Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. MB ChB, MPH, DrPH (Harvard) Professor
of Medicine & Director, Training Center, International Islamic University PO Box 70 Jln Sultan PJ 46700 Telephone 60 3
755 3433 fax 60 3 757 7970 Seminar on ‘Building Leaders of the Community,’ Madrasah Wak Tanjomg al Islamiah, Singapore31 May-1 June 1996
This paper presents the basic Islamic principles on which the definition of the woman’s
public leadership roles is based. It emphasizes the differences between men and women are for purposes of creating a harmonious
society with division of responsibility to ensure complementality. Men and women have many similar religious, ethical, civil,
and legal duties & responsibilities. The exceptions are few and are explained by their different natures and responsibilities.
The woman’s participation in public leadership comes secondary to her role as a mother.
1.0 BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE WOMAN'S ROLE
Islam teaches equal worth / status of the 2 genders.
Men and women are from the same creation.
Islam does not blame the woman for the original sin.
Religious education and religious obligations are the same for men and women.
Islam assures moral and legal equality of the 2 genders.
Islam fosters a dual and not unisex society. There should be no competition between
the sexes. They should work together and have a just division of labor. Women are allies of men.
The sexes are not identical or equivalent. There are biological and psychological differences
Women get equal reward for equal work. The woman however should not forced to do exactly
what a man does. She can get equal reward for alternative work..
Islam assures economic independence of women and their economic freedom if that will
not interfere with their family duties.
Women and men equally challenged in some activities. There are areas in which the challenge
is to men just there are other areas in which the challenge is for women.
Both men and women are required to be modest but in different ways
Islam establishes interdependency and not individualism. Men and women need one another.
A weak woman means a weak future generation. A weak mother can not bring up children
strong enough to stand up to imperialism and exploitation of their countries
The woman an individual and not an appendage of man. Islam ushered in a major social
revolution by giving a woman her status as a person and not a mere appendage to the man. The Qur'an addresses women directly
not through the agency of men. A woman must as an individual accept the Islamic creed to be a Muslim. Ibadat by a woman is
her personal responsibility. She has a direct devotion to God without having any man intercede on her behalf. The woman is
accountable for her work on earth and in the hereafter as an individual
2.0 GENDER IDENTITY AND GENDER DIFFERENCES
Stereotyping makes it difficult to discuss gender issues logically
Gender identity is established very early in life. This is reinforced by gender socialization
Women are different from men biologically, psychologically, and emotionally. These differences
are part of Allah's plan to create a balanced society.
Differences do not confer consistent advantage or superiority to one gender to the disadvantage
of the other.
Women have certain biological and psychological advantages over men and vice versa.
It is un-Islamic to look at these differences as justification for one gender dominating
the other. They should instead be seen as a tool to reinforce complementation between the two.
The following are well established gender differences: (a) Men are superior to women
in visual-spatial abilities, quantitative ability, and aggression (b) Women are superior in verbal ability (c) Communication
styles of men and women differ. The other apparent differences are not so well established and are influenced by circumstances.
3.0 DIFFERENCE, EQUITY, AND EQUALITY
Women and men are equal in their religious, ethical, civil rights, duties and responsibilities
(16:97). Exceptions are very few and arise because of different responsibilities () or differences in
The Qur’an assures religious equality (3:175, 9:71-72, 16:97), ethical equality
(3:195, 9:71-72, 16:97), and civil equality (60:12, , 24:2, ).
Different does not automatically mean unequal.. One of the greatest fallacies advocated
by the feminist movement (new and old) was that the woman will have to behave like a man, work like him in order to achieve
What is needed is equity and not similarity. The apparent differences are mutually compensated
for. For example the woman has the burden of child-bearing while the man has the financial burden.
Each gender should accept its identity and not try to compete with or emulate the other
The rules of Sharia and acts of worship in Islam apply equally to men and women. There
are only a few differences in the details due to different natures of men and women and role prioritization.
Women are excused from duties such as jihad and family maintenance because of their
greater domestic duties but they can undertake them if men fail to fulfill their duty of if men's performance is not adequate
and women have to complement.
Rules of evidence apply differently to women because they are not used to commercial
transactions. Women are similar to men in the testimony of the faith and Zakat.
Women are excused from congregational prayer and salat al juma because of their greater
domestic responsibilities. They are excused from fasting when they are physiologically weakened by pregnancy or menstruation.
Women can participate fully in all political endeavors with the sole exception of being
head of state. During the time of the prophet women participated openly in all public activities. They attended Isha prayers
in the prophet's mosque. They attended both mixed public lectures as well special lectures for them. They could express their
views on public affairs. In the selection and election of Othman, women were among those consulted. There were women engaged
Islamic law gives the women full competence to own and dispose of property. Working
outside the home is associated with the following problems. The need for modesty and avoiding mixing with men limits employment
choices. neglect of the children could result into many social problems later. There are however conditions of necessity when
the woman must work outside her house. In such a case she must have the permission of her wali and must follow the Islamic
etiquettes when in public places.
Islamic law forbids forced marriage of women. Sharia allows a woman to propose marriage.
She can accept or reject any suitor. A woman can legally obtain a divorce from an unwilling husband. Men have special leadership
roles in a conjugal relationship. It must however be remembered that the relationship started with free consent of the woman.
The Qur'an actually places very few restrictions on women. Most verse are restrictions
on men to prevent their transgression against the rights and modesty of women. Women are not allowed to travel alone for fear
of violence and violation of her rights.
Jobs that interfere with the maternal role are not allowed
The law allows a woman to go out of her house to fulfill her needs.She can engage in
baiyat, jihad, education/scholarship, politics, mosque, business, and public gatherings. Going out of the home should not
result in a complete neglect of the home which can lead to instability of the marital relationship. Going out is restricted
in societies that do not offer adequate protection for a woman outside the home. Some societies have sexual immorality that
is encouraged when women walk out.
Mixed gatherings of men and women are discouraged. The requirement of ghadh al basr
can not be fulfilled in situations of continuous interaction. Thus the criterion for deciding whether women should attend
mixed gatherings is that of temptation. If we are sure it will not occur, there is no reason for forbidding their attendance.
Excessive male jealousy sometimes leads to transgression against women's rights. Moderate
jealousy is needed to preserve the family and the social order. Too much is negative and is destructive
In many societies the woman's status is defined in terms of her economic functions.
Sharia gives the woman full property rights before and after marriage. On marriage the woman is entitled to financial support
by the husband even if she is rich. The woman has her due share of inheritance. She can spend or use it as she wishes. There
is no evidence that women participation in the work-force has increased economic productivity. With present technology women
can concentrate on education of children without any damage to the economy.
Women and education... Education is a right that the husband and society can not deny
a woman. Ignorant mothers means ignorant youths and later ignorant citizens. The starting point for improving women status
is education.. Co-education has many disadvantages. Parallel education institutions for women are the solution.
WOMEN EQUAL IN REWARD FOR WORK DONE
And in no wise covet those things in which Allah hath 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 Allah of His bounty:
for Allah hath full knowledge of all things.
If any do deeds of righteousness be they male or female and have faith they will enter
heaven and not the least injustice will be done to them.
WOMEN AND MEN FROM SAME CREATION
It is He who created you from a single person and made his mate of like nature in order
that he might dwell with her (in love).When they are united she bears a light
burden and carries it about (unnoticed).When she grows heavy they both pray
to Allah their Lord (saying): "if Thou givest us a goodly child we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.". Qur'an 7:189
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty;
that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw
their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands their fathers their husbands' fathers
their sons their husbands' sons their brothers or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons or their women or the slaves
whom their right hands possess or male servants free of physical needs or small children who have no sense of the shame of
sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah that ye may attain Bliss. Qur'an 24:31
WOMAN'S VOICE HEARD
Allah has indeed heard (and accepted) the statement of the woman who pleads with thee
concerning her husband and carries her complaint (in prayer) to Allah: and Allah (always) hears the arguments between both
sides among you: for Allah hears and sees (all things). Qur'an 58:1
WOMEN ALLIES OF MEN:
The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just,
and forbid what is evil: they observe regular charity, and obey Allah and his messenger, on them will Allah pour his mercy;
for Allah is exalted in power, wise. Qur'an 9:71
TESTIMONY OF WOMAN EQUAL TO THAT OF MAN IN ACCUSATION OF MARITAL INFIDELITY
And for those who launch a charge against their spouses and have (in support) no evidence
but their own their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they
are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves
if they tell a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife if she bears witness four times (with an oath) by Allah
that (her husband) is telling a lie; and the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself
if (her accuser) is telling the truth. Qur’an 24:6-9
PROPHET GAVE WOMEN SPECIAL ATTENTION IN THE MOSQUE:
"Ibn Abbas reported: I bear testimony to the Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon
him ) offering prayer before Khutba. He ( after saying prayer ) delivered the Kutba, and he found that the women could not
hear it, so he came to them and exorted them and preached them and commanded them to give alms, and Billal had stretched his
cloth and the women were throwing rings, earrings and other things. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Ayyub
with the same chain of transmitters"
Muslim 2:417, Chapter 313, Hadith #1924
WOMEN NOT TO BEHAVE LIKE MEN:
"Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Allah's Apostle cursed those men who are in the similitude (assume
the manners) of women and those women who are in the similitude (assume the manners) of men.". Bukhari 7:513, hadith #773
EXAMPLES OF GOOD WOMEN:
And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh behold
she said: "O my Lord ! build for me, in nearness toa mansion in the garden,
and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong. And Mary the daughter of Imran, who guarded
her chastity: and we breathed into (her body) of our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of
his one of the soviet ( servants ). Qur'an 66:11-12
EXAMPLES OF BAD WOMEN:
Allah sets forth, for an example to the unbelievers, the wife of Noah and the wife of
Lut they were ( respectively ) under two of our righteous servants, but they were false to their ( husbands ) and they profited
nothing before Allah on their account, but were told " enter you the fire along with ( other ) that enter!. Qur'an 66:10
X.X.X WOMEN AND BAIYAT
O Prophet! when believing women come to thee to take the oath of fealty to thee that
they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah that they will not steal that they will not commit
adultery (or fornication) that they will not kill their children that they will not utter slander intentionally forging falsehood
and that they will not disobey thee in any just matterthen do thou receive their
fealty and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. Qur'an 61:12
WOMEN PLEDGED ALLEGIANCE TO THE PROPHET
"Narrated 'Ubada bin As-Samit: Allah's Apostle said to us while we were in a gathering,
"Give me the oath (Pledge of allegiance for: (1) Not to join anything in worship along with Allah, (2) Not to steal, (3) Not
to commit illegal sexual intercourse, (4) Not to kill your children, (5) Not to accuse an innocent person (to spread such
an accusation among people), (6) Not to be disobedient (when ordered) to do good deeds. The Prophet added: Whoever amongst
you fulfill his pledge, his reward will be with Allah, and whoever commits any of those sins and receives the legal punishment
in this world for that sin, then that punishment will be an expiation for that sin, and whoever commits any of those sins
and Allah does not expose him, then it is up to Allah if He wishes He will punish him or if He wishes, He will forgive him."
So we gave the Pledge for that. (See Hadith˙No.˙17,˙Vol.˙1). Bukhari 9:243-244, hadith # 320
WOMEN FIGHTING SIDE BY SIDE WITH MEN:
"it has been narrated on the authority of Anas that, on the Day of Hunain, Umm Sulaim
took out a dagger she had in her possession, Abu Talha saw her and said: Messenger of Allah, this is Umm Sulaim. She is holding
a dagger. The Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) asked ( her): What for are you holding this dagger? She said: I
took it up so that I may tear open the belly of a polytheist who comes near me. The Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon
him ) began to smile ( at these words ). She said: Messenger of Allah, kill all those people other than us whom you has declared
to be free ( on the day of the Conquest of Mecca ). ( They embraced Islam because ) they were defeated at your hands ( and
as such their Islam is not dependable ). The Messenger of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) said: Umm Sulaim, God is sufficient
( against the mischief of the polytheists ) and He will be kind to us ( so you need not carry this dagger).". Muslim 3:1001,
Chapter 743, Hadith #4453
INTIATIVE BY WOMEN IN EDUCATION:
"Hazrat Ayesha says says that the women of the Ansar are the best women. shyness didn’t
prevent them from questioning regarding religion and acquire religious understanding" Hayat 3:250
PROPHET SET ASIDE TIME TO TEACH WOMEN:
" Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Some women requested the Prophet to fix a day for them
as the men were taking all his time. On that he promised them one day for religious lessons and commandments. Once during
such a lesson the Prophet said, "A woman whose three children die will be shielded by them from the Hell fire." On that a
woman asked, "If only two die?" He replied, "Even two (will shield her from the Hell-fire).". Bukhari 1: 80-81, hadith # 101
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Once Allah's Apostle came out while Bilal was accompanying him.
He went towards the women thinking that they had not heard him (i.e. his sermon). So he preached them and ordered them to
pay alms. (Hearing that) the women started giving alms; some donated their ear-rings, some gave their rings and Bilal was
collecting them in the corner of his garment. Bukhari 1:78, hadith # 97
AYESHA A MODEL FOR WOMEN:
"Qabisah bin Zuaib stated that Aishah was the most learned amongst all the people. The
great and respectable Companions used to inquire propositions from her. Abu Salmah stated: I did not see anyone who knew his
holiness’s sunnah more and more intelligent in giving opinion should his/her opinions be required nor more knowledgeable
about the cause of the revelation of a verse and obligations as much as Aishah knew them" Hayat 3:294
WOMEN CAN GO OUT TO FULFIL THEIR NEEDS:
"Narrated Aisha: Sauda (the wife of the Prophet) went out to answer the call of nature
after it was made obligatory (for all the Muslims ladies) to observe the veil. She was a fat huge lady, and everybody who
knew her before could recognize her. So 'Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her and said, "O Sauda! By Allah, you cannot hide yourself
from us, so think of a way by which you should not be recognized on going out. Sauda returned while Allah's Apostle was in
my house taking his supper and a bone covered with meat was in his hand. She entered and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I went
out to answer the call of nature and 'Umar said to me so-and-so." Then Allah inspired him (the Prophet) and when the state
of inspiration was over and the bone was still in his hand as he had not put in down, he said (to Sauda), "You (women) have
been allowed to go out for your needs.". Bukhari 6:300-301, hadith # 318
WOMEN SHOULD ATTEND MOSQUES
"Narrated Salim's father: The Prophet said, "If the wife of anyone of you asks permission
to go to the mosque, he should not forbid her.". Bukhari 7:120, hadith # 165
WOMEN ATTENDED FAJR PRAYERS IN MOSQUE:
"Narrated Aishah : The believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend
the Fajr prayer with Allah's Apostle, and after finishing the prayer they would return to their home and nobody could recognize
them because of darkness.”. Bukhari 1:321, hadith # 552
WOMEN ALLOWED IN MOSQUES AT NIGHT
"Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Allah's Apostle said, "While I was sleeping I saw (in
a dream) some people wearing shirts of which some were reaching up to the breasts only while others were even shorter than
that. Umar bin Al-Khattab was shown wearing a shirt that he was dragging." The people asked, "How did you interpret it? (What
is its interpretation) O Allah's Apostle?" He (the Prophet ) replied, "It is the Religion.". Bukhari 1:10, hadith # 22