Women In Dawah
Abdul Lateef M. Al-Hassan and Sumayyah Bint Joan
very beginning, women have played vital roles in the propagation
of the fundamental truths of Islamic dawah. From the sacrifices
of Sumayyah, to the collected Ahadeeth of Aisha, women have
been instrumental in the flourishing and spreading of this deen.
Unfortunately during these times, the Islamic revival suffers
from weaknesses in its properly qualified personnel, which limits
its spreading and restricts the dawah work to an elitist group
of activists, with finite and limited efforts of dawah and
tarbiyah being focused on women.
women deserves, and should get, far more attention than it does.
So far, except in a few instances, women have been distanced
from the field of dawah work. If we look at the reality, and
the situation of Islamic dawah work, and the position of women
in it today, we can easily find the following problems:
in dawah capabilities among and by women.
2- The ill
use of existing limited-resources in combination with a lack
of personal initiative on the part of women.
3- A neglect
or omission of women's issues in the planning of Islamic dawah.
of strong tarbiyah and the lack of fundamental Islamic knowledge
in the da'iyat (female callers) in the field of dawah. Only
a few of the wives and daughters of dou'at (male callers) have
any worthwhile Islamic knowledge.
women do not possess a proper understanding the role of dawah
made incumbent on their husbands. Because of this, they may
not understand the importance of time given to projects outside
the home, which in turn may, become a source of tension within
6- The level
of general Islamic knowledge among most women is low.
dawah programs, as well as overall dawah programs and institutions
are rare, and not well organized.
and restraints have been the causes behind the weakness and
neglect of dawah work amongst women. One they have been recognized
and analyzed, viable solutions can be sought and implemented.
reason, is that many men are not convinced about the importance
of women's role and responsibilities in the field of dawah.
The Qur'anic verse "...remain at your homes..." [33:33] has
been misinterpreted by many, and so has the right of stewardship
or Qawama. In many instances we see men objecting to women's
participation in dawah and thus preventing them from fulfilling
their role toward their fellow Muslims and to the larger society
in general. Spreading Islam has been made incumbent on all Muslims,
men and women.
"It is vital
that husbands encourage their wives to participate in dawah
work," said Dr. Aisha Hamdan, Director of the Islamic Education
Foundation, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a Ph. D.
in Clinical Psychology with a specialty in child and family
issues. She teaches at a private university in the Twin Cities.
The IEF is a two-year-old organization, with one of its goals
being, to increase the level of awareness and to provide training
in giving dawah, amongst Muslim women and men. "They should
encourage them to spread the message of this deen, perhaps by
taking them along when they go out, and by instructing them
on the proper ways of giving presentations about Islam."
A more particular
reason is the absence or confusion of priorities in the minds
of dou'at. Many of them have been overwhelmed and distracted
by the state of the Ummah, even to the extent of ignoring to
give proper attention to their homes and families. Their energies
having been exhausted in the work outside the home, leaving
them with nothing left for their families. This imbalance hurts
not only the families, but also the community as a whole.
of women's education and awareness of their position and responsibility
plays an important role. As education and awareness decline,
women become disinterested, their level of giving and sense
of sacrifice weakens. "Unfortunately, not a lot of Muslim women
feel that they know enough about Islam to share it with others.
They need to realize that it is their responsibility to obtain
that knowledge and then share it with others. Many women also
feel uncomfortable presenting to groups of people due to various
reasons." Dr. Hamdan said. "This is why we are conducting training
sessions here, about how to conduct dawah. We are committed
to trying to arm women with the necessary skills, that will
give them the confidence to take up this very important, and
often neglected role in their lives as Muslims."
in luxuries, even if they are halal things, usually force women
to devote more time to them and less time to doing dawah. This
also happens when they find it difficult to balance rights with
duties. Sometimes women lose perspective, forgetting that the
work inside the home is the core of their mission. By neglecting
this role, or when they fail to arrange their priorities, and
get tied to a job that distracts them, they ultimately fail
at fulfilling their dawah roles both inside and outside the
home. "For many women, their jobs as wife, mother, cook, and
teacher, inside their homes, are so time consuming, that the
main barrier to engaging in dawah work is oftentimes, a lack
of time itself," said Dr. Hamdan. "This is why it is so important
for husbands to be supportive to their wives in fulfilling their
obligations both within and outside the home."
unfortunate reality is that most dawah organizations have failed
to absorb and utilize the energies of women, and have also failed
to adjust their plans and programs in a way that would incorporate
women as core assets in their dawah work.
and many other elements of the promiscuous society we live in,
have had major impacts on the psyche of Muslim women. This psychic
crippling has kept many women away from their mission and distorted
the image of Islam in the minds of most of them.
ROLE for the MUSLIM WOMEN
to recent data, there are more women accepting Islam in this
country, than any other group. The same can be said of Canada,
England and many other places. A recent survey Al Jumuah magazine
have conducted in the Dominican Republic, showed that about
75% of those who accepted Islam among the natives were women.
Because of this, there is a tremendous need for Muslim women
to participate in the field of dawah. " The role of calling
to this deen, does not stop at the pronunciation of the Shahada,"
Dr. Hamdan said. "Women are needed to help other women come
to Islam, and are needed to instruct them after they become
Muslims." The reasons women's participation is important are
various and diverse:
are more capable than men are in communicating with other women.
Women are usually more affected by word, deed, and conduct of
other women, more so than by men. Women are more capable of
recognizing the particularities and problems associated with
women's education and tarbiyah.
can better comprehend the direction in which women's dawah
work should be geared. They can best discern the order of priorities,
because they are more familiar with this sphere.
are more free than men in communicating with other women, either
individually for dawah activities, or in women's learning and
other forums and places of meeting.
Muslim women who are in need of guidance, education, and direction
lack the presence of men-folk who can provide this service,
therefore it makes sense that qualified women in the community
should offer this.
5. The educational
and the tarbiyah need of women are greater than that of men.
They get pregnant, give birth, and nurse children. The children
are more tied to them than they are to their fathers. Women
stay at home with their sons and daughters, and thus can bring
them up as they please. If they are not allowed to share in
the dawah efforts of their husbands, a lot of the much-needed
results may not be attained.
have a great effect on their husbands. If they have strong emaan
and character, they have a very good chance at helping their
husbands become strong as well.
have a lot of characteristics that stress the importance of
their dawah role. They should also be taken into account whenever
any dawah work is planned. Some are:
have the innate ability to communicate strongly what they believe
to be true in their hearts. Dr. Hamdan also points out that,
"Women are also generally stronger in terms of verbal abilities
sometimes lack will power and a sense of direction, and therefore
need the assistance of other women to give strength and motivation.
of the Muslim woman in the field of dawah strengthens the man's
work, and it expand it into areas where her effectiveness supersedes
that of the man. It is sad that this role is so grossly overlooked
and underestimated. By her nature as a spiritual and psychological
comforter of man, the woman can play an important role in dawah,
for a man cannot -if his mind is preoccupied with works and
goals- cope with his own problems, let alone undertake the burdens
of giving dawah. Many have failed on the path of dawah for
this very reason. Khadija's comfort, help, and support of the
Prophet, peace be upon him, offer the greatest proof
of the vital importance of this role. The Prophet's companions
who left their homes to go places that were thousands of miles
away to take the new religion to people also had the support
and the backing of their wives.
women today understand or are aware of such a role, let alone
carry it out. A woman may think that the marriage home is a
place of rest and easy. They have yet to realize that marriage
is the starting point of struggle, sacrifice, giving and responsibility.
role does not end at door. She can be greatly effective by being
a good example to others, by being good-hearted, kindly spoken,
and of friendly conduct. She can offer assistance, and share
concerns as well as joys. She can also use all appropriate opportunities
to educate, guide and call others though observing the conditions
of those whom she addresses.
understood their role, started educating themselves and achieving
their rights to education and tarbiyah. Look at the hadeeth
narrated by Abu Saeed that the women said to the Prophet, peace be upon him, "The men are keeping you busy and we do not
get enough attention from you. Would you specify a day for us,
women? He promised them a day to meet them and educate and admonish
them." (Bukhari) The fruits of this understanding and concern
by the women companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the attention he gave them, are shining examples
and a source of pride for Muslim women. Here are a few more
Umm Sulaim teaching her son Anas Ibn Malik about Islam, even
though her husband rejected Islam. When Abu Talha proposed to
her (before accepting Islam) she told him that her dowry was
Islam, he in-turn embraced Islam and she married him. She made
her son Anas the servant of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Umm Hakeem was the reason behind her husband embracing
Islam, and the aunt of Adi ibn Hatem led him to Islam. Amra,
the wife of Habib Al-Ajami would wake up her husband to make
salah at night. Asmaa, the daughter of Abu Bakr, forbade her
son, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair, to accept a demeaning way out to
escape death although she was very old and needed him beside
If we move
to a wider circle, we will find that Muslim women played a great
role in sacrifice and service for the religion of Allah. Sumayyah
gave up her life when Abu Jahl killed her for becoming a Muslim.
She was the first Muslim, and woman, killed in Islam. Khadijah,
the first wife of the Prophet, who was very rich, spent of her
money to support the dawah. Umm Salamah left her husband and
saw her children persecuted when she migrated. Umm Imarah fought
in defense of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in
the Uhud battle. Tending the wounded in battles was the role
Muslim Women played throughout history.
SUCCESSFUL dawah Programs
conditions that must be met for women's dawah work to succeed
and achieve its expected outcome. Many of the items in the following
discussion are good to consider at all time, but it is always
important to be in touch with the specific environment one is
working with, study it and design all programs to fit the specific
reality and needs.
that we stress the importance of women's role in Islamic dawah
should not lead us away from keeping the women's creation, nature
and priorities clear in mind. There are important points that
should be used as guidelines when planning or doing dawah work:
the woman's main role and job is at home. This is clearly stated
in Qur'an and Hadeeth. Allah says, "And stay in your houses."
[33:33] Of course women can go out for salah in the masjid,
participate in any other activities she may need and to do dawah.
However, none of these activities should conflict with her essential
duties at home as wife and mother. In many cases, it is this
balance between the woman's essential duties and the requirements
of dawah work, that have caused problems and misunderstandings
in families and communities. "Women may find ways to fulfill
their dawah obligations at home, such as engaging in office
work for an Islamic organization, answering telephones, or any
other number of possibilities, depending on the skills and interest
of each woman, " she said.
are special injunctions regarding women, and the mixing of men
and women, that must be observed in any dawah activity and
under any circumstances:
- a) Proper
hijab (shield) between men and women must be observed at all times.
- b) Women
do not travel without a male companion who is her mahram.
- c) Women
do not intermix freely with men who are not directly related
- d) Women
do not exit from their homes except by permission of those who
are in charge of them and care for them, i.e. their husbands
3- The enemies
of Islam usually exploit these injunctions and use them to defame
Islam as demeaning to women. Some dou'at get affected by these
allegations and they are thereby led to be lax and unmindful.
The true dou'at guided by the Sunnah must watch out, lest they
be affected by the lusts and whims of society.
4- Men have
the original right in dawah activities to take the lead as
was the case in the age at the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the excellent generations that followed. Women's
role in dawah work is undeniable, provided the appropriate
guidelines are adhered to.
Objectives of the Program -
As the Prophet,
peace be upon him, saw a need to set aside a specific
time to address the needs of women in his community, so organizations
should try to tailor their dawah work to the women and issues
of the communities. Any dawah program directed towards women
should strive to, at least, serve the following ends:
the Emaan: This comes about by increasing worship, remembrance
of Allah (thikr), and reflection on Allah's names, and His power
and creation in ourselves and in the universe. There is great
power in reflection. And its positive impact on one's heart
and emaan is almost limitless. This however, would not be possible
without the inculcation of the right understanding of certain
issues related to our aqeedah; the emphasis has to be on Tawheed.
knowledge: Without it one cannot achieve much. Special emphasis
has to be put on the basics of Islam and on subjects that the
da'iyah needs in her environments. Knowledge should be spread
about deviant thoughts, ideas, groups and sects. Awareness must
be raised concerning those who do not like to see the spreading
of Islam and who are gaining grounds in the hearts and minds
of the dawah personality: dawah requires sacrifices and therefore
women must be prepared to bear the burdens of calling to Islam.
This comes through awakening them to the conditions of the Muslims
and the endeavors of the enemies of Islam. Leadership, responsibility
and individual initiative should be taught. Theoretical and
practical educational faculties must be nurtured. The da'iyah
must be taught the necessary social skills and the importance
of dawah through good example and conduct. They also must be
taught the value of time, its management and how to use halal
fun activity during their times of leisure.
up immunity to sin: This includes recognizing the ills of sins,
particularly those relating to women, and blocking the way to
them by shunning the means leading to them and the places where
Third: Training -
A- On the
theoretical side of this step, preparation may need to consider
preparation through providing a good presentation of appropriates
materials. Islam gave women the rights to education. The knowledge
meant to be attained, is that which is helpful to women in dawah,
like the shari'ah branches and the disciplines leading to understanding
them. But seeking knowledge should not be a barrier to giving
dawah, as is the case with many today. Balance must be maintained.
preparation by ensuring that the women callers have faith in
Allah sincerity, hopefulness, coverage in truth, pride in Islam,
patience, and knowledge of the conditions and environments of
those they are addressing. This is a very important aspect of
preparedness, because the preacher is tied to the people, who
have different characters and inclinations.
preparation by having the women da'iyat live an Islamic life
in the family and society in a practical application of Islam.
They should abide by the ethics of Islam and of the dawah.
Capping the elements of social preparation is the feeling that
the dawah is a right to all people that must reach them with
sincerity, generality, honesty, gentleness and meekness.
practical training and preparation is must:
training female callers in speaking and writing to be able to
bring Allah's religion to the people through speeches, lessons,
lectures, and writing. These are the methods of addressing people
with the dawah and they complete the theoretical preparation
and ensure that it bears fruit. This aspect has largely been
neglected resulting in severe shortcomings in the dawah.
delivering lectures, seminars, sermons, etc. should be able
to persuade the listeners by addressing their minds through
proofs and evidence. They should also be able to arouse their
passions, emotions, and feelings. Those making speeches and
addresses must be well versed in the art and its importance,
and should also practice delivering speeches to women in mosques,
schools, or other places where women gather. They should also
watch over and guide women trainees, and gently correct their
and publishing must not be neglected in an age when people are
easily reached by and engrossed in all sorts of books, booklets,
newspapers, and articles. Writings should both be eloquent and
convincing, through sincere, sound and documented arguments.
Writing is the form of dawah which is in many ways one of the
most appropriate and important means for women. They can write
at home and thus make use of their spare time. They can in this
way reach all classes of society.
dawah for WOMEN
field: These are related to the ennoblement of the spirit and
the purification of the soul through faith. The minds and souls
can thus be touched. These fields are to be found in mosques,
schools, associations, dawah groups, and others.
field: These relate to bodily and psychological health as well
as to social development and interaction between people that
reflect positively on the realization of spiritual education
and the formation of Muslim character.
spiritual and physical, are tied together and they should both
be fulfilled in balance. To give the upper hand to the soul
would be asceticism, and to the body would be hedonism. Fulfilling
the physical needs has often been cause for many people embracing
the guidance of Islam. Preachers of Christianity today, concentrate
on this approach. It is difficult for the hungry, the naked,
or the sick and homeless to listen to sermons.
example of what women can take part in as dawah are:
1. The Home:
This is surely the most fertile and most effective channel.
Allah has ordained both husbands and wives as nurtures for each
other and the family. The mother shares with the father the
responsibilities of educating and nurturing in all physical,
moral, psychological, social, and external aspects each other
and their children. Members of the family are gathered together
in the home for many hours and this creates harmony among them
as well as affords an opportunity for presenting good examples
2. The Muslim
Community: Charity, advice, and direction can be offered to
relatives, neighbors, and the needy.
3. The Islamic
School: Educational activities and curriculums can be used for
the guidance of girl students as well as women teachers and
4. The Masjid:
Women should be allowed to go to the masajid to benefit from
the lessons held there. The masjid is a suitable place for some
of the women activities like Qur'an study groups and other training.
Prisons, and Social Welfare Institutions, Women's Colleges or
Universities. "Women-only conferences can also be incorporated
into an already scheduled major conferences, thus providing
them with someone to travel with," Dr. Hamdan says.
work can be done on an individual level; such as with friends,
families, peers, particularly those who are not Muslims, "said
Dr. Hamdan. "Many women who have converted to Islam have families
who are non-Muslim and this is a prime, although challenging,
opportunity to do dawah work."
Qur'an and Sunnah Said:
Callers and Called
the injunctions of Islam, from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, cover
and apply to both males and females. Male pronouns were usually
used mostly, only because that is the custom of the language.
Nevertheless, there are certain injunctions that are exclusively
meant for men. And at the same time, Allah has enjoined things
upon women only. This shows that they have a character and a
personality independent of men. This stresses the need to address
women with the dawah, education, reform, and guidance, in a
way that is specific to them. They should not be ignored. It
was on account of this that the Prophet, peace be upon him, addressed women specifically, especially after addressing
men, and that he fixed a special day of the week on which he
taught them alone.
us that man is responsible for his home and family, "O you who
believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell)
whose fuel is men and stones, over which are angel stern and
severe," [66:6]. And the Prophet, peace be upon him,
also said, "The man is a shepherd of his family and he is responsible
for his guardianship." (Bukhari and Muslim) In another hadeeth,
the Prophet's, peace be upon him, told of a double
reward for the man who teaches well, cultivates and then frees
any female-slave he has. (Bukhari) This surely stresses the
need for the education of and care for women. On the other hand,
there are many evidences from the Qur'an and the Sunnah that
testify to the fact that women are also obligated to do dawah
many verses in the Qur'an that obligate Muslim men and women
to do dawah, and enjoin good and forbid evil. For example,
Allah says, "Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting
to all that is good (Islam), enjoining good and forbidding evil.
And it is they who are the successful." [3:104]
have been expressly addressed with the duty of the dawah because
Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, says, "O wives of the Prophet! You
are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah)
then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease
should be moved with desire, but say that which is Ma'roof (good)."
[33:32] Ibn Abbas understood Allah's injunction to the Prophet's
wives, to "say good," to mean that they have to enjoin what
is good and forbid what is evil. This can be taken as a general
address to all Muslim women. Allah also says, "The believers,
men and women are Auliya (helpers, protectors) of one another,
they enjoin the good and forbid the evil, they perform salah
and give away zakah and obey Allah." [9:71] It is clear in this
verse that women are addressed with this task, just as men,
whenever they are capable of discharging it. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The woman is a steward of her husband's
home and children and she is responsible for them." A steward
here is a person entrusted with what has been put in his charge,
cherishing and preserving it.
the following points, when properly put into perspective, also
lead to the understanding that women are as responsible for
carrying out dawah as men are:
Islam prohibits the free intermingling of men and women, and
the maintenance of hijab, it becomes vital, as well as practical,
to have qualified women to do dawah work among women in the
of the shari'ah rulings were reported from the Prophet, sallallahu
alayhe wa sallam, only through women companions.
it is difficult for the male-dou'at to carry out all that the
dawah among women requires because women have some private
conditions that they may not feel comfortable revealing to men,
and would rather convey them only to other women.
Sow We Reap
ignorance, increasing intellectual broad-mindedness, and the
creation of qualified women dawah cadres. These results have
a lasting and beneficial influence, not only on women and the
Muslim community, but also on the whole society at large.
conduct and restitution of many erroneous practices that have
come to be social phenomenon in many societies.
will develop maturity and show more disciplined characters.
This in turn will result in stronger relationships between men
place and status in Islam would be highlighted and Muslim women
would attain a better awareness of their rights and duties.
would be geared toward the cultivating of our young people,
in order to ensure the Ummah, virtuous Muslims in the generations
6. A sense
of belonging to Islam would be fostered, and the key Muslim
rite of enjoining good and forbidding the evil would be upheld.
7. An important
financial tributary for dawah work would be secured; i.e.,
women's charitable spending.
It is time
that Muslims who profess to follow the Sunnah rethink the issue
of dawah among women and by women. We should remember Khadijah,
Aisha, Sumayyah, and many other Muslim women throughout our
history, and what they did for Islam and learn from it.
have to realize that mere talk and emotionalism are useless.
We need to do something about our immediate situation now. Education,
preparation, and qualification of women will be the key to our
Throughout history, the yardstick used to measure
the well being of any society has been the condition of its
women. Let us therefore, strive to improve the intellectual,
spiritual and emotional condition of the Muslim woman by allowing
her to fulfill all the God-given abilities and responsibilities
made incumbent on her.