March 8th is International Women’s Day, a worldwide celebration of women and their contributions to society, politics, economics and culture.
Islamic history is packed full of influential and inspirational women who have made a huge impact on society , from the female Companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or later, development of the first university in the world established by a Muslim woman.
On a personal level, two women stand out like no others, the first being Lady Khadijah (RA). She was the epitome of what a strong woman should be.
Think about it, she was a businesswoman; earned her own money, and was respected throughout her community.
When she chose to marry, she looked for a man of virtues, whose characteristics included kindness and honesty, rather than merely looking for status and money. Lady Khadijan (RA) was everything that any woman should strive to be.
It has often been said that behind every great man, there’s a great woman. In Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) case that is certainly true.
When he came to her after receiving the revelation, she believed him and supported him straight-away. She was a comfort to him and gave him wise advice.
Today we see that many couples don’t consult each other when making decisions, and this failure to communicate gives rise to marital problems. However, if we look at Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Lady Khadijah (RA), we see that they leaned on each other for love and support, no matter what else was going on in their lives.
Just because you marry, have a home to run and are raising children, you don’t have to think you are any less of a woman.
On the contrary, a strong, loyal, loving, kind, supportive wife and mother can be the catalyst for the change in future generations that is needed in today’s world.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said about Lady Khadijah (RA):
“She believed in me when the rest of the people disbelieved. She gave me a share in her wealth when the rest of the people denied me (theirs). Allah provided me children from her while He denied me by other than her.” (Ahmad, qtd. in Abu ‘Aziz 517)
Asiya, Wife of Pharaoh
The second historical woman that amazes me is Asiya (RA), wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Her story could be seen as sad and heartbreaking, but it is also inspirational.
We must remember that Asiya raised Prophet Musa (PBUH) into being a great prophet through a mother’s love, support and protection; caring for him the same as if she had given birth to him.
Another amazing point about Asiya was that, despite her husband being a wicked tyrant, she was nothing like that at all. She was a woman of deep faith and amazing strength, instinctively knowing that the luxuries of this world were nothing compared to Paradise.
She refused and fought against oppression, rising above it because she knew that her beliefs were right. Her strength never wavered despite being horrifically tortured by her husband when she refused to acknowledge he was God.
We learn a lot about women’s strength and steadfastness from Asiya (RA). She stood up for what she believed in and paid with her life in this world, to be given a better one in the Hereafter.
Her legacy for women everywhere is that, we should never be afraid to stand-up against oppression or what we believe in, even if society stands against us.
On this International Women’s Day, we should celebrate women of today, but we should also take a look back at our history, realizing that it is full of amazing women that we can learn from; using their examples to make today’s society a better place for everyone.