Women Leaders…

Note: I have edited my needless conclusion, which is merely a personal opinion undeserving of being written or read, and not in line with the propriety of a beginner student of knowledge. Conclusions are for the fuqaha to make. Thus, I will only leave the actual translation of Maulana Thanawi’s verdict here, wa billahi tawfiq – Salman


salamu `alaykum

I remember, one day in college, some of us brothers were discussing who the next MSA president would be. A few were quite fearful, for whatever reason, that a sister would emerge into that role. I remember remarking to these brothers, “What’s the problem with that?” to which they replied that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

‏لن يفلح قوم ولوا أمرهم امرأة

“Never will a nation be successful that is ruled by a woman.”

(Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al Maghazi. Also narrated in Kitab al Fitan by Bukhari and Tirmidhi, the latter from Muhammad ibn Muthana, and Nasa’i in Fadha’il)

Of course, they were mistaken in applying this narration generally across the board and thus forbidding female-leadership unconditionally. Yet, the fact of the matter is that such a narration is quite specific in its application, in the type of governance and leadership it refers to, and is not a universal negation of women holding any sort of leadership position.

Our Master, Ashraf `Ali Thanawi (May Allah be well-pleased with him) clarified this at length in his Imdad al Fatawa when asked regarding current day female leaders. He replied:

“Government can be of the three types:

Firstly, one that is autocratic (tamam) and generally encompassing (`aam). By ‘autocratic’ what is meant is the leader having sole authority, such that his/her governing is individual (shakhsi) without any need or approval from any other governor upon whom his/her decisions rest (mawquf). By ‘generally encompassing’ what is meant is that his/her subjects not be an exceedingly minute (qalil) group.

Secondly, one that is autocratic but not generally encompassing.

Thirdly, one that is generally encompassing but not autocratic.

An example of the first type is a woman being given sole sultanate or presidency, with the conditions mentioned previously.

An example of the second type is a woman receiving complete administrative duties over a small group, at the exclusion of all others.

An example of the third type is a woman being a democratic leader, yet, such that her guardianship is only an apparent (suri) one and not real (haqiqi). Rather, an integral part [of such a system of government] is seeking counsel (mashwera), and real leadership (wali haqiqi) therefore belongs to the parliament.

Analyzing the wording of the narration in question carefully brings to light the fact that it is in reference to the first group. Thus, the reason behind the [prophetic] statement, which was due to the Persians making Kisra [s: the name given to the leader] the monarch, unconditionally and completely as pointed to by the word usage, and connecting such leadership over a nation (qawm) – all of this contextualizes the narration.”

He continues a few lines down by stating:

“This is in opposition to the second type, which although has complete guardianship is not consigned over a nation [s: a “generally encompassing” body, as outlined before].

It is in opposition to the third type, which although is connected to a nation, does not constitute absolute and complete guardianship due to the presence of a counsel. Even though such counsel is given preference over individual counsels, it does not constitute complete and absolute guardianship…

Such contextualization is clear from the words of the hadith.”

Maulana Thanawi then continues by giving proof from the texts proving the validity and legitimacy of female leadership in certain cases – such as those of type two and three.

For type two, he brings forth the narration:

“A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband.”

(Bukhari and Muslim)

This proves that the leadership and guardianship of a woman, even if completely, over a minute constituency is valid.

As for type three, he gives the example of Queen Bilqis, who is referred to in the Qur’an, as being a “democratic leader” and the absence of any texts that imply her being removed from such a post even after her accepting the religion of Allah.

Since the basis was the establishment of her rulership and nothing specifies her removal from such a position, Maulana Thanawi brings forth the well known principle (qa’ida) that “Any matter passed upon by Allah and His Messenger without condemnation is a proof upon us.” Thus, it is established from the Qur’an that such a leadership is permitted for a woman since the reality of such governance is based on counsel and the woman only serves as the guardian of the counsel – not the ultimate authority.

Rather, Maulana stipulates that even if the woman has complete and sole leadership yet she, out of her own accord, chooses not to opinionate solely on her individual views and opinions, even this type of leadership does not enter into the forbidden leadership that the narration alludes to.

All of this is proof for the validity of the third type of government.

To conclude, he states:

“When the evidence establishes that the guardianship and leadership being referred to is that of type one then it becomes clear that the leadership of women in our times does not enter into this narration. This is because if we consider those that she rules over to be a small minority then it is of the second type [which is not interdicted]. If we do not consider her leadership to be over a very small group, which is what is clear today, even then such governance is democratic [and thus not interdicted]. This is whether such a system is manifestly apparent, such as in the case of the presence of a clearly viewable parliament, or non-apparent, such as the absence of a parliament yet the necessity of having laws passed through the consent of a representative or penitent of the leader. This enters into the third type.”

(Imdad al Fatawa, Vol 5 Pg: 91)

And Allah Knows Best





Filed under Fiqh/Law, General

34 responses to “Women Leaders…

  1. Nice! Jazakallah Khayran.

  2. Wow! Jazak Allahu khairan, this is very helpful. alhamdulillah.

  3. That’s it. Next year insha’Allah. Yaser dominated me this year.


  4. that was just a joke, but in case it does happen.. that would be interesting.

  5. mujahid7ia

    Jazak Allahu khayr for that post. Unfortunately, people love to apply (English translations of) various ahadith without a thought to how exactly it applies and what it really means.

  6. salamu `alaykum

    You know Munzareen, word was actually out that you were going to be next president. Oh well, next time Insha’Allah – if there is a next time.

    Sidi Mujahid: I completely agree, but that is why it is the job of those who know to educate those who dont (note: here the one who knows is Maulana Thanawi, not me, of course).


  7. tazkiyyah

    If the msa runs by shura and the woman has the final decision in the decisions,
    I believe the woman cannot rule.

    Is she is leading the discussions but her vote is just a vote amongst votes, then the matter is different.

    But in most isocs, the woman who is ameer of the shura, has the final say….

  8. Okay, but how far has an Islamic shura to be what we like to call today “democratic”? What I learned is that the Ameer of a Shura can decide against the opinions and even without asking anyone even. My point is does the “democratic system” (aka majority rules) have a place in Islam?

    Please educate me.

  9. I think when people try to take these rulings that are on the macro level and apply them to the micro level, things get tough. Alot of MSA kids think that for some reason there little MSA is like a caliphate, with the president as the Caliph.

    Thus, it has to act and be like a min-government, and this tends to lead to much arguing and fitna.

  10. Anon

    there is a smile at the top right corner of your blog!
    [perhaps this has been noted already]

    but it made me smile because its so tiny, its as if it is hiding.. but it is always there..


  11. Seeker of Guidance

    Brilliant! Jazak Allah khayr

  12. Wa alaikum as Salam,

    So is THAT what you meant by: “I remember, one day in college, some of us brothers were discussing who the next MSA president would be. A few were quite fearful, for whatever reason, that a sister would emerge into that role”???

    🙂 Khayr.

    JazakAllah Khair for the post.

  13. fan of munzareen

    Munzareen, you should run next year for president, stony brook msa needs a female president.

  14. Very nicely explained. JazakAllahu Khayrun Salman.

  15. Umer

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    Insightful post. Is this essay of Maulana Thanvi’s translated into english or are you translating it from urdu? If its in english can you hyperlink the source its from?

    Jazakallah khair

  16. Oh man! I have a fan on your site!

    Okay, I’ll stop now. Other people are really reading this post for its points, and now Stony Brookers (i.e me) are bringing the intellectual level of your comments page down.

    Wasalaamu Alaikum,

  17. Pingback: Women holding office of authority at Ijtema

  18. salamu `alaykum

    Anon: I really never noticed that. : )

    Sidi Umer: It was translated from urdu.

    Sis Munzareen: You are more than welcome to comment, even if the “intellectual level” of my comments go down – which I dont think will happen.

    Jazakallah Khayr to everyone else also for the comments.


  19. Also look at the context of the hadith in terms of the events going on in the Persian Empire. I was listening to a CD set by Dr. Umar, Famous Women in Islam, and he said that it had to do with the fact that I women came to power after the dead king had attempted to assassin the Prophet (S).

  20. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi Divinelight: My email is salmanhusayni@yahoo.com – I emailed you on the address you provided in your comments, but it doesnt seem to be a valid address.


  21. That was enlightening, mashaAllah.

  22. Whoever marries Salman, is going to be really lucky, mashaAllah!

  23. random sister

    Amir, that is so true. That girl will be one lucky girl. all guys should be like Salman. sisters today need much respect from guys. a lot of guys are mean out there.

  24. muchfitna

    The position of MSA president requires much interaction with people. At times, they may be required to give public statements, appear in the media, stay out of the home for long periods of time, traveling to various events … A woman is restricted in these activities.

  25. Does the Queen of Britain (type-of-situation) fall into the first type?

  26. Anon

    Is the quote from Maulana Thanawi actually a fatwa stating that leadership for women is permitted? It seems to be a commentary on the scope of the hadith. It does not seem to discuss whether women’s leadership in organizations such as MSA’s is permitted or not.

  27. Zhilaal

    Masha allah

    So glad to see a person who appreciates maulana Thanavi’s calibre.

    I always find myself wanting to share many of his wonderful gems of wisdom and silence his detractors and through a lowly effort of mine I’ve started a blog to this aim.
    May Allah grant all of us His love.


  28. Pingback: Cream of the Crop « Inner Reflections Transcribed

  29. now i don’t have to spend hours to research why it’s ok for me to take over the world.

  30. Anon

    Hmm…ever since ur engagement…no more posts,


  31. http://radicalmuslim.blogsome.com/2007/05/30/the-mega-mosque/

    49,981 signatures have now been received on a terrible petition against the London ‘Mega mosque’ based on incorrect and inciteful information. This shows the existence of the intolerance and Islamophobia in Britain.

    The mosque would provide a place of worship and show Britains tolerance and multiculturalism. It is now the duty of Muslims and evey citizen to sign the counter-petition to BUILD the ‘Mega Mosque’. Please sign at the link below, email it to your friends and promote this on your site.


  32. jelly bean

    I’m very angry and need some advise. How do you retaliate to a non-muslim when they claim the following:
    “What other reaction do you expect when you propose to degrade women to the level of animals, base laws on a delusional paedophile pirate and take us all back to the 7th century”.

  33. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi “Jelly Bean”: Take a deep breath, say Alhamdulilah, smile and if you see any worth or benefit in giving such an individual the “facts” then do so. Otherwise, ignore it – which is harder said than done.

    There will always be people who talk, and then people who talk and dont want to listen. The saying goes that “iktifa’ bi `ilm allah” (suffice in the knowledge of Allah) and forget the opinions of people whose opinions dont matter. Yes, our love for the Prophet does anger us from within, but he showed us *how* we should approach such incidents and situations – with love, mercy, gentleness, and the mahabba of loving for your brother what you lvoe for yourself i.e. guidance and Islam.


  34. jelly bean

    salamu `alaykum!

    Thanks a lot for your wise words Salman.
    “iktifa’ bi `ilm allah” – Nice one!

    may peace be with you!

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