Women: The Spiritual Masters of Islam

by britishmisk

Recently I went to a friend’s house where he invited Sheikh Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali to first of all perform a nikah, and afterwards was kind enough to stay with us and give us an intimate discourse in Islam regarding any questions we may have. The Sheikh like most orthodox Hanbalis, is an adherent of the Qadri Tariqa. I took it as an opportunity to ask him some questions regarding the Qadri path and there was one thing he mentioned, which I did not ask about but I found very profound. I am paraphrasing the following from memory, so I apologise for any mistakes:

“Women do not have a tariqa. They don’t need one. That’s because they are naturally inclined towards a higher spiritual level. If you look at the female companions around the Prophet (SAWS) and the questions they asked him, they were all questions based on fiqh, they didn’t ask about aqeedah, because they didn’t need to. All the great spiritual women of our history such as Rabia al-‘Adawiyah [al-Basri], they did not have a tariqa.

Afterwards I thought about what he said and it made a lot of sense.

The only hadith I am aware of in my limited knowledge of them, where a woman is involved in anything Aqeedah related was when the Prophet (SAWS) asked a woman “Where is Allah?” to which she replied “Above the Heavens”. If we take it in the context of what the Sheikh said, it has a much more profound and deeper meaning. Why did he (SAWS) ask the woman this? How did she know the answer? To this day male scholars have pondered over, studied, and interpreted this simple hadith that was spoken by a simple believer whose voice would echo through the ages.

It also made me reflect on the matriarchs of my family. My mother, her mother and her mother were all very similar with the regards to the vigour in their faith. Many of us will have mothers and grandmothers both here and back home who are always constantly praying and making dhikr of Allah, always reciting Qur’an, always making d’ua. This is despite the fact that they will most likely have never taken a formal class in religion, let alone give bayyah to a Sheikh. Ihsan comes to mothers naturally in their very nature of being a mother. One of the most spiritually uplifting and inspiring things Allah can place a person into has been reserved only for women.

Take it into the context of men who need to read volumes of books, go to numerous classes, listen to countless scholars, but never in any point in their life achieve the complete level their grandmother back in a village thousands of miles away has achieved.

I see this today even in our sisters in this country. Go to any Islamic bookshop you will nearly always find a humble sister in hijab looking for her next book to read. Go to any class the sisters will always have notes and pens ready to internalise what they’re learning. Even though she knows she doesn’t have to, she still goes to the Masjid to pray with the jama’a because her heart yearns to.

It makes you think, if it wasn’t obligatory for us, how many men would still go to the Masjid to pray?

And to Him is our return.