Allah (Most High) has created men and women as equals in terms of their humanity but He has assigned them different roles in this life. These roles are complementary which leads to harmony between the sexes and in society as a whole.
يا أَيُّهَا النّاسُ إِنّا خَلَقناكُم مِن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثىٰ وَجَعَلناكُم شُعوبًا وَقَبائِلَ لِتَعارَفوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكرَمَكُم عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتقاكُم ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَليمٌ خَبيرٌ
Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah’s sight is the one with the most taqwa. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
One such role which has been restricted to men is that of ruling. This includes all ruling positions such as the Caliph, his Assistants and Governors but excludes judiciary and Majlis membership whose positions can be held by both men and women. This is not sexist or misogynistic but simply obedience to the Creator of men and women– Allah (Most High) who knows the best system to organise society.
What is the evidence for restricting ruling to men only?
The evidence is from the sunnah and it the saying (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ الْهَيْثَمِ، حَدَّثَنَا عَوْفٌ، عَنِ الْحَسَنِ، عَنْ أَبِي بَكْرَةَ، قَالَ لَقَدْ نَفَعَنِي اللَّهُ بِكَلِمَةٍ سَمِعْتُهَا مِنْ، رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَيَّامَ الْجَمَلِ، بَعْدَ مَا كِدْتُ أَنْ أَلْحَقَ بِأَصْحَابِ الْجَمَلِ فَأُقَاتِلَ مَعَهُمْ قَالَ لَمَّا بَلَغَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّ أَهْلَ فَارِسَ قَدْ مَلَّكُوا عَلَيْهِمْ بِنْتَ كِسْرَى قَالَ
“ لَنْ يُفْلِحَ قَوْمٌ وَلَّوْا أَمْرَهُمُ امْرَأَةً ”
Narrated by Abu Bakra: During the days of Al-Jamal (battle of the Camel), Allah benefited me with a word I heard from Allah’s Messenger after I had been about to join the Companions of Al-Jamal and fight along with them. When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was informed that the Persians had crowned the daughter of Chosroes as their ruler, he ﷺ said, “People who appoint a woman over their affairs will never succeed.” Bukhari 4425
This hadith is sahih (authentic) and narrated in the most famous hadith book Al-Bukhari. This prohibition of a women holding a ruling position is an established opinion in Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) and was not a controversial topic in Islamic history. In fact, Al-Marwadi in Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah doesn’t even list it as a condition for the Caliph because it was such a well-known opinion on which no one differed.
This Islamic rule is only controversial nowadays because it’s used by the anti-Islamic establishment to attack Islam and its noble values especially the Islamic values relating to society and government. Western politicians and academics focus on the noble sharia rules relating to women labelling them as misogynistic, while in their own societies sexual abuse is rife from the bottom to the very top, from workers to celebrities and politicians. The recent #MeToo campaign is an example of this and just the tip of the iceberg.
America at the time of writing has never had a female President or vice-President. The only ever female candidate was Hilary Clinton who lost to a self-confessed sexual predator Trump. Yet they focus their attention on Islam and unfortunately some Muslim academics and scholars have become defensive and try to twist the Islamic rules to appease the west. We must remember as Muslims, سَمِعنا وَأَطَعنا “We hear and we obey” our Creator, Allah (Most High) and the mujtahid (scholar) extracts Islamic rules to please Allah alone and not for any benefit or harm.
When it comes to hadith there are two parts we look at. Firstly, the chain of narration called the isnad and secondly the Arabic text called the matn. This article will look at both parts in depth since the angle of attack on the daughter of Chosroes hadith covers both the isnad and the matn.
The hadith chain of narration (isnad)
Who is the narrator of the hadith?
The narrator of the hadith is Abu Bakra (ra). He is a famous sahabi (companion) who narrated numerous ahadith. He moved to Basra and his students include the famous scholar Hassan al-Basri who narrated this hadith on women ruling to his students.
Why do some people say Abu Bakra is not a reliable hadith narrator?
No righteous scholar in Islamic history has ever questioned the integrity of the sahabi Abu Bakra. The fact that Bukhari accepted Abu Bakra as a reliable narrator is evidence enough. However, a book was written in 1992 by Fatima Mernissi called ‘The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women’s Rights In Islam’. In this book she attempts to undermine Abu Bakra’s reliability as a hadith narrator from a number of angles.
1 – She implies Abu Bakra converted to Islam to free himself from slavery and that afterwards he “scaled the social ladder at a dizzying pace.”
2 – Abu Bakra narrated this hadith after Aisha lost the battle of Jamal against Ali. Mernissi says, “Ali had retaken the city of Basra, and all those who had not chosen to join Ali’s clan had to justify their action. This can explain why a man like Abu Bakra needed to recall opportune traditions, his record being far from satisfactory, as he had refused to take part in the civil war.”
3 – Abu Bakra was lashed by Umar bin Al-Khattab for giving false testimony and therefore cannot be a witness as the Qur’an states:
وَالَّذينَ يَرمونَ المُحصَناتِ ثُمَّ لَم يَأتوا بِأَربَعَةِ شُهَداءَ فَاجلِدوهُم ثَمانينَ جَلدَةً وَلا تَقبَلوا لَهُم شَهادَةً أَبَدًا ۚ وَأُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الفاسِقونَ
“But those who make accusations against chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses: flog them with eighty lashes and never again accept them as witnesses. Such people are deviators”
We will deal with each of these accusations in turn.
How did Abu Bakra convert to Islam?
Ibn Khallikan in his hadith biography narrates the story of Abu Bakra’s conversion to Islam. He narrates: ‘The Prophet, when he laid siege to Taif, made this declaration: “Whatever slave lets himself down [from the wall] and comes to me shall be free.” Abu Bakra then lowered himself down from the fortress by means of a bakra (pulley), – which is a thing traversed by a rope and placed over a well for the purpose of drawing water. It is called a bakara by common people, but this pronunciation is not correct, although the author of the Mukhtatir al-Ain (abridgment of the Ain) gives it as good. It has, however, so little to recommend it that no other philologer ever authorised it. – The narrator continues: He received therefore from the Prophet the surname of Abu Bakra (the pulley-man), and used to say that he was a mawla of the Prophet of God.’
Taif was opened to Islam after the siege in 630CE or 8AH. Abu Bakra accompanied the Prophet ﷺ for two years before his ﷺ death. Abu Bakra was a mawla (helper) of the Prophet ﷺ and a righteous sahabi who fulfilled the conditions of companionship. Allah is pleased with the sahaba because He (Most High) says,
وَالسّابِقونَ الأَوَّلونَ مِنَ المُهاجِرينَ وَالأَنصارِ وَالَّذينَ اتَّبَعوهُم بِإِحسانٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنهُم وَرَضوا عَنهُ
The forerunners – the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansar – and those who have followed them in doing good: Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.
Why was the hadith narrated after the Battle of Al-Jamal?
Islamic knowledge is practical and not academic. The sahaba applied their knowledge practically and many hadith were narrated by them in relation to particular events. For example, the majority of the sahaba in the time of Yazid’s usurping of the Caliphate refused to give Yazid bay’a (pledge of allegiance) and rebelled against him. However, some of the sahaha most notably Abdullah ibn Umar, did give bay’a to Yazid.
Narrated Nafi: When the people of Medina dethroned Yazid bin Muawiya, Ibn `Umar gathered his special friends and children and said, “I heard the Prophet ﷺ saying, ‘A flag will be fixed for every betrayer on the Day of Resurrection,’ and we have given the oath of allegiance (bay’a) to this person (Yazid) in accordance with the conditions enjoined by Allah and His Messenger and I do not know of anything more faithless than fighting a person who has been given the oath of allegiance in accordance with the conditions enjoined by Allah and His Messenger, and if ever I learn that any person among you has agreed to dethrone Yazid, by giving the oath of allegiance (to somebody else) then there will be separation between him and me.” Sahih al-Bukhari 7111
This shows that Abdullah ibn Umar applied the hadith about betrayal to Yazid’s bay’a. This is Abdullah ibn Umar’s opinion and ijtihad, but the opinion of an individual sahabi is not a source of sharia and something we are bound by. Other senior sahaba like Imam Hussein and Abdullah ibn Zubair did rebel against Yazid. Imam Hussein was martyred but Abdullah ibn Zubair succeeded and was appointed Caliph after Yazid’s death. Therefore, the actual hadith of the Prophet ﷺ is an independent clause and can be used without linking to the particular circumstances in which the sahaba narrated it.
Similarly, the daughter of Chosroes hadith was applied by Abu Bakra to Aisha’s defeat at the Battle of Al-Jamal (The Camel) during the civil war at the time of Imam Ali, but this is Abu Bakra’s opinion. The actual hadith of the Prophet ﷺ is an independent clause and not linked to Al-Jamal. Having said this, the circumstances (asbaab) in which the hadith was first mentioned by the Prophet ﷺ in his life i.e. relating to the daughter of Chosroes being appointed a ruler are relevant in ijtihad and we will explain this later.
What was the incident for which Abu Bakra was lashed?
Ibn Khallikan in his hadith biography narrates the events surrounding Abu Bakra’s lashing. He narrates: ‘Al-Mughira, having been named governor of Basra by Umar Ibn al-Khattab, used to go out of the government palace every day, at the hour of noon. Abu Bakra, having met him said: “Where is the emir going?” and received this answer. “I am going on business.” To this Abu Bakra replied: “An emir receives visits but never makes any.”
He (Al-Mughira) was going, it was said to see a woman named Umm Jamil, who was the daughter of Amr and the wife of al-Hajjaj Ibn Atik Ibn al-Harith Ibn Wahb aI-Jushami. – Ibn al-Kalbi states in his Jamhara, that Umm Jamil was the daughter of al-Afkam Ibn Mihjan Ibn Amr Inn Shatha Ibn al-Huzam, and he counts this family among those of the Ansar…
The narrator continues: Abu Bakra was in an upper room with his brothers, Nafi, Ziad and Shibl Ibn Mabad, who were all sons of the same mother who was named Sumaiya. Umm Jamil was in a chamber opposite to theirs, and the wind happened to blow open her door, where they saw al-Mughira in the act of carnal intercourse with her. On this, Abu Bakra said: “There is a calamity for you! Look at that.” They looked till they were convinced, and Abu Bakra then went downstairs and sat there, wailing till al-Mughira came out. When he saw him, he said: “You know full well what you have done, so you had better quit us (and leave the city).” – The narrator says: Al-Mughira went to say the afternoon (Zuhr) prayer at the head of the congregation, and Abu Bakra rose to go out, saying: “By Allah! You shall not preside at our prayer after what you did!” (some of the) people said: “Let him go on with the prayer for he is our emir. Write down your complaint and said it to (the Caliph) Umar.” He and his brothers did so, and Umar summoned al-Mughira and the witnesses to appear before him. When they arrived, Umar took his seat and asked them all forward…
NOTE: I have omitted the actual witness testimonies because they are very graphic. In summary Abu Bakra, Nafi and Shibl Ibn Mabad testified that they saw ‘pen in ink’ whereas Ziad did not see this. Therefore, the burden of proof for implementing the punishment on Al-Mughira was not met.
Umar then exclaimed: “Praise be to Allah!” Al-Mughira, was told by him to go over and beat them (for having borne false witness against him). He inflicted on Abu Bakra eighty strokes and also flogged the other two. Ziad gave, by his deposition, great satisfaction to Umar, as it averted from al-Mughira the penalty of punishment fixed by the law…
Abu Bakra exclaimed after undergoing his punishment: “I bear witness that al-Mughira did so and so (repeating his former evidence).” Umar was about to have him punished a second time when Ali Ibn Abi Talib said to him: “If you beat him you must punish your friend [al-Mughira].*” Umar therefore left him alone and told him to repent of his sin. “Do you bid me to repent,” replied Abu Bakra, “so that you may receive whatever evidence may be given by me later?” Umar answered: “Such is my motive,” and Abu Bakra replied, “I shall never serve as a witness between two parties as long as I live.”
When Abu Bakra was undergoing the legal penalty, al-Mughira addressed him thus: “Glory and praise be to Allah who has brought shame upon you!” “Not so,” said Umar. “But may Allah bring shame upon the place in which these people saw you!”
At a later period when the pilgrims had assembled in Makkah, Umar received the visit of Umm Jamil and said to al-Mughira who was present: “Tell me Mughira! Do you know this woman?” – “I do” replied al-Mughira, “she is Umm Kulthum, the daughter of Ali.” On hearing these words, Umar exclaimed: “Do you intend to make me believe that you do not know her? By Allah I now think that Abu Bakra did not accuse you wrongfully and, when I see you, I fear lest stones should be thrown down on me from heaven (for saving you from the punishment)!”
* Scholars have discussed what Ali meant when he said: “If you beat him, you must punish your friend.” Abu Nasr ibn as-Sabbagh writes in his Shami, a treatise on Shafi’i fiqh: He (Ali) meant to say: “That sentence of yours can only be applicable in case of your counting what he said for another (4th) deposition, but then the number of depositions would be complete. If your sentence applies to the first deposition made by Abu Bakra, it cannot be executed because you have already punished him for it.”
How did the sahaba view Abu Bakra after this incident?
Both Umar and Ali defended Abu Bakra after this incident. Ali prevented Abu Bakra from being punished again, and Umar defended Abu Bakra when Al-Mughira attacked him. Umar said to Al-Mughira, “but may Allah bring shame upon the place in which these people saw you!”
Umar clearly had doubts about Al-Mughira since he tested him at a later date by asking whether he knew Umm Jamil. Umar said, By Allah I now think that Abu Bakra did not accuse you wrongfully…”
Therefore, Abu Bakra’s character is not tainted by this incident. He did not lie. The only reason he was lashed is because of the exceptionally high burden of proof Islam applies to the punishment for adultery and fornication, and protecting the honour of Muhsanaat (chaste women).
Can a witness ever give testimony again?
The verses in the Qur’an are clear that those who repent can be witnesses again.
وَالَّذينَ يَرمونَ المُحصَناتِ ثُمَّ لَم يَأتوا بِأَربَعَةِ شُهَداءَ فَاجلِدوهُم ثَمانينَ جَلدَةً وَلا تَقبَلوا لَهُم شَهادَةً أَبَدًا ۚ وَأُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الفاسِقونَ
إِلَّا الَّذينَ تابوا مِن بَعدِ ذٰلِكَ وَأَصلَحوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفورٌ رَحيمٌ
But those who make accusations against chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses: flog them with eighty lashes and never again accept them as witnesses. Such people are deviators –EXCEPT for those who after that make tawba and put things right. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
This is why Umar wanted Abu Bakra to publicly repent so he could give witness testimony again.
It should be noted that the conditions of witness testimony do not necessarily correspond to the conditions of a hadith narrator. For example, in hudud (punishments) the testimony of one male witness is equal to two female witnesses. However, in hadith narration this does not apply and Aisha, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ has narrated thousands of hadith. Therefore, Abu Bakra is a trustworthy hadith narrator regardless of whether his witness testimony is accepted in court or not.
The text of the hadith (matn)
- What are the opinions on the text of the hadith?
Some contemporary scholars while accepting this hadith and the trustworthiness of Abu Bakra, have disputed its applicability to all times and places.
The former Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa says in his article ‘Women as Heads of State’:
‘As for being a head of state, there is one hadith that has alluded to the impermissibility of this, suggesting that people who appoint a woman as their leader will not prosper. However, Islamic history has seen more than fifty examples of female rulers throughout different time periods and empires, such as Sitt al-Mulk in Egypt, Queens Asma’ and Arwa in Sana, Zaynab al-Nafzawiya in al-Andalus, Sultana Radia in Delhi, Shajarat al-Durr in Egypt and Syria, Aisha al-Hurra in al-Andalus, just to name a few. This is no doubt a consequence of the Prophet’s affirmation of women’s participation in public life, wars, learning institutions, the police (hisba), and the marketplace.
Because of the aforementioned hadith, many jurists have maintained the impermissibility of a female head of state or judge. The Hanafī school maintained the permissibility of a female judge in restricted contexts. However, some have opined that it is entirely permissible for a woman to be either a judge or a head of state. Among these are Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī, Ibn hazm al-Zahirī, Abu al-Fath ibn Tarar, Ibn al-Qasim, and one narration from Imam Malik.
It is important to keep in mind that this hadith was a response to a particular context and circumstance, namely the case of the Persians who had appointed a woman as their leader as a last resort. The Prophetic hadith therefore is to be taken not as a prescription, but rather as an indication of the Persian’s waning fortunes. The principles of jurisprudence are clear that particular circumstances do not establish generality.
Furthermore, Allah Himself relates the story of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba in the Qur’an, extolling her competence and sagacity.
It also bears noting that there is a significant difference between the lofty position of Caliph of Islam and simply the head of a contemporary state. The Caliphate is a religious post, whose duties include leading the believers in prayer, and which is subject to strict conditions mentioned by the jurists. However, the head of state is a civil position, with no pretensions to the leadership of all Muslims. Therefore, a woman has every right to occupy this position.’
Ali Jooma is making four points about the permissibility of a female head of state.
1- The daughter of Chosroes hadith is particular to the sabab (circumstance) on which it was narrated. In sharia there is a principle that particular circumstances do not establish generality.
2- Allah praises Queen Bilqis (Sheba) in the Qur’an
3- There were women rulers in Islamic history
4- There is a difference between a Caliph and the head of a civil state. He seems to say its prohibited for a woman to be a Caliph but its fine for her to be head of a civil state.
We will address these points in turn.
What does the Arabic text say?
The Islamic texts are in Arabic and any ahkam (rules) must be derived from a clear understanding of the Arabic and its grammar.
The actual wording of this hadith contains two nakira (indefinite) nouns قَوْمٌ (people/nation) and امْرَأَةً (woman). In usul ul-fiqh an indefinite noun is an indication of ‘Aamm (generality). This means the words people and woman in this hadith apply to any people and any woman, not just the Persians and the daughter of Chosroes.
|لَنْ||Particle for negating the future||Never|
|يُفْلِحَ||Imperfect tense form IV verb. 3rd person masculine singular.||Succeed|
|Indefinite noun which indicates generality i.e. any people/nation||(any) people/nation|
|Perfect tense form II verb. 3rd person masculine plural.||They put in charge or entrust.|
|Noun with attached pronoun referring to people/nation.||Their affairs|
|امْرَأَةً||Indefinite noun which indicates generality i.e. any woman||(any) woman.|
Is this hadith specific to the Persians and Chosroes daughter?
Ali Gooma says: ‘It is important to keep in mind that this hadith was a response to a particular context and circumstance, namely the case of the Persians who had appointed a woman as their leader as a last resort. The Prophetic hadith therefore is to be taken not as a prescription, but rather as an indication of the Persian’s waning fortunes. The principles of jurisprudence are clear that particular circumstances do not establish generality.’
It’s unclear exactly what principle Ali Gooma is referring to when he says, ‘The principles of jurisprudence are clear that particular circumstances do not establish generality’ but it he seems to be referring to the principle, ‘The generality of the expression in the specificity of the cause is only in the subject of the incident and the question, it is not a general in everything’. This is the second part to the well-established principle in usul ul-fiqh that ‘The importance or consideration is with the generality of the wording and not with the specificity of the cause’.
This means that although a Quranic verse or hadith may have been revealed on a particular circumstance (sabab) it doesn’t mean the text is restricted to that circumstance only.
Imaam Ash-Shaafi’i said: “The Sabab does not produce anything, rather it is the wordings (Alfaazh) that produce (i.e. benefited from). And it was in accordance to this that the Fuqahaa’ of the Muslims in the era of the Prophet ﷺ and the era of the Sahaabah proceeded.”
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Abdullah gives an example of this principle:
The Prophet ﷺ passed by a dead sheep and then said: “You could have taken its hide (skin), tanned it and then utilised (or benefit from) it”. In another narration the Messenger ﷺ said: “Whatever (أيُّما) hide (animal skin) is tanned then it has become purified”. In this example the statement of the Prophet ﷺ was connected to a specific Sabab (cause) which was the dead sheep that he passed by, which was said to have been the sheep of Maymoona. However the Alfaazh (wordings) of the Hadeeth came in a general manner i.e. with a Lafzh that is indicative of Al-‘Umoom (generality). The Lafzh in this Hadeeth was ‘Ayy’ (whatever or whichever) and so this Lafzh encompasses every hide or animal skin in respect to it becoming purified by way of the process of tanning. That is based upon the principle: ‘The importance (or consideration) is found with the generality of the wording and not in the specificity of the cause’.
Therefore in relation to the hadith about women rulers Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Abdullah says, ‘If someone was to say that this is specific to the daughter of Chosroes who took over the Persian rule after her father in the time of the Messenger ﷺ then we would say in response that: ‘The consideration is in the generality of the expressions and not the specificity of the cause’. This is because the expression: ‘Never will a nation succeed’ indicates generality because it is Nakirah (indefinite) in the context of negation (Nafy). Therefore, it is not permissible for a woman to assume any position of ruling in Islam so as to become the Khalifah or a Waali.
Is this hadith applied to all positions of responsibility?
The principle ‘The importance or consideration is with the generality of the wording and not with the specificity of the cause’ has a sister principle which is:
‘The generality of the expression in the specificity of the cause is only in the subject of the incident and the question, it is not a general in everything’.
It is this principle that Ali Gooma seems to referring to when he says, ‘The principles of jurisprudence are clear that particular circumstances do not establish generality’.
This principle means that although the hadith applies to all nations and woman not just the Persians and Chosroes daughter, it only applies on the subject of ruling (وِلايَة). This means it cannot be used as a prohibition for women becoming judges or members of the Majlis ul-Ummah or any other position of responsibility.
Sheikh Taqideen an-Nabhani in Shakhsiya Islamiyya Volume 3 states:
‘It [the hadith] is special in the subject which the talk was about, that the people of Persia appointed a woman as a queen over themselves, i.e. it is special in the subject of authority i.e. the head of the state, or it is special in the government issue and not general in every authority, because the authority could be in the government, in the guardianship over the boy, in the guardianship over the child, and it could be the performance of the judicial authority. So the authority occurs in the governing and in the guardianship over the child, but the Hadeeth is not general, it is special in the governing authority. Therefore it is permissible for the woman to be a guardian over the child, and ‘Umar ibn Al Khattaab had appointed Al Shifaa’ (a woman of his people) in the judiciary (hisba) of the market place. So the generality of the expression in the speciality of the cause (of revelation) is not a generality in everything, but it is a generality in the subject which the talk or the question is about.’
Is the story of Bilqis in Qur’an evidence for women rulers?
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in his article Women and political leadership in Muslim thought states: ‘In addition it [the hadith] is refuted by Qur’anic evidence on the queen of Sheba (Al Naml: 28-44). Anyone who reads those verses can see that they refer to a people who prospered under a wise and powerful female sovereign.’
Ali Gooma states: ‘Furthermore, Allah Himself relates the story of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba in the Qur’an, extolling her competence and sagacity.’
There are no Islamic rules that can be derived from the story of Bilqis (Queen of Sheba) and Sulayman in the Qur’an. Bilqis and her people used to worship the sun and then later after interacting with prophet Sulayman she realised the error of her ways and submitted to Allah. The Qur’an is silent on what happens next and whether she remained in power or not which means the rest of the story is not relevant to us. Bilqis is praised for submitting to Allah and leaving her previous misguidance.
قالَت رَبِّ إِنّي ظَلَمتُ نَفسي وَأَسلَمتُ مَعَ سُلَيمانَ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ العالَمينَ
She said, ‘My Lord, I have wronged myself but I have submitted with Sulayman to the Lord of all the worlds.’
What does falah (success) mean?
The hadith says لَنْ يُفْلِحَ (never succeed) for people or nations who appoint a women ruler over them. Some have said that success here is a material success and tried to refute the hadith by citing examples of ‘successful’ women rulers in history.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in his article Women and political leadership in Muslim thought states: ‘It [the hadith] is also refuted by the compelling evidence of history. England prospered under Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I. So did Russia under Catherine the Great, Spain under Isabella and Zazzau under Queen Amina. We may now conclude.’
These examples are highly questionable from reality. The extreme poverty in Victorian England immortalised in the works of Charles Dickens or the Spanish Inquisition under Isabella are not what most people would call successful rule.
In Islam those who rule by kufr are not successful because Allah (Most High) says:
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“Those who do not rule by what Allah has sent down, such people are wrongdoers.”
إِنَّهُ لا يُفلِحُ الظّالِمونَ
“The wrongdoers will certainly not be successful.”
When defining the word success (falah) we need to look to the Holy Qur’an. Allah (Most High) says,
وَالوَزنُ يَومَئِذٍ الحَقُّ ۚ فَمَن ثَقُلَت مَوازينُهُ فَأُولٰئِكَ هُمُ المُفلِحونَ
The weighing that Day will be the truth. As for those whose scales are heavy, they are the successful.
Therefore success in Islam is not material but rather those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds and enter Jannah.
When the muezzin calls the azan and says, حَيَّ عَلَى ٱلْفَلَاح “Come to success” this means come to gain the reward and pleasure of Allah not material success.
Is the prohibition in the text decisive?
In usul ul-fiqh if a text is linked to reward and punishment either in this life or the next then the qareena (indication) is decisive which means the text indicates prohibition.
As discussed success in the hadith means reward and entering Jannah so this indicates a decisive prohibition of appointing a woman as a ruler.
Does history have any influence on deriving Islamic rules?
Ali Gooma says, ‘However, Islamic history has seen more than fifty examples of female rulers throughout different time periods and empires, such as Sitt al-Mulk in Egypt, Queens Asma’ and Arwa in Sana, Zaynab al-Nafzawiya in al-Andalus, Sultana Radia in Delhi, Shajarat al-Durr in Egypt and Syria, Aisha al-Hurra in al-Andalus, just to name a few.’
History and its rights and wrongs has no basis in Islamic Fiqh. Historical precedent has no bearing on deriving Islamic rules through ijtihad. There has never been a female Khaleefah in Islamic History and even if there was a female ruler at a particular period as Ali Gooma mentions this has no bearing on the hadith and its prohibition.
Is there any concept of a civil state in Islam?
There is only one ruling system in Islam which is the Khilafah. A secular civil state does not exist in the Islamic texts and ruling by any law other than sharia is prohibited in Islam.
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “كانت بنو إسرائيل تسوسهم الأنبياء، كلما هلك نبى خلفه نبى، وإنه لا نبى بعدى وسيكون بعدى خلفاء فيكثرون” قالوا: يا رسول الله فما تأمرنا؟ قال: ”أوفوا ببيعة الأول فالأول، ثم أعطوهم حقهم، واسألوا الله الذى لكم ، فإن الله سائلهم عما استرعاهم
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The prophets ruled over the children of Israel. Whenever a prophet died, another prophet succeeded him, but there will be no prophet after me. There will soon be Khulafaa’ and they will number many.” They asked: “What then do you order us?” He ﷺ said: “Fulfil the Bay’a to them one after the other, and give them their dues, for verily Allah will ask them about what He entrusted them with.” Bukhari and Muslim
Allah (Most High) says:
أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ ۚ فَمَا جَزَاءُ مَنْ يَفْعَلُ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْكُمْ إِلَّا خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ ۗ وَمَا اللَّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
“Do you, then, believe in one part of the Book and reject the other? What repayment will there be for any of you who do that except disgrace in this world? And on the Day of Rising, they will be returned to the harshest of punishments. Allah is not unaware of what you do.”
Why is the word Khaleefah grammatically feminine if the Khaleefah must be male?
There is an obscure argument on Daniel Pipe’s blog attributed to Ibn Warraq.
“This time I will concentrate on the word خليفة or Khalifa (Caliph) and indeed the Ulama had great difficulty in defining such word and the real difficulty is this a masculine word but it has a feminine ending which did not make grammatical sense and this feminine ending is the last letter in the word and that is the Ta Marbouta or ة . The Ulama also suspected that it might be a foreign word…”
Some languages like Arabic and French have a grammatical concept of noun gender where some nouns are either masculine or feminine. This can be a difficult concept for someone who only knows English to understand, but for those with knowledge of the Arabic language and its grammar, Ibn Warraq’s claim is easily refuted.
While some Arabic words like خليفة Khaleefah and مَلائِكَةِ Malaika (angels) are morphemically feminine (feminine in form with a ة at the end) they are semantically masculine (masculine in meaning).
We can illustrate this with one verse from the Holy Qur’an.
وَإِذ قالَ رَبُّكَ لِلمَلائِكَةِ إِنّي جاعِلٌ فِي الأَرضِ خَليفَةً ۖ قالوا أَتَجعَلُ فيها مَن يُفسِدُ فيها وَيَسفِكُ الدِّماءَ وَنَحنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قالَ إِنّي أَعلَمُ ما لا تَعلَمونَ
When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am putting a khaleefah on the earth,’ they said, ‘Why put on it one who will cause corruption on it and shed blood when we glorify You with praise and proclaim Your purity?’ He said, ‘I know what you do not know.’
قالوا is a third person masculine plural verb whose subject pronoun و refers to the angels مَلائِكَةِ. Therefore angels, as is well-known in Islam, are male not female. Also the word Khaleefah refers to Adam (as) and the verb يُفسِدُ is a third person masculine singular verb which refers back to the word Khaleefah. Therefore the word Khaleefah is masculine.
Regarding the Ta Marbouta ending (ة) then this is used for many reasons in Arabic not just to indicate femininity. One use of this ending is to intensify the meaning of a word. For example, عَالِم means scholar but عَلَّامَة means great scholar. فَاهم means one who understands but فَهَّامَة means one whose understanding is great.
John Penrice in ‘A Dictionary and Glossary of The Koran’ p.44 in referring to the word Khaleefah says, ‘The termination adds energy or intensity to the expression.’
If human beings whether men or women disregard the message of Allah, the Creator then it will lead to oppression in this life and the next.
وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْ ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنْكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ
“As for the one who disregards My message, he will have a miserable life, and we resurrect him, on the Day of resurrection, blind.”
(Ta Ha, 20:124)
Therefore the believers submit to the Islamic rule which forbids women being rulers and “submit themselves completely” وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا