Thursday, July 24, 2014

Careerwomen of the Sahabiyyaat

There are those who try to say that Khadijah (radhiAllahu 'anha) never worked outside of her home and point to the fact that she had agents conducting much of her work. Ironically, the very point that they try to use to prove that she wasn't involved in actually being a businesswoman (or more explicitly, that she didn't interact with non-mahram men), is what proves that she was.

Those very agents of hers were non-mahram - case in point, her trusted employee Maisara, who was the one who reported to her about the admirable character of young Muhammad (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam).
As well, a false dichotomy is erected when it's implied that she didn't deal with 'strange men' - the default in Islam is that unnecessary mixed gender interaction, and inappropriate gender interaction, is what's forbidden... not respectful, dignified interaction with a necessary purpose.

The books of fiqh explicitly discuss the permissibility of women engaging in business, and in fact mention the case of a woman temporarily removing her niqab to confirm her identity for the purposes of confirming her business transaction.

For those who wish to know of other Sahabiyaat and women of the Tabi'een who had careers, Zaynab bint Jahsh was a skilled craftswoman and would make and sell her products, then give the proceeds to Sadaqah.

Samraa' bint Nuhayk wasn't a businesswoman per se, but was appointed by RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) to monitor the marketplaces and discipline those who were caught cheating or engaging in dodgy transactions.

Rufaydah al-Aslamiyyah was a doctor whose 'hospital' was a tent erected within Masjid an-Nabawi itself. RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) would send all those who were ill or wounded to her.

Hafsah bint 'Umar and ash-Shifa bint Abdullah were teachers, who taught others how to read and write.

It is said that Sawdah bint Zam'ah owned and ran a leather tanning business, and that other Sahabiyyaat such as Khawlah, Bint Fakhriyyah and others were professional traders in the perfumes.

The women of the Ansar ran their own farms and were keen as to how the produce was collected and sold.
All of these activities were careers that had these women engaged outside of merely staying home with the husband and children - they were intelligent and they put their skills to good use.

(Source: Great Women of Islam, published by Darussalam)

In short, those who claim that there is no 'evidence' of Muslim women amongst the Sahabah and Tabi'een having 'careers' are merely revealing their own ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding.


Anonymous said...

Asalamu Alaykum, with reference to khadija mixing with men for purpose of business wouldn't that be an invalid argument due to the command against mixing wasn't even revealed at that point in time

JazakAllahu khayr

AnonyMouse said...

Wa 'alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

Women amongst the Sahabiyyaat were businesswomen, interacted with men for the purposes of business and so on even after the command was revealed. Furthermore, it is recorded in books of fiqh that the permissibility of mixing with the opposite gender for specific purposes such as knowledge, business, etc. is known and allowed.

Anonymous said...

what is the makes wearing niqab an "act of worship" from Quran, Hadith? I was under the impression the wives of Prophet Muhammad SAW covered their faces because they were harassed by non-Muslims.

AnonyMouse said...

There are many evidences that Sahabiyaat other than the wives of RasulAllah wore niqaab:

It was narrated from Safiyyah bint Shaybah that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) used to say: When these words were revealed – “and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)” – they took their izaars (a kind of garment) and tore them from the edges and covered their faces with them.
Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4481.

Asma’ bint Abi Bakr said: We used to cover our faces in front of men.
Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah, 4/203; al-Haakim, 1/624. He classed it as saheeh and al-Dhahabi agreed with him. It was also classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Jilbaab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah.

Even female scholars such as Hafsah bint Sireen used to cover their faces.

‘Aasim al-Ahwaal said: We used to enter upon Hafsah bint Sireen who had put her jilbab thus and covered her face with it, and we would say to her: May Allaah have mercy on you. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And as for women past childbearing who do not expect wedlock, it is no sin on them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment” [al-Noor 24:60]. And she would say to us: What comes after that? We would say: “But to refrain (i.e. not to discard their outer clothing) is better for them”. And she would say: That is confirming the idea of hijab.
Narrated by al-Bayhaqi, 7/93.

Anonymous said...

but how is covering the face = act of worship/getting closer to Allah? or does jilbaab automatically include the face (as in your translation?) doesn't it then imply it's compulsory if everyone has to wear jilbab?

AnonyMouse said...

There are two opinions: One, that the niqab is in fact mandatory, and two, that it is sunnah mu'akkadah - strongly recommended, as there are evidences that not *all* the Sahabiyaat wore niqab, although the *majority* of them did so.

Because it is considered part of the overall hijab/ jilbab, it is considered to be fulfilling an act of worship, the goal of which is to grow closer to Allah through obedience to him.

Anonymous said...

i'm just trying to dispel (for myself) the feminist contention that the face covering is merely "arab cultural dress". so in my mind, saying that Arab sahaabiyat women wore it, doesn't really dispel that. did RasulluLlah blatantly instruct women to cover their faces? mention particular reward for it? some background: I have recently come into contact with a group of (non-Western) niqaabis who which means their children also don' no parks, no beaches, no museums, nada. just watching dubbed Arabic cartoons all day. I'm starting to give credence to the feminist claim that niqaab is a means to segregate women and marginalise them. how much of a choice is niqab really if EVERYONE in your culture wears it, and it would be the equivalent of exposing your chest in contrast! not to mention the *shame* on your husband... and that's another thing, the impression I get is not "I wear niqaab to get closer to Allah" but more, "women are such a temptation they must be covered up completely because "our" poor men"..although living in a Western society... I am just depressed about the whole thing.

AnonyMouse said...

1) The women around RasulAllah (other than his wives and daughters) would not have covered their faces if he did not approve of it or consider it part of hijab. This is a principle of fiqh known as 'silence is approval' - since he didn't tell them *not* to do so, or that doing so was misunderstanding the verses of hijab (as he did with other Companions who acted on their understanding of a command but misunderstood it), then clearly what they did by covering their faces was correct.

2) Unfortunately, twisted misunderstandings of hijab - and other aspects of Islam - do exist. This does not negate the actual ruling of a matter, it just points to the people's ignorance regarding it.

3) The assumption is that all (or most) women who wear niqab do so because everyone in their culture does so... this is not true of many of us who actively chose to wear niqab. For example, in my family, only one of my aunts even wears hijab; my extended family is very liberal and my mother and I are the only two who wear niqab (and my parents didn't let me wear niqab until I was 18 and absolutely sure of it).

3) Many have a disturbingly twisted understanding niqab/ hijab/ modesty. As I mention in many of my articles, the Sahabiyaat and women from later generations never allowed their observance of hijab/niqab to interfere with their societal interactions. They were fully active and contributing members of society.
It truly is sad that Muslims have gone to such extremes, but once again, the mentality of some doesn't automatically mean it's the correct understanding of modesty in Islam.

Anonymous said...

ok being a dog with a bone...but
1) wouldn't this be construed as mere permissibility (tacit approval)? I still don't see the religious merit.
3)my assumption, being a westerner, WAS your perspective, out of choice, educated etc. etc. my contact with the "opposite" is new and I HAVE to wonder, which is the MAJORITY? the enlightened choice or the cultural compulsion? it puts a new spin on the niqab ban.

Anonymous said...

3)also I have to wonder whether class doesn't affect a niqabi's ability to engage with the outside world. for example, a niqabi living in a house with a garden, swimming pool, being driven around in an air conditioned car, I would think would have a different experience to someone poorer, stuck in an apartment, with no car/air conditioning.

AnonyMouse said...

1) The approval of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) with something related to this goes beyond mere tacit approval, as it is related directly to an act of worship (command of hijab).

2) Even if a certain opinion/ practice is the majority, it doesn't make it the correct opinion - unless there is serious textual weight behind it.

3) Class can and does affect some niqabis, but doesn't with others. E.g. I'm definitely not from upper class or even upper middle class; my family doesn't own a house or even rent one with a garden, swimming pool etc.

However, that doesn't affect my ability to interact with 'the outside world' - I go to the park, I go the library, etc.

I would say moreso than class, geography makes a difference - i.e. when I was in Egypt, I rarely got out much (thanks to my agoraphobic ex husband), but in Canada, Kuwait, and Malaysia, I had and have many opportunities to go out.

Anonymous said...

is there any hadith that indicates that the wives of Prophet Muhammad SAW or any other sahaabiyaat covered their faces while on Hajj?

AnonyMouse said...

During Hajj is one of the (very) few times that it's explicitly forbidden to have a cloth covering one's face. Some scholars hold the opinion that it's forbidden to wear niqab or anything concealing the face during Hajj; others say that as long as the cloth isn't *touching* the face, one can cover it.

Hadith of A'ishah is considered most relevant in this context:

It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah said: “We used to go out with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when we were in ihraam. If we met the riders we would lower our garments over our faces.

(Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1833; Ibn Maajah, 2935)

AnonyMouse said...

If you're interested:

Anonymous said...

Jazakum Allah for all the info. Wallahi, hijab/niqab is not something I really researched beyond "I'm pretty sure everything except my hands and face MUST be covered". I will check the link.

I also discovered that the houris in paradise wear niqab!

Angel101 said...

Some people say that Khadijah (radhiAllahu 'anha) gave her business away to prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). What's your thought on this? Is there evidence to say she did give her business away? And also some people say there is no evidence that she continued the business after the verse of hijab.

AnonyMouse said...

Anyone who claims anything regarding Khadijah and her business, are required to bring proof about it.

Secondly, Khadijah (ra) passed away before the ayaat of hijaab were revealed (they were Madani verses and she passed away before the Hijrah). Even after they were revealed, however, women around RasulAllah continued to own and conduct their own businesses.

candy said...

I really like your articles. While I have heard many Aalims and Muslims say it is permissible for a woman to work and earn but upon reading the verse I get confused :“And stay in your houses” [al-Ahzaab 33:33]. What's your take on this?

AnonyMouse said...

It is absolutely permissible for women to go out and work; however, the aayah refers to simply going out and loitering about with no purpose. Should we have no actual need to go out (and 'need' is broadly defined; e.g. going out for exercise, fresh air and sunshine are perfectly fine), it is preferred for us to stay home and occupy our time with more fruitful things.

Angel101 said...

What do you think of this statement and how it correlates to your understanding of women in public domain.

What do you think of this?

"The best women are those who do not see the men, and who are not seen by the men." [Ahkaam an-Nisa, p219] said by Fatima (ra).

Anonymous said...

Can you give evidence that these women were 'career women' in the strictest sense, working 9-5, exposing themselves to men, having no care to children? I don't think you can because those times were different.

Selling clothes from home was something my own mother did and that isn't the same as something most of these young misguided Muslimas do. Fatima (RA) is beloved to the Prophet largely because she was domestic, pure and a shy girl. Khadijah (RA) has a high status because she was the first to believe in the Prophet, not because she worked.

Working is an exception not the rule for women.