Special on International Women’s Day
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
Muslim fanatics have been praying for the arrival of Salahuddin Ayyubi (Saladin) for a long time. One of the most respected Muslim rulers, who not just united a badly divided Muslim community of Arabia and made them a very potent fighting force, but also drove crusaders out of the holy city of Jerusalem. The crusaders, who had occupied a large swathe of the present day Syria and Lebanon, were driven out of their dens that they had been occupying for more than a century.
Now, whenever the word crusade is mentioned –many believe that the present day Arabia is run from behind the scene by United States –and it is mentioned very often, only one hero comes to mind. Many Muslim scholars have said that Muslims’ condition in Arabia and outside Arabia is similar to what it was before the arrival of Salahuddin Ayyubi on the scene.
For the last several decades, Muslims are awaiting the arrival of another Salahuddin who could save them from the humiliation they are facing around the world and give them back the rightful ‘ownership’ of the world.
Many Muslims across the world believe that a savior will come sooner than later, to rescue the 1.6 billion strong Muslim community, from the morass it is finding itself for close to a hundred years.
Many Islamists are seeing in Recep Tayyip Ordogan, a new Saladin. But apparently he has failed to live up to the expectations of Islamists around the world, and even in this part of the world, following his reconciliation with Israel. They believe that with his failure to rescue the Palestinian (Muslims) of Gaza, he has failed miserably. Nonetheless, he is still respected and they love to call him Sultan, a title that Saladin used.
While awaiting the ‘reincarnation’ of Salahuddin, Muslims have always been waiting for a male leader to rescue them. Never have Muslims talked about savior in the form of woman.
This is notwithstanding the fact that from the very early period of Islam, women have been in leadership role and played important role in decision making process too.
Their important and dominant role was visible from the day Muhammad started receiving revelation. It was his wife Khadijah and no one else who supported, assisted and helped him. It was she who took him to Warqah bin Naufel, who said that he was indeed a Prophet, similar to Moses and Christ and the angel was Gabriel, the same who came to previous Prophets.
Her assistance was not limited to merely consoling him and taking care of his house. In fact she was the bread winner, who freed the Prophet from all responsibilities of home. The year, when she died, is mentioned by the biographers of the Prophet as the year of sorrow or Aam al Huzn.
Khadijah was not the last female to have such influence on the Prophet. His other wives, many of them well-educated and versatile in different fields and trades, helped the prophet in later years too. There were many others who were part of strategy to spread Islam in Arabia, educate the illiterates and even provide support to Muslim armies in every attack that Muslims faced from feuding tribes.
Umm Salma, saved the Prophet from rebellion in an important expedition when Muhammad took the most daring decision to march unarmed to Mecca for pilgrimage. The Meccans refused permission to Muhammad and his companions to enter Mecca and allow pilgrimage, completely breaking away from the tribal norms of the time. But they agreed to allow Muhammad to come back next year unarmed for the same besides other conditions, that many felt were humiliating for the Muslims.
When the Prophet asked his companions to slaughter the sacrificial animals, no one moved. The Prophet looked upset and sought the advice of his wife Umm Salma, who said he should take the lead and sacrifice his animals first. This completely changed the atmosphere, and all the companions followed suit.
A research by Prof. Akram Nadwi, who was associated with Oxford University, proves that during the Prophet’s time, women used to take classes in the main courtyard of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. These classes were attended by men too.
It was not the only time when Muhammad took the advice of his wife seriously. On many occasions, he consulted them on many issues, even those issues that had long term ramifications for the fledgling Muslim community.
After the death of the Prophet too, women remained indispensible part of the decision making process and helped the caliphs run the government effectively.
When the biggest rebellion spread in the aftermath of the third Caliph, Uthman’s, death, it was Prophet’s wife Aisha who took charge and marched with a massive army to take revenge of the caliph’s death.
This was not the only instance of a woman taking charge and leading from the front. There were many more.
When woman can take the leading role so early in the Islamic history, why the same role cannot be visualized in present day, when women emancipation has become widespread and no post has remained beyond their reach.
Can Islamists stand the prospects of accepting a woman in the role of Saladin? Will they stand with her, or help women aspire to be the leaders and the rescuers of the community at the time of crises? Or will they still continue to see her merely the ‘caretaker’ of their homes and babysitters for their children?
Time has changed. And Muslim community around the world needs to wake up to the changing realities of the time and give leadership role to the Muslim women. No shoes are too big for women now. When she can lead the Muslims at the times of strife as did Aisha or guide the caliphs like Haroon Al Rasheed and Mamoon in the form of Zubaida, she can do better in our times.
(Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based political analyst and editor of ViewsHeadlines.com)