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Women and the State in Early Islam Author(s): Nabia Abbott Source: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol

. 1, No. 1 (Jan., 1942), pp. 106-126 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/542352 Accessed: 26/07/2010 13:33
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WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM*
NABIA ABBOTT

I. MOHAMMED AND THE FIRST FOUR CALIPHS Students of Islam readily concede that Mohammed contributed something toward the general improvement of the position of the Arab woman of his day, but a considerable difference of opinion exists as to the real motive, extent, and significance of this contribution. Such differences of opinion will continue to prevail so long as scholars and the world at large hold so many varied and contradictory estimates of the personality and character of Mohammed himself; and at present there is no indication of a convergence toward a unified presentation of this Messenger of Allah to countless millions of human beings-white, yellow, brown, red, and black. However, most students of the life of Mohammed recognize two distinct tendencies that frequently conditioned his actions. In general, it is safe to state that Mohammed avoided drastic innovations and that he tolerated and adopted such public and private practices as had become well established through long usage, provided these were reasonably compatible with the cardinal doctrine of monotheism and the requirements of a theocratic state. Again, one can readily cite numerous incidents in support of the oft-made and widely accepted assertion that Mohammed's legislation was frequently the result of a specific and immediate local situation calling for a comparatively prompt decision rather than the product of the deep and farsighted thought of a legislator weighing in the balance abstract principles and ideals of human conduct. Some see in these respective tendencies a policy of tolerance and effective practical administration. Others, again, use them to brand Mohammed as a second-rate reformer and a shrewd opportunist. Regardless of the tags one attaches to these traits of Mohammed's personality, they-alone or together--figure frequently in his attitude toward and treatment of the Moslem woman question in general. It is partly in this light that we can understand the position of the Mos* See "Women and the State on the Eve of Islam," AJSL, LVIII (1941), 259-84. [Copyright 1942 by the University of Chicago. All Rights Reserved.]

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brother. Cf. These considerations account in part for his ready acceptance of the honored position that the free Arab woman enjoyed in pre-Islamic Arabia. XIII (1939). therefore. Later she married Mohammed and stood staunchly by him against the interests of her father at the critical time when Abfi Sufydn was losing ground as the leader of the Makkan opposition. aside from the unique position of Khadijah. she remained true to Islam. 68-71. Ramlah. husband.3 accepted the new faith and migrated with her husband and the rest of the new converts to Abyssinia. though her husband became a Christian. They help to explain how. Inasmuch as Islam began more as a religious than as a political movement. of woman in the new religious setup. who exercised this freedom. on the other hand. it is well to look first into the status. placing her one step below him. 290-305. read critically with an eye for detecting later practices." Islamic Culture. high or low in station. better known as Umm Habibah. 3 Ibn Sacd. on the one hand. Abai Sufyin's daughter. Yet it was in this period that the seeds of definite politico-religious discrimination against women were sown. She could accept or reject the new faith independent of what her father. opinions. the Islamic sources at our command. 1 Qur~dn (Cairo. "The First Women Converts in Early Islam. and ideals. Gertrude H. a number of his aunts and girl cousins followed the new faith regardless of the antagonistic attitude of such leading men of cAbd al-Muttalib's clan as Mohammed's uncles Abi Lahab and cAbbAs. Mohammed strove successfully for the improvement of the economic and legal status of all Moslem women and how. Tabaqdt. Numerous and well authenticated are the cases of women. present us with a picture that is largely parallel with that sketched in the previous section. therefore. In Mohammed's own family we find that. suffice to cite here only a few outstanding instances.' We need not look. Sucda bint Kuraiz. where.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 107 lem Arab woman of his day and the day after. Indeed. 1347/1928). he left woman forever inferior to man. We find that at the very beginning of the period woman enjoyed full religious liberty. practical and theoretical. VIII.2 It will. . or suitor saw fit to do. 2 Siirah 2:228 and 4:34. Stern. for spectacular changes in woman's general position in the politico-religious order that soon evolved.

not all of Mohammed's cousins and aunts followed him at first. pp.5 Umm Sulaim. it is not surprising that the new prophet sensed the great influence that women converts could exert in establishing and spreading the new faith. 191- 6 Ibn Sacd. The freedmen and slaves among the population did not enjoy the same extent of religious liberty as did the free men and women. It was fear of the uncompromising and. 628 f. Wuistenfeld (Gittingen. trans. Life of Mahomet. while Abif Bakr's sisters followed their brother's prophet only after the latter's conquest of Makkah. is in some respects comparable to that of Saul of Tarsus in Christianity. 224-30.7 Other women. 5 1859).4 The zeal of Fdtimah. 227. is said to have repeatedly refused the hand of Abfi Talhah until he yielded to her urging to follow Mohammed and accept Islam. 7 Dermenghem. are frequently met with in the traditions. in martyrdom.108 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES maternal aunt of cUthman ibn cAffin. Whenever a major occasion 4Idbah. III. of high or low degree. Sirah. who patiently endured persecution rather than yield her new faith. IV. in a few instances. 310-12. sister of cUmar ibn al-Khattab. The honor of being the first martyr in Islam goes to a freedwoman. violent cUmar that caused FAtimah and her husband to keep their conversion secret. 71. at times. was instrumental in that future caliph's conversion. 1930).8 Considering that Khadijah was Mohammed's first and staunchest convert.9 Seldom did he turn them away. 9 Ibid.. resulting. ed. Ibn Hishdm. 193. p. the latter did not hesitate to make them the object of severe persecution. 94. but they need not detain us here. VIII. resulted in the dramatic conversion of that stern and fiery character whose role in Islam. both before and after his conversion. He urged the believing women not to be lax in joyful praise. Sumayyah bint Khubbdt. p. . VIII. Ibn Sacd. who refused the new faith despite the conversion of one or more of the men of the family. Since their conversion generally entailed a definite social and economic loss to their patrons and owners. an early convert at Madinah and mother of the wellknown and oft-quoted Anas ibn Malik.' On the other hand. Arabella Yorke (London. and who was eventually killed by Ab-i Jahl. s Ibn Sacd.

o0 She was among the early converts at Makkah.. 6 f. . reads: O ye who believe. after the Treaty of H.examine them-Allah best knoweth their belief. she claimed.D. the stepsister of cUthmin ibn cAffin. Do not hold on to ties with unbelieving womenbut ask for what ye have spent (as theirdowers)and let them ask for what they have spent. citing the terms of the treaty. 1923). set aside the treaty clause involved. where. Bal~dhuri. Perhaps for that same faith she was also discriminated against in the matter of marriage. She was speedily followed by her two brothers. he was ever ready to give them recognition by administerhe ing the "woman's oath. she was taunted for her faith. Weir (Edinburgh. demanded that she return with them to Makkah. the first Quraishite woman to take such a step. Umm Kulthiam. who. he did not hesitate to infringe on the terms of that treaty in order to accord Makkan women converts who followed him to Madinah the right to remain there. and Allah is knowing.wise. The occasion for this infringement arose out of the following specific incident. though the treaty terms called on him to return them to the Makkans. and 167 f. She left home and town and traveled on her own to Madinah. also Muir. besides. pp. pp. Then if ye know them to be believers. Thus not only was Umm Kulthiim not to be forced to return with her brothers but the occasion itself was used for general legislation affecting unattached Moslem women and prohibiting the marriage of 10 For her full story see ibid.do not send them back to the unbelievers. 6/A. The new revelation. 472. It is no fault in you that ye marrythem when (or if) ye give them their dowers. a young lady of an independent and aggressive nature. found in Sfirah 60:10. cf.. for she had no husband at the time of her flight in A. Futiih. She was." When.He judgethbetween you. and the daughter of that cUqbah who was executed by Mohammed after Badr. ed. Umm KulthTim protested and appealed for protection to Mohammed. was one of the few women of her day who could both read and write. p. on the strength of a new revelation. nor are the unbelieverslawful for such women. 230 and 365.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 109 demanded. an Umayyad. Life.udaibiyah. they are not lawfulfor them. 628. felt himself secure enough against Makkan aggression. whereupon he. But pay them what they have spent (for their dowers). That is the judgmentof Allah.H. when believingwomen come to you as emigrants.

12 Again. addressed specifically to both the sexes-a form of address used on several subsequent occasionswas revealed. 128 f."1The verse in question reads: The self-surrendering and the self-surrendering men women. Ibn Sacd. and. According Qur~lnic to some... . 1939. a man known to be harsh with his wives and one from whom she contrived to secure her divorce.) II.the believing men and the believingwomen. neither in duties nor in rewards. After his death (32/652-53) she ibn married the well-known conqueror of Egypt.110 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Moslems of either sex to non-Moslems. Fleischer (2 vols.the submissivemen and the submissivewomen..the obedientmen and the obedientwomen. 414. who took the initiative in this matter. the Allah-remembering men and the women-for them Allah has preparedforgivenessand a Allah-remembering mighty reward.. but. Umm Kulthaim married Zubair ibn al-cAwwam. Anwar al-Tanzil . VIII..the truthful men and the truthful women. the revelations were always addressed to the men. SfIrah 33:35. she settled in Madinah and married. They requested him to assign them a special time for instruction so that 11 Cf. in succession.the almsgivingmen and the almsgivingwomen. an incident is reported in which the women-most of whom. Baidiwi. Lipsiae. cAmr ibn al-cAs. The first was his "adopted son" Zaid ibn Harithah after he had divorced Zainab. four of Mohammed's companions famous in the history of Islam.. II. though they had accepted Allah and his Prophet. After Zaid's fall in the Battle of Maitah (7/629). Somewhat earlier than this episode.the continent men and the continent women. whom Mohammed married. ed. it was Mohammed's wives. Umm Salamah. according to still others.the fastingmen and the fastingwomen. no doubt. had to shoulder the domestic burdens of a Martha even though some among them yearned for the spiritual privileges of a Mary--came to Mohammed and complained that the men were outstripping them in the knowledge of the teachings of the Prophet. 144 f. according to others. the enduringmen and the enduring women. the women had raised the question that. 1846-48). The Qur'~n (Edinburgh. it was his wife. Her next husband was the wealthy and honored cAbd al-Rahmmnn cAwf. it was the women in general. To show that the new faith did not discriminate against the feminine sex. 12 The translation is that of Richard Bell. As for the colorful Umm Kulthiam.

3 on the same page read "under one reciter" instead of "for one recitation.14 they listened to Mohammed's public discourses. She begged permission of Mohammed to accompany the Moslems to Badr so as to minister to the wounded and to court ahi ed. A. They yield no single instance where a woman is known to have acted as imdm in a mosque. 504. Ibn IIanbal. and IV. who prayed over Sukainah but a man. when in reality it was not a woman. p. pray over the dead. 4) has overlooked authentic cases of this kind at the same time that she has been misled. 63. like the men. VI. they could. Umm Waraqahl6 appears to have been an early convert genuinely interested in and devoted to the new faith.. into citing the case of Sukainah bint al-Husain as a unique one. 13Bukhiri.. 1805. both men and women. 302. Umm Kulthfim. Mohammed obliged them. they participated in the religious services on feast days. 90. VIII. it will be readily noticed. cit. who present us with more than one outstanding woman. 38.13 Whether the above incident is reliable or not. they memorized and recited his revelations. Krehl (4 vols. 1313). 169.-5 and they went on the pilgrimages. They record only one instance of a woman acting as imam for the members.. n. are such as any member of the congregation may passively share. I. In her n. Shaibah ibn Na~lh. very scanty. of her household. including the warrior Umm cUmarah. 68-70. 15Ibn Sacd. Abil Nucaim. Tabari. Musnad (Cairo. Was she allowed to fill all or any of the public offices associated with the new religious life? Could she be the imam and lead a congregation in prayer? Could she be a khatibah or wdcizah and preach to or exhort the congregation? Could she be a mu adhdhinah and give the public call to prayer? References in the earlier traditions to these matters are." 16 Ibn Sacd. VI. partly by faulty print in Ibn Sacd's text. 335. the meeting took place. As usual. they acquired as their private possession written portions of the sacred text. Leyden. I. I.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 111 they could catch up with the men. These privileges. 430. 1862-1908). 249. The crucial test of woman's real position is to be looked for in the field of active leadership. but we know little of what he taught them. 46f. on the whole. 112. there are other sufficient indications that Mohammed generally took for granted and sanctioned the public participation of women in the religious life of the new Moslem community. Ibn Hanbal. 247. They attended the mosque. h.H. This was the Khazrajite Umm Waraqah bint cAbd Allah of the Banfi al-Najjar. Stern (op. 14Bukhiri. II. .

who deny the right of a woman to be an imdm for a mixed group17in public or in private. The surprise implied in her counterquestion seems to indicate that.""8 It is not known if this episode took place before or after Mohammed's marriage to Umm Salamah in the year 4/626. this was a new idea. let alone as the wife 17 E. is that then good and righteous?" "Yes. 98. .." She is one of the few women mentioned to have "collected the Qur'in. cf. Majmi~cat-Fiqh. 43.112 OF STUDIES JOURNAL NEAR EASTERN martyrdom. "Did you then not act as imam for them?" "0 Messenger of Allah. the members of which must have been numerous. M~wardi. also Ibn Sa'd 18 Zaid ibn 'Ali. The most interesting and instructive case relates to Umm Salamah. 213. 356. Mohammed asked: "0 Umm Salamah. p. Stand in their midst so that they' are neither in front nor behind you. 299. The full story comes to us from the Shicite jurist Zaid (d. A few instances are mentioned in which a woman acted as imam for the women members only of her household. 1919). so far as we know. Neither do the later jurists. which prayer are you offering?" "The prescribed one. that she had memorized Mohammed's revelations. since she had her own mu adhdhin to call them to prayer. and Stern. seeing a group of women praying aside. Mohammed and cAll one day visited Umm Salamah. VIII. for her at least. No reason whatsoever is given for the strange but specific statement that Mohammed commanded (not requested) her to be the imam of her household. 1915). and. op. as a few other women-including Aishah and H. unique case of Umm Waraqah." she answered. Ahkdm al-Sultdniyah of the same (Alger. p.g. This in turn would indicate that the episode preceded that of Mohammed's command to Umm Waraqah to act as imam for her household. it does not necessarily exclude the possibility that she had also a written collection of portions of it. p. since it is not likely that Umm Salamah. Griffini (Milan. p. cit. originating with the last mentioned and transmitted in this unbroken isnad to Zaid. for which reason Mohammed thereafter called her the shahidah or "martyress. 1298). and Fagnan's translation ed. (Cairo. primarily. but to your right and your left." Although this means.afsahwere said to have had.. 122/740) ibn cAll ibn JHusainibn cAli. even as an ordinary member of the new community. attempt to explain this.

Moreover. other hand. Mohammed was disposed. until the distracted prophet threatened his harem with mass divorce. the number of Mohammed's wives increased rapidly.g. in the earlier years at Madinah. and I Tim. even if Mohammed did indeed have so progressive a disposition to begin with.. It would seem to indicate that. since her services were for a larger household with its members of both sexes. with Umm Waraqah and her mu adhdhin he provided for a woman imdm in a more "official" capacity. For there is no denying the fact that a change in Mohammed's relations and attitudes toward women had overtaken him in his last years. e. the probability that the Umm Salamah episode came first opens up a tantalizing line of thought. had Mohammed taken these steps. Though one cannot be sure of the relative dates of these two events. after all. as occasion arose.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 113 of Mohammed. and his domestic troubles multiplied in proportion. It is more evident in the chain of events leading up to his marriage in the year 5/627 to his cousin Zainab bint Jalhsh. private and public. The change is perhaps dimly foreshadowed in his persistent courtship of the beautiful but seemingly none too eager Umm Salamah. 19 Cf. For. was familiar with the public functions of a kahinah and a rabbat al-bait. 14:34 f. . to take a series of progressive steps which. if uninterrupted. and a land that was. The resulting scandal was the immediate occasion for the first step in the direction of seclusion of women in Islam.19 It is useless to speculate too much on these questions. Would he not. he would have been far more progressive than Paul on the parallel question of the Christian women in the churches. here and in the hereafter. Thereafter. soon to bring the prophetess SajAh. the great probability is that it would not have gone on uninterrupted. have gone further and "ordered" a woman imdm at least for the women in the public mosque? Would such a step have been so impossible in a land that. then. to the fore? On the furthermore. 2:8-12. would not have known of the function of Umm Waraqah as imam. I Cor. divorced wife of his adopted son Zaid. might have led to the complete equality of women and men in matters religious.. Such goingson were not conducive to the dignity and cause of women. With Umm Salamah he initiated the woman imam for the women of the immediate household.

even if he dared. p. he did. Bukhiri. But he was not the man to accept the case of Umm Waraqah as a precedent to be followed. for cUmar's general harshness to the fair sex. III. took to task. 303. the next best thing.21as. VIII. 299. 131-39. since she was not one to let a rival wife get ahead of her in any way. Ibn Sacd. and Aishah is definitely known to have so functioned after Mohammed's death. 85 f. Abii Bakr and cUmar ibn threw in their weight against their daughters.athmah whom he apparently held separate services in the mosque. 275 f. Sulaiwas appointed as the imam for the women. IV. V. op.. cit. III. . nor was he one to relish the free appearance of the women in the mosques. He tried. and Stern. Ibn IIanbal. 21 22 23 Ibn Sacd. and IV. He urged Mohammed to set a good example by stern action lest the women of Islam. 16 f. from his point of view. Stern. already inclined to follow in the footsteps of the more independent women of Madinah. Umm Salamah most probably continued to be the imam for her women. He segregated the sexes and appointed a separate imam for each. went even further. whom they al-Khatt. she did also before it.114 OF JOURNAL NEAREASTERN STUDIES as each major harem occasion developed. for better or for worse.22 Since he could not prevent the women's appearance in the mosques. cit. 148. Umm Waraqah continued to enjoy her privilege until her death in his reign. in all probability.. The decade-long reign of cUmar provided that believer in male superiority with the opportunity to use his great influence in the direction of restricting woman's participation in public worship. Ibn Sacd.. for man ibn Abi IH. who could not seriously endure any insubordination in his own harem. to limit the women to praying at home.."2 Ghost of Prince Memucan crying out to Ahasuerus the king against the example of Vashti the queen! The reign of Abfi Bakr al-Saddiq was too short and the character of the man too faithful to allow any change. short of a direct command. VIII. 686 f.g. op. in the religious status of women. The harsh and forceful cUmar. but he met opposition at the hands of his own son and effective resistance from his wife.23 20 E. See also Ibn Sacd.. p.b. 355. 7. and cIqd. VIII.. IQabah. 140. II. to revoke a privilege specifically granted by Mohammed to any or all of these women. who were also his fathers-in-law. should stand up successfully against their husbands. In these instances cUmar may not have felt justified. 442-45. Mohammed's most trusted counselors.

Abii Nucaim. This and the fact that cUmar ibn was opposed to public participaal-Khatt. partly because of some personal episodes in his life. op. There must have been some opposition to this. 26 Cf.26The traditions speak. and easygoing caliph in whose reign (23-35/644-56) the women regained some of their lost position. that even if Mohammed was. 301. when mentioned by the sources. Tabari. Ibn Sacd. p. 296. of two secret night meetings known as the First and the Second Night of cAqabah. Ibn Hish'm. aside from a preliminary meeting. but they were carefully secluded on the way and guarded by cAbd al-Rahmnin ibn cAwf and cUthman ibn cAffin. II. V. . cit. but the women formed a separate group and were held back in the inclosure until all the men had departed. disposed to allow active religious leadership among the women. The actual number of these meetings has been questioned from time to time. appear only in connection with the Second Night. 5. too. VIII. We turn next to the consideration of woman's political activity in the new Moslem state. for he revoked the restriction in the last year of his reign.. Mohammed's wives made the journey in his company. aged. the most recent investigation leads 24 Ibid. 300. with his wives setting the example.. He set a powerful example by forbidding Mohammed's widows to make the pilgrimage. in the secret alliance of cAqabah. cUmar curtailed the freedom of the women. 17. 298.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 115 In the matter of the pilgrimage. 1219.25 We see. I. he initiated the principle and practice of seclusion. 305. therefore. Stern.24 The latter was the succeeding. Umm cUmdrah and Umm Manic. 25Ibid. later. 312 f. Our first problem is to ascertain the nature and significance of the part played by the two women of Madinah.. The two women. 150 f. Not only did he continue to allow the Mothers of the Believers to go on the pilgrimage but he actually undid cUmar's efforts in the matter of separate services and imam's for the women. cf. Men and women met together once again in public worship.. pp.b tion by the women crystallized in the period under consideration the Moslem woman's orthodox position into one of passivity and submissiveness comparable to that already imposed on the women of her Jewish and Christian neighbors. VIII. at first. 64.

that the "women's oath" was administered to both the men and the women. will not commitadultery. there would be no point to Mohammed's acceptance of anything short of what he most needed and desired at that time-namely.accept their allegianceand ask Allah to forgivethem-Allah is forgiving. called the women of Khatt. the women naturally being generally exempt from front-rank war service." Le Monde oriental. and that the men alone took the additional pledge to fight for the new cause. 17-58. and for a full survey of the sources in- . Furthermore. when believing women come to thee offeringthee allegianceon the basis that they will not associateanythingwith Allah. The probabilities seem to be that there was one important treaty meeting at cAqabah attended by several leading men of Madinah and our two women. cUmar ibn alacting as Mohammed's representative.28 When the Hijrah or Flight was accomplished and Mohammed was safely settled in Madinah. indeed.compassionate. It is to be remembered that Mohammed approached the Madinans in both a religious and a political capacity and at a time when he needed powerful and tangible protection against the growing and dangerous hostility of the Makkans. and will not oppose thee in anything reputable. since slightly different versions are met with.will not producea scandalwhich they have devisedbetweentheir hands and feet. for associated with the meeting(s) of cAqabah is the persistent appearance of the "women's oath. for this and the following statement volved. and it would be strange. but eventually it crystallized into S-irah 60:12." even in the accounts where no specific mention of the women is made.116 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES to the suggestion that there was but one. a defensive alliance. if there was only one treaty-making and oath-taking meeting at cAqabah. will not steal.will not kill their children.b. the women again figured collectively and individually in the taking of the oath of allegiance. 574. We have no parallel to this "women's oath" before Mohammed. M6lamrde. XXVIII. if such an oath was initiated without reference to the women or administered first to men only. "The Meetings at al-cAkaba. which reads: O thou prophet. 27Gertrud (1934). 28 Cf. II. What the actual wording of these oaths was is difficult to say. Qur'dn. Bell."7 In that case the aggressive women of Madinah were present at the very first definite politicoreligious alliance made by Mohammed. that these concluded a defensive alliance with Mohammed.

AJSL. and individual ones. (1941). therefore. 276 f. a3 Ibn HIanbal.. p. veteran of many a battle. the wife of Abfi Sufyan. . VIII. However. 254. she exclaimed.32 Now the Pledge of the Tree H. rushed in among the ranks and fought side by side with their men. cf. in the excitement of the battle. foremost of such women. to the leading women of that city. Wensinck. yet there are. 30 Cf. Iqdbah. though the Moslem women were specifically exempt from military service. 1882). while small groups of women. some warring Amazons among them. LVIII 2 ff. 18 f. nevertheless. after the conquest of Makkah.. These volunteered their services and. 327 f. 222. were called upon to promise not to flee the battle but to fight. 936 f. pp. Though her biographies do not specify that she actually took the pledge. 1927). that the women as a body would be called on to take such an oath. It does not seem. seizing a tent pole in one hand and placing a knife in her girdle with the other. also Ibn Sacd. and one of the two women participants in the Pledge of cAqabah. when they accompanied Hind. VIII. Wellhausen VIII. in connection with this particular occasion. 574. IV. according to most sources. Umm cUmdrah. if need be. 71. 34Waqidi. "I hope to kill anyone that comes near me!"34 She and women of her caliber may well have volunteered to take this pledge. was present at the Pledge of the Tree. ("Allegiance-Women"). VI. unto death. acting on their own initiative thereafter. 75. cf. IV.udaibiyah. of Early Muhammadan Traditions 31Ibn Sacd.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 117 Madinah together and administered the oath.33there were. 32 Ibn Sacd. traditions in which she herself relates how. 165 f.30 A few traditions imply that some of the women took the Pledge of the Tree at Two such are mentioned by name-Rabic bint Mucawwadh31and Umm Farwah. (Berlin. A Handbook (Leiden. 79. Many are the contradictory yet interesting traditions that concern 29 Ibn Sacd. on that memorable occasion. was taken in anticipation of expected military action between Mohammed and the Quraish and was intended primarily to strengthen the morale of the fighters who. approached Mohammed and tendered their allegiance. VIII. as we shall presently see. Kitdb al-Maghdzi. 301-4.29 We have related elsewhere the administration of the oath of allegiance. Iqdbah. trans.

Igqbah. in the battles of Islam is in itself significant of their independent position. II. 806 f. she received many a wound and proudly displayed her battle scars. The participation of Arab women. and these usually shook hands with Mohammed.35 Not even a casual reader can escape the conviction that the strained effort to credit Mohammed with the determination not to touch the hands of the women reflects the spirit not of the first but of the third century of Islam. acting for Mohammed. killing no less than seven (sic!) Byzantine soldiers. Ibn Hishim. p. Khdlid ibn Sacid ibn al-c•A. .g. 57. VIII. But no such cover is mentioned in connection with the oath that cUmar. 35E. these women's oaths. is supposed to have administered soon after the arrival at Madinah.38 The poetess al-Khansd and Salmah. 36Ibn Sacd.36 Umm Sulaim. 38 Ibn Sacd. IV. 927-29. 118. Armed with man's weapons. Abui Nucaim. she fought side by side with her husband and sons in defense of Mohammed. armed herself with a dagger and went into action at Uhud and Hunain. The dipping of the hands into a common bowl. Waqidi. Eventually she suffered the loss of a hand in the famous Battle of cAqrabah in the reign of Abi Bakr.37 When the Makhzfimite Umm Hakim received news of the fall of her one-day bridegroom. 191. 301-4. mother of Anas ibn Malik. and cUmar. Both methods were used by Mohammed in accepting the women's allegiance. The handshake was a customary way of concluding an agreement. 310 f. she wrenched up the tent pole and rushed out to avenge him. though in the case of the handshake the traditions hasten to add that Mohammed covered his hand first with a cloth. widow of Muthanna and wife of the commanding general Sacd ibn Abi Waqqas.. singly or in groups. as we have seen. was not a man to be more liberal than Mohammed in his outlook on any phase of contact with women. was also used. VIII. 573. as it were. p. 37 Ibn Sacd. filled usually with water. p. Outstanding among the women at the Battle of Uhiud was Umm cUmarah. Instances of such participation can be found literally by the dozens. VIII.. Ibn Sacd.. 246. at Marj al-Saffar. 1-6. VIII. The probabilities are that at cAqabah and in the earlier years at Madinah such women as took the oath did so in the same manner as the men. Futfth.118 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES the manner in which Mohammed concluded and sealed. Present at almost every major battle in the few years that followed.

where the poetry of the one and the taunts and schemes of the other produced dramatically heroic action on the part of their men. 40 pp. 43 Ibn Hish-im. in the field of active public leadership. In vain do we look for an accredited woman counselor and adviser or for a woman deputy. Women fought in the armies of both cAli and Mucawiyah in the Battle of Suffin. Annali.. 122. Das islamische Fremdenrecht ("Beitrtige zum Rechts und Wirtschaftsleben des islamischen Orients. I. p. Futhii. .39 We have mentioned elsewhere Hind's characteristic leadership of the women at the Battle of Yarmtik. Geog. marching in martial array. The Caliphate . cf. p. Qalqashandi. Weir (Edinburgh.. 135. Geog.40 Much in the same fashion. 44 Bukhari. Subh al-ACshd (Cairo. Muir.44is recognized by all orthodox jurists. However. cf. Azdah bint wife of cUtbah ibn Ghazwan. I. 63. III. as was perhaps to be expected. 255-58. either to or from Mohammed. who. 1913-19). 42 CIqd. here as in the case of their religious participation. are. al-.. I. We read only of the Tamimite Qailah bint Makhramah. p. She could grant aman or asylum to peacetime fugitives and to enemy refugees and thereby afford them full protection.. less encouraging than those arrived at in the case of religious leadership. (1941).. 336." Vol. definitely conceded by Mohammed to his daughter Zainab43and to Umm HanI. 248-54. p. LVIII IV. p. 551 and 636.41 Aishah's role at the Battle of the Camel forces one to recall the cult of the Lady of Victory. leader of the expedition against the seaport of Ubullah at the head of the Persian Gulf.42 The Moslem woman's independent position is reflected in still another phase of strife and warfare.HJrith. led the woman's battalion. The results. 469. for purely personal reasons. carrying banners and creating the impression of a large Moslem host. 1915). I [Hanover. ed. Isdbah. 20.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 119 were present at Qadisiyah. This right. AJSL. Ibn Sacd. 158 f. Caetani. Yaqiit. 277. 1925]). III. I. 45Willi Heffening. II. 640. 343. 862. wished to see Mohammed and managed to accom39 Futish. the real test of the fulness of their political liberty and participation must be looked for. 41 Futu•h.. Yiiqit. 296.45 The evidence so far would seem to indicate that Mohammed recognized the women as free and participating citizens of the new and militant state. II. so far as the traditions go. 696.

Realizing that Mohammed was about to dispose of some pasture lands that belonged to her tribe. see what commandsthou wilt give. pro or con. who display all confidence in her and place themselves at her command: She said: "0 ye nobles. and Suyiiti. Tafsir. Isabah. IV. The story is that when Mohammed. 66. She is described as a woman well endowed with "everything. 12. 47 E.47 She is credited with having a mighty throne. we find there no specific pronouncement.. Nawawl. she spoke on that tribe's behalf in effective protest. 293 f. 56-58. It is.g. Baidmiwi. 46. op. cit."48 The revelation of the story is generally assigned to the Makkan or early Madinan period and may. indicate that. 366 f. She is represented in true democratic council with her nobles.. who watched with keen interest the fatal struggle between Byzantium and Persia.. Bell.. highly improbable that he is responsible for any or all of the different versions of a tradition accredited to him-a tradition that was invoked for the first time in connection with Aishah's leadership in the civil war against cAll. .I am not in the habit of resolvingan affairuntil ye are presentwith me. 137 f. therefore. In the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba-the only Qur anic reference to a woman exercising supreme political power in her own right-no fault is found with the queen on political grounds.4" Turning to the Qur dn. Dict.the affairis in thy hands. heard that a woman sat on the Persian throne. he had no definite intention of categorically disqualifying all women for state service and condemning any or all of their efforts in that direction.120 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES pany the deputation of the Banfi Bakr ibn WBiil. cf.give me an opinionin my affair." They said: "Wehave strengthand fiercewarlikespirit. everything needed for the good government of her kingdom. cf. 828. Stern. 48 Sirah 27:32 f. II. 228. II. before personal reasons led Mohammed to seclude his women. 753 ff." that is. CIqd. cf. concerning the eligibility of woman for political service.. Biog. pp. II. but she is found wanting because of her false faith. therefore. and VIII. p. where she is described as the viceregent (khalifah) of Solomon.. I. he made the statement that a people who place a woman over their affairs are un46 For her full story see Ibn Sacd. on which she presumably sat while conducting state affairs of prime importance.

s E. 141.. first. Mohammed. cf. Tor Andrae. 1903). second.anbal. For.50 Others again-and they are in the majority-believe with the traditionists that she was a respectable widow or a divorcee-a status that carried no moral stigma-engaged in an independent and lucrative trade. Western scholars. 23 f. delving into a mass of frequently contradictory and sometimes legendary materials bearing on Khadijah bint Khuwailid-the first and for a quarter of a century the only wife of Mohammed-have given us varying estimates of her social status and moral character at the time when she first entered into the young Mohammed's life as his successful but middle-aged employer. and an honorable member of the merchant aristocracy of Makkah. 1936). It was her timely initiative that brought confirmation of this call from her cousin Waraqah. 255. p. Ibn H. It was her quick perception that recognized the first signs of his prophetic call. with Khadijah and.. from frequent contracts of a loose form of marriage current in the Arabia of her day as from her trading activities. They are unanimous in crediting her with insight into Mohammed's character beyond any displayed by his companions.. I. we must look closer into his relationship. Smith. The traditions are replete with high praise for Khadijah as woman and wife. but see Caetani. trans. Bukhirl... pp. Robertson pp. . seems to be nearer the truth. Life. it was her wealth that gave Mohammed leisure for spiritual contemplation. V. 120 f. (London.. 2. . Buhl. pp.49 It is this statement that is made the basis of political discrimination against the Moslem woman. 52 f. Menzel (New York. trans. Kingship and Marriage in Early Arabia Handbook . in truth. 289 f. n. Das Leben Muhammeds.5' The second picture of Khadijah. with some of the gloss of later traditionists removed and viewed in the light of her long and faithful life with Mohammed.. 1930). 50 W. Wensinck.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 121 fortunate or unhappy or do not prosper. 38. Some believe that the wealthy woman had no social status to speak of and that she profited as much..g. Schaeder (Leipzig. 43.. with the more aggressive and influential members of his subsequent harem. 376 f. IV.g.. 28. if not more. 118 and n. Muir. To get further light on Mohammed's generally tolerant attitude toward women as open participators in or private advisers on public affairs. It was as much her 49 E. p.

and supported him. tender devotion. resolute action. The pious Moslem sees in Khadijah a noble woman of sound judgment. 155 f. 151/768) refers to her as wazir sidq. whom she gently comforted and wisely counseled to the last of her days. Finally. but he had recourse unto her. a term associated with Mohammed's first right-hand man. and her memory he long tenderly cherished. cf. that the young and vivacious Aishah. Her name was often on his lips-so often. pp. Abfi generally Bakr. reassured. 52 Ibn Hish~m. and she comforted. LVI 53Ibn Hishlm. and unswerving faithfulness-Allah's special gift to Mohammed. Her death was one of the darkest periods of his life. By way of a thanksgiving for such a model of a wife he would now and again have a kid or a sheep slaughtered and distributed to the poor in honor of her memory.. p. a companion to steady and strengthen him and one to lighten his burden. Muir. . no accident that Ibn or IshIq (d. Thus was Allah minded to lighten the burden of his Prophet. indeed. Years after. best beloved though she was of all his living wives. Life. that steadied at every critical point the Prophet of Allah in his none too clear path of prophecy. It is therefore. 231-36. p. for wazir see Sprengling.122 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES favorable reaction to Gabriel's messages as anything that that Archangel did or said that convinced the perplexed Mohammed himself of his prophetic call. (1939). Her role is briefly and effectively stated in this simple tradition: "So Khadijah believed and attested the truth of that which came to Mohammed from Allah. for he heard nothing that grieved him touching his rejection by the people. It was always to her that he first turned in moments of inner doubt and periods of public disdain and persecution. for translation. 277. perhaps. "5Y Mohammed himself was neither unaware nor unappreciative of his remarkable wife's influence on his home life and public career. it was her constant devotion to and faith in Mohammed. 55. who in a measure took up a share of Mohammed's burden where Khadijah at her death had dropped it. grew more jealous of his memory of a dead woman she had never seen than of his attention to any of her rivals in the flesh." AJSL. when Allah had raised him new burden-bearersin the persons of Abfi Bakr and cUmar and made clear the way of prophecy before him.52 faithful vizier. "From Persian to Arabic. the memory of Khadijah still lingered.

and trustworthy sharer of his spiritual struggles. XIII. Bukh-ri. "without the affection and faith of Khadijah." and drew on herself a quick rebuke from a displeased and agitated Mohammed. Caetani. 106.'5 For over and above these stands towering Khadijah's own dominant character and the fact of Mohammed's acceptance of her as his companion. in a general way. counselor. VI. Sprenger's estimate of her role in Islam is.anbal. indeed. she shared with me her wealth. lxxii. Leben. 227. III (Milan. 56E. n. therefore. Studi di storia oriental. p. She believed in me when I was rejected. when I was poor. Second. Muir. Life. 57Edward William Lane. and 154. Allah has not replaced her by a better. Sab4i (Cairo. who rushed to the defense of the departed Khadijah with. 22. It is equally futile to attempt to explain Khadijah's role.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 123 In a fit of jealousy she made reference to "that toothless old woman. 1879). and Allah granted me her children though withholding those of other women. 117 f.. in a specific way. 355. as a relic of ancient Arabian matriarchy56or."58 For it was only in his later years 54Ibn I.and third-century traditionists were not particularly disposed to glorify the women. Selections from the Kur-dn (London. An assumption that the later traditionists have glorified her character because of her unique relationship to Mohammed and her position in Islam would encounter some obstacles.. whom Allah had replaced with a better. III. when they called me a liar. 58 Sprenger. 541 f. Islam lost much of its purity and the Qur'in of its dignity. I. "Nay. Many an uncomplimentary tradition is recorded against Mohammed himself. as the motherly interest of an elderly wife in the career of her young husband. Mohammed would never have been a prophet. Caetani. since by then the seclusion and degradation of the Moslem women in general had advanced beyond anything known in the first decades of Islam.g. 251-55. I. His conclusion is that. . 55E. 1. she proclaimed me tiuthful. cf. p."54 On another occasion he paid her the utmost tribute by assigning to her the most honored position of being the First Lady of Islam in the here and the hereafter. 1914). and against his daughter Fdtimah. against several of his wives. 13. Isdbah. IV.g. and when death overtook her. and Tirmidhi.1 It would be futile to attempt to explain the unanimous verdict of the traditions in favor of Khadijah on any other basis than her true merit. 1931-34). not far from the truth.

and her party plunged the faithful into civil war. 63 Iqabdh. "but speak to no one. III.Hudaibiyah his followers who had but recently taken the Pledge of the Tree in confident anticipation of military victory over the Makkans. It is. 181. offer your sacrifice and have your own head shaved. Van Vloten (Leyden. ed. wisely accepted by Mohammed. when Mohammed ordered the men to shave their heads and to slaughter sacrificial animals in celebration of the peaceful settlement. when in the struggle between cAli and Mucdwiyah the latter's general. I. distracted by his own harem intrigues and influenced by the urgings of his male companions." she advised. one cannot with justice accuse him of thinking. II. 3100. Tabari. an ornamental article of furniture. 3451. Therefore. Tabari. 62Yacqfibi. acquiesced in his countrymen's generally unfavorable attitude toward the women. not without reason that she is famed not only for exceeding beauty but also for abundant intelligence.5 Lane. Jih. the force of example and afait accomplibrought the believers into line. that dispelled a political cloud that threatened to engulf the came as an anticlimax to prophet. II..Hijdz. II. so Bukhiri. not one of them moved to obey. 168.iz. Yacqiibi. I. of Aishah or Umm Salamah as nothing but a charming snare. and sound counsel.60 Later. marched a large force into the it was again Umm Salamah who advised peaceful submission. p. 1898). mature judgment. 276 f. cit. did . loc. or a pretty plaything. Aishah. she warned against strife and warfare while some of the other widows of Mohammed wept in vain when that other Mother of the Believers. Fatimah. 3113 f. 219. "Go out.59 It was Umm Salamah's ready and sound advice. IV. 61 cIqd. Even then. . 331. weak and colorless though she was when compared with the wise Umm Salamah or the aggressive Aishah. 888." Mohammed carried out her advice.124 OF JOURNAL NEAREASTERN STUDIES that Mohammed.. therefore.6' Still later. Busr. 209 f. II. Ibn Ijanbal.. IV. Presently. for instance.62. 326. The perplexed Mohammed entered Umm Salamah's tent and told her of the dangerous situation."6 The period of the first four caliphs affords us several other instances where the Arab woman was outspoken in her criticism or advice and free in her action. A second and third repetition of the command met with the same non-co-operation. The pacific Treaty of . Mahdsin. 231. Ibn al Athir. and the ceremonies were performed by all.

179 f. he promised his accusers "to appoint no one as amir or governor except him on whom the wives of the prophet and those of counsel among you have agreed. Within the Shicite world Prophet this Fdtimah. men. instructive as it is for later times. 4. he outlived. however. Iqdbah. Yet so inscrutable are the accidents of history that later politicoreligious developments were to secure for her the most enviable position in Islam. 1928). 68Yacqilbi. and mother of the next two. who nevertheless dared not themselves approach the caliph with their pleas to moderate his sternness. op. and their descendants alone. II. 3043. et filles de Mahomet (Rome. Her story. 69 Ansdb. Lammens. cit. 15 ff. Tor Andrae. Though daughter IHafsah was not always successful. and Lammens. 2. 183. wife of the first imam. Rdbica the Mystic (Cambridge. 195 f. to whom he wished to intrust his will nominating cAbd al-Ralhmqn ibn cAwf as his successor. VIII.WOMEN AND THE STATE IN EARLY ISLAM 125 nevertheless challenge Abti Bakr's claims and publicly denounce his unjust treatment of her in denying her her inheritance. placing her second only to her mother Khadlijahand far ahead of any of the Mothers of the Believers. 1912). 90. I. p. op. to whom he gave his parting instructions when death presently overtook him. widow of Mohammed and daughter of Abfi Sufydn. I. that the blood of the I. Ibn Sacd. 2128-30.64 She soon followed her father to the grave. daughter of the Prophet. for it was in the veins of her two sons.. enjoys an exalted position65 readily comparable to that accorded the Virgin Mary in Catholic Christianity. 286.. 67 Fdtima 65 Margaret Smith.68 Later. Tabari. Aishah 64 Cf.lasan continued to flow. II.."69 When his troubles increased and he was virtually a prisoner in his house. he did not overlook the executive abilities of Aishah. pp. IV. But. pp. whom. yet the stern cUmar was on occasion not too The proud to accept advice "even from a woman. if AbMiBakr ignored Fatimah.jabibah sought to aid him but was manhandled by the angry crowd. Umm H. when cUthmdn was accused of nepotism and misgovernment. 109-13.Hafeah. pp. a neglected and disillusioned woman.66 During the reign of cUmar the services of his daughter widow of Mohammed.. 138-40. Tabari. 66 Ibn Sacd. III. and Husain. does not really concern us here. . Cf. cIqd. cit. were utilized by some of the most outstanding . V.""'67 caliph cUthmin had the utmost confidence in Umm Habibah. 656. 556 f.

V."4 ORIENTAL INSTITUTE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO 70Tabari. cast its pleasingshadow. The episode of the Battle of the Camel (36/656) and Aishah's part in it showed there were many who were ready to follow the lead of a woman. Ansdb. Biog."7 In the meantime..hereappearto reflectas well the unionof Upper and LowerEgypt. 72YaCqfibi. II. 249. 303. 360 f.g. The designon ourcover. but she. who also was the daughter of Abil Sufyin. . 77.. 23. Thus this eclectricdesignbringsinto a harmonious whole many of the significantbut divergingpatternsof Near Eastern culture.is.-THE EDITORS.akam reign of cAll we find Aishah playing a major role in the civil war between him and her own candidates. cIqd. throughPalestine to cover the whole Near East in its flight.. and both decorative meaningful. Talhah and Zubair. from India to Crete. 65. VII. in the Marwin ibn al-HI. 71. expressed herself freely on the comparative merits of cAll and as her husband's counselors. cUthmin's young wife. De Slane (4 vols. one of the severest of his critics.71 Finally. trans.in art as in story. both of whom died late in the sixth decade of Islam.. It is fitting that it should gracethe coverof a journaldevoted to the study of the entire Near East. Dict. continued to the end to be consulted as authorities on the life and sayings of Mohammed.72 Ziydd himself was more than flattered with Aishah's tacit acknowledgment of his descent. Her defeat and consequent comparative retirement from public life was a setback for her in particular and for the Mothers of the Believers in general. Ndcilah. held aloof. V. 1843-71). Yet Mucdwiyah and his generation could not overlook them completely." typical of so the Landof the Two Rivers. VI. II. Ibn Khallikan.drawnafteran originalfoundin Syria." Aishah and Umm Salamah. Ibn Sacd. pp. we feel.emanating fromEgypt. IV. 273. Umm IHabibah. 73 Futflt. 311 f. The opposed"bull-men. When he wished to acknowledge Ziydd as his full brother. The tree sped of life.126 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES was next urged to exert her influence. 71Tabari. 2974-77. 74E. 3009-11. This and the following episodes will be detailed in a forthcoming biography of Aishah. he had to give thought to the reactions of his half-sister. symbol of the generativeforcesof nature. Paris.The wingedsun disk. I. Ibn IHIanbal. Ansdb.