By Yusuf Abdullah
In the name of Allah who states “O men! We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another; verily, the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the one who is deeply conscious of Him. Behold, He is all knowing, all aware. Q49:13
May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon His chosen servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
Yaumul Mar’ah, refers to International Women’s Day as marked by late Imam Khomeini of blessed memory. Consequent to the light of the grand Islamic cleric, the day is colorfully celebrated in Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Yemen and other Shi’a awakened societies. The magnitude of the celebration by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria is largely influential. On the other hand, the UN celebrates same on 8th March annually. However, in most cases in the latter, accusing finger is pointed at Islam whenever issues on gender are analysed. The allegations revolve around hijab, polygamy, women’s education, inheritance and the like.
Flashing back at the historic past on a little comparison on the status of woman in Western society and Islam. This refers to hundreds of years of struggle against injustice. It was not until late 19th century international coalition of women’s rights in the US was recognised leading to formation of advocacy groups and increased agitation for women’s rights at UN, then League of Nations in 1935. Remarkable development was achieved in 1960 when they began to work for equal rights. In fact, the historic New York women’s march chanting for equality was held in 1970. That spelt how the woman was excessively oppressed particularly in the United states and Europe! Regardless of any political right, woman was unabatedly denied socio-economic considerations by men. The philosophy was deep-rooted in Western civilization connected to Judao-Christian traditions which culturally allowed them very limited roles until the achievements due to American and French revolutions in 1775 and 1789 respectively. However, the ideas of the enlightenment initially had little impact on the legal and political status of women. Most enlightened thinkers thought that the position of women with regards to liberty, equality, and political representation applied only to men. The French influential philosopher Jean Rousseau, claimed that women were sentimental and frivolous, arguing that they were naturally suited to be subordinate companions of men. It was not until 1920, American women gained right for voting following constitutional amendment, added to subsequent improvement in their condition in Europe.
WOMAN FROM THE ISLAMIC POINT OF VIEW
Apparently, the exalted position Islam accords woman cannot be compared with any civilization. A female is given utmost care and protection in all stages of her life. Even those Islamic concepts such as polygamy, hijab and the inequality in ratio of inheritance among others grossly misunderstood or ridiculed by enemies of the religion were borne of great wisdom and considerations in her favor. One can appreciate the significant position only if he or she studies the status of woman not in the Arabia before the advent of Islam, but entire world civilizations. I cannot be graphical, but most relevant was her status in the Arab Jahiliyyah when she was considered subhuman and a disgrace to her family; buried alive and considered a property inherited by heirs! From the Islamic point of view, superiority has nothing to do with sexes. Allah states “O men! We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another; verily, the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the one who is deeply conscious of Him. Behold, He is all knowing, all aware. Q49:13. The criterion for Allah’s reward is based on individual’s performance accordingly "we will give a pure and wholesome life to every one man or woman who acts righteously and has faith and we will reward them in accordance with the best of what they used to do" Q16:97
From this point of view, the international women’s day is observed on 20th Jimada- thani, the birthday of Sayyidah Fatima (AS). The event reminds the Ummah in particular and the world of her exalted life embodiment of sterling qualities worthy of emulation by all. Some traditions in her respect include; “Fatima is the chief of the women of Paradise.” (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. V, chapter 29. Mother of believers A’isha has said "I have not seen a person more similar to the Prophet’s appearance, conduct, guidance, and speech, whether sitting or standing, than Fatima. When she enters, the Messenger of Allah stands up, kisses and welcomes her, then takes her hand and asks her to sit in his place." (Tirmizi and Ibn Abdurabbeh in Eqd al-Farid). She has also narrated: "(I declare) By Allah that I have not seen anyone more beloved to Allah’s Messenger than Ali, or a woman on earth more beloved to him than his wife (Fatima)." Narrated by Mustadrak al-Hakim: V.3, p.154, Khasaes al-Nasaee: p.29. The Messenger of Allah (S) said: the best of the women of Paradise are: Khadija, daughter of Khowailid, Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, Asiyah, daughter of Muzahim (Pharaoh’s wife), and Maryam, daughter of Imran, mother of Jesus. Her sincerity, worship, good neighborliness, patience, perseverance, hospitality, marital life and children up-bringing are exemplary lessons for all! The love of the prophet’s progeny is mandatory on all Muslims. Allah states "… no reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin…” Q42:23. In a prominent tradition, the prophet (S) has said “the messenger of my Lord is about to come to me and I shall answer. I am leaving with you the two weighty things; the first is the book of Allah, in which you find guidance and enlightenment, and the people of my household. I remind you by Allah, of the people of my household, I remind you by Allah, of the people of my household”. Al-Tabarani related from Ibn Abbas that “no one shall be able to move from his place of reckoning on the day of Judgment until he has stated four things: how he spent his life and his wealth, where he got his wealth from and he shall also be asked about the love of the Ahlul-bait. However, it is imperative to raise some questions here; where are Sayyidah’s narrations? Didn’t she narrate? How and why did others narrate including her children’s peers that were born at Medina? And what was her crime that that she was persecuted to the extent of martyrdom? We strongly advice all justice-seeking people to revisit history so as to differentiate the actual lovers of the noble messenger from his enemies.
SHEIKH UTHMAN BN FODIO (RA)
The Islamic revivalism and societal reform led by Sheikh Uthman Bn Fodio was unarguably great. According to Professor Y. M. Adamu in a paper: Learning and scholarship in the Sokoto Caliphate: Legacies and Challenges. The Shehu set to fight the misinterpretation of Islam and the tyranny of Hausa leaders and transform the society on the teachings of Qur’an and Sunna. The Ulama of the time, otherwise called Ulama al-Su’, in their attempt to maintain status quo posed a great challenge to Shehu intellectually. According to Sulaiman, 1978, p. 78, the Shehu said "the evil of leaving women in ignorance, not knowing what is incumbent upon them, nay, not knowing Islam at all, is greater than the evil of their mixing with men, for the first evil relates back to religion, which is faith, Islam and good works (Ihsan) and the second evil relates to genealogy"
In response to the far reached revivalism, there was positive response evident from the Shaikh’s family. Nana Asma’u, his popular daughter authored tens of poems which made a lot of impact not only to the academic and moral excellence of women but men inclusive. Her books collected and compiled by Jean Boyd are more easily obtainable in Britain and America than Nigeria. The impact of her works on women’s education of her time and to date. Boyd and Mack (1997, p. 7) described her contributions as being "in transforming the women’s organisation that had existed among the non-Muslim women prior to their capture, and channeling their interests and needs into organising representative of the Jihadic community’s values. Through her organisation of itinerant women teachers of other women (the ‘Yan taru). Nana Asma’u made working of the community both desirable and honourable. Her legacies are with other Jihad leaders and the caliphate itself. In contrast to the West’s incessant criticism against Islam on woman’s rights, the religion attaches unique attention to her morality and education as mothers on whom the moral standard of every society largely depends. As such, they should be given more support and enlightenment to enable them play their expected role in the society.
Equally, the day is considered mothers’, such that all is encouraged to specially appreciate the great role of mothers in our lives. Allah states " And We have enjoined on man concerning his parents – his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years – Give thanks to Me and thy parents. Unto Me is the final return" Q3:15. The day is observed with such appreciation to mothers out of gratitude, love, mercy, kindness and prayer. Simultaneously, wives, daughters and close female relatives are generally and accordingly honored. While commending the efforts of the Islamic Movement in pursuance of moral and academic excellence for women, I strongly urge the society to give them more respect -as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and relatives- educate, protect and empower them for the socio-economic growth and stability of our nation. I use the medium to reecho the forced disappearance of many young sisters as part of the Buhari-led administration’s atrocity against the Movement, in the Zaria 2015th massacre, Chibok and Dapchi girls alike and sympathize with the victims and their relatives. I pray to Allah to bring an end to the inhumanity and avenge the innocent victims on the unfortunate atrocity.
While congratulating the Muslim-Umma, I use the memorable occasion to reiterate the urgent need for the unconditional release of Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky (H) and his disciples.