Umm Reem continues her series on the authority of Sunnah with Part 3 of 5.
Every nation exalts her protagonist ancestors.
Every nation looks up to those who sacrificed in defense of that nation.
Every nation reveres those who stood firm when the entire world stood against them.
But what happened to Muslims?
Have we become so blind with our contemporary values and existing “role models” that we are now finding flaws in those whom Allah has preferred over us?
With the recent phenomenon of ‘modernizing’ Islam, there have been some who, in their effort to harmonize all the textual evidence with the ‘spirit’ of Islam, have gone to the extent of belittling the companions of the Prophet (S), to justify why some ahadeeth may be defective and misogynistic. This, unfortunately, is not limited to the blog world but even some recent books have expressed the same view, especially the ones written by women.
Consider for instance, The Scimitar and the Veil: Extraordinary Women of Islam by Jennifer Heath who fell into the error of attacking the Companions (RD), while trying to prove the strength of Muslim women. One of the sisters, writing a book review on her blog, gave a scathing critique:
“Heath has the gall to slander these four shining stars [Khulafai Rashideen] as women haters and other things (the woman hating thing comes up a lot, especially in relation to ‘Umar…)” “Heath has Fatimah thinking that her own husband is ‘unsympathetic’ to women, sometimes even mean…”
Yet another writer, Fatema Mernissi in her book, The Veil and the Male Elite, classifies a number of ahadeeth apocryphal by certain Companions (RD) based on her accusation of them being misogynist especially Abu Hurairah (RD).
Reza Aslan in his book No god but God accuses Umar (RD) of being a misogynistic man who purposely ‘invented’ laws to make women’s life difficult by confining them to their homes, not allowing them to attend prayers, and implementing the law of segregation, whereas according to Aslan, men and women used to pray side by side during the Prophet’s time!
Help me understand, how can anyone have the audacity to belittle those whom Allah praised in the Quran, as seen here:
For the poor emigrants (muhajireen), who were expelled from their homes and their property, seeking Bounties from Allah and to please Him. And helping Allah and His Messenger Such are indeed the truthful. And those who, before them, had homes (in Madinah) and had adopted the Faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given, and give them (emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful. [Qur’an 59:8-9]
The article will touch on the following companions and topics:
- Defense of commonly defamed companions: Umar Ibn-Khattab & Abu Hurairah
- Feeble-minded Women and Domineering Sahaba?
- Warning Against Reviling the Companions
Defense of Routinely Defamed Companions
From among those mentioned in this verse was Umar (RD), whose conversion was the response to the Prophet’s prayer to bring honor to Islam through him and history has witnessed that, indeed, Allah brought ‘honor’ (izzah) to Islam through him.
Islam stands out for its justice and fairness. Allah loves those who are just and establish justice, so how can Islam be honored by a man who was supposedly ‘unfair’ to women? If he had this major flaw in his character, then why did the Prophet (S) say,
If there was a prophet after me, it would have been Umar. [Tirmidhi]
Didn’t he know about Umar’s drastic weakness? And even more so, (iyyadhubillah) didn’t Allah know about this flaw in Umar?! On the contrary, Allah praised him (as an immigrant):
The ones who have believed, emigrated and striven in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah, they are the people who will achieve (salvation). Their Lord gives them good tidings of mercy from Him and approval and of gardens for them wherein is enduring pleasure… [Qur’an 9:20-22]
Umar & Hijab-Oppression or Gheerah?
Additionally, Umar is also held responsible for wishing and asking for the ordainment of Hijab. This is often cited to show how “oppressive-minded” he was and if it wasn’t for his suggestion, Muslim women would have been free of the “oppression” of Hijab! Was it Umar’s misogynistic mind that desired to see Muslim women in Hijab, or was it his “gheer” (don’t know how to translate this exactly) to safeguard and honor his Muslim sisters?
Most importantly, we see that Allah honored his wish, which not only proves Umar (RD)‘s suggestion being “just” but it also shows his level of knowledge and wisdom, for Allah does not enjoin injustice:
Verily Allah enjoins al-adl (justice) and al-ihsaan [Qur’an 16:90]
Pause for a second and think to what this implies? Are people saying that Allah answered an ‘unjust’ call to the level that He made it an obligation in Islamic law?!! Who are they accusing of being unjust? Is it Umar or is it Allah Himself (iyyadhubillah)!
When it comes to the ahadeeth narrated by Abu Hurairah, it is easily asserted that he was a misogynistic man and he fabricated all the ahadeeth containing ‘negative’ overtones against women. He is being accused of fabricating ahadeeth, iyyadhubillah, when the Prophet has said:
Whoever lies upon me intentionally, then let him find his seat in the Hellfire. [Bukhari]
Do they realize that by accusing Abu Hurairah (RD) of this heinous sin they are implying that he will be destined to Hellfire?
On the contrary, we find the Prophet (S) making du’a for Abu Hurairah and his mother:
O Allah! Make these servants of Yours beloved to the believers and make the believers beloved to them. [Muslim]
From this hadeeth, we see that every true believer loves Abu Hurairah and his mother. Indeed, those who belittle and degrade Abu Hurairah should try to understand the implications of this hadeeth. We pray that Allah makes us among those who love Abu Hurairah, and owe our gratitude to him for spending four years of his days and nights memorizing and learning from the Prophet (S).
If Abu Hurairah was really a misogynistic man who belittled women and considered them the “dwellers of hellfire”, he would have never treated his mother with the utmost respect and kindness as shown in his life, and wouldn’t have thanked her by saying: “May Allah have mercy on you as you cared for me when I was small…”
As for the allegations against Abu Hurairah’s fight with Aisha and Umar, (RD)a, penalizing him for fabrications, these are false stories with no basis, and a detailed clarification of this matter can be read here:
In all honesty, I cannot do justice to the Companions (RD) in just one article, for their noble character and their love of justice for all, including women. (More on the virtues of sahaba)
Feeble-minded Women and Domineering Sahaba?
Were these men chauvinistic and ill-intentioned towards women? Did they look down upon females because they considered them the ‘dwellers of the hellfire’ or a ‘fitna‘ or equated them with ‘black dogs’?
The dealings in their society seem very different from this tainted picture. We hardly ever find women complaining to the Prophet (S) for being mistreated or abused by their men folk! Those women were not the type who would take someone’s injustice upon themselves and live as a ‘men’s prey’. This point is often misunderstood about them. When Allah says in Qur’an:
And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh hearted, they would have broken away from about you… [Qur’an 3:159]
Muhammad AlShareef quoted Shaykh Ja’far Idris explaining this verse that it is often mentioned to show the great character of Prophet (S) (and indeed it does), but it also praises the sahabas showing that they were courageous men and women who would not stand for anyone to subjugate them. Those women, in their high character, didn’t have the ‘victimized-mentality’ to be oppressed by their men.
Take the story of Abdullah ibn Rawaha as an example. He was sleeping with his wife and in the middle of the night he wanted to visit his concubine. So he quietly sneaked out of his bed and left. His wife woke up and upon finding him missing in bed, she suspected that he must have gone to be intimate with his concubine (obviously he wasn’t doing anything haraam and it was common to have concubines back then).
Let’s imagine a ‘misogynistic’ society. What were the chances of the wife being able to complain and express her jealousy? None! She would have tossed and turned and cried until her pillow was wet and her eyes sore.
Instead, Abdullah ibn Rawaha’s wife got up and grabbed a knife, and started walking towards the concubine’s room. It just so happened that Abdullah was coming out of the room. He saw his wife and she pulled the knife at him and asked, “You were with her, were you not?”
If these men were truly chauvinistic, he should have been exasperated and thought, “How dare she ‘investigate’ me and pull a knife at me! Let me teach her a lesson since I am ‘superior’ and she is a ‘dweller of hellfire’!” This sounds like a reasonable misogynistic reaction, doesn’t it?
But lo and behold, in fear of upsetting his wife, he said, “No!” (Keep in mind that this is one of the three situations in which lying is allowed, to avoid a fight between a husband and wife- according to the hadeeth in Muslim).
She didn’t believe him and demanded a ‘proof’ so she asked him to recite some Quran. (The Quran cannot be recited in a state of ‘janabah‘ (sexual impurity) so she was basically ‘testing’ him like a lie detector!)
Abdullah started reciting some poetry in the same tone as if he was reading Quran. His wife thought they were verses she hadn’t heard yet. So she let him go. The next day, Abdullah went to the Prophet (S) and told him what had happened and the Prophet smiled to the point where his back molar could be seen. (Reported in Darulqutni)
A man once came to Umar (RD) to complain about his wife but he heard Umar’s wife shouting just like his own, so he turned back thinking Umar suffers through the same problem, but Umar stopped him and reminded him that he tolerated the excesses of his wife for she had certain rights against him. He said,
Is it not true that she prepares food for me, washes clothes for me and suckles my children, thus saving me the expense of employing a cook, a washer man and a nurse, though she is not legally obliged in any way to do any of these things? Besides, I enjoy peace of mind because of her and am kept away from indecent acts on account of her. I therefore tolerate all her excesses on account of these benefits. It is right that you should also adopt the same attitude.
Does this sound like a misogynistic, woman-hater?
Warning Against Reviling the Companions:
Our Prophet (S) praised his companions as the ‘best’:
The best of my nation is my generation then those who follow them and then those who follow them. [Bukhari]
A generation whom the Prophet called the best can only be free from such inadequacies; otherwise the men around the Messenger (S) were simply not the best men. Let us be mindful before speaking about the Companions, for the Prophet (S) said:
Allah has selected me and picked me out my companions. From among my Companions, I have ministers, helpers, and relatives by marriage. Thereby, whoever disparages them entails the curse of Allah, His angels, and all the people. Allah will not accept their deeds on the Day of Judgment. [Abu Dawud]
Allah! Allah! (Keep the thought of Allah) Concerning my companions. Do not take them as a target (for your obscenity or charges) after me. He who loves them, loves me but he who hates them, hates me, and he who offends them, offends me and in turn offends Allah and he who offends Allah, Allah almost takes him. [As-Suyuti attributed it to At-Tabarani in Jami’Al-Adhkar]
Do not revile my companions… [Bukhari]
Muslims’ irreverence towards these companions will only be to their own loss and misguidance. Let’s not forget that if we try to cut off our own roots then our tree will collapse, no matter how much air, water, and sun we may be getting from ‘others’! Remember they were those whom Allah was pleased with:
And the first forerunners among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him… [Qur’an 9:100]