By: We’am Hussain – Senior, Pre-Medicine & Anam Hussain – Junior, Pre-Medicine
Last year, the horrendous news that Nigerian militants of Boko Haram had kidnapped over 270 girls from school between the ages of 16 and 18 spread across the world. Now, Boko Haram recently made the news by pledging itself to ISIS. Many categorize the two groups as “extreme Islamists” who do not want girls to attain secular education. In fact, Boko Haram literally translates to mean “Western Education is Forbidden.”
However, nothing in Islam neither mildly accepts such a prohibition of education nor accepts ill treatment of women. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) constantly taught, “If a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, gives her a good education and trains her in the arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hell-fire.” In regards to women’s rights, the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) said “the best of you are those who are best to your women” and in his famous Last Sermon, he said: “O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you … Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.” Therefore, Islam advocates for women’s rights and education.
Furthermore, attaining both secular and religious education is emphatically repeated in Islam. In fact, Muslims believe that the very first revelation from God to Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was “Read. Read in the name of your Lord who created; Who created the human being from a blood clot. Read in the name of your Lord who taught by the pen: Who taught the human being what was known not” (Holy Quran 96: 1-5). Gaining knowledge is the very first commandment given to Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) through the angel Gabriel from God, and nothing in the first revelation specifies that only religious knowledge should be sought. To further prove that secular knowledge is encouraged, the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) highlighted the importance of seeking out education, regardless of your age, location, gender or the source. He said, “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave,” and “Seek knowledge even if it is far as China.” In regard to gender: “Seeking of knowledge is a duty of every Muslim (man and woman);” in regard to source: “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer, he/she should take it even if finding it in the speech from one who does not believe.”
Finally, Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) summarized the beauty of being well educated, saying, “Acquire knowledge: it enables its possessor to distinguish right from the wrong, it lights the way to heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless – it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends and a protection against enemies.” Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) understood that only through knowledge and education is one able to find guidance and enlightenment, both for this world and the next; and this is in terms of religious and secular knowledge, because, for a believer, even knowledge about worldly and secular events is a direct result of God’s will.
After studying the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), it is very clear that Islam promotes women’s rights and attaining a proper education. Muslims believe God gave men and women the free will to learn about and explore the world we live in, as only by learning about the workings of our world can we come to better understand and glorify our creator. Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) emphasized how Islam is the “middle-path” and that we should not sway to either extreme in religious practices. As He said, “Never be extreme regarding religion. Many nations have been destroyed before you only because of extremism in religion.” Muslims who are knowledgeable about Islam are striving arduously to do their part for God’s humanity, as Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) said: “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of humankind.”
Let’s spread peace and awareness about the true teachings of Islam, and help bring back our girls.