The following are some compiled notes taken from a lecture given by Shaykh Muhammad Mendes entitled, “Islam and the Liberation of Womanhood.” This lecture was not organized by Sout Ilaahi, but it is available for public consumption on YouTube and SoundCloud.
The False Assumption of Women as “Lesser Beings”
Modern western civilization was built on this bias against people of color, and also on the assumption that women were sub-human, sometimes even demonic, and that all they’re really good for is their bodies, and that they had nothing to contribute to human knowledge, the political, social and economic well-being of the world. This was a very drastic departure from many ancient societies which understood that the feminine, and the woman, and the matriarchy, were essential to maintaining balance not just in the society but in the universe. Amongst these civilizations were ancient Egyptian civilizations, and ancient Chinese civlizations, and none of these were perfect; you’ll find instances of injustice against women like the practice of foot-binding in China. But still, Taoists had this understanding of balance, of yin and yang.
Activity, Receptivity and Balance
There’s a relationship of opposites between male and female, of activity and receptivity. The Chinese philosophers really developed this, and so did the Muslims as well. Islam is a lot closer in its ontology (the study of being, the study of reality), to Buddhism and Hinduism, than it is to Christianity and Judaism. In the archetypes of prophethood, we’re close to Christianity and Judaism, in terms of location and where Allah revealed the Qur’an. But in terms of how we understood Reality, we are much much closer to Buddhists and Daoists and Hindus. That might sound strange, but if you study the most ancient texts of these religions, you’ll see the truth of what I’m saying for yourselves.
The sky relates to the earth. The sun relates to the moon. The day relates to the night. North relates to south. East relates to west. Good relates to evil. The male relates to the female. Allah created the man and the woman to manifest as male and female, and this is the greatest manifestation of all these pairs. In fact, all these pairs are inside you—the heaven and the earth, the north and south, and so on.
The male principle is a principle of activity. The female principle is a principle of receptivity. This is not passivity or negativity. It isn’t associated with evil or badness. The feminine is also active, but the activity is unseen. So the masculine is outwardly active and inwardly passive, while the feminine is the opposite. The same thing goes for the heavens and the earth. Let’s look at the rain—this is all about understanding yourself. When the rain falls from the sky, the earth takes it. Whatever the sky gives, the earth accepts it willingly. It takes it and re-organizes it, and turns it into life, and nutrients. So this cycle of life, the water cycle, it continues: the sun shines down on the earth, on lakes and oceans, and the earth raises it up to the sky—we call it water vapour. It’s unseen, and that’s the nature of female activity.
Sisters, I want you to understand that the concept of the feminine being receptive, it isn’t negativity. Both the masculine and the feminine are active and passive. This is beyond gender. For example, when I’m teaching my children, I take on the masculine principle, and my children take on the feminine principle. But when my wife is teaching me, she’s taking on the masculine principle, and I’m taking on the feminine principle.
The Prophet SAW was an embodiment of the best of the masculine and the feminine principle. He balanced both, and that’s why many of the descriptions of him sound very feminine: he was very beautiful, very shy, his hands were very soft, but then there are descriptions of him that sound very masculine: muscular, broad-shouldered, fearless on the battlefield, tall. He was the balance of both.
Woman as the Direct Manifestation of Praise of God
How we treat women and how we treat nature has everything to do with how the world is today. The Prophet SAW said that the womb is connected to the Cosmic Throne, the throne of Allah SWT. Women have an innate mental, physical and spiritual connection to the grandest of Allah’s creation. And the hadith goes on to say, “Whoever connects you, I will connect them, and whoever severs you, I will sever them.”
So, for a woman to accept that lie, that you are just a body and that you should be obsessed with how you look and how society thinks about you—so many of our women suffer from this, because their primary identification is with the body. But the Prophet SAW taught us that a woman’s primary identity transcends the heavens and the earth. You have something that connects you from this (material world), to the furthest limits of the universe. But you have to activate that connection.
Women have this innate connection to the throne of Allah, which is a creature that indicates the majesty of God, and encompasses the entire universe.
If you read the hadith about the Throne, it’s an incredible being. It worships Allah. It’s luminous and full of Light. If a woman is connected to that, she becomes a direct manifestation of that praise, and that transcendence of the universe, and that Light, if she’s connected to it. And you can be connected to it. Men can be connected to it too, but for women it’s just easier.
Unlocking the Reality of “Ar-Rahman” In The Modern Day
Today, women are told to be homemakers with no other contribution to make to the community except babies and cooking food. That’s not Islam. Being a homemaker is an exalted and lofty rank, but to limit a woman to motherhood only, without allowing her to express her creativity and her knowledge in the home and outside the home, is oppression.
Islam, the Quran and the Sunnah calls on women to discover their own, unique missions, whether it’s a corporate mission, or whether they’re an entrepreneur like Khadijah, a warrior like Nusaybah, a scholar like ‘A’ishah, a mother and a great saint like Fatimah, a woman of political influence like Asiyah, a woman can fulfill any of these roles. The key is that she shines the Light of ar-Rahman into whatever field she goes into, never sacrificing who she is.
If you read Surah al Maryam, the whole surah is a meditation on the Name “ar-Rahman”. What does Maryam AS say when Jibreel AS appears to her? “Audhubirrahman.” She didn’t say “Audhubillah.” Why? Because women have a special connection to ar-Rahman. That Name should be a name that you call on, that you seek refuge in, that you meditate on, so that you can unlock its reality within you.
We are born into this system where women are not allowed to be women. Women have seasons. Sisters have to have solidarity with one another. You have to understand each other’s seasons. Not every woman will get married, not every woman will have children, but the message here is that your happiness is not in marriage or in having children. Your happiness is in your connection the Throne, and ultimately your connection to ar-Rahman.
Not every woman and every man wants to get married, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them. There are women and men who were not created to be married, who were created just to worship Allah.
The happiness of a woman is in her realizing that her embodiment of a cosmic principle of inner receptivity and inward activity. Her connection to ar-Rahman, her connection to the Throne, and her ability to transcend the world.
Single mothers need a good support network. Women need to support each other. There’s a proverb from the Akan people from Ghana, an ancient people who trace their descent to ancient Egypt. They have a saying that the woman is a flower in the garden, and the man is the fence that protects the garden.
Women are created to bring beauty into the world, to bring nectar, pollen, and fruits, which are medicine into the world. The job of the men is to protect the women so that they can be women, not to smother the flower (women). And if men aren’t doing their jobs, then women have to be men and women.
A Hadith on the Transcendent Nature of Womanhood
The Prophet SAW said, “The following were made beloved to me from your world: perfume and women, and what brings tears of joy to my eyes is the prayer.” This hadith is often misused, to convince men to get married.
Note that he said they were “made beloved” to him and not that he loved them out of himself. Perfume is something we put on to attract the angels to us. If you say, “Well, I’m a woman, I’m not supposed to wear perfume.” Well that’s the point, you’re already connected to the Throne. Men need to put on perfume, men need to go out to the masjid and pray in jema’ah. Men, if there’s necessity to defend the community, men are the ones who have to go out and fight the battle. You can just go through the Shari’ah, men have to do more. Men are obligated to financially support women, because women are already generous. For men, it has to be made mandatory.
What it tells you about men, is that if it was natural, it wouldn’t have to be made mandatory. Perfume is at the beginning of this list, as something which attracts the angels, and the end of it is the prayer, which is the ascension of the believers, and in the middle is women.
The hadith is also misunderstood to mean that the Prophet loved women as in, he had lots of wives and he satisfied his wives in bed. But that doesn’t make sense: there’s two spiritual things at the beginning and the end of the list, and there’s something physical in the middle? I believe, and not just myself, Shaykh Muhyiddin al Arabi and many other great spiritual masters, that the reason why he included women in the list is, just like perfume is a means to bring the spiritual realm closer, and just like the prayer is a means to enter the spiritual realm, women are the bridge between the angelic realm and the heights.
The Prophet SAW was made to love women because of their innately spiritual nature. This is a very important understanding. Rumi says in his Mathnawi, that this woman that you love and treat like a toy, is a co-creator, metaphorically speaking. She brings life into this world.
The womb is this barzakh, a place where the spirit and the material world are one. Only women know what it’s like to carry another soul inside of you, what it’s like for two spirits to share the same body. Men can only experience that if they travel the spiritual path and they unite with the Prophet SAW spiritually.
So again, women’s nature is connected ultimately to the spiritual realm, and this idea that women are the bridge, is really what’s needed at this time. We are living in the end of times, of the Dajjal, of the false messiah, that’s why there’s gross materialism, that’s why there is atheism on the rise, that’s why there is idolatry on the rise. But the ascendency of all these evils is a sign of the end. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the age of Isa AS, is upon us. It is a time of Unity.
The scholars say that the Mahdi will abrogate the madhabs just as the Prophet SAW abrogated the religions before him. The problem of hyper-legality and a lack of focus on the spirit of rituals that was there before Isa AS was sent down in the past, is the same problem we have today.
Women have a role to play in ushering in this new era of the Mahdi and of Jesus, because theirs is a way of love, compassion, mercy, unity, and women are the ones who are best equipped to bring that into Islam, but you have to have courage. To bring that not only to Islam, but into your workplace, into your businesses, into your neighbourhoods, but you have to have courage, you have to know who you are. If you’re just trying to play the game and fit in, and have a good job, and retire in 20-30 years, and then migrate to another country, you’ve missed the opportunity and the role that you have.
There were 4 perfect women—Khadijah, Asiyah, Maryam and Fatimah—You have to discover who you are. Are you Maryam living now, spiritually? Or are you Asiyah, the wife of Pharoah? Or are you Khadijah? Or are you Fatimah? Who are you? These were not just women who lived a long time ago and whom we read their historical footnotes and go “MashaAllah”. These women are principles that exist in every time. You have to find who you are from them, who do you resonate with, so that you can live that now, whether it’s as a philanthropist like Khadijah, or as a person like Asiyah who is protecting the Prophetic Light in the belly of the beast.
Alhamdulillah, Shaykh Muhammad Mendes (USA) will be coming to Singapore on 1st and 2nd April 2017 for a series of spiritually invigorating, enlightening and soul-replenishing lectures and workshops.
Delve into the depths of your inner being, seek and find the Light of the Divine within yourself, and heal the brokenness inside through witnessing the Majesty and Beauty of Muhammadan Love with Shaykh Muhammad Mendes.
1 APRIL 2017, 9AM – 1PM, MASJID MYDIN AUDITORIUM
Prophetic Parenting: Raising God-Conscious Children in the 21st Century
Workshop Ticket Price: $28
Purchase here: http://propheticparenting.eventbrite.sg
1 APRIL 2017, 8PM – 10PM, MASJID SULTAN AUDITORIUM
Spiritual Awakening: Cultivating Positivity in Life
Lecture Ticket Price: $15
Purchase here: http://cultivatingpositivity.eventbrite.sg
2 APRIL 2017, 9AM – 1PM, MASJID SULTAN AUDITORIUM
The Way of Love: Joys and Realities of Marriage
Workshop Ticket Price: $28
Purchase here: http://wayoflove.eventbrite.sg
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Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes embraced Islam at 17 years old and went to obtain a B.A. in Arabic Studies. Subsequently, he embarked on the study of traditional Islamic sciences for more than 20 years in Mauritania, Syria, and Nigeria, under the tutelage of scholars like Shaykh Murabit al Hajj, Shaykh Muhammad al Yaqoubi, Shaykh Muhammad an Ninowy, Shaykh Khalil Abdur Rashid, and Shaykh Mustafa Turkmani. He holds ijazaat in Islamic Jurisprudence, Islamic Spirituality, Theology, Prophetic Narrations, Qur’anic Exegesis, Logic, and Grammar.
Currently, aside from serving as the Founding Director of SacredService for Human Liberation, he also serves as the Imam of the Atlanta Masjid of al-Islam, and is a researcher and Lead Qur’anic Arabic Instructor at Fawakih Institute Atlanta.
He is a teacher, father, husband, servant of the community, and lifetime student of knowledge who devotes much of his time and energy to inviting people to live lives of spiritual and material significance, unite based on their shared humanity and appreciate their God-given diversity.