Revisiting the Personal, Communal, and Societal Value of Confident Muslim Women

In an blog titled “Raising Confident Young Muslim Women,” published in 2017, we described Islam’s emphasis on strengthening the confidence of Muslim women, who in relation to men constitute an equally positive and influential contributing factor to society and the betterment of humankind. The Holy Quran states, “God has promised forgiveness and great rewards to the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the believing men and the believing women, the obedient men and the obedient women, the truthful men and the truthful women, the forbearing men and the forbearing women, the humble men and the humble women, the alms-giving men and the alms-giving women, the fasting men and the fasting women, the chaste men and the chaste women, and the men and women who remember God very often.”[1] This verse demonstrates Islam’s recognition of the potential of men and women to thrive and be a source of goodness, not just from the perspective of lofty characteristics, but also from the potential to give to others (e.g., alms-giving) and become role models for all people.

Knowledge Fosters Confidence

Although God guarantees the value of every human being at birth, we often see that societies wrongly stereotype and pigeonhole certain individuals into a lower status or category, because they consider them unworthy or incapable of a higher role. These societies contend that certain individuals do not possess the qualities to critically understand the world in which we live and the circumstances that determine our lives, and thus, they cannot contribute to its improvement or to solving its problems. Unfortunately, this oppressive treatment has pockmarked the history of humankind and often occurs due to decades or centuries-old cultural or tribal practices. This includes many Muslim societies past and present, and yet, Islam has honored every person, men and women, irrespective of their social origins. Just behold the example of Sayyida Maryam (p), whose honorable status the Holy Quran describes in extensive detail, and more importantly, Sayyida Fatimah al-Zahra (p), whose holy father, the Prophet of Islam (pbuh&hp), was not a worldly king, lord, or wealthy landowner. He was a man of humble origins who showed the brilliance of his character through his complete knowledge. This same character was present in his daughter, who some might assume was “unlettered” like her father because of her social position or lack of formal education. However, she was anything but that. Just consider her words and you will realize the depth of her understanding and the height of her intellect. She clearly understood the political circumstances that gripped the Muslim nation after the demise of her father and astutely assessed the motivations of certain people.

She said in her famous Fadak speech, “So, when God Almighty raised [away] His Prophet from this perishable world towards the abode where His prophets and chosen ones reside, the thorns of hypocrisy became clear in you and the mantle of your religion collapsed, and those of you who were astray, who were silent until yesterday, suddenly started shrieking; the degraded and vicious people came out of their burrows into the open, and the valiant ones of the polytheists of falsehood started roaring. Now, these very people have taken the reins of authority into their hands and Satan has reared his head from the place of his concealment, inviting you towards evil. Thus, he found you to be among those accepting his invitation and you held him [in esteem] with the intention of securing position or being deceived. Then you started to snatch the rights of others and entered the spring that did not belong to you. . .You acted very swiftly dreading the outbreak of [social] discord, yet beware that they (i.e., you) themselves have fallen into the pit of agitation. Surely into trial have they already fallen, and verily hell encompasses the infidels.

“Away with all of you! What has happened to you? Where are you wandering while the book of God is with you; whose orders are apparent, and judgements are illuminating; its emblems dazzling and whose commands and prohibitions are straightforward. Did you not leave it behind your backs and then turned your faces away from it in disgust and turned to something else for judgement? Evil for the unjust will be the exchange.”[2]

Being a Role-Model: Confidence, Character, and Self-Worth

Confidence without knowledge and eloquence seldom has any real effect, because it appears as empty bravado to people of true understanding. On the other hand, we see from the words of Sayyida Fatimah that her intention was to pierce the hearts and minds of Muslims and awaken their consciences by reaching their minds. Even today, we read her words and feel inspired by her intricately measured exposition, because she is a role-model for us all. As such, the immense amount of good she spread to others underscores her position as an example of the highest human qualities. A tradition from Imam Hasan al-Askari (p) reports that “a woman came to Fatimah Zahra and said, `my mother is old and weak, and she has become confused about a matter related to her prayer. She sent me to inquire about it.’ Fatimah al-Zahra answered the woman’s question. Thereafter, the woman repeatedly came with [various] questions for Fatimah al-Zahra, and she kindly answered her each time. One day, the woman approached Fatimah al-Zahra with another question from her mother, and after posing it, said to Fatimah al-Zahra, `I shall not trouble you any more [with my questions] daughter of God’s Messenger.’ Fatimah al-Zahra (p) replied: ‘Ask me regarding anything that comes to your mind because if a person has been hired to transport a heavy load to the top of a mountain for a reward of one thousand dinars, do you think it would bother them?’ The woman said: `No.’ Fatimah al-Zahra continued, `My reward for answering every inquiry [and helping] is more than that which fills the space between the earth and the Throne with pearls. Thus, I should always be ready and willing to answer your questions. Surely, I heard my father say, `When the scholars of our Shia are gathered on the Day of Resurrection, they will be bestowed with garments of honor equal in quantity to their knowledge and struggle to guide God’s worshippers, such that any one of them will be granted one million garments of light.’ Then the caller of our Exalted and Glorified Lord will say, `O you guardians of the orphans of Muhammad. You who inspire them when they are separated from their fathers. You, who are their imams, these are your students and the orphans whom you guarded and inspired, therefore bestow them with garments of knowledge in life. Thus, they will bestow each orphan with that which corresponds to the amount of knowledge they received from the scholars; up to the point that some orphans are bestowed with one million garments. And further, the orphans bestow those who learned from them.’ Then God the Exalted will say, `Repeat [this bestowal] upon these scholars, the guardians of the orphans, and double and complete it for them and for those who follow them.’ Fatimah al-Zahra then added, `Worshipper of God, surely a thread of those garments is better than that on which the sun rises.’”[3]

Passing on True Confidence and Sharing the Wealth of Personal Worth

Hence, Sayyida Fatimah showed the immeasurable value of knowledge, and, more importantly, the necessity of imparting it to others and helping those in need in the process. Moreover, consider the personal value of such an act in the eyes of God, which becomes a record in our register of deeds despite the denigration of society and the people around us. This personal value passes from person to person and especially from a mother to her children. Sayyida Fatimah and what she imparted to her children exemplify the highest form of this personal value and the spread of goodness to others as a result. This is evident in their steadfast characters and the dignity they showed in every instance of their lives, especially when trying times tested their resilience. It is by virtue of these qualities that they are a beacon of hope for humanity and a reminder to us all that God gives us our worth and potential. It echoes in our ears through the words of Sayyida Fatimah, “Know that I am Fatimah and my father was Muhammad. I say and I will repeat this again and again and I do not utter any falsehood, and whatever I do shall not be wrong.”[4]


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[1] The Holy Quran 33:35, Muhammad Sarwar translation.

(إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّـهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا)

[2] Sayyida Fatimah al-Zahra, Sermon of Fadak.
[3] Bihar al-anwar, vol. 2, p. 3.
[4] Sayyida Fatimah al-Zahra, Sermon of Fadak.

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