Empowered Muslim Women – Malaysia, a Model Muslim Country

If ever you thought that ONLY Muslim Women of the West are “liberated”, take a look at Malaysian Muslim women! Women in Malaysia are empowered. I’ve seen Hijabis playing rugby, I’ve seen Muslim women holding machetes – knocking off the tops of coconuts in the street, I’ve seen Niqabis riding motorcycles (they’ve even modified the motorcycle to have a “seat” for women who wish not to use the straddle seat). I’ve seen Malaysian Muslim women in every aspect of life excelling, pushing forward, and I’ve seen everyone in her family and society supporting her. They are CEOs of companies, judges, members of parliament, professors, army women, police women, mothers, wives and more.

After spending the last 4 years in Malaysia, I found Malaysia to be a model Muslim country that is actually giving women the rights that Islam entitled them to so many years ago (and not letting patriarchy or culture snatch them away from her). Here’s what I’ve seen in Malaysia:

-EDUCATION: There are 13 female university graduates for every 10 male graduates. In my Islamic studies classes, women outnumbered men 3 to 1. Our university was teeming with female professors who were teaching in front of mixed classes of male and female students (separated side to side, not back to front). Almost every one of my male professors said that his wife was also a teacher or professor, most holding PhDs or Masters. The Rector of my university, the International Islamic University of Malaysia is a woman!

-WORK: 47% of Malaysian women are in the workforce. Women are not limited to the home, cooking and cleaning (nor are they stopped from doing so). It’s very common for most families to have takeout every night because both spouses work (and no one is complaining, there’s plenty of food stalls outside every home, and it’s cheap!).

-RELIGION: There are Muslim women scholars! It’s amazing and refreshing to see that almost every conference has female speakers included, and even conferences geared toward women will also include male speakers. From my experience, the genders are not at odds with each other, they work together in harmony and respect. Women scholars speak in front of mixed gatherings and no one bats an eye- they look at her based on her credentials, not her gender.

I recall a funny moment when my professor asked us to find a “contemporary” fiqh issue to write a research paper on – I told her I’d like to research the topic of “women speaking to a mixed audience of men and women”. She laughed, looking confused, knowing I’m from the US. She answered, “that’s not a contemporary issue, that’s been researched thoroughly, of course women can speak in front of men.. that’s not a controversial issue these days.” I was told of women scholars in our past, female teachers of our great ulama, and I was dumbfounded. In America, still, this is an area of controversy, yet in Malaysia it was a non-issue.

-CLOTHES: The headscarf is not enforced, yet a majority of Malaysian Muslim women choose to wear it, in whatever shape and form they desire – whether that’s an abaya and niqab, skirt and top, Baju Melayu, or jeans. The “Haram Police” are not lurking around. In fact, since there is a large Chinese and Hindu population, it’s common to see non-Muslim women in shorts and tank tops, but they are not shamed nor looked down upon, “for you is your religion, for me is mine” as Allah says in the Quran. Freedom of religion is respected, differences are tolerated.

-MOSQUE SPACES: Every single mosque I’ve gone to has had a prayer space for women, even in the kampung “village” area, where you’d expect things to be different. And in the largest and most well known mosques, there’s NO physical barrier between the women and men, much like the masjid of the Prophet Muhammad (S). Women with children are welcomed with warm smiles, not scornful looks – even in i’tikaf, staying the night in the masjid for Ramadan.

-MEN RESPECT WOMEN: Not once in my 4 years did I feel disrespected by a man, looked down upon, nor ogled or stared at. The men here are allies of women. Respect is one of the greatest traits of the Malay people, and it trickles down to gender relations as well. Husbands help with their kids, in fact it’s more common to see fathers with babies strapped around them in baby carriers than mothers!

-FAMILIES: Women are not forced to marry. Every marriage I’ve attended in Malaysia in my 4 years here have been by the choice of both husband and wife, and with the blessings of their families. Many families here are eager to support their children to get married, even if they’re young and in university. The girl’s parents continue to support her financially until her husband has graduated and started working – taking the financial burden off the couple for their first couple of years.

The beauty of Malaysia is that the women are able to exercise all their rights and freedoms that Islam gave her, yet they don’t feel the need to lose their femininity in the process – they still retain such a soft and loving nature, still dress modestly and act respectfully and elegantly. Sure, every place has its issues, and I’m sure Malaysia has its vices. But from what I’ve seen, they are a model for the rest of us to take heed to.

May Allah bless Malaysia and her people, Ameen!

Safiya Ravat graduated with a degree in Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh and Usul al Fiqh) from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, as well as a Journalism degree from the University of Houston. She and her husband live in Dallas, TX where they are working under the Bayyinah Foundation. Full bio here. Follow them for more videos and posts on Facebook at Mahad and Safiya.

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Questions

CAN A WOMAN STAY IN THE MASJID DURING MENSES?

CLICK HERE for video response.

The scholars’ 2 OPINIONS:
1) NO SHE CANNOT STAY IN THE MASJID UNLESS PASSING BY FOR A NEED (MAJORITY)

Evidences:
-The junub (sexually impure person after intercourse) is told explicitly in the Quran (Nisa: 43) not to stay in the masjid. And the junub, by analogy, is similar to the menstruating women because they both have an impurity that requires ghusl.
– Rasulullah (S) said to tell all women (menstruating and not) to come to the Eid prayer, but he said “let the menstruating women avoid the prayer place.”
-Rasulullah (S) in said, “The mosque is not permitted for menstruating women or anyone who is in a state of janabah (sexual impurity).”

2) YES SHE CAN STAY IN THE MASJID
(minority opinion held by Ibn Hazm, Al-Muzani a scholar of the Shafi’I madhab, Dawud Ad Dhaahiri, and modern day scholars such as Shaykh Yusuf al Qardawi and others)

Evidences:
-The hadeeth mentioned above (“The mosque is not permitted for menstruating women or anyone who is in a state of janabah (sexual impurity).”) was classed as da’eef (weak) by Shaykh al-Albaani as well as other scholars, so it is not permissible to make a ruling of fiqh based on a weak hadth.
– The ayah talking about the junub cannot be applied to the menstruating women because they are not analogous.
When Aisha is on her period during Hajj, Rasulullah (S) told her “do everything but don’t do tawaf of the kabah” which indicates she could stay at the Kabah and do worship, dua, etc.
-A slave woman who was freed set up a tent and lived in the masjid. And Umm Mihjaan (the caretaker of the masjid) would regularly take care of the masjid, and was not told to avoid it during menses.
-Therefore, these scholars are of the opinion that if it were really impermissible for a woman to not stay in the masjid, there would be an authentic direct hadith or ayah about it, as women around the messenger regularly had their period. The evidences brought by the majority are not strong enough to make it haram upon her to stay in the masjid.

CAN A WOMAN TRAVEL BY HERSELF?

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Did you know that the wives of the Prophet (S) traveled together WITHOUT a Mahram from Madinah to Makkah to make Hajj?

In short – there are two opinions on the matter. 1) No, she has to have a Mahram. 2) Yes, she can, as long as her safety can be ensured, and that she uses safe public transportation where others are around.

CAN I DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE MAKE UP FASTS?

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Rasulullah (S) said “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be (rewarded) as if he had fasted the entire year.” [Muslim]

So CAN I DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE MY RAMADAN MAKE UP FASTS?

2 Opinions of the scholars:

1) NO, FINISH RAMADAN FASTS FIRST: Some scholars, amongst them the Hanbalis, say that one must finish the obligatory fasts of Ramadan first before you do any other voluntary fast, as obligations are more important than voluntary fasts and because the Hadith says “Whoever FASTS Ramadan and follows it up with 6 of shawal…” indicating one must finish all 29/30 of Ramadan first and foremost. Some of this group say, if one cannot do all of Ramadan make up fasts in Shawal, then they can complete their 6 Shawal in the next month (Dhul Qa’dah).

2) YES, YOU CAN DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE RAMADAN MAKE UPS:
The other opinion of scholars (amongst them the Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki madhhab) is that the obligation of finishing off Ramadan is an obligation that is given an extended amount of time to fulfill. So since it is given a wide time of 11 months to finish the Ramadan fasts, it should NOT be limited to finishing them off in the very next month (shawal). Shawal is a limited amount of time, and Ramadan is given a long time, and therefore it would be permissible to fast 6 shawal first as long as the Ramadan fasts are accomplished throughout the next 11 months. This is from the mercy of Allah in giving us a long time to make up all the Ramadan fasts.

The precedence that we have in the seerah, is that of Aisha (R) who said that she regularly made up her Ramadan fasts in the month of Shaban, which is the month right before Ramadan. But it is also known that she did many voluntary fasts throughout the year. Scholars conclude that she thererfore saw it acceptable to do voluntary fasts, EVEN though the Ramadan make up fasts had not been completed yet.

It is also very difficult for women to make up Ramadan fasts (maybe 7-8 days) & finish shawal (another 6 days) within one month – because obviously her menses will come (maybe 7-8 days). That almost requires her to fast another WHOLE month minus her period just to accomplish Shawal. And that is definitely a great difficulty.

**Majority of scholars say you cannot combine Shawal and Ramadan make up fasts with one intention. They should be separate intentions and separate days.

NOTE: Know yourself! If you find it difficult to make up your fasts, PRIORITIZE Ramadan fasts over Shawal fasts, because an obligation is like a debt!

May Allah allow us all to fast the 6 of Shawal to get the reward of an entire year! Ameen

CAN WOMEN READ/TOUCH THE QURAN DURING MENSES?

CLICK HERE for video response.

RECITING QURAN – there are 2 opinions:
1) She CANNOT read/recite the Quran.
Most scholars prohibit women from touching the Quran based on the hadith “The menstruating woman and the one who is in a state of sexual impurity (janaabah) should not recite anything of the Qur’aan.”

2) She CAN read/recite the Quran.
This is the opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah, ibn Qayyim, Imam Malik, Bukhari, and one opinion of Imam Ash Shafii as well as many other scholars. Their argument is that the hadith mentioned above is Daeef (weak). In fact, the hadith is considered weak by almost all scholars of Hadith and therefore cannot be used in order to make a fiqh ruling. So women may recite or read the Quran, either from memory or from the Quran mushaf (book) itself.

TOUCHING THE QURAN

Scholars of fiqh agree that someone who is not purified CANNOT touch the Quran because Allah says in the Quran “None shall touch it except the purified” (Waqiah: 79). This includes the junub (sexually impure), the menstruating woman, as well as someone without wudhu.

So how can she read the Quran?
1) Use a barrier (glove, towel, pen) so that her hand doesn’t directly touch the Quran
2) Read it off of a tablet or phone as these are not considered the Quran, but rather devices that have the Quran in them.
3)Read a book which has Tafseer/translation in it – as that is not considered the Quran mushaf (book) either. Even if it contains the Arabic, if half is tafseer/translation, it is permissible for an impure person to hold.

WOMEN’S FASTING FAQ

CLICK HERE for video response.

Q:If you fast all day, and your period starts a few minutes before Maghrib, do you have to make that day up?
A: Yes.

Q: If I didn’t make up all my fasts before next Ramadan, what do I do?
A: If you had no excuse, you have to pay the penalty, Fidya as well as make them up later. (Fidya: feeding a poor person a full day’s meal per day that you missed).

Q: Do pregnant and breastfeeding women have to fast?
A: They are exempt if they fear for themselves or the baby. However, if they feel well enough, they can fast, after consulting a doctor.

Q: How do pregnant/nursing moms make up those fasting days if they have years of make ups?
A: There are multiple opinions of scholars:
1- make them all up over the years (majority opinion)
2- pay the fidya only (opinion of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar (R))
3- pay the fidya AND make them up over the years

Connect With Us

4 weeks ago

Suhbah Institute

Marriage Myth: I should not reveal what’s bothering me to my spouse because it will only cause unnecessary harm.

Yes, pick your battles. Yes, heed the Prophet (S)’s advice and leave an argument when heated. But do NOT sweep the issue under the rug.

Figure out a good time and safe space to talk it out. If you’re the type who can’t confront conflict and let’s everything slide to “keep the peace” it will ALL be bottled up in your heart. That bottle can only take so much.

One day, you will explode…

#PreMaritalTraining
Next session Nov 22nd – Suhbah.com/marriageprep
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1 month ago

Suhbah Institute

MashaAllah, over 35 couples made it out last night for Suhbah’s first Couples’ Night Out at ROIC! The masjid was filled to the brim with couples and families, eating together and working on nurturing their relationship. We are so excited to see you all again next month for Session 2!

Safiya
MashaAllah, over 35 couples made it out last night for our first Couples’ Night Out at ROIC! The masjid was filled to the brim with couples, eating together and working on nurturing their relationship. We talked about Marriage Expectations and Marriage Myths. Couples discussed with their spouse what expectations they had about marriage, why they had them, and whether they were realistic tangible expectations or not. Ended the night with a fun Marriage Game Show! We are SO excited to see you all again next month for Session 2. Stay tuned with Suhbah Institute for the next event.
-at ISGH River Oaks Islamic Center
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1 month ago

Suhbah Institute

Engaged and Married Couples, Come Out To:

*Monthly Couples’ Night Out!*
This Friday, October 25th, 7pm-10pm

Once-a month Potluck, Game Night, and Marital Enrichment Activities

*FREE Babysitting* will be provided!
Come out to have fun, socialize with other couples, and strengthen your relationship!

Imam Mahad and Ustadha Safiya (certified marriage enrichment facilitators)
will lead the *"Love and Marriage"* series utilizing engaging activities to nurture a couple’s relationship including: Languages of Love, Communication, Conflict Resolution and much more!

7pm – Potluck and social
7:45pm – Marital Enrichment series
9pm – Game night and fun!

Potluck Food Sign up: www.perfectpotluck.com/LXSP6951
RSVP: www.facebook.com/events/485987465290034/
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2 months ago

Suhbah Institute

New couple in Houston? Or you are from Houston but haven’t been to the masjid since getting married? Or since having kids? Feel like you are sorely missing a social circle? Want to nurture your relationship in a fun way? These reasons are EXACTLY why we have created the following FREE monthly class…

ROIC and Suhbah are excited to present:
Couples’ Night Out!
Starting Friday, October 25th, 7pm-10pm

Once-a month Potluck, Game Night, and Marital Enrichment Activities
For Engaged and Married Couples
Babysitting will be provided!
Come out to have fun, socialize with other couples, and work on and nurture your relationship!

Imam Mahad and Ustadha Safiya (certified marriage enrichment facilitators)
will lead the "Love and Marriage" series utilizing engaging activities to nurture a couple’s relationship including: Languages of Love, Communication, Conflict Resolution and much more!

7pm – Food and social
8pm – Marital Enrichment series
9pm – Game night and fun!

RSVP: www.facebook.com/events/485987465290034/
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About 24 Hours Ago

This past Ramadan, the community showed a lot of generosity and helped us raise enough funds to grant 15 scholarships for #SuhbahSeminary. http://bit.ly/2nG9rH2