When I became a wife and mother, my worth didn’t suddenly shift and depend on that.
And if I am no longer a wife or mother, I will still have purpose.
Allah, the One who created me, said:
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” 51: 56
This is my purpose. This is what I am supposed to do with my life. However, when we talk about Muslim women, it is usually in the context of her fulfilling her “purpose” of being a wife and mother. But what does this mean for the women who do not fit into either category?
Does it mean she is not fulfilling her purpose in life? Does it mean that she has no value? That she is worthless?
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was not a birth mother.
Maryam (may Allah be pleased with her) was not a wife.
And Asiyah (may Allah be pleased with her) was not a birth mother and her husband was Fir’aun.
Yet, these women are praised. Why?
“And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.”
And Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into (her garment) through Our angel, and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient.” 66:11
We need look no further than the incident of slander against Aisha to see an example of her unshakeable faith. When her parents told her the rumours and they had no other words for her, she said, “I cannot but repeat the words which the father of Prophet Joseph had spoken: ‘fa-sabrun jamil’: I will bear this patiently with good grace.”
And when the verses were revealed that declared her innocence, the first thing she said was, “Alhamdulilah.” She didn’t thank Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). She didn’t tell her parents: “I told you so!”
While it is indeed honourable to be a wife and a mother, it is problematic to single out these roles as thehonour of a woman. Once we do that, we’ve taken away her fundamental value that comes from her having faith (imân). This value that she has is independent from any role she may carry out.
“Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” 49:13
Allah says: “Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women,the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.”
What’s beautiful is that these are all characteristics, not roles!
And Allah says: ‘And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer- those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, (even as much as) the speck on a date seed.” 4:124
And “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to have a good life, and We will surely give them their reward (in the Hereafter) according to the best of what they used to do.” 16:97
So a Muslim woman is striving to please her Lord, even when fulfilling her roles as wife and mother. Her value is not placed in her servitude to her husband or her children, but to her Lord.
When we talk about men, we don’t say that they were created to take care of women and that’s it. So why do we tend to focus on the same for women?
We take a few hadith and the rest become irrelevant. We know the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged men to marry virgins, but looking at his (peace be upon him) example, we see that he married women who were not virgins. He (peace be upon him) didn’t see them as worthless.
When Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) explained why he married a previously married woman, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “You have done well.” (Bukhari)
And he (peace be upon him) said, “The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person, is like a warrior fighting for Allah’s Cause or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all the night.” (Bukhari)
What if we took some hadith about men and made them the criteria to judge a man’s worth?
“The best of you are those who are best to their wives, and I am the best of you to my wives.”(Tirmidhi)
So what if a man doesn’t have a wife? Does that make him worthless? Does that make him the worst of men? Of course not.
On what basis do you then judge him? The same way we should value the women –
“Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you (who has the most taqwa).” 49:13