CAN A WOMAN BE A LEADER?
Maulana Dr. Waffie Mohammed
Some Muslims are confused as to what they should do in the up coming General Elections of Trinidad and Tobago. The reason for being uncertain as to whether they should vote or not, is because of the opinion of some scholars that Muslims should not put a woman in a leadership position.
Those who are propagating this belief base their authority on the Hadith of Prophet (pboh) as is reported by Abu Bakrah, and is recorded in Sahih Bukhari, Hadith No. 4425. According to this Hadith, the Prophet (pboh) is reported to have said: A nation which placed its affairs in the hands of a woman shall never prosper.
Those who claim that the leadership of women is un-Islamic rely on this Hadith for so doing. It is interesting to know that there was never unanimity on this matter among the scholars, past and present, regarding the authenticity of this Hadith; as the disenfranchisement of women in politics is suspicious.
Upon close examination of the Hadith, it is found that, even those who rely on it as guidance, are not clear regarding the position of the part of it which says: placing the affairs in the hands of women.
Some scholars prohibit women to hold any public office. However, Imam Abu Hanifa is of the view that a woman can hold any public office including that of a judge on all cases except where fixed penalties (hudud and qisas) are to be prescribed.
There are scholars that permit women to hold any office including that of the head of the State. Hafiz Ibn Hajr indicates in Fathul Bari that Imam Ibn Jarir al Tabari, that not only can a woman be appointed as a judge, but can also be appointed as the Head of the State. A similar view is expressed by Imam Malik and adopted by some of the Maliki Scholars.
From what has been said so far, one can conclude that there is no unanimity regarding the position taken by even the earlier scholars on this matter. It is not true to believe that leadership in politics is a recent western inclusion, as, in the past there were many Muslim women who became the Head of State and they were accepted by all, including the Muslim scholars of the time.
In recent times there were a number of Muslim women voted in power by their respected people either as president or prime minister. All these women had the blessings of even the renowned scholars of their respective countries. Some of these women are:
• Fatima Ali Jinnah: Prime Minister was selected by the Scholars of Pakistan in 1965 to contest the election for President against Ayyub Khan.
• Benazir Bhutto: Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988-90; 1993-1996
• Tansir Ciller: Prime Minister of Turkey 1993-1996
• Hasina Wajed: Prime Minister of Bangladesh 1996
• Khaleda Zia: Prime Minister 1994 and 1996
Ibn Batuta writes in his book that the Maldives were ruled by queens, for many years, the first being Sultana Khatija. There were similar situations in Indonesia for many years. (Art. Women and Political Leadership in Muslim Thought. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi: Taken from the internet).
The permission to allow women to be leaders in Islam seems to oppose the Hadith reported by Abu Bakrah. Some of the reasons for doing so are as follows:
1. Abu Bakrah was a former slave who accepted Islam because he was promised to be set free.
2. He fought along with Hazrat Ayesha against Hazrat Ali, in the battle of the camel, and did not narrate the Hadith all the time he was fighting under the leadership of Hazrat Ayesha.
3. It was only when she lost the battle that he reported the Hadith to Hazrat Ali.
4. He reported that he heard the Hadith from the Prophet (pboh) many years before but never narrated it to anyone.
5. He was hopeful to be appointed as a Governor of province by Hazrat Ali.
6. Abu Bakrah had a questionable past, as he was ordered to be flogged by Hazrat Umar for false testimony. (The Veil and the Male Elite: Mernissi)
7. Some scholars (Justice Aftab Hussain) are of the view that Abu Bakrah did not really understand the Hadith narrated, otherwise he would not have accepted Hazrat Ayesha as his leader in battle.
8. The particular Hadith was a prediction relating to the Kingdom of Persia and not a general prediction; as the Prophet (pboh) was predicting that the Chosroe's dynasty will not prosper.
Allah endorses the capability of some women to successfully rule their people in the Holy Qur'an. One example given is the Queen of Sheba, the female ruler who was very successful and prosperous. He says:
I found a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite, and she has a magnificent throne. (27:28-44)
It will be seen from the above presentation that the issue of having a woman as a political leader is acceptable in Islam; and the basis of authority by those who oppose it may have some amount of uncertainty attached to it.
Muslims are required to: Help one another in righteousness and piety; and not to help one another in sin and rancour. (5:2)
Therefore if something appears to be unjust and corrupt it should not be supported.