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By Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir

In a women ulemas training, KH. Husein Muhammad stated a critique to hadith texts in Syarh ‘Uqud al-Lujjayn Syekh Nawawi Banten book (1230-1214H/1813-1897M). Ummi Dzikriyati, a young muballigah and participant from Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam didn’t like it when she heard hadith that are not friendly to women and she voiced out her disagreement towards dissemination of those hadith. She believes that those hadith should no longer disseminate to society and being discussed. Her disagreement also include pattern of critical study of hadith. She suggested to directly empowering society, including ulemas, dai and muballighah with hadith texts that put women in equal position as men, empower and glorify women. “This would rouse our spirits”, Ummi ended her comment to KH Husein Muhammad’s presentation. 

This represents some of Moslem’s view to the dissemination of hadiths that are not empowering women. There is also some of Moslem that choose to keep on doing critical and scientific study of hadith that are not empowering women. The study of hadith texts is needed to differentiate which hadith are accountable and not, and to separate interpretation of hadith texts that are in line with basic principles of Islam from interpretation of hadith texts that are reduced from the main treatise of Islam. The science of hadith, from the beginning is formulated to conduct test toward texts spread in society as hadith; how accountable those texts are. Through this test, hadith would then be classified as sahih (valid), hasan (fine), dha’if (weak), and even there are hadith classified as mawdhu’ (false). All these texts spread in society as hadith texts. 

Hadith ulemas have worked hard to classify these hadith texts, although there are still many ulemas who rely on weak hadith, even there are some ulemas who rely on false hadith. Madzhab Hanbali, one of major madzhab in fiqh that has a source of principles (qa’idah ushuliyyah) that choose da’if hadith over logic (qiyas). This condition often makes it difficult for us to find the spirit of women empowerment in hadith texts. Syarh ‘uqud al-Lujjayn book, is one of the books about religious advices regarding the relation of husband and wife which contain hadith that are not accountable. For example, in an analysis by The Forum of Kitab kuning (classic Islamic scholar forum) book (FK3), there is 20% hadiths that have no basis (la ashla lahu) from all hadith texts in that book. There is 30% hadith that are weak (da’if) and the rest of the hadith range from fine (hasan) to valid (sahih). 

Hadith which have no basis and weak in that book, in the context of husband and wife relation, are the result of interpretation and ijtihad of Syekh nawawi at that time. It doesn’t close the chances that he was influenced by knowledge that was developed and spread in the society at that time. As stated by M. Quraisy Shihab, Syekh Nawawi could change his ijtihad point of view if he lives in our era and experience what we have been through and follow the development of science as we do. (See: FK3, Kembang Setaman Perkawinan; critical analysis of ‘Uqud al-Lujjayn, page: xxi).

Syekh Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917-1996) is one of Al-Azhar ulema who heavily criticized the circulation of da’if hadith texts, which cover many aspects of life. The da’if texts cover issues such as belief, worship, social and tradition issues. For example, in the book of Assunah an-Nabawiyah bayn Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadits, when discussing about eating habbit, Syekh Muhammad al-Ghazali criticized ulemas who disseminate hadith texts that forbid the use of knife when eating, that people must sit on the floor when eating, eating from the same plate and the goodness in eating with hands instead of spoon and fork. There are also many hadith texts regarding women that are da’if and also being criticized by Syekh Muhammad al-Ghazali because they are still being disseminated by ulemas. For example, hadith text narrated by Anas bin Malik ra:

There was a woman who’s a wife of a man. One day, the woman’s father was very ill. Then she came to Rasullulah saw and said: “Rasullulah, my father is very ill, but my husband doesn’t allow me to go and take care of him”. Rasullulah then answered: “obey your husband”. Then her father died. And the woman asked her husband once again to allow her to go and pray for her father, but her husband still would not let her go. She came to Rasullulah saw and rasullulah said: “obery your husband”. She came home and obeys her husband order to not go to pray for her father. The Rasullulah said: God has forgiven your father’s sins, because you obeby your husband”. 

This text, even though it’s da’if, is often disseminated by ulemas to forbid women to go out of their houses and to fully obey their husbands. Even some ulemas ask women to never leave their houses, except for three reasons: go out of her mother’s womb, move to her husband’s house and to her grave. According to al-Ghazali, this is a wrong teaching, misleading and against Islamic principles that are spread in many other hadith texts that are sahih. There are many hadith texts that are sahih mentioning women activities during the Prophet’s era, such as hijrah to Ethiopia and Madinah, go to mosque, go to garden and market, even war. Aside from those texts mentioning women activities during the Prophet’s era, there are also hadith obliging people- including women- to have good relationship with their parents, neighbor and state.  (See: Muhammad al-Ghazali, Assunah an-nabawiyyah bayn Ahl al-Fiqh al-Hadits, page:51). 

Inter Texts Critiques

In responding to hadith texts about women, especially ones that seem to contradict the spirit of women empowerment, some ulemas use sanad critical study approach. This is done by looking at the way the texts was narrated from the times of The Prophet’s close friends to the times when hadith books are started to be written on the third or fourth of hijriyah. From this study, ulemas classify hadith that are false and weak from the ones that are fine and valid. But, there are also some ulemas who use comparison texts study approach. By using this approach, some hadith texts can be seen as not sahih or weak, if they are against texts that have stronger basis; such as Qur’an or other hadith texts that are more sahih and popular. This is what we called comparison texts study or intertekstualitas.  

Aisyah bint Abi Bakr ra, wife of Prophet Muhammad saw, was one of many who used comparison texts study in responding to hadith that are degrading women. Comparison texts study can be applied even to hadith texts classified as valid or sahih based on sanad narration. For example, hadith Abi Hurairah ra, stated that women are one of sources of bad luck, women can canceled one’s prayer if they crossed in front of that person, good women can go to hell if they forget to feed their cats. Another example would be hadith Ibn Umar ra. Regarding the necessity for women to disentangle their braided hair when they are about to take janabah bath. Those hadith texts rejected by Aisyah, by presenting verses from Qur’an and hadith she heard herself. 

This method also used by Riffat Hasan, an Islamic feminist scholar from Pakistan, in refusing some misogynist hadith texts. Such as hadith regarding the creation of women from crooked rib. This rejection is based on a firm statement in Qur’an, which stated that human is created from one entity (nafs wahidah) be it man or woman (QS An-Nisa, 4:1). Aside from hadith texts regarding that issue are very different from one another, Riffat Hasan ensure that hadith regarding  the creation of woman from man’s rib must be influenced by Jewish story. Or what is called as israiliyyat. 

The texts comparison approach is usually strengthen with historical approach that looks at the background of Prophet’s close friends, social and political condition during the development of that hadith.  By using history and texts comparison approach, Fatima Mernissi also reject hadith text regarding the failure of women leadership, which is very popular as reference for many ulemas in prohibiting and forbidding women to be leaders, inside or outside the house. 

There are several hadith texts regarding the creation of woman from man’s rib. Note several hadith below:

  1. From Abi Hazim from Abu Hurairah, Rasullulah saw. said, “ I enjoined you to do good to women because they are created from a rib and that the most crooked rib is the one on top. Therefore, be good to women”. (Narrated by Bukhari)
  2. From A’raj from Abu Hurairah, Rasullulah saw said, “woman is like a rib, if you try to straighten it, then you are going to break it. So, if you want to benefit from her take pleasure from her and crooked is still in her”. (Narrated by Bukhari).  
  3. From Abi Hazim from Abu Hurairah, Prophet Muhammad said, “Whoever believes in Allah swt. and judgment day, don’t you hurt your neighbor and be good to women. Actually they are created from rib, a part of the most crooked one. If you want to straighten it, it will crack, and if you let it, it will remain crooked, therefore, be good to women”. (Narrated by Bukhari).
  4. From Ibn Musayyab from Abu Hurairah, Rasullulah said, “woman is like a rib, if you try to straighten it, you are going to break it and if you let it, you are going to benefit from it (pleasure), and crooked will remain in her”. (Narrated by Muslim). 
  5.  From A’raj from Abu Hurairah, Rasullulah saw said, “actually woman was created from a rib and you can’t straighten it to just one way. If you want to benefit from her, take benefit from her and crooked still remain in her. And if you try to straighten it, you are going to break (crack) it, and crack means divorcing her”. (Narrated by Muslim).
  6. From Abi Hazim from Abu Hurairah, Rasullulah said, “people who believe in Allah and judgment day, if they witness several events, then they have to say it in good terms or be aware. Be good to woman because she was created from a rib and if you try to straighten it, you will crack it, and if you let it, the crooked will remain. Therefore, be good to women”. (Narrated by Muslim).

With texts comparison study especially in lines underlined, the idea that woman was created from rib can be rejected. First, is because texts are clashing one another. Second, is because it is not in line with Qur’an statement (QS, 4:1), and third, is because that idea only suitable with statement from the book of genesis in bible. That statement is: “Then Allah makes human sleep tight; when he sleeps, Allah took his rib, and then filled that place with flesh. And from the rib Allah took, he created a woman, and he brought her to the man”.  (Book of Genesis, article 21-22). That means, the idea of woman created from rib is not based from Islamic sources, but from sources before that (israiliyat), that might influence narrators of hadith. Because of that, that idea as mentioned in some hadith texts is not valid. Thereby, hadith texts are not valid, or not sahih from matan perspective, not sanad. (See: Nurjanah Ismail, Perempuan dalam Pasungan, page.256).

Appreciation by re-interpretation

Some ulemas and scholars choose to still accept sanad hadith texts as sahih, but they conduct re-interpretation, to eliminate interpretations that against the equality of women and men. For example in hadith texts regarding woman creation from a rib, Quraisy Shihab, Zaitunah Subhan, and Nurjannah Ismail use those texts not in a textual context. With text comparison approach , they chose to use metaphor meaning, which in the case of the creation of woman means a message to men to treat women in a good, gentle and non-violent way. 

The second and fourth text clearly stated a metaphor not statement regarding creation of woman. From these two texts the meaning of metaphor is developed. Nurjannah Ismail, a woman ulema from Aceh stated: “the message of that hadith is for husbands to treat their wives in a good manner, correct the wives’ mistakes in a gentle and wise manner and not just let their wives committing mistakes. Then prophet used the idea of women creation from men’s rib to explain that men have to be careful and wise in correcting women’s mistakes. Because correcting women’s mistakes the same with straightening crooked bone, if not careful, the bone can be cracked. In other occasion, prophet also reminded husbands not to commit negative behaviors to their wives, such as slapping, ridiculing their wives, isolating their wives from social lives outside their houses, telling their wives’ secrets to other people, being stingy in providing a living, etc”. (Nurjanah Ismail, page.268).

According to Nurjanah Ismail, this interpretation doesn’t clash Qur’an surah an-Nisa (4:1) and in line with other commands in Islam. Be it the commands in Qur’an or or hadith texts. For example, a verse saying wa ‘asyiruhunna bil-ma’ruf (and be good to women/wife), QS, an-Nisa, 4:19 and a verse from ath-Thalaq, 65:6, “wa’tamiru bainakum bil-ma’ruf (and take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonable). One of hadith texts that is in line with understanding above is hadith Imam at-Turmudzi: “akmalul mu’minina imanan ahsanuhum khuluqan, wa khiyarukum, khiyarukum li-nisa’ihiml (the best of a mukmin are the ones with the best behavior, and the best of you is the one who do good to his wife)”. (Nurjanah Ismail, page.269). 

Suggestion and command to do good to women are addressed to men, because in a construction of patriarchal culture, men are the ones who have control over women. Thus, they have to be warned and asked to pay attention to women. This is the efforts of Prophet SAW in changing cultural structure, to increase women’s positions by commanding the men to do good, fair, and wise to women. When there were still some who think that the way to educate women is by beating them, Prophet SAW insisted to say: “Do not beat women”, and Prophet SAW also see people who beat women as the ones not chosen (laysa ula’ika bi-khiyarikum). (Narrated by Abu Dawud, see: Ibn al-Atsir, Jami’ al-Ushul, juz VII, page.330, no.HAdiths:4719). 

Prophet Muhammad, even when having different argument with the wives, he never beat the wives. Prophet saw chose to give them advices, go out of the house, or if a middle ground couln’t be reached, Prophet Muhammad gave his wives options; to still live with him or go separate ways. (Read QS al-Ahzab, 33:28-29). Because of that, Aisyah bint Abi Bakr ra clearly stated: “Rasullulah SAW never beat women, and his servants. (Narrated by Abu Dawud, see Ibn al-Atsir, Jami’ al-UShul, juz XII, page 23-24, No.HAdith:8780).

To instill the value of equality in the context of patriarchal culture, prophet saw also implemented values in daily life as example for many people, Prophet Muhammad SAW was the one who help his wives and do some chores on his own. As stated by Aisyah ra., “That Prophet Muhammad SAW did chores for his family, and when it’s time to pray, he would go out to pray”. (Narrated by Bukhari, Hadith no:679). In several narrations, it’s more clearly stated that Prophet Muhammad SAW.  did many things at home, such as half soling the sandals, sew clothes, mend the vessel, milk, and serves his family. (Narrated by Ibn Hibban, 5/47, hadith no:5579 and Ahmad bin Hanba; in Musnad, Hadith no 2579). 

Back to Ummi Dzikriyati statement on the beginning of the article, if society still gives great role to men, maybe promoting hadith texts that empower women through cultural media in society, as she suggested, is an appropriate way to empower women. This can be done through advices, sermon, poetry, song, etc. This approach is more effective to encourage the life that is more equal, fair, empowering and doesn’t degrade women. Wallahu a’lam. 


Misogynist : Hatred to women.

Tabligh : Deliver or disseminate Islamic teaching to society

Absolutism : Total power in the hands of ruler.        



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