by Farah Onaid
Women and girls have been victims of ruthless power struggles for centuries in all societies and cultures around the world. This hegemony over women has been exercised in the form of Sati, Hitobashira, Karo-Kari and the killing of witches, which are only a few to mention. Sadly, but truly, many societies including some Muslim societies continue to exercise this patriarchy in different forms such as the denial to education, unequal salaries compared to men in workplaces, forced marriages and prostitution, among many others.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (pbuh), came at a time when the Arab society, like so many patriarchal societies at that time, was rife with abhorrent practices against girls. He preached Islam, liberating women and girls in every walk of life, education being a prime aspect. This article examines the facts about the importance of female education in Islam. It does so through referencing verses of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, and hadith, authentic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), along with offering a short glimpse of his wives’ level of education.
Let us start with the first Quranic revelation:
Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clinging form. Read! Your Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by means of the pen; taught man what he did not know. (96:1-5)
These verses address humankind to seek knowledge and delve in critical thinking. The emphasis laid in the acquisition of knowledge, in the above verses, surpasses any statement or action denying girls’ the right to education. Had these verses only been for men, it would be inconceivable to imagine the extent of progression that the society made in a mere twenty-three years — the entire duration of the revelation of the Quran.
In another verse in the Quran, God says:
(This is) a Book (the Quran) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember. (38:29)
It is important to mention that the word “men” in the above verse refers to humankind as it does so in several other places in the Quran when God addresses humanity. These and other verses inform the readers that engaging in critical thinking is a moral obligation on both men and women. The Quran repetitively reminds people to ponder, think, analyze, thus using their mind power to contemplate and understand, whilst making no distinction between men and women.
Let us now examine some hadith, authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
“Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim.”
“He who has a slave-girl and teaches her good manners and improves her education and then manumits and marries her, will get a double reward; and any slave who observes God’s right and his master’s right will get a double reward.” (emphasis added)
“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge, the inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man. The superiority of the learned man over the devout is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion.” (emphasis added)
Three important themes around education are emerging in the above traditions. From the first Hadith we infer that education is not a right but a responsibility on every Muslim, male or female. In the second Hadith, emphasis is laid on the quality of education imparted to the girl slave and the latter part deals with the encouragement to free slaves (Islam denounced and later abolished slavery). The third Hadith speaks volumes about the superiority of the person who seeks knowledge over the one who does not. The reference here to superiority is to the person who seeks knowledge, man or woman.
We shall now examine information about the intellectual abilities of two wives of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): Khadijah and Aishah.
- Khadijah Binte Khuwaylid, the first wife of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was a wealthy tradeswoman, the richest woman in Mecca at the time, who exported goods as far away as Syria. To manage her large business, she employed several males and to do so then in Arabia, necessitated that you have a high level of understanding and wisdom.
- Aishah Binte Abu Bakr, the youngest wife of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was very talented and possessed an incredible memory. As a Muslim scholar, she is credited with narrating more than two thousand Hadith and was noted for teaching eminent scholars. She had a great love for learning and became known for her intelligence and sharp sense of judgment. Her life also substantiates that a woman can be a scholar, exert influence over men and women and provide them with inspiration and leadership. The example of Aishah in promoting education, particularly education of women in the laws and teachings of Islam, is a hallmark in female education in Islam. Because of the strength of her personality, she was a leader in every field of knowledge, in society and in politics.
Conclusively, the take away message in the article is that Islam promotes education, particularly girls’ education. Had it not been so, the world would not have witnessed the transformation of a society plunged in anarchy and hegemony into one enlightened with critical thinkers and scholars, all in the span of twenty-three years.
Women and Education in Islam
source :Posted July 17th, 2008 by roemasa
Since it is obligatory on every Muslim male and female to acquire knowledge, the woman has got as much right as the man has got for acquiring knowledge and education. Hence the injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah are equally applicable to men and women.
1. The importance which the Quran gives to education and learning can be judged from this fact that the first few verses of the Quran which were revealed on Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) instructed him to read. Al-Quran says: Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth, createth man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the most Bounteous, Who teacheth by the pen, Teacheth man that which he knew not - (Al-Alaq : verses 1-5). So the Holy Quran, which is the revealed book of Islam, starts with the word `read', if put in the chronological order. In the verses mentioned above, the Quran uses three words `read', `teaches' and `pen', which shows how much is the importance of reading, learning, writing and teaching.
The Prophet of Islam made it obligatory on every Muslim male and female to acquire knowledge. According to another Tradition he exhorted his followers to search knowledge though they have to go as far as China. In another Hadith it is reported that the search for knowledge is an expiation for one's sins.
2. The prayers of the Prophets and the righteous people have been mentioned in the Quran. The prayer of the Prophet of Islam given in the Quran is about increase in knowledge. Allah commanded His messenger to pray to Him in these words: ...My Lord! Increase me in knowledge (Ta-ha : verse 114). This has been the. most popular prayer of the followers of Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him) through centuries and even the kids in the Muslim homes who can hardly speak start chanting this prayer from the very childhood.
3. Human being is the best of Allah's creation and it is because Allah has given him knowledge. It is on account of the learning and knowledge that man's superiority was established over the Angels. Allah taught Adam all the names, and then showed them to the Angels asking them to inform Him about them which they could not, but Adam did (Al-Baqarah : verses 31-¬33). Wisdom or knowledge is a great treasure and everlasting wealth. He is Allah Who gives wisdom to whom He likes. Unto whom wisdom is given, he had indeed been blessed with a great treasure (Al-Baqarah : verse 269). The Prophet of Islam calls the learning as a. treasure-house and he declared that superiority in education is better than superiority in divine service.
4. Islam attaches so much importance to education that the Quran instructs the believers that all of them should not go out for fighting, rather they should leave some of them behind who should acquire sound knowledge of religion and should teach the others when they return from fighting (At-Tauba : verse 122) Jihad is obligatory on every adult male Muslim in case the security of Islamic state is in danger. But even in such a state of emergency and critical position, the importance of learning is not being ignored. The believers are being commanded that all of them should not go forth together for participation in Jihad. It would be better if they leave some contingent behind who should devote themselves to studies in religion and should acquire the capability to teach others.
The Prophet of Islam released some of the prisoners who had been captured in the Battle of Badr, without ransom on the condition that each of them should teach at least ten Muslim children how to read and write. This shows how the Prophet viewed the need of education and literacy for the Muslim children.
5. Most of the commentators of the Quran are unanimously of the view that Sura Al-Ahzab verse 34 is addressed to the wives of Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him). The wives of the Prophet are being instructed to learn which is recited in their homes of the Quran and wisdom. In the sublime company of the Prophet, whatever they learn by closely observing his conduct and attentively listening to his discourses of wisdom, they should impart it to the members of Muslim Ummah very faithfully and without any omission or commission. The history of Islam tells us that the wives of the Prophet did acquire sound learning of the Quran and the Traditions in the company of Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) and they played indeed an admirable role in popularising the teachings of the Quran and the Ahadith of the Prophet of Islam. Indirectly this injunction of the Holy Quran may also be taken to be applicable to the Muslim women in general. The role of the mothers in training and educating the future generations is well known and thus the Quran impresses upon them to get education and thus educate in turn the future of the Ummah.
6. According to Sura Al-Mujadila verse 11 of the Quran, Allah will give high ranks and rewards to those believers who have acquired knowledge and learning. The Quran (Sura Al-'Imran verse 18) includes the learned persons among the list of the witnesses who give evidence about the Unity of God. Do you know who are the witnesses? They are Allah (Himself), the angels and the men of learning! Can there be any higher rank than this? Obviously, no. According to a Hadith, the rank of a learned man is higher than that of a pious worshipper. According to another Hadith, the man who goes out in search of knowledge is in the path of Allah (Jihad) till he returns.
7. The importance of the writing and the pen (symbol of writing) is that at one place in the Quran (Al-Qalam : 1-2), Almighty Allah swears by the pen and at another place He commands the believers to reduce their contracts and agreements in writing. (Al-Baqara : 282)
"You were born an original. Don't die a copy."