Wednesday, 17 Rajab 1428
THE QUR’AN AND THE RULE OF THE (MALE) IMAM
Qur’an has delivered a stern warning concerning the choice of a ruler:
“One day We shall call together all human beings with their Imam (i.e.,
ruler). . . “ (Qur’an, al-Isra, 17:71). The word Imam, when used in the
Qur’an as well as in everyday language, refers to the ruler who rules,
governs or leads. The Qur’an also uses the word Imam to mean a way or a
book which leads or guides. However, in the context of the Last Day and
of divine judgment over all of mankind, it would be irresponsible for
anyone to exclude the meaning of the ruler who rules, governs or leads
for the word Imam in the above verse of the Qur’an. Justice (as well as
elementary common sense) demands that a leader or ruler (who was
misguided or rightly-guided) should be brought along with his people
when they are to be judged by Allah Most High.
Allah Most High Himself chose an Imam for mankind when He declared to Abraham (peace be upon him): “I hereby appoint you as the Imam (leader) of mankind” (Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:124). When Abraham responded by querying whether Imams would also be divinely-appointed from within his progeny, Allah Most High confirmed such while dismissing the possibility that His covenant could ever include those (as in modern-day Israel) who are wicked in conduct (Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:124). Allah Most High then proceeded to appoint Imams, in the form of Prophets, from Abraham’s progeny. Among them were Isaac and his seed in Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon and Jesus, and Ishmael and his seed in Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon them all).
Finally, there is a prayer recorded in the Qur’an itself in which the believing men pray to Allah Most High as follows: “Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes and grant that we may be Imams (i.e., leaders and rulers) over the righteous” (Qur’an, al-Furqan, 25:74). In every instance in which the Qur’an has used the term Imam to mean ‘ruler’ who ‘rules’, ‘governs’ or ‘leads’, that Imam has always been male and never female.
Three times in history Allah Most High chose someone as His Messenger/Prophet and then ordained that that Prophet should establish a state and then rule over that state. David and Solomon ruled over the Holy State of Israel, while Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon them all) eventually ruled over a state from the city of Madina. In all three instances these divinely-appointed rulers were male and never female.
The Qur’an went on to declare that it was not only those Prophets (David, Solomon and Muhammad – peace be upon them all) who ruled over the state who were men but rather, that all the Prophets/Messengers of Allah Most High (124,000 in all) were all, without exception, men: “Nor did We send before thee (as Messengers) any but men whom We did inspire (men who lived amongst people) in human habitations (Qur’an, Yusuf, 12:109; al-Nahl 16:43; al-Anbiyah, 21:7).
There is a very clear implication in the divine choice of men, 124,000 times in all, and never even once a woman, as divinely-appointed Prophets and Messengers. This implication is further confirmed in the divine choice of the masculine gender (and not feminine) for pronouns that refer to ‘Him’, even though ‘He’, Allah, is neither male nor female. The names of angels are all masculine, even though they are neither male nor female. The Qur’an has denounced those who gave feminine names to the angels: “Those who believe not in the Hereafter name the angels with female names” (Qur’an, al-Najm, 53:27). Finally, the Qur’an recognized that “women have rights similar to those exercised against them in an equitable manner”, but went on to declare that “men have a status or degree above them” (i.e., above women) (Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:228) and, in this connection, it further declared that “men are guardians over women” with responsibility to not only maintain but, also, to guard and protect them, thus making it obligatory for women to obey their male guardians (Qur’an, al-Nisa, 4:34).
SOLOMON AND THE RULE OF A WOMAN
The divine guidance on this matter was made even more explicit when the Qur’an narrated at length the event in which Solomon (peace be upon him) learnt to his surprise about a female ruler over the land of ‘Saba’ (Biblical Sheba), and that the people of Saba also worshiped the sun. Here is the narration:
“And he (Solomon) searched among the birds and said: How is it that I do not see the hoopee; is he (really) absent? Unless he provides me with a proper excuse (for his absence) I shall inflict on him severe punishment, or even slay him. (Readers should note that Solomon was taught the language of the birds and could thus converse with them.) But he (the bird) was not long in coming, and he said: I have discovered something of which you have no knowledge. I have come to you from (the land of) Saba with sure (and certain) information. Lo! I found a woman ruling over them, and she has an (abundance) of all things, and she (also) has a mighty throne. (But) I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah; and Satan made their conduct (i.e., worshipping the sun and choosing a woman to rule over them) to appear to them to be fair and proper, and thereby obstructed them from the way (of Truth), so that they do not go on the right (path): They do not worship Allah Who brings forth the hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what you conceal and what you make public. Allah; there is no God save Him, the Lord of the tremendous Throne.
(Solomon) said: We shall see whether you speak the truth (concerning the rule of a woman over Saba, and their worship of the sun) or whether you are a liar. Go with this my letter and deliver it to them; then turn away and see with what (answer) they respond.
(The Queen of Saba) said (when she received the letter): O chieftains! Lo! A noble letter has been delivered to me. Lo! it is from Solomon, and lo! it says: In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful; Do not attempt to resist me! Rather, come to me in (a state of) submission (to my authority)! She said: O chieftains! Advise me in this matter. I do not decide on matters until you are present with me (to advise me). They said: We are lords of might and lords of great prowess (and hence capable of resisting Solomon), but it is for you to take a decision (on the matter); so consider what you will command. She said: Lo! When Kings enter a township, they ruin it and reduce the honorable to a state of shame. That is how they act. Lo! I am going to send a present unto them, and to see with what (answer) the messengers return.
But when (the Queen’s envoy) came to Solomon (with expensive gifts), he said: What! Do you seek to further your cause (in the matter between us) with this wealth? That which Allah has given me is better than that which He gave you. Nay it is you (and not I) who exult in your gift. Return unto them (i.e., return to the Queen and take these gifts back with you). We verily shall come unto them with armed forces that they cannot resist, and we shall drive them out from that (land) with shame, and they will be abased.”
(Qur’an, al-Naml, 37:20-37)
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to even suggest that (Biblical) Sheba had committed, or was preparing to commit, aggression against Solomon’s Holy State of Israel, or had acted in any other way that could possibly have created a legal or even moral justification for war (causus bellum). Yet Solomon promptly wrote to the Queen with strict orders that she must not resist him but must come to him forthwith in a state of submission to him.
There were many lands not under Solomon’s control where people worshiped other than the One God. There is no evidence whatsoever that he acted in a similar way with the rulers of such territories. One also does not respond with war to a people who worship other than Allah. There is no wisdom at all in such conduct. Rather the divine guidance requires that people be invited to the truth with wisdom and with a graceful exhortation.
Nor did the Queen of Sheba dismiss Solomon’s letter with disrespect and arrogance. Rather she praised it as “noble” and sought to appease him with gifts. Yet he firmly rejected her very friendly response and delivered his declaration of war instead. He even went on to spell out the fearsome consequences of such war for Sheba. The very clear implication of this event has unfortunately been obscured by the growth of fairy tales. In fact, Solomon acted as he did because divine guidance did not for one moment tolerate the rule of a woman over society or the state. There is no other possible explanation for Solomon’s extraordinary conduct.
Those who, despite the divine guidance clearly represented in the above, choose a woman as their leader/ruler, would find themselves raised on the Last Day with their female leader, as they wait for judgment before the One God! They would be horrified to learn that in choosing a woman to rule over them, they committed the great sin of excluding Allah Most High from their decision in the matter: “And be not like those who forget Allah (by excluding Him from their affairs); and He made them (pay the price of) forgetting their own selves (i.e., their own human status). Such are a people (whose conduct is) very sinful (Qur’an al-Hashr, 59:18-20).
The above verse of the Qur’an (with our commentary in brackets) has delivered the mother of all warnings to those who forget their Lord-God by excluding Him from their decision in respect, for example, of matters such as the rule of a woman. They are a misguided people whose misguidance would eventually take them into the hellfire.
Modern Judeo-Christian Western civilization was the first to adopt today’s godless secularism which has excluded Allah Most High as supreme over everything. Political secularism declared the separation of politics from religion and in the process, dethroned Allah Most High as Sovereign. It replaced His Sovereignty with the sovereignty of the state, parliament and constitution. Having adopted secularism, the godless West then proceeded to export that secularism to the rest of the world (including Trinidad and Tobago).
It is blasphemous and hypocritical for a constitution that recognizes “the supremacy of God” to then proceed to proclaim: “This Constitution is the supreme law of Trinidad and Tobago, and any other law that is inconsistent with this Constitution (and such obviously includes God’s law) is void to the extent of its inconsistency.” Those who excluded Allah Most High as Sovereign and instead, accepted the sovereignty of the state and constitution, have a terrible surprise awaiting them on the Last Day. The Qur’an declared that Allah Most High would hold the whole world in His hands (as Mahalia Jackson once sang) and would then ask: “Who possesses sovereignty today?” The Qur’an then responded with: “It is Allah, the One, the Irresistible (who is Sovereign)” (Qur’an, al-Ghafir, 40:16).
And so, Islam has rejected such secularism and has insisted on recognition of Allah’s Sovereignty and Supreme Authority over the state and hence over the choice of leader/ruler of the state. Anyone who instead recognizes the sovereignty of the modern secular state, and dies with such in his record, would die with the biggest of all sins (Shirk) hanging around his neck - a sin that Allah has warned He would not forgive. Such a person would enter forthwith into the hellfire.
What should a believer in the One God do? The answer is we are permitted to reside in a secular state and while residing in that state, may support all that is good and oppose all that is evil. We must refrain, to the best of our ability, from all conduct that would bring Shirk upon ourselves. Prophet Muhammad acted in that way for 53 years of his life while he lived in pagan Makkah (prior to his flight to Madina). Prophet Joseph acted in that way even while serving in Egypt’s pagan government and Jesus, the Messiah, did the same while living under Roman rule in the Holy Land (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon them all).
Why, we may ask ourselves, did Allah Most High choose only men as His Prophets and Messengers? And why did Prophet Muhammad ordain two animals be sacrificed as thanksgiving for the birth of a baby boy, while only one was to be slaughtered for the birth of a baby girl. Also, why did the Prophet order men occupy the front rows of the Masjid, while women were to occupy the back rows of the Masjid behind the men, hence making it impossible for a woman to ever lead the men in prayer?
Let us first dismiss the notion that men are intellectually, morally or spiritually superior to women. Prophet Muhammad dismissed such falsehood with his declaration that mankind would be raised on the Last Day for judgment “as equal before Allah as are the teeth of a comb”. Indeed he recognized the status of ‘mother’ to be thrice superior to that of ‘father’, and declared that “paradise lies beneath your mother’s feet”.
Rather, the implication is clearly recorded in the declaration of Prophet Muhammad himself (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon him) when he learnt that the Persian people had chosen their Emperor’s as their new ruler. He declared: “No people would ever be successful who choose a woman to rule over them” (Bukhari, Nisai, Tirmidhi and Ahmad).
It can also be discerned in the conduct of the companions of the Prophet and their successors for as long as the Muslim world remained free from the control of today’s essentially godless Judeo-Christian European civilization. The ruler who ruled over the world of Islam, who was known as Amir al-Muminin, Khalifa or Imam, was always male and never female. Nor did Holy Israel ever have a woman as a ruler. It is only in the modern age and as a direct result of western pollution of Islamic civilization that the aberration of a woman’s rule over the political order has occurred in a few parts of the Muslim world.
It is important for us to note that the divine guidance has never wavered on the subject of the rule of the male in order to make allowance for any special circumstances that would permit the rule of a woman. Yet some scholars of Islam, particularly in the modern age in which a Euro-feminist revolution is sweeping the world, have found it expedient to argue that exceptional circumstances can permit the rule of a woman. What such scholars have unwittingly done is to open the way for the permanent rule of women over an upside-down world symbolized by the “sun rising from the West”.
The protagonists of this possibility cling hard to the example of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) who, they claim, either led, or joined with others in leading some men in battle against Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) in the Battle of the Camel. She was pursuing justice, or she was led to believe that she was acting justly in the wake of Uthman’s assassination, while Ali, in his wisdom, recognized that justice could not be enforced in a security vacuum. Hence he needed to first restore security to the society and stability to the state before he could enforce justice. It was this difference of views on the matter which led to rebellion against Ali’s authority.
But the consensus of opinion all through the ages is that Ali was the last of the four rightly-guided Khulafa (or Imams) who ruled over the Muslims after the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon him). It was therefore Aisha’s duty to submit to Ali’s authority. Her conduct in this matter does not establish a precedent that ought to be emulated.