PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
All praise and blessings be to Allah (SWT), as befits His glory and the greatness of His power. Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the most noble of the Prophets and Messengers, whom Allah (SWT) sent to bring life to the Arabs and mercy to the worlds.
For a long time, I have been wanting to write a book on the Muslim woman, but for too long I was not able to find the means to fulfil this wish, as life kept me too busy with other things. But I was still very keen to write a book that would explain the character of the righteous Muslim woman who is guided by the teachings of her religion, understands its wisdom, follows its commandments and adheres to its limits.
Years passed by, when I was preoccupied with other matters, but my interest in this issue grew deeper. My desire to produce a book on this topic increased because I felt that it was of great importance: it would cast light on the life of the Muslim woman and explain how her character should be, in accordance with the will of Allah (SWT) and her understanding of the high status to which Allah (SWT) has raised her. For years I was determined to write such a book, until Allah (SWT) blessed me and enabled me to write it in 1410 AH/1994 CE.
The reason for my interest in presenting the character of the Muslim woman stems from the inconsistencies I had noticed in the lives of contemporary women, whereby they exaggerate some aspects of Islam and neglect others.
For example, you might see a Muslim woman who is pious and righteous, observing all the rites of her religion, but she neglects oral and bodily hygiene and does not care about the offensive smell emanating from her mouth and body; or she may pay attention to her health and hygiene, but is failing to observe all the rites and acts of worship prescribed by her religion; or she may be performing all the acts of worship required, but she does not have a proper understanding of the holistic Islamic view of life and humanity; or she may be religious, but she does not control her tongue in gatherings and refrain from gossip and slander; or she may be religious and knowledgeable, but she does not treat her neighbours and friends properly; or she may treat (female) strangers well, but she is failing to give her parents the love and respect that they deserve; or she may be treating her parents properly, but neglecting her husband's rights and failing to be a good wife to him, making herself look beautiful at women's gatherings but neglecting her appearance in front of him; or she may be taking good care of her husband, but not taking care of his parents or encouraging him to be righteous, to fear Allah (SWT) and to do good works; or she may respect the rights of her husband, but she is neglecting her children and failing to bring them up properly, teach them, direct their spiritual, physical and mental development, and monitor the pernicious influences of their environment; or she may be paying attention to all that, but failing to uphold the ties of kinship; or she may uphold the ties of kinship, but fail to uphold social ties, focusing only on her private affairs with no concern for Muslim men and women in general; or she may be concerned with both her own and society's affairs, but she is not taking care of her own intellectual growth by continually reading and seeking to increase her knowledge; or she may be totally absorbed in reading and studying, but she ignores her house, her children and her husband.
What is strange indeed is to see these contradictions, or some of them, among those who consider themselves to be educated Muslim women who have benefitted from an extensive Islamic education. It may be a matter of negligence or carelessness, or it may be a failure to fully understand the idea of balance on which Islam bases its holistic view of man, life and the universe, a view which gives everything the place it deserves in life, without neglecting any one aspect at the expense of another.
The true sources of Islam, the Qur'an and Sunnah, explain the ideal behaviour which the Muslim woman should adopt in her relationship with her Lord, in her personal development, in her relationships with others, whether they are related to her or not, and in her social dealings in general. Whoever takes the time to research these texts will be amazed at their abundance and comprehensiveness: they deal with all major and minor aspects of a woman's life, setting out the guidelines for a balanced, upright, virtuous life which guarantees happiness and success in this world, and an immense victory and reward in the Hereafter.
I was astounded when I realized how far the modern so-called Muslim woman falls short of the noble level which Allah (SWT) wants for her. Nothing stands between her and the attainment of that level but the need to devote herself to seeking knowledge of the true Islamic character described in the Qur'an and Sunnah, which will make her a refined, noble woman who is distinguished by her feelings, thoughts, behaviour, conduct and dealings and will make her adhere with determination to her religion.
It is of the utmost importance that a woman does reach that refined level, because of the great influence she has in bringing up the next generation, instilling in them virtues and values, filling their lives with love, compassion and beauty, and creating an atmosphere of security, tranquillity and stability in the home.
The Muslim woman is the only woman who has the potential to achieve this in a world where modern women are exhausted and tired of materialistic philosophies and the wave of ignorance (jahiliyyah) that has overwhelmed those societies that have gone astray from the guidance of Allah (SWT). She may achieve this through knowing who she is and being aware of the pure intellectual sources of the Qur'an and Sunnah and the genuine character which Allah (SWT) wants her to have, by which she will be distinguished from all other women in the world.
So I began to collect texts from the Qur'an and authentic ahadith which spoke about the character of the Muslim woman, and I sorted them according to their subject-matter. This enabled me to draw up an intergrated plan for researching personal and general woman's issues, as follows:
1. The Muslim woman and her Lord
2. The Muslim woman and her own self
3. The Muslim woman and her parents
4. The Muslim woman and her husband
5. The Muslim woman and her children
6. The Muslim woman and her sons- and daughters-in-law
7. The Muslim woman and her relatives
8. The Muslim woman and her neighbours
9. The Muslim woman and her Muslim sisters and friends
10. The Muslim woman and her community/society
Whilst I was examining these texts, an important fact became apparent to me, one which we frequently overlook. That is, that the mercy of Allah (SWT) to the Muslim woman is great indeed. Islam has rescued her from the abyss of humiliation, (being regarded as valueless) and total subordination to men, and has raised her to the highest level of honourable and respected femininity, free from the exhausting burden of having to fend for herself and earn a living; even if she is rich she does not have to provide for herself. Islam has made her independent, entitled to dispose her own wealth - if she is wealthy - as she wishes, and equal with man in human worth and with regard to general religious duties. She has rights and duties, just as a man has rights and duties. Women and men are equal in the sight of Allah (SWT) and may be rewarded or punished equally.
The blessings of Islam did not stop at raising women from humiliation and backwardness to a level of progress, honour, security and protection. Islam is also concerned with the formation and development of every aspect of her personality, whether it affects her alone or her relationship with her family and society, so that she may become refined and highly developed, worthy of her role as Allah's vicegerent (khalifah) on earth.
How does Islam form her personality? How may her development reach such a high level that had never before been attained in the history of womankind, except in thireligion of Islam?
This is the question to which the reader will find the answer in the following pages. I ask Allah (SWT) to accept my work and make it purely for His sake. May He benefit others through it, make it a source of reward for me in this life and the next, and make it a help for me on the Day of Reckoning. May He guide me through it to what is right, and protect me from errors of thinking, bad intentions, slips of the pen, weakness of arguments and excessive verbiage.
Dr. Muhammad Ali al-Hashimi
20th Sha'ban 1414 AH
2nd January 1994 CE