The Role of Muslim Women in Da'wah1
By Dr. Salah As Sawy2
Transcribed from a lecture given in Austin, TX at Masjid Khadeeja3 on April 15, 2006 by Irtiza Hasan
Tonight is a Saturday night and Saturday is usually a night when it seems the shayateen4 spread a lot of fitna5 and tempt the people to run after their shahwaat6 (desires) and so thank Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala7) that he brought you and your families and brothers to this masjid (mosque) tonight where Allah's angels are greeting you and we ask Allah to bless this gathering.
Look to your life for the blessings of Allah upon you that you are in a place of worship and obedience to Allah and He kept you away from a place of mischief and evil.
Some of the early Muslim scholars used to say, “Allah does not honor or bless the people engaged in evils and sins (because they are) being disobedient to Him, but Allah does honor and protect and bless the people He chooses to by keeping them away from those (evil) things."
With that we approach our topic for the evening which is: The Role of the Muslim Woman in Da'wah and in the Community.
They say that women are half of the community and they give birth to the other half. I would say, therefore, it is as if she is the whole community. The Prophet Muhammad, Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said, what translated means, "Indeed women are the partners of men." (Abu Dawood)8
Umm Salamah9 (d. 61 AH), radhi Allahu anha10, asked Rasool Allah11 (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), “Why are only men were mentioned in the Qur’aan?” (Why are women not mentioned?)
And in response Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) revealed the following verse in Surat12 Al Ahzaab:
["Verily, the Muslims, men and women, the believers men and women, the men and the women who are obedient, the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allâh), the men and the women who give Sadaqât, the men and the women who observe Sawm, the men and the women who guard their chastity and the men and the women who remember Allâh much with their hearts and tongues Allâh has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (Paradise).]
Surah AlAhzaab (33) Verse 35
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) also says in Al Qur’aan13 in Surat AtTawbah:
[The believers, men and women, are Auliyâ' of one another, they enjoin Al-Ma'rûf, and forbid from Al-Munkar; they perform As-Salât and give the Zakât, and obey Allâh and His Messenger. Allâh will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise.]
Surat At Tawbah (9) Verse 71
So Allah includes men and women and describes them as "auwliya14" of one another. He includes women to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, to perform salaat (five daily prayers), to give zakaat (charity), and to obey Allah and His Messenger (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam).
Let us look to the Sunnah15, to Al Hajjat ul Wida where the Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) made a call to all the Muslims, and deliver such an important message which was in fact his last great public speech. In this farewell advice he left us an important advice for us to hold on to forever. He said:
"...Fear Allah concerning women!"
This was a very important point where every Muslim was listening in such an important speech. RasoolAllah (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) continued
"... Verily you have taken them on the security of God, and intercourse with them has been made lawful unto you by words of God. You too have rights over them, and they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed whom you do not like. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely. Their rights upon you are that you should provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner..."
We have been ordered to look after our women and care for them. This was commanded by the Messenger of Allah (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). So how can a Muslim woman, our dear sister, take her position and role in making da'wah to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala).
The righteous slaves of Allah always have a yearning in their hearts to rush to good deeds and they do not delay in performing the good deeds, and the corrupt people rush to do evil and wicked deeds. It is important for our sisters to focus on this topic and consider the importance of it.
I viewed a survey done in 1997 in some of the Arab countries and it reported that 96 to 97 million dollars a year are spent on women's perfumes and I am not discouraging or prohibiting the purchasing of halaal (permissible) things.
Allah says in the Qur’aan:
[And say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely: "This is lawful and this is forbidden...] Surat An-Nahl (16) Verse 116
And surely for our sisters to spend money on perfumes and these (beauty) products is permissible and it is not disliked or discouraged but when it comes to our wealth, I remind my sisters to first seek to spend on their aakhira (hereafter) and then on this life of the dunya (world).
So when sisters ask "How can I serve my Deen (religion)?" or "How can I help this Ummah (community)?" and this is a valuable and noble question we start by saying that first the most effective da’wah is that of our haal (demeanor or condition) and this is more efficient and better than making da’wah by our sayings (aqwaal).
And remember dear sister, to observe and preserve hijaab (Islamic covering) and be firm in that and do not care about mocking looks or comments about your appearance. Do not ever undermine the value or importance of your hijaab!
You are an obedient slave to Allah! You are showing people your Islam with your actions. You are proving your Islam and do not forget to consider that the actions of one, just one sister can change and guide and invite one thousand! But the sayings and speeches of one thousand might not even change or guide one!
Think about that again. The actions of one can change one thousand, if Allah wills.
In recent times, we see a movement to downplay and diminish the importance of hijaab even amongst some of the Muslims. Some of you may cite a fatawa16 from a scholar in Egypt which allowed for sisters to abandon the hijaab and people presented to that scholar that sisters are being beaten and physically harmed for wearing the hijaab.
The people exaggerated the conditions and realities to get such rulings and this is unfair to the scholar. In these scenarios the scholar is like a prisoner and people portrayed to him a false and inaccurate image of what is the real situation. And we say these exaggerations and reports were not true in general that sisters are being physically harmed and victimized in this way.
And even if we assume or consider that these reports were true then according to the Muslim jurists such countries and lands would not be permissible to reside or stay in. We would have to relocate to the Muslim lands or move to other lands.
Some will argue here that "There is no Islamic land in our times, like the great and just lands which were overseen by Abu Bakr and Umar", may Allah have mercy on them both. The people will say, "There is no correct Islamic rule in our day" or "There is no khaleefah17 so we have no where to go!"
We say to that we would then move to those lands where there is least harm and the most ease in worshipping Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala).
The Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) sent his family and companions to Al Habasha and advised them to seek protection there and that the leader there was just and fair and would not oppress or harm them. Al Habasha18 was not a Muslim country, rather it was a Christian country and Najashi was not a khaleefah of the Muslims.
So what we learn from this is to try to reside in the country where there is the least harm to the believers and the most benefit by having the ability to worship Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala).
The second advice to our Muslim sister is to protect your family! Make sure it is a successful family, attached to the massaajid (pl. masjid, mosques) and attached to the jama'a (congregation). Raise and build a family that cares about da'wah and about Islam. The sister who covers herself will raise her daughters to cover herself, and the sister who does good deeds will encourage and raise her children to do good deeds.
Muslim countries today are perhaps backwards in technology and scientific aspects compared to the non-Muslim lands or Western lands and to think the Muslims can compete in some of these areas might appear to be a dream or fantasy, except by the help of Allah. But we can always compete with our morals and our worship (of Allah)!
Everything starts with the family, and remember sister, to strengthen and build your family first. Protect and safeguard your family.
Consider the issue of talaaq (divorce) which is permissible in Islam yet the divorce rates are so low in Muslim countries and societies especially compared to western lands and non-Muslim societies. But this disease of divorce is increasing in Muslim homes especially in lands where the Muslims are mixing and mingling more with people who see divorce lightly. I am becoming ill with the sad stories of Muslim families breaking up and divorces amongst Muslim couples.
And we are advised not to carelessly enter upon women or disrespect them in that way. It was narrated from 'Uqbah ibn 'Aamir19 that the Messenger of Allah (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
"Beware of entering upon women."
A man from among the Ansar20 said: "O Messenger of Allah, what about the (sister) in-law?" He (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
"The in-law is death."
Why this language- "death"? Imagine, and may Allah protect us, if anything were to transpire or happen in this way, it would be death of the marriage and relationships, possibly the death of their morals or religion due to this evil and even their own deaths for committing the zinaa (fornication).
Shaytaan deceives and tricks many sisters to divorce their husbands (without even trying reconciliation or taking the correct Islamic steps for divorce). Some sisters seek to take half or all of their husband's money and assets or to take his children and keep them from him just because of the laws of some lands.
What is halaal will always be halaal and what is haraam will always be haraam. Do not consider that the laws or ways of your particular country will supersede the laws and wisdom of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala).
Present the true Islam to people by showing them your successful families! Show them your massaajid! Show them your communities and schools!
Some say that when making da’wah do not talk to people about Islamic laws and sharee’ah21 as these topics can be confusing and controversial for people. We say those things which our scholars and jurists have consensus (ijmaa) about then propagate and advance those ideas but if it is an as issue where the jurists have differed and those are acceptable differences then we should not force or initiate these ideas in the beginning and an example of this is when making da’wah to another woman one does not have to initiate the issue of niqaab (face veil) being obligatory when there is a difference of opinion amongst the people of knowledge as to whether it is from the obligatory or recommended. So we do not have to be overly aggressive on such issues.
And sisters, remember to be positive when dealing with people. Know that eemaan (faith) has levels. The Messenger of Allah (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: "Faith has over seventy branches, most excellent of which is the declaration of “La ilaha illa Allah” and the humblest of which is the removal of a bone from the road. And modesty is a branch of eeman." (Abu Dawood)
Imam Al Hasan Al Basri (d. 110 AH) said, "That I serve my family is better to me than making itikaaf22 for two months" and Abdullah ibn Abbas (d. 68 AH) said, "To look after the home of a Muslim is better to me than making Hajj (pilgrimage)."
Let us reflect upon these sayings. Many things we do can be a sadaqa (charity) and do not be those people who undermine or ignore the smaller actions!
The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, "Every kind word is sadaqa, help given by one person to another is sadaqa, giving someone a drink of water is sadaqa, and removing harmful objects from people's pathways is sadaqa."
And he said, "Smiling at your brother's face is sadaqa."
Do we help each other nowadays?
Does the one with money give charity to those without money?
Do we assist one another?
Do we care about one another?
Does the healthy one visit the sick one?
You all want to be close to Allah, then visit the sick! Be with them and you will find Allah there.
In a hadeeth qudsee23 found in Saheeh Muslim24, Abu Hurayrah (d. 59 AH) reported that the Messenger of Allah (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
“Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘O son of Adam, I fell ill and you visited Me not.’ He (the son of Adam) will say, ‘Oh Lord, and how should I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds?” Allah will say, “Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him?’”
And the hadeeth goes on...
"...Allah asks: 'O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not’. He will say, ‘O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?’ He will say, ‘Did you not know that My servant So-and-so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me?...’”
All of these things should increase us in taqwa and improve our relationship with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala).
The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, "In relation to one another, believers are like a structure: each part strengthens the other parts". When the Prophet (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said this he clasped his fingers together.
He also said (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), "In their mutual love, compassion and sympathy for one another, believers are like one body, when one part of it suffers a complaint, all other parts join in, sharing the sleeplessness and fever."
And he (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, "The Muslim is the brother (or sister) to a Muslim."
To feel this love and these feelings for the Muslim community (at large) we need to first strengthen these feelings and love with our families.
One man said how we need to bring back the khilaafah, make jihad25 for the sake of Allah and revive our Ummah and so on.
And this man was not practicing some basic aspects of Islam and so another said to him, "You should revive your beard first!" meaning change one inch of your own body before trying to save and change this vast world.
Follow the Sunnah first yourself and fear Allah first yourself and stay away from haraam first yourself before insisting on changing others! After yourself work on your family, the ones closest to you. Present Islam to your community and neighbors by maintaining a successful and obedient family.
And remember to hide your sins and the sins of your brother and sister. If you reveal your sins to the people they may remind you of them or hold you accountable or use it against you but Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) will not! He will hide it and forgive you and would not hold it against you. Allah is above having to do that.
The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, "Whosoever covers (the sins of) a Muslim, Allah covers (his sins) on the Day of Judgment." (Bukhari)26
And finally I advise us all to learn more about this religion and increase in our knowledge before we can increase in our actions or in our da'wah to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala). It is important for us to protect ourselves, our children and our families by seeking beneficial knowledge and then practicing it for Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala).