If I had a pound for every time I have heard the statement “A Muslim woman can’t do that!”, I would have become a rich woman long ago.
One issue that stayed with me for many years is the one of leadership. According to some ‘scholars’, there is evidence from the Prophet – a hadith which states that I as a woman can not and should not, attempt to stand for roles of leadership, the judiciary, or even manage my own business myself.
This is the Hadith in the collection of Bukhari;
Narrated Abu Bakra:
During the battle of Al-Jamal, Allah benefited me with a Word (I heard from the Prophet). When the Prophet heard the news that the people of the Persia had made the daughter of Khosrau their Queen (ruler), he said, “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler’.
The ‘scholars’ usually quote a shorter version which removes the context. It reads;
He (The Prophet) said, “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler’.
Often, there are reasons added to this as to why women are simply wrong for leadership;
1). That women are too emotional.
2). Decision making is affected by hormonal changes during the menstruation cycle.
3). Women need to take care of the domestic sphere and children.
4). A female leader would then attempt to subjugate her husband and treat him like an employee.
5). Men are more intelligent.
Going back to the longer version of the hadith, context is always necessary to understand fully what is meant.
The Prophet was talking about a specific nation – Persia and stating that the Muslims would be successful over the Persians. It was, simply put, a prophecy which later came true (after the Prophet’s death).
Let’s look at it from another angle also. The angle of real evidence. Looking both at history and current times, there are many examples of successful female leadership. These include the UK (Margaret Thatcher), Germany (Angela Merkel), Norway (Erna Solberg), and Taiwan (Tsai Ing-Wen) – to mention but a few.
If we believe the Prophet’s words to be true then how could the above hadith be a general statement about women not being able to be successful leaders when there are so many examples of just that?
In fact, the Prophet’s first wife Khadija had her own business empire and is a great example of female leadership. She certainly did not give it all up to become a Muslim nor was she expected to.
So, in conclusion, Islam does NOT tell us Muslim women cannot do a list of things. No, that list comes from the mouths of men and a mixing of misogynistic patriarchy with religion. Gender does not determine how good a job you can do – whether the job is in leadership, the judiciary, management, or any other sector. It isn’t WHAT you are that makes the difference. It’s WHO you are at your core, your values, and principles which makes a great leader.