Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Queen of Sheba

The story of Sulayman ('alayhissalaam) and the Queen of Sheba ('alayhassalaam) stands out in my mind because of how beautifully she is described in the Qur'an and how dignified the interaction between her and Sulayman is. Bilqees' intellect, wisdom, and quick wit are highlighted - as is her willingness to accept truth.

What really catches my attention is that when she declares her Islam, she says it in the following terms: {"My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, and I submit with Solomon to Allah, Lord of the worlds."}
There is no arrogance whatsoever - no stubbornness or reluctance to admitting previous wrongdoing, just honesty. As well, she submits with Sulayman ('alayhissalaam) to Allah - the submission of equals before their Lord. There is a sense of dignity to it all, a powerful aura of respect.

What's really amazing about how Allah tells the story in the Qur'an is that it ends with her declaration of faith in Him, with such grace. A lot of people turn it into a romance story or argue that she gave up her queendom to Sulayman, but none of that is even hinted at in the ayaat that speak about her.

Allah so clearly brings our attention to a woman who had both power & wisdom; who didn't allow herself to be swayed by fear, but who was determined to make her decisions based upon actual experience. She demonstrates to us the attitude that we should all have - a willingness to go out there and seek knowledge and experience for ourselves; to be cautious but not stubborn; open-minded but not easily dazzled... and above all, the ability to acknowledge that we have done wrong, and to turn to Allah with a heart full of faith and repentance - and dignity.

The Queen of Sheba is the perfect example of how submitting ourselves to Allah does not bring us down, but simply raises us higher.

The relationship between Sulayman (as) and Bilqees (as), as hinted at from that final declaration of Bilqees, also encapsulates (to me) the ideal relationship between men and women; that they both be seen as individuals capable of authority, and of humility at the same time. Most importantly, that each party respects the other - acknowledging their strengths and seeking only to assist each other in improving as human beings, and above all, to support each other in turning to Allah and worshiping Him alone.

The image we are left with in the Quran is that of Sulayman & Bilqees, king and queen, submitting themselves equally as slaves to Allah alone. How much more beautiful could their relationship be?


Anonymous said...

As Salaamu Alaykum Zainab, I pray that you are well.

I stumbled across your fb page. I wanted to ask how you justify feminism, an overtly 20th/21st century movement, as a lens to interpreting the Nusoos of Islam. I understand that you won't accept the entirety of feminism and accept only those parts which agree to an extent with the general Islamic spirit, in your view. It seems to me that by using feminism as a lens to interpret Islam, you discard any classically held view that goes against a feminist agenda (I understand you don't agree with everything that the feminist movement has to say and there are many types of feminism). You also accept weak and strange positions or akhbaar in order to support a feminist agenda, as you may have realised from the people who comment on your fb posts who tell you that you are indeed opting for classically strange positions within our tradition whether that be because it is held by an extreme minority or it is munkar or dha'eef in terms of its isnaad. You also, in the view of many tullaab, do go through mental gymnastics in order to twist certain legitimate views from the Salaf just to further placate your feminist agenda (forgive me if agenda sounds harsh, I mean nothing bad, may Allah forgive me).

Then there is the tendency to blindly accept everything that Shaykh Akram Nadwi حفظه الله says (disclaimer: I understand that he is an Aalim. I understand that we should follow Ulama. I understand that you may not agree with his positions but only share them and that sharing does not equal endorsement, but because you have a public platform and are taken as a voice within Islamic discourse, anything you share is taken at least as something that should explicitly be considered if not outright endorsed unless stated otherwise). While that is fine to an extent, it is probably advisable to also consider those Ulama and positions which fall against the feminist agenda that you adhere to. For example, you once stated in an fb post that Khadijah رضي الله عنها used to also go to the cave to meditate, which is simply false according to the classical books of seerah and hadith. I have no idea as to your credentials in terms of sitting with the Ulama for a long period and studying Shari'ah as a talib of ilm, but some of the blunders you make just to promote a feminist agenda are strange to say the least.

I would advise you (and you may think: who does this random person think he is, he doesn't understand the hardship that women globally face.. my only contention is that you try and give an Islamically legitimate face to everything just to promote a feminist agenda) look at our tradition from the time of the Salaf till now as it is, as objectively as one can be and take from it, instead of accessing our tradition through a feminist lens. Your overtly feminist agenda forces you to distort some mainstream positions. I understand that there are indeed many misconceptions about Islam and women and that women are definitely oppressed by people who justify their oppression using our tradition but in fact are themselves distorting it. But the path you take, to take a post-modern movement and use it as a lens distorting some teachings of shari'ah in the process, is counter-productive.

Please forgive me if I said anything that sounded rude. The feminist movement has made anything that is said against it to be deemed 'misogynistic' by definition hence it is becoming politically incorrect nowadays and social suicide to criticise it openly, and anything said against the views of women are also deemed to be an issue of gender politics, indeed one of the pitfalls of the movement is to view everything through the lens of gender politics, which is what causes some of your distortions; may Allah save us all. I await your reply and look forward to having an earnest conversation with you in order to understand your perspective better, even though I disagree with it as do a lot of tullaab. May Allah protect you and accept your khidmah of the Deen.

Your brother, Ibn Adam

Anonymous said...

Just to add another disclaimer, which unfortunately must be done when discussing anything to do with women and feminism in our current climate, is that the reason I took out time to write that absurdly long post for whose length I apologise, is because your page was forwarded to me by a sincere person who was worried that your distortions of some teachings within our tradition may be accepted by those who follow you and consider you a person of ilm. There is also the case that your distortions may be accepted due to your intellectual attachment to Shaykh Akram Nadwi حفظه الله as he is a person of immense knowledge although fallible. And everyone should know that some of his stranger views (in Fiqh, Usul and other fields) have indeed been refuted by other Ulama, which is why it is important to actively seek out views against your own agenda and indeed against anyone's agendas, for that is more intellectually honest.

So let not anyone believe that I wrote that sincere advice because your posts somehow struck a nerve in me due to my own 'misogynistic' leanings, rather it is due to ghayrah for the Deen insha Allah. And if I have been wrong in anything then that is my fault.

Mama of Leo said...

Thank you for the highly insightful post! :-)

abuhiba said...

Allah says:

لَيْسَ الذَّكَرُ كَالاٍّنثَى

And the male is not like the female [3:36]

Imam ash-Shanqiti rahimahullah: “The wife of Imran said “and the male is not like the female” and she is truthful in that without a doubt. And the disbelievers and their followers say: men and women are the same. No doubt every intelligent one would attest to this denial [in the verse] and deny this affirmation [that men are like women]” [Adwaa al-Bayyan (7/633) see al-Idahaatul-Muwthiqah pg. 204]

It is important to note that this statement was said by the mother of Maryam alayhaa salam who happens to be a woman.

Shaikh Ahmad Shakir rahimaullah said commenting on [4:34] of the Quran:

“As for the women of our era, then they have become full of pride, vanity, and transgression due to our enemies from the colonizers who instill in them an immoral, wickededucation.So they claim for themselves the right to have equality to men in everything of their apparent affairs. They are in reality arrogant and tyrants. They want to rule men outside of the house and they transgress the Islamic legislation. Even in what is clear in the texts of the Quran and Sunnah, rather they want to be judges and occupy the affairs of men which is not for them and to exit what Allah and his Messenger ordered. They disbelieve that Men are the protectors and maintainers of women [4:34] and in also in the hadith:

“لَنْ يُفْلِحَ قَوْمٌ وَلَّوْا أَمْرَهُمْ اِمْرَأَةً”

A people who make a woman their ruler will never be successful.