We are proud to present the second installment in our new Series “Women in Islam”. This is the second part of the introduction to this series, from a talk by Shz. Dr. Tahera baisaheba entitled, “The Experience of Being a Muslim Woman: Spiritual, Social and Intellectual Aspects.”

Her paper addresses four keys areas: spirituality, education, veiling, and a woman’s role in the family and in public life. For each of these areas, Shz. Dr. Tahera baisaheba presents scriptural and legal pronouncements, historical and contemporary examples, and her own personal experience as a Muslim woman.

The second part of this talk published this week presents the sections on Veiling and Women’s role in the family and public life. The first part was published in Sijill 49 and is available on http://www.fatemidawat.com/reference-materials/women-in-islam/. 

In Part 2, the section on Veiling begins with a quotation of the Qur’anic Ayat on which veiling and the dress code prescribing modesty is based: 

The Quran prescribes modest dress for men and women: [Nur 24:30-31]: “Tell believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do. And tell believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or …”… Islamic law, based on this verse and on traditions ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad, prescribes modest dress for men and women… For women, interpretations of what constitutes modest attire are more varied. Muslim women’s attire is influenced by local culture, as well as the legal school in Islam to which they belong.

Dr. Tahera baisaheba describes the three broad categories of veiling and then addresses the arguments commonly cited, particularly in the West, for the banning and discouragement of the wearing of the hijaab

On the topic of the role of women in family and public life, Dr. Tahera baisaheba states:

Islamic law, the Shari’a, addresses this issue in terms of the complementary nature of the roles played by a man and a woman within a family. The husband’s primary responsibility is to provide for his family. The wife’s primary responsibility is to nurture her family. The Islamic scriptures do not restrict the husband from cooking and taking care of his children, just as they do not restrict the wife from working and earning. However, this role is considered secondary to his or her primary role, which is that of provider and nurturer respectively. Motherhood is raised to a sacred level, in the prophetic hadith “Paradise lies beneath your mother’s feet” (al-jannatu tahta aqdami l-ummahat). There are no comparable hadith for men, and this hadith emphasizes the nurturing role of the mother, her pivotal role in raising her children as good human beings. 

Moreover, the Islamic scriptures guarantee women a measure of financial independence, by giving women the right to inherit and own property independent of the control of father or husband or brother. In comparison, it was not until at least ten centuries later that women were given the right to own property in most parts of Europe. The Prophet’s first wife, Khadija, was a wealthy businesswoman. She first came into contact with her future husband when she employed him to carry her goods and trade them in Palestine.

She concludes her presentation by asking Muslims to take responsibility for the issues present in Muslim societies with regard to women’s rights: 

It is important for Muslims to recognize that there are problems in Muslim societies with regard to women’s rights. There are similar problems in other societies too, but it is important for Muslims to take responsibility. Muslims living in the Far East, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the West, all need to look within their own communities, to address issues of deficiency, in sublime areas such as human dignity and spiritual egalitarianism, as well as mundane areas, such as education, safety and property rights. In many cases, answers can be found within their own religious and cultural traditions. But the Prophet Muhammad’s directive was to seek wisdom, “even from as far away as China,” and Muslims should not hold back from adopting beneficial progressive ideas, no matter where they come from.

To read the full text of Part 1 of this talk (Introduction, Spirituality, Education) and Part 2 (Veiling, Women’s Roles in the Family and in Public Life and Conclusion) please visit Fatemidawat.com.