Three questions are worth discussing with reference to this topic. First, whether Islam grants right of vote to women. Second, whether she can contest elections. Third, whether a woman can become head of the state.
The code of conduct suggested by Islam for the smooth handling of state affairs says that all political and collective affairs should be settled through mutual consultation which is the real democratic culture.
The Quran Says:
‘(The muslims) conduct their affairs by mutual consent. ‘(Al-shura: 42-38)
The Quranic order is for all men and women. Hence it is the responsibility of a Muslim state to seek the opinion of women like men and grant them right of vote. It is also obligatory upon women to express their opinion in all collective affairs. The Quran quotes the example of the Prophets shoaib who accepted the advice of his daughter. The Quran directs through Al-Baqara-2:233 that husband and wife should decide the matter of weaning their child through mutual consultation.
The Holy Prophet himself consulted women on several matters and accepted their advice as well. There is a commonly known incident in this context. At the time of the pact of Hudybia the Prophet’s companions were deeply grieved. The Prophet wanted to do something but no one stood up to obey him. The Prophet sought the advice of his wife, Umm-i-Salma on the issue. She granted a useful advice which brought fruitful results.
The Prophet’s companions were also in the practice of consulting women. The valid narratives and the historical events reveal several such incidents that testify the above claim. For example, according to a narrative of the Bukhari, a famous companion of the Prophet, Abdullah Bin Umar consulted his sister, Hafsa on an important, collective issue of the Muslims and acted upon her advice as well. The pious Caliph also used to consult women on various matters. Several historical events approve of this fact. On the issue of the appointment of Usman as the third Caliphs of Islam. Abd-al-Rehman Bin Auf consulted women as well.
So far as the second question is concerned, Islam has never laid any embargo upon women to assume an office of responsibility. Since they can assume an office, they can contest elections as well. Shafa Bint-e-Abdullah was entrusted with the duty of inspecting the market by Umar, the second Caliph of Islam. (Al-asaba, Al-Istiyab and Asad-al-Ghaba).similarly, another female companion of the Prophet, Samra Bint-e-Nahek was also used to punish the criminal (Al-Istiyab)
According to an eminent jurist of Muslim Ummah Imam Bin Jareer a woman may become a judge in all kinds of cases. According to another eminent jurists, Imam Abu Hanifa, she can act as a judge in all cases except those of criminal cases. Hence, a woman may grant her advice, decide a case, and even get her decision implemented. There is no difference of opinion left now among the Muslim Ummah in the context of the above mentioned two questions.
Third question is whether a woman can become head of a state?
One point of view in this context is that a woman has no right to become head of a state in any case. They quote a Quranic reference in support of their logic. The Quran says that when Talut was appointed as the ruler of Banu Isarad, by the Prophet Daud, the nation objected to it. Daud convinced them by telling that Talut had an edge over other people in terms of knowledge and physical strength. It indicated that the physical strength was one of the prerequisites for a ruler. Since man is blessed with physical strength, only he is suitable for the rule of a state.
We disagree with the above argument. The manly appearance, wrestling, and the use of weaponry were the qualities required by a ruler during that period. It was so because the ruler also held the portfolio of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and he had to combat in the battlefield himself. This is why the Quran describes that Talut killed Jalut, the head of his rival forces. Today, no ruler fights himself in the battlefield. The best equity for a ruler today is that he must be farsighted and wise. We, therefore, cannot deduce any permanent principle for our selves out of this incident.
Two more Quranic verses are quoted as argument against the headship of a woman. These include Al-Baqara-2:228 and Al-Nisa-4:34.However, they do not offer any such logic in favour of the above point of view. Both of these verses are related with the relationship of husband and wife. These verses convey that man will act as head of the family when he marries a woman and forms a family. If God had an intention to issue a similar order in case of a state as well, it would have been laid down in the Quran clearly.
Among narratives, only two demand analysis in this context. First one is from the Bukhari. Abu bakra (not the 1st Caliph, but another person), narrates that the Prophet, on hearing that the daughter of the ex-king of Iran, Kisra was appointed as the new ruler of the country, said that, “the nation that appoints a woman as its ruler can never succeed”.
This narrative generates some important issues,
- According to narrator of this narrative, Abu bakra, he recollected it on the occasion of the battle of Jamal. This battle was fought in 36th year of Hijrah. It means that Abu bakra had heard it from the Prophet’s mouth at least thirty years before. It had been slipped off the attic of his memory during this period while he recollected it on a special occasion. It looks quite strange.
- Since it was an important issue, other companions of the prophet should also have heard it from the Prophet’s mouth but no one else quoted it ever. There were thousands of the Prophet’s companions present on the occasion of the battle of Jamal from both sides but it struck no one else’s memory. Not only this but no one also segregated himself from Ayesha’s army. It is above board that the Prophet’s companions could never miss an opportunity of acting upon the Prophet’s saying.
- It is also clear from the logical point of view that the Holy Prophet could never say like that. It is so because many such states have gained materially which were headed by women. (it must be borne in mind that this narrative clearly deals with the worldly gain because a nonmuslim state has been discussed here). The success in the life after death is not conditional with the distinction on the basis of sex.
- The middle link of this narrative, Auf Bin Abi Jamilah belonged to the faction that preferred Ali to Usman. The researchers are quite aware of the fact that a particular group of people launched a campaign against Ayesha as she had sided with Usman. This narrative could possibly be a link of the same chain.
- Basically, this narrative is not applicable on Ayesha at all as she had never claimed headship of the state. She had reached Makkah in order to perform pilgrimage. On realizing the gravity of the situation, she went to Basrah instead of going to Madina. During that journey, the opponents of Ali also joined her. They demanded that Ali must arrest the assassins of Usman and punish them. Ali was of the opinion that he would certainly do that after he gets circumstances under control. Both the sides held negotiations on the issue for three days. The talks were fruitful and both the sides reached an agreement, the terms of which were to be written on the next day.There were several trouble seekers on both sides who intended to create a conflict. They conspired in such a way that both the sides doubted each other for having violated the treaty. Ayesha was in the cradle on a camel’s back at that time. Her camel was brought to the battle field so that the fighting factions should stop fighting in her respect. The opponents, on the contrary though that Ayesha had herself come there to command her army. The battle instead became severer. At last, Ali stood victorious in the battle and sent Ayesha to Madina with great respect. (please see Urdu Ma’araf Islamia Vol-7,Jang-e-Jamel)
All this detail proves that Ayesha was neither a claimant for the headship nor she had commanded the army. She lived for twenty two years after this tragedy and spent the whole time in educating women. If she were desirous of any political leadership, she would have remained active in this respect. Thus the claim made in this narrative is totally baseless.
The second narrative belongs to Tirmizi. According to Abu Huraira the prophet said, “When you have the best among you as rulers, you wealthy people are generous and your affairs are settled through mutual consultation, the surface of the earth is better for you than its womb. When the worst among you are your rulers, your wealthy people become miser and your affairs are settled by women, the womb of earth is better for you than its face”.
This narrative is true as per its content. It means that every civilized and pious society should be guided by the principles of democracy which certainly respect the opinions of all categories of people including men and women. However, if men of a society become indifferent to the collective issues, become lethargic and luxury prone and hand over all the matters of responsibility to women, it is certainly, an unwanted situation. It means that this narrative is not against women rather it condemns the lethargic and luxurious trend among men.
There are just these two narratives on this issue out of six most important compilations.
It is a fact that Islam has never laid any such restrictions on any issue because there would have been clear Quranic instruction if there had been any such intention. The Quran has its peculiar style that it describes all relevant instructions while narrating an incident. But we see that while narrating the incident of the Queen Saba of Yemen in Al-Namal who had embraced Islam on the invitation of the Prophet Sulaiman, the Quran neither approves of the rule of a woman nor discards it. The Quran does not even mention whether Saba was kept as a ruler after her embracing of Islam or not. Had there been any intention of God to issue a clear order, it was the most appropriate opportunity for that. Hence, keeping ambiguity over here indicates that being a woman does not hamper her from becoming a ruler
We consider the above attitude of Islam as a very wise action. There might arise such circumstances when a nation or a large faction can have consensus on the rule of a woman only, particularly when a ruler is dead or he is assassinated. The recent history reveals that a woman goes for a rule in the compulsive and pressing circumstances only when her father or husband meets some accident. She usually does not like to assume such responsibility.