Muslim Women’s Contribution in Building Society

  • WP-Zainab-by-Omar-01

Written By 

Dr. Zainab Alwani

Most Muslim Women through history realized and appreciated their role in society. They understood the essence of the Islamic paradigm, the concept of tawhid, the Oneness of God. They believed strongly that God created human beings (men and women) to worship and serve Him as khalifahs, vicegerents of God. Therefore, Qura’nic teachings clearly outline the gender roles and relations through major concepts such as; Zawajiya (Pairing), which establishes equality and cooperation; “O mankind! Reverence your guardian-Lord, who created you from a single soul. Created, of like nature, its mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women—fear God, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you[1]), for God ever watches over you” (4:1). Wilayah (Protectors of each other) Qur’an also outlines the relationship between men and women as partners (Awllya’) in establishing a healthy family and society. The concept of Wilayyah was explained in Surat Al Twbah[2] and applied by prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s sunnah; Allah said: ” Men and women are protectors of one another: They enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil, they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity and obey Allah and his messenger on them will Allah pour his mercy for Allah is exalted in power, wise (9:71). The third concept is Qiwama, where the Qur’an holds men responsible for maintaining the family financially[3]; Women are then free to take care of the family by being nurturing, without having the added stress of earning an income. Each gender has special qualities that, in general, lead to a higher quality as a result of performing their particular roles. The Qur’an says, “And in nowise covet those things in which God has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn. But ask God of His bounty. For God has full knowledge of all things.” (4:32).

Many Muslim Women took their role seriously, to serve their societies in a number of areas. By reviewing the records of “Awqaf,” endowment[4], in most Muslim countries; one can conclude from research that Muslim women established some of the most essential and vital institutions for their society[5]. They monitored and examined the needs of society, and then contributed to building schools, mosques, hospitals, shelters, and even water fountains in deserted areas especially in the main routes to Mecca and Madinah.

Muslim Women were able to establish several successful models in the area of social development. In Egypt for example, during the Mamlook period, Al Shikhah Zainab the daughter of Abi Al Barakat, in the year of (684H) worked with the daughter of Al-Zahir Bibars (The Sultan of Egypt at that time) to establish “Ribat,” which is today equivalent to a shelter for women[6]. The “Ribat” was established to promote educational, spiritual, and social services for women. Women who sought peace and safety from a troubled family environment where they were abused and threatened were always welcome at the “Ribat”[7]. The Shikhah and her assistants helped them overcome their problems through intensive sessions of counseling, with a focus on and increase in spirituality and worship. They offered training programs by teaching women about their rights, roles, and responsibilities established for them in the Qur’an and Sunnah. They also taught them effective techniques and gave them practical steps to overcome their difficulties.

The nurturing role of women in society is critical; they are the conscious of society, to pinpoint what plagues the community and help in providing effective solutions. This role should be encouraged and cultivated to help cleanse the society of its corruption and drive it towards peace and purity. Muslim Women were able to establish several successful models in the area of social development. In Egypt for example, during the Mamlook period, Al Shikhah Zainab the daughter of Abi Al Barakat, in the year of (684H) worked with the daughter of Al-Zahir Bibars (The Sultan of Egypt at that time) to establish “Ribat,” which is today equivalent to a shelter for women[8]. The “Ribat” was established to promote educational, spiritual, and social services for women. Women who sought peace and safety from a troubled family environment were always welcome at the “Ribat”[9]. The Shikhah and her assistants helped them overcome their problems through intensive sessions of counseling, with a focus on and increase in spirituality and worship. They offered training programs by teaching women about their rights, roles, and responsibilities established for them in the Qur’an and Sunnah. They also taught them effective techniques and gave them practical steps to overcome their difficulties.

 

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[1] Refers to women, in general, and specifically mothers.

[2] 9: 71, 72.

[3] “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other and because of the sustenance they provide from their own means…” (4:34).

 

[4] Awqaf (Arabic وقف, plural Awqaf), Waqf, in Arabic language, means hold, confinement or prohibition. The word Waqf is used in Islam in the meaning of holding certain property and preserving it for the confined benefit of certain philanthropy and prohibiting any use or disposition of it outside that specific objective. It is an inalienable religious endowment in Islam, typically devoting a building or plot of land for religious or charitable purposes. Awqaf were among the most important owners of property in the Islamic world until recent times, and remain significant. Their incomes support the upkeep of many mosques; in past times, charitable services such as hospitals, schools, shelters, and orphanages were often maintained by Awqaf. See the website of Waqf….

[5] Fay May Ann, Women and Waqf: Toward a Reconsideration of Women Place in the Mukluk’s Household, International the Middle East Studies 29 (1997) 33-51.

– Gabriel Baer, “Women and Waqf: An Analysis of the Istanbul Tahir of 1546,” Studies in Islamic Society: Contributions in Memory of Gabriel Baer, Eds.

– Judith E Tucker, Women in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); – – Margaret L. Meriwether, “Women and Economic Change in Nineteenth-Century Syria: The Case of Aleppo,” in Arab Women: Old Boundaries, New Frontiers, ed.

[6] Al Maqrizy, alkhatakh al Maqriziah. Beirut, (Dar Sader, D.T), vol # 2, pp 426-428.

[7] Ibid. Vol 2, p. 428. See Zaynab Abu Majid. Women & Civilization, ASWIC, Egypt. Issue No. 1, Spring 2000, Vol 1, pp 20-27.

6 Al Maqrizy, alkhatakh al Maqriziah. Beirut, (Dar Sader, D.T), vol # 2, pp 426-428.

[9] Ibid. Vol 2, p. 428. See Zaynab Abu Majid. Women & Civilization, ASWIC, Egypt. Issue No. 1, Spring 2000, Vol 1, pp 20-27.

 

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