting that the woman was right and he was wrong. One more illustration was that of a daughter of Shaykh in Qur'an 28:23 where she spoke in public. The holy book also narrates the conversation between Sulayman and the Queen of Sheba and between her and her subjects. These are records that the Muslim woman's speech and communication should be severely restricted in public. The only documented restriction is the flirtatious kind of talk that tends to incite or tempt a corrupt man. Silencing the woman is only one of the injustices inflicted upon women by false scholars and imams who ground their prejudice with the hadiths narrated by Bukhri about the Prophet's saying that he had not left a greater harm to men than women. They interpret the saying to mean that women are an evil curse that must be tamed and viewed her in the same level as poverty, famine, disease, fear and death. They miss the true meaning of the saying that a person is most tried by his misfortunes than by his fortunes. A woman may be a source of joy and peace to her husband but the blessings may distract or detract a man from his duty towards Allah and these blessings turn into a curse. A man may use his wife as an excuse not to perform or participate in a jihad or avoid sacrifices by storing wealth. These experiences serve as warnings from Allah: "Truly among your wives and children are enemies for you (64:14). It is the same warning made about wealth and many children (63:9). The sahih hadith portends: "By Allah I don't fear poverty for you, but I fear that the world would be abundant for you as it has been for those before you so you compete for it as they have competed for it, so it destroys you as it has destroyed them." This does not mean that the Prophet favored or encouraged poverty, as poverty itself is a curse from which he sought refuge from Allah. Neither does it mean that Allah wants His people to be impoverished. What Allah warns against is greed and the love of material wealth for its own sake. The ideal Muslimah is a gift for the pious man and Allah intends that the pious man and pious woman should be an encouragement and a blessing to each other (al-Qaradawi).
Since the early days of Islam, Muslim women have taken active and prominent part in preserving and cultivating of hadith (Siddiqi 1993), a collection of Muhammad's sayings and actions, which serve as the tradition and standard way of life for Muslims. Respected women-traditionists lived through the ages. They were the medium for the evolution of many traditions that began during the time of the Prophet and the transmission of these traditions through their brothers and sisters of the same faith. Many of the Prophet's wives, called Companions, functioned as keepers of knowledge they acquired from the Prophet himself and they were consulted for it. Among these Companions were Hafsa, Umm Habiba, Maymuna, Umm Salama and a'isha. The last one stands out as a radiant figure in the entire history of hadith literature as one of the earliest reporters of the largest volume of traditions but also one of the most careful interpreters of these.
During the Successors Period, traditionists women held significant posts. A few of them were Hafsa, the daughter of Ibn Sirin; Umm al-Darda the Younger; and Amra bin Abd al-Rahman (Siddiqi 1993). Ivas ibn Mu'awiya considered Umm al-Darda superior to all other traditionalists of the Period. Ivas was a distinguished judge who possessed undisputed capability and merit. Amra was regarded by a'isha as a great authority on traditions. In addition were Abida al-Madaniyya, Abda bin Bishr, Umm Umar al-Thaqafiyya, Zaynab the granddaughter of Ali ibn Abd, Allah ibn Abbas, Nafisa bint al-Hasan, ibn Ziyad, Khadija Umm Muhammad, and Abda bint Abd al-Rhahman who delivered public lectures on the hadith.
These excellent women had…[continue]
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