Sidi Yahya Rhodus
Miscommunication on the topic so his points will be more general.
Offer a few things in relation to the sacrifice of women in Islam, though time is short, but ultimately there needs to be a forum opened up to tackle the issues that we face criticism about from outside (such as the issue of women): whether this forum is in the media or on a more grassroots level. We need men and women who have the basic academic and Islamic education to tackle these issues one by one publicly.
We wanted to talk about this issue via a metaphysical framework, on how we look at the world. Islam offers a holistic way on how to view the world, but also how to interact and change the world.
In Bradford there were 5 sisters for every brother, so we were expecting fewer brothers, but perhaps more brothers need to understand this.
So we begin with understanding pairs, as Allah talks about creating pairs, and we see this in the Macro- and Micro-molecular level, things are in pairs: time - this life and the next, heaven and hell, night and day, winter and summer, and one of the greatest manifestations of this is males and females and this should cause us to wonder at Allah (Exalted is He) and His Uniqueness, and how He has no pair, no partner.
So when we talk and view the creation from a metaphysical standpoint, we see this dichotomy of humans: if we view the world in this way, we understand the problem of people saying men being better than women, and particularly also in the case of Unity, if we don't allow for difference, not everything is black and white, that there is room. An enlightened understanding is to understand that men and women are two sides of the same thing. Imam Sha'rani mentions that wherever there is difference, one side is going to be more strict and the other more lenient, and this is where you see his understanding, he shows the wisdom of why Allah gave leniency and who this applies too and vice-versa. Thus, the proper understanding is unity in multiplicity.
And so related to men and women, you see pairs, such as things being passive and active in one sense: such as the pen and the tablet: if you have a pen and tablet, what is passive and what is active? In reality everything is active/passive, positive/negative, everything is relative: the pen is active in relation to the tablet but it is passive in relation to the one who is writing with the pen.
So with men and women, you find expressions of both of Allah's subhanu wa ta'ala attributes, but with Allah subhanu wa ta'ala you have Majestic attributes, which are manifest more in the man, and He(Exalted is He), also has Beautiful attributes, which are more manifest in the women. So with regard to passive/active, you find in Shariah, that women may be more passive when the husband makes a decision, but the children are more passive in relation to the mother, and the husband may be more passive with regards to his parents. So what is passive in one sense, and more active in another. Thus, you see this is the way in which Allah subhanu wa ta'ala has created the universe.
Even in terms of approaching the relevant issues of our time, you need to bring this type of approach. So what we need is not a reformation, but rather a renewal, as is in the understanding of those who have studied Sacred Law. So there is no need to eliminate the Shariah, nor reform it, but rather, what is needed is an application of the traditional understanding and approach of all issues with proper research within the Islamic legacy.
In relation with women in general, instead of focussing on the negative, we will focus on the positive: fundamental duty of women is the same duty as the man: to worship their Lord. A lot of misunderstanding is a lack of understanding of the purpose of our creation and this might seem like a no brainer, but there is a difference between intellectually understanding and from living it as a reality.
It is very difficult to understand aspects of Islam if we remove the Afterlife: such as the penal punishments in Islam. e.g. removing the hand. There is a hadith about the person who is stealing does not do the stealing while he is a believer, i.e. there is a problem in the Iman, but it doesn't necessarily mean (there is disagreement) he will die as an unbeliever in this state, but it is still a danger. So if we look at the punishment that Allah subhanu wa ta'ala will bring to these people in the next life, the penal punishment is actually a mercy. Similarly, the trials the Ummah is facing today, if we remove the Afterlife from our understanding, it won't make sense. So we need the balance: to do what is required to change our condition, and to trust in Allah subhanu wa ta'ala. Need to balance of seeing it is from Allah subhanu wa ta'ala and doing something to change our condition. So we need to work within the Shariah to change our surroundings, with the understanding that we need to rely on Allah. This might seem subtle, but this is at the heart of our relation with Allah subhanu wa ta'ala.
Thus, we need to love all of creation as it is from Allah subhanu wa ta'ala, and we need to hate the disobedience as Allah subhanu wa ta'ala has forbidden it: so there is this dual approach when we see a believer sinning, you hate the action, not the essence of the person. Even with a non-Muslim, unless you are completely certain that they died in unbelief, you can't hate their essence.
In reality there is no success, unless we go back to revealed principles: the whole point of fitna is that you don't think there is another way out: the way out will only be revealed with a person having taqwa in the difficulty, and Allah subhanu wa ta'ala will reveal the way out. For example women in domestic situations where there is violence need to act to change their condition but also understand that everything is from Allah subhanu wa ta'ala.
What we need to see in the upcoming times, is initiative and activity of the sisters within the realm of Shariah. I have been blessed to see many places, such as in Yemen, there are almost no interactions between men and women. I would recommend how you look at how women were treated historically before Islam, and you compare it what Islam gave women, and even if you compare it to how women were treated in the West historically: such as inheritance, property, etc.
Sidi Abdul Hakim Murad has two articles on gender and they illustrate how the beginning of the feminist movement demanded things that Islamically they should already have: and from these initial demands the movement went beyond that which we Muslims would consider required.
So we need to see the male and the female as complimentary: if our wives are ignorant, how are we going to have successful children. I've met people who want to have women in the kitchen so that they don't talk back to the men. Proof against this is found in the life of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him): how Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was one of the seven who have related over 1,000 hadith; also, an Imam had 68 ijazas from women: the biographical dictionaries had entries filled with women scholars. But 300 years ago it dropped off, and study needs to be done on why this occurred.
Women need to make contributions in 3 areas:
o The spiritual path, inward path to Allah.
There need to be institutions built.
I often hear from the second generation of how the uncles are holding them back…why aren't the second generation there? Why aren't they involved? So the issue is two-fold, for the youth and the uncles to engage: people also need to engage in creatively making institutions.
Finally, it's an important discussion in terms of viewing the world, what we term Muslims in being normative. From the greatness of our deen is that it doesn't allow us to be content with mediocrity, what people are doing on the street. The Hadith of, 'When you ask Allah, ask Him for Firdaus' so not just Paradise, but the Highest level. The norm for Muslims, practically, is the Sunna, not just what people are doing on the streets. And this is not merely theoretical, but a living reality such as was found in the time of Medina. And though there is an expected watering down of the faith from that time, the Muslims are unique in that we have the Qur'an unchanged.
The youth have to make their contribution as they have time to study their knowledge. It's like a relay race, the gun shoots, the first one is running hard, passes the baton on the second one, and he cheers the second person on: the second passes it to the third, and everyone cheers on the third. Time is like that baton, we now have the baton, which has been passed down from the greatest generation and nations which were established in the decree of Allah subhanu wa ta'ala.
So what will we do with this baton now that it is in our hands?
Q+A. [To Sidi Yahya]
Should the participation of women in the 3 areas (above) be in isolation from the men?
A. The answer is balance, and is dependent on the place where one is. E.g. Yemen, the separation may be viewed as extreme, but I have never seen or met people that are happier: they see it as a way to get close to Allah.
For us today in the West, it's important to be realistic and realise the vastness of our Sacred Law. If we completely isolate the sisters, they will still be sitting with non-Muslim boys, and listening to male professors, so complete segregation is not realistic: we do need separation and etiquette which is important, but also a balance within the Sacred Law.
It wasn't strange to learn from a woman, it happened in Madinah, with Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), so why do we find it strange to have a female teacher these days? This is not something that we should see as strange. In most events, the sisters double the brothers in number, so we can't just curtail their participation.
What is necessary an equal opportunity of access for learning.
The men just need to be humble if they view the women as a threat. No one was more of a man than Umar (ra) when a woman corrected him in the middle of Juma'. Can you imagine that today? But he (ra) admitted that he was wrong and she was right, and he mentioned her name before his. So it is a case of purifying our hearts and it isn't about correction coming from a man or woman, but wrong is wrong and right is right.
NB The articles by Abdul Hakim Murad that Sidi Yahya recommended are available here: