Saturday, March 12, 2016

Contribution of women to the rise and development of Islamic civilization

Contribution of women to the rise and development of Islamic civilization

From the history of Islamic civilization, many people were given credits by their great contributions for the Islamic governments. Men and women apart played important roles in the Islamic civilization and their contributions have always been the topic of discussions even until today. According to the historians, especially most of the Western scholars viewed that women in the Islamic civilization were usually concealed, oppressed and often considered inferior to men. Women were considered not having any right to get involved in politics and their job was only to take care on their husbands and children. However, the truth appeared to be different from the accusations. In fact, women in the past have contributed in the matter of rise and development of the Islamic civilization.

Although men usually the ones inclined towards the political field rather than women, but still, women at that time also proved they did have some knowledge in political field. Their job were not only circulated around full submission towards their family, but they also learnt administration and managements, being medical supporters, involved in wars, and some of them proved their intellectual knowledge were not to be underestimate. These women who have contributed in those fields have represented that Islamic civilization did not left women behind or to acknowledge women’s contribution, but to picture their important roles as a part of this world.

Rights of women in Islam

Women in the ancient civilization were considered as the object of despised and they their presents were often pictured as unwanted. As from the history, they were treated with lack of humanity and equality.[1] They were humiliated and concealed for being born as a girl. Sadly, most of women in the ancient civilization were just taken as objects of entertainment and often used in prostitution serving their rulers. However, when Islam came, women’s standard of living was lifted into a better level. They were now saved from the previous tortures and humiliation, and they could enjoy their freedom and rights bestowed upon them. Women in Islamic civilization could participate in many ways for the good of the civilization by preaching Islam and their knowledge to the people.[2] 

Men and Women’s right according to Shari’ah

According to Shari’ah, men and women alike were given rights to preserve these five basic qualities:-
·         i. Faith,
·       ii.   Life,
·       iii.  Properties,
·        iv.  Education, and
·         v. Family.

In Islam, all women were given rights to live their lives alongside with men. They must be treated with justice, and they were free to choose their path, as long as it does not opposite to Shari’ah. They should be given opportunity to serve in the administration with required knowledge and skills, not by judging them based on their gender. Besides, it was wrong to only let men learnt and equipped themselves with proper knowledge. Women are also important to be educated as women are soon to be mothers, and they could use their knowledge to educate their children.

Women’s special rights

To indicate that Islam really stress on the preservation of the women’s rights and life standard, women were also be granted with some special rights based on their nature as being a woman. These special rights were only being granted upon women, not on men because of the opposite nature among the two genders.
Among the special rights for women are:-
·         Rights being a mother,
·         A sister,
·         A daughter,
·         A wife,
·         A widow, and
·         A woman neighbor.

Women in the Time of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w and Khulafa’ al-Rashidun

During the time of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, Islam sparked its expansion in the Arab world. When it was the time before Islam, women were living in such a secluded life and were given a little right for themselves. Even small girls would be buried alive because their birth was considered as a disgrace towards the family. After Islam came, this practice was ended and the people were taught that men and women alike should be treated with justice. Women were given the rights to inherit properties, in marriage and also in social matters. And they was also Quranic verse that has been revealed stated, “…And live with them in kindness...” (Surah Al-Nisa’:19). The Prophet s.a.w mentioned that one of the signs that a man of perfect believer is that he treats his woman or wife in a good way. The way he treats his wife would be reflection to his character, which in turn to be reflection to his iman.

Women after the time of Khulafa’ al-Rashidun

After the time of Khulafa’ al-Rashidun, Muslim world was facing the period of expansion. Islam was spread widely throughout the world reaching the non-Arabs countries like Persia and even reached the European countries. The life of the society started to change over this expansion because the people were now meeting various traditions and customs practiced by the people across the wide land. Therefore, the women’s standard was also varied from one country to another. Thus, when Islam came, it somehow lifted the condition of women’s living standard into a better level and slowly eroded from the local customs. Women were started to be treated more humanly and harsh treatments towards them were disabled.

During the time of Umayyad Caliphate in 661 century and onwards, women were given opportunities to contribute in wide range of areas, including politics, religious belief, intellectual field and others. Women could freely engaged themselves in learning and acquire knowledge; thus many women living in this period were learned women and they have a great knowledge on the important fields like law and jurisprudence, theology, medicine, literature, religious studies, and others. They also continued to write poetries, a tradition that has been started even long before the pre-Islamic era.

In the Abbasid Caliphate, women were treated with more dignity.[3] Women’s appearances were guarded to make sure they always appear to be modest and proper. This is all to preserve the women’s safety and well-being. Besides, a law has also been enacted in this era especially to guide all people that were living in the Caliphate, and to follow proper Islamic lifestyle adapted to the new surroundings. During Caliph al-Mansur time, he even ordered a separate bridge to be constructed over the Euphrates River especially for women. This act was actually to prevent harm towards women by making the separation between men and women.

Later, the status of women further developed in the time of Osmanli Caliphate. In this period, women were even managed to establish the Sultanate of Women. In fact, the women entitled haseki sultan (Sultan’s favourite concubine) and valide sultan (the queen or the Sultan’s mother) were known as women with the top ranks and have greater influence in the government. Although the establishment of this women sultanate somehow raised doubts into the Western historical thoughts whether their contributions gave negative or positive impacts to the Caliphate, however, it expressed that women really did contribute in the political administration. Harem at that time was not just the place of polygamy and women slaves. But, it became the place of where women have the opportunity to gain their power and influence. Most noble women that were living in the sultan’s harem managed to engage themselves with the affairs of the Caliphate.[4] They often influenced the sultan’s advisor in decision making, diplomacy, charity, architecture and others.

Some important Muslim women in history:

        i.            Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid

Khadijah was the wife of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Even before he married to the Prophet s.a.w, she was already a well known figure as a merchant in Makkah. With a background coming from an elite ruling family, she had the opportunity to get involved in the trade activities in the Arab society at that time. In fact, the Prophet s.a.w himself was the one of her helper in this trade activity before their marriage. Impressed by the Prophet s.a.w’s honesty and characters, Khadijah had made her decision to marry the Prophet s.a.w. [5]After their blessed marriage, when the Prophet s.a.w started to received revelations and preaching Islam, Khadijah supported and became one of the people who were first accepted Islam. Besides, he even helped to propagate Islam eventhough the Makkah society rejected to follow the teaching of the Prophet s.a.w.

      ii.            Nusaibah Bint Ka’ad Al-Ansariyah

Nusaibah Bint Ka’ab was also known as Ummu ‘Ammarah. She was the mother of Abdullah and Habib Ibn Zaid al-Ansari. In Islamic history, her named was engraved as a female warrior bravely fighting for Islam.[6] First, she was one of the 70 people who did the bai’ah to the Prophet s.a.w in the second Bai’ah Aqabah. In the Battle of Uhud (625 CE), Nusaibah alongside with the other women went to the battle field as nurses and to help in managing logistics, while her husband , Zaid her two sons fought with the other men. However, when the Muslim soldiers started to disobey the Prophet s.a.w’s order to not leaving the hill, and defeat became clearly resided to Muslims, Nusaibah grabbed a sword and a shield and ran into the battle field. She went to protect Prophet Muhammad s.a.w bravely and wounded severely. But she did not care of her wounded body and kept on protecting the Prophet s.a.w. After the Battle of Uhud, she also contributed in other important events like in Hudaibiyah, Battle of Khaibar, Hunain and Yamamah.

    iii.            Samra Bint Nuhaik

After the time of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, the government of Madinah was taken over by the four great Caliphs that usually known as the period of Khulafa’ al-Rashidun. In the time of Caliph Umar al-Khattab, he established several new departments of the government. Referring from the time of the Prophet s.a.w,  Caliph Umar made the role of muhtasib as an official position in the government of Madinah. Among all the muhtasib, there were also women who have been appointed to the position by the Caliph because of their character and knowledge. One of them is Samra Bint Nuhaik.[7] She was appointed as a muhtasib or the public inspector for markets in Madinah. Her job was to supervise any kind of executive and judicial issues in the markets and to punish traders that practiced unfair measurements in selling their goods. Besides, she was also responsible to take care of the public well-being and morality, as she involved in the maintenance of roads, the people’s healthcare, animals’ welfare, to control the trade of alcoholic drinks and the problem of indecent women.

    iv.            Al-Shifa Bint Abdullah

Al-Shifa Bint Abdullah was also one of the muhtasib that were appointed during Caliph Umar’s time.[8] Her real name was Laylah, but people gave her the nickname ‘Al-Shifa’ due to her ability in medical treatments. Although women were rarely taught reading and learning in the pre-Islamic era, al-Shifa proved to be one from the rare group, as she was an intelligent woman, equipped with skills particularly in trade matters and she was also taught how to read and write. So, in the time of Caliph Umar al-Khattab, she was appointed to be the market inspector to control the smooth flow of trading activities in the markets. At the same time, she was also responsible to preach her knowledge on medical and healthcare importance according to her great ability on the field. Furthermore, from her intellect and counseling skills, she was also believed to be the supervisor for Caliph Umar as he consulted her for opinions. As she was living since the time of the Prophet s.a.w, she was a companion to the Prophet s.a.w and she narrated many hadith along preaching her knowledge and abilities in various fields.

      v.            Rabi’ah al-Adawiyah al-Qaysiyyah

Rabi’ah al-Adawiyah al-Qaysiyyah, also known as Rabi’ah al-Basri was born in 713 century in Basra, Iraq. She was born into a poor but religious and pious family.
She was famously known as an Islamic philosopher and she had a large number of followers and students. Rabi’ah always stressed that all her deeds and practices were related to Allah and she should be living in a zuhud way (leaving worldly matters) in her life. She taught her students to not showing off their good deeds, and to cover them up like they were covering their bad deeds. This action shows the honesty and humbleness in doing the good deeds and prevents takabbur or riak. From her deep knowledge in theology and Sufism, she believed that the concept of mahabbah or love is really important in the relationship between humans. That was why she always emphasized her students to take care of relationship between human beings besides strengthen the relationship between oneself to Allah S.W.T.[9]

    vi.            Lubna of Cordoba

Lubna was born as a Spanish slave girl and was raised in the court of Sultan Abd al-Rahman III in the 10th century. By her background, she gained fame in the Andalusian court among all the elites. Lubna was very much being trusted by the Sultan, and she was given position as a secretary for the Sultan and his son, Hakam. Besides that, she was also entrusted to take care and gained access for the Sultan’s private library.[10] She was described as a woman of intelligence, she knew how to read and write, she produced poetries, expertise in literature, mathematics and also other sciences. When she was a scribe, she did not just write and translate all the texts, but she also provides commentaries and argumentations for the translated texts.

  vii.            Afife Nur Banu Sultana

Nur Banu was known as a great woman in her time influencing the “Sultanate of Women” in the Osmanli period. She was the mother of Sultan Murad III. As a valide sultan, she proved that she had influence to the Sultan, by being his advisor, contributed in diplomatic matters and other important matters. In fact, she was the one responsible to make sure Murad to be enthroned in the Sultanate safely. When Sultan Selim II died, the next successor would be her son, Murad. However, Murad was not living in Istanbul, because he was appointed to be the governor of Manisa previously. So, when the news of the death of Selim II reached Murad, he immediately rushed towards the capital. But, the journey consumed time. Thus, to maintain the condition in Istanbul from any dispute and to make sure her son made it to the throne, Nur Banu made a rather awkward but brilliant idea; that was to hide Selim’s body in ice while awaiting the arrival of his son to the capital. This shows the great determination of Nur Banu and her contribution in the political field. [11]

viii.            Raziya Sultana

Raziya was the daughter of Sultan Iltutmish of Delhi. She was enthroned into the rulership of Delhi after the killing of the previous Sultan, his brother and his mother. The killing of Ruknuddin Feroz Shah and his mother was due to the dissatisfaction of the nobles towards them. Ruknuddin was known by his overspending for entertainment and leisure abandoning the governmental affairs, while their hatred towards his mother due to her influence in the administrative office. However, after the killing of those two figures, they only have Raziya as the most capable person from the family of Sultan to be the ruler. So, she was appointed as a Sultana by her preoccupied political knowledge since she was small although it was against the local customs to make a woman as a leader. She proved to be a great leader when she installed a great affirmative system of administration. But, the nobles and the people did not like her because she was a woman and she was entitled as their ruler, dressed like a man and even led her army into the battlefield. [12]


To sum up, women were living in a better life standard since the arrival of Islam. Before Islam came, women were living in a backwardness and seclusion. This practice slowly eroded by the teaching of Islam. The women’s standard was lifted and they were given rights to attain knowledge, and to learn how to read and write. Women in the ancient time were prohibited from engaging in the public affairs and they were not allowed to voice out their opinions over political issues. But, it was changes with Islam. Women were given opportunities to engage themselves in various fields, they could freely contribute in the societal affairs and they could even express opinions on the rulers. Along with men, they made great contributions in various fields and educate all the people with Islamic knowledge and teachings. Although the status of women is still being argued until today, it is proved in history that women were living in a better life with Islam because many women managed to contribute in handling the Caliphate’s affairs to be compared from the previous era. Some of them were even responsible for making up the administration from the weak or poor Sultans. By using their intelligence and skills, those women in their times tried to maintain the stable Islamic caliphate and continued to preach Islam for the people.


Ali, Asghar. (2004). Rights of women in Islam. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.
Fletcher, R.A. (1992). Moorish Spain. California: University of California Press.
Gharib, Makmun. (2012). Rabiah al-Adawiyah. (Yunan Azkaruzzaman, Trans.). Jakarta:
            Serambi Ilmu Semesta. (Original work published N.A.).
Haylamaz, Resit. (2007). Khadija: The Muslim and the wife of the Prophet Muhammad.
            (Hulya Cosar, Trans.). New Jersey: The Light.(Original work published 2006).
Kallander, A. A. (2013). Women, gender and the palace households in Ottoman Tunisia.
            Texas: Texas University Press.
KH. Husein Muhammad. (2004). Islam agama ramah perempuan. Indonesia: Fahmina
Peirce, L.P. (1993). The imperial harem: Women and sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire.
            New York: Oxford University Press.
Raghavan, C. & Levine, J.P. (Eds.). (2012). Self-determination and women’s rights in
            Muslims societies. Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press.
Srivasta, G. (2003). The legend makers: Some eminent Muslim women in India. New Delhi:
            Concept Publishing Company.

[1] Ali, Asghar, Rights of women in Islam. (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers), 51.
[2] Raghavan, C. & Levine, J.P., Self-determination and women’s right in Muslims societies. (Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press), 284.
[3] Ali, Asghar, 96.
[4] Kallander, A. A., Women, gender and the palace households in Ottoman Tunisia. (Texas: University of Texas Press), 175.
[5] Haylamaz, Resit, Khadija: The first Muslim and the wife of the Prophet Muhammad. (New Jersey: The Light), 38-39.
[6] KH. Husein Muhammad, Islam agama ramah perempuan. (Indonesia: Fahmina Institue), 167.
[7] Mohammed Ali al-Bar & Hassan Chamsi Pasha, Contemporary bioethics: Islamic perspective. (Saudi: 2015), 29.
[8] Ibid, 29.
[9] Gharib, Makmun, Rabiah al-Adawiyah. (Jakarta: Serambi Ilmu Semesta), 33.
[10] Fletcher, R.A., Moorish Spain. (California: University of California Press), 70-71.
[11] Peirce, L.P. The imperial harem: Women and sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. (New York: Oxford University Press), 189-190.
[12] Srivastava, G., The legend makers: Some eminent Muslim women in India. (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company), 16-17.

By Keith Syakil, IIUM

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Reasons for the defeat of the Russian principalities by the Mongols in 1237-1240 and the advantages and disadvantages of living under Golden Horde for Russian states.

Reasons for the defeat of the Russian principalities by the Mongols in 1237-1240 and the advantages and disadvantages of living under Golden Horde for Russian states.

After conquering Bulghar Kingdom in 1236, the Mongols further invade the other Russian principalities and somehow they managed to complete their mission in only three years. Kiev was captured after only ten weeks of expeditions and followed by other cities.

                There are many reasons that helped the Mongols to gain success over the Russian principalities. At that time, the Russian principalities were not operating in a good condition due to their own internal problems. Some cities were governed by incapable rulers, whether the princes were enthroned too young of their age or the princes might be not mentally fitted for the position. Besides, there was also the problem of disputes among the princes who were fighting against each other to take over the rulership of their principalities.

                Another event that have been resulted with the winning of the Mongols was the disintegration of the Russian principalities. The Russian principalities at that time were not united under one centralized government. They were divided into many small kingdoms, ruled by their own rulers and princes. This situation helped the Mongols to win because the kingdoms were not united as when one city had been attacked, the other cities would just stand still without helping. So, one after one city managed to be captured by the Mongols easily.

                Moreover, by having the problem like the disintegration of the cities, it further gave another negative effect for the Russian kingdoms by not having a strong military forces to fight against the Mongols. As the military forces were divided according to the principalities, rulers could not gather a strong number of military forces against the Mongols. If the Russian kingdoms were united under one centralized government, a greater power of military armed forces might be possible to be produced. Besides that, the Russian military armed forces might also have not been well organized due to the weak leadership of their rulers who were not recognized as a capable ruler.

                Russian principalities started to be governed under the Golden Horde in the year 1240. Under the Golden Horde, the Russians were living in a better condition and they were allowed to practice their religion, no matter if they were Christians or Pagans. The rulers of Golden Horde, for example like Uzbek Khan, he allowed churches to be built in the cities of Golden Horde, even in the capital city of Sarai. The churches were even exempted from paying any tax and jizyah, but instead they were given lands and money to operate.

                Under the Golden Horde, the Russians have the opportunity to learn how to manage an administration in a better way. They learnt from the Muslims how to manage tax system, how to establish good military armed forces and others. Besides that, they were given opportunities to improve their knowledge in various fields in this period. Furthermore, the cities under the Golden Horde also flourished in trading sector as the Golden Horde made contacts with foreign countries and also many new cities were established mainly with the help of this sector.

                For the Russians, living under the Golden Horde seems not only giving them advantages. Under the rulership of Golden Horde, the Russian princes and nobilities could not establish their own strong independent rulership. For them, they might owned the title and opportunity to rule their own principalities, but they did not have chance to expand their power. That was why they always make attempts to detach themselves from the rulership of Golden Horde, which in later period they have made it successful with the establishment of Muscovy dynasty.

                Besides, they also faced problem from the rulers of Golden Horde especially during the early years of the period. The rulers of Golden Horde always created problems among the Russian rulers that would help them disunite the Russian princes and nobilities. This idea put the Russian rulers living in chaos and they did not manage to establish their strong power to fight against the rulership of Golden Horde. 

by KeithSyakil, IIUM.