By Exan Sharief (Founder/CEO of FL Inspire Change)
First of 2 parts
The Bangsamoro government, through the Grand Mufti Abu Huraira Udasan, officially announced that the observance of this year’s Ramadhan will start today, April 3, 2022. This pronouncement also aligned with the official announcement of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos(NCMF), through its new Secretary Atty. Guiling Mamondiong regarding the start of Ramadhan in the Philippines.
RAMADHAN is the time of year in which we engage in a month-long process of introspection, repentance, and self-renewal. To commemorate the first revelation of the Holy Qu’ran to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during this blessed month, Muslims around the world reflect on spiritual connection with the Almighty Allah (Subhana Wa Taala). This ninth month of the lunar or Hijrah calendar is when Muslim families would spend time and pray together in fulfilling one of the pillars of Islam.
In Surat al-Baqarah Ayah 183, Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
“Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa (God-consciousness).”
Consequently, Muslim women especially mothers and wives are among the busiest members of the family during this holy month. This social norm relates to the typical household roles expected from women even in the cases of working professionals. However, Islam’s basic view of women and men postulates a complementarity of functions. In fact, the Qur’an dedicates numerous ayahs to Muslim women, their role, duties and rights in Surat An-Nisa (Women). Although the experiences of Muslim women or Muslimah vary widely between and within different societies, their adherence to Islam is a shared factor that affects their lives to a varying degree and gives them a common identity that may serve to bridge the wide cultural, social, and economic differences between them.
Ms. Sittie Aifat Ali of the Integrated Shari’ah Bar of the Philippines (ISBP) humbly believes that her duties as a Muslimah during the month of Ramadhan is just the same as that of men except when in menstrual period. Spiritual equality between women and men is detailed in Sūrat al-Aḥzāb (33:35) which states that “Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the men and women who give Sadaqah (charity), the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their chastity and the women who do so, and the men and women who remember Allah SWT with their hearts and tongues – for them Allah SWT has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.”
Surat An-Nisa (4:124) further provides that “those who do good, whether male or female, and have faith will enter Paradise and will never be wronged, even as much as the speck on a date stone.” Female religious scholars were relatively common from early Islamic history throughout the 16th century. A Sunni religious scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi has listed around 8,000 female jurists while orientalist Ignaz Goldziher estimates about 15 percent of medieval Hadith scholars were women. During the early history of Islam, women primarily obtained their knowledge through community study groups, Ribaat retreats and during Hajj or pilgrimage.
Reservations on women during Ramadhan
A normal biological cycle such as menstruation or “haid” in women has traditionally faced quite a lot of stereotypes on impurity attached to it and is often becoming a subject of shaming during Ramadhan. According to a Hadith, Muslim women that are going through menstrual bleeding are exempt from fasting and prayers but they are not excused, they will have to make up from those days after their menstruation period. In Sahih Al-Bukhari 322, it was narrated by ‘Aisha that Fatima bint Abi Hubaish asked the Prophet, “I got persistent bleeding (in between the periods) and do not become clean. Shall I give up prayers?” He replied, “No, this is from a blood vessel. Give up the prayers only for the days on which you usually get the menses and then take a bath and offer your prayers.”
Some scholars say that it is not permitted for menstruating women to read the Qur’an. Others say it is possible, in some circumstances. However, menstruating women are allowed to attend the `Eid prayer without participating in the prayer but just to witness it and join the celebration.
Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are also subjects of concern during this month but it is worthy to note that they are processes for which women are rewarded by God Almighty. A woman once questioned Prophet Muḥammad (SAW), “men go to war and have a great reward for that, so what do women have?” He answered, “when a woman is pregnant, she has the reward of someone who spends the whole night praying and the whole day fasting; when the contractions strike her, no one knows how much reward Allah SWT gives her for having to go through this, and when she delivers her child, then for every suck it draws from her, she receives the reward for keeping a soul alive.”
In Surat Al-Baqarah 233, mothers are ordained to suckle their children for two whole years; (that is) for those who wish to complete the suckling. A mother should not be made to suffer because of her child, nor should he to whom the child is born (be made to suffer) because of his child. The Prophet Muḥammad (SAW) also stated that if a woman dies in childbirth, she is counted as a martyr; the reward for martyrdom is Paradise.
Another equally important to emphasize is the dress code. Modesty or “Haya” is a religious prescription in Islam. The Holy Qur’an ordains both men and women to dress modestly and not display their bodies. As a matter of fact, the Prophet Muḥammad (SAW) asserted that modesty is a central character trait in Islam. In the specific context of women, Surat An-Nur Ayah 31 speaks of women lowering their gaze and guarding their chastity so as not to reveal their adornments from strangers outside the family.
Former NCMF Commissioner Ms. Analiza “Aisha” Flores-Malayang shares that “basically, women are the busiest during Ramadhan. Planning and preparation of meals for Sahoor and Iftar for the family are among the priorities while attending to personal Ibadah. As mothers, we must prod our children and grandchildren to further engage in reading the Qur’an aside from ensuring that the daily prayers are orderly observed by the entire household. Add to that the Taraweh prayers on the evening which brings forth almost round-the-clock duties among mothers and most women in the Muslim community.”
A famous Hadith states that “Heaven lies under the feet of mothers,” which accordingly – and like all traditional systems – Islam has honored the work of a homemaker and a mother as being of the highest value. The moral upbringing of a child is usually attached to the mother being a natural condition for a child to likely spend more time with the mother. One test of motherhood is on how the woman would perform the duty of Tarbiyyah to her children. The month of Ramadhan provides an opportunity among mothers to give importance on this noble task. This also relates to the essence and necessity for Muslim women to be properly educated in Islam and generally, in life. Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf said, “Islam requires us to do all that we can to impart moral instruction and knowledge of Islamic sciences to women. If a woman herself has received Islamic education and possess the outlook of a true Muslim, the child’s upbringing will automatically be fashioned on Islamic lines. In fact, the Muslim women essentially need to be grounded in Islamic sciences so as to guide their children.”
A widow Ms. Anabelle Valencia Esmael – Zailon of Women Organizations Movement of Bangsamoro (WOMB) conveys that as a woman, she has so many responsibilities during this holy month. Being a single parent, she ensures that the basic needs of her family are met, more importantly the meals, not to mention the time she spends in cooking and preparation right after work. On top of this, she also do charitable initiatives in donating Iftar to orphans.
Gender Normative Roles
The misconception on gender roles in Islam must be corrected. Women are often expected to be obedient wives and mothers, staying within the familial environment, while men are expected to be the protectors and caretakers of their family. As highlighted by Ms. Rohanisa Taha-Basa of MSU-Maguindanao MAIS Society, there should be no distinct separation and discrimination between the duties of men and women during Ramadhan because they are ought to complement in support to the family. Studying the intersections between the discursive traditions of Islam and gender requires an understanding of the primary sources. Gender is often described as standing at the center of the contradictions of modernity in Islam.
Like everything else in the universe, humanity has been created in a pair as provided in Sūrat Al-Dhāriyāt Ayah 49 which says that neither can be complete without the other. In Islamic cosmological thinking, the universe is perceived as an equilibrium built on harmonious polar relationships between the pairs that make up all things.
(to be continued)