By Durdana Najam
August 2, 2012
In the special Ramazan transmission of Deen-o-Dunya at the Business Plus on Monday, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi discussed the character of Hazrat Khadija (RA), the first wife of the holy Prophet (PBUH), to unravel the mysteries surrounding Muslim women today. The programme began with a background to Makkah and how the holy Prophet (PBUH) came across and married Hazrat Khadija (RA). The show ended showing Hazrat Khadija (RA) as the source of inspiration for the women of today.
Makkah before Islam had some structural flaws making it a primitive and unsophisticated region of the world at that time. However, calling the people of Makkah backward would be doing injustice to a nation that had set some exemplary human traditions in the pre-Islamic history. Hospitality, generosity, religious fervour, entrepreneurship, and women empowerment were a few traits that stood the people of Makkah apart amidst the antiquity that surrounded it in terms of bloodshed, drawn-out tribal fighting, gambling, slavery, burying girls alive, unrestrained polygamy, and superstitions.
Paradoxical it may sound but the solitudes of deserts had taught the Arabs the benefits of living closer, together, generously and taking care of the guest, be it a wanderer, to secure same treatment from the other if one happens to lose direction in the wilderness of deserts.
Makkah had three advantages that helped it become commercially valuable. One, it was a trade route, connecting Syria with Yemen and branching out in the north Gaza on the Mediterranean and also to Egypt. Two, Makkah had the Zamzam well, making it a convenient stop for traders. Three, it had Kaaba, the object of pilgrimage for the Arabs, where they would come during their sacred months. Hence Makkah had become a nexus of commercial, religious and social gathering. This exposure had made the enlightened Arabs excel and become a benchmark of modernity in the heart of darkness. Hazrat Khadija (RA) was one such person of a distinguished tribe. She was independent in her thoughts, actions and industry. Professionally a trader, she was counted among the richest people of Makkah. She married the holy Prophet (PBUH) at the age of 40 when the latter was only 25. What would make a man in the middle of his youthfulness marry a woman 15 years older to him? What does this marriage tell about Makkah and about women in that society? And how does Hazrat Khadija (RA) inspire Muslim women? These are a few questions that would help one understand women in Islam.
Lately, Muslim women have been dragged into controversies and unwarranted criticism because of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islamic culture by a handful of people. The issue of headscarf, Taliban’s locking of women inside their homes; the storming of women schools in the tribal areas of Pakistan, women not allowed to go out without a cloak in certain Muslim countries and barring women from driving are issues that have made Islam look an anti-feminist religion. But what people fail to understand is that a practiced ritual of a certain religion may not necessarily be its philosophy as well. Though Islam encourages woman to be modest in their clothing, manner and speech, it does not disallow her to be an active member of society that would require her to mingle with men, drive a car, run a business, acquire education, and lead a commanding role.
Islam is very much a religion that accommodates the feelings, aspirations and desires of women. It does not shut her behind closed doors. It makes education mandatory for her. It makes the understanding of societal and political norms qualifications for her success. It makes a woman an important part of human life.
Hazrat Khadija (RA) was not only a wife to the holy Prophet (PBUH), she was his partner through thick and thin. That is what makes her a source of inspiration for Muslim women. Drawing strength from her character, a Muslim woman as a mother, sister, and a wife, can help unleash the spirit of Islam that has dissipated owing to distortion of Islamic values and culture.