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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ideal Muslim Woman and Her Own Self


(An Excerpt from the Book “The Ideal Muslimah: The True Islâmic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Qur’ân and Sunnah”)  
By  Dr. Muhammad ‘Ali Al-Hashimi
Translated by Nasiruddin Al-Khattab and Revised by Ibrahim M. Kunna and Abu  Aya Sulaiman Abdus-Sabur Copyright and published by the International Islâmic Publishing House (IIPH), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1999.
Introduction
Islam encourages the Muslims to stand out among people, readily distinguishable by their dress, appearance and behavior, so that they will be a good example, worthy of the great message that they bring to humanity. According to the hadith narrated by the great Sahabi Ibn al-Hanzaliyyah, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told his Companions, when they were traveling to meet some brothers in faith:

“You are going to visit your brothers, so repair your saddles and make sure that you are dressed well, so that you will stand out among people like an adornment, for Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala)  does not love ugliness.”1
 
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) considered an unkempt and careless appearance, and scruffy clothes and furnishings, to be forms of ugliness, which is hated and forbidden by Islam.
Islam encourages the Muslims in general to stand out among the people; the Muslim woman, in particular, is encouraged to be distinct from other people in her appearance, because this reflects well on her, and on her husband, family and children.
The Muslim woman does not neglect her appearance, no matter how busy she is with her domestic chores and the duties of motherhood. She is keen to look good, without going to extremes, because a good appearance is an indication of how well she understands herself, her Islamic identity, and her mission in life. The outward appearance of a woman cannot be separated from her inner nature: a neat, tidy and clean exterior reflects a noble and decent inner character, both of which go to make up the character of the true Muslim woman.
The smart Muslim woman is one who strikes a balance between her external appearance and internal nature. She understands that she is composed of a body, a mind and a soul, and gives each the attention it deserves, without exaggerating in one aspect to the detriment of others. In seeking to strike the right balance, she is following the wise guidance of Islam which encourages her to do so. How can the Muslim woman achieve this balance between her body, mind and soul?

1 - HER BODY
Moderation in food and drink
The Muslim woman takes good care of her body, promoting its good health and strength. She is active, not flabby or overweight. So she does not eat to excess; she eats just enough to maintain her health and energy. This is in accordance with the guidance of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala)  in the Qur'an:
( . . . Eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.) (Qur'an 7:31)  
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also advised moderation in food and drink:
“There is no worse vessel for the son of Adam to fill than his stomach, but if he must fill it, the let him allow one-third for food, one-third for drink, and one-third for air.”2   
‘Umar  (radhiallahu anhu) said:
“Beware of filling your stomachs with food and drink, for it is harmful to the body and causes sickness and laziness in performing prayers. Be moderate in both food and drink, for that is healthier for your bodies and furthest removed from extravagance. Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala)  will hate the fat man (one who revels in a life of luxury), and a man will not be condemned until he favors his desires over his religion.”3
The Muslim woman also steers clear of drugs and stimulants, especially those which are clearly known to be haram, and she avoids the bad habits that many women have fallen into in societies that have deviated from the guidance of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala)  and His Messenger, such as staying up late at night to waste time in idle pursuits. She goes to sleep early and gets up early to start the day’s  activities with energy and enthusiasm. She does not weaken her energy with late nights and bad habits; she is always active and efficient, so that her household chores do not exhaust her and she can meet her targets.
She understands that a strong believer is more loved by Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala)  than a weak believer, as the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught, so she always seeks to strengthen her body by means of a healthy lifestyle.
She exercises regularly
The Muslim woman does not forget to maintain her physical fitness and energy by following the healthy practices recommended by Islam. But she is not content only with the natural, healthy diet referred to above: she also follows an organized exercise program, appropriate to her physical condition, weight, age and social status. These exercises give her body agility, beauty, good health, strength and immunity to disease; this will make her more able to carry out her duties, and more fit to fulfill her role in life, whether it be as a wife or mother, young girl or old woman.
Her body and clothes are clean
The Muslim woman who truly follows the teachings of Islam keeps her body and clothes very clean. She bathes frequently, in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet   (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)   who advised Muslims to take baths, especially on Fridays: “Have a bath on Fridays and wash your heads, even if you are not in a state of janabah (impurity, e.g. following marital relations), and wear perfume.”4
“Whoever attends Friday prayer, man or woman, should take a bath (ghusl).”5  
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) placed such a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing that some of the Imams considered performing ghusl before Friday prayer to be obligatory (wajib).
Abu Hurayrah  (radhiallahu anhu) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“It is the duty of every Muslim to take a bath (at least) once every seven days, and to wash his head and body.”6   
Cleanliness is one of the most essential requirements of people, especially women, and one of the clearest indicators of a sound and likeable character. Cleanliness makes a woman more likeable not only to her husband, but also to other women and her relatives.
Imam Ahmad and al-Nisa'i report that Jabir  (radhiallahu anhu) said:
“The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came to visit us, and saw a man who was wearing dirty clothes. He said, ‘Could this person not find anything with which to wash his clothes?”  
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) hated to see people come out in public wearing dirty clothes when they were able to clean them; he drew attention to the fact that the Muslim should always be clean, smart and pleasing to look at.
This teaching which is directed at men, is directed even more so at women, who are usually thought of as being more clean, the source of joy and tranquility in the home. There is no doubt that the woman’s  deep sense of cleanliness reflects on her home, her husband and her children, because it is by virtue of her concern for cleanliness that they will be clean and tidy.
No researcher, of whatever era or country, can fail to notice that this teaching which encourages cleanliness and bathing, came fifteen hundred years ago, at a time when the world knew next to nothing of such hygienic habits. A thousand years later, the non-Muslim world had still not reached the level of cleanliness that the Muslims had reached.
In her book Min al-riqq ila'l-sayadah, Samihah A. Wirdi says: “There is no need for us to go back to the time of the Crusades in order to know the level of civilization in Europe at that time. We need go back no further than a few hundred years, to the days of the Ottoman Empire, and compare between the Ottomans and the Europeans to see what level the Ottoman civilization had reached.
“In 1624, Prince Brandeboug wrote the following on the invitations to a banquet that he sent to other princes and nobles: Guests are requested not to plunge their hands up to the elbow in the dishes; not to throw food behind them; not to lick their fingers; not to spit on their plates; and not to blow their noses on the edges of the tablecloths.”
The author adds: “These words clearly indicate the level of civilization, culture, knowledge and manners among the Europeans. At the same time,

Introduction
 
Undoubtedly children are a source of great joy and delight; they make life sweet, bring more rizq into a family’s life and give hope. A father sees his children as a future source of help and support, as well as representing an increase in numbers and perpetuation of the family. A mother sees her children as a source of hope, consolation and joy in life, and as hope for the future. All of these hopes rest on the good upbringing of the children and giving them a sound preparation for life, so that they will become active and constructive elements in society, a source of goodness for their parents, community and society as a whole. Then they will be as (SWT) described them: ( Wealth and sons are allurements of the life of this world . . .) (Qur’an 18:46)

 If their education and upbringing are neglected, they will become bad characters, a burden on their family, community and society as a whole.
 
She understands the great responsibility that she has towards her children
 
The Muslim woman never forgets that the mother’s responsibility in bringing up the children and forming their characters is greater than that of the father, because children tend to be closer to their mother and spend more time with her; she knows all about their behavioural, emotional and intellectual development during their childhood and the difficult years of adolescence.
Hence the woman who understands the teachings of Islam and her own educational role in life, knows her complete responsibility for the upbringing of her children, as is referred to in the Qur’an: ( O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones . . .) (Qur’an 66:6)

 The Prophet (PBUH) also referred to this responsibility in his hadith: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The leader is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock; a woman is the shepherd in the house of her husband and is responsible for her flock; a servant is the shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for it. Each of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.”1

 Islam places responsibility on the shoulders of every individual; not one person is left out. Parents – especially mothers – are made responsible for providing their children with a solid upbringing and sound Islamic education, based on the noble characteristics that the Prophet (PBUH) declared that he had been sent to complete and spread among people: “I have only been sent to make righteous behaviour complete.”2

 Nothing is more indicative of the greatness of the parents’ responsibility towards their children and their duty to give them a suitable Islamic upbringing than the verdict of the `ulama’ that every family should heed the words of the Prophet (PBUH): “Instruct your children to pray when they are seven and hit them if they do not do so when they are ten.”3Any parents who are aware of this hadith but do not teach their children to pray when they reach seven or hit them if they do not do so when they reach ten, are parents who are sinners and failing in their duty; they will be responsible before Allah (SWT) for their failure.
The family home is a microcosm of society in which the children’s mentality, intellect, attitudes and inclinations are formed when they are still very small and are ready to receive sound words of guidance. Hence the parents’ important role in forming the minds of their sons and daughters and directing them towards truth and good deeds is quite clear.
Muslim woman have always understood their responsibility in raising their children, and they have a brilliant record in producing and influencing great men, and instilling noble values in their hearts. There is no greater proof of that than the fact that intelligent and brilliant women have produced more noble sons than have intelligent and brilliant men, so much so that you can hardly find any among the great men of our ummah who have controlled the course of events in history who is not indebted to his mother.
Al-Zubayr ibn al-`Awwam was indebted for his greatness to his mother Safiyyah bint `Abd al-Muttalib, who instilled in him his good qualities and distinguished nature.
`Abdullah, al-Mundhir and `Urwah, the sons of al-Zubayr were the products of the values instilled in them by their mother, Asma’ bint Abi Bakr, and each of them made his mark in history and attained a high status.
`Ali ibn Abi Talib (RAA) received wisdom, virtue and good character from his distinguished mother, Fatimah bint Asad.
`Abdullah ibn Ja`far, the master of Arab generosity and the most noble of their leaders, lost his father at an early age, but his mother Asma’ bint `Umays took care of him and give him the virtues and noble characteristics by virtue of which she herself became one of the great women of Islam.
Mu`awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan inherited his strength of character and intelligence from his mother, Hind bint `Utbah, not from his father Abu Sufyan. When he was a baby, she noticed that he had intelligent and clever features. Someone said to her, “If he lives, he will become the leader of his people.” She responded, “May he not live if he is to become the leader of his people alone!”
Mu`awiyah was unable to instil his cleverness, patience and skills in his own son and and heir, Yazid, because the boy’s mother was a simple Bedouin woman, whom he had married for her beauty and because of the status of her tribe and family.
Mu`awiyah’s brother Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan, who was a prime example of intelligence, shrewdness and quick-wittedness, was similarly unable to pass these qualities on to his son `Ubayd-Allah (SWT), who grew up to be stupid, clumsy, impotent and ignorant. His mother was Marjanah, a Persian woman who possessed none of the qualities that might entitle her to be the mother of a great man.
History records the names of two great men of Banu Umayyah, the first of whom was known for his strength of character, capability, intelligence, wisdom and decisiveness, and the second of whom took the path of justice, goodness, piety and righteousness.
The first was `Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, whose mother was `A’ishah bint al-Mughirah ibn Abi’l-`As ibn Umayyah, who was well-known for her strength of character, resolution and intelligence. The second was `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz (RAA), the fifth of the khulafa’ al-rashidun, whose mother was Umm `Asim bint `Asim ibn `Umar ibn al-Khattab, who was the most noble in character of the women of her time. Her mother was the righteous worshipper of Allah (SWT) whom `Asim saw was honest and truthful, and clearly following the right path, when she refused to add water to the milk as her mother told her to, because she knew that Allah (SWT) could see her.
If we turn towards Andalusia, we find the brilliant, ambitious ruler `Abd al-Rahman al-Nasir who, having started life as an orphan, went on to establish an Islamic state in the West, to which the leaders and kings of Europe surrendered and to whose institutes of learning the scholars and philosophers of all nations came to seek knowledge. This state made a great contribution to worldwide Islamic culture. If we were to examine the secret of this man’s greatness, we would find that it lay in the greatness of his mother who knew how to instil in him the dynamic spirit of ambition.
During the `Abbasid period there were two great women who planted the seeds of ambition, distinction and ascendancy in their sons. The first was the mother of Ja`far ibn Yahya, who was the wazir of the khalifah Harun al-Rashid. The second was the mother of Imam al-Shafi`i: he never saw his father who died whilst he was still a babe in arms; it was his mother who took care of his education.
There are many such examples of brilliant women in our history, women who instilled in their sons nobility of character and the seeds of greatness, and who stood behind them in everything they achieved of power and status.

Footnotes:
  1. (Bukhari and Muslim), See Sharh al-Sunnah, 10/61, Kitab al-imarah wa’l-qada’, bab al-ra’i mas’ul ‘an ri’atihi.
  2. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, 1/371, bab husn al-khulq.
  3. Reported by Ahmad, 2/187, and by Abu Dawud with a hasan isnad, 1/193, Kitab al-salat, bab mata yu’mar al-ghulam bi’l-salat

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