The Equality of Women and Their Role in Society

No Comments | April 2017
ADDRESS BY HAZRAT KHALIFATUL MASIH Vaba AT THE CONCLUDING SESSION OF THE NATIONAL WAQFAAT-E-NAU (GIRLS) IJTEMA UK ON 25th FEBRUARY 2017

After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaba, Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community,  said:

“Today, with the Grace of Allah, you are all attending the National Waqfaat-e-Nau Ijtema (event), which is arranged for those girls in our Jama’at (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community), whose parents pledged their lives for the sake of their faith before they were born, and who upon reaching the age of fifteen, have voluntarily renewed that pledge. Thus, you have willingly chosen to dedicate your lives for the service of the Jama’at and, given this, it is imperative that you continually reflect upon your moral standards and religious knowledge.

You must ask yourselves if you are truly ready to serve wherever, and whenever the Jama’at calls you for service. Masha’Allah, having grown up here, you have all been blessed with many educational opportunities and so it can be said that you are all well-educated. Even those of you who are comparatively less educated than your peers, are still far more well-read than the majority of girls who grew up fifty or sixty years ago. And if we rewind the clock further, to the late 19th century or to the early 20th century, the girls and women of that period hardly had any educational opportunities at all.

Women today have much more opportunities as compared to those living in earlier periods, such as in the 19th century. Having been given these opportunities, they should take care to use their education wisely.
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Similarly, in terms of both secular and religious knowledge, very few Muslim girls had the opportunity to pursue secular studies or to learn about their faith and to increase their religious knowledge. This is quite astounding and deeply regrettable, given that the Holy Prophetsa placed great importance and value upon the education and moral training of women and girls. Yet, over time, this instruction of the Holy Prophetsa was increasingly ignored amongst Muslims and so Muslim women became far less educated than men.

A major cause of this unfortunate trend was the fact that many so-called religious scholars from amongst the so-called Ulema (religious scholars) did not want religious knowledge to be shared or spread, either amongst men, but especially amongst women. In contravention of Islamic teachings, they desired for women to be confined solely within the four walls of their home and did not even permit them to gain a basic education. Such attitudes were extremely harmful to the long-term progress of Islam, because it was not possible for Muslim women to do the moral training of their children when they themselves had no knowledge of their faith. Yet this extremely selfish attitude prevailed across the ages and continued until Allah the Almighty sent the Promised Messiahas, for the sake of the revival and rejuvenation of the true teachings of Islam.

Upon his advent, where the Promised Messiahas emphasised the Tarbiyyat (spiritual and moral training) of men and encouraged them to be educated, similarly, he encouraged Ahmadi women and girls to seek both secular education and religious teachings. In fact, there was a time when the Promised Messiahas himself used to personally conduct religious classes for women. Through his blessed guidance, and subsequently through Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya (caliphate in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community), Ahmadi women came to understand the significance and value of gaining an education and of seeking religious knowledge. Certainly, throughout its existence, our Jama’at has continued to promote and support the education of women and girls and many programmes or schemes have been set up to facilitate this.

A prime example are the schools and colleges established by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra (Hazrat Mirza Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, the Second Woldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community), first in Qadian and then in Rabwah. Through these centres of learning, those girls, who could not afford to travel to bigger cities to study, were provided a proper education and were able to attain high standards of secular knowledge and religious teachings. A huge added benefit of these schools and colleges was that our girls could attain education in a safe and moral environment, rather than having to travel to towns or cities where such an atmosphere did not exist. Having our girls educated in a safe and moral way is also a great challenge that we face today, especially here in Western countries, where the commonly held belief is that it is only due to the so-called ‘freedoms’ that they have afforded that they are progressing. However, in this belief they are wrong and there are many dangers and pitfalls that exist in these societies; and so all our girls, and particularly members of Waqfaat-e-Nau, must tread very carefully.

While education is important, Waqfaat-e- Nau should remember to always use their knowledge to uphold their religion and faith.
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Whilst you should seek to excel in your studies, you must be careful that you never betray your Islamic values and never forsake the responsibilities placed upon you by your faith. As I have said, our Jama’at has always promoted the education of girls, and a by-product of this is that in some parts of the world, particularly in developing nations, but also in the Western world, we are seeing that Ahmadi girls take their studies more seriously than boys and are out-performing them. Whilst I am happy that our girls are shining in this manner, one issue that has arisen is that when it comes to deciding upon possible rishtas (proposals of marriage) some of our young Ahmadi women desire only to marry men who are educationally on par with them. Of course, our boys and young men should focus on their studies and work diligently, but if a girl gets a marriage proposal from a good and pious Ahmadi, she should not reject it just because the person is not as educationally qualified as she would like.

Islam does not restrict women from reaching their potential and actually pushes them
to excel and increase their talents.
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The priority in deciding upon a marriage proposal should always be righteousness and seeking to ensure that you can live the rest of your life in a home where the true values of Ahmadiyyat are always practised. Anyway, in terms of the importance of education itself, always remember that knowledge can only prove beneficial when used for the sake of upholding your religion and faith. And the primary way to utilise your knowledge for the sake of your faith is to fulfil the rights owed to Allah the Almighty and to fulfil the rights of one another. Foremost amongst the rights owed to one another, is the duty of a mother to raise and educate her children, be they boys or girls, in a pious fashion, so that they grow to excel and prove to be great assets to their nations. However, nowhere does Islam say that women should be confined to the home as is sometimes alleged.

For example, there are some girls and ladies who excel in studies and achieve extraordinary results and Islam does not instruct that they should waste their talents or skills and only stay at home. Islam does not restrict them from fulfilling their potential, rather they can pursue those professions through which they can benefit humanity and serve mankind. Thus, women who have the capacity to become doctors or teachers or to pursue other professions which are of benefit to humanity can do so. However, at the same time, they should not ignore their duties to their children and to their families. Such women should manage their time effectively and ensure that their children are not neglected in any way. Certainly, the first priority of an Ahmadi mother must always be the moral training of her own children.

Consequently, members of Waqfaat-e-Nau, who, having acquired high level degrees or qualifications, desire to make use of their skills professionally must ensure that they also fulfil their responsibilities of their home. Equally, those girls who are well-educated, but who do not go out to work professionally, should never bear any form of inferiority complex or feel embarrassed or as though they are wasting their talents. The truth is that looking after your homes, and caring for and raising your children, is of profound importance and of priceless value.

Generally speaking, Islamic teachings have ascribed a division of labour between the sexes and it is a great favour of our religion that it has made our respective roles and responsibilities so clear. Nonetheless, Islam has catered for all possible circumstances and so, even apart from professionals, there may be special conditions where women need to work. For example, during the time of the Holy Prophetsa, women worked as nurses to aid those who had been injured during the battles and wars that took place. Indeed, a few Muslim women even fought on the front lines and showed magnificent courage and bravery.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, you are the people whose parents pledged your lives for the service of Islam, and many of you have now reached adulthood or are fast approaching it, and have renewed that pledge for yourselves. The question is why did you renew the bond of Waqaf (life dedication)? Why have you pledged your lives to the Jama’at? You should reflect upon this, as you can only fulfil your pledge if you understand what it entails and requires. By being a Waqf-e-Nau you have promised that you will forever give priority to your faith over all worldly and material things.

Hence, alongside your secular education in your schools and colleges, it is of paramount importance that you also strive to gain religious knowledge, because until you know what your religion teaches and expects, you cannot live your life according to its teachings. First and foremost, it is essential that you all read the Holy Qur’an with translation and study its commentary as much as possible. Only by becoming familiar with the Holy Qur’an will you be able to clearly understand the commandments of Allah the Almighty. Knowledge of the Qur’an will be the means of your spiritual progress and will enable you to do the Tarbiyyat [moral training] of your own children.

Seated in front of me are several Waqfaat-e-Nau who are now mothers themselves, but at the same time they are also working in various professions, and so I would again remind them that they must divide their time in a way that the moral training and well-being of their children never suffers. There are also many young girls present who are now engaged to be married, and so Insha’Allah (God Willing) their family lives will soon begin and they should enter the next stage of their life knowing that their first priority is to train their children. If you fulfil this primary duty, it will not only benefit you and your family, but your efforts will also prove to be a source of pride and benefit to your nation, because you will have instilled positive values into the next generation. You will be ensuring that your children grow to be role models, who will understand their duties to those who follow them. In this way, you will be the foundation for a cycle of perpetual humanity, morality and peace amongst the coming generations. By training your children according to Islamic teachings, you will not only be a means of protecting them, but also the generations that follow as well.

Remember that the key for any nation to thrive and progress lies in the hands of the mothers of that nation. In terms of the status of women in Islam, we need look no further than the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa during the period when Islam was being attacked and defensive wars were fought by the Muslims. At the time of that Jihad, many Muslim men were martyred and, as we all know, the rewards and blessings associated with martyrdom are vast. Consequently, some Muslim women asked the Holy Prophetsa why they were not permitted to fight and why they were being deprived of the blessings of Jihad of the Sword and martyrdom, by looking after their homes. In reply, the Holy Prophetsa told the women that if they fulfilled their duties to their home, and if they did the moral training of their children, and raised them to be pious Muslims, then their reward would be equal to the reward of the men who went and engaged in Jihad.

The key to the progress of a nation lies in the hands of mothers and they are given special signi cance for their major role in helping to nurture the next generation of Muslim children.
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In this era of the Promised Messiahas, the conditions for a physical Jihad of the Sword no longer exist, because no nation or group is raising a physical army against Islam and the tactics used by its opponents today are quite different. Rather than physical warfare, they are attacking Islam through the publication of anti-Islam literature, through the media and internet and through their own forms of missionary work. Accordingly, we are now in a period where education is the key to challenging this propaganda by waging an intellectual Jihad through those same mediums that are being used to target Islam. It is not only men and boys who can take part in this Jihad of the Pen, rather our women and girls can, and must, take part.

Amongst our ladies, the members of Waqfaat-e-Nau should lead this effort and so, once you have attained a good education, you must not waste any opportunity to defend Islam from the false charges that are being levelled against it. This is another reason why it is necessary that you gain religious knowledge so that you can respond to the different allegations made and remove any misconceptions that exist. Without any fear, embarrassment or complex, you should respond boldly to the false claims that are made because you have truth on your side. In this era, many of the allegations raised against Islam centre around women’s rights and so you should particularly focus on responding to them. For example, it is often alleged that Islam oppresses women and forces them to remain confined within their home at all times. Similarly, it is said that the hijab is a means of subjugating women.

Another common allegation is that women are denied their basic rights by Islam, even though Islam is that religion, which from the outset guaranteed the rights of all women. It is that religion which liberated women and established their true status and honour. It is only in the past century, that those people and nations who condemn Islam, have been forced to afford some basic rights to women and yet they still try to claim moral superiority. Furthermore, in the name of ‘freedom’ they have fostered an environment in which women are treated as objects and their dignity and true status is constantly undermined. Anyway, as I said, it is your duty to defend the noble teachings of Islam through the media and other similar means.

It is impossible to train the next generation until 100% of women are educated.
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Thus, a central team of Waqfaat-e-Nau should be established for this purpose and similarly there should be local teams in different regions and cities as well. It is you, our Waqf-e-Nau girls and ladies, who must take on the mantle of educating the world about the meaning of true dignity and explain how the rights of women have been protected by Islam. For this, you must, as I have already said, read and study the Holy Qur’an and also read other Jama’at literature as much as possible. The knowledge you will gain from such study will provide you with the intellectual power and capability to overcome the arguments of those who oppose our religion.

In terms of the importance of seeking knowledge, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra once remarked that until 100% of our Ahmadi women were fully educated, it would be impossible to train the youth of our Jama’at. This comment was steeped in truth and wisdom. If 10%, 20% or even 50% or 60% of our women are well educated and knowledgeable and raise their children in the best fashion, it will still not be enough. The reason is that their children will meet other Ahmadi children, whose mothers are not educated or do not have sufficient religious knowledge, and such children will have a negative effect on them. Therefore, for a true righteous and spiritual community to develop, we need every single Ahmadi mother and father to play their respective roles.

If one person, or one family, is weak, it can easily have a knock-on effect upon the next. Conversely, if all Ahmadi families set a positive example for their own children it will ensure that we can create a spiritual and Islamic atmosphere, even whilst living here in the West. Through your schools and colleges, you all have easy access to secular education, but as I have said repeatedly, you must pursue religious knowledge alongside it. Otherwise, if you abandon your religious teachings and traditions, the worldly knowledge you attain will not be of any real value or benefit to you. Again, I urge you to study the Holy Qur’an as much as possible and read the books of the Promised Messiahas and whatever other Jama’at literature is available in English.

Furthermore, you should listen to my sermons and try to act upon whatever I ask of you. Indeed, you should consider the sermons of the Khalifah-e-Waqt (Khalifah of the time) as a ready-made code of conduct for you to live your lives by. As I said, it is your duty to respond to the allegations made against Islam in the West, particularly those that relate to women’s rights. You must respond, not only through your words, but also through your conduct. For example, you should maintain a good standard of purdah at all times. Just a few months ago, in Canada, I delivered a sermon in which I listed around 34 or 35 special traits that members of the Waqf-e-Nau should strive to attain. I highlighted those qualities that ought to be the hallmarks of Waqf-e-Nau and so you should keep them in mind at all times and assess to what extent you are practising them.

You must also be regular in Namaz (Salat) i.e. the formal prayer in Islam and always pray that Allah blesses your efforts and enables you to utilise your education and knowledge with wisdom. On one occasion, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra narrated an incident of an Ahmadi girl who had completed her Bachelor’s degree, and so she was advised that having attained high qualifications, she should try to spread the teachings of Ahmadiyyat amongst other educated people through Tabligh[preaching]. However, in response, she remarked that she did not attain such qualifications and education in order to cause ‘division’ and that she felt doing Tabligh was a means of sparking conflict. Having narrated this, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra remarked that her response was not of an educated or literate person, but was the response of someone who was ignorant and illiterate. Thus, none of you should fall into this trap. You should understand and recognise the opportunities Allah has blessed you with and seek to use whatever knowledge you have gained for the sake of the defence and propagation of Islam.

At this time, I also wish to clarify another allegation that is often levelled against Islam by its opponents, and regrettably, is even believed by some Muslim men and women. The allegation refers to the Hadith in which the Holy Prophetsa said that he had seen in a vision of hell in which there were many women, who had no knowledge of their religion, who displayed no wisdom or intellect, and who were ungrateful. Based on this Hadith, certain non-Muslim critics have alleged that Islam has belittled and maligned the status of women, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has given a detailed commentary and interpretation of this Hadith, in which he notes that the Holy Prophetsa was referring to specific weaknesses that existed in some women of that time, whereby they were illiterate, ignorant of their faith and ungrateful for the favours bestowed upon them.

Hence, the words of the Holy Prophetsa were given as a warning for such women to reform themselves. Yet, during the same era, we also see how Muslim women scaled the highest peaks of morality, virtue and knowledge. For example, some women, notably Hazrat Ayeshara, taught Islam to the Muslim men. Similarly, some fought in battles alongside the men and gave great sacrifices. Further, as I mentioned earlier, the Holy Prophetsa said that women who trained their children and looked after their homes would be the recipients of the same rewards as those who had engaged in Jihad. Thus, how could it be that such devout and pious women were bound for hell? It is impossible and anyone who claims this has entirely misrepresented the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa.

In addition to seeking knowledge, Waqfaat-e- Nau should be regular in salat and pray that Allah enables them to use their knowledge and education for the right purposes.
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As I said, this Hadith was a warning and note of caution to the women of that time. It was also a means of inspiration, as the Holy Prophetsa sought to raise the spiritual standards of the Muslim women, and showed them the means of unlocking the doors to paradise. Never did the Holy Prophetsa say that these weaknesses or sins were part of the nature of women, rather he counselled that they were bad habits that had developed amongst some. Whilst nature is something inherent and permanent, bad habits can be changed and improved upon.

Just as the Holy Prophetsa repeatedly drew the attention of Muslim men to their weaknesses and taught them how to reform, similarly he guided the women as well. It is a cause of deep sorrow that this Hadith has regularly been misinterpreted and abused by certain so-called Islamic scholars, who have hatefully claimed that these words prove that women are wrongdoers, lacking in wisdom, knowledge or judgment and who are, God forbid, bound for hell no matter what. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I said earlier, many of the so-called Ulema (religious scholars) did not wish for women to progress and so they purposely interpreted this Hadith in a completely wrong fashion in order to fulfil their own selfish agendas. These words of the Holy Prophetsa were spoken only as a means of reformation, so that women could fulfil their potential and raise their status.

We, Ahmadi Muslims, are truly fortunate that the Promised Messiahas has enlightened us to the ignorance of the other Ulema and saved us from their fabrications and foolish interpretations. Thus, it will be a grave and perilous mistake for any woman to believe, having heard the false interpretations of the so-called scholars, that she lacks the capability to harbour knowledge, that she is inherently ungrateful, or that there is no point in learning her faith, as she is destined for hell no matter what. It is when a person gives up and believes that there is no chance of reformation or improvement that weaknesses and sins increase.

Women’s status is in no way inferior to men’s and they should feel empowered by the teachings of Islam that their place in society is highly valued and their roles are vital for the betterment of mankind.
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Tragically, some Muslim women have come under the influence of certain non-Ahmadi Maulvis (religious clerics) and so have become prone to the belief that they are somewhat inferior to men. This is completely wrong and erroneous. No woman should ever accept the false notion that somehow, they are bound for hell, inferior to men or unable to gain knowledge or wisdom. Let it be crystal clear that in no respect is a woman’s status less than that of a man. Rather, the Holy Prophetsa was the person who established the rights of all women, in all places and for all times. How could it ever be that, on the one hand, the Holy Prophetsa proclaimed that paradise lay under the feet of one’s mother, and that half of Islamic faith could be learned from Ayeshara, and yet on the other hand, state that, God forbid, women were hell-bound? As I said, this is impossible, and such claims are the result of the ignorant and false interpretations given by some clerics, solely to satisfy their own interests.

This Hadith was actually a great favour upon all womankind by the Holy Prophetsa, as he warned them and showed them the path to salvation and brandished a spiritual torch guiding them towards the path of Allah. Thus, no Muslim woman should ever have any complex whatsoever about their status and nor should they ever accept any false interpretation of this Hadith. The correct interpretation is that women should, just like men, try to remove their weaknesses, and should pursue secular and religious education and use their knowledge to defend Islam and for the sake of the moral training of their future generations. The younger girls present should also understand the importance of education and should try to excel in their schools and colleges, whilst also striving for religious knowledge.

Even at your young age, you should keep in mind that your education is the means through which you will, Insha’Allah (God Willing), come to serve Islam. Never bear any complex about your faith, whether in regard of Islamic teachings or in terms of the observance of your faith. For example, you should always wear modest clothing, and confidently explain to others that you are not forced to wear such clothes, rather you choose to dress modestly having understood the deep wisdom underpinning your faith. Similarly, from a young age, Waqfaat-e-Nau girls must be regular in Namaz (Salat). Remember, that the five daily prayers are obligatory from the age of 10 and so try to offer your prayers with proper concentration and with the aim of increasing your connection with Allah.

May Allah enable all of you to understand and act upon what I have said today. May Allah Help all of you to fulfil the demands of your pledge as members of the Waqfaat-e-Nau scheme – Ameen. Now, join me in silent prayer.”

 

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