The Participation Of Women In Meetings And Gatherings

From what has been referred to in these lessons, it can be seen that, in the first place, Islam is concerned with and is attentive to the importance, extraordinary value and necessity for the legitimacy of sexual relations between men and women, whether it be concerned in their touching each other, hearing each other or living together. It is such that Islamic precepts would never allow the slightest detriment in whatever form it may take to be applied to it. But the world today overlooks this extraordinary human value and consciously chooses to ignore this point of view.

The world today, in the name of freedom of women, and, more directly, the freedom of sexual relations, has only served to corrupt the morale of the youth. Instead of this freedom helping to develop the amazing potentialities which exist within every human being, it wastes human energies and talents, in a way which did not exist in the past. Women have left their homes, but for what? For the cinema, the beach, the streets, and evening entertainment! In the name of freedom, women today have destroyed their homes without having effectively cultivated schools or universities or places of work.

As a result of this unrestrainedness and ignoring of any restrictions, the educational efficiency of young people, in general, has decreased. Young people run away from school and education and sexual crimes have increased at enormous rates. The cinema market is doing a brisk business and the pockets of capitalists who deal in cosmetics are overflowing.

The second point is that in spite of the dangers which result from the breaking of the barriers of sexual modesty, the Divinely bestowed religious precepts of purity have not been heeded by them, as they guide the ummah towards moderation, far from any extremity. To the point that women are not drawn towards corruption, the Islamic precepts do not prevent her active participation in society. In some cases, it is even obligatory that she should participate, like in the Hajj rituals, which is equally obligatory upon men and women. No husband has the right to prevent it.

As we know, it is not obligatory for women to participate in the jihad unless a city or an area of Muslims has been attacked and the jihad has a totally defensive nature.1 Then, just as the edicts of the religious jurisprudents state, the jihad becomes obligatory on women as well. Otherwise, it is not obligatory. Even so, the Holy Prophet gave some women permission to participate in the battles to help the soldiers and the wounded. There are many stories of this in the history of Islam.2

It is not obligatory upon women to participate in the congregational ritual prayers but if they go, it becomes obligatory upon them to participate and not to leave.3

It is not obligatory for women to participate in the Festival ritual prayers but they are not forbidden from participating. It is disapproved for women of great respect or beauty to participate in such prayers.4

The Holy Prophet cast lots among his wives and would take them with him on his journeys and some of his companions also took their wives.5

The Holy Prophet would accept the allegiance of women but he did not shake hands with them. He would order a bowl of water to be brought. He would put his hand in the water and order the women offering her allegiance to do the same thing. She was considered as having pledge her allegiance.6 Ayesha said that throughout his lifetime the Holy Prophet never touched the hands of a woman who was not mahram.

He did not forbid women from participating in burial ceremonies although he also did not feel it was necessary. He preferred that they do not participate although, under special circumstances, they did so and possibly participated in the recitation of the ritual prayers. It has been narrated in our traditions that when Zaynab, the oldest daughter of the Holy Prophet died, Fatimah, peace be upon her, and other Muslim women came and recited the ritual prayer for her.7

According to Shi'ite traditions, it is disapproved for young girls to participate in mourning ceremonies. Sunni scholars have recorded from Umm Atiyyah who said that the Holy Prophet encouraged women not to participate in mourning processions but he did not forbid it.8

Asma, the daughter of Yazid Ansari, was selected by the women of Madinah as their representative to go to the Holy Prophet to tell him of the complaints of the women of Madinah and receive his answer. When Asma entered, the Holy Prophet was seated among a group of the Companions.

She said, "May my mother and father be sacrificed for you. I am the representative of the women of Madinah to you. We women say that God almighty sent you as a Prophet to both men and women. You are not just the Prophet of the men. We women also found faith in you and God Almighty. We women sit in our homes meeting the sexual needs of men. We nourish your children in our wombs but we see that all of the sacred duties, great and valuable deeds which are regarded by God, are given to men alone and we are deprived. Men are allowed to gather together. They visit the sick. They participate in funeral processions. They repeatedly perform the Hajj rituals and above everything else, they are allowed to participate in the jihad in God's Way. Whereas when a man goes on the hajj or the jihad, it is we women who stay behind and protect his poverty. We weave cloth for his clothes. We train his children. How is it that we are partners of you men in difficult tasks but when it comes to sacred duties and deeds for which God gives spiritual reward, we are not partners and we are deprived of all of them?

"The Holy Prophet looked at the Companions and asked, 'Have you ever heard a woman speak so well, so logically and so clearly about religious affairs?'

'The Holy Prophet, turned to Asma and said, Woman! Try to understand what you are saying and explain to the women who sent you. Do you think that every man receives spiritual rewards and virtues for doing these things and women are deprived of them? No. This is not so. If a woman takes good care of her family and husband and does not allow the pure environment of her home to become polluted by the dust of darkness, she will receive spiritual rewards, virtues and successes equivalent to all of the work that men do.' "

Asma was a woman of faith. Her requests and those of the women who thought like her came from the depths of their faith, not out of lust or greed which we most often see today. She and the women who sent her were concerned that perhaps the duties which they performed had no value and that all of the sacred duties were particular to men. She and the women she represented wanted equality, but in what? In implementing the Divine commands and carrying out their religious duties. That which never entered their minds was a confrontation to gain individual egotistical desires in the name of a 'right'. Thus when she heard the response of the Holy Prophet, her face lighted up with pleasure and she returned in great happiness to her friends.9

As to the participation of women in these things, the traditions contradict one another. Some completely forbid it, but the author of Wasa'il, who was himself a reliable transmitter, noting the total collection of Islamic traditions, said, "It can be concluded from the totality of Islamic traditions that it is permissible for women to leave their homes to participate in mourning ceremonies or to see to the rights of the people10 or to attend a funeral procession and to participate in these gatherings just as Fatimah, peace be upon her, and the wives of the pure Imams, peace be upon them, participated in these kinds of ceremonies. Thus, the totality of the traditions rule that we ignore that which forbids it."11

The Holy Prophet allowed his wives to leave their homes to meet the needs they had and do what they had to do.

It is recorded that the Holy Prophet ordered the door to the mosque for women be separate from the men's door so that men and women would not be obliged to go and come through the same door. He forbids men from using that door.12

It is also recorded that the Holy Prophet commanded that after the night prayer, women be allowed to leave the mosque first so that they would not have to mix together.13 In order that no contacts prevail, he said that women should walk down the side of the street and men, down the middle.14

It is because of this that religious jurisprudents issue edicts that it is disapproved for men and women to mix together. Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Tabatabai Yazdi wrote, "In truth, if a person were to look at Islam with an open mind, he or she would confirm that the way of Islam is the way of moderation. At the same time that Islamic precepts have provided the greatest extent of precautions to protect the purity and sanctity of sexual relations, in no way do they prevent the human talents of women from blossoming. As a matter of fact, these precepts provide for both the spirit to remain healthy and for family relations to be more intimate and serious as well as better preparing men and women for a healthy social environment, far from any extremes."15

  • 1. Masalik, the section on jihad.
  • 2. Sahih Muslim, vol. 5, pp.196‑97; Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 2, p. 17; Jama Tirmizi, p. 247.
  • 3. Wasail, vol.1, p. 456.
  • 4. Ibid., vol.1, p. 474.
  • 5. Op. cit., Sahih, vol. 7, p. 437.
  • 6. All historians and commentators have recorded this. Histo­rians recorded it in recalling the events of the victory of Makkah and commentators have referred to it when commenting upon the verse, "O Prophet! When believing women come to you to take the oath of allegiance..." (60:12). See also Al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 526.
  • 7. Op. cit., Wasa'il, vol.1, p.156.
  • 8. Op cit., Sahih, vol. 3, p. 47; Bukhari, vol. 2, p. 94; Sunan, vol. 2, p.180.
  • 9. Asal al‑ghabah, vol. 5, pp. 338‑399.
  • 10. See Bihar al‑Anwar, vol. 11, p. 118 where a tradition is recorded from Al-Kafi from Musa ibn Ja'far, peace be upon him, who said: "My father, Imam Ja'far, peace be upon him, would send my mother and his mother to attend to the needs of the poor in Madinah."
  • 11. Op. cit., Wasa'il, vol.1, p. 72.
  • 12. Op. cit., Sunan, vol.1, p. 109.
  • 13. Op cit., Al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 519.
  • 14. Op. cit., Sunan, vol. 2, p. 658.
  • 15. Urwat al‑Wusqa, chapter I, issue 49.