Safiya Ravat on Why Scholars Should Revisit The Rulings For Women’s Issues in Islam (Haute Hijab)

Ustadha Safiya Ravat is an instructor of Islamic Studies at Bayyinah. She and her husband recently graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia with Degrees in Islamic Studies. She’s originally from Houston, but now resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband and their toddler son. Full bio here.

I GOT MARRIED quite young; I was 18, and my husband was 19. We met in an Islamic Studies program and both volunteered with the youth organizations in our community. After marriage, we continued pursuing our college degrees; I was studying journalism, and my husband was on the med school track. Eventually, we wound up studying Arabic at Bayyinah. After extensive research, we chose the International Islamic University of Malaysia, and in 2013, we started our bachelor’s degree in Fiqh and Usul ul Fiqh. 

IT WAS A UNIVERSITY where many of the professors were women who really put forth this idea that women scholarship was not only conventional but necessary – rather than something out of the ordinary. Our classes were mixed, and I remember being shocked because that wasn’t the standard in Islamic settings in the U.S. I was so excited to bring that fervor for women scholarship back home and teach it. I felt like I unlocked a treasure during my time there.

I EXPECTED MY ISLAMIC STUDIES DEGREE to make me more strict or more rigid, but the number one thing I learned was mercy and open-mindedness. There are so many opinions and ways to look at certain issues. It broadened our understanding by teaching us how to look at hadith and Quran and discern when certain interpretations are culturally biased.

I HAVE THIS AMAZING RESOURCE called Tahrir al-Mar’ah fi ‘Asr al Resaleh (The Liberation of Women in The Time of The Message). The author was a scholar who was taught fiqh – things like technicalities of divorce, women’s rights, etc. However, after delving into ahadith with nuanced stories of women, he understood women played a much larger role in society than we think. Women made i’tikaf in the masjid – without their husbands there! They worked; they were bosses with male employees, they were the breadwinners of their families and they fought on the battlefield. He decided to change the name and mission of his book and show through these authentic ahadith the true narrative of Muslim women.

I REMEMBER THINKING, “I’m not going be that woman who only talks about women’s issues.”I learned that a lot of women have questions about things they don’t understand in our religion, but feel too shy to ask, or feel as though it’s blasphemous to be doubtful about certain things. The reality is, the majority of shuyookh are men which either makes them unapproachable or makes asking certain questions super awkward. When I came back home and stood in front of students, I found women were more comfortable to approach me and ask questions to seek understanding and clarity.

I REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS to study women’s issues in Islam and look at the context, intention and background of the ahadith. For example, there’s an oft-quoted hadith about how women should pray in the home – but what was the context, intention, and background? Simply citing that hadith to exploit women and keep them in the home is unacceptable.As a result, we see masajid opening up that are exclusive to women; the consequence of the lack of female and male scholarship examining how mistreated and undervalued women are in society. 

WE’VE BEEN GIVEN A NARROW NARRATIVE of women in Islam. But if you just look into our history, you’ll see an entirely different picture of women in Islam than what has been portrayed for so many of us. I decided to embark upon a journey to get all these difficult and doubtful questions that women have about Islam and use the knowledge I learned in Malaysia as well as my own research to find the answer in the Quran and Sunnah – and hopefully broaden the understanding of women in Islam. 

I DON’T BELIEVE THERE WAS A BLATANT AGENDA to bring women down, but I learned that it is inevitable that culture, geography and time will inevitably put a bias on people’s work. At times, in an attempt to dismantle patriarchy, people demonize scholars of the past despite their extensive contribution. There is a consensus among many scholars that some rules should be revisited. Women’s and family issues especially need to be looked at with a different lens and examine how we can apply the Prophet (S)’s understandings to the circumstances today. However, it’s imperative we establish where we can do that; it would not be in texts regarding worship or definitive rulings but in texts relating to ‘mu3amalat’ or the general interactions that one has in their daily life, where the fiqh has flexibility.

THE MASJID OF THE PROPHET (S) had no barrier between men and women, and he held discussions with both men and women. There are very specific authentic hadith that acknowledge the access women had to the Prophet (S), which is something hardly any of us have today with our religious leaders. When women don’t have that access, and they have no one advocating for them, they’ll find their own solution – even though they lack the necessary knowledge base to do so. That itself should be a wake-up call that we need to revisit the texts, and quickly, because these other interpretations are coming up even faster. We need to work hard and efficiently to deduce the correct understanding with the precise foundation using proper sources.

ONE OF MY VERY FIRST TALKS I’ve given as a Bayyinah instructor was on women in the masjid. After my talk, a woman came up to me and said, “I was really considering going to one of those ‘women only’ masajid but now that I know that the masjid of the Prophet (S) valued women and that women had a voice and they were looked upon as humans and not as a distraction, I want to go back to my masjid and realign it with the prophetic model.” That moment was the aha moment in my life. 

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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

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docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfKCXyUBYwLi49r0D3r43o29lzUpR93DverW7grtrgzYTlNag/viewformEvery year, hundreds of marriages take place in ISGH centers. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in these life celebrations with the community. We also value our partnership with Suhbah Institute who give engaged and newly married couples the tools they need to begin their life together.

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CAN I DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE RAMADAN MAKE UP FASTS?

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 Shawaal!

Mahad and Safiya
CAN I DO 6 SHAWAL BEFORE RAMADAN MAKE UP FASTS?

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
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