Women during the Lifetimes of the Prophets (a.s.)
- :Al-Balagh Foundation
Woman had a prominent and important role during the course of divine summons and the movements of the prophets and messengers (a.s.). Woman took part in the intellectual and political struggle, and suffered from torture, murder, emigration, persecution, oppression, and mental and political terrorism. She made public her view freely and joined the divine mission inspite of her loss of authority and property. For instance, Mary, the mother of Jesus (a.s.) who was praised by the Holy Qur'an and the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (s.a.w.) too. In many verses, the Qur'an has lauded this lady and offered her as an example to men and women to follow her behavior and the righteousness of her thinking and character.
Whoever studies the history of woman finds that the divine message addresses both the man and the woman. In other words, the divine message does not make any distinction between them because of their gender.
When we study some historical examples of the life of women in the course of the divine message, we will understand the important and active position which woman occupied during the lives of the prophets and their messages. Thus, the value of woman, her intellectual and political participation, and her lawful and humane rights appear in Islamic society. We can understand this important and active participation of woman when we read the story of the struggle of the father of the prophets, Abraham (a.s.), against his people in Bablon, in the land of Iraq, and his struggle against Nimrud. That struggle ended for Abraham (a.s.) when he was saved from the fire through a divine miracle that exceeded all the imaginations of material intellect. So, he emigrated to Syria. Sarah, his wife, was the first to believe him and to accompany him during his flight to Syria. Then they emigrated to Egypt. Then they returned to Syria to live there. Abraham (a.s.) started the most important period in the history of man. Meanwhile, his wife, Sarah, supported him and stood beside him throughout his struggle, sufferings, and emigration.
The Qur'an talks about the story of this emigration and the family life. It also talks about the role of Hajar (Hagar), the second wife of Abraham (a.s.), and her participation in creating the brightest period in history at Holy Mecca in Saudi Arabia. That was when Abraham (a.s.) brought her from Egypt.
The story of Hajar is one of the most famous of all the stories in history. Thus, she became very famous in history when she took care of her son, Prophet Ismael (a.s.), in a valley unproductive of fruit near the Sacred House. Then Ismael (a.s.) became the grandfather of the greatest Prophet in the history of mankind, Muhammad (s.a.w.). The Qur'an has recorded these events when it says:
"O Our Lord! Verily I have housed a part of my offspring in a valley uncultivable, nigh unto Your Holy House..." Holy Qur'an (Abraham, 14:37)
Moreover, the Qur'an talks about the mother of Moses (a.s.) when Allah inspired her to save Moses (a.s.) from Pharaoh. The Qur'an notes that Allah honored her when he returned Moses to her to raise for the wife of Pharoah. Later, Moses saved his people from oppression and destroyed the greatest tyrant in the history of mankind. The Qur'an has mentioned this woman as a basic axle in creating these events. Then the Qur'an talks about Pharaoh's wife, Asiya, and the mother of Jesus (a.s.). The Qur'an has shown them as an example to generations to follow them. In this connection the Qur'an says:
"And Allah sets forth an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh, when said she: O My Lord! Build for me a house with You in the Garden and deliver me from Pharaoh and his doing, and deliver me from the unjust people.' And Mary the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; and breathed We into it (her body) of Our Spirit, and she testified the truth of the words of her Lord, and His Scriptures, and she was of the obedient ones." Holy Qur'an (Tahrim 66:11-12)
Let us read these two verses and consider carefully their wonderful intellectual meaning that talks about the character of woman with honor and respect which no material civilization grants her. The Qur'an has offered the righteous woman as a practical example to men and women to follow her. This has been mentioned in the verse: "And Allah sets forth an example to those who believe." The phrase ""And Allah sets forth an example." and the phrase "to those who believe" explain clearly for us a unique concept in the world of thought and civilization concerning the righteous woman. The Qur'an has offered them as an ideal example to both men and women to follow them in thought and socio-political attitude. It has shown two examples to the high character of the believing woman and her position in Islamic thought. It has shown Pharoah's wife, the Queen of Egypt, the Lady of crown, palace, power, policy, and the great state at that time. However, she challenged the authorities. The Qur'an has also shown Mary, daughter of Imran, who challenged the haughtiness and plot of the children of Israel.
As the woman played an important role during the lives of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them), she played the same role during the life of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his mission. This unique ideological role was played by Khadija bint Khwaylid (a.s.). It is worth mentioning, Khadija (a.s.) belonged to tribe of Quraish. She was the Lady of the society and had a remarkable position at Holy Mecca. She had wealth, trade, and position. She was the first woman to believe in Prophet Muhammad's (s.a.w.) message. Accordingly she believed in his prophethood and spent her money to support him. For him, she suffered all persecutions throughout the ten years of her holy life, be his side. She endured all the sufferings of the siege that lasted for three years. Thus, she has become among the greatest women in the history of Islam. For this reason, Allah's Apostle (s.a.w.) called the year when she died the Year of Sadness.
Muslims magnify this Lady very much. They follow her behavior and noble attitudes.
In a conversation with his wife A'isha concerning Khadija's character, the Prophet said: "Allah has not recompensed me with better than her. She was the mother of the family and a house-wife. She believed me when the people accused me of lying. She supported me with her money when the people deprived me (of that). She bore me a son when I was deprived (of that) from other than her." 17
Again he talked bout her, saying: "Indeed, I love those who love her." 18
Then the Prophet (s.a.w.) talked about his daughter Fatima, the chaste: "Fatima is part of me. Whoever hurts her hurts me." 19
One day he was asked: "Which of your family is the most lovable to you?" "Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad," he said. 20
From these texts we understand the position and character of the woman during the lifetime of the Prophet (s.a.w.). This attitude of the Prophet represents the best evaluation and respect to the position of the woman in Islam.
Through this brief Qur'anic and historical explanation, we understand that the woman looked after the great prophets and supported them. This was embodied during the lifetimes of Abraham, Moses, Ismael, Jesus (a.s.), and Muhammad (s.a.w.), who were the greatest of all the prophets and messengers and the leaders of thought, righteousness, and divine civilization in the earth.
The Qur'an has recorded the role of the woman during the lifetime of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his mission. It has also mentioned that the women took part in emigrating with the Prophet and struggling before him. In this connection, the Qur'an has mentioned both men and women when it talks about emigration, pledge of allegiance, mission, good reward, the relationship between men and women, etc. There are hundreds of verses in the Qur'an about these matters. The following are some of them:
"And the believer men and the believer women, they are guardians to one another; they enjoin good and forbid evil."
Holy Qur'an (Towba 9:71)
"And my Lord! Forgive You me and my parents and him who enters my abode believing (in You) and the believer men and the believer women, and increase not unto the unjust ones in aught save perdition!"
Holy Qur'an (Noah 71:28)
"The day you shall see the faithful men and faithful women, with their light running before them,..."
Holy Qur'an (Hadid 57:12)
In these verses, the Qur'an raises the woman to the highest position and treats her as it treats the man. In the concept of the Islamic message, the man and the woman support each other to communicate the thought. They both reform society and remove corruption and crime. They both convey the message of good and peace and righteousness throughout the earth.
In the second verse, Prophet Noah (a.s.) asked his Lord to forgive both believing men and women. Through the meaning of this prayer, the principles of honoring, love, and respect for the woman spread. That is because the supplication for a certain person has all these meanings.
The Qur'an pictures that believing men and women will be in a halo of light on the day when they meet their Lord to receive their reward according to their deeds.
Thus, we understand that the Qur'an has granted the righteous woman love and support. Besides it has summoned (people) to ask their Lord to forgive the believing woman and bless her. Moreover, it has surrounded the believing woman with a halo of light. Such a woman is she who follows Asiya Pharoah's wife), Mary (the mother of Jesus), Khadija (the wife of Prophet Muhammad [s.a.w.]), and Fatima (the daughter of Muhammad [s.a.w.]).
Apart from this, we understand the high character of woman and respect towards her when we know that the first martyr in Islam was Sumayya, the mother of the great companion Ammar b. Yasir. She was killed by Abu Sufyan, the leader of the polytheists. Thus, Sumayya sacrificed her life for the principles of the Islamic message. That was when the confrontation took place between the terrorists and tyrants, and Muhammad (s.a.w.) and the deprived and slaves who followed the message of Islam to give them their rights and to save them from ignorance and exploitation.
A number of the deprived women hurried to believe in the Prophet (s.a.w.) at the beginning of his mission.
They endured pain, torture, and persecution. So, they emigrated to Habasha and Medina. They supported Allah and His Apostle (s.a.w.) strongly.
The character of the righteous women clearly appear when we look at the view that surrounds the martyrs whom the Qur'an has mentioned:
"And the earth shall get radiant with the light of its Lord, and the Book (of deeds) shall be set, and the prophets shall be brought up and the witnesses, and (it shall) be judged between them, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly." Holy Qur'an (Zumar 39:69)
The Muslim woman has not discovered her true position in Islam yet and the Muslim man has not known the true position of the woman in Islam yet. So the relationship between them has become disordered and it will not become ordered until they both follow the principles of the Qur'an and recognise the rights of each other.
If the woman who follows the material civilization knows her position and respect in Islam, she will embrace it.
17. Isaf Raghibin. Shiblanji, Nur Absar, p.96.
18. Muslim, Sahih, (Dar Ihya Turath Arabi) vol.15, p.201.
19. Tirmidhi, Sunan. Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol.4, p.5. Nisa'i, Khasa'is, p.25.
20. Tabari, Thakh'ir Uqba, p.36.
Adopted from the book : "Woman and Society" by : "Al-Balagh Foundation"
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