Saturday, January 12, 2008

Are there more women than men in hell?

Are there more women than men in hell?

I have often pondered the attitude of many pious Muslims who although they dearly love Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) nevertheless seem to have a reverence based on fear. If one reads the Qur’an and hadith collections, it is as plain as the nose on your face that the chief characteristic of our dear Lord Allah is His Compassion, His understanding love. The fact that He is the Compassionate, the Merciful introduces every surah except surah 9 (probably because it is most likely a continuation of surah 8) and every prayer. Yes, there is sternness and justice when dealing with evil, but above all, there is enormous compassion for weakness and mistakes. The Almighty our Creator knows full well that we are but human beings, full of faults and sins and disappointments and blind-spots. It is one of the greatest blessings that when it comes to punishing us for our failings, our Lord does not judge as a human being does, but in a way we can never fully understand or appreciate. His compassion is so far above our own.

As He revealed to us in the Qur’an, if He punished us according to what we deserved, there would be left on earth no living thing. (Qur’an 35:45). Alhamdulillah!

Similarly, our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was the living example for us of all the qualities Allah wished us to encourage and build up in ourselves. He was gentle, and kind, and honourable, and brave, taking the side of the helpless, the children, the destitute, the abused women. He did this even before his call to Prophethood, for it was the main aim of the Order of Chivalry (the Hilf al-Fudul) founded by his uncle Zubayr b. Abd al-Muttalib, and the chief of Taym, Abdallah b. Juda’an.

So, whenever we come across a bald statement in the writings that seems to be out of keeping, and looks as if our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) couldn’t possibly have said that for it does not ring true with what we know about him, we must look a little deeper to see if there is some aspect of it that we have perhaps missed. Needless to say, the very first rule of judging whether or not a hadith is reliable is to test it against the teaching and spirit of the Qur’an. Any hadith that disagrees with the Qur’an cannot possibly be genuine.

The western media is frequently accused of misunderstanding Islam, so let us look briefly at a few stunning headlines that might have appeared shortly before 632 CE. They all give pause for thought.

Prophet dooms young orphan girl to early death.’

Prophet curses favourite wife from his death-bed.’

‘Prophet insists Paradise is denied to old women.’

‘Prophet rages: ‘Hell is two-thirds full of women!’’

None of these headlines would sound at all right to anyone who knows anything about Islam. All the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) words, actions and way of life reveal him as a man of gentleness, kindness, humility, good humour and excellent common sense, who had a great love for all people, especially for his family. Aishah said of him: ‘The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) never abused or spoke ill of anybody. He forgave faults and refrained from retaliation. He never thought of taking personal revenge, forgave non-believers promptly on their conversion to Islam; never fought on personal grounds; took an interest in his household affairs; condemned vendettas and blood feuds; and never beat anyone, not even a slave’. When Aishah was asked what the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was like at home, she said: ‘He does what you all do in your houses – he also patches his clothes and repairs his shoes, and feeds his goats.’ He used to ‘serve his family’, and help them in their household chores until the time came for prayer, and then he would go out. She said: ‘He was more bashful than a maiden in seclusion, but when he disliked something, we could see it immediately in his face.’

He never used to speak badly of people, following the principle that if you couldn’t say something good, then say nothing at all. He disliked whispering and sniggering. He once said: ‘If you are three people, two of you should not speak in a confidential manner in the presence of the third until you mix with other people, because that brings sadness to the heart of the third person, who feels left out, and alienates him.’ Those who spoke with him knew that they would be treated with courtesy, forbearance, modesty and trust. He disliked raised voices, and never shouted or uttered obscene words, or indulged in fault-finding. He simply ignored what he did not like, and did not make a fuss about it. Moreover, he was very kind, and never gossiped or made known the shortcomings of anyone, or exposed their defects to others. He did not attempt to find out people’s secrets, and when told them, he never declared them to others. The one thing he did hate was lying. Aishah recorded: ‘No habit was more disgusting to him than telling a lie. If he found out about anyone lying, he kept away from that person until they were genuinely sorry for it.’ Yet if he disapproved of something, he never told the person directly or abruptly, but simply let his wishes be known tactfully.

He also hated suspicion, and said: ‘Suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others' faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah's worshippers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you)! (Bukhari 8.90).

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) believed in good manners, always greeting people kindly, showing respect to elders. He was never arrogant or ‘superior’ despite his eminent position as leader, making no-one ever feel small, unwanted or embarrassed. People who sat in his company never felt that he was rude to them, or that he ignored or neglected them. When he shook hands with someone, he was never the first to withdraw his hand. He would not break off a conversation until he was sure the person had finished and was ready to turn away, and he never turned his face away from the person he was talking to.

He had done that once in the early days in Makkah, when blind Abdallah b. Umm Maktum came to interrupt him with a question about one of the revealed verses. At the time he was deep in conversation with Walid b. Mughirah and his influential friends Uqbah and Shaybah b. Rabi’ah, Abu Jahl and Umayyah b. Khalaf. The Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) momentary impatience earned him a violent headache and temporary partial blindness, and a rebuke from Allah that came in the revelation of Surah 80:1-16. For years after that he used to greet Abdallah with the words: ‘Salaam to the one on behalf of whom my Sustainer has rebuked me.’ This was the Ibn Umm Maktum (called both Abdallah and Amr in the sources) who was frequently deputised to lead the prayers in Madinah when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was on his expeditions.

Some people have supposed the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to have been a severe, austere man, but in fact he was always smiling. One companion said of him: ‘I have seen no person smiling more than the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).’ Aishah said: ‘He was the softest and most kind of all people; and he was a man like you, except that he was cheerful and smiling.’

When people laughed, he laughed with them. Although his laugh was usually no more than a smile, sometimes it was said of him that he threw back his head and laughed so completely that his teeth shone like white hailstones. There are many hadiths recording how the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) laughed so heartily at something that people could see his molar teeth! For example, when Aishah as a child argued with him about her model horses with wings, and pointed out that Solomon had such horses, ‘Thereupon the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) laughed so heartily that I could see his molar teeth.’ (Abu Dawud 2316).

During one time of drought he prayed for rain, and ‘the rain fell by Allah's permission, and before he reached his mosque streams were flowing. When he saw the speed with which the people were seeking shelter, he (peace be upon him) laughed till his back teeth were visible. Then he said: ‘I testify that Allah is Omnipotent and that I am Allah's servant and apostle.’ (Abu Dawud 452).

Examples of many other hadiths making a point of mentioning the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) laughter are Bukhari 3.157;Bukhari 6.466; Bukhari 8.299; Bukhari 9.510; and Muslim 82;

He had, in fact, a whimsical sense of humour, revealed in many of his sayings, and the nicknames he gave people. For example, any lady who was called Barrah immediately got her name changed to something else, for ‘barrah’ meant ‘good’, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained that if he did not change that name he would never be able to say ‘goodbye’, for it hurt him to bid farewell to the Good.

Other nicknames included Abu Hurayrah (‘Father of the little cat’ – so called because when he worked as a shepherd he used to keep a kitten), and Abu Turab (‘Father of dust’ – the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) name for his son-in-law Ali, who used to throw dust on himself whenever he and Fatimah had a disagreement).

The Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) wives were known as ‘the glass vessels’. Anas recorded how he and Umm Sulaym had been in company with the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) wives once while they were travelling in howdahs, being hurried along by Anjasha’s singing. ‘Gently, O Anjasha,’ cried the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to the camel-driver. ‘Be careful – these camels are carrying delicate glass vessels. Don’t break them.’(Muslim 5746).

One day when they were digging the Ditch before the Battle of al-Ahzab the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, and Abu Bakr and Umar stood guard over him keeping the labourers away so that he could sleep in peace. Zayd b. Thabit, who was just sixteen and preparing for his first experience of battle, also fell asleep. Umarah b. Hazm played a practical joke on him, stealing his clothes and tools, and hiding them. Thus Zayd earned the nickname Abu Ruqad (the ‘Sleepy One’ or ‘Father of Dreams’).

One of the keenest diggers was the ‘little beetle’, Amr b. Suraqah (Ju’ayl). One of his companions gave rhythm to his digging with the song:

His name he changed, Ju’ayl to Amr,

gave the poor man that day his help.’

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) joined in by only shouting the words at the end of each line loudly, making people laugh.

Surely it would be improper for a prophet of God to have a sense of humour? Far from it -– it only seems improper to those who have not read about the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with understanding. In fact, he was not a dour pronouncer of doom except when such pronouncements were necessary -– he was a man who was attractive and alive with humour, forever drawing people to the faith, not driving them away. He once said: ‘The dearest of you to me are those who have good manners; the most offensive to me are the most boring and the long-winded!’

Umar b. Khattab recorded that during the lifetime of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) there was a man called Abdullah whose nickname was Donkey, who regularly used to make the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) laugh. One day the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had him flogged because of drinking alcohol. A little later he was brought back again on the same charge and was lashed again. At that, one of the men said, ‘O Allah, curse him! How frequently he has been brought (to the Prophet on such a charge)!’ The Prophet said: ‘Do not curse him, for by Allah, I know for he loves Allah and His Apostle.’ (Bukhari 8.771).

Nothing enraged him, and he despised no-one – except those overcome by evil, who were opposed to Allah and His ways. Even so, it was not the person, but the evil that had taken hold of them that was despised. Once any such person repented and turned back to good, he or she was accepted instantly, and forgiven – both by Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). He did not take offence at anything and then take revenge on the person who offended him, unless the sacred things of Allah had been violated, in which case he would only take revenge for the sake of Allah. He certainly never made unpleasant remarks designed to hurt or spite people.

However, sometimes his remarks were given with dry humour, which has been misinterpreted by those who have taken such statements literally. For example, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) took a dim view of Muslims who could not manage to offer a few prayers during the night—referring to them as ‘those in whose ears the Devil has urinated!’ He did not mean this literally.

Once he made an old lady cry by teasing her that there would be no old women in Paradise. She was devastated until he explained that what he meant was that Allah would make all old people young again.

Once Umm Ayman asked him if she could have a camel. He commented that he would only mount her on the offspring of a she-camel. Umm Ayman was hardly satisfied – and pointed out that it would not be able to bear her weight. ‘Mother,’ the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) insisted, ‘I will only mount you on the offspring of a she-camel’ At last she realised he was joking with her, for all camels were offspring of she-camels!

Qaswah was the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) favourite camel, and was with him until he died, having shared many significant moments with him – notably the hijrah, the pilgrimages, the surrender of Makkah, and the Final Pilgrimage. She was not only famous, but very fleet of foot, and was never beaten in a race until a Bedouin on a much younger camel finally succeeded. They hardly dared inform the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) of this ‘humiliation’, but knowing that all creatures slow down with old age, he merely smiled and said: ‘Allah has the right to humiliate those who rise high in the world.’

At the Battle of Khaybar the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) forces were assisted by Umm Sulaym who came with an orphan girl she had raised in her household as her own daughter. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saw her and teased her: ‘How can that be you? You seem to have grown younger! May you never advance in years.’ The poor girl totally misunderstood him, and Umm Sulaym found her in tears. She explained that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had cursed her so that she would never live to old age. Umm Sulaym rushed straightway to confront him with this outrage. He smiled and said: ‘Umm Sulaym, don’t worry. I have made a bargain with my Lord - I am only human, and am pleased or in bad temper like any other person; but I asked Allah that if I ever cursed a person who did not deserve it, then Allah would on the contrary let that be a source of purity and nearness to Him for that person, on the Day of Resurrection’. (Muslim 6297).

After the Farewell Pilgrimage at the Eid prayer, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) walked past the men leaning on Bilal’s arm, and came to the rows of women behind them. Bilal spread out a cloth and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) urged the women to be generous with their gifts of charity, for when he had been allowed a glimpse into the flames of Hell, he had noted that most of the people being tormented there were women. The women were outraged, and one of them instantly stood up boldly and demanded to know why that was so. ‘Because,’ he replied, ‘you women grumble so much, and show ingratitude to your husbands! Even if the poor fellows spent all their lives doing good things for you, you have only to be upset at the least thing and you will say, 'I have never received any good from you!’ (Bukhari 1.28, recorded by Ibn Abbas – who was present on that occasion as a child). At that the women began vigorously to pull off their rings and ear-rings, and throw them into Bilal’s cloth.

Even on his deathbed the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made characteristic remarks. He had requested Abu Bakr to lead the prayers in his place, but he heard Umar’s voice and demanded an explanation. Aishah admitted she had sent Umar, explaining that her father was too distressed and overcome with emotion, his voice shook, and he wept when he recited the Qur’an. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) insisted it was to be Abu Bakr, and called Aishah ‘one of the women of Joseph’ (that is, one of those who were tempted to seduce the Prophet Yusuf/Joseph (Allah bless him and give him peace). He also used the expression ‘may your hand be cut off.’ He had only said those words fondly, but when he noticed later that Aishah kept looking at her hands he asked her what was the matter. She told him she was wondering which hand she would lose!

Thus it is that reading and pondering deeply on the hadiths pays enormous rewards to those who love the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Phrases that had at first seemed like teachings hostile to women when taken out of context suddenly bring us close to our Messenger, and we feel instead his love and humour and humanity.

In conclusion, perhaps we should note that it was not only the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) humour that was sometimes misunderstood, but even straightforward statements.

For example, it was the normal practice of the female Companions to pray in the mosque, with no sutrah dividing them from their men. They prayed behind them, but with no dividing walls or curtains – which one could argue might have invalidated their prayer ‘in congregation’. Yet nowadays, in some places we find devout brothers in Islam depriving women of their rightful place in the mosque by quoting the hadith that it is better for women to pray at home. Where did this originate? In fact, it came from an occasion when an elderly and arthritic Muslim lady—Umm Humayd—expressed her regret to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that although she longed to pray behind him in the mosque, as so many others did, she was not able to be there. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told her not to be concerned about this, it was better for her to pray in her own home (Abu Dawud 570). Many male Muslims have misguidedly used this hadith to try to prevent their women from going to mosques, and have turned them into ‘male clubs’ where any women who do go feel obtrusive, shy and ‘pushy’, when it is obvious from so many other hadiths that it was the normal practice in Madinah for them to go. For example, Caliph Umar’s grandson tried to prevent his wife, but was over-ruled by his father since the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had encouraged them saying: ‘Do not prevent the handmaids of Allah from attending the mosque.’ Muslim 888, Abu Dawud 568.

Sometimes the supposed anti-female hadith seems completely untrue. One such hadith was the one that no nation that allowed itself to be ruled by a woman would prosper. This may have been an example of one of the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) wry comments, but it is suspect for it was only quoted for the first time by Abu Bakra just before the Battle of Siffin, some thirty years after the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) death. The reason was that the troops opposing Caliph Ali were in fact being led by a woman, none other than the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) beloved wife Aishah!

The hadith seems in direct opposition to the words of the Qur’an to the ruling Queen of Sheba in the time of the Prophet Sulayman (Solomon), who ruled over the most wealthy and well-known people in the history of Arabia. She was asked to accept Islam, but not to give up her rule (Surah 27:23-44).

Indeed, some feel that Abu Bakra’s testimony should be held in doubt anyway, since he had previously been flogged for a fraudulent statement, and the shari’ah ruling was that after such an offence the person’s word should never again be upheld as reliable in a court of law. However, Abu Bakra was a noble Companion who had converted to Islam from Taif, and who related several hadiths. His ‘offence’ concerned the case of Mugheera b. Shu'ba, a man known for his weakness for women. He would marry women and would divorce them after some time to make room for more beautiful faces. In this way, he married no less than 80 wives, taking steps to ensure that at a time his wives were not more than four, the limit prescribed by the Shariah.

In those days at Basra, there was a beautiful woman Umm Jamil. She belonged to the same tribe as that of Mugheera. Her husband had died and she became notorious for loose morals. Mugheera was attracted by her and she visited him often.

Some Muslims in Basra became critical of the conduct of Mugheera. Among them was Abu Bakra Thaqeefi whose house across the street faced the house of Mugheera.

One day a strong wind blew and the windows of the houses of Abu Bakra and Mugheera got opened through the force of the wind. He saw through the window that in this house Mugheera was locked in an uncompromising state with a woman. He thought that the woman was Umm Jamil. He had some friends with him, and they also saw Mugheera involved with a woman.

Abu Bakra wrote to Caliph Umar accusing Mugheera of adultery. The report was endorsed by four witnesses who had seen Mugheera in an uncompromising state with a woman. Umar took prompt action. Umar appointed Abu Musa as the Governor of Basra and removed Mugheera from the office. Mugheera was summoned to Madinah to face trial. Abu Bakra and the other witnesses who had made the complaint were also summoned to Madinah.

At the trial, Mugheera pleaded not guilty. His defence was that the woman in question was his wife and not Umm Jamil. With great indignation he averred that Abu Bakra and the men with him had no right to interfere in his privacy. Abu Bakra on the other hand maintained that the woman was Umm Jamil. Three other witnesses corroborated the statement of Abu Bakra. The fourth witness Ziyad stated that he had seen the event, but he had not seen the face of the woman and did not know who she was. The other witnesses were cross examined, and it was found that there were some weak points in their evidence. They were asked whether the woman had her back or her face toward them. They said that she had their back to them. They tried to make out that even from her back she could be identified as Umm Jamil. They argued that the scandal of Mugheera and Umm Jamil was very common in Basra, and that lady was none else but Umm Jamil.

Under the Quranic law in order to press the charge of adultery definite evidence of four witnesses was necessary. As in this case the fourth witness was not sure of the identification of the woman, Mugheera was given the benefit of doubt and acquitted. Abu Bakra and his companions who had levelled the charge were punished with lashes for making a charge which could not be established. Such was the care that was taken with evidence for adultery in those days! However, one feels that Abu Bakra did not deserve his flogging.

In spite of his acquittal, Mugheera was not restored to the office of the Governor, and was detained in Madinah. He made some show of indignation at having been treated shabbily in a case which was false. Umar called him to his presence and issued the warning: "O Mugheera offer thanks to God that full evidence was not forthcoming against you, and you have been saved from disgrace by a technical flaw. Grounds of suspicion against you were very much there, and I have given you the benefit of doubt. Remember that if the evidence was complete, you would have been stoned to death." (From the lives of the Caliphs, Alim CD).


I would like to examine more closely the saying about Hell being two-thirds full of women. The hadith in fact came in several different versions, based on two quite separate occasions - the first being the collection of alms after the Eid prayer, as I have presented it in my article, and the second being the day of the tragic death of the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) son Ibrahim, when an eclipse occurred. Added phrases mention the women’s practice of Islam as being inferior to that of the men.

Taking the ‘eclipse’ sayings first:

Abdullah bin Abbas (who was also the source of the hadith given in Bukhari 1:28, where the occasion was the Eid prayer) narrated: The sun eclipsed in the lifetime of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Allah's Apostle offered the eclipse prayer and stood for a long period equal to the time in which one could recite Surat-al-Baqara. Then he bowed for a long time and then stood up for a long period which was shorter than that of the first standing, then bowed again for a long time but for a shorter period than the first; then he prostrated twice and then stood up for a long period which was shorter than that of the first standing; then he bowed for a long time which was shorter than the previous one, and then he raised his head and stood up for a long period which was shorter than the first standing, then he bowed for a long time which was shorter than the first bowing, and then prostrated (twice) and finished the prayer. By then, the sun (eclipse) had cleared. The Prophet then said, "The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah. They eclipse neither because of the death of somebody nor because of his life (i.e. birth). So when you see them, remember Allah." The people say, "O Allah's Apostle! We saw you taking something from your place and then we saw you retreating." The Prophet replied, "I saw Paradise and stretched my hands towards a bunch (of its fruits) and had I taken it, you would have eaten from it as long as the world remains. I also saw the Hell-fire and I had never seen such a horrible sight. I saw that most of the inhabitants were women." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! Why is it so?" The Prophet replied, "Because of their ungratefulness." It was asked whether they are ungrateful to Allah. The Prophet said, "They are ungrateful to their companions of life (husbands) and ungrateful to good deeds. If you are benevolent to one of them throughout the life and if she sees anything (undesirable) in you, she will say, 'I have never had any good from you.' " (Buk 2.161).

Buk 7.125 gives the first part the same as the above, and continues: "I saw Paradise (or Paradise was shown to me), and I stretched my hand to pluck a bunch (of grapes), and had I plucked it, you would have eaten of it as long as this world exists. Then I saw the (Hell) Fire, and I have never before, seen such a horrible sight as that, and I saw that the majority of its dwellers were women." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is the reason for that?" He replied, "Because of their ungratefulness." It was said. "Do they disbelieve in Allah (are they ungrateful to Allah)?" He replied, "They are not thankful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favours done to them. Even if you do good to one of them all your life, when she seems some harshness from you, she will say, "I have never seen any good from you.' "

Now let us consider the Eid sayings:

Abu Said al-Khudri narrated: Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) on 'Id-al-Adha or al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion." (Bukhari 1.301).

According to Bukhari 2.541 Abu Said al-Khudri narrated: On 'Id ul Fitr or 'Id ul Adha Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) went out to the Musalla. After finishing the prayer, he delivered the sermon and ordered the people to give alms. He said, "O people! Give alms." Then he went towards the women and said. "O women! Give alms, for I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-Fire were you (women)." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is the reason for it?" He replied, "O women! You curse frequently, and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. O women, some of you can lead a cautious wise man astray." Then he left. And when he reached his house, Zainab, the wife of Ibn Mas'ud, came and asked permission to enter it was said, "O Allah's Apostle! It is Zainab." He asked, "Which Zainab?" The reply was that she was the wife of Ibn Mas'ud. He said, "Yes, allow her to enter." And she was admitted. Then she said, "O Prophet of Allah! Today you ordered people to give alms and I had an ornament and intended to give it as alms, but Ibn Mas'ud said that he and his children deserved it more than anybody else." The Prophet replied, "Ibn Mas'ud had spoken the truth. Your husband and your children had more right to it than anybody else."

In Muslim 31 Abdullah ibn Umar narrated: The Messenger of Allah observed: O women, you should give charity and ask for much forgiveness for I saw you in majority amongst the dwellers of Hell. A wise lady among them said: Why is it, Messenger of Allah, that our gender is in majority in Hell? Upon this the Holy Prophet observed: You curse too much and are ungrateful to your spouses. I have seen none lacking in common sense and failing in religion but (at the same time) robbing the wisdom of the wise, besides you. Upon this the woman remarked: What is wrong with our common sense and with religion? He (the Holy prophet) observed: Your lack of common sense (can be well judged from the fact) that the evidence of two women is equal to that of one man, that is a proof of the lack of common sense, and you spend some nights (and days) in which you do not offer prayer and in the month of Ramadan (during the days) you do not observe fast, that is a failing in religion. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Abu Tahir with this chain of transmitters. See also Muslim 448.

However, we must make very clear that women not offering prayer during their menses in the month of Ramadan is NOT a failing in their religion at all – it was a concession allowed by Allah in His revelation. Women were simply required to make up the missed days at some other time before the next Ramadan month.

Therefore, anyone of you who witnesses that month should fast therein, and whoever is ill or upon a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on. Allah intends your well-being and does not want to put you to hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period so that you should glorify His Greatness and render thanks to Him for giving you guidance.’ 2:185:

Imam Malik did not regard travelling as being a good enough reason. ‘No one who, by the Book of Allah, has to fast may break his fast except for a reason - illness or menstruation. He must not travel and break his fast." Malik said, "This is the best that I have heard about the matter." Al-Muwatta 18:40.

Fiqh as-Sunnah 1.71a: If women fast (while menstruating during Ramadan), their fasting will be considered null and void. If they fast during the month of Ramadan, they will still have to make those days of fasting up later on. Mu'adhah said, "I asked 'Aishah, 'Why must we make up the fasts missed due to our menstruation, and not the prayers (missed through menstruation)?' She said, 'That was what the Messenger of Allah told us to do. We were ordered to make up the fasts, and we were ordered not to make up the prayers."

As regards the witness of two women being required instead of one, the shari’ah generally accepts that this is advisable in cases where women have little knowledge and no expertise of the subject. In matters where their witness would be just as valid as a man’s, the witness of one women is sufficient.

Narrated Abu Hurairah: While we were sitting with the Prophet a man came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have been ruined." Allah's Apostle asked what was the matter with him. He replied "I had sexual intercourse with my wife while I was fasting." Allah's Apostle asked him, "Can you afford to manumit a slave?" He replied in the negative. Allah's Apostle asked him, "Can you fast for two successive months?" He replied in the negative. The Prophet asked him, "Can you afford to feed sixty poor persons?" He replied in the negative. The Prophet kept silent and while we were in that state, a big basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet . He asked, "Where is the questioner?" He replied, "I (am here)." The Prophet said (to him), "Take this (basket of dates) and give it in charity." The man said, "Should I give it to a person poorer than I? By Allah; there is no family between its (i.e. Medina's) two mountains who are poorer than I." The Prophet smiled till his premolar teeth became visible and then said, "Feed your family with it."Bukhari 3.157.

Narrated Abdullah: A Jew came to the Prophet and said, "O Muhammad! Allah will hold the heavens on a Finger, and the mountains on a Finger, and the trees on a Finger, and all the creation on a Finger, and then He will say, 'I am the King.' " On that Allah's Apostle smiled till his premolar teeth became visible, and then recited: "No just estimate have they made of Allah such as due to him..." (39.67) 'Abdullah added: Allah's Apostle smiled (at the Jew's statement) expressing his wonder and belief in what was said. Bukhari 9.510.

Narrated AbuDharr: Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) said: I know the last of the inhabitants of Paradise to enter it and the last of the inhabitants of Hell to come out of it. He is a man who would be brought on the Day of Resurrection and it will be said: Present his minor sins to him, and withhold from him his serious sins. Then the minor sins would be placed before him, and it would be said: On such and such a day you did so and so and on such and such a day you did so and so. He would say: Yes. It will not be possible for him to deny, while he would be afraid lest serious sins should be presented before him. It would be said to him: In place of every evil deed you will have good deed He will say: My Lord! I have done things I do not see here. I indeed saw the Messenger of Allah laugh till his front teeth were exposed. Muslim 82.

Then he advised them not to laugh when somebody breaks wind and said, "Why should anybody laugh at what he himself does?" Bukhari 6.466.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Whenever Allah's Apostle went to Quba, he used to visit Um Haram bint Milhan who would offer him meals; and she was the wife of 'Ubada bin As-samit. One day he went to her house and she offered him a meal, and after that he slept, and then woke up smiling. She (Um Haram) said, "I asked him, 'What makes you laugh, O Allah's Apostle?' He said, 'Some people of my followers were displayed before me as warriors fighting for Allah's Cause and sailing over this sea, kings on thrones,' or said, 'like kings on thrones.' (The narrator, Ishaq is in doubt about it). I (Um Haram) said, 'O Allah's Apostle! Invoke Allah that He may make me one of them.' He invoked (Allah) for her and then lay his head and slept again and then woke up smiling. I asked, 'What makes you laugh, O Allah's Apostle?' He said, 'Some people of my followers were displayed before me as warriors fighting for Allah's Cause and sailing over this sea, kings on the thrones,' or said, 'like kings on the thrones.' I (Um Haram) said, 'O Allah's Apostle! Invoke Allah that He may make me one of them.' He said, 'You will be amongst the first ones.' " It is said that Um Haram sailed over the sea at the time of Muawiya, and on coming out of the sea, she fell down from her riding animal and died." Bukhari 8.299.

(Many passages in this article were taken from her book on the Life of the Prophet, due out later this year insha’Allah, and where no reference is given to the sahih hadith collections, they were derived from Ibn Hisham or Ibn Sa’d).

by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood

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