Some Muslim societies may have some issues with certain roles of women in them, but many more do not. Today, I’d like to highlight women in the security forces. If there were “roles” that women have either shied away from or men have kept them from, participating in battle or security of the nation state is not one of them.
Since the earliest time of Islam, the precedent had been set. Women have taken up arms on the battlefield and since colonial partition have played a part in the security forces of many Muslim countries. Recently, we have even seen a woman fighter pilot from Pakistan featured on the BBC and another from the United Arab Emirates featured on CNN. It may shock the west and fascinate the minds of media pundits but should not surprise us Muslims who have known this all along.
The very first recorded example is during the second civil unrest after the death of Muhammad. The late Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha took up arms.
The Chaliph Uthman was assassinated in his home by a member (al-Ghafiqi) from a Yemeni Jewish tribe. Though Aisha was from a different tribe she saw Uthman as an innocent victim of a tragic crime and demanded justice from her son-in-law Ali who had become the newly appointed Chaliph. After 4 months Ali had not apprehended the assassin. Aisha grew impatient, consulted tribal leaders and raised an army to meet Ali in the hopes that he would make more of a priority to bring to justice Uthman’s killer. Aisha was the top commander of the army for her tribe. In the end, each side lost around 10,000 people and Ali’s forces went on to defeat her and the two reconciled their differences. She was 45 years old at the time.
In a time when western societies are struggling to move their governments to allow women to play a role on the battlefield, women have already been there under Islamic rule. Contrasted to this history is some in “Muslim” society who wish to prevent women from playing a constructive role in society aside from bearing children, cooking and cleaning. Even though misogyny exists in Muslim societies that doesn’t mean it has a solid foundation in the religion.
These women stand as guidepost of the position Muslim women in society should be able to achieve on a larger scale in order to affect positive change in their country, religion and perhaps the world. They also add to the many examples of what Muslims are doing to combat extremist groups.
Equality for women means getting back to our root meaning of the words of Allah and shedding cultural norms.
I will not allow the deeds of any of you to be lost, whether you are male or female, each is like the other. ~Qurán 3:195
I am proud to see this coming from Pakistan, a country (in it’s struggle against Indian hegemony since partition) with a history of military and ISI support for extremist groups like the Taliban.
The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil. ~Qur’an 9:71