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Hadith Studies

Question: I am studying Islam but can't find anything in the Koran or the Traditions to support the place of women outside the home. Is it not true that Islam wants to restrict women to having children and cooking food? [Usha, London, England]

ANSWER BY KAUKAB SIDDIQUE: Dear Usha, I have no idea why you can't find the relevant texts. There is no need for any argument or interpretation on this issue. Here is a clear text from the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I have put the Prophet's words in capitals:

"Ismail narrates from Ayyub who narrates from Hafsa: She said: We used to forbid our never married maidens from going out. A woman came and stayed at the mansion of the Bani Khalaf. She narrated that her sister was married to a companion of the messenger of Allah (peace be on him) who was with the messenger of Allah (pbuh) in 12 armed expeditions. Her sister was with him in six of these expeditions. She (the sister) said: We used to bandage the wounded and take care of the sick. She (the sister) asked the messenger of Allah (pbuh): Is there any harm if one of us does not go forth if she does not have an outer covering (jilbab)? He (the Prophet) said: "LET HER FEMALE FRIEND GIVE HER OF HER OUTER COVERINGS and SHE SHOULD TAKE PART IN THE GOOD WORKS and CALLS TO ALLAH (supplications) OF THE BELIEVERS." When Umm Atiyya (Allah be pleased with her) came, I (Hafsa) questioned her about it. Umm Attiya said: Let my father be sacrificed for him. (Whenever the Prophet's name was mentioned, she used to say so.) I asked: Have you heard the messenger of Allah (peace be on him) say so? She replied, Yes. By my father, he (the Prophet) told us: LET THE UNMARRIED MAIDENS AND THE YOUNG VIRGINS WHO STAY HIDDEN AND THE MENSTRUATING ONES GO FORTH TO TAKE PART IN THE GOOD DEEDS AND CALLS TO ALLAH (supplications) OF THE MUSLIMS. ONLY, THE MENSTRUATING ONES SHOULD NOT BE ON THE ACTUAL PRAYER AREA. I (Hafsa) asked (Umm Attiya): Even the menstruating women? She replied: Don't they (the menstruating women) go to Arafat and such and such places? [Hadith in Bukhari's Sahih, kitab al-Manasik.]

ANALYSIS by Kaukab Siddique: Muslims, by definition, are one nation and one community. However, for this community to become real, Muslims must learn to respect each other and to work together for good causes, starting at the basic level of man and woman. Decency and modesty are important in Islam but this virtue must not be a cloistered virtue. To achieve real virtue, one must practice virtue within the community.

The hadith (above) begins by mentioning Hafsa's mistaken notion that single women must not go out into community activities. Then along came a woman who talked about her sister who had participated in six armed expeditions (ghazwat) . Although she was part of the ambulance brigade, she did go forth to the battlefield. Hafsa got this narration confirmed by Umm Attiya (Allah be pleased with her) one of the greatest female companions of the Prophet (pbuh).

Note that the Prophet did not accept the excuse of lack of adequate clothing. Friends can always share dresses. The essential thing is to be part of the struggle. There is no indication whatever that the Prophet (pbuh) would want women to be secluded or separated from the men. Decent dress and modest attitude is all that is needed. TAQWA (God-conscious behavior) is the key.

The biggest surprise for Hafsa was the Prophet's urging that even menstruating women go forth. No mosque or gathering place is holier than the ground of Arafat, and menstruating women can and do go there. They should stay away from actual formal prayer. (Another aspect often forgotten is that in those days it was difficult to stop the blood flow and the place of prayer would be bloodied.)

Note also that this hadith in a number of ways contradicts the idea that reporting or witnessing by ONE MUSLIM WOMAN is not valid. Ismail accepted from Ayyub (both males) a narration from ONE WOMAN Hafsa and Imam Bukhari unhesitatingly placed it in his Sahih. The second part of the narration is again from one woman Umm Attiya (Allah be pleased with her).

[This part is FOR MUSLIMS ONLY.]
CRITIQUE of DR. MUSHSIN KHAN'S TRANSLATION: Dr. Khan's translation of Bukhari in 9 volumes has this hadith in volume 2 on page 418 and it is numbered 714. The translator has made a number of errors. Firstly he adds the words "On Ids" and "for Id prayer" at the beginning and end of the first sentence narrated by Hafsa. If any expert in Arabic can point out where these additions of Dr. Khan are available in the text, please let me know. Secondly, he mentions the "menstruating ones" only once, leaving out the first reference as given in my translation. Again see the Arabic. Thirdly, he DOES NOT KNOW THAT HAFSA HERE IS NOT THE DAUGHTER of Umar Ibn al-Khattab (r.a.) and the wife of the Prophet (pbuh). Dr. Khan mistakenly puts (radi Allahu unha) in front of her name. He should study the Tabqat of Ibn Saad to find out who was this narrator. If she had been the illustrious wife of the Prophet and custodian of the Qur'an, she would not have had to ask Umm Attiya (r.a.). Fourthly, Dr. Khan blunders by translating jilbab as "veil" and his translation comes out as "She should cover herself with the veil of her companion." (Is that physically possible?) Most early scholars of Islam agree that jilbab is the outer garment or covering.

Some close Saudi associates of Dr. Khan have issued a summary of Sahih Bukhari from which this hadith has been omitted.

2003-10-12 Sun 12:07ct