The Decline of Indigenous American Muslim Communities Part 3: Undervaluing the Muslim Woman

The Decline Of Indigenous American Muslim Communities, Part 3: The Women.
One must never underestimate the value of good and sincere advice (naseeha). Notwithstanding that it’s one of the essential foundations of deen; as in the hadith, “religion is advice”. The most valuable advice that I have received in my life have been from Muslim women, beginning with my mother (may Allah grant her Paradise), my sisters, especially my oldest sister, I’ve never had a better advisor than her, and of course, my wife. I cannot count the times when I wished I had listened to the advice of Umm Luqman, my beloved mother, may Allah raise her amongst the righteous. Ameen. I can’t even think about the many mistakes I’ve made by not listening to the advice of my wife! I ask Allah for guidiance.
Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala has decreed that I am not a woman, and perhaps I will never really be able to fully understand and appreciate the difficulties and the challenges faced by American Muslim women. May Allah have mercy upon all of them. The challenges of wearing hijaab, raising children, managing households (many without spouses), feeding their families, staying safe, holding down a job in many cases, being patient with their husbands, or patient without one, and so many other things that Muslim women endure on a daily basis, not only in the United States, but all over the globe.
Recently a Muslim sister reminded me and advised me of the remarkable strength, endurance, resilience and skill-set that American Muslim women bring to the table. Many of our women are educated, smart, professional, talented and organized. In our search for practical solutions to the problems facing indigenous American Muslim communities, we should not overlook our women.
Many traditional Muslim communities limit the participation of women in administering the affairs of the masaajid, or in having. a voice. Some of this mindset is due to concerns about free mixing of the sexes , and preventing inappropriate behavior between men and women. Perhaps another reason that we place limitations on our women is that we undervalue their true worth; both to us as helpmates, and to their ability to uplift and make meaningful contributions to our faith.
The beneficial knowledge, strengths, insight and skills granted to our sisters is part of the sustenance (rizq) that Allah has extended to them. It is a ni’mah from the Almighty Lord of the worlds be He Exalted and Glorified. Although sadly, it is one of Allah’s favors that we sometimes overlook, may Allah forgive us, and guide us.
Righteous and beneficial actions have merit and are rewarded regardless of whether it comes from a man or a woman; “And whoever performs a righteous deed whether male or female, and they are a believer, such are those that shall enter Paradise, given sustenance without measure”, 40:40
The role of Muslim women in helping us to repair, strengthen, and build our communities is not only key to our survival, it is both a matter of law (fiqh), as well as a matter of Creed (aqeeda). With respect to fiqh, there are certain limitations in what a woman is allowed to do under normal circumstances; for example, a woman cannot be the Imam of a community, or Masjid and lead the men in prayer, or deliver the khutba to them on Friday. Likewise, it is not permissible for a woman to be alone and secluded with a man who is not her mahrim . Additionally, behavior between men and women that leads to haraam acts , is itself haraam by agreement of the scholars of Islam. These types of considerations; attention to the rules of proper adab between the sexes according to the Quran and the sunna, can be easily implemented by intelligent, believing men and woman. It’s not however, prohibited for a Muslim woman to run an organization, give advice, teach men a skill, or deen, serve on a board or majlis shura, or be an organizer. It’s not prohibited for a Muslimah to help fix where we messed up.
It’s interesting how we trust our women to work outside the home amongst non-believing men, where they make meaningful contributions to industry, medicine, commerce, education,and society in general, while becoming almost completely manic when it comes to them working on behalf of our faith and our struggling communities. Thus we find that we deny ourselves one of our most valuable resources (our women and their skills), while granting it to others.
From the aspect of faith and creed, we have to be careful that we no not devalue the reward and acceptability of righteous acts and deeds performed by women; “And their Lord hath accepted of them and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you. Be he male or female. Ye are members, one of another”, 3:195. Thus it is not permissible for a Muslim to devalue the righteous act or deed of a Muslim woman on the basis of gender alone, after Allah has deemed it rewardable like that of men. To do so knowingly, after the proof (hujja) has been made clear, is to reject what Allah has revealed to our Prophet (SAWS).
As Muslims in the United States, we need our women, we need you sisters who are able, to help us and use the education, skills and talent that Allah has given you to assist our imams, our Amirs, our congregations and our ailing communities. Our men are dwindling in number and our sisters are many.
I believe, and only Allah knows, that one of the answers to our dilemma is in our women and what they have to offer. In the meantime brothers should do everything that is in our power to stop the abuse, mistreatment, and marginalization of our women, at all costs. We must look after our wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. Protecting them is protecting the best interests of our dunya wal aakhira. If anyone wants to know where to start, my advice is to start with ourselves and look at how we treat our women. I’d like to hear what you sisters have to say
Wa Allahu al-Musta’aan. Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

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