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A Response to “12 Things I Can’t Reconcile About Islam as a Muslim Woman”

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 29th April, 2019

This article is written in response to ‘12 Things I Can’t Reconcile About Islam as a Muslim Woman

The views of the authors are not those of Amaliah, we also recognise that the responses are a snapshot of thinking and there are a variation of responses that could be surfaced to each of these 12 points. We also recognise issues of fiqh cannot be throughly and deeply explored in this article to account for all schools of thoughts, contexts and viewpoints. We pray all efforts are accepted by Allah.

Part 1 of this article was written by Rumaysa and part two by Rumaysa, Umm Eesa, Nuriddeen Knight, Aamenah Patel, & Yusairah.

Part 1: How to Deal with Doubts

Faith is an oscillating force, and conviction in the different aspects of faith will fluctuate. In fact, a sign of being a believer is feeling the struggle of the ‘Imān-lows’ as well as the thrill of the ‘Imān-highs’. As one of our teachers would say, Shaytan will work harder at those who have faith. Feeling the struggle or disconnect with some Islamic concepts may be expected for each and every one of us, to different degrees. It is the way in which we approach our constant struggles that will ultimately determine our success in the test of faith.

The recent article which listed some of these common challenges felt by Muslim women resonated with many sisters and maybe even raised doubts that some previously never had. In an attempt to bridge this disconnect we hope to draw from our studies and share the wisdom of our teachers. By no means however, do we claim to have all the answers, nor do we claim to ever fully understand God’s wisdom, or provide conclusive, final responses to any questions. We resonate with the following sentiment expressed in the linked article:

“For truly I only write this to search for truth, while knowing that I will likely never find the complete truth, for humans are fallible and flawed and will never have the capability to understand Allāh and His infinite wisdom in its entirety, we can only ever try.”

We too, are in the eternal search for true knowledge whilst understanding that infinite knowledge and wisdom is unattainable and belongs only to God.

What are the best ways to tackle our questions and challenges about Islām?

Before any questions are tackled, we must first acknowledge our first principle. The first principle being a prerequisite understanding of God as lawmaker; trusting in and ultimately accepting His wisdom. Yes, looking for logical explanations of God’s commandments that fit in with our worldview helps us to rationalise our understanding of the religion and may help in allowing us a small glimpse at God’s wisdom,

but the ultimate search for answers must always end in ‘Allāhu a’lam: God knows best’.

For many of us with iPhones at our fingertips, the internet is often our first resource when we are faced with a problem. The internet is no doubt an incredible space: Google can direct you on how to change a tire, the second law of thermodynamics and what to buy your mum on Eid. This availability of information comes with its own problems; you have access to obvious truths and falsehoods, but also unobvious, incomplete or false ideas. Using the internet for answers to questions about Islām can be a gamble; yes, you absolutely might find an answer that is in line with the Qurān and Sunnah, puts your heart at ease, and leaves you in amazement at the true mercy of God. Alternatively, you might find an answer that leaves you in a greater state of unease than pre-search, or even a satisfying yet incorrect answer.

What can we do instead? Ideally the first port of call for any Muslim should be our masājid (1) and places of learning, our scholars. This being said, we acknowledge that there are Muslim women who may not have this access in their locality. We agree that this is an area of definite need in the ummah and we pray that Allāh guides the ummah in filling this void and developing the Muslims of this and the next generation into a generation of true students and scholars, āmeen. We know from the examples of the sahāba (2) who would turn to the Prophet (pbuh) (3) with their many diverse and interesting questions, that answers are best sought from a trusted teacher. A good personal teacher can also provide context within their answers.

What must also be understood when approached with concepts that seem irreconcilable, is that in many cases, ideas are presented as Islamic ideas, but may actually be cultural issues. At times, cultures can be restrictive, more so when hiding behind the guise of religious rulings. It is important to differentiate between what are actually Islamic ideas and what is an interpretation or extrapolation through a specific cultural lens. Examples of untrue restrictions are that women cannot divorce their husbands, that women cannot beautify themselves if not for their husbands, and so on. Part 2 of this article will elaborate on the specific ideas in more detail, God willing.

It is worth noting that all scholars are affected by their socio-political contexts, and their verdicts are a product of their circumstances. Therefore, although their opinions must be respected and taken into consideration by present-day scholars, it must be acknowledged that not each and every opinion of the past scholars will always be absolute or applicable to different times and contexts.

Additionally, what must also be recognised when discussing issues that pertain to gender equality in Islām, is that Islamic rulings do not exist in isolation. A ruling is often formed as part of a larger web of ideas and commandments. Muhammad Nizami articulates this in response to the concerns that were raised. He explains that when understanding the commandments for men and women, it is pertinent to understand the ‘usool’ (the fundamentals and principles of Islām) in order to have a conception of God, the purpose of humankind, and the role of prophets (pbuh).

There is also often an underlying assumption that there should be absolute equality between men and women in all aspects of life. Islām identifies that there is absolute equality between men and women with regards to their souls, their intrinsic value as servants of God, and the value of their acts of obedience to God. However, Islām recognises some biological differences between men and women ( birthing a child, for instance) and accommodates for these differences. Therefore, Islām calls for justice rather than equality: justice means equality for those who are the same, and inequality for those who have differences. Due to the concept of justice being defined by God, the premise of “why can’t women do x if men can” does not fit in with the Islamic concepts of men and women to begin with.

As our rights and responsibilities in Islām are ordained by God, and not man, it is important as Muslim women to determine our worth and positions in relation to God, and not in relation to man. Something doesn’t become greater or better, just because men do it, or become lesser because women do. This article by sister Yasmin Mogahed discusses why it is important not to make men the standard for comparison when discussing gender issues in Islām.

Sometimes it may feel as though we as women are at a disadvantage, that the laws ordained by God always favour men. This may happen as a result of the way we have our conversations surrounding these issues (for example, conversations may be approached from the lens of misogyny), and not because of the issues themselves. When discussing laws pertaining to men (for example, their duties and responsibilities within the family), their responsibilities are often much greater than that of women. The current culture forces the discourse in one unnatural direction with more of a focus on the limitations placed upon women. As many conversations are led by men, there is skewed attention given to the duties of women, and the responsibilities of men are not emphasised.

As a Muslim sister recently expressed:“…Take it from my husband who is a single child of divorced parents, they are both elderly now and in poor health. He is financially responsible for me and our kids and also his parents, without much of a support system in the form of extended family. I don’t envy him at all.”

The concerns raised in the article are not uncommon, and as they have been brought to the fore, we thought it would be best to approach each one independently. However, it must be noted that the answers are not exhaustive, and do not account for the personalised context of the reader. It is the responsibility of each believer to continue their search for knowledge.

Furthermore, the advice that we offer is thus: within your search for knowledge or relationship with your faith, don’t forget your worth. God has created you in your perfect form and given you rights and responsibilities suitable for you. Do not allow the imperfection of human beings to keep you from recognising the perfection of God. Don’t give up in your search for truth, and ultimately, turn to Allāh for assistance in seeking His truth. We pray that the Almighty assists all readers in their search, and makes their efforts a means of pleasing Him. Ameen.

Part 2 Response to Misconceptions

This part clarifies some of the specific misconceptions usually associated with Islām. We remind the reader that each answer comes with a caveat; that when discussing God’s wisdom in prescribing particular rulings, our inferences about the wisdom behind those injunctions will always be limited. We know but a drop from the ocean of God’s wisdom and knowledge.

1. Why can a man marry a non-Muslim, or rather why can’t women too?

In order to address these concerns, an underlying assumption (discussed in part one) must first be clarified: It is assumed that if men can do something, it must be the superior way, and therefore women must be able to do it too. Why consider men ‘the standard’, the ideal that we must reach? There is beauty and ease in our God-given differences too. In wanting what men have, and in seeking to ‘widen our circle of options’ are we forgetting the ideal? Is marrying a non-Muslim something we should be striving towards? Or is the greatest honour in seeking a spouse of taqwa (4), who reveres God and his Messenger.

Whilst the ruling allowing men to marry women from the people of the Book (Christians and Jews) has some stipulations which are often abused, it’s important to note that rulings of sharī’ah are based on the greater good, not dependent on a few anecdotal cases where the spirit of the law is ignored. As mentioned in the hadīth, men are expected to be the shepherds of their families and are responsible for guiding their families on the straight path (5). Therefore, a non-Muslim husband may not be able to fulfil the role of the shepherd of his family by respecting the sanctity of his wife’s religion. Ultimately, this law came from the Qurān, and we put our trust in knowing that Allāh, in His infinite wisdom, knew what was better for His creation, equal in His eyes.

2. Why can’t I divorce my husband?

In Islam there are three main types of divorce (talaq). The word talaq literally means divorce and can refer to any of the three, but is commonly used for the third type.

  1. Khula’: A divorce initiated by a woman (which is exclusive to women)
  2. A divorce accorded by an Islamic court (such as in cases where an abusive husband is refusing to agree to the Khula’)
  3. A divorce given verbally by a man. This option of pronouncing divorce is the only one that’s exclusive to men. What many are also unaware of, is that if the couple chose to write it into their marriage contract, both the husband and wife would be able to initiate a divorce in this manner.

This third type of divorce means that a man is able to divorce with a few words. It is important to note the several warnings given in hadīth about divorces that are given rashly, without care and consideration, and without due process.

In fact, the concept of halāla is often used as a ‘get out’ by those who have rashly uttered an irrevocable divorce, when the Islamically recommended method of divorce would have allowed them two opportunities to reconsider and reconcile. The concept of halāla means that after a complete divorce, a woman who then marries and divorces someone else, can remarry her first husband.

Halāla with the intention of reconciliation is actually prohibited in Islām, although some scholars hold that it does not render the nikāh void (i.e. a person who engages in halāla is sinful). It is far from a ‘must’ for either a woman or a man to betray a third person in order to get back together after they have already abused their right to divorce. It is not a get-out clause, rather a deterrent to the husband – If he does not behave responsibly and control his words and emotions, he is not able to spend his life with the person he wants, unless she happens to marry and divorce someone else. Therefore, although he has the ability to dissolve the marriage instantly, the consequences are so extreme that he must deliberate sincerely before making a decision.

If a man and woman were able to get back together without them first pursuing happiness with others, it would defeat the purpose of divorce, which is separation. It would enable couples to divorce and reconcile, without recognising the weight of their decision, and may place the woman in a vulnerable position of uncertainty and expectation to return.

Unfortunately, cultural taboos have restricted a woman’s right to divorce by khula often citing the hadīth ‘The most detestable of all permissible deeds to Allāh is divorce (6).’ However, where reconciliation results in undue pressure and notions of ‘shame’ being placed solely on the woman’s shoulders, this is abuse of the application of the law and should be called out. We need only look at our history and the many sahābiyāt who divorced and remarried in the life of the Prophet (pbuh), to know that ‘divorce-shame’ should be shunned and has no place in Islām.

3. Why do women only get half the inheritance?

As has been discussed, commandments of the sharī’ah do not exist in isolation from each other. The laws of inheritance also tie into the commandment to men to provide for their families, which is not expected of Muslim women. She has a claim to her husband’s wealth whilst he does not have a claim to hers. It’s certainly an issue in today’s society however, that men are failing to step up and provide for their families. In many cases, women are not only expected to hold down the fort at home, but have to work to make ends meet too. This problem is not unique to Muslim households sadly, and the answer lies not in changing sharī’ah, but once again in going back to the spirit of the law and holding men to a higher standard. The specifics of how you hold men to a higher standard may vary on a case by case basis, and each couple has the responsibility to ask advice from trusted elders or scholars, seek mediation where necessary, and address their individual situations with taqwa, care and consideration.

If Muslim men are not taking responsibility for their dependents as the sharī’ah expects of them, surely the answer is not to stick on a band aid by changing the laws of sharī’ah to facilitate this dereliction of duty, but rather to collectively hold them to the standard required of them. We have a responsibility as a community to emphasise and highlight the expectations required of men, and should continue to engage in ongoing discourse in order to develop solutions.

It would be disproportionate not to acknowledge that not all families are in a position wherein the man is providing for his dependants. Living in a country where Islamic marriage and inheritance laws are not binding can lead to women being left in financially unfair situations, in complete contravention of Islamic law. In order to counter this, Muslim women should take the protective measures made available by the sharī’ah. Protective measures include the recognition of the importance of mahr, and the existence of the Nikah as a contract, in which we can stipulate anything from the sharing of financial responsibilities in the marriage to the husband’s support for one’s educational aspirations and career.

The Nikah is a binding contract in the eyes of Allah, and so women should use this right to its full advantage in stipulating their own needs in accordance with their Islamic rights. Furthermore, we should aim to normalise the writing of a will according to Islamic guidelines, in order for it to be enforced by British law. In some communities, daughters are pressured to forego their inheritance altogether as their brothers ‘have more of a need’ for it. This is completely contrary to Islam and should be countered by a will signed by the parent which ensures no such pressure will be placed on their daughters after their death.

It is important to note that inheritance laws are some of the most complex in the field of Islamic jurisprudence, and there are cases where women receive the same or sometimes more than men. This is further explained in a paper published by the Yaqeen Institute:

“…A careful reading of the full breadth of Islamic inheritance rulings rebuts the notion that the rulings privilege men. While women inherit less than men in four situations, they inherit more than men in 16 situations, and equal to men in 10 situations. Situations in which a woman receives more inheritance than a man include the case of a woman who dies leaving behind only a husband—in this case, the sisters of the mother of the deceased receive portions of the inheritance whereas the brothers of her father do not.

…All instances in which there is a discrepancy between male and female heirs arise either due to a difference in proximity or rank of one’s relationship to the deceased, or based on one’s responsibility to financially provide for another. Given the larger system of financial responsibilities, the distribution of wealth was intended to equalize all recipients amongst the deceased’s family. All of Islām’s rulings must be understood as interconnected, where a woman has the legal right to be provided for (7).”

4. Traveling by myself as a Muslim woman

Once again it is important to look at Islamic commandments from a holistic perspective. Despite changing times, the commandments sent down by Allāh and His Messenger dictate certain fixed principles, objectives and morals that are universal; not limited by any era. The spirit of the law was not to bar women from travelling, but rather to hold Muslim men to the standard expected of them as protectors of women. This guideline exists for the safety and ease of women. It is culture that has turned it into something restrictive. In the past, female scholars would travel to teach or learn, with their mahram (male guardian) accompanying them. It requires the mahram to make time from their schedule to perform this duty. There do exist examples of this working today, where a woman’s needs to travel for education or work are not belittled, and both men and women are willing to compromise for each other. This requires a shift in how decisions are made as a family; prioritising aspirations collectively as family and not as individuals.

Unfortunately, what we see more often is that women are refused accompaniment for travel without a consideration by her mahārim (8) as to whether they can facilitate that journey. It is no wonder therefore, that it may at times feel like an unfair restriction due to refusal from her mahram. Islam does not seek to restrict women who do not have supportive or available mahārim. There are differences of opinion amongst the scholars on this issue.

Some scholars deem it impermissible except in cases of necessity (e.g. earning a livelihood if one has no mahram), others suggest travelling in a large group with other women is permissible in cases of necessity, and so on. More recent scholars opine that the issue should be considered case-by-case, based primarily on the safety of the situation. They state that the ease of travel in the 21st century means that for the most part, women do travel ‘in groups’ (you’re not alone on a plane/coach/train). This link discusses more details on the jurisprudential differences.

There is beauty in this difference of opinion – they all originate from the same spirit of the law, not of restriction but of protection.

5. Why can I not beautify myself…for myself?

There is nothing to say that a single woman should not present herself well in a manner appropriate to mixed or female-only settings, according to the Islamic ideals of hayā’. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allāh is Al-Jamīl (beautiful) and He loves beauty (9).”  Another hadīth also mentions five things that are from the fitrah, (10) including cleansing and beautifying oneself (11).

Nevertheless, we recognise that there have been scholars of previous times who opine that some specific types of beautifying oneself (e.g. plucking eyebrows) are only allowed if done for the husband, with little reference to a woman adorning herself if she is unmarried. It was suggested that through these forms of grooming and adornment, one’s marital life may improve, which would be rewarding in the sight of Allāh. However, there is nothing in the Qurān or sunnah which suggests that a single woman may not beautify herself, or that the permissibility of beautifying oneself may change based on marital status.

As discussed in Part 1, it must be acknowledged that all scholars are affected by their socio-political contexts, and therefore not each and every opinion will be absolute.

Where Allāh and His Messenger have given guidelines, there is no need to seek permission elsewhere. Both married and single women must follow the same laws of modesty which the deen requires of them. Beautifying ourselves ‘for ourselves’ and close family members differs from how we ‘beautify’ ourselves in front of strangers. In the West, we often adhere to a mentality, where we beautify ourselves for strangers, whilst wearing our worst — lounge clothes and socks with holes— in our homes.

Intent is important, as one of our shuyukh told us: If you get dressed with the intent of attracting the opposite sex, whatever you’re wearing would become harām because of that intention. We should be sure to pause and reflect on our intention, am I really beautifying myself ‘for myself’ when I go out? If we sense an incongruence in ourselves, it is our responsibility to maintain vigilance. In a culture that promotes individuality, moments of insincerity often come to each and every one of us. This doesn’t make us bad Muslims; it just makes us human.

It is also worth noting that adornment and grooming is not limited to women; men are also expected to do the same, with the Prophet (pbuh) as the greatest example. The Ahādīth emphasise the Prophet (pbuh) combing and oiling his hair, using miswak, and applying perfume (12). In an instance where the Prophet (pbuh) was concerned that honey made his breath unpleasant to his wives, he refrained from eating it, despite his love for it (13).

6. Why can’t I pray and fast during my period?

Sometimes, when we’re clutching that bar of chocolate and heat pack with period pains, we can truly appreciate the mercy of God in giving us time off our ibādah. Other times, we feel left out, isolated, wishing we could join in the salāh, with the notion that acts of worship lead to taqwa, and that in essence, haydh (menstruation) is depriving us of taqwa.

However, taqwa is not attained as a result of ‘ibādah (worship). Taqwa is gained as a result of ‘itā’ah (obedience). If God were to instruct us to jump 5 times a day, then obeying that commandment would help us to gain taqwa. For women during haydh, the act of obedience to God is in refraining from the prayer, so this is how we attain taqwa during this time.

The sentiment that is also often expressed, is the wish for acts of worship during haydh to be optional. However, if this were the case, choosing to pray would still be considered the ideal or better option, with some women struggling to meet those standards. If the option to pray salāh were available, refraining from prayer and taking a break would not be considered an act of obedience to God. Our struggle and reward is in obeying the commandment not to pray.

This being said, it is worth noting that the halāwah (sweetness, enjoyment) of the salāh, something that some women do miss and long for, is a gift. Halāwah never was the ultimate aim of the ibādah, it does not hold inherent merit, and not everyone achieves it anyway. In fact, some scholars argue that one who struggles through their ibādah may even be getting more reward. Additionally, Halāwah can be achieved through many different types of ibādah. Being in the state of haydh doesn’t prevent us from all types of worship. Perhaps the haydh can be an opportunity to build our experience with other types of worship such as dhikr and salawāt (14).

What must also be clarified regarding haydh, is that the cultural notion deeming period blood as “bad” blood is untrue according to the sharī’ah. The sharī’ah considers period blood to be impure like any other type of blood. Additionally, the state of impurity during menstruation is in reference to a fiqhi state rather than an actual impure state of being. Fiqhi, referring to rulings on wudhu, ghusl and prayer.

It is the same as the state of janābah (15) after sex (according to the Hanafi school of thought). Many Ahādīth discuss how Aisha (May Allāh be pleased with her) would comb the Prophet’s hair whilst she was menstruating, and he would lean his blessed head on her lap whilst reciting Qurān. Ahādīth also detail how the Prophet (pbuh) would caress his wives whilst they were menstruating (16).

7. Why can’t I attend a burial?

Sadly, this is a misconception. Women are permitted to attend funeral prayers and burials, with examples from the sahabiyāt; narrations cite that Aisha (may Allāh be pleased with her) visited the grave of her brother (17). It is only impermissible (for both men and women) if they mourn in an undignified manner akin to that of the times of jāhiliyyah (ignorance) (18). Cultural practices influence the way Muslims around the world mourn, hence in cultures where it is the norm for women to mourn loudly or rip one’s clothes, women are often excluded from burial and funeral procedures, despite being permitted to do so in principle.

8. Why is a woman’s testimony to be witnesses for a contract not enough on its own?

Firstly, any assumptions about a woman’s lack of intelligence or inherent poor memory have to be dismissed, as women have always played a prominent part in Muslim scholarship. The scholar Shaykh Akram Nadwi set out to compile a compendium of female scholars titled al-muhaddithāt, and identified over 8000 female hadīth scholars throughout history. Women like Umm Al Darda, ‘Aisha and Zaynab bint Abi Salamah (may God be pleased with them), have all played prominent roles in early Islamic society and displayed exceptional aptitude for scholarship.

Shaykh Akram refutes the claim that the reason women are excluded from some aspects of the testimonial process, is that they are forgetful. He clarifies that a testimony from a witness who is forgetful or lacks integrity would not be acceptable regardless of gender. The difference in male and female contribution to the testimonial process is justified, and solely based on one’s experience with the case in hand.

Thus women not partaking in some aspects of the testimonial process has nothing to do with their lack of intelligence, but has to do with the likelihood of there being familiarity with the contract being drawn in a given situation. To understand how this would be applied, it is important to look at normative gender roles within the Islamic paradigm. As previously discussed, men are charged with being the caretakers, providers and protectors of women, and women are not charged with this particular duty. This being the case, the expectations on women and men must be different.

What should also be clarified with regards to testimony, is that there are many cases wherein there is a distinct preference for female testimony over male testimony, and some cases wherein gender is disregarded altogether. Further details can be found in this research article by Yaqeen Institute.

9. Why are the only Prophets mentioned… men?

It is crucial to maintain trust in the wisdom of the Almighty in His choice of prophets. The most popular opinion amongst traditional scholars is that all the prophets were male. However, what must be understood is that prophets are not the only type of spiritual leader, nor the only source of inspiration and guidance, or group of people we can use as role models.

The Qurān and Ahādīth list many great women as examples, such as Maryam (pbuh) and Āsiyah (pbuh), amongst others. The wisdom of Queen Bilqīs and her authority over her subjects, along with her interaction with Prophet Sulaymān (pbuh), is described in great detail in the Qurān. Her story is held as an example to male and female leaders alike.

Although the mainstream position holds that all prophets were male, we recognise that there are also some traditional scholars (such as Ibn Hazm, Qurtubi, Ibn Hajar amongst others) who suggest that there have been female prophets; citing Maryam (pbuh) as an example (19).

10. Why can’t I lead prayer?

Women are permitted to lead prayers for other women. We must change the perspective: it is men whose prayer becomes invalid by praying behind women. Moreover, the ability to lead prayer in the manner that men do, just because men do so, is not an indicator of superiority or merit in Islām. Ustādha Yasmin Mogahed discusses this eloquently.

11. Why do I have to cover my hair while men are not obliged?

It is worth noting here that a lack of clothing is only considered to be an advantage when the removal of clothes is associated with liberation. If covering is not seen as praiseworthy and liberating in society, then covering will be seen as an oppressive idea associated with difficulty.

The reasoning behind this ruling is mentioned in the Qurān:“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allāh Forgiving and Merciful (20).”

Regardless of how one feels about hijab, the key point to remember is that when a ruling is ordained by Allāh in the Qur’an, no level of reasoning or human logic can surpass that. We therefore reiterate the point mentioned in part 1, in that we can discuss and seek logical reasons to understand God’s wisdom, but will only ever scratch the surface. To imagine that our reasoning may ever come close to matching God’s ruling would be considered intellectual arrogance.

Although the purpose of the hijab is a topic of debate amongst scholars, there is no doubt that rulings pertaining to clothing are connected to the covering of the ‘awrah and the Islamic concept of modesty. Despite popular belief, modesty is an ideal for both men and women, with the particulars being dictated by sharī’ah. In traditional Muslim societies, men wore flowing garments and often covered their heads. One of the emphasised aspects of male modesty is the lowering of the gaze, which is required regardless of whether the woman is wearing hijab; the two are not linked.

This is exemplified in a hadīth that describes an instance where a woman known for her beauty came to speak to the Prophet (pbuh), and a companion named al-Fadl ibn Abbās (May Allāh be pleased with him) began staring at her. The Prophet did not ask the woman why she was not covering her beauty sufficiently, nor did he exacerbate an already awkward situation. In his wisdom, he diffused the situation by turning his companion’s face away and forcing him to avert his gaze (21).

12. Hoor Al-Ayn

The purpose of the descriptions of Jannah in the Qurān and hadīth is to motivate the believers to seek it. Jannah will be a place where all types of restrictions and difficulties of this world are removed, including:

1. Physical – For example, in Jannah, we won’t feel pain.
2. Emotional – We will feel no sadness or jealousy, only eternal bliss.
3. Religious – That which is impermissible for a believer on earth will be permissible and possibly celebrated in Jannah. For example, there will be rivers of wine.

There is no shortage of descriptions of Jannah appealing to both men and women; we will not receive a lesser Jannah due to our gender. To believe so would mean that we are looking at Jannah – a place of eternal bliss created by the Most High – through the same lens that we look at this imperfect world. Jannah will not be a place of misogyny or discrimination.

In this world, the believers have been given limitations to their sexual freedom in order to guard their modesty and chastity. These limitations, like many others, are lifted in Jannah for both men and women. This discussion is heavily focused on men and the hoor-al-ayn, but does not mean that women will have lesser rewards or limits to their sexual freedom in Jannah. A hadīth of Tabarāni states that in Jannah, the women will declare: “Listen! We are happy women and we will never become sad. Glad tidings to those men for whom we are and who are for us!’. Some scholars are of the opinion that there will be specific creations in Jannah for the sexual gratification of women, citing the verse: Round about them will serve, (devoted) to them, young male servants (handsome) as Pearls well-guarded (22).

In addition to this, the fulfilment of physical and sexual desires in Jannah will by no means be its most pleasurable feature. Based on several Ahādīth, scholars agree that the best experience in Jannah will be the ability to see Allāh: “There is nothing that they are more eager for than Friday; the more they gaze more upon their Lord, the more they will increase in honour (23).”


We have aimed to respond to the twelve specific points of contention, however it is more important to keep in mind the correct approach when faced with these issues. Social values change; and soon, different Islamic norms will be considered contentious as new moral standards are imposed on us by society. So firstly, we should attempt to step outside of society’s imposed assumptions (for example, that something is better just because men do it). This may help to provide some clarity in order to envision God’s commandments from a positive angle.

Secondly, it is crucial to keep in mind the fact that Allāh is Just and has our best interests at heart. The responses in this article should only be taken on board with full trust in the decree of Allāh and acceptance of His divine wisdom. We must acknowledge that our reasoning and comprehension is finite. If we feel unable to put our doubts to rest, we turn to the source of guidance, the Qurān:

أَلَا بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ ٱلْقُلُوبُ Verily, in the remembrance of Allāh do hearts find rest (24).

Thirdly, it is of utmost importance to differentiate between what is actually ordained to us by Allāh, and what are cultural notions under the facade of God-given instruction. Cultures can often be unnecessarily restrictive and hold strange, unfortunate ideas about the role and nature of women. When these ideas are superimposed onto religious ordainments, it can seem as though the Islamic rulings related to women are unfair. Learning more about the religion through trusted sources and enforcing a sharp distinction between what is God-given and what is cultural, will help to better appreciate God’s wisdom in His true commandments. It is important to recognise that answers are available and that we seek them from those qualified to answer, whilst bearing in mind that these answers are deeply rooted in the divine wisdom of the Almighty.

We pray that Allāh accepts this clarification, forgives us for any inaccuracies and continues to guide us all on the straight Path; the path most pleasing to Him and His Beloved. Ameen.


1 plural of masjid

2companions of the prophet

3peace be upon him

4 God fearing; righteous

5 Bukhari 7138 and Muslim 1829

6Abu Dawud: 2170-2171 and Ibn Majah: 2018


8 male guardians; male relatives as identified in the sharīah:

9 Muslim: 131

10natural human disposition

11Bukhari: 495

12Bukhari 5268/ 6571

13Muslim 2252, Abu Dawud 3509, Ahmed 7513, Nasaee 3027

14salutations upon the prophet

15state of impurity

16Bukhari: 296-298

17Sunan al-Bayhaqi: 7207

18Muslim: 977

19Fathul Baari: 6/473, 447-448

20Quran 33:59

21Muslim: 407, Bukhari: 1756

22Quran 52:24

23 Al-Darqutni

24Quran 13:28

Alimahs Respond

Alimahs Respond

A group of five women have come together to respond to Islamic matters to help unpack and unravel academic responses to problems we face as Muslim women in today’s context. Rumaysa, Umm Eesa, Nuriddeen Knight, Aamenah Patel and Yusairah have each studied Islamic sciences in detail.