Feb 8, 2011

Why Should I, Being a Woman, Study?

by Khadeejah Islam

First and foremost, is it permissible for a Muslim woman to study?

“Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim” [1]. This particular hadeeth stresses that education is indispensable for every Muslim, whether male or female. In addition, the following quote clarifies that any knowledge which is beneficial for this world and/or the Hereafter, and does not demean Islamic teachings, is permissible. “The seeker of knowledge should not ignore current events and the state of his society. These are essential to knowledge.

The faqeeh is the one who understands the text properly and understands the reality to which he applies them. It is well known that a person should have knowledge of real life, so that they will know how people are living” [2]. However, it is unfortunate that many Muslim women are not as passionate about education as they should be. Even worse, many Muslim men still contend that women should not venture out of their homes to study. Although the authentic ahadeeth and the verdicts by scholars are sufficient to dismiss such a notion, I would still like to delineate the importance of education. I also pray that this article inspires my sisters to study harder than ever before. It is worth mentioning that education is defined as “a mental and moral training or instruction” [3]. Therefore, throughout this article, education will refer to both Islamic and beneficial secular knowledge.

Dear sisters, we are indeed blessed to have an opportunity to study in reputable schools. We are blessed that we are not ignored or selected for “low-skilled” jobs due to illiteracy. We are blessed to be able to communicate and express ourselves in the society. Many cannot avail themselves of such privileges due to poverty or physical/mental inability. I know a visually impaired sister who studies by recording notes read out by someone else. Alhamdulillah! She is on her way to completing her Master’s degree. And here we are, having all the means to study, but still not choosing to study as passionately as that sister! Most of our education expenses are borne by our parents, who work diligently day and night. Take my maid for example. She works in three places back-to-back, cooking, washing the dishes, cleaning and doing other “odd” jobs, often bearing cruel treatment by her employers, just to support her son’s education. Remember that the money, time, and effort foregone due to your education could have been utilized in other productive projects, such as sponsoring an orphan, building a mosque or even paying education expenses for one who really wants to study. Therefore, try to yield the best returns on the resources invested in your education.

Dear sisters, education cannot be confined to your regular school textbooks and syllabus. So when you learn how to operate a certain machine and it proves to be beneficial, it is education. If you are in a secular school, then you will need to pay attention to the spiritual side of education by gaining Islamic knowledge. Consequently, it is imperative to study extensively (out of syllabus) if we want to be truly knowledgeable and if we want to survive in this world. With technology leaping bounds, we really need to be aware of our surroundings. The experiences of a widowed sister will further explain this point. Being totally dependent on her husband and having no educational background at all, she now has nowhere to go. Ever since her husband died, she wakes up each day with uncertainty and apprehension. She is literally living off the donations made by her relatives (who in turn are not so well-off!). Another sister has a similar story to share. Owing to her lack of education, she endures verbal abuse by her husband and criticism from her in-laws, just to have a roof over her head. Since her parents have passed away, she no longer has a place to seek shelter. How will these women earn a living? How will these women start a business when they have no idea of current affairs and bank transactions? How will these women demand justice when they are not aware of their Islamic rights? There are many such cases where the future of young women and children appear to be bleak just because they have abandoned education. This should send a clear message to the brothers who are against the education of women. Whatever the sisters aspire to be, whether they wish to earn or not, they must be prepared to live independently within Islamic boundaries and fight off any crisis if the need arises.

Dear sisters, today, Islam is considered a backward religion by people who hold malice against this great religion. There are misconceptions, such as; Muslim women are oppressed. Simultaneously, in the past few decades, there has been little output from Muslims. If you were to visit your local bookstore, you would find only a few Islamic books. “A woman who can read and write is far more likely to pass on these skills to her children and grandchildren than a man. Education levels can therefore be raised outside the school system at little cost. Women also have primary responsibilities for the nutrition and health-care of family units. The ability to read helps education programmes designed to improve the health of individuals. Women may run their own enterprises, selling home produced goods in a market for instance. Literacy can give an important boost to the success of such ventures. Studies also show that a larger proportion of money earned by women is likely to be spent on nutrition and education of children than of that earned by men” [4]. If each one of us teaches our families about hygiene and sanitation to improve lives, help our children to learn and take up other such projects to please Allah (subhanaa wa ta’aala), we will get rewarded immensely insha’Allah.

"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" [5]. Dear sisters, in order to be active in society, you do need a certain level of education. Therefore, do not abandon education and if you have not, then study passionately to please Allah (SWT). Every day, wake up with the vision of helping others and of representing Islam in a positive light through your education. Enjoy every lesson. Expand your knowledge. For now, pick up the book which you have put aside!

[1] Sunan Ibn Maajah
[2] http://islamqa.com/en/ref/76010/
[3] Oxford Compact Dictionary andThesaurus (edited by Julia Elliott), page-237
[4] Alain Anderton’s Economicsbook (4th edition), page-678
[5] Qur’an 9:71

I'd love to hear your views on this article. Please tell me in the comments section below :)


Thanks for the reminder! Education is indeed important, not just for worldly benefit but also, more importantly, for building our Akhirah.

If Allah (swt) so wills, anybody can live a financially independent life, with or without education. We need to seek knowledge primarily because it is our way of life and Allah (swt) commanded us to do so. That reason alone is sufficient! :)

Btw, gotta say that I love the author's name.

I found another piece of information related to this: http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=175913

MashaAllah sister what you've highlighted is very true. Lately I lost my motivation to study and my sense of purpose for education.But alhamdulillah this is an excellent reminder, jazakillah khair.
Education and the opportunity to seek an education is in itself a great blessing from Allah. 
"We are blessed
that we are not ignored or selected for “low-skilled” jobs due to illiteracy.
We are blessed to be able to communicate and express ourselves in the society."
"Every day, wake up with the vision of
helping others and of representing Islam in a positive light through your
education. Enjoy every lesson. Expand your knowledge. For now, pick up the book
which you have put aside!" - will do inshaAllah!

Wa iyyaki!
Purpose for anything is important. If you can pinpoint a good reason for why you are doing something, you will never lose motivation inshaaAllah.
Glad that it has inspired you to study. I hope you continue on this path. Please share this article with others and inspire them!

JazakAllah khair for the reminder sister. I think sometimes we focus too much on getting girls hitched and pregnant (which, dont get me wrong, I'm all for that as well :)) to the point that a lot of sisters start to see education as something we just do to pass the time before prince charming arrives. 

MashaAllah my husband has been encouraging me to push myself more and finish the degree i started years ago and your article certainly made me feel more motivated to make another attempt inshaAllah!

 Wa iyyaki!

Absolutely true! I know many sisters who are studying just to pass the time, just to appear "qualified" or "educated" for the prospective suitor, or just under societal / family pressures.

Great to know that you have a very supportive husband and also that this article has motivated you! Please share this article to motivate many others inshaaAllah. Keep checking back on this website to read more articles!

I absolutely agree. I come from a family of women who are all university graduates despite being very religiously inclined. However, when I wanted to step out of the mould and study engineering, it created a bit of drama. It was the only thing I thought came close to being a Pilot,(I wasn't allowed to pursue that) and I didn't give up. Although I quite didn't like it after all and went back to my first love of writing. I must say that it is important for our men to support us because without good support from that department, it is very difficult to endeavour to reach for our goals. Alhamdulillah, I am happy that my husband always comes up with advice and suggestions in all that I do, without that, I wouldn't be as satisfied as I am.  I am working on an anthology on Muslim life at the moment to give voice to Muslims and all that they do (and not all the things the media portrays they do).

Thanks for sharing! I am happy that you are willing to contribute to the society and that your husband is supportive too. Keep up the good work!

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