Women’s Leadership And Participation In Conflict Transformation And PeaceBuilding: Muslim Leadership
It is permissible for a woman to be an authority and leader in any position for which she is qualified, although some positions are specific only to men such as the position of prayer leader and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
It is however incorrectly claimed by some people that women can have no authority in Islam because men have been given the responsibility to lead, defend, and maintain the livelihoods of women, their wives and their children. This claim is obviously the contrary evidenced in Suratul al-Nisa 4:35. This verse clearly expounds that women are most important companions to men as most of the affairs of society are entirely motionless without involvement of women. Alhamdullilah, Muslim women in most parts of the world today and in the era of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) have engaged themselves in education, science, politics, peace building and in many more outstanding fields which are instrumentally assisting the society towards rapid progress. It is very surprising to note however that the contribution of Muslim women in leadership and peace-building and other significant sectors are mostly unknown to most Muslim and non-Muslims alike. It is therefore important that we re-examine and bring to the fore the magnificent contributions of the first Muslim women who lived during Islam’s formative period and how we as modern Muslim women can emulate their viable political, social and financial models with modern applicability Khadija Bint Khuwaylid (r.a.) What greater example can we give than the first wife of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) Khadija Bint Khuwaylid (r.a.). Hazrat Khadija (r.a.) was the daughter of Khuwaylid Ibn Assad, a famous merchant in Makkah. Hazrat Khadija (r.a.) had been married and got widowed twice. She inherited the wealth of her father and two husbands. Instead of keeping the wealth stagnant or spending it lavishly, she intelligently invested the wealth in trade and business. She became a very successful merchant in Makkah. Among the trade caravans of Quraysh, Hazrat Khadijah’s caravan led by men appointed by her, outweighed all other caravans put together. Her business was the most acclaimed one, known for its fair dealings and high quality goods. Hazrat Khadija (r.a.) was constantly proactive in cases of peace building in society and was an exemplary leader worthy of emulation. She protected and catered for those who were mostly orphans. She gave most part of her earnings to the needy, the poor, widows and the sick and provided the dowry of poor girls to get married. Besides this she was very instrumental in the propagation of Islam as she gave the prophet (s.a.w.) complete independence from all kinds of financial worries and sacrificed everything for the cause of his Prophet Hood. Hence, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is quoted to have once said, “Khadijah (r.a) aided me with her wealth at a time when no one else did.” (Musnad Ahmad, Vol.6, p.118). Aisha Bint Abu Bakar (r.a.) Hazrat Aisha Bint Abu Bakar (r.a.) was another very powerful and outstanding leader. Her magnanimity benevolence and knowledge in the Quran and Ahadith are well documented. Hazrat Aisha Bint Abu Bakar (r.a.) was the youngest wife of our beloved Prophet (s.a.w.) and most beloved daughter of his nearest friend Hazrat Abu Bakar (r.a.). Hazrat Aisha (r.a.) was a female scholar of great eminence and a voice of authority in Islamic jurisprudence over 1000 years ago. She was considered more knowledgeable than most of her male contemporaries in matters related to Quranic interpretation, poetry medicine and history. Men and women alike consulted her in the acquisition of knowledge. She also rendered legal decisions and delivered speeches publicly, powerfully and eloquently. Aisha’s standards provide a culturally authentic paradigm for Muslim women seeking a leading role in political, judicial or religious spheres Shafa Bint Adwiya Shafa Bint Adwiya was also an intelligent woman skilled in politics and respected for her wisdom. It is said that the second Caliph Umar Ibn Khattab, who is accorded great deference in Islamic tradition, highly valued Shafa’s opinion and consulted with her.Most importantly, he placed her in a leadership position by entrusting her with the administration of the marketplace in Medina. As such, she played the leadership role of ensuring that all business transactions were in accord with the law. She protected consumers against fraud and other unsavory practices. These very powerful women described above are representative few of many others who lived, fought, learned, worked and led during Islam’s foundation and beyond. Their male companions and Caliphs who assumed leadership roles after the demise of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) treated them with respect, admiration, and appreciation as equals due to their numerous contributions, active role in public decision making, as leaders, voters, and good citizens who promoted effective public policies that benefitted all citizens. A perusal of entries in a biography dictionary (PLEASE CHECK) published by Aisha Abdurrahman Bewley (Used as comprehensive reference source of Muslim women achievers) shows that Muslim women in historic Islam have been successful as leaders, scholars, business women and social entrepreneurs alongside fulfilling their roles as wives and mothers. While many Muslims around the world learn about such Muslim women, their relevance to contemporary time is frequently overlooked. Yet, by learning about and celebrating their examples, men and women can better understand and build upon notions of “proper” Muslim women’s roles while using a culturally authentic perspective. Some Modern day Muslim Women and their Contributions In our modern time, Muslim women still assume remarkable leadership roles, excel in their chosen careers and contribute immensely in their various fields. A few who may be mentioned are: Dalia Mogahed, Tawakkul Karman and Malala Yousafzai. Dalia Mogahed Dalia Mogahed was the first Muslim woman in the White House back in 2009 and one of Barack Obama’s ‘closest advisors’ advocating the views and opinions of Muslims across the US in the most simplistic, recognizable and agreeable way. She has contributed immensely to matters on western involvement in the Middle Eastern conflicts. Governmental influence on the lives of many Muslim Americans is now bigger than it has ever been and to have a Muslim woman influence a part of this is an achievement. Tawakkul Karman Tawakkul Karman is a journalist, politician, a human rights activist and one of ten (10) Muslims who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Her face is stapled to the 2011 Yemeni Uprising and she is also known to have co-founded “Muslim Journalists Without Chains”. She became the first Arab woman and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize and the second youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date. Impressive, don’t you think? Malala Yousafzai Also worth mentioning is the ever brave Malala Yousafzai. As an activist at the age of 16, she was the youngest holder of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17, standing up for the right of education and freedom. The instrumental contributions and roles that women in Islam have made towards peace-building and wellbeing in society from the time of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) till date cannot be overemphasized. Due to their bold encouragement and endless contributions to men companions during the early stages of Islam, a peaceful society was built in Madina and other Muslim territories. In this modern age, Muslim women have not stopped contributing, they have strived and achieved professional, financial and social successes in accordance with their understanding of religious scriptures and are contributing significantly in peacebuilding in various countries across the world.