Women: Participation in public affairs

Q692 :Just before the general elections that took place recently in a Muslim country, an Islamic group included in its manifesto a clear opposition to the candidacy of women and their standing for parliament. History tells us that Lady Aisha, the Prophet's wife, led battles against the enemies of Islam. How can we reconcile this with the view of that Muslim group?

A692 : Let me first correct you on the role of Lady Aisha and her command of a Muslim army. She was not the commander in any battle whatsoever, and she did not fight the enemies of Islam. She was in disagreement with Ali, the fourth Caliph, and she was in the opposing camp when the battle known as "the Battle of the Camel" took place. She was not the commander in that battle, nor did she fight. When the fighting was over, Ali sent her, with due respect and honor, back to Madinah. I am not aware of the manifesto of that Islamic group you have mentioned. I find it very strange that any group should adopt such an attitude. I hope that you are certain of your information. Otherwise, you could be acting on hearsay, which is not appropriate for a Muslim. If your information is correct, then that Islamic group is mistaken in their attitude. There is nothing wrong with Muslim women standing for parliament or being elected to parliament. It is wrong to deny women the right to vote. Women offered their pledge of loyalty to the Prophet, and that was an act which signified full participation in public affairs. Similarly, Muslim women gave their pledges to the early caliphs in the same way as men did. That was akin to exercising the right to vote. In recent history, whatever elections were contested by Islamic parties or groups in Muslim countries, they were ahead of other parties and groups in advocating full participation by women. Islam considers men and women to be equal. The Prophet says: "Women are the sisters of men." This signifies equality and the right to full participation in public affairs.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )