The High Status of Women in Islam (Waqf-e-Nau Nasirat & Lajna Ijtema UK 2018)
It’s a stereotype too common to mention: Islam oppresses women and the religion is inherently hostile to the desires, needs and concerns of half of the people on this planet. And while many Muslims have pushed back on this idea that women are oppressed in Islam, none have done so as completely as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In this address to over 1200 young women enrolled in the Waqf-e-Nau scheme, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Khalifatul Masih V, Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has pointed out that Muslim women don’t need to wrangle with men to receive their rights, because those rights have already been given to them by God – and nobody can take them away.The girls and women are members of the Waqf-e-Nau scheme, which allows parents to pledge their children to the service of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community before they are born. Once the children reach adulthood, they can choose to voluntarily renew their pledge. His Holiness also urged these members to become teachers and doctors. Read the full address below.
After reciting Tashhahud, Ta’awwuz and Surah Al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) said:
‘Alhamdulillah, today you are holding your Waqfaat-e-Nau Ijtema. I hope that you will have benefitted from the event. In the UK, there are more than 2500 female members of the Waqf-e-Nau scheme and this represents approximately 44% of the number of Waqf-e-Nau in this country. Hence, the proportion of women and girls is very significant and important to the future of our Jama’at and indeed to the wider world.
In the establishment and development of any nation or community, the women play a fundamental and vital role, as the responsibility for the training of the future generations lies in the hands of mothers. They are the nation builders. Amongst you there are many Waqfaat-e-Nau who are now yourselves mothers, or are at an age where you will soon be married, Insha’Allah. Even the younger ones present will in a few years reach a similar age, Insha’Allah and so they too will one day take up the mantle of training the coming generations. Thus, you must all understand your responsibilities.
Take pride in the fact that your primary duty is to raise the standards of the future generations, by setting the very highest standards for them to learn from and follow. It is your task to guide your children in a way that they understand their faith and come to live their lives according to the true teachings of Islam. This is a great responsibility and challenge for all of you because you are the ones who can facilitate and unlock the doors to a spiritual revolution in society.
Undoubtedly, it is essential for all Ahmadi Muslims to set a pious example for their children, however it is particularly important for you, members of the Waqf-e-Nau scheme or Waqfaat-e-Nau, to set the highest standards, because your parents pledged your lives for the sake of your faith and upon reaching maturity, you have voluntarily renewed that pledge. Therefore, it is essential that you live your lives according to the commands of Allah and follow the teachings of the Holy Prophet(sa) at all times. Seek to replicate those levels of faith and morals that were displayed by the early Muslim women in the time of the Holy Prophet(sa).
We are extremely fortunate because, in this age, Allah the Almighty has blessed us with the advent of the Promised Messiah(as), who has enlightened us about the true teachings of Islam. Throughout his life, the Promised Messiah(as) shined an incandescent light upon our faith, illuminating the path towards Allah the Almighty. Hence, it should not be that whilst growing up in the Western world, you start to adopt those habits or beliefs that are contrary to the teachings of Islam.
By all means, adopt those things that are good in society, but never forget that our true guiding light is, and always will be, the Holy Qur’an and that our true role model is the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa). Rather than following the superficial glamour of the world, or being influenced by modern trends that come and go, we must follow and heed the everlasting and timeless teachings of the Holy Qur’an. In today’s world, much is said and spoken about women’s rights, by those people and nations that are said to be extremely modern and developed. Yet, what they neglect to mention is that, until just a few decades ago, they failed to provide women with any rights whatsoever. When the men of these nations finally chose to grant some rights to women, it was done more to show that they were in favour of equality, whereas the truth was that their slogans in favour of women were often hollow and insincere.
Any rights granted to women in recent times have been the result of necessity, rather than any deep desire for progress and also as a means for the men to fulfil their own selfish desires. This is something that history has proven time and again. Furthermore, it is only in recent times that non-Muslim women have realised that they too had rights. Due to the fact that they were previously deprived and their religions had not protected them, such women have campaigned for those things that are considered rights in the eyes of the world. Yet, from the very outset, Islam established the rights of women based upon their role in society and keeping their best interests at heart. Certainly, the rights afforded by Islam are based on wisdom and human nature.
Once, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud(ra )[Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from 1914-1965], whilst addressing Ahmadi women, mentioned that worldly women, or those from other religions, often raised slogans calling for equality and this had led to some Muslim women’s groups to voice similar demands. Speaking of those Muslim groups, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud(ra) narrated a story in which a jackal was seen running away at great speed. Upon this, someone asked him why he was running and the jackal replied that the king had ordered for all camels to be rounded up and seized. The person asked the jackal why he was running away, when the instruction of the king was for camels. In reply, the jackal said that perhaps the king will also say that jackals should be seized and so that is why I am running away.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud(ra) said that the Muslim groups were like that jackal whereby they were needlessly being led down the wrong path by women’s activists, or Christian or Hindu groups, seeking rights. When Allah the Almighty had already granted true equality to Muslim women, why should you follow those who have not been given rights in their religion? So instead of following them, you should see your own religious book which has given you rights.
Further, another characteristic of this era, is that women have sought their rights from men and, as a result, some men have also formed groups in order to promote the rights of women. However, Ahmadi women should ask themselves that, who are men to bestow rights upon them when their Creator, Allah the Almighty, has Himself bestowed upon them all that they need and desire? They should understand that Allah has granted them true equality based on logic and wisdom. Indeed, the way in which women have been described in the Holy Qur’an, and the way in which it is has established their rights, is completely unique and not found in any other religious scripture.
Indeed, if we look at other religions, some have claimed that women do not even have a soul, whilst others have taught that women are born sinners or that women are the root of evil. Many other derogatory and entirely unjust claims about women have been made by other religions during the course of time, yet Islamic teachings are completely different and are crystal clear that women are not inferior to men in any way whatsoever. Thus, where the Holy Qur’an mentions ‘believing men,’ it also mentions ‘believing women.’ This is true equality.
If we look at Islamic history, we need only to look at the example of Hazrat Ayesha(ra) [wife of the Holy Prophet(sa)] who attained a great status and who till this day continues to be an example, not only for Muslim women, but also for Muslim men. Where we hold her in high esteem because she was the wife of the Holy Prophet(sa), we also respect and honour her for her own personal qualities, nobility and achievements and she will always remain a role model for Muslims. When we compare and contrast the status bestowed upon women in Islam compared to other religions, it is like night and day.
For example, according to the Bible, on one occasion Mary(ra), mother of Jesus(as), came to meet her son, but Jesus(as) did not receive her or even acknowledge her presence and simply asked, “Who is my mother?”(1) If a person’s mother is not even granted basic rights, then what rights can a wife expect or indeed any other woman?
As I said before, certain other religious teachings have even claimed that women do not possess a soul and so their status is completely demeaned and devalued. Yet, on the other hand, Islam has said that paradise lies under the feet of one’s mother. In light of this, if Muslim women join the choruses of worldly women, seeking to ascertain freedoms and rights, it is futile and needless, because Allah the Almighty has already bestowed true freedom upon Muslim women and made women’s rights an inherent part of Islam that no one has the right to infringe upon.
There are many examples of the equal rights given to women by Islam. For example, it is incumbent on a husband to give a fair dowry to his wife at the time of nikah [Islamic wedding ceremony]. Sadly, some men do not pay the dowry, but that is due to their negligence and error and is against Islam’s teachings. Where the Jama’at is informed of such cases, it seeks to enforce the husband to pay the dowry, because it is the Islamic right of the woman to receive it. Similarly, when it comes to marriage, it is essential that the bride consents freely and happily, without any form of coercion or pressure. Forced marriage is completely wrong and a grave violation of Islamic teaching.
Further, where it is only in the recent past that non-Muslim women have been granted the right to inherit, Islam granted women the right to inheritance more than 1400 years ago. Moreover, at a time when girls were generally deprived of education, Islam championed their right to learning and categorically stated that every girl should be provided education and the means to better herself.
Islam has even guided us on the smallest matters and turned our attention towards true equality in all matters. For example, Islam teaches that if a mother is breastfeeding her child, it is for both her and her husband to decide together when is the right time to transition away from breastfeeding. No other religion has guided its followers and enlightened them in the way that Islam has.
Also, if a woman herself chooses to waive some of her rights, it should not be misinterpreted to suggest that Islam has somehow not given women their due rights. There are certain narrations where Muslim women, perhaps for cultural or traditional reasons, chose to waive their rights, but that was their personal choice and not due to any religious reason. Anyway, no one who looks at Islam’s teachings in a fair and impartial way can deny the fact that Islam has enshrined women’s rights and has granted them freedom and equality.
Muslim women have no need to campaign or advocate for their rights; rather all they need is to understand their faith so that they fully comprehend the rights that Islam has granted them. Only then will they be in a position to utilise those rights for their benefit and progress. Allah the Almighty has Himself established the rights of women and so it is essential that you read the Holy Qur’an and its commentaries and you study the Hadith and the books of the Promised Messiah(as). By doing so, you will gain knowledge of your faith and it will remove any lingering traces of an inferiority complex, or a belief that Muslim women have been deprived in any way.
On the contrary, if you know your faith, you will soon realise that Muslim women are the most fortunate people, because their rights and their status have been established and eternally protected by Allah the Almighty and His noble Prophet(sa). It is not just enough to understand your rights, but at this time, in this era, it is up to Ahmadi Muslims to educate and inform other people and other communities about what Islam has given them. You should let the world know that you do not aspire to follow the ways of today’s so-called developed and progressive people and nor do you have any need to demand your rights. You are already the recipients of all that you need and desire. Rather than following the world, you, as members of Waqf-e-Nau, are the people who have voluntarily presented yourselves for a lifetime of service to your faith so that you can guide the world.
It is incumbent upon you to manifest and proclaim the beautiful teachings of Islam at every opportunity. Even if you are not officially working full-time for the Jama’at, as Waqf-e-Nau, you should present yourselves for service to Lajna Ima’illah [women’s auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community], whilst in your personal lives, you must always illustrate the magnificent teachings of Islam. It is your mission to help and guide not only your own children, but also other Ahmadi girls and women and indeed those people who are not members of our Jama’at. For example, sometimes Ahmadi girls feel a degree of complex or even embarrassment regarding the hijab and Islam’s teachings regarding modest dress. They feel that it is difficult to adopt this religious teaching whilst living in the Western world in this modern era. In this regard, you must set a personal example. It is imperative that members of the Waqfaat-e-Nau scheme always keep their clothing modest and decent and set an example for other Ahmadi women and girls to follow. Once an Ahmadi girl reaches an age of maturity she should cover her head with a scarf and wear loose clothing so that her body is not on display for all to see.
As I said at the beginning, there are more than 2500 members of the Waqfaat-e-Nau scheme in the United Kingdom and, at least I hope half of them, have reached an age of maturity or even more and so they should observe hijab. If you set a positive example in this regard you can, and will, be role models for other Ahmadis and the rest of the world will come to recognise you for your decency and modesty. You will set an example of righteousness and morality that will inspire others and will prove that you are people who choose to follow your faith and that you are the standard bearers for Islam and for women’s rights in this era. You will be the ones who lead others towards genuine progress and development, rather than simply following the crowd towards meaningless material pursuits.
Another issue debated and often condemned in Western society, is the fact that men and women are kept at a certain distance in Islam. For example, a lot is made of the fact that Muslim men and women choose not to shake hands with people of the opposite sex, or prefer to sit and worship separately. Yet, as time goes by, even those who criticise such beliefs are coming to realise the wisdom that underpins our values. For example, I mentioned once before that a prominent lady in Sweden has proposed ‘women-only’ concerts, whilst at the recent New Year’s celebrations in Berlin, a segregated area only for women was erected and was actually called a ‘safe-zone’ by the German authorities. Both in Sweden and in Berlin, they had to take this action due to the indecent way in which men had sexually abused and harassed women in previous years.
Furthermore, in recent months, there has been a huge scandal in the American film industry, after it emerged that male film producers, or other men in similar positions, had abused their power and had attacked and harassed women for many years with impunity. This scandal further escalated after it emerged that sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour had occurred in many other sectors of society. The question is, why were women abused across the world? The answer, whether they like it or not, is the free-mixing that took place which meant that the women were unable to safeguard themselves.
Furthermore, these incidents have also shown that whilst many men have spoken out in favour of freedom of women, often their true motivation was to fulfil their own selfish and immoral desires. They sought opportunities to take advantage of women and to mentally or physically abuse them, and in some cases, it escalated to what can only be termed as torture. In light of all this, and the fact that there are great efforts being made to undermine and defame Islam, it is the duty and responsibility of all Ahmadi women to explain to the people of the world the beauty of Islam’s teachings.
Certainly, members of Waqfaat-e-Nau scheme should be spearheading this effort, and so without any fear or complex, you should openly proclaim the fact that you take pride in your modest dress, in your hijab and in keeping a distance from men. You should openly declare that these are the essential safeguards that Allah the Almighty has chosen in order to protect women, and so rather than being a restriction, hijab is actually a supreme right and protection afforded to Muslim women.
Remember, the Promised Messiah(as) once said that those who object to Islam’s teachings of purdah should first reform the nature of men, because regrettably, many men are unable to control themselves and pursue opportunities to abuse women and to usurp their rights. The Promised Messiah(as) compared such men to a hungry dog, who would immediately pounce when some bread was placed before him.
As I have said, as Waqfaat-e-Nau, it is your mission to not only personally reflect Islam’s teachings, but to spread them far and wide. Whilst Ahmadi girls are unable to study in Jamia Ahmadiyya [seminary for training missionaries of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community], it is imperative that you all have a deep understanding of your religion. Thus, as I said earlier, you will need to read the Holy Qur’an, the Hadith and the books of the Promised Messiah(as), as they will provide you with the knowledge of your faith. The more you increase your knowledge, both individually and as a collective body, the quicker you will be able to bring mankind back towards its Creator and you will be able to play your role in saving this world from the destruction it is charging towards, due to the ever-increasing immodesty and immorality prevailing in society.
Finally, before concluding, I also wish to mention that in the Jama’at, there is also a great demand for doctors and teachers and so as many Ahmadi girls as possible who are part of the Waqf-e-Nau scheme, should also try to fill this need by training in these fields.
At the end, I hope and pray that you all reflect upon what I have said, and seek to attain the highest standards in your religious training and education and that you are never prone to any form of inferiority complex. I pray that you are the shining stars who leave a spiritual trail behind for others to follow and learn from.
May Allah the Almighty bless all your good efforts, and enable you all to fulfil the true spirit of that pledge that you have made, to serve your faith throughout your lives. Now join me in silent prayer.’
- The Bible, Mark 3:31-35.