By : Nur Ahmad, MA
Allah The Alimighty created this life with balance and in pairs. All of His creatures are given the tasks, obligations, and rights based on their capacity. Humans, animals, plants, and also the earth and the sky are given the tasks and roles respectively based on their measure (qadr). (Innaa kulla syai’in kholaqnaahu bi qodarin, “indeed all things We created with predestination”) (QS. Al-Qomar, 54: 49). Even rainwater comes down by God with a measure (qadr) determined by Him, no more or less. (QS. Al-Mu’minun: 18, al-Zukhruf: 11, and al-Hijr: 21)
In the creation of the heaven and the earth along with its contents, God also created balance and order. Balance as the laws of nature (sunnatullah) which does not change and should not be broken. Allah states: Wassamaa’a rafa’ahaa wa-wadha’al-miizaan. Allaa tathghau fil-miizaan. Wa aqiimul-wazna bil-qisthi wa laa tukhsirul miizaan (“and the heaven He raised and imposed the balance, and that you not transgress within the balance. And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance”). (QS. Al-Rahman : 7-9)
If human beings as the caliph of God who are assigned to prosper the earth commit violation and deviation, there will be imbalance in nature such as floods, landslides, droughts, and the loss of water absorption areas. If so, the responsibility of mankind as vicegerent on earth is questioned. Are there any deviation, violation and negligence of violation resulting in those damages?
The Balance of Interaction between Women and Men
In the context of human being, women and men also cannot be separated from the principle of balance and pairs. If untied, one or both would become a victim of injustice and discrimination. For instance, the understanding which tends to posit women as a teaser and a source of slander will affect on women and girls that is they will experience injustice, violence, restraint, and so on. Therefore, it is required a fair and wise attitude in establishing the pattern of relationships / socio-cultural interactions between men and women.
In the pattern of unfair and unbalanced interaction, the parties who are regarded as the weak or weakened will be posited improperly, marginalized, and surely will get a lot of harms. In the pattern of patriarchal society, women and girls are used to experience discrimination or distinction in social and cultural life. Women also often experience domestic violence during acquaintanceship periods, social interaction, and also in the workplace. Women are subordinated. The world belongs to men. Women are merely staying in this world, considered as not important, as a complement and an object or maf’ul bihi. That is the patriarchal common attitude. Whereas, the Prophet Muhammad saw taught us through the words of Allah: Hunna libaasul-lakum wa antum libaasul-lahunna (“they are, women/wives, clothing for you and you are, men/husbands, clothing for them”). (QS. Al-Baqarah: 187). The Prophet also confirmed that women are nothing but the sisters of men (Innaman-nisaa’u syaqaa’iqur-rijaal, HR. Abu Dawud). For that matter, women are important for men and vice versa. There is no superiority between one over the other, except based on the piety which is only Allah who knows, the All-Knowing, inna akramakum ‘indallahi atqaakum (Qs. Al-Hujurat: 13).
Therefore, the understanding of religion which is just, hospitable, merciful, balanced, unbiased, and not humiliating, should be maintained, developed, and promoted. On the contrary, the extreme understanding, biased, tendentious will cause negative effects in life, including for women and men.
Islam as a religion which teaches a justice encourages its Ummah (Muslim community) to think and to behave in a balanced manner, not excessive or insufficient (moderate). Some of the following verses are the proofs of the teachings on that balance, appropriateness and moderation, among others are: first, God made the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW as the moderate community (wasathan) in order to be the witness over the people as stated by Allah SWT., “wa kadzalika ja’alnaakum ummataw-wasathan li takuunuu syuhadaa’ ‘alan-naasi …” (QS. al-Baqarah: 143); secondly, the command to pray / prayer is supposed to be conducted in proper sound, not too recite loudly or too quietly, but seek between that [an intermediate way] (QS. Al-Isra ‘: 110); thirdly, the command for charity is taught in balance, do not spend neither excessively or miserly, but between that [moderate] (QS. Al-Furqan: 67); and fourth, in life it is not allowed to make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent. (QS. Al-Isra ‘: 29). In one opinion quoted by Shaykh Athiyah Muhammad Salim in Sharh Bulughul-Maram, it is stated that khairul umuuri awsathuha (the best of affairs is that the middle, moderate).
Avoiding Extremism in Religion and Life
The Prophet Muhammad PBUH teaches Islam in harmony with human values and in accordance with human nature. That is Islam which is easy, beautiful, not hard and not scary. He said: Yassiru wa laa tu’assiruu wa basy-syiruu wa laa tunaffiruu (“….make it easy and do not make it complicated, please delight and do not frighten…”, HR. Bukhari – Muslim from Anas bin Malik). Therefore, all the teachings and understandings on Islam must ease and delight. Thus any understandings on religion which tend to shackle, curb life, and do not give an option, should be reconsidered. Perhaps there is a mistake in understanding the text or error in viewing the context of revealed text (asbabun-nuzul or asbabul-wurud) because basically Islam does not teach extreme understanding and practices of religion, neither extreme rigidity nor extreme concession.
عَنْ أَبِى هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِىِّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قَالَ « إِنَّ الدِّينَ يُسْرٌ ، وَلَنْ يُشَادَّ الدِّينَ أَحَدٌ إِلاَّ غَلَبَهُ ، فَسَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا ، وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالْغَدْوَةِ وَالرَّوْحَةِ وَشَىْءٍ مِنَ الدُّلْجَةِ »
“From Abu Hurairah, from the Prophet saw, he said: “Indeed, Islam is easy. None of the people make it difficult / complicate this religion, except they will be invincible. Behave correctly (in word and deed), be close to each other, and please delight, and ask for help (to God) in the morning, afternoon, and a little bit in the night”. (HR. Bukhari, no. 39).
Furthermore, some of the following narrations show that the Prophet Muhammad SAW teaches the importance of the principles of balance and anti-extremism, among others are:
« أَحَبُّ الدِّينِ إِلَى اللَّهِ الْحَنِيفِيَّةُ السَّمْحَةُ »
The Prophet said: “the most beloved religious manner by God is to be righteous and kindhearted”. (HR. Bukhari, no. 30).
It means religious manner in the straight path towards the truth and the mercy of Allah without turning toward evil and transgression. While kindhearted means wide views and does not make it difficult or restrict ourselves in order that we become calm, peaceful, and serene. Kindhearted also means not narrow-minded so that we are able to understand and accommodate the differences in opinion, differences in schools, differences in the methods of thinking by which we will be inclusive or open-minded in religiousness, not exclusive, provided each bases on the argumentation that can be accounted for, not based on lust and narrow thinking. If an opinion determined by a method which can be accounted for is correct, it will get two rewards. On the contrary, if there is a mistake, still get one reward for being serious in formulating the law.
Also it is confirmed by the Prophet that we are not supposed to carry out religious practices redundantly, as mentioned in the following narration:
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ أَنَّ النَّبِىَّ –صلى الله عليه وسلم– دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا وَعِنْدَهَا امْرَأَةٌ فَقَالَ « مَنْ هَذِهِ ». قَالَتْ فُلاَنَةُ لاَ تَنَامُ. تَذْكُرُ مِنْ صَلاَتِهَا. فَقَالَ « مَهْ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنَ الْعَمَلِ مَا تُطِيقُونَ فَوَاللَّهِ لاَ يَمَلُّ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ حَتَّى تَمَلُّوا ». وَكَانَ أَحَبُّ الدِّينِ إِلَيْهِ مَا دَامَ عَلَيْهِ صَاحِبُهُ.
From Aisha R.A., that the Prophet entered Aisha’s room and there was a woman beside her. The Prophet then asked her, who is she? Aisha replied: Fulanah. She does not sleep and mentions partially her prayer. Then the Prophet said: “Mah, it is not supposed to be so. Your obligation in charity is what you are capable for (maximum). By Allah, Allah never gets tired until you feel tired and the most beloved religious practice is a worship conducted continuously and constantly based on the will of heart (mudawamah) (HR. Nasa’i, no. 5052).
The same occasion was also experienced by a companion namely ‘Abdullah ibn’ Amr who wanted to be excessive in fasting, as following narration:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- دَخَلَ عَلَيْهِ بَيْتَهُ فَقَالَ « يَا عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عَمْرٍو أَلَمْ أُخْبَرْ أَنَّكَ تَكَلَّفُ قِيَامَ اللَّيْلِ وَصِيَامَ النَّهَارِ ». قَالَ إِنِّى لأَفْعَلُ. فَقَالَ « إِنَّ حَسْبَكَ وَلاَ أَقُولُ افْعَلْ أَنْ تَصُومَ مِنْ كُلِّ شَهْرٍ ثَلاَثَةَ أَيَّامٍ الْحَسَنَةُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا فَكَأَنَّكَ قَدْ صُمْتَ الدَّهْرَ كُلَّهُ ». قَالَ فَغَلَّظْتُ فَغُلِّظَ عَلَىَّ قَالَ فَقُلْتُ إِنِّى لأَجِدُ قُوَّةً مِنْ ذَلِكَ. قَالَ « إِنَّ مِنْ حَسْبِكَ أَنْ تَصُومَ مِنْ كُلِّ جُمُعَةٍ ثَلاَثَةَ أَيَّامٍ ». قَالَ فَغَلَّظْتُ فَغُلِّظَ عَلَىَّ فَقُلْتُ إِنِّى لأَجِدُ بِى قُوَّةً. فَقَالَ النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « أَعْدَلُ الصِّيَامِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ صِيَامُ دَاوُدَ نِصْفُ الدَّهْرِ ». ثُمَّ قَالَ « لِنَفْسِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقٌّ وَلأَهْلِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقٌّ ». قَالَ فَكَانَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ يَصُومُ ذَلِكَ الصِّيَامَ حَتَّى إِذَا أَدْرَكَهُ السِّنُّ وَالضَّعْفُ كَانَ يَقُولُ لأَنْ أَكُونَ قَبِلْتُ رُخْصَةَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- أَحَبُّ إِلَىَّ مِنْ أَهْلِى وَمَالِى.
From ‘Abdullah ibn’ Amr that the Messenger of Allah drop in his house and said, “O Abdullah, is it true that I got the news that you force yourself to pray all the night and to fast all the day?” Abdullah said: “surely I can do it”. Then the Prophet advised him: “It is enough for you, but I do not say ‘do’, to fast in three days in each month (on 13, 14, and 15 of Qamariyah). The reward for that is tenfold, so that fasting is equal to fasting in one full year”. Abdullah then said: “I’m still stronger more than that”. The Prophet advised him: “It is enough for you to fast in three days in a week”. Abdullah said, “I’m still strong”. Then the Prophet said: “the most frequently practiced fasting is the fasting of Prophet Dawud, half year (fasting every other day). Then the Prophet advised him: “your soul and body have a right over you and your family also has a right over you”. Then Abdullah took fasting until elderly and his physical condition became weak. Abdullah said: “If I get relief (rukhsah) from the Prophet, I certainly prefer enjoying my time with my family and my treasure “. (HR. Ahmad, no. 7057).
Also there is a Hadith which reminds three guests in the Prophet’s house in order not to conduct religious practices excessively as follows:
عَنْ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ – رضى الله عنه – يَقُولُ جَاءَ ثَلاَثَةُ رَهْطٍ إِلَى بُيُوتِ أَزْوَاجِ النَّبِىِّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يَسْأَلُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَةِ النَّبِىِّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – فَلَمَّا أُخْبِرُوا كَأَنَّهُمْ تَقَالُّوهَا فَقَالُوا وَأَيْنَ نَحْنُ مِنَ النَّبِىِّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قَدْ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ . قَالَ أَحَدُهُمْ أَمَّا أَنَا فَإِنِّى أُصَلِّى اللَّيْلَ أَبَدًا . وَقَالَ آخَرُ أَنَا أَصُومُ الدَّهْرَ وَلاَ أُفْطِرُ . وَقَالَ آخَرُ أَنَا أَعْتَزِلُ النِّسَاءَ فَلاَ أَتَزَوَّجُ أَبَدًا . فَجَاءَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – فَقَالَ « أَنْتُمُ الَّذِينَ قُلْتُمْ كَذَا وَكَذَا أَمَا وَاللَّهِ إِنِّى لأَخْشَاكُمْ لِلَّهِ وَأَتْقَاكُمْ لَهُ ، لَكِنِّى أَصُومُ وَأُفْطِرُ ، وَأُصَلِّى وَأَرْقُدُ وَأَتَزَوَّجُ النِّسَاءَ ، فَمَنْ رَغِبَ عَنْ سُنَّتِى فَلَيْسَ مِنِّى » .
From Anas bin Malik R.A., he said: There are three people come to the house of the Prophet. They asked about the religious practices of the Prophet. When they are given the news about the religious practices of the Prophet, they talk to each other and stated: “Where is our position compared to the Prophet, even the Prophet has been cleaned from wrongdoings and sins both in the past and in the future”. Then one of them said: “Then I will pray continuously throughout the night (without sleeping)”. The other said: “I will fast all the time and will not break. And again the other said: “I will stay away from women and I will not get married forever”. Then the Messenger of Allah came and said: “is that you who have said like that? While I am, by Allah, is the most scared man to Allah and keep my piety, but I fast and break, pray and sleep, and I also marry a woman. Anyone who hates the tradition of my Sunnah does not belong to my Ummah”. (HR. Bukhari, no. 5063 and no. 745).
And there are many other Hadith which give obvious message that in religious practices, we are not supposed to be excessive, tatharruf, extreme, and deny the rights of body and soul, and family [those whose protection become our responsibility]. Tafrith (excessive work) and ifrath (insufficiency) are also not justified in religious practice. The excessive manner emerges because of the mistake in understanding the main message of religion, because basically religion is easy (al-dinu yusrun), no difficult or excessive burden (‘adamul-haraj), and all are taught gradually (al-tadrij fi al-tasyri ‘).
Women as Being Affected Party of Tatharruf (Extremity).
Such excessive manner in religious practices causes a number of practices or religious experiences in the community which tends to make women as objects of tatharruf (extremity). Women experience excessive restrictions and those are not needed for instance women are required forcibly to use chador without considering the conditions of space and time where they are living. As a result, women in some Muslim countries understand that wearing chador and commanding the use of robe with dark color are considered as religious obligation which is not negotiable. While the Prophet just explained that the ornament (aurat) of women is except the face and the both hands, not the entire body, as understood by Ibn Abbas in Surah al-Nur 31, ” … wa laa yubdiina ziinatahunna illaa maa dzahara minhaa (and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof), that is face and two hands. (Tafsir Ibn Kastir, vol 3, p. 348).
This opinion is also followed by the majority of Ulama (Muslim scholars). The interpretation of Ibn Abbas and the opinion of this majority in accordance with the Hadith narrated by Abu Dawud in his Sunan, from Khalid ibn Duraik from Aisha that Asma’ bint Abi Bakr R.A. entered into Aisha’s house. She was wearing thin clothes. Then the Prophet conveyed: “O Asma, indeed a female if she has reached puberty (baligh) and has ever got periods, it is not proper for her to expose herself except this” while [Prophet] hinting his face and both hands. Although Abu Dawud and Abu Hatim al-Razi said that the Hadith is mursal, because Khalid bin Duraik did not hear directly from Aisha. (Tafsir Ibn Katsir, vol 3, p. 349).
In other narrations, often stated that women are positioned unequal to men, as in the Hadith about women wearing fragrances as follows:
عن أبي موسى رضي الله عنه، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: “كل عين زانية، والمرأة إذا استعطرت فمرَّت بالمجلس فهي كذا وكذا” يعني زانية (1)
From Abu Musa RA from the Prophet SAW, he said: “Every eye (potentially) fornicates. And if the woman wears a fragrance and walks through an assembly then she is like that [like adulterous woman]”. (HR. Tirmidhi, no. 2786, according to him is hasan-sahih/valid). Besides, this Hadith was narrated by Abu Dawud and Nasa’i from Sabit bin ‘Ammarah, as mentioned in the Tafsir of Ibn Katsir, vol 3, 349.
How to read the above hadith? The status of that Hadith according to Imam Tirmidhi is hasan-sahih. But that Hadith should be wisely understood and put in proper way. If not, how many women who wear fragrances whether soap, shampoo, perfume, and as such then they go to the place of work, place of study, and other assemblies with good and right intentions in the sight of religion or culture will be regarded as adulterer group? So it is not so. Whereas women wear fragrance is simply to maintain self-dignity and cleanliness, there is no intention for adultery. Herein, the importance of balanced and wise understanding is posited. The same thing applies to men that if men wear fragrance properly to protect themselves from the uncomfortable smell and maintain the cleanliness; surely they cannot be called as adulterer.
Also to understand the Hadith which states that women prayer is better conducted in their home or in their room is necessary to compare it with the Hadith which allows women to pray in the mosque, as follows:
عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ قَالَ كَانَتِ امْرَأَةٌ لِعُمَرَ تَشْهَدُ صَلاَةَ الصُّبْحِ وَالْعِشَاءِ فِى الْجَمَاعَةِ فِى الْمَسْجِدِ ، فَقِيلَ لَهَا لِمَ تَخْرُجِينَ وَقَدْ تَعْلَمِينَ أَنَّ عُمَرَ يَكْرَهُ ذَلِكَ وَيَغَارُ قَالَتْ وَمَا يَمْنَعُهُ أَنْ يَنْهَانِى قَالَ يَمْنَعُهُ قَوْلُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – « لاَ تَمْنَعُوا إِمَاءَ اللَّهِ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ
From Ibn Umar, he said: Umar’s wife was used to attend dawn prayers (Subuh) and evening prayer (Isha) in congregation in the mosque. Then said to her, “Why did you leave the house as you know that Umar does not like it and he is jealous”. She said: “And nobody prevents him to stop me.” The Prophet’s saying has prevented Umar to stop me going to the mosque: “Do not forbid females, the servants of Allah to go to the mosques of Allah”. (HR. Bukhari, no. 900).
In line with the above Hadith, the Hadith narrated by Muslim states:
عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- قَالَ « لاَ تَمْنَعُوا إِمَاءَ اللَّهِ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ ».
From Ibn Umar that the Messenger of Allah SAW said: “Do not forbid females, the servants of Allah to go to the mosques of Allah”. (HR. Muslim, no. 1018).
The both Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim above are enough to say that women have the right to access any religious practices in the mosques whether prayer, teaching, course, and so on. Likewise, the meaning of the mosque can be analogized or extended to something positive which is in accordance with the meaning of the mosque as the place to kneel that is bringing on the submission and obedience to Allah as the function of the mosque as the place to kneel. Hence the mosque can be understood as all spaces which bring to goodness, such as school / college, course institution / training, community organization, financial institution, and others which are beneficial for women and public’s life.
There are many other Hadith if understood textually by neglecting the context and occasion of narration, will cause unbalanced conclusion which affects either men or women, but the most affected party is women and girls and, eventually will affect the life in general.
Therefore, prudence is necessary to read the Hadith. After the chains (sanad) and narrators of the Hadith have been observed, subsequently examine the text (matan) of the Hadith by observing the outer and inner meaning and also by looking at the context of society during the lifetime of the Prophet and then contextualized with the communities where we are living, it will bear an understanding on Hadith which is just, balanced, and away from the extremity.
Imbalances and extremities always bear social inequality and injustice for life, on the contrary the balanced attitude in life, moderate, and just will support the efforts to realize the noble life and honor women and men. Hopefully. Shollallahu ‘ala nabiyyina Muhammadin wa ‘ala alihi wa shahbihi ajma’in, wal-hamdulillahirobbil-‘almin. Wallahu a’lam bish-shawab [NA]
*) The author is a Board Member of the Association of Rahima and lecture of Islamic
Studies at STIE AD Jakarta