The inheritance and acquisition of knowledge, that is, educating oneself ( both men and women ), is amongst the basic perambulated fundamental principles of Islam. And so, there is, no uncertainty, of, whether or not, women are liable to the right of education in Islam. Unfortunately, there still are fallacious norms prevalent in the mentalities ( in and out of the Muslim community ), due to which there’s no denial to the factual conditions of the struggles of women in the present societal scenario.
Nevertheless, in no way does Islam encourage or support such acts of depravity and discrimination towards women. In fact, women in Islam holds higher and nobler ranks and regards. Since time immemorial, contribution of Muslim women to the society is predominant and can never be dawned. Though one can lay an argument, that Muslim women are deprived of their rights, one such like of an education, in some parts of, or around the globe, but one can never subsume the propagandized stereotype that Islam denies egalitarian rights of women over men.
And it saddens the heart in extreme, for because of those few who lives in accordance with such false beliefs, or supports and promotes such acts of ignorance, Islam is fallaciously propagandized. Though it is very evident from the life of Prophet Muhammed (blessings and peace be upon him), that he descended with the religion of Islam when amidst the Arabs, the practice of female infanticide was prevalently dominant, he (peace and blessings be upon him), taught the rights of women and deracinated such dogmas completely. To speak in today’s context, that practice of female infanticide, has only been innovated to killing of her, by other ways, like, discriminating her or by taking away her rights.
Both the Quran and Sunnah, advocates the rights of men and women equally to seek or pursue knowledge. The emphasis that Islam lays upon the importance of seeking knowledge and education, can clearly be understood by its first revelation itself to Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him), which says,
“Read! In the Name of your Lord who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.” (Quran 96:1-5)
The holy Quran also states :
Say: ‘can those who have knowledge and those who do not be alike?’ So only the wise do receive the admonition. (al-Zumar, 39:9).
In another verse,
So only those of His servants who have knowledge (of these realities with a vision and outlook) fear Him. Surely, Allah is Almighty, Most forgiving. (fatir, 35:28).
There are even many Prophetic sayings ( hadiths ) which states the importance of education, and importance of education of women in alone,
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
Acquisition of Knowledge is binding on all Muslims (both men and women without any discrimination), [Narrated by Ibn Maja in al-Sunan, 1:81 224].
In an another hadith, it was narrated from Abu Hurairah that, the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
The best of charity is when a Muslim man gains knowledge, then he teaches it to his Muslim brother. [ Sunan ibn Majah, vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 243].
He the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), said at another place,
Allah Almighty makes the path to paradise easier for him who walks on it for getting knowledge. [Narrated by Muslim in al-sahih, 4:2074, 2699].
It is apparent and obvious from the holy Quran and hadiths that the acquisition of knowledge is obligatory for the women in same way as in the case of men. It therefore, raises a set of questions, to all those who oppose, if women are debarred or are restrained from the right to acquire knowledge, how on earth, can they then know Islam and its sayings? Faith in Allah can only be achieved by knowing Allah, how on earth can they then, teach or educate their children? Up bring them in accordance to the Islamic values and principles if they don’t learn the Islamic law of Shariah? And women comprises of half of the Ummah’s population, how can then our Ummah progress, wherein, almost half of it remains illiterate or uneducated.
There also forms a misconception amongst the Muslims, who opposes on the education of women, rationalizing their argument that women are, or to be allowed only under the tutelage of female teachers or instructors, for the sake of parda (veil), that they’re abstained or prohibited or else otherwise for such reasons. There’s no denying that, it would be an ideal environment wherein a female teacher would deal the female students, but if, its possibility is pictured in present times, it’s not always possible, not everywhere. As Islam is for all nations and for all times, it is based on practical reality, and as Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent as an example for all mankind, for all times, it is evident in one of the hadiths, an answer to this, where the holy Prophet himself had made arrangements for the education and training of women where one day was particularly specified for women in the Prophet’s mosque.
Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri reports that some women said to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “men have gone ahead of us (in terms of acquisition of knowledge). Therefore, appoint a special day for our benefit as well.” The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) fixed one day for them. He would meet them on that day, advise them and educate them about commandments of Allah Almighty. ( Al-Bukhari, 1987).
Prior to the condition that one must observe their attire or dress to be in accordance with the Islamic law of shariah, and so be all their other dealings.
To further dispel, the stereotypes against Islam, so poignantly held both by non-Muslims and Muslims, certain luminary examples of women from Islamic history is being presented. Indeed, women had played a vital, varied and distinct roles in and as intellectuals, poets, mystics, thinkers, educationist, rulers and warriors. To begin with, who else would be better than Prophet’s wives ( Khadija and Aisha ( ra ).
The first wife of Prophet Muhammed ( peace and blessings be upon him ), Khadija binte khwalid ( ra ), a rich tradeswoman, the richest in makkah at the time, was a woman of great understanding and wisdom. The other, Aisha siddiqua ( ra ), was a great and one of a major hadith-narrator ( about 2210 hadiths were narrated by her ), scholar, intellectual and jurist of great standing. Other such prominent Muslim women includes, Zaynab binte Ali, whose strength, patience, and wisdom makes her one of the most important woman in early Islam. Rabia al-adawiyya, a famous mystic poet, one of the most important and prominent mystics of Islamic tradition. Lubna of Cordoba, a slave of Spanish origin, a palace secretory of the caliphs, she according to the Andalusi scholar, Ibn Bashkuwal, “She excelled in writing, grammar, and poetry. Her knowledge of mathematics was also immense and she was proficient in sciences as well. There were none in the Umayyad palace as noble as her”. Fatima al-fihri, is just one another important example of role of women in advancement of education and civilization, who is credited with founding the oldest existing, continually operating and first degree awarding educational institution in the world (The University of Al Quaraouiyine in Fes, Morocco in 859 CE ).
Therefore, suppression of women, by swiftly taking away their rights, of education as such, might have, or may further, instigate a strong sense of feminism in women. Alongside, where a stress is being laid on men, an attention is also being pictured to the women, to comprehend and understand, that to educate, doesn’t mean to become a feminist, that is, to compete with men. Allah has made both man and a woman, though equal in terms of rights, unambiguously interdependent, but never the same in nature. Each has been designed and assigned with distinct characters, functions and roles, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and so in every aspects. This is to be acknowledged, well understood, respected and practiced by every Muslim. Henceforth, for the success and sustainability of the Muslim community, it is crucial to necessitate and facilitate the education for women.
Author: Syed Mukhtar Razi.