Muslim women have the potential to benefit the Ummah (nation) in many diverse ways. The Ummah is suffering immensely in this present age and both Muslim men and Muslim women need to rise up to the challenge and help to re-establish its glory. There is much work to be done and there is no time to waste. A look at some examples in history will elucidate the significant role that women have played, and can continue to play, for the benefit of the society.
Women have the ability to learn and excel in various disciplines and to use this knowledge for the benefit of the Ummah. The Ummah is particularly in need of female Islamic scholars who can help to guide the women and the nation as a whole. Although Islamic studies may be viewed as somewhat inferior to other fields of study, it is time to return it to a superior position once again. The finest example of the scholarship of Muslim women is, of course, ‘Aa’ishah bint Abu Bakr
. There is wisdom in the young age at which she married the Prophet that is often overlooked, for she lived almost 50 years after his death. During her time with the Prophet she learned and acquired knowledge from the two most important sources of Allah’s guidance: the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet.
After his death, she spent those 50 years, teaching, narrating, advising, and assisting others. ‘Aa’ishah is one of four persons who transmitted more than two thousand sayings of the Prophet. Many Companions of the Prophet benefited from her knowledge such that Abu Moosa Al-Ash’ari said, “When we, Companions of the Prophet encountered any difficulty in the matters of any Hadeeth, we referred it to ‘Aa’ishah and found that she had definite knowledge about it.” She was one of the earliest jurists of Islam and was one of three wives of the Prophet who had memorized the complete Quran. She was a scholar of law and medicine, an educator and an orator. In general, she played a critical role in preserving and transmitting both the Quran and the Sunnah to the next generations, along with a wealth of other knowledge. She provides a magnificent example of the achievements and contributions that a Muslim woman can make for the benefit of the Ummah. We need to encourage our young women to become the ‘Aa’isha’s of today and tomorrow.
Islamic Law recognizes the full property and economic rights of women before and after marriage. They may buy, sell or lease their properties at their own discretion and may use their wealth without interference by anyone.
For this reason, some Muslim women become quite wealthy. Throughout history, women have used their resources for the cause of Islam and for the benefit of the Muslim Ummah. Khadeejah bint Khuwaylid, may Allah be pleased with her, was the finest example of this generosity. She was the first wife of the Prophet and a wealthy businesswoman.
Her support of the Prophet was evident in many ways, including financial, as she gave a large portion of her wealth for his mission. The prophet said regarding Khadeejah, may Allah be pleased with her: “She believed in me when the people rejected me. And she held me to be honest when the people said I was a liar. And she supported me with her wealth when the people withheld from me.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
There are many other examples of women benefactors throughout the history of Islam. Faatimah al-Fihriyah (d. 880) inherited a considerable amount of wealth, and she used this wealth to build a school and a Mosque in Qarawiyiin, Morocco. The Qarawiyiin Mosque and school has been the center of Islamic learning in Morocco for more than 1000 years and is the oldest university in Morocco. Maryam bint ash-Shams (d. 1313), Barakah bint Abd-Allah (d. 1372), and Al-Udar al Kareemah of Yemen (d. 1360) also built great schools and Mosques throughout that country. Banafshaa’ ar-Rumiyah (d. 1008) renovated Baghdad and established her own school and endowment there.
Many women have the financial capability to advance the Ummah in numerous ways as evidenced by the examples of our predecessors. The Ummah is in need of schools, Mosques, social service centers, and so forth.
Muslim girls need to be taught the value of money from a young age, as well as the importance of donating their wealth for the sake of Allah. We need to encourage our young women to become the Khadeejahs of today and tomorrow.
Muslim women have played a significant role in society throughout Islamic history. They have been doctors and social workers, scholars and educators, benefactors and administrators. They have helped shape the Islamic landscape and contributed substantially to the prominence of Islamic civilization. They have done all of this while maintaining the Islamic principles of modesty, dignity, and honor. Muslim women have an amazing potential. It is time to fulfill those possibilities and assist in returning Islam to its rightful place.