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By:  Nur Achmad


Injustices, discrimination, violence with all kind of its derivation which had been experienced by women still commonly happen. One of the preserving factor is the uncompleted religious understanding and out of context of the revelation of religious texts. 

Religion is often understood by neglecting the basic principal of the religious presence, such as the equality among human being (al-musawah), justice (al-‘adalah), democracy (musyawarah), people benefit (al-maslahah), and the defend for the weak and weakened (nasrul-mustad’afin). Whereas the such basic principles, had become the main issues in the Quran and Hadith book. Without struggling for those basic things, religion will lose its spirit. 

The Iqra’ Tradition : Reading, Observing Reading, and Learning 

To achieve the such noble ideas, Islam offer some steps based on the scientific process which began from the reading, observing and writing activities. This is the fundamental message of Iqra’ verse, as the first chapter which was revealed by Allah (QS. al-‘Alaq: 1-5).Islam offer that building civilization should be started from building scientific tradition, reading and writing tradition. If the such activities can be well done, so Allah The Most Glorious and the Glorify (wa rabbuka al-Akram). Allah gives His glorious by giving convenience and adequacy in life. 

The such situation can be evidenced by that the nations which have good scientific tradition will become an advanced and prosperous nation, at least physically. With the knowledge and science, a nation with the scientific tradition will be able to produce/to create necessary works which are needed by the general people, so that the gross national income will also improve and then make its citizen more prosperous. Compare with the nations which have low scientific tradition, there will be always left behind by the developed countries.  Worse, then they will be slaved and pressured by those developed countries. 

The scientific progress of a nation can’t be separated from their understanding on the necessary of science and knowledge, not only for men but also for the people who are almost neglected by many civilization but also education for women. In many civilization, women are often treated unjustly, including in their access to education and information. In the such civilization, women are put in the backward position such as in sumur (well), kasur (bed), and pupur (powder)-> Javanese idiom. The such civilization also perceived that women don’t need preparation such as school, campus, and courses. Of course some of them gave education for women, but only to support the establishment  of ‘well, kitchen, bed and powder’ ideology. Therefore, the education which will be given to them limited to information access on some ‘domestic issues’ (such as health and beauty information, trend fashion, cooking, shopping, etc) and personal skill (such as cooking, sewing, embroidery,  secretary, Body Language gym, etc) to become a ‘ready to use’ women, in the perspective which degrades women. This opinion doesn’t purpose to insult some kind information, skill, or activities, but it should not stop there. The such education model often be given only to established the mastery (and even oppression) to women, not liberation and furthermore enlightenment to women. 

Understanding These Problem from the Hadith 

Prophet Muhammad PBUA, in many of his words and action asserts the necessary of knowledge and science; not only for men but also for women which during the Jahiliyah (ignorance) era, were lefted and marginalized. He said : 

‘An Anas ibn Malik, Qaala Rasululullah shlm. “Thalabul ilmi fariidlatun ‘ala kulli muslimin.    Wa wadla’a al-‘ilmu ‘inda ghairi ahli  kamuqallidil khanaaziri aljaihara wallu’lu-a wadz-dzahaba’ 

It means : 

It was narrated from Anas bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah “Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim, and he who imparts knowledge to those who do not deserve it, is like one who puts a necklace of jewels, pearls and gold around the neck of swines.” (HR. Ibn Majah, no. 229).

So that the hadith text, without mentioning word wa muslimatin as often said by many people. The hadith above clearly mentioned that seeking knowledge is fardhu (obligatory) for every muslim, which means every muslim, men and women. Because the word kullu is part of sighat ‘am (general expression) which mean include all of muslim, bith men and women. There is no discrimination here. It also means that developing and teaching knowledge is not also monopolized by men, but also done by women. 

Another his word also affirmed the necessary of knowledge is : 

‘An Abi Dzarrin, Qaala Rasuulullahi shalm. Lii :  Yaa Abaa Dzarrin,  Lian ta’duu fata’lama min ayaati kitaabillahi khairun laka min an tsuhalli mi-ata raka’aatin. Wa lian ta’duu fata’lama min baabil ‘ilmu ‘umila bihi am laa khairun laka min an thushalli alfa raka’aatin. 

It means : 

“Abu Dzar r.a narrates that rasulullah SAW told me: O Abu Dzar ! if you go in the morning and learn a verse from the book of Allah (kitabullah), it is better for you than performing one hundred rokaat shalat , and if you go in the morning and learn a chapter of knowledge which may or may not be applicable at that time, it is better for you than performing a thousand rakaat of ‘nafilah’ shalat.”

The hadith above explained the virtue of seeking knowledge, which are sourced from the Holy Book whether general science which sources is the kauniyah verses (the creature of Allah which are spread in all over the world). Although the hadith mentioned Abu Zarr as the person whose spoken with, but is implemented generally for both men and women. Because basically, ‘seeking knowledge’ is a general activity and the argument which specify these practices only fo men are not found. It means that women also have the same rewards in seeking knowledge. In the such hadith was affirmed that learning a kind of knowledge (science) will be awarded mor than performing a thousand rakaat of ‘nafilah’ prayer, because developing knowledge and sciences  means developing  main civilization which become a social-horizontal dimension of worship , while the ‘sunnah’ prayer is more a personal-vertical worship dimension. 

Moreover Prophet Muhammad also did a special defend for women to access knowledge and science from the Great Master, Prophet Muhammad PBUH himself directly. It had been shown in the following hadith : 

Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri said that women said, “Men have taken over (meetings) with you, O Messenger of Allah! Appoint a day for us that we come to you…” The Messenger of Allah appointed a day for women to teach them matters of the religion. (HR. Bukhari, no. 101, 1249, dan 7310).

Similarly on the  hadith on learning and teaching the knowledge. Prophet Muhammad PBUH  doesn’t discriminate between men and women. It means that women are also taught to master the knowledge and teach that. Even  the Prophet mentioned that teaching knowledge is the best kind of alms. The Prophet said : 

“Narrated from Abu Hurairah, verily Prophet Muhammad PBUH said , “ The best alms of a muslim is seeking a certain of knowledge /science and then teaching  it to his/her  brother /sister.” (HR. Ibn Majah, no. 250).

Firmly, Prophet Muhammad prohibited them who seek a knowledge which is useful for humankind  then he/she hide it from those who need it. For all of them who perform those kind of action will be threatened by the whip fire in the day of judgement. The hadith also doesn’t limit to the certain sex, so that it is applied to men and women. As concluded from the such hadith : 

“Narrated from Abu Said al-Khudhri, he said : Prophet Muhammad PBUH said : Whoever hide a knowledge from the knowledhe which Allah had given the benefit for the people in the religious matter, so Allah will whip him in the Day of Judgement with the whipfire.” (HR. Ibn Majah, no. 277).

From the hadith above, the distinction (the limitation to access) for women’s rights in education was not found. Therefore, if in the society we still find the understanding that limit women in accessing and developing the knowledge, science and technology, therefore that kind understanding should be rejected because contradictory with the universal spirit of Islamic teaching, both from the Quran and the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH. 

Reading the “Rajulun” in Hadith Texts

Sometimes, we are trapped with the word “rajulun” in a text. Mostly people interpret this word directly with a “man”. Was it always thus? Can it be interpreted with “somebody” or “someone” which can refer to both man or woman? In the daily life, especially in the Arabic language translation, the ‘rajulun’ is often interpreted as ‘man’ in all kind of texts. This appears in many Hadith translations or other Arabic language translations. But actually those kind of understanding can be misleading because neglecting the general contexts of the texts. The sentence contexts or social contexts where the texts appeared or said. 

Actually, the word “rajulun” can also be interpreted as man, in the context when the word “rajulun”  was mentioned together  or trooped with the word imra’atun (woman) or nisaa’un (women), or in the context of the presence of the opposite sex which refer that the word ‘rajulun” there means a man. But, if the context of the sentence was not so, then the word “rajulun” must be means ‘somebody’ in general, it can be interpreted as man or woman. For example in the following hadith : 

“I (the  narrator) heard that Abdullah ibn Mas’ud said Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “Nobody is allowed to be envy with somebody else, except in the two things. Namely the first, somebody who had been given a lot of properties by Allah the Almighty and then he/she spend it in the path of truth and goodness, and the second somebody who had been given knowledge (wisdom) and then decide something based on the knowledge he/she have and teach it.” (HR. Bukhari, no. 73, 1409, 7141, dan 7316). 

If it is not understood by the such interpretation, then how many verses and hadiths which mention the word “rajulun”. And if all word “rajulun” will be understood as only “man”, sure that “woman” only will be few mentioned in the verse and hadith texts. The reality is not so. This was allegorized the ford “mukmin” (the male believer)  or “muslim” (the muslim man), which also include “mukminah” (the female believer) and “muslimah” (the muslim woman). For example, it can be seen from the following hadith : 

“From Abu that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “A man was walking on a road when he became very thirsty. He found a well and went into it and drank and came out. There was a dog panting and eating earth out of thirst. The man said, ‘This dog has become as thirsty as I was.’ He went down into the well and filled his shoe and then held it in his mouth until he climbed out and gave the dog water to drink. Allah thanked him for it and forgave him.” They said, “Messenger of Allah, do we have a reward for taking care of beasts?” He said, “There is a reward for every one with a moist liver.” (HR. Bukhari, no. 173, 2363, 2466, 6009).

The hadith above use the word “rajulun” which can be interpreted as man or woman. While in another hadith it was explained that history was done by a woman who did a lot of sins and then she helped a thirsty dog  sincerely because of Allah, then her sins was forgiven by Allah The Almighty.

The key word which will be affirmed here that the word “rajulun” (singular form), “rajulaani” (dual form), or “rijaalun” (plural form) not always mean “man” ( a male). There are so many other hadith which explained this situation, such as hadith on seven groups of people which is protected by Allah in the Judgement day which also used the word “rajulun”. Of course, it is not only applied to men, but also to women. 

By this kind of understanding, there will be found that some hadith which also can be applied to women, use the word “rijaalun”. This is not a kind of discrimination, more because of cultural limit and human language in expressing a certain purpose. 

Knowledge, Female Ulama, and Enlightenment of Civilization

In many verses and hadith texts it was explained the necessary of knowledge and scice. How important it is, so that it can be said that knowledge and science are pillars of enlightenment of civilization. Without science, civilization will be dim, dark, and then destroyed. Therefore building and maintaining the civilization must be done by building the knowledge and science tradition, not only by and for men, but also by and for women. The later recent datas mentioned that women have stronger memory on certain knowledge and science or a moment. In the education institutions,  many students or university students who received award as excellent graduates. 

In the early era of Islam, the role of female ulama were very appeared, such as Aisha Bint Abu Bakr, Ummu Salamah Bint Abu Umayyah, Hafshah Bint Umar, Asma’ Bint Abu Bakr, Ramlah Bint Abi Sufyan, and Ramlah Bint Qays. They were female companions of the Prophet PBUH and some of them wives of Prophet Muhammad who became reference and masters of other male and female Prophet companions. According to Adz Dzahabi, more than 160 prominent male ulamas had learned from Aisha, the wife of the Prophet whose experts on Tafseer (Quranic Exegesis), Hadith, and also Fiqh/Islamic Jurisprudence (Husein Muhammad, Ulama Perempuan, dalam Swara Rahima, No. 23, Desember 2007, p. 19).

In the Sufism/Tasauf studies, Abu ‘Abdirrahman al-Sulami (d. 412 H) explained so many sufi ulamas  and the obedience worshipers. The interesting thing, 104 of them were male and other 83 of them were female, one of them is Rabi’ah Al Adawiyah, who well known with her Mahabbah (Love to God/Allah) concept.  (See Abu ‘Abdirrahman al-Sulami, Tabaqat al-Sufiyyah wa Dzikru al-Niswah al-Muta’abidat al-Sufiyyat, p. 387).

Ironically, in the next development, the number of female ulamas became lost in the historical stage. Just for the comparative illustration of the numbers, Prof. Mani’ “Abdul Halim Muhammad , the author of book Manhajul-mufassirin who presented the methodological studies which were used by 52 experts of Tafseer or Quranic Exegesis. Unfortunately, from the 52 experts of Tafseer or Quranic Exegesis which are explained and written in that book, none of them whose gender are female. (Mani’ Abdul Halim Mahmud, Manhajul-mufassirin, 2006).

The same scenery was also happened in the Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) studies and the Prophet Hadith studies which almost all of them done by the male ulama. The Imams (founders and leaders) of Mazhab (school of thoughts) in the Islamic Jurisprudence were also male. Namely Imam Malik, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Syafii,  and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (four of them are well-known in Sunni muslim communities) and Imam Ja’far (in Shi’ites muslic communities). All of them were male. Therefore, of course this situation will influence to the religious understanding of muslim families in concluding the concept of Islamic teaching regarding relation between men and women. Which, in the following step will also influence the way of thinking and tradition in a certain civilization. 

Therefore, the hard and systematic efforts to create female ulama cadres, become a big Jihad (strong effort) which must be appreciated and supported by all parties, especially for those who idealize the enlightenment of civilization. By the growing numbers and the more quality of the ulamas, it is expected that the scientific tradition will be established and in the next step will give them a big role in bearing the more justice and equal civilization. 


Hence, an advanced and noble civilization must be built and started from a strong scientific tradition. The strong scientific tradition was started from giving the same access and subject equally for men and women to develop knowledge and science. And the science that is rooted from belief, it will create work achievements which in the following step will bear a noble civilization (hayatan thayyibah). Here is the integration between knowledge, believe, and work. Wallahu al-musta’aan.  {}

*Lecture of Islamic Studies of STIE Ahmad Dahlan, Jakarta

Book References : 

Alquran al-Karim.

Abdulkodir, Faqihuddin, Bergerak Membela Keadilan, Pembelaan Nabi terhadap Perempuan, Jakarta: Rahima 2006.

Bukhari, Jami’ al-Sahih, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyah, 2003.

Ibn Majah, Sunan Ibn Majah, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyah, 2003

Mahmud, Mani’ Abdul Halim, Manhaj al-Mufassirin (terj. dengan judul Metodologi Tafsir: Kajian Komprehensif Metode Para Ahli Tafsir, Jakarta: Rajagrafindo, 2006.

Muhammad, Husein, Ulama Perempuan, dalam Swara Rahima No. 23, Desember 2007, Jakarta: Rahima. 

Sulami, Abu ‘Abdirrahman al-, Tabaqat al-Sufiyyah wa Dzikru al-Niswah al-Muta’abidat al-Sufiyyat, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyah, 2003.

dan beberapa sumber lainnya.


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