Does Islam Prohibit Educating Women?

Muslim schoolgirls in class

The answer is no!

There is a gross misunderstanding in the West that, women in Islam are not allowed to seek education. The frenzy media most often show a poor village, in a Muslim country, where Muslim girls are not allowed to seek education. Then, they connect it to Islam. They portray that Islam is to blame for this. Critics need to stop mixing culture and religion together. A person who denies a female education, and the person is Muslim, does not represent Islamic teachings. Nowhere in the Quran or Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad p) is there any restriction on girls seeking education. Actually, I would challenge any Islamophobe to bring me one shred of evidence, either from the Quran or Hadith, where it restricts females from seeking education. Contrary to that, there are many evidences where females in Islam are actually encouraged to pursue education.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever goes out seeking knowledge, then he is in Allah’s cause until he returns.” Reference: Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2647 In-book reference: Book 41, Hadith 3 English translation : Vol. 1, Book 39, Hadith 2647

And

It was narrated that Anas bin Malik said: ‘Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim’ English reference: Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 224 Arabic reference: Book 1, Hadith 229 [1]

Notice, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ makes it clear that ‘it is a duty upon every Muslim’ to seek education, whether they be male or female, the Prophet ﷺ makes no distinction. Furthermore, let’s see what Muslim and non-Muslim scholarly sources say on this.

Dr. Eeqbal who is an expert on Islamic education, Dr. Eeqbal Hassim also runs his own consultancy, focusing on teacher professional development across Australia in the area of Muslim education. He holds a PhD in Islamic studies and a BA in Arabic and Indonesian studies from the University of Melbourne, he writes:

“Islam commands both males and females to be educated. A Hadith states, ‘Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim’. There is no evidence in the Qur’an and Sunna to prevent women from getting education; in fact, the texts do not distinguish between males and females on this issue. Prophet Muhammad also used to appoint a specific day each week to instruct Muslim women only on religion.” [2]

Christine Huda Dodge:

“Islam orders believers to seek knowledge, so parents have an obligation to educate their children, both boys and girls. Muhammad once said, ‘Seeking knowledge is mandatory on every Muslim, male and female.’ Unfortunately, some people stray from this clear advice, due to local culture and circumstances.
Religious education takes primary importance during a child’s early years, because it serves as the foundation for the building of all future knowledge. However, secular or practical education is also encouraged, particularly in areas where one can make a positive contribution to society.” [3]

Dr. Yushau Sodiq is an Associate Professor of Islamic and Religious Studies at TCU, he says:

“Seeking knowledge is a religious duty upon every Muslim, male and female. The primary goal of education in Islam is to know God and learn how to become a better a human being. Education is a religious duty and therefore its acquisition has always been a prime concern in Islam.” [4]

‘Encyclopaedia of Women in South Asia’ – Dr. (Mrs.) Sangh Mittra, and Dr. Bachchan Kumar:

The Qur’an and Hadiths of the Prophet both obligate Muslim men and women to acquire knowledge and education. It is a duty for every Muslim. For example, concerning knowledge and education the Qur’an Sura 35 verse 28 states: ‘Those truly fear Allah, among His servants, who have knowledge.’ Prophet’s Hadiths repeatedly emphasizes the acquirement of education and knowledge for every Muslim male and female. For example, one Hadith states that, ‘Seeking knowledge is a duty of every Muslim, man or woman.’ (Ayisha Lemu 1978:25). Another Hadith states, ‘Seek knowledge from the cradle to grave.’(1978:25).

Another Hadith states that, ‘The Father, if he educates his daughter well, will enter paradise.’ Yet another Hadith states that, ‘A mother is a school, if she is educated, then whole people are educated’ (1993:25).

In early of Islamic history there were many women scholars who had very significant roles in the Islamic World. For example, Ayisha, the Prophet’s wife was one of the most famous Muslim scholars. Not only was she very intelligent, she had an exceptional memory. That is why she was considered one of the most important sources of Hadith. It has been stated in some Islamic reports that the Prophet told the Muslims to go to Ayisha for guidance and learning of religious duties. The Prophet also told the Muslims to trust Ayisha’s teaching and guidance (Lemu 1978: 251). In the Islamic World, at the beginning of Islam, there were no restrictions or prohibitions toward women to seek knowledge and education. There were many women scholars in the fields of religion, literature, education, and medicine. For example, a woman named Nafisa who was related to Ali, the fourth Khalif, had a vast knowledge of and was an expert on the Hadiths of the Prophet. Many famous scholars of the time, such as Imam Shafiai would participate in Nafisa’s scholarly discourse and learn from her. [5]

‘The Islamic World and the West’, Scholar Christoph Marcinkowski:

“Educational institutions must develop life-long learning programs in order to process information and increase linkages with global markets. Practical skills, including computer literacy, become necessary for increasing productivity and meeting the demand requirements for skills. The Prophet says ‘To seek knowledge is a duty for every Muslim (male) and Muslimah (female)’. He also said ‘seek knowledge even as far as China’. This makes education in Islam compulsory as well as universal to include all members of the community without discrimination against people because of their gender, religion, colour and race.” [6]

We see clear evidences from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ teachings that, education is a must for females. There is no evidence anywhere in Islamic scripture (Quran or Hadith) which discourages or prohibits women from seeking education. The myth that has been spread around by Islamophobes that, somehow ‘Islam forbids women from seeking education’, is a total lie. Besides presenting the teachings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, I also provided Muslim and non-Muslim scholarly evidences that Islam actually encourages women to pursue education.

References:

[1] Although earlier scholars graded this hadith as weak, later scholars of Hadith said there are enough chains of narration to be strengthened to the level of hasan or sahih (authentic), a view which is stated by al-Mizzi, al-Iraqi, Ibn Hajr, al-Suyuti and al-Albani. [Kashf al-Khafa, no. 1665: Sahih al-Jami al-Saghir, no. 3913-4]. http://www.thereligionislam.com/islamicideology/scienceofhadith.htm
[2] Elementary Education and Motivation in Islam: Perspectives of Medieval Scholars 750 – 1400 CE [Copyright 2010] By Eeqbal Hassim
http://www.cambriapress.com/cambriapress.cfm?template=6&bid=405
[3] The Everything Understanding Islam Book: A Complete and Easy to Read Guide to Muslim beliefs, practices, traditions, and Culture By Christine Huda Dodge page 227
[4] An Insider’s Guide to Islam By Dr. Yushau Sodiq is an Associate Professor of Islamic and Religious Studies at TCU page 299
http://www.rel.tcu.edu/faculty_sodiq.asp
[5] Encyclopaedia of Women in South Asia: Afghanistan [Volume 4] by Dr. (Mrs.) Sangh Mittra, and Dr. Bachchan Kumar
[6] The Islamic World and the West: Managing Religious and Cultural Identities in the Age of Globalisation by Scholar Christoph Marcinkowski page 221 http://www.mei.edu/profile/christoph-marcinkowski

 

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