Comment: The role of women in civilisation

This is an extract from a manuscript written by State Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed. Translated from Dhivehi by Ismail Nizam. Full version including original Arabic citations is available here.

The notion of excluding women in building civilisations and developing the world is alien to the fundamental principles of Islamic Shari’ah and contradicts the very tenets of Islamic Law.

The reality is that Islam actually gained women their rights and uplifted her status to a dignified and honorable creation. History provides ample evidences that the light of Islam brightened the world during a time when other civilisations degraded women in the darkness of ignorance.

The case was especially severe in the Arabian lands. They traded women as commodities and buried female children alive. The news of the birth of a female was considered a sorrow.

“And when the news (the birth) of a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief.” [Qur’an 16: 58]

“He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.” [Qur’an 16: 59]

These were the evil practices of men in history. They did not simply negate the rights of women but tried to eradicate the whole female posterity. In some civilisations, women were burned alive. Women were considered just a physical body to fulfill the sexual desires of men.

When humanity was in deep in ignorance and evil, Allah proclaimed and announced that all human beings (both men and women) are equal in terms of their human qualities and rights. Allah stated;

“O’ mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is one who has At-taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.” [Qur’an 49: 13]

In fact, men and women have equal rights in the rites and rituals performed as ‘ibaadhaat’ and in establishing the Shari’ah jurisdictions. This reality was revealed in the Holy Qur’an as;

“Verily, the Muslim men and women, the believing men and women and the men and women who are obedient to Allah, the men and women who are truthful, the men and women who are patient, the men and women who are humble, the men and women who give sadaqaath (Zakat), the men and women who observe fasting, the men and women who guard their chastity and the men and women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (paradise).” [Surah Al-Ahzaab: verse 35]

The equality of men and women in establishing Shari’ah jurisdiction is elaborated in the following verse;

“The women and the men guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case in punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment.” [Surah An- Noor, Verse 2]

Islam also granted women their due rights within the family institutions. This is confirmed in the Qur’an as;

“O’ you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take part of the Mahr (dowry) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.” [Suran An-Nisa, verse 19]

The preservation of the dignity of chaste women is commanded in the Qur’an as follows;

“And those who accuse chaste women and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their testimony forever. They indeed are the Faashiqun.” [Surah An-Noor, 4]

The verses above are the evidences in support of Islamic stand on the concept of justice. They are adequate signs of Islam’s superiority over other ways of life and the fairness prescribed by the religion of Islam. And they show the comprehensiveness of kindness and mercy Allah on humanity.

Indeed, under some circumstances where women are esteemed in dignity because of their huge responsibility in the family setups and in nation building.

One day a person came to Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked; “O’ Prophet of Allah! Who should I honor the most among the people?” Prophet replied; “Your mother.” The person asked; “Who next?’ Prophet replied; “Your mother.” The person asked again; “Who next?” Prophet replied; “Your mother.” The person asked for a forth time; “Who next?” And the Prophet replied; “Your father.”

This Hadith clearly indicates the position of mother in Islam who enjoys a dignified position because she borne the pains and difficulties of pregnancy, labor and nursing the child.

At the same time, if a man educates and takes care of a daughter or a sister and brings her up honorably, the man will be rewarded paradise, according to the Hadith of the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him).

The Prophet also ordered the men to be kind to their wives. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said;

“The best among you is the one who is the most kind to your wife and children. And the best among men in this regard is me.” [رواه الترمذي]

Muslim brothers! The Prophet (peace be upon him) described men and women in the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood in blood. Therefore, women participation in Islamic state and Islamic civilization must be recognized on a similar ground as that of men.

During the times of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) Muslim women used to take initiative to solve problems confronted by the Muslim women. And they used to attend the intellectual gatherings and meetings in order to develop their personalities. Further, upon the request of Muslim women, Prophet (peace be upon him) arranged a specific day for them to learn from him.

History teaches us that during the Prophetic era, Muslim women used to work as volunteers among the Muslim community. This is especially evident in their services to the poor and the needy and those with disabilities. Among them are the notable figure Asmaa (r. a), the daughter of Abu Bakur (r. a). During the events of sorrows and mourning, Muslim women used to send messages of condolence and visited such families.

The co-operation and mutual assistance rendered by both the genders in establishing the best community of Muslims was a historical lesson for today’s Muslim societies.

During the times of devastating disasters and wars, Muslim women played a proactive role in the Muslim society. In defending and escaping from the attacks of pagans of Quraysh, Muslim women made commendable sacrifices and efforts. When the Muslims are banned from having transactions with any tribes and were trapped in Shiub Abi Thalib, the mother of believer, Khadheeja (r. a) spent heavily on Muslims from her wealth.

Among the first Muslims who migrated to Madina included women. According to Holy Qur’an, there were Muslim women who made covenant with the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) at the famous Covenant of ‘Aqaba.

The first person to accept and enter the fold of Islam was a woman. She was Khadheeja (r. a), the mother of believers. The first martyr who became the victim of Quraysh oppression was Sumayyah (r. a). At the Peace Agreement of Khudhaibiyyah, the mother of believers, Ummu Salma (r. a) played an important role in giving a constructive advice to solve a major problem faced by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

All these events in the Islamic history provide ample support indicating that Muslim men and women worked in the front-line to establish the Islamic civilisation.

Therefore, the ideas such as Muslim women have no role in building civilization, educating female children is not necessary, and they must be confined only to household affairs, are contradictory to the principles of Islamic Shari’ah and cannot be accepted by any sane person.

As long as women involvement in community does not violate Shari’ah parameters and Islamic Akhlaaq they go along Islamic principles and values. Due to the nature of sexes, one is given superiority over the other in certain cases by Allah and have established justice among His creations.

Hence, I call upon all those who echo the voice of women rights to study Islam and its history. Women have been given honorable position in Islam and have dignified her by protecting her rights. It is apparent that Islam has given women their due rights and has established justice.

The extent and the scope of rights granted for women in Islam are superior to those found in any other civilization or philosophy. Islam protected women’s rights even durng wars by forbidding the killing of them.

However, the opposite can now be observed across the four horizons of the world. Old women, pregnant ladies and female children are being victimised in Ghaza. They are dying because they do not have access to food, drinks or medicine. And worse, they are heavily attacked with sophisticated weapons like fire-rain.

We also see women taking protection in horrific caves of Afghanistan. We often see pictures of women’s chastity robbed and taken away mercilessly in Somalia.

These are open genocides conducted daily against women, slapping the charters of international bodies established to preserve and protect human rights. Protecting those open to such genocides is a responsibility of every individual and state.

Indeed, oppression is prohibited by Allah. Oppression is not merely physical harm and damage.

Today, even in our society, we observe women being victims of violence. Women are being teased for the way they dress up. They are teased on almost every occasion. Our Muslim women are being defamed even in the newspapers and magazines. They are often subjected to rapes and blackmail, sometimes by gangs. These events are observed repeatedly.

Women are also discriminated in employment. The prohibition of women wearing Islamic dress by some agencies, institutions or offices is unacceptable in an Islamic country. If such discriminations and double standards are allowed, certain female segments of the population may be isolated and left unproductive.

The resulting consequences could be the loss of fairness and harmony in the society. It could also give room for waves of extremism which may drown the whole nation.

Protecting and preserving the rights of women involves honoring them and making their voices heard in the society.

It is not taking her away from the way of her Creator and making her a victim of lust and desires.

It is not making them actresses on various stages to give pleasure to eyes of the viewers.

It is also not making them models to advertise the products of businesses.

However, people who express these ideas today may be labeled as uncivilised and backward. In fact, reality is always bitter!

If we stand within the Shari’ah framework, we will be able to establish a society in which there is a balanced participation of genders.

May Allah show us the straight path and give us the strength to stand for what we proclaim! Aameen.


15 thoughts on “Comment: The role of women in civilisation”

  1. This is a very wholesome and good article to come out of the conservative sector of our society. But let us not mix words and not recognize it as being anything but conservative.

    Shaheem advocates rights for women who "fall within Shari’ah parameters and Islamic Akhlaaq(manners) they go along Islamic principles and values." Not all women. He calls for the right for women to work in private businesses while wearing what he calls "islamic dress."

    I negate there being any such thing as "Islamic Dress," but rather a sense of modesty and decency. Throughout this entire article, while it calls for basic rights to be afforded some women it does not do the same for ALL women. There are no qualifiers in the quote he provided from the Qur'an. There are no qualifiers handed down to us from God.

    Women are harassed in our society, in fact 1 in every 3 are molested over the course of their lives, and they should ALL be protected. That the very existence of women directly leads to lust and desire in this day is a value and a notion that must be fought and must be refused. To be an actor or an actress, to be a male or female model is not against Shari'a.

    That being said, in spite of its inherent conservatism, this is a great speech. The call for more women to study Islamic values must be applauded and the desire to have them speak out on public issues and public life will benefit our nation.

  2. how comes that a mother here in maldives is not even allowed to sign alone a passport application form for her child, or is that only a problem if the mother is a foreign passport holder? is that islamic law or maldivian law that fathers signature is required?

  3. Dear Salim Waheed,
    How is your fathers campaign for next presidency election going on.
    You and your father had shown your true self by betraying this country and from the start you showed your dislike towards Islam. Your father even back stabbed ANNI.
    I think you guys should be ashamed of your self even to open your mouth.

  4. salim, please tell me, how would you define 'decency' and 'modest'? please let me know

  5. So these conservatives are busily contradicting their taliban overlords to get political points, or to pull the wool over the more gullible people in society.

    The second one is more believable; them conservatives can sing any lie to propagate their vile, so-called faith.

    Because, seriously; if being a prisoner in your own home and and being forced to beg is being "dignified and honorable" to them - it is quite obvious some prankster must have obviously ruined their mental circuitry.

  6. "And the best among men in this regard is me.” How haughty of the prophet.

    Wonder why Shaheem forgot to mention the fact that Al-Karaouine-the oldest university in the world was founded by a muslim woman.

    But history is not linear and islam is a broad philosophy with many branches and shariah interpretations vary around the world. So there is no need for generalizations. Plus, what's written in a book isn't helpful when so many muslim men go around beating their wives and killing their children (ever heard of honor killing?)

    (Also the word 'genocide' cannot be used to describe somalia, afghanistan or gaza. One needs to be careful with language)

  7. @ nobody

    Decency and modesty is almost similar. Depends on how you look at it.

    Now, if you look at the MNBC 1's "duet" show, there was this one "buguga" clad lady singer who was almost naked from hips down. It made even us 'harlots' without buruga, cringe, a bit difficult to watch.

    And then there were other lady singers who were stylishly dressed wihtout the "islamic" buruga who made the audience smile instead of cringe.

    Buruga girl may think she is the epitome of decency & modesty with her buruga while I would think she's a hooker trying to play into men's hands.

    I would say, decency and modesty is as in not over doing things and being normal. How do you define 'normal'? Normal is doing things the logical way using your god given brain.

  8. I am very encouraged by this article but I believe that politically motivated religious leaders and ignorant citizens of Maldives will ignore it. It is interesting to note the constant reference to "equal rights" and it is acknowledged the "Arabian lands" have disregarded this. Which true religious leader is trying to promote "the true Islamism" in this country. Which religious leader/teacher is living by the ethical codes that Islam has clearly designed? Who decides that a woman raped cannot give evidence of sufferings on her body because there were no more than her own eyes and her senses to proof it? Which woman has got pregnant in this country without a man touching her? So we do not want to used evidence of DNA testing or other ways to identify fatherhood and she get flogged. Is this what our courts understand as Islamic Shariath? Think when a child is abused or a woman molested, hassled, physically violated, who takes the lead and with the support of justice in Islam, protects women. It is evident that the problem lies in people who wants to be in power, with a grain-ful of information and pretending to know it all in the name of religion.
    An article like this does not make Shaheem a practitioner but for a lot of the content here...I can appreciate it.

  9. Sheikh Shaheem's artile is aimed at rearing support for political purposes. It is crytal clear women are inferior to men in Islam. Example : property rights, value of witness or testimony, no right to divorce,unable to take multiple husbands ect..

  10. @Sheik Jeffry Salim Bin Dr.Waheed!

    MY GOD! opps ..There is no god for you right? hmm..You are now calling yourself sheik to propagate the meaning of Quran and Sunnah? How do you know to perform daily 5 prayers? In Quran it only says to pray! So that must be the reason u dont pray and your family negates the Islamic principles! You are such a pathatic guys! May Allah Sw help you!

  11. This article by Shaheem is typical of the rhetoric and hypocrisy we see and hear from the mullahs of Islam. The mullah will say Islam raised the social and economic status of women, and in the same breath will say the greater part of Hell are inhabited by women. They say Islam is a religion of peace, and in the same breath call for the murder of non-Muslims. They say we should find out how good Islam is and that we should seek knowledge even if in China, but will never allow a Muslim to read or look at a bible or books of another religion. They tell everyone to seek the bounty of the Last Day, but will lust after worldly and political gain. They cannot practice what they preach, nor can they let others practice what they themselves preach. Such is Shaheem and the crowd.


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