Sunday, 23 January 2022

Article: Power And Influence Of Female Gender, An Islamic Perspective


By Abdulrazaq Hamzat

(First presented at Women Only program in Lagos State, Nigeria, on 25th January, 2015)

From time immemorial, women occupies a pride of place. She is uniquely created by Allah, spiritually elevated and given an unparalleled image of physical beauty. 

To underscore the power of women, one of the famous sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) goes thus: "Paradise is at the feet of mothers". 

To the best of understanding, the above saying of the prophet is indirectly telling us the extent of power women possess in this world and the privilege position they occupied.

To understand the message passed down by the noble prophet of Allah, one only needs to ask a simple question. 

Who would hold paradise in their feet? A weak gender or the disadvantaged?

Certainly, the weak and disadvantaged can't hold paradise in their feet.

What the above quote is saying is that, Allah has given every woman, the power to put every situation under her control (feet).

Allah cannot place the much cherished paradise at the feet of the weak and disadvantaged. Only a powerful being in the sight of Allah can hold paradise in their feet and that powerful being in the sight of Allah is the Woman”

If the above is the case, then we must ask, If Allah’s paradise could be at the feet of women, what else could not?

Background: 

It was not easy to come up with the above topic for discussion in this gathering of intellectuals. As a matter of fact, many topics were contemplated before finally arriving at the above.

At first, I was given the task of talking about issues related to marriage. However, after consulting friends and associates about the best topic of discourse in a gathering of Muslim women, I was made to understand that marriage related topics have been over flogged, considering the many discuss that had been made and still being made on that topic. It was argued that, on each passing day, issues related to marriage are being discussed at every Nikkah or marriage ceremonies. We even have many books written in this regards by respected clerics across the world. It was also added that, despite the numerous discuss about marriage, we have not seen couples conduct themselves better than before, all we hear on regular basis in our society is marriage break ups here and there. 

In the words of one of my colleagues, ‘’does the numerous sermons about marriage make women and men better wives and husbands? And does it improve the quality of family raised by Muslims in our society?’’

And as a result of this thought provoking argument, it was concluded that we must look beyond issues of marriage to something more important, which if properly addressed and communicated, may invariably have more lasting impact on individuals lives, family and the society. Hence, research on related topic begun in earnest.

However, after much deliberations on the need to do away with marriage related topic, a brother suggested a topic on the role of women in politics, business and the society. He believed there is need for young women to understand their roles in politics, business and the society. 

However, as laudable as that topic sounds, it was discovered that without women understanding themselves and their strength, irrespective of the role they are assigned to play or the role they wish to play, they are likely not to understand how best to play it for maximum effect. 

In view of this, it was resolved that, before women could play any effective role in politics, business or the society, before they could manage their homes well as prescribed in the holy book, before they can really achieve that maximum freedom and become what they ought to be, they must first and foremost, understand their own power, strength and influence.

Consequently, emphasis was laid on the topic: "Power and influence of the female gender" which I re-coined as the power of women for easy understanding. In view of the above, I shall try to do justice to the topic in light of the dictate of the Quran and the teaching of the noble prophet (.S.A.W) and some renowned Islamic scholars.

This piece is therefore intended to enlighten women, particularly, young Muslim women about the enormous power they possess, and how best to make adequate use of it in their homes and the general society.

Power And Influence Of The Female Gender:

Do not give a second thought, to the assumption that this beautiful religion of Islam, under any guise or through whatever standard relegates the female gender. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In actual fact, Islam considers the female gender as being naturally powerful and resourceful. She holds power, beyond her own comprehension. This is why the noble Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) had said, ‘’seeking knowledge or acquiring education, is mandatory on both male and female’’.

Knowledge as you already know exposes one to truth. It takes us out of thick darkness of confusion and directly places us into the bright light of vision. Knowledge enriches one’s mind and place in our hands, weapon to confront all disease of ignorance and misinformation. Those who try to put women in bondage first took away their education against the dictate of Islam, which mandated every Muslim (both male and female) to be educated.

I am of the view that, If women of this generation had properly sought knowledge, if they had been provided with relevant information about themselves, they would have realized long ago that they possess so much power and influence that even them could not imagine. If they had sought knowledge relevant to their being according to the deen (religion), they would have understood the deen more than they do at the moment and won't necessarily need men to tell them their role in the family, business, politics and the society in general. Muslim women must therefore take education very serious, as it holds key to their elevation in the society. Let me also add that, women must not limit their education to that, which is being taught in school or madrasa (Islamic school); they must open their mind and engage in serious research to unravel truth beyond what is available in classrooms.

While women goes around with enormous influential power that could bend a thick iron rode with mere word, command one to stop breathing with mere wish and cause things to happen with mere look, she goes about competing with men of less endowment in her areas of strength, less influence in her areas of advantages; and less resource in her areas of resourcefulness, thereby relegating herself to struggling competitor in human engagements.

What I am driving at is that, the power of a woman is indisputable as seen in the history of Islam, but she does not use it; or rather she does not know how best to use it.

From time immemorial, only the few among women who sort knowledge were able to make impact in this world.

However, in the 21st century, especially in this part of the world, not many women truly understand their own strength. The most painful part of this ugly narrative is that, women are now being relegated to the background, through the same religion that elevated them.

We must take note that, the fact that women have not been using their powers does not mean they have no power, it only means that, they have abandoned their area of strength, thereby looking for strength at their area of weaknesses. Hence, the beginning of the error. 

The almighty Allah had said in the holy Quran, "do not covet the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on some of you than on others. Men shall have a benefit from what they earn, and women shall have a benefit from what they earn. Ask, therefore, God [to give you] out of his bounty: behold, God has indeed full knowledge of everything." (Q4:32)

Allah did not create men and women as competitors. He didn’t create us to covet one and other’s bounties. Instead, he created each of us and gave us strength and weaknesses. If we leverage on our strength, we become masters of our game and if we concentrate on our weaknesses, we will continue to struggle. 

Those who continue to mislead women into thinking they can compete with men in their area of weaknesses are not doing women any favor; rather, they are turning women into permanent struggling competitors. However, this is not the wish of Allah for the female gender. He didn’t create women to be struggling competitors; he created you to be master of your game and this can only happen when you understand your strength.

So, if women continue to covet the area of their disadvantages, you can only benefit little, but when you covet your areas of strength, you would have abundant bounties to reap.

Let me break it down further for proper comprehension.

Women are equal to men in everything, humanity, creation, dignity, religious, education, etc. 

However, Allah says in Surah Ali – Imran VS 36, ‘’ And the male is not like the female’’. 

What this means is that, Allah created men physically powerful and emotionally weak. On the other hand, he created women emotionally powerful, but physically weak.

This difference between men and women, according to scholars makes them a creation for healthy competition that complement each other. The difference helps them match the functions that each of them is divinely charged with, and there is a profound wisdom and great mercy in the difference and distinctive features that the creator installed in the two genders.

What I deduced from this is that, Allah complemented women in powerful emotional strength, attribute given to men in physical strength.

While men can scream loud, physically combat, display aggression and hit things hard before getting them done, women only need to look soft, peaceful, unchallenging, none aggressive, but emotionally strengthened to use subtleness and persuasion to get things done.

Both features from experiences have advantages and disadvantages. Thus, any woman who competes with men in screaming loud, physical combat, aggression and hitting hard to get things done is only a tiny contrary to her nature. This is so because, women can’t scream as loud as men, you can’t be as combative or as aggressive, neither can you be as physically strong to hit things hard. Only one (1) out of ten (10) women is likely to succeed in this struggle.

However, a woman who never competes with a man in her quest to establish control is indeed the powerful woman. Such woman would not only get things done but also dictate the pace at which it must be done.

Here, 9 out of 10 women are likely to succeed through this method.

Even in law, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is now the most preferred means of conflict resolution. While litigation represents the male aggressive quest of total control and victory, the ADR concept represent the female source of power, as it utilizes famine skills of dialogue, softness, calmness and none aggressive mode to achieve a win-win situation.

We must therefore note that, the soft heartedness of a woman does not portray her as being weak; rather, it signifies her strength and power.

Do you know that, that husband of yours, who often want to boss you around, could suddenly become a man, willing and ready to accomplish your wishes? Do you also know that, while you may spend few minutes in trying to please him or bring him under control, he may end up spending the whole week, trying to please you back in return to demonstrate his sincerity? Yes of course, this could happen, if you understand what women power is.

One fact you must understand is this, woman doesn’t need to sound aggressive at her man to get him to do whatever she wanted, all she needs to do is look soft and be self restraint, even when he screams and shouts. Her calm control would render him powerless and after few minutes or hours of aggression, he would come back to plead for her mercy. So, if he would come back to do what you wanted him to do, why lose your temper over what you can easily achieve with calmness? 

Here is the logic about male and female gender. The man’s system is wired with aggression, yours with patience. Trying to respond or get back to men in their own way amounts to distortion of your own system. Don’t distort your system to get back at men. The more you do that, the more you lose your strength and feminity. It is important to stress that, this doesn’t just apply to a husband and wife relationship, it also applies to every relationship.

Although, the man may initially put up an aggressive disposition, but with your understanding of the power of a woman and adequately utilizing such, he would eventually end up in your control.

So, why nag at your husband, when Allah has bestowed much favor on you to control the situation? Why engage him in physical combat that is against your natural attributes, when you can make him humble using your emotional strength? Use your strength, not your weakness.

Just take gender issues as democracy, where we have executive and legislature. Men are the legislature, they make the laws, but women are the executive, they implement it.

The legislature (Men) can make laws for the executive (women), they can embark on oversight over women, approve the budget for women and can even question the executive (women) on virtually everything, but guess what? An executive (woman) who understands her strength, would always, at all times, get the legislature (men) to do her wishes. It is only when the executive (women) fail to understand, and make adequate use of their powers, that’s when the power of the legislature (Men) could overshadow the executive power.

It was the almighty Allah, who made women the executive of the world with so much powers of influence. He created you so beautiful and alluring beyond imagination, enriches you with other attractive physical features and then places under your possession, un-quantifiable emotional strength to control and give command without actually commanding.

God knows, women posses too much power beyond the reach of men, and if not checked, they could use it excessively negative. As they say, power corrupts, but absolute power corrupt absolutely. Allah in his infinite wisdom then made men the legislature, to serve as check to the enormous powers of women. This is a check and balance principle. That physical strength the almighty gave men that authority you see men wield; only exists to check the excessive usage of women power. It can’t prevent the usage of the power itself.

A popular Chinese proverb goes thus, “Women hold up half the sky.”

This is true even in Islam. To demonstrate the confidence of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon him) in women’s ability, the messenger of Allah had reportedly told his companion:

“Take half your religion from Aisha, the prophet’s wife”

The sky used in the Chinese proverb is not the sky we see up there, it only tells us about the power that has been divinely bestowed on women as emphasized by all religions of the world including Islam. While the Chinese proverb talked about women holding up half the sky, the prophet talked about women holding half the religion. It all point towards the same direction, the power of women.

The Quran and hadith sheds more light on how Islam regards women.

A man once asked Prophet Muhammad to whom he should show the most respect. The Prophet replied, “Your mother, then who’s next the man asked, the prophet replied again, your mother, then who is next he asked again, prophet replied again, your mother, before he finally said, your father.” There are lessons to be learnt here. 

Respect, power, and influence are surely three distinct concepts, but unfortunately, in order to gain respect, one must have a degree of power. This implies that, the respect accorded to women in Islam is not merely out of courtesy, but it is in recognition of their power in controlling issues through the use of their emotional strength.

Woman Who Represents A ‘’Big Other’’:

Slavoj Zizek, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London in an article titled, ‘’The power of the woman and the truth of Islam’’ analyzed the emergence of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) as a messenger and the powerful role of his wife, Khadijah.

According to him, there is in the pre-history of Islam, the story of Khadija, the first wife of Prophet Muhammad who enabled him to differentiate between truth and falsehood, between angelic messages and those demons.

Prophet Muhammad was of course, the first to doubt the divine origin of his visions, dismissing them as hallucinations, as signs of madness or as outright instances of demonic possession. His first revelation occurred during his Ramadan retreat outside Mecca at the cave of Hira, when the arch angel Gabriel appeared to him, calling upon him to recite!

Prophet Muhammad believed he was going mad, he decided to throw himself from a high rock. But then the vision repeated itself: he heard a voice saying: "O Muhammad! Thou art the apostle of God and I am Jibril(As),angel of God.” But even this voice did not reassure him; he returned to his house and, in deep despair, asked Khadijah(RA): "Wrap me in a blanket, wrap me up in a blanket."

Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) told his wife what had happened to him, and Khadija dutifully gave him comfort.

Here, women must understand that, for you to effectively make use of your power, you must be a believer who understands the art of providing comfort. You must establish yourself as a reliable partner, who can be relied upon by your partner for comfort, in time of despair. You must make yourself indispensable, to the extent that whenever he has any question or trouble, he should have confidence that you can help him out, with mere words or actions as you are ordained by Allah to be his comforter.

When, in the course of subsequent visions, Prophet Muhammad's doubts persisted, Khadijah asked him to tell her when his visitor returned so that they could verify whether it really was Angel Jibril or a demon. So, when the angel next came to Muhammad, Khadijah INSTRUCTED him. (Take note of the capital letter). She instructed him and he complied willingly. When a woman establishes herself as a reliable partner and comforter, she can give instructions or directives that would be strictly complied with without question. Khadijah said to the prophet, "Get up and sit by my left thigh" The prophet did so, and she said, Can you see him? Yes, he replied. Now turn round and sit on my right thigh. He did so, and she said, Can you see him? When he said that he could, Khadijah finally asked him to move and sit in her lap after casting aside her veil. She then asked again, Can you see him? And the prophet replied, No. She then comforted him: "Rejoice and be of good heart, he is an angel and not a Satan"

From all the above, it was established that, even the prophet himself do not have the knowledge or emotional strength to understand or differentiate between a demon and an angel. It took the emotional strength and knowledge of his wife to cause this to happen.

Only after Khadijah provided him with the proof of the authenticity of his visions was he cured of his doubts and could embrace his vocation as God's prophet. The first Muslim, in other words, was KHADIJAH. She represents what Jacques Lacan called the big Other, the guarantee of Truth of the subject's enunciation, and it is only in the guise of this circular support - through someone who believes in Muhammad himself - that he can believe in his own message and thus be the messenger of Truth. In essence, every woman can become the big Other, in the life of their family.

This should be emphasized: Khadijah possesses knowledge and wisdom about the truth, which precedes even the Prophet's knowledge. This powerful woman has shown women, example of how to assert your indirect authority over your entire house hold. While the man has the physical power and authority as seen in the public, the one who has the capacity to cause man to act in certain ways as she deems fit, is the woman.

Also, another lesson we must learn from the story of Khadijah is that, as a woman, it is mandatory that you equip yourself with adequate knowledge about wide range of issues to enable you guide your household on virtually everything.

Knowledge comes from quality education and enlightenment, you must acquire as much as you can. Don’t be a woman who rely on the man for everything, instead, be the one who assist him in everything, no matter how little. Don’t be the mother of your children, be the mother of your home. A mother of the home provides the need of everybody at home, including that of her husband; she is the teacher, the guide, the maker and the comforter.

Let me also add that, for your knowledge to be effective in managing your home, it must be accompanied with humility and submission. There is no gain in presenting yourself like a commander dishing out instructions, but as a teacher passionately pampering unwilling kids to be willing to learn.

We should all recall that, Prophet Muhammad never had another wife until the death of his powerful wife Khadijah. This goes to tell us that, while Islam permits men to marry more than one wife with its accompanied restrictions, a woman who understands her power can provide all the physical and emotional needs of a man to an extent that, he wouldn’t ever think of marrying another woman.

Women Power In Politics: 

A fair investigation of the teachings of Islam into the history of the Islamic civilization will surely find a clear evidence of woman's equality with man in what we call today’s political rights. This includes the right of election as well as the nomination to political offices. It also includes woman’s right to participate in public affairs.

Both in the Quran and in Islamic history, we find examples of women who engaged actively in politics and participated in serious discussions and debates even with the Prophet himself (peace be upon him).

During the Caliphate of Umar Ibn al-Khattab, a woman engaged the caliph in a debate in the mosque, which can be equated to the National Executive Council or the National Assembly. She eventually

proved her superior knowledge on the issue and caused Umar, the Caliph to declare in the presence of all: "She was right and Umar was wrong."

There also exist several women who played prominent role during the life of the prophet. I would have love to go deep into the past but time and space are regrettably the limiting factors.

However, talking about pre- modern role of women in leadership, the best-known women rulers in the pre-modern era include Khayzuran, who governed the Muslim Empire under three Abbasid caliphs in the eighth century. We also have Malika Asma bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya and Malika Arwa bint Ahmad al-Sulayhiyya, who both ruled in Yemen in the eleventh century. This is not to forget Sitt al-Mulk, a Fatimid queen of Egypt in the eleventh century and several other women rulers in the pre-modern era.

In the contemporary era, women have assumed leadership roles in the Muslim world. Benazir Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan (1988 – 90 , 1993 – 96 ), Tansu ├žiller was prime minister of Turkey (1993 – 96 ), and Shaykh Hasina was prime minister of Bangladesh ( 1996 ).

The above examples are to show that, women can participate in virtually every sphere of public affairs, but that must be based on clear knowledge and understanding. Women power lies in her knowledge and understanding of herself.

Just recently, the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISSC) in Amman, Jordan, released the third edition of The Muslim 500, an annual publication, highlighting the movers and shakers of the Muslim world. 13% of those featured are women and three of them made the top 50 most influential Muslims in the world.

Sheika Munira Qubeysi, head of the largest women-only Islamic movement in the world, placed 24th; Queen Rania, the most internationally recognizable, came in at 34; and Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser Al Missned, Chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation, was number 38. These are examples of women, who are striving to unleash the powers of women in the Muslim world.

Today, everybody wants to attend a University. But do you know who created the first University in the world? She was a woman. A Muslim woman. Fatima Al-fihriya: she founded the world’s first University in Fes, Morocco. The University still exists till today. So sisters, seek knowledge and use it effectively. It is your power to influence the world.

Conclusion:

So far, we have explored the extent of women power within the very limited scope of this article, and we have seen that, should the female gender chose to gradually learn and exercise her power, nothing, absolutely nothing can stop her from realizing her dreams and aspirations. In addition, if you [woman] equip yourself with the required information, nothing can prevent you from getting things done your way and most importantly; nothing could relegate you to mere struggling competitor.

Let me conclude by stating once again that, women are so powerful, not by the power conferred on them by any law or man, but that which Allah in His Divine wisdom deposited in them to cause things to be among the movers and shakers of the World; to be among those who can make things happen in their own ways, according to their wishes and directions. Women therefore, need not abandon their strengths in pursuit of their weaknesses. You should not compete with men in those areas of physical exhibition of aggression and greed, no matter the provocations. You are independent in your power and its utilization solely lies in your own hands.

However, you should be soft, peaceful, non aggressive, non confrontational, but employ the use of your emotional strength to put things under your control. "Your softness is your power, not your weakness. Likewise, your aggression is your weakness, not your strength".

Finally, women should make adequate use of their emotional strength as advantage, not compete with men in their quest to exercise physical authority. You should concentrate on your strength and

you would control both the men and their physical authority with little or no resistance, and without any form of confrontation or aggression.

Thank you.

(Abdulrazaq Hamzat is Executive Director Foundation for Peace Professionals. He can be reached via: 08076976917 and Discus4now@gmail.com)

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