Mar 12, 2012

The Educated Muslimah

By Sabeen Mansoori 


A Muslimah is not an ordinary woman. Her status cannot be understood in this world but will become apparent in the Hereafter. When she is returned to her Lord, she finds that He is pleased with her and to her is granted the honor of drinking from the fountain of Kauthar. When others are turned away for their innovations and disobedience, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam smiles and welcomes her. The hellfire dare not scorch her with its threatening glare and the scent of Paradise still exudes from the grave that she has risen from. For her the Day of Judgment will not feel long and strenuous nor will the journey over the Siraat be filled with terror. While those that dazzled others in this life will be in darkness, she will have light and safety across the Sirat. She must have had an extraordinary journey in the previous life. What skills did she learn? What kind of an education did she receive that equipped her to succeed through all the challenges so that she is granted the fast pass to Jannah?

Education is a very subjective concept. How do you measure if someone is educated? Imagine for a moment that ‘Education’ could be placed in a carton or a can and you could turn it over and read the ingredients. What do you think you would find? Would the list of ingredients look like a copy of your transcript from school? Is the dry, incomplete knowledge of the mechanics of the Universe really education? In the true Islamic sense the ingredients of ‘education’ include the following:

· Ta'līm, from the root 'alima (to know, to be aware, to perceive, to learn)
· Tarbiyah, from the root raba (to increase, to grow, to rear) and
· Ta'dīb, from the root aduba (to be cultured, refined, well-mannered)

Today if you receive ta’alim (acquiring knowledge) alone it is considered education. The Quran invites the believers to study the universe and the signs within their own selves. We are invited to study the fabric of society and the history of past nations. We are commanded to seek the bounty of Allah subhaana wa ta'aala by engaging in business. If we analyze these exhortations, hardly any field of study is left out from the list. Other people also study the same curriculums, what then is the difference when a Muslim woman studies them?

Like a flower rooted in the soil of faith and the love of Allah, she has as her role models Ayesha and Asiya and when she sets out on the path to acquire knowledge she does it with the intention to please Allah and serve His creation. About Hazrat Ayesha it is said by the faqih of the Muslims, `Urwah ibn al-Zubayr, who was quoted by his son Hisham as saying: "I have never seen anybody more knowledgeable in fiqh or medicine or poetry than `A'ishah."

The promise of Allah is:

“And their Lord responded to them, "Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another…” ('Āli`Imrān 3:195)

And Allah (swt) never fails in His promises. Knowledge acquired with this intention is one of the petals in this flower from Paradise.

But did the Muslimah make it to Jannah because of her degree or her GPA? Were the people sorted on the Day of Judgment by their education levels or were they sorted by their levels of piety? She got graded as acceptable for entry to Paradise because of the tarbiyyat (training) she received and the adab (etiquette/manners) she learned.

From her elders and from the guidance of her deen she developed a likeable, pleasant personality. She was respectful to her elders and loving to those younger than her. Because the path to Paradise is beset with difficulties she learned with experience to develop sabr (patience) and perseverance. She knew when to bite her tongue and stay silent. Sabr is one of the petals in this flower of Paradise. Another petal is ‘haya’ (shyness from displeasing Allah). The Muslimah had ‘haya’ and she maintained dignity in her demeanor and speech. She was also faithful to the rituals of the deen and regular in her salah, charity and fasting. She understood the importance of establishing and maintaining relations with family and friends and aspired to forgive others hoping for the forgiveness of the Most Merciful.

A Muslim woman can be very ‘educated’ but have no etiquette or empathy in her heart. In a simpler age if someone behaved in an impolite manner or used profanity they would be labeled ‘Jahil’ (illiterate or ignorant.) In present times the corridors of the institutions of higher learning echo with the curse words that it has become fashionable to use.

The Sahabiyaat fulfilled the rights of their families: cooking, cleaning while guiding and nurturing those under their care. They were productive members of the community that they lived in: teaching, working, and giving in charity. They actively participated in the mosque life of the Prophet "sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam" from the very inception. When the prayer direction was changed from Jerusalem to Mecca the men and women had to change places. (Fath al-Bari, commentary on Sahih Bukhari) They were on the battle field tending to the wounded, bringing water and in dire circumstances actually participating in combat.

Another petal in the flower is that of hikmah (wisdom). Hikmah is simply to put things where they belong. The opposite is zulm (oppression) which is to put things where they do not belong. This is the key to a successfully educated Muslimah.

“He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.” (Sura Al Baqarah 2:269)

She put her talents to use as and when the situation demands. Balancing and prioritizing her role as a slave of Allah, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a student, an activist and a friend. The entire weight of her talents and time should not be solely devoted to building a career.

Last, but not least of course is ‘husn’ (beauty) but in Islam even beauty is not just skin deep. The word ‘husn’ is from the same root as the word ‘ihsaan’ (excellence) which was explained by our beloved Prophet "sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam" in the famous hadith, 'That you worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him then He sees you.' (Sahih Bukhari) The characteristic of ‘ihsaan’ is the fragrance of this flower of Paradise. Every effort of the Muslimah to acquire knowledge and implement it in her life is characterized by perfection or at least an aspiration for it.

Where, you might ask, can one find a Muslimah like the one described? Most have their petals bruised by the trials of this life and are wilted by the tests of time. So this flower is then returned to its rightful home because that is where it truly belongs. The world was not worthy of her anyway.

2. The Concept of Education in Islam
3. The Ideal Muslimah
4. The Jibril Hadith Explained-Essentials of Islam, Eman and Ihsaan
5. Islam - History of Islamic Education, Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education
Islam - History of Islamic Education, Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education - Religious, Knowledge, Koran, and Spiritual -

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


Mashallah Sabeen, very well said. Jazakallah for sharing. Loved the read. :)

Beautifully articulated piece of writing with a message that's v important.

Jazakallah Khair, Batul! 

I hope we can take a more holistic approach to education. Education that can inshallah empower us in the dunya and the akhira. Jazakallah khair:-)

subhanallah...its an excellent article......

Nicely written. inspiring. Just the little push i needed at this point in my life. Thank u.

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