It has been through Allah’s Mercies and Blessings that I have been able to complete this book, which I began in Sha’ban 1414 AH (February 1994). I am a Muslim, a fact which I must make clear to the reader from the outset, for this is a book with an objective, to clarify what is arguably the most frequently discussed aspect of my faith: the position of women in Islam. In doing so, I wish to take this matter beyond the usual defence of Islam and seek a positive understanding of why women are embracing Islam in increasing numbers.
I will also examine the role of feminism in today’s world. For far too long, Muslims have had to put up with the criticism, based on ignorance, that their faith is “irrational in the modem age”. Islam, and Muslim women, in particular, continue to be subjected to ridicule and mockery throughout the Western world. In all of this, the media play a key role in orchestrating misinformation, slander and downright lies about Islam. Despite the almost superhuman efforts to break the spirit of Islam in Muslims, this faith remains the fastest-growing religion in the world.
In Europe and North America, the progress of Islam is well documented in census reports. Moreover, it is reported that out of every ten “new” Muslims, seven are women. Speculation abounds as to why individuals – especially women – accept Islam when they have been bombarded, courtesy of the Western media, with inaccurate and demeaning “information” about the faith. The simple fact remains that when the light of truth shines into the soul, the mind and heart are opened and every aspect of the human being submits to the Creator of the Universe.
This transformation suppresses materialistic, worldly desires, and brings about serenity, contentment, and inner peace. A common error is an assumption that Islam is merely a “religion”, in the sense that it defines belief in God, or prescribes certain acts of worship to be performed or rules to be complied with. In fact, Islam is much more than a “religion” in this narrow sense. It is a Been, a complete way of life which encompasses every aspect of human life, from the “religious” to the social, economic, medical and political.
The core of Islam is Tawhid No matter how uneducated, remote or isolated a Muslim may be, Tawhid is the focus of his or her belief. This firm and unequivocal belief in the absolute uniqueness of Allah, the Lord and Creator of all, is the very essence of Islam. Belief in Tawhid is to affirm that there is only One Creator and Sustainer Who deserves to be worshipped and obeyed. Our belief is clear: Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.
[al-Ikhlas 112.1-4] Allah is He, other than Whom there is no other god – Who knows (all things) both secret and open; He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allah is He, other than Whom there is no other god the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners, they attribute to Him. He is Allah, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, declares His Praises and Glory, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. [al-Hashr 59 22-24] Allah! There is no god but He the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth.
Who is there that can intercede in His presence except as He permits He knows what (appears to His creatures as) Before or After or Behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He wills. His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Highest, the Supreme (in glory). [al-Baqarah 2.255] The individual’s voluntary submission to Allah through sincere belief in Tawhid brings emancipation from worldly, materialistic bonds, and raises the Muslim, the one who submits to the will of Allah, to a higher level.
This submission liberates individuals from all false worship, whether it be of the occult, of money, of fortune telling, of material gods, of “saints”, of those who pretentiously claim to be intermediaries acting on behalf of God, of self-conceit and of arrogance. This submission also frees human beings from the burden of social and peer pressure, as the Muslim submits to the will of Allah, and to nothing and no one else. It provides a person with positive identity and definite position in relation to the rest of creation and to other human beings. Moreover, it grants him or her direct access to Allah, the Creator of all.
A Muslim who has freely accepted Islam thus submits to the will of Allah and obeys His commandments. Human beings know about these commandments through Risalah (Prophethood): Allah has sent His Guidance through chosen people whom we call Prophets or Messengers, who conveyed Allah’s message to their fellow humans. The chain of Risalah began with Adam and continued through numerous Prophets including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Jesus, culminating in the Prophethood of Muhammad (may peace be upon all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah). Some Prophets were given books of guidance, such as the Tawrat(Torah) of Moses, the Injeel(Gospel) of Jesus and the Qur’an brought by Muhammad.
1 The Qur’an is the final book of guidance revealed by Allah to mankind, and it supersedes all previous scriptures which by admission of their adherents, as is well known, have been altered and distorted over the centuries. The Qur’an is the only scripture that has remained in its original form since its revelation fourteen hundred years ago. The Holy Qur’an itself states: Alif,Lam, Mim. Allah! There is no god but He -the Living, the Self subsisting, Eternal. It is He Who sent down to you (step by step) in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus). Before this, as a guide to mankind, He sent down the Criterion (of judgement between right and wrong). Then those who reject faith in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty, and Allah is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution. From Allah, verily nothing is hidden on earth or in the heavens. He is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Might, the Wise. [Al ‘Imran 3:1-6]
The faith of Islam as we know it today (for it must be borne in mind that all the Prophets taught submission to the will of Allah or Islam) is derived from the Holy Qur’an and the teachings, examples and practices of Allah’s final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad which collectively are known as his Sunnah. Every minute detail of the Prophet’s lifestyle, conduct and statements were memorised by his Companions, who put his example into practice and passed on reports of what they had seen him do, or had heard from him, to subsequent generations. These reports or ahadith (singular: hadith) were later subjected to intense scrutiny by scholars who recorded them and classified them into different levels of “soundness” or authenticity.
The greatest recorder of ahadith was Imam al-Bukhari, who spent sixteen years compiling reports of the Prophet’s words and deeds in his famous collection of ahadith, Sahih al-Bukhari. His scrupulous attention to detail and authenticity leave us in no doubt concerning the book he left us. It is this straightforward presentation, practical application, sincere reaching and equal treatment for all in Islam that have attracted multitudes of people towards the honest teachings of the word of Allah. The spread of Islam in the Western world has been so rapid that the media has taken to publishing alarmist statistics and issuing “tenoint security plans” to safeguard individuals! The media is at the forefront of creating an Islamaphobic environment.
The media is unrelenting in it’s efforts to misguide people about the truth of Islam, nd appears especially keen to convince the world at large that Islam “oppresses” women. But they are failing spectacularly, because – as stated earlier- seven out of every ten Western converts to Islam are women. Within the last decade, an estimated ten thousand British women have accepted and are practicing Islam. Most of the new converts are middle class, well-educated, and have professional backgrounds. Life in Britain today, as in most of the Western world, lacks cohesion, guidance and purpose. “New” Muslims have found the truth and a perfect code of conduct in Islam through which they have improved their life in this world and have definitely secured salvation in the life to come.
In order to fully appreciate the role Islam continues to play in liberating women from cultural oppression which is perpetrated in the name of “freedom”, we need to look at women’s status through the ages in various societies. I start with an overview of the period prior to the advent of Islam. The second chapter presents the sad and depressing picture of the plight of women who have espoused to the laisse fair culture of Western society. Anyone with the slightest concern for humanity and the social welfare of human beings will be greatly perturbed by some of the calamities faced by women in this supposedly advanced society.
I then turn to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet on the role, position and integrity of women in Islam. No book, which deals with the issue of women, can ignore the aspirations of the feminist movement, so I have included a discussion of their theories. The theories of leading feminists, the views and debates raging within feminism and academia have been reported. I have sought to examine their practical application in light of Islamic teachings.
I hope and pray that by the time the readers complete the book, they will have gained a deeper insight into the position of women in Islam, the detrimental effect on the moral, social and personal status of the women in the West by adopting and following a way of life suited to their personal desires and finally, a clearer understanding of Islamic teachings on this issue.
This book is merely an introduction to some of the major topics regarding women. Any shortcomings detected herein are due entirely to my own weaknesses. I pray to Allah for His forgiveness. However, I hope that after reading this work others will be inspired to join in this monumental work of researching and presenting true Islamic teachings and improve upon my efforts. It is my ardent desire that readers will find the warmth, sincerity and honesty of Islamic teachings reflected in this book and that this will encourage a deeper understanding of Islam, through which mankind’s sufferings and miseries can be elevated.
Ismail Adam PatelLeicester Muharram 1418 AH MAY 1997 CE May 1997
Culled from “Islam The choice of Thinking Women” by Ismail Adam Patel