Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day every day, not just once a year (March 8)! Let us show reverence for the wombs that brought us into this world. Let’s treat all women, everywhere, with the love and respect we owe them.
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All Praise is due to Allah, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad, peace and blessings on him, is His servant, and His Messenger.
“O You who believe – Be aware of Allah, with correct awareness, an awe-inspired awareness, and die not except as Muslims.”
“O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His Prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory.”
Servants of Allah! In the opening verse of Surah An-Nisa’, Allah the Most High says:
“O mankind! Show reverence towards your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate and from the two of them scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;― Be conscious of Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (show reverence towards) the wombs (that bore you): for surely, Allah ever watches over you.”
My Dear Brothers and Sisters! Two weeks ago, March 8 was International Women’s Day (IWD). I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate this sermon to our sisters, the women of Islam.
In the verse I have just read, the opening verse of Surah Nisa’, Allah commands us to “Show reverence towards the wombs that bore you, for surely, Allah ever watches over you.”
My people! What does it mean to show reverence? The dictionaries tell us that reverence is “deep respect.” Allah commands us to show deep respect to our mothers, our sisters and our daughters. I ask you, my dear brothers, are we doing so? Are we really treating our mothers, sisters and daughters with the same love and respect that we have for our fathers, our brothers and sons? Really?
My good, respected people! Look around you and you will see that there are some really appalling situations in many parts of the Muslim world. Our womenfolk are often treated very shabbily, not by others, but by their own fathers, brothers and sons. Their education is often neglected. This is wrong. Forced marriages and so called “honour killings” have also nothing to do with Islam. These are dishonourable tribal practices that are forbidden in our religion. Sadly, many of these abuses are still rampant, even amongst “educated Muslims” living in the Islamic world today.
My Dear Brothers! We have to liberate ourselves from these backward, from these ancient tribal attitudes that Islam abolished over 14 centuries ago. It was common then to even bury newborn girls alive in those days. Sayyidna Umar, the second Khalifah of Islam, once laughed aloud and then sadness crossed his face, and tears rolled down his cheeks. A Companion asked, “Ya Umar, why do you laugh, and why do you cry?” He replied: “I laugh because I remember the days before Islam, in the time of Jahiliyyah, when we were travelling and we got so hungry because we had no food. All we had was an idol of one of our gods, which we had made out of dates. We were so desperately hungry that we were forced to eat our god, or else we would starve, Our God couldn’t even save himself.” “And why did you cry?” “I cried because I also remember the time I buried my newborn daughter alive. My face was covered with dust from digging the grave. And as I put her down there, she looked up at me and I can still feel her tiny hand, gently wiping the dust from my face.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters! This was Sayyidna Umar, a beloved Companion and Successor of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). It’s rather sad to read that in some parts of the world today, girl babies are still being killed and buried because the parents prefer boys. Islam banned this horrible custom over 1438 years ago.
The Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) declared that:
“The best of you are those who are best to their wives (or their women).”
And if you read about the life of our beloved Prophet (Pbuh), you may be surprised to learn that he mended his own clothes and shoes, he cooked, he cleaned, he helped with the housework. He played around with his wives and children, and he was never too proud to do the most humble tasks.
Therefore we men must stop being such chauvinists! There are many good aspects of the modern struggle for women’s rights: equal pay, equal opportunities and so on. But there are also some problems. Islam forbids same-sex marriage and relationships, transgender identities and so on. Islam doesn’t approve of men imitating women and women imitating men, confusing their identities. Men and women were created separate, distinct and complementary, not contradictory. This was to fulfil a divine purpose. Our roles as brothers and sisters, husbands and wives should be there to complete and enhance family life and society as a whole. The purpose is to ensure the continuation of the human species, as true custodians, caretakers of Allah’s creation, khaleefatullaah Fil Ard. Allah created this world to serve us, and He created us to serve Him. As the Noble Quran declares:
“I have only created human beings and Jinn (subtle beings) to worship Me.”
At the end of the day, my dear brothers and sisters, this is what our whole life is all about: to serve Allah as believing men and believing women, in the right way as Allah alone deserves.
Servants of Allah! International Women’s Day seeks to draw attention to the long struggle for equal pay, equal rights before the law and equal respect for women everywhere. This is also a good time for Muslim men to reflect on how far we still have to go in challenging our own attitudes. Some of us have deeply entrenched tribal and cultural habits that are downright un-Islamic. We often boast about how Islam came to liberate women, give them rights of property ownership and inheritance, centuries before Christian Europe. But we have no right to point fingers at others when our own women still are carrying the heavy burden of tribal and cultural baggage.
Our daughters have a right to education. They also have a right to legitimate work, to own businesses and to develop their God-given talents so that all humankind benefits. They have a right to be loved and respected no less than our sons. We seem to forget that the Mother of the Believers, Khadijah, the Prophet’s first wife was also the first Muslim. She comforted him in his moments of distress. She reassured him in his moments of self-doubt. “Cover me, cover me!” he pleaded, shaking with fear and terrified after his first encounter with Jibril. “Khadijah, what is happening to me? I’m worried about myself.” “Don’t say that! I swear that Allah would never embarrass or hurt you, because you care about your relatives; you speak truthfully; you help those who cannot help themselves; you protect the poor; you welcome guests; and you support those who have suffer injustice.”
Khadijah was not only his wife. She was also his employer. She owned property and ran a wealthy business. Many years after she died, he married another “Mother of the Believers,” Aisha bint Abu Bakr, who became one of the most important original sources of Islamic Law. A huge body of Hadith are attributable directly to her.
My respected people! There are so many great Muslim women who set us a shining example to follow. There was Asiyah, Pharaoh’s (Fir’awn) wife, who refused to worship her husband as a god. For her defiance, she gave her life. She was tortured and put to death. In her dying moments Allah showed her a palace waiting for her in Al-Jannah (Paradise), and she smiled as the boulders smashed her body.
And Remember the purity and devotion of Prophet Isa, Jesus’s mother, Maryam/Mary. Allah devoted an entire chapter Suratu Maryam in the Noble Quran in her name.
What about Rabi’a Al-Adwiyyah, from whose love for Allah we have learnt some of the most beautiful prayers? One day she prayed alone in her room, not realising that she might be overheard. She said:
“Ya Allah, If I should worship you because I am greedy for heaven, then close the doors of heaven to me. O Allah, if I should worship you because I’m fearful of hell, then throw me into hell. But O Allah, if I should worship you because you alone deserve to be worshipped, then please, do not turn your Face away from me!”
Her employer, who wasn’t Muslim, overheard this beautiful du’ah and it turned his heart to Islam. Allah is “muqallibul qulub” The Turner of Hearts. Remember the Prophetic prayer:
“O Turner of hearts, turn my heart towards your obedience.”
Brothers and Sister! There is a long list of Great Women in Islam. In the 9th Century, Fatima al-Fihri had a big inheritance from her father, a wealthy merchant. Instead of splashing it out in the nearest shopping mall (or medieval market), she built the largest mosque in North Africa, and the world’s oldest university and the oldest library in Fes, Morocco. This is the Al-Qarawiyyin University, library and mosque that still stand today. Imagine the immense Sadaqa Jaariyah of accumulated blessings over 1,200 years!
From Fez, go to Aleppo in Syria. Aleppo is in a mess today, but in the 10th Century you’d find Maryam Al-Astrulabi there, an engineer and designer of astrolabes. On these interlocking brass disks she engraved maps of the stars. It was the first satnav GPS system to find the qibla and to help travellers navigate over land and sea for many centuries.
What about Nana Asma’u, the daughter of Great Mujaddid, Shaykh Usman Bin Fodio, who also became one of the most important source of Islamic knowledge. A huge body of books are attributable directly to her.
My respected people! The list of talented, educated and influential Muslim women goes on and on, but my time for this Sermon doesn’t go on and on!
Dear Brothers! I remind myself first, and I urge you also to free yourself from all the heavy tribal and cultural baggage that oppresses our sisters. Let us go back to the Noble Prophetic example. Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day every day, not just once a year (March 8)! Let us show reverence for the wombs that brought us into this world. Let’s treat all women, everywhere, with the love and respect we owe them.
Servants of Allah! Before ending my today’s sermon I must mention briefly the history of five important Muslim women for us to reflect.
As I mentioned, Muslim’s women have been a very pivotal to Islamic history. They not only participated in politics and kinship but were also educators.
Here are five women in history of the world history books never taught us about, and no mainstream feminist ever referred to:
1. Fatima al-Fihri (?-880)
A turning point in the history of education.
Fatima al-Fihri as I said earlier, is credited with establishing the world’s oldest and still-operating university – the University of al-Qarawiyyin. She belonged to the al-Fihri family which migrated from Tunisia to Morocco. After inheriting a lot of wealth, she vowed to build a madrassa for her community. It later became a Mosque, and is now a functioning university in Islamic education.
The world’s oldest library (which reopened after restoration this May 2016) has a collection of 4000 manuscripts. Yep, thanks to Fatima al-Fihri.
2. Maryam al-Ijliya
Though it isn’t by Maryam, yet we can see how intricate this thing is. And Maryam was the best at this.
An astrolabe was an ancient instrument used to detect the position of the Sun and other celestial objects in the sky, a kind of extremely primitive form of GPS. Maryam al-Ijliya apprenticed with the famous astrolabe-maker, Bitolus (or Nastulus), in 10th century Syria. Her designs were so innovative and accurate that Sayf al-Dawla (944-967), the ruler of Aleppo, employed her. Though many of her astrolobes have not been signed or marked by her. We only know about her from the accounts of ibn al-Nadeem, a Muslim scholar and bibliographer. She wasn’t called “al-Asturlabi” for no reason.
3. Dhayfa Khatun (12th century)
The al-Firdaus Mosque
Not much is known about her. She was the queen of Aleppo for six years, and the wife of Aleppo’s ruler – al-Zahir Ghazi. She took special interest in architecture, and is the founder of two Islamic schools – al-Firdaus and Khankah School. Dhayfa Khatun passionately funded all the scientists in her kingdom. Added to that, she removed all unfair taxes prevalent. Khatun also maintained large endowments for charitable organisations. Reasons some scholars are given why women should be given the chance to become head of the state.
4. Nana Asma’u (1793-1864)
Asma’u’s contribution towards women’s education was a fight against repression.
Asma’u was a poetess, teacher, and a princess of the Sokoto Caliphate. Her poems were used to teach the Caliphate’s founding principles. She is often regarded as a pioneering figure in African feminism. Asma’u taught girls and boys together, like many women in her family. One way in which she made a huge impact on women’s education was by training a network of women as educators who traveled around, educating masses. The title of her biography beautifully sums up her life – One Woman’s Jihad.
5. Amina of Zaria (1533-1610)
She was not only dexterous at the battlefield but also in ruling her kingdom.
She was born in 1533, and was the eldest daughter of Bakhwa Turunku, who founded the Zazzau Kingdom in 1536. Aged 16, she became the queen of the kingdom. In her 34-year reign, she participated in the battlefield and expanded Zazzau to its largest size ever. Fun fact: her aim was not to expand territory, but concentrated on forcing the rulers a safe passage for traders of her kingdom.
Brothers and Sisters! Let me also mention the story of one of the great daughters of Islam we are proud of:
“During the reign of Umar Bin al-Khattab, one day, Umar while passing by a small house, the Caliph heard whispering from within. A mother was telling her daughter that the amount of milk fetched by her, for sale that day was very little. She further told her that, when she was young, and used to sell milk, she always mixed water in the milk, and that led to considerable profit. She advised her daughter to do the same. The daughter replied, “You adulterated milk, when you were not a Muslim. Now that we are Muslims, we cannot adulterate milk. Have you forgotten the Caliph’s order? He wants that the milk should not be adulterated.” The mother said, “But the Caliph has forgotten us. We are so poor, what else should we do but adulterate the milk in order have a large profit?” The daughter said “Such a profit would not be lawful, and as a Muslim, I would not do anything which is against the orders of the Caliph, and whereby other Muslims are deceived.” The mother said, “But there is neither the Caliph nor any of his officers here to see what we do. Daughter you are still a child. Go to bed now and tomorrow I myself will mix the milk with water for you.” The girl refused to fall in with the plan of her mother. She said, “Caliph may or may not be here, but his order must be obeyed. My conscience is my Caliph. You may escape the notice of the Caliph and his officers, but how can we escape the notice of Allah and our own conscience?” Thereupon the mother remained quiet. The lamp was extinguished and the mother and the daughter went to sleep. The next day, Caliph Umar sent a man to purchase milk from the girl. The milk was unadulterated. The girl kept her resolve.” Allahu Akbar!
To conclude, Allah the Most High said:
“Surely Allah commands justice, good deeds and generosity to others and to relatives; and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, so that you may be reminded.” “and remember Me: I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject faith.” “and without doubt, Remembrance of Allah is the Greatest Thing in life, and Allah knows the deeds that you do.”
I ask Allah to assist us in living by the Quran and Sunnah. I pray that He lets us recognize the truth for what it is and helps us to follow it, and that He lets us see falsehood for what it is and helps us to avoid it.
O Allah! Guide us and protect us from the causes of ignorance and destruction! Save us from the defects of ourselves! Cause the last of our deeds to be the best and most righteous! And forgive all of us, ameen.
My respected people! Anything good I have said in my today’s Khutbah (Sermon) is from Allah the Al-Mighty, and any mistakes are my own and we seek refuge in Allah from giving wrong advice and from all forms of calamities and fitnah. And I ask Allah’s forgiveness if I stepped beyond bounds in anything I said or I do.
May Allah be praised; and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.
With this, I conclude my Khutbah (Sermon) and ask Allah, the Almighty and the sublime, to forgive all of our sins. So seek his forgiveness, He is all forgiving Most Merciful.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Jumaada Ath-Thaani 25, 1438 A.H. (March 24, 2017), By Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene Kogi State Nigeria. He can be reached through: +2348038289761.