By: Imam Nakha’i
The Conscious Rising of Jihad among Women
One day, Ummu Salamah, the first woman who migrated to Medina, expressed her concern to the Prophet Muhammad the messenger of God. She said, why men can fight on the battlefield while women were forbidden to do so? And why do men receive twice as many as women in inheritance? These privileges have resulted in men feeling superior over women not only on Earth but also in the hereafter. Men, then, perceive to have several advantages on Earth and receive the rewards more than women. Then, the Qur’an Sura (Chapter) An-Nisa, verse 32 revealed accommodating Ummu Salamah’s concerns. The verse mentions that:
وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوْا مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبُوا وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا اكْتَسَبْنَ وَاسْأَلُوا اللَّهَ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا
And in no wise covet those things in which Allah has bestowed Allah gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn: but ask Allah for Allah bounty. For Allah hath full knowledge of all things.
This verse emphasizes that each man receives the portions based on what he has done for his effort and hard work and so does for the woman. This verse does not prevent woman to hope and gain the same roles that the man has, but give caution not to imagine (tamanni) some things beyond her capability. Since, imagination will cause jealousy, sentiment, and hatred. Allah forbids humans to envisage what other human beings possess. On the contrary, Allah encourages humans to pray for Allah blessings and bounty. Humans’s implore to God must at the same time followed by efforts and hard work (iktisab). Iktisab is a human effort and hard work to achieve what is expected and aspired to. Thus, hoping without trying is an illusion (as-shurah al-khayaliyah).
Several Indonesian Muslims understood this verse as a prohibition for women to demand equal rights from men in social, cultural, and political roles. This opinion is misleading. As the verse stated that the prohibition is directed to the act of envisioning (tamanni). In addition, the verse also emphasizes that the women should try harder (iktisab) and enquire before God for God’s Blessing, not before the men.
Islam does not prevent women to participate in jihad. On the contrary, Islam instructs all the believers, men, and women, to do jihad in Allah path (fi sabilillah). Some of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) understanding suggested that jihad is an obligation only for men and not for women. This understanding has resulted from the limitation in interpreting the term jihad. In this context, the term jihad has been understood only to cover jihad physically by using weapons (jihad qital). In fact, the term jihad in the Qur’an has broad meaning not limited to act of jihad physically like war. The restrained understanding of the term jihad is due to a misunderstanding of several terms that have synonymities like al-qital, al- harb, and al- ghazwu. For example, in the Indonesian Qur’anic translation all of these terms are translated as war. Whereas each term represented its own meaning and the term jihad has a different meaning from qital and so do other terms.
The term jihad has a more general meaning than that of qital or combat. Several efforts to uphold justice, truth, humanity, eliminating tyranny, oppression and despotism are categorized as jihad in the path of Allah (jihad fi sabilillah). Thus, the term qital includes in the meaning of jihad, but that is only one aspect of jihad. For jihad, is represented in many forms not only through qital.
Qital is considered as a small jihad although it is seems more heroic. The narration attributed to the Prophet even mentioned that the much bigger jihad than qital is jihad against one own lust. In this context, lust means prioritizing personal or group interests by ignoring the public interest or maslahatul ammah. Accommodating to human lust is a root for despotism, corruption, and tyranny especially so for those in power. Accordingly, the biggest jihad is against one’s own lust. This kind of jihad can be performed by all believers, men, and women.
The question asked by Ummu Salamah as stated before is interesting to analyze, as a reflexive moment that raises the awareness of men and women. The social, cultural, and political roles are determined not by gender but by the efforts and hard work (iktisab) of individuals either men or women. In addition, they are also recognized by a commitment to fight for the truth (tawhid) toward the Almighty Allah. The Qur’an stated in sura An-Nahl verse 97:
مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَى وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to each of them will We give a new life, a life that is good and pure; and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.
What is the meaning of amal shalih in this verse? The word shalaha etymologically means proper, suitable, fit, and appropriate. Thus, amal shalih is the proper action, fit and suitable with the moral conduct that can create a good condition or even better situation (shalih dan ishlah).
Other questions that should be directed to this verse is why this verse does not use the word khair just like in the verse that contains the phrase fastabiqu al-khairat? The answer is that not all good things are considered proper. Fit and suitable for every situation. For example, the war might be good if it is aimed at upholding justice and truth. However, it might not suitable in other conditions. On the contrary, building peace, avoiding conflict, maintaining justice using gentleness, tenacity, precision need can be directed by women. This, all efforts can be achieved either individually or together to create the good life through amal shalih.