Talking about woman and her status in the Muslim society is not a new issue. The position of Islam on this matter is clearly well explained and it is an important issue that every Muslim who claims to be educated must look into deeply.
Briefly, this work is addressing on some issues related to the status of Muslim woman in the society. It is well known that Islam is one of the most prominent religions that display the position and status of woman, as it appears in the glorious Quran and authentic Hadeeth of our beloved prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. It is reported that the prophet said “Educate a man, you educate a person. Educate a woman you educate a family. Educate a family you educate the Ummah”.
The quotation cited above gives a clear picture and understanding that a Muslim woman is holding a significant role in the society. This means that she has a vital presence in the Muslim community and it cannot be erased even with a black ink. Additionally, a woman in Islam has the right to knowledge and education. Allah (SWT) encourages women to read and keep up the learning process just like their counterpart men. He also bestows His mercy upon all who seek knowledge, and gives them high status in this world and hereafter: Allah says in the glorious Qur’an: “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” (Az-Zumar 39:9),
The above verse indicates that there is no room for ignorance in both genders. Here, the verse combines the two genders. Educating both men and women is thus an obligation to all Muslims ordained by Allah right away from the time he first revealed the Holly Qu’ran to His last prophet Muhammad peace be upon him ordering Him to seek knowledge when He said “ Recite in the name of your Lord who created” Recite here simply mean ‘learning’
To emphasize the point, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in an authentic hadeeth: “To seek knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.” Again the Prophet (SAW) said in another hadeeth: “Whoever follows a way to seek knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a way to paradise.” The word Muslim in the first hadeeth returns to both male and female, as women are the twin halves of men, while the second hadeeth did not specify the gender.
With this acknowledgement, it implies that not educating woman can cause serious social problems to entire Muslim society. In this sense Islam brought about liberation of women from enslavement and gave her equal rights and recognized her individuality as a human being. Furthermore, Islam improved the status of women by providing to her rights of property ownership, inheritance, education, marriage (as a contract) and divorce. Not only that, she also plays a significant role in various aspects, for example; Spiritual, Socio-economic and Political Aspect.
Nonetheless, despite what Islam say about women’s role in transforming the society through knowledge, statistics point to the low level of literacy of Muslim women in Muslim societies. This is a shameful development and trend for the people who claim to be the followers of this beautiful religion which has made it a religious obligation on both genders to seek knowledge. Women’s literacy, and in turn ignorance of Islam is a danger to the Muslim societies and their stability. After all, what kind of quality of life will an illiterate woman have? And what kind of children will she raise”?
Therefore, it is a high time for Muslim intellects to wake up and reflect upon issues pertaining Muslim woman intellectual development and refrain from sticking on cultural or fanatical issues that obstruct women from acquiring knowledge. It is clear that in every Muslim society women are being left behind in all aspects of life, especially their low participation in education and learning activities.
In this aspect a flexible educational programs is needed in order to provide adult women education and literacy programs, also to improve their life skills. Automatically, if we think along these lines we are creating a better environment suitable for both man and woman to seek knowledge and by doing so we are saving the future of the Muslim Ummah.
In wrapping up, it is imperative to state here that the Muslim community should with all respect recognize the existence of learned women in their societies. This can be done by creating and paving way for women into various work places where they can work and positively contribute to the development of our communities and the nation as whole. It will not make any difference if the learned Muslim woman is kept in cage denying her from work.
Unfortunately, it is very sad to learn that there is inadequate number of Muslim women working in Islamic institutions in our societies. The question is, if we don’t employ them even as mere office cleaners the job that they are naturally qualified of, who do we think will give them employment? They are not strangers to us but rather they are either, our Muslim sisters, wives, daughters, and mothers etc, hence giving them job we are feeding ourselves too. Let’s give woman her right she deserves as we do too.
Author of this article is a Mozambican Muslim specialist in comparative laws (Issues of family laws and human rights in Islam). He contributes to Malawi Muslims Official Website