THE VOICE OF A WOMAN IN ISLAM
By Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Many Muslims have adopted the Judeo-Christian ethic which views women as the source of human tragedy because of her alleged biblical role as the temptress who seduced Adam into disobedience to his Lord. By tempting her husband to eat the forbidden fruit, she not only defied Allah, but caused humankind's expulsion from Paradise, thus instigating all temporal human suffering. Those misogynists who support this
Biblical myth, dredge from the archives of pseudo-Islamic literature such as false and weak hadiths.
This Old Testament myth is a widely circulated belief in the
Islamic community despite the fact that Allah in the Qur'an
stresses that it was Adam who was solely responsible for his
mistake. In 20:115 it is stated: "We had already, beforehand,
taken the covenant of Adam, but he forgot; and we found on
his part no firm resolve." Verse 20:121-122 continues: "In
result, they both ate of the tree...thus did Adam disobey His
Lord, and fell into error. But his Lord chose for him (From
His Grace): He turned to him, and gave him guidance."
Therefore, there is nothing in Islamic doctrine or in the
Qur'an which holds women responsible for Adam's expulsion
from paradise or the consequent misery of humankind.
However, misogyny abounds in the pronouncements of many
Islamic "scholars" and "imams."
The result of such misinterpretation of hadiths and spreading
negativity is that entire societies have mistreated their
female members despite the fact that Islam has honored and
empowered the woman in all spheres of life. The woman in
Islamic law is equal to her male counterpart. She is as
liable for her actions as a male is liable. Her testimony is
demanded and valid in court. Her opinions are sought and
acted upon. Contrary to the pseudo hadith: "Consult women
and do the opposite," the Prophet (SAW) consulted his wife,
Um Salama on one of the most important issues to the Muslim
community. Such references to the Prophet's positive
attitudes toward women disprove the one hadith falsely
attributed to Ali bin Abi Talib: "The woman is all evil, and
the greatest evil about her is that man cannot do without her."
The promotion of such negativity against women has led many
"scholars" and "imams" to make the unsubstantiated ruling
about female speech. They claim that women should lower
their voice to whispers or even silence except when she
speaks to her husband, her guardian or other females. The
female act of communication has become to some a source of
temptation and allurement to the male.
The Qur'an, however, specifically mentions that those seeking
information from the Prophet's wives were to address them
from behind a screen (33:53). Since questions require an
answer, the Mothers of the Believers offered fatwas to those
who asked and narrated hadiths to whomever wished to transmit
them. Furthermore, women were accustomed to question the
Prophet (SAW) while men were present. Neither were they
embarrassed to have their voices heard nor did the Prophet
prevent their inquires. Even in the case of Omar when he was
challenged by a woman during his khutbah on the mimbar, he did
not deny her. Rather, he admitted that she was right and he
was wrong and said: "Everybody is more knowledgeable than
Another Qur'anic example of a woman speaking publicly is that
the daughter of the Shaykh mentioned in the Qur'an in 28:23.
Furthermore, the Qur'an narrates the conversation between
Sulayman and the Queen of Sheba as well as between her and
her subjects. All of these examples support the fatwa that
women are allowed to voice their opinion publicly for
whatever has been prescribed to those before us is prescribed
to us, unless it was unanimously rejected by Islamic
Thus, the only prohibition is the female talking softly and
flirting in a manner meant to excite and tempt the male.
This is expressed in the Qur'an as complacent speech which
Allah mentions in 33:32: "O consorts of the Prophet! Ye are
not like any of the other women: If ye do fear Allah, be not
too complaisance of speech, lest one in whose heart is a
disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech
that is just."
What is prohibited then is alluring speech which entices
those whose diseased hearts may be moved with desire and
that is not to say that all conversation with women is
prohibited for Allah completes the verse: "...but speak ye
a speech that is just." (33:32)
Finding excuses to silence women is just one of the
injustices certain scholars and imams attempt to inflict upon
women. They point to such hadiths as narrated by Bukhari
about the Prophet which says: "I have not left a greater harm
to men than women." They assume that the harm implies that
women are an evil curse to be endured just as one must endure
poverty, famine, disease, death and fear. These "scholars"
ignore the fact that man is tried more by his blessings than
by his tragedies.
And Allah says: "And We test you by evil and by good way of
trial." (21:35). To support this argument Allah says in the
Qur'an that two of the most appreciated blessings of life,
wealth and children, are trials. Allah says: "And know ye
that your possessions and your progeny are but a trial."
(Anfal 28) A woman, despite the blessings she bestows on her
relations, can also be a trial for she may distract a man
from his duty toward Allah. Thus, Allah creates awareness
how blessings can be misguided so that they become curses.
Men can use their spouses as an excuse for not performing
jihad or for eschewing sacrifice for the compiling of
wealth. Allah in the Qur'an warns: "Truly among your wives
and children are enemies for you." (64:14)
The warning is the same as for the blessings of abundant
wealth and offspring (63:9). In addition, the Sahih hadith
says: "By Allah I don't fear for you poverty, but I fear that
the world would be abundant for you as it has been for those
before you so you compete for it as they have competed for
it, so it destroys you as it has destroyed them." (Agreed
upon) This hadith does not mean that the Prophet (SAW)
Poverty is a curse from which the Prophet sought refuge from
Allah. He did not mean for his Ummah to be bereft of wealth
and abundance for he said: "The best of the good wealth is
for the pious person." (narrated by Ahmed and Al-Hakam) Women
are also a gift for the pious person for the Qur'an mentions
the Muslim men and women (the Muslimah), the believing men
(Mu'mins) and women Muminat as aids and comforts for each
other here and in the hereafter. The Prophet did not condemn
the blessings Allah provided for his Ummah. Rather the
Prophet wished to guide the Muslims and his Ummah away from
the slippery slope whose bottomless pit is a mire of
callousness and desire.
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