Women in Da'wah (Call to Islam) - I
From the very beginning of the Islamic history, Muslim women have played vital roles in the propagation of the Divine Message (Islam). From the sacrifices of Sumayyah to the collected Ahadeeth [narrations of the Prophet ] of 'Aa'ishah women have been instrumental in the flourishing and spreading of this religion, the process which is called "Da'wah" in Arabic.
Unfortunately, during our present times, the Islamic revival suffers from weaknesses in its properly qualified personnel, which limits its spreading and restricts the Da'wah work to an elite group of activists, with finite and limited efforts of Da'wah and Tarbiyah (education) being focused on women.
Da'wah amongst women deserves, and should get, far more attention than it does. So far, except in a few instances, women have been distanced from the field of Da'wah work. If we consider the situation of Islamic Da'wah work and the position of women in it today, we can easily find the following problems:
1- Deficiency in Da'wah capabilities among women.
2- The ill-use of existing limited-resources in combination with a lack of personal initiative on the part of women.
3- A neglect or omission of women's issues in the planning of Islamic Da'wah.
4- Absence of adequate education and the lack of fundamental Islamic knowledge in the Daa'iyaat (female callers) in the field of Da'wah. Only a few of the wives and daughters of Du'aat (male callers) have any worthwhile Islamic knowledge.
5- Most women do not possess a proper understanding of the role of Da'wah made incumbent on their husbands. Because of this, they may not understand the importance of time given to projects outside the home, which in turn, may become a source of tension within the home.
6- The level of general Islamic knowledge among most women is low.
7- Women's Da'wah programs, as well as overall Da'wah programs and institutions are rare and not well organized.
Roots of the problem:
Many obstacles and restraints have been the causes behind the weakness and neglect of Da'wah work amongst women. Once they have been recognized and analyzed, viable solutions can be sought and implemented.
One major reason is that many men are not convinced about the importance of women's role and responsibilities in the field of Da'wah. The Quranic verse (which means) "And abide in your houses..." [33:33] has been misinterpreted by many, and so has the concept of "Qawamah", or the right/responsibility of stewardship. In many instances, we see men objecting to women's participation in Da'wah and thus preventing them from fulfilling their role toward their fellow-Muslims and to the larger society in general. Spreading Islam has been made incumbent on all Muslims, men and women.
"It is vital that husbands encourage their wives to participate in Da'wah work," said Dr. 'Aa'ishah Hamdan, Director of the Islamic Education Foundation (IEF), based in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA). She has a Ph. D. in Clinical Psychology with a specialty in child and family issues. She teaches at a private university in the Twin Cities. The main goal of the IEF is to increase the level of awareness and provide training in giving Da'wah amongst Muslim women and men. "They (husbands) should encourage them to spread the message of this religion, perhaps by taking them along when they go out, and by instructing them on the proper ways of giving presentations about Islam," she added.
A more particular reason is the absence or confusion of priorities in the minds of the callers to Islam. Many of them have been overwhelmed and distracted by the state of the Ummah (Muslim community), even to the extent of ignoring to give proper attention to their homes and families. Their energies having been exhausted in the work outside the home, leaving them with nothing left for their families. This imbalance affects not only the families, but also the community as a whole.
The level of women's education and awareness of their position and responsibility plays an important role in the field of Da'wah.
A crucial role for the Muslim Women
The reasons women's participation in Da'wah is important are various and diverse:
1. Women are more capable than men are in communicating with other women. Women are usually more affected by word, deed, and conduct of other women, more so than by men. On the other hand, women are more capable of recognizing the particularities and problems associated with women's education.
2. Women can better comprehend the direction in which women's Da'wah work should be geared. They can best discern the order of priorities, because they are more familiar with this sphere.
3. Women are freer than men in communicating with other women, either individually for Da'wah activities, or in women's learning and other forums and places of meeting.
4. Many Muslim women who are in need of guidance, education, and direction lack the presence of men-folk who can provide this service, therefore it makes sense that qualified women in the community should do the job.
5. The need of education with women is greater than that with men. They get pregnant, give birth, and nurse children. The children are more tied to them than they are to their fathers. Women stay at home with their sons and daughters, and thus can bring them up as they please. If they are not allowed to share in the Da'wah efforts of their husbands, a lot of the much-needed results may not be attained.
6. Women have a great effect on their husbands. If they have strong Eeman (faith) and character, they have a very good chance at helping their husbands become strong as well.
7. Women have a lot of characteristics that stress the importance of their Da'wah role. They should also be taken into account whenever any Da'wah work is planned. Some are:
* Women have the innate ability to communicate strongly what they believe to be true in their hearts. Dr. Hamdan also points out that, "Women are also generally stronger in terms of verbal abilities and emotionality."
* Women sometimes lack will-power and a sense of direction, and therefore need the assistance of other women to give strength and motivation.