Offering Da’wah (call to Islam) is a great responsibility that requires not only knowledge, but wideness and kindness as well. Offering Da’wah to new Muslims is a greater responsibility since it is difficult for recent reverts, who often have little information about Islam, to realize whether or not their guides are truly versed in the teachings of the religion. This makes for a precarious situation when they are seeking the accurate information needed to guide them on their journey.
Women and religious knowledge
There is no doubt that Muslim women play a vital role in the propagation and spreading of the proper understanding of Islam, through Da’wah. Da’wah amongst women began in the first days of Islam, with Khadeejah the Prophet’s wife who used her resources to help spread the message of Islam. Sumayyah the first martyr in Islam, also provides an honorable example of a woman dedicated to furthering the religion.
But how many Muslim women have the proper understanding or even the accurate general knowledge of their religion? How many Muslim women possess the capabilities needed to offer Da’wah?
Stories I heard from my American Muslim friends both amused and distressed me as I learned how they suffered at the beginning of their journey to Islam, because their Muslim-born female friends did not have the proper knowledge to offer advice.
One of my Muslim American friends told me that when she was a recent convert to Islam, her husband was not a Muslim yet. Two days after she pronounced the Shahaadah, (testimony of faith) some Muslim sisters went to visit her at home to help her have better understanding of her new religion. It is really absurd to hear that the first thing they advised her to do was to ask her non-Muslim husband for divorce because he is not a Muslim. They told her that it is forbidden in Islam to have a non-Muslim husband and that she should be separated from him as soon as possible and that otherwise she would be committing adultery. In truth, the statements have shocked my friend to the bone, but her firm belief that marriage relationships, particularly hers which is a remarkable story of love, children, and attachment, is too precious to be discarded as easily as those rash, thoughtless Fatawa (religious verdicts) suggest. Hence she felt that she needs to turn the matter inside out enlisting the jurisprudential expertise of high caliber, authentic scholars.
After lots of efforts, my friend was able to find the contact info of a prominent Muslim scholar who told her that she was legally allowed to stay with her non-Muslim husband for a few months before considering the divorce option. Great was the joy my friend experienced from knowing that her marriage will not be destroyed that she felt that two months are enough time for her to help her husband revert. [Note: For the Islamic ruling on a wife who converted to Islam while her husband did not, please refer to Fatwa No: 156049]
My friend was supposed to use, in the best and effective way possible, this time in talking to her husband about the different aspects of her adopted religion, the new commitments and obligations this new affiliation places on her, and to cater to the questions that he is sure to raise, hoping that through these measures, and before that, by the aid of Allah the Almighty, her husband’s heart will incline towards believing in Islam as well. And guess what? No sooner had the first month passed, than her husband reverted to Islam, and today five years later, he is an active member in his Muslim community.
First things first
Another Muslim American friend who converted to Islam three years ago told me that the Muslim women in her area confused her with their advices when she first became Muslim to the point that she was crying every night. “I was myself ignorant about Islam and then discovered how ignorant they were,” she said adding, “I was confused and depressed to the point that I cried every night:’
“One sister told me that I should say, ‘La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammad Rasoolullah” (there is no God except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger) a hundred times every night before sleeping. Another one gave me a list of supplications and told me to read them ten times a night,” said another American Muslim friend, adding, “It was hard for me in my first days of Islam to learn the basics of my new religion and to recite the Quran in my prayers. I could not imagine how I would be able to make an extra hundred Du‘aa’ (supplication) a day?”
A third woman told me that a Muslim woman told her that every time she has intercourse with her husband, she must wash the sheets seven times.
Once, her husband saw her going back and forth to the laundry room more than ten times and became confused as to what she was doing. “He asked me what I was doing,” said my American friend. “When I told him that I had to wash the sheets seven times, he was astonished and he explained to me that this was not true.”
“I was really confused,” one sister was telling me “that I should put my hands over my stomach in Salah, as another told me that this was wrong and that I should perform Salah with my hands down at my sides.”
“A Pakistani sister told me it is forbidden in Islam to sweep at night, and that if I wanted to go to heaven, I should never hold the broom at night,” said another American friend. “I was really scared of brooms after that, especially at night,” she added.
New Muslim women face such misguidance and misinformation from the Muslim-born women on the issue of scholars’ differences. Sadly, some Muslim sisters do not understand that the difference of opinions in the subsidiary issues (furu’) is not intended to constrain people but to provide different paths. Hence, they ask the new Muslim sisters to follow them, believing that all of the opinions are obligatory.
“In the end, you find yourself confused by the many opinions of women who do not know the difference between the obligatory (fard), the Sunnah (the practices of the Prophet), and the recommended (mustahab),” remarked another revert.
I am not sure if all Muslim women converting to Islam face these kinds of problems, but one thing of which I am positive is that the single women are more vulnerable to these kind of experiences than married ones, who have Muslim husbands to help them.
A major factor behind this problem is that some Muslim women do not have the capability to offer Da’wah to others because their own store of general Islamic knowledge is lacking. One additional cause of the problem is that some Muslim women confuse Islamic priorities. For, unfortunately, they cannot recognize the difference between religion and traditions.
The rescue is in asking
The Prophet warned against offering fatwa on issues of which we are not fully apprised. It is not a shame to admit that we do not know, for we are not supposed to have an answer for every question.
Jabir said, “A group of Companions were on a journey and one of them got injured. Later, the injured man had a wet dream. He consulted his companions. Can I perform Tayammum (dry ablution)? They said, No, not if you have water. So he performed Ghusl and died from complications caused by his coming into contact with water. When they later came to the Messenger of Allah they informed him of the incident. The Prophet was upset and commented angrily, “They killed him. May Allah kill them. Why don't you ask if you do not know? The rescue from ignorance is in asking questions. The man could have wrapped his wound with something, wiped over the wrapping and washed the rest of his body.” (Abu Dawood)
Before we begin to educate others, we should educate ourselves first.