The Ideal Muslimah
In the preceding pages, I have explained the character of the Muslim woman as Islam wants her to be, according to the wise guidance it gives her in all aspects of life and in the forming of her mind, soul, psyche, morals and behaviour. This is referred to quite clearly in many ayat and sahih hadith, which strike a precise balance in her character, in such a way that no one aspect dominates at the expense of another, and vividly describe the ideal way of dealing with one's parents, relatives, husband, children, neighbours, friends and sisters in Islam, and others whom one meets in the society in which one lives.
The previous chapters explained that the Muslim woman's role is not merely to stay at home, nursing children and taking care of the home. In addition to all that, the Muslim woman is in fact raising a heroic new generation, playing an important role in da`wah and making an important, constructive contribution in all areas of life, working side-by-side with men to populate and cultivate the earth, enrich life and make people happy.
It is abundantly clear that the Muslim woman who is guided by Islam is pure, constructive, productive, alert, aware, educated and refined. She fully understands her duties towards Allah (SWT), and towards herself, her parents, her husband and children, her relatives, her neighbours, her friends and sisters in Islam, and her society as a whole, with all the different types of people, events and transactions it includes.
She believes in Allah (SWT) and the Last Day; she is alert to the trials of this life and the traps of the Shaytan; she worships Allah (SWT), obeys His commands, heeds His prohibitions, accepts His will and decree, returns to His protection and seeks His forgiveness when she stumbles or becomes negligent; she is aware of her responsibility before Allah (SWT) towards the members of her family; she is keen to please Him by whatever she does; she understands the true meaning of being a servant of Allah (SWT) and supports His true religion; she enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil as much as she is able.
She is aware of her obligations towards herself, understanding that she is a human being composed of a body, mind and soul, each of which has its own needs and requirements. Hence she is careful to strike the right balance between her body, mind and spirit; she does not devote attention to one at the expense of the others, rather, she devotes to each of them the attention that is needed to form a balanced personality, always guided by the wise teachings of Islam as seen in the Qur'an, Sunnah and example of the righteous salaf who followed in the footsteps of the Prophet (PBUH) with all sincerity.
She takes care of her outward appearance without going to extremes of excess or showing off, and she takes care of her inner nature in a manner that befits the human being whom Allah (SWT) has honoured by making the angels prostrate to him and subjugating all that is in heaven and earth for his benefit. In this way, she develops a balanced, likeable character, one that is attractive both in appearance and in her thinking, reasoning, behaviour and reactions.
She does not allow her care of her body and mind to distract her from spiritual matters; she devotes just as much attention to her spiritual development, and polishes her soul through worship, dhikr and reading Qur'an. Her guideline in all of this is to maintain a precise balance between all aspects of her personality.
She treats her parents with kindness and respect. She knows their status, and her duties towards them, and she is very cautious not to disobey them. She never spares any effort to find the best way to treat them properly, and she surrounds them with every type of care, honour and respect.
With her husband, she is an ideal wife, intelligent, respectful, obedient, tolerant and loving, eager to please him and to respect and honour his family. She conceals his secrets, and helps him to be righteous, to fear Allah (SWT) and to do good deeds. She fills his heart with happiness, peace and tranquillity.
With her children, she is a loving, compassionate mother who wisely understands the great importance of her motherly role in bringing them up. She makes them aware of her love and care for them, and never withholds right guidance from them or fails to correct them if they need it, so that they will grow up with an ideal Islamic upbringing that will cultivate in them the best morals and attitudes and a love for the highest things.
With her daughters- and sons-in-law, she is kind, fair and wise, and offers them sincere advice. She does not interfere in their private matters. She treats them well and strives to strengthen the bonds of love and to ward off the evils of disputes.
With her relatives, she upholds the ties of love, and does not neglect to keep in touch and treat them well. She is keen to maintain the relationship even if they do not uphold the ties, acting in obedience to the teachings of Islam, which urge the upholding of the ties of kinship with love and affection.
She treats her neighbours well and is concerned about them. She knows the great rights they have, which Jibril emphasised to the Prophet (PBUH) so strongly that the Prophet thought he was going to make them his heirs. So she likes for them what she likes for herself. She treats them well, respects their feelings, puts up with their insults, turns a blind eye to their faults and mistakes, and is careful not to mistreat them or to fall short in her treatment of them.
With her friends and sisters in Islam, she is distinguished from other women by the way in which she builds her relationship with them on a basis of love for the sake of Allah (SWT), which is the highest and purest love that exists among human beings, as it is free from any impurity or ulterior motive and its purity is derived from the light of the Revelation and Prophetic guidance. Therefore the Muslim woman is sincere and tolerant in her feelings of love and sisterhood towards her sisters, and she is keen to maintain the ties of sisterhood and love between her and them. She does not cut them off, forsake them, gossip about them, hurt their feelings with hostile arguments and disputes, bear grudges, or withhold any favour she could do for them, and she always greets them with a cheerful, smiling face.
In her relationship with her society, she is a social being of the highest class, because of what she has learned of the wise teachings of Islam concerning social dealings and high morals. From the rich spring of Islam she derives her customs, habits and behaviour and the ethics and values which purify her soul and form her distinct social character.
She is of good character (has a good attitude towards others) and is sincere and straightforward with all people. She does not cheat, deceive or stab in the back. She is not a hypocrite. She does not speak falsely (or bear false witness). She offers sincere advice and guides others to good deeds. She keeps her promises. She has the characteristic of modesty and self-respect. She does not interfere in that which does not concern her. She avoids slandering the honour of others and seeking out their faults. She does not show off. She is fair in her judgements of others. She does not oppress others. She is fair even to those whom she does not like. She does not rejoice in the misfortunes of others. She avoids suspicion. She restrains her tongue from malicious gossip. She avoids cursing and obscene speech. She does not make fun of anybody. She is gentle with people. She is compassionate. She strives to benefit others and protect them from harm. She eases the hardship of one who is suffering. She is generous. She does not remind the beneficiaries of her charity. She is patient. She is tolerant. She does not bear grudges or harbour resentment. She is easy-going, not harsh. She is not envious. She avoids boasting and showing off. She does not speak in an affected or exaggerated manner. She has a likeable personality. She is friendly and likeable. She keeps secrets. She is of cheerful countenance. She has a sense of humour. She tries to make people happy. She is not over-strict. She is not arrogant. She is humble. She is modest in her dress and appearance. She pursues noble things. She is concerned about the affairs of the Muslims. She honours guests. She prefers others to herself. She measures her habits and customs against the standards of Islam. She uses the greeting of Islam. She does not enter any house other than her own without permission. She sits wherever she finds room in a gathering. She does not converse privately with another woman when a third is present. She respects her elders and distinguished people. She does not look into any house other than her own. She chooses work that suits her feminine nature. She does not imitate men. She calls others to the truth. She enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil. She is wise and eloquent in her da`wah. She mixes with righteous women. She hastens to reconcile between Muslim women. She mixes with women and puts up with their insults. She appreciates favours and is grateful for them. She visits the sick. She does not attend funerals.
This is the personality of the Muslim woman as defined by the teachings of Islam.
No doubt the Muslim woman is the most refined example of womanhood ever known in any human society. Along with all the fine qualities listed above, the Muslim woman also possesses wisdom, purity of soul, a high level of spirituality, a sound concept of life, the universe and humanity, and a deep awareness of her important role in life.
Surely a woman's reaching such a high level of intellectual, psychological, spiritual and moral development is a great human blessing, which is unequalled by any of the many other blessings that human beings enjoy. It is a cultural achievement greater than any other reached by humanity in its long history. The fact that women have reached this high level of development means that they are mature and are fully qualified to play their important role in life.
What we see today in many parts of the Muslim world of Muslim women's backwardness and failure to reach that high level that Islam wants for them, is a result of the fact that the Muslims in general have wandered far away from the pure sources of Islam and have become lost in various kinds of jahiliyyah or intellectual and psychological dependency on others. None of this would have happened to the Muslims in general, and Muslim women in particular, if the Muslims had preserved their spiritual and intellectual sources properly, and men and women had drunk from these pure sources which would have given them immunity, originality and distinction.
Whilst the attack on the Muslim world was aimed at the identity of the Muslims in general, men and women alike, to disrupt it and to contaminate its original intellectual sources, no doubt many prongs of this attack were aimed at the Muslim woman in particular, with the aim of stripping her of the dress of virtue by which she had been known throughout history, and making her wear the alien, tight-fitting, borrowed dress that makes her look like a copy of foreign women in her appearance, thinking and behaviour.
Tremendous efforts were devoted to the call for the Westernization of Muslim women by various societies, organizations and movements. Al-hamdu lillah, all of it ended in failure in the face of the reawakening of educated Muslim women who understood the teachings of Islam. Many of the men and women who supported Westernization have now retreated, admitting the depth of the Muslim woman's belief, and the originality of Islam in her thinking, psychology and feelings.
The great hopes that are pinned on the Muslim woman, who is aware of her role, require her to be even stronger in proving her Islamic identity, wherever she may live and whatever her circumstances may be. By reinforcing her Islamic identity, she clearly demonstrates her awareness, high aims, sincerity and devotion to Islam and its distinctive culture. This is also indicative of her ability to contribute to the revival of the ummah to which she belongs and the development of the country she lives in.