Dear Friday Jemaah,
Let us continue developing our takwa towards Allah s.w.t. by inculcating a deep sense of piety, obeying all of His commands and avoiding what He has prohibited upon us. May Allah open our hearts to accept beneficial knowledge, for our success in this world and the hereafter.
My dear jemaah,
From the beginning, Islam has always placed importance on women’s affairs. The importance of women in Islam can be seen in a hadith of the Prophet s.a.w. where a young man asked Rasulullah s.a.w. as to whom he should treat well, and the Prophet s.a.w. firmly replied that he should first treat his mother well. And Rasulullah s.a.w. gave the same response thrice, and only after that he mentioned that the father should be treated well. [Hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari and Muslim]
Perhaps when we first heard this hadith, we would have assumed that it only meant that the mother has priority over the father. However, the fact that it was mentioned thrice by the Prophet s.a.w. signals that the role of women is far more important compared the men in educating and nurturing the younger generation. This is because, a pious woman will give birth to and groom her children to become a pious doctor, a pious engineer, a pious architect, a pious entrepreneur, a pious judge and so on, until a civilisation is developed. Indeed the hand that rocks the cradle shapes the world.
Islam acknowledges the important role played by women, and thus Islam places much importance on education for women. This is because a mother is the first source of knowledge for her children, and thus her descendants. The first message from Allah to mankind through the Quran was the command for us to read. Allah says in the Quran in surah Al-Alaq:
Which means: “Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created-. Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen,- Taught man that which he knew not.” (Surah Al-Alaq: 1-5)
These verses are enough to impress upon us the importance of seeking knowledge and the importance of intellectual thought for the Muslim ummah. The importance of seeking knowledge is not just obligatory upon men but also for women as well. If we study Islamic history, we will learn about leading Muslim women who contributed vastly to the development of the ummah and towards civilisation. For example, an esteemed female scholar who made many contributions to the ummah of her time was Sayyidah Nafisah Binti Al-Hasan, the great-granddaughter of Sayyidina Ali Bin Abi Talib r.a., and Sayyidatina Fatimah binti Rasul r.a.
My dear brothers,
When she was in Madinah, Sayyidah Nafisah learnt from leading scholars of Hadith and Fiqh, and was given the title “Nafiisatul ‘Ilmi” (which means the most valuable gem in the field of knowledge). This despite the fact that she was still very young at that time. When she moved to Egypt with her husband, Sayyidah Nafisah became a well-known and influential figure within the society. Many students came to her to learn Al-Quran and the Hadith of Rasulullah s.a.w. In fact, Imam As-Syafi’i rahimahullah himself once studied from her.
Much can be said about the life and contribution of Nafisah, but I believe that we should reflect upon the valuable lessons which we can learn from the life of this distinguished female scholar.
First: The support of the father, as the leader of the family, and the support of the family when it comes to the children’s education especially that of the daughters’; is a crucial factor. We have to encourage our daughters to emulate the life of Sayyidah Nafisah, and ensure that the home environment is one that promotes reading and creates the drive to pursue education. The first verse of surah Al-‘Alaq underscores the fact that reading should be a culture of the Muslims, no matter the era or the place. A successful community is one that reads.
Second: There needs to be a culture of knowledge within the Muslim community, and it has to be one where women are encouraged to seek knowledge.
At times, we forget that learning is supposed to be a lifelong process. . We take for granted the importance of reflecting and thinking, and thus this weakens us and makes us less resilient in facing the various challenges today. There are also those who are "backward" in their thinking, and are of the opinion that women do not need to pursue higher education because she will "ultimately remain in the kitchen".
If this sort of thinking continues to permeate in our society, especially among parents, then our concern is that the future generation will be robbed of the opportunity to be well-educated and groomed into future leaders and thinkers, simply because they lack the education – be it religious education or otherwise.
If we look back and reflect upon history, we will realise that even during the time of Rasulullah s.a.w., the Prophet himself strongly encouraged women to seek knowledge. Despite his busy schedule as a Prophet, Rasulullah s.a.w. would dedicate one day where the women could learn from him. Nabi s.a.w. was very concerned about the women, and took pains to entertain all their queries. In fact, his wives, including Sayyidatina A’isyah r.a; were among those who narrated many of the hadith of the Prophet s.a.w. and became one of the sources of reference of hadith for the companions and the generation after them.
InsyaAllah, if we adopt a more open-minded attitude and continue our support for Muslimahs to pursue their studies in whichever field they are interested in and give them the opportunity to share the knowledge, then our Muslim women will definitely be more successful and not only will they contribute to their families and themselves, but also to the society and country.
We should grab the various opportunities that are readily available to us today to encourage our children to follow their dreams to pursue their education. May Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala put barakah in our efforts to educate and raise our children and grandchildren, to be knowledgeable with a deep sense of takwa towards Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala and the pride of Nabi Muhammad Sollallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam.
Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura
Friday Sermon, 28 March 2014 / 26 Jamadilawal 1435