Why women should not be leaders though Queen of Sheba was successful
Fatwa No: 314389

  • Fatwa Date:16-2-2016 - Jumaadaa Al-Oula 8, 1437
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Why did the Prophet, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, say the following statement? I know about the Queen of Saba, who lived during the reign of Sulayman, may Allaah exalt his mention, and was a successful female ruler. What does that mean?The Prophet, said, "Never will a nation that makes a woman their ruler succeed." [Al-Bukhaari]


All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ʻalayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

This hadeeth was reported on the authority of Abu Bakrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him and cited by Al-Bukhari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him. It is a clear indication of the prohibition of appointing a woman as the supreme leader of the state, as underlined in fatwa 96432. Please also refer to fatwa 82079 about some aspects of the wisdom behind the prohibition in this regard.

Dr. Mustafa As-Sibaaʻi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

This has nothing to do with the position of Islam on women's humanity, dignity, and competence. Rather, it is closely related to serving the best interests of the nation and the woman's psychological state and social mission.

The head of the state in Islam is not a mere symbolically authoritative position for the sole purpose of taking pictures and signing agreements. Rather, the head of state in Islam is the leader of the Muslim community and its key thinker, representative, and speaker. He is vested with a wide range of powers and authorities with serious implications and consequences. The head of state in Islam is responsible for declaring war against the state's enemies, leading the army on battlefields, and deciding on making peace and truces with enemies, if proved to serve the best interest of the nation, or carry on with the wars if proved to serve the best interests of the nation. Such serious decisions are made by the head of state after consulting with the Shura (Consultative) Council, namely Ahl Al-Hall wa Al-ʻAqd (a highest decision-making body consisting of those qualified to elect or depose a caliph on behalf of the Muslim community) in abidance with the divine command laid down in the verse that reads (what means): {...and consult them in the matter...} [Quran 3:159] He is the one responsible for proclaiming the final decision and giving authoritative weight to one of the suggested opinions in case of a difference of opinion, in abidance with the divine command in the verse: {...and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allaah...} [Quran 3:159] The head of state in Islam is also responsible for delivering the Friday sermons in the main mosque, leading then Muslims in prayers, and judging between people in case of disputes, if his time can accommodate it.

It is undeniable that these serious tasks are inconsistent with the innate psychological and emotional nature of women, especially those related to war and leading armies on battlefields. Indeed, such harsh tasks require great composure, giving priority to intellect over emotions, courage on the battlefields, and getting accustomed to seeing blood. We thank Allaah for creating the woman's nature incompatible with such harsh tasks; otherwise, life would have lost its most beautiful element of mercy, gentleness, delicacy, and tenderness ...” [Al-Mar'ah bayna Al-Fiqh wa Al-Qaanoon (Women in Islamic Fiqh and Law)]

As for the story of Queen Balqees, who ruled over the people of Saba' (Sheba), the fact that this took place during the era of Prophet Sulaymaan (Solomon)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention does not necessarily mean that it was in accordance with the divine laws revealed to him. Even if we assumed that the divine laws revealed to Sulaymaan deemed it lawful to appoint a woman as the supreme ruler of state, the past divine laws are not binding on us if they are proved to be contrary to the divine laws revealed to us. The account on Queen Balqees in the Quran indicates her sound judgment and sagacity; however, this does not guarantee her competence for running the kingdom efficiently. Even if we assumed that she ran the kingdom efficiently and we considered the success of any present-day female rulers in running their countries efficiently, these examples are rare exceptions and less likely; verily, what is less likely cannot be given precedence over what is more likely.

Dr. As-Sibaaʻi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him adds:

All the views in this regard are not void of stubbornness to accept the real facts. Even if there are historical accounts of women who led armies and courageously fought on battlefields, they represent a scarcity in comparison to men. Hence, it is wrong to overlook or forget the dominant nature of men in all periods of history and in different peoples. Even now, we have not seen any woman appointed as the Minister of Defense, Chief of Staff, Commander of Corps, or a Commander of any military divisions in the countries with the most revolutionary attitudes towards appointing women in high positions. It should be noted, though, that this does not undermine the refined status of woman in the slightest; life is not all about a single pattern of activities involving frowning, physical strength, cruelty, and harshness; otherwise, life would have been a mere living hell. The mercy of Allaah entailed pairing the physical strength of men with the tenderness and delicacy of women, the harshness of men with the mercy of women, the roughness of men with the gentleness of women; verily, the woman's affection, mercy, and femininity are the very secret behind sustaining men's happiness as well as women's.” [End of quote]

Hence, it becomes clear that Islam holds women in a refined status and does not undermine the woman's position in the slightest. Whoever deduced otherwise should know that his understanding is wrong, and his conclusions in this regard should simply be disregarded.

Allaah knows best.

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