May 15, 2004

Women Is Islam

  • Author: Aisha Rafea
  • Presented to the International Association of Sufism Symposium held in Seatle, USA, 2000
The approach presented herein supposes that when remembering their spiritual origin, humans blossom as spirits, and all aspects of their life are enlightened. When they get enslaved to matter they spiritually degenerate. It proposes that   "true faith", not credulous or superstitious, is the primary force pushing wo/man to steadily improve her/his mundane life through wisdom, science, art, and social conduct. Wo/man's endeavor for that improvement is part of a comprehensive approach to life where the earthly phase is a stage in an eternal life. Short or long it might be it is where wo/man learns and develops spiritual capabilities that cannot be gained otherwise.
A Spiritual Approach to Women Would Change the World Positively
Humans while on earth are in a place to take one of two opposite directions. The Holy Qur'an says:
The blind and the seeing are not alike; Nor are the depths of Darkness and the Light; Nor are the (chilly) shade and the (genial) heat of the sun: Nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead. (HQ: 35: 19-22)
Islamic spirituality teaches that attaining seeing, Light, living is possible when humans are in a state of spiritual Balance. Balance implies full freedom from attachment to whatever is transient, limited and relative. The path to realize inward and outward Balance is a central topic around which many teachings of Islam revolve and within which we can understand many issues including that of women.
The recommended Balance as the Holy Qur'an uncovers is an attribute of the relation between Heaven and Earth. Humans are qualified for manifesting because they have similar attributes.
And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. (HQ: 55: 7-10).
Because attaining Balance is such a long spiritual journey, Moslems are directed to seek God's support to be guided to the straight Way. Prophet Mohammad implicitly points to Balance when guiding his followers saying, the best in any matter is the midpoint (Al-Amr Al-Wasat).
Lack of Balance leads to transgression for several reasons and on many levels. The Holy Qur'an points to those who wrong themselves when they do not give the spiritual side in them the chance to grow truly. Consequently they practice injustices toward others.

Shall Humankind learn from their mistakes?

While starting a new millenium there is a looming hope that our planet is more ready for a kind of Balance on several levels. Humans seem to be discovering that the tremendous scientific and technological achievements of the last decades need to be balanced by equal interest in considering the spiritual side of humans. Within that spiritual upsurge humans would find it a necessity to read the spiritual inheritance endowed to earth afresh to filter the teachings from the accumulated misconceptions and confusions. The apology that Pope John Paul II gave on 12th, March, 2000 for "the faults of the past" is very indicative. Among so many things, he mentioned a "confession of sins against the dignity of women and the unity of human race". He says, "Lord, God, our Father, you created the human being, man and woman, in your image and likeness and you willed the diversity of peoples within the unity of the human family. At times, however, the equality of your sons and daughters has not been acknowledged, and Christians have been guilty of attitudes of rejection and exclusion, consenting to acts of discrimination on the basis of racial and ethnic differences. Forgive us and give the grace to heal the wounds still present ..".3
Regardless of the content of the apology, the event itself discloses a VERY SIGNIFICANT fact: humans are susceptible to make grave mistakes under the label of religion, and their slips trigger catastrophic oppressions. There is a dire need (for ALL including Moslems) to avoid making the same faults repeatedly. One way of avoiding fatal mistakes is to purify our hearts continually, know more about the truths of life, go through experiences to learn, and accordingly revise our readings of Divine Scripture always. It is a process that would never come to an end. The moment we stop all our thoughts turn into dogmas and new idols.

Can we read the Holy Qur'an more detachedly?

Hence the approach suggested herein for rediscovering women's way of expressing the Divine is based on an attempt of reading the teachings of Islam anew with pure heart and mind. The Holy Qur'an mentions frequently that being a pious Servant of God means expressing wo/man's faith in the Unseen through righteous work. In other words, balance in all aspects of life is realized when:
  1. humans are aware of themselves as spirits and, accordingly, learn how to live free from the shades and illusions of matter.
  2. one way of keeping up spiritual freedom is to be keen on making the best use of all God's endowments to them.
When humans learn how to be transformed spiritually their approach to life would pursue freedom from all aspects of discriminations and transgressions. And when they ceaselessly learn through science and all branches of knowledge new truths of life, they are not victims to superstitions of any kind. As much as this is a general method that applies to many topics, it is very relevant to all the issues related to women.
This paper investigates how to make good use of reading the teachings of Islam anew in a way that helps women themselves, men, different Moslem societies and also non-Moslems, if interested, handle the role of women in life from a different perspective where the focus is on attaining Balance. Balance is nothing to be realized once and for all but rather cherished forever. Balance = freedom +knowledge + justice. With every new added variable, the same equation would produce infinite models of application continuously, on both the individual and societal levels. The following are primary points that can serve in building up an overall strategy based upon an Islamic Sufi approach.

1-Womanhood is an honored truth, and not a barrier to spiritual perfection.

 Islam calls first and foremost upon humans to free themselves from the limitations of matter. They are guided to see the oneness beyond differentiation and diversity in creation. This is the way to perceive the truths of Spirit and the harmony of all laws controlling aspects of life. When they do they, men and women equally, can feel a shared potentiality of the innate will that makes them capable of growing spiritually. This truth can be traced in the Holy Qur'an when reminding people of the one origin of humanity saying,
"O mankind! Reverence your Lord Who created you from one Soul" (HQ: 4: 1) 4
The same meaning is deduced in a verse quoting the Divine saying,
"I will not waste the striving of any of you, male or female, you are one from another" (HQ: 3: 195).
Reading the basic laws of spiritual attainment as revealed in the Holy Qur'an it is safely deduced that the difference of gender is not a deciding factor:
If any do deeds of righteousness, - be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.(HQ: 4: 124) & (HQ: 16: 97)
One Day shalt thou see the believing men and the believing women; How their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (HQ: 57: 12)
With full awareness that diversities in the physical realm serve a divine Truth, Sufis believe that the 'apparent' (of any aspect of life) is a reflection of the 'hidden' (the spiritual dimension). "Femininity", accordingly, is perceived in Sufi literature as reflecting the "good soul" in every human being that contains the "seed of divinity within" and makes it grow healthily. "Masculinity" likewise is the symbol of the "water of life" transmitted from heaven to earth to irrigate the divine seed within. When the "good land" in a human receives God's Grace, the divine seed within is transformed into a "new birth". In other words the Sufi literature reflects an understanding that "fruitfulness" or "attainment of real life" takes place through causes and effects within and without. They point to something like what Jesus mentions when saying, "you must be born again". Sufis actually use an allegory similar also to what Jesus used in his parables when telling his disciples,
"he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (M't:13:23).
The Holy Qur'an mentions frequently the assimilation between the laws of humans' gaining real life and the laws of planting.
And among His Signs in this: thou seest the earth barren and desolate; but when We send down rain to it, it is stirred to life and yields increase. (HQ: 41: 39).

Women who are Teachers of Humanity

With that truth in mind and heart Galal el Din Rumi metaphorically says that every human being can be Mary, the Lady Virgin. She is a symbol of the most purified soul that deserved receiving the Grace of God, manifested in the Holy Spirit so the divinity within her gave birth to Jesus, the Word.     The Holy Qur'an points to that truth implying the law of spiritual growth that Mary was in harmony with.
"O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee, chosen thee above the women of all nations.(HQ: 3: 42)
And Mary, the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of his Revelations, and was one of the devout (Servants).(HQ: 66: 12)
The Prophet Mohammad describes Mary as on the top of "perfected" women adding to her Fatima, his daughter, Khadiga, his wife and Asia, the wife of Pharaoh. The latter is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an as an example to those who believe:
behold she said: "O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong (unjust)"; (HQ: 66: 11).
Contemplating why those honored ladies are mentioned as "perfected", we easily deduce that "perfection" is related to spiritual purity; a very lofty degree of spiritual consciousness. Lady Mary the Virgin was a symbol of purity that made her that honored. Khadiga, the wife of Prophet Mohammad is also a symbol of purity in another dimension. She discerned before any revelation, that Prophet Mohammad is God's Grace. Namely, she believed in him even before any revelations. When the Revelation took place, she not only believed Prophet Mohammad's episode with Gabriel promptly, but also reassured and caressed him by love and care. She was a true wife with all the spiritual implications that the word "wife" symbolizes; she was part of Prophet Mohammad himself. Fatima al Zahraa, Prophet Mohammad's daughter is also a symbol of how purity flourishes overwhelmingly. She is Fatima, an Arabic name which means, "free from any taint", and Zahraa means the "flowering" one, forever. Her name is a symbol in itself that spiritual flourishing is a meaning and a truth that transcends genders. Prophet Mohammad says, " Fatima, my daughter is part of me, what angers her angers me, and what angers me angers God". It is not a matter of bias of any kind whatsoever. It is an explanation of the fact that Fatima is a symbol of a perfect soul when s/he lives free from serving any illusion. S/he becomes part of the Divine Light. Asia, the wife of Pharaoh was that free because she could understand that her husband was a transgressor and was unjust to himself and others. She chose for herself real life and freedom of spirit by "nearness to" God and praying Him for support "save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong(the unjust)". She was spiritually free enough not to sacrifice the eternal life for the temporal one. The eternal life means closeness to the Divine, "Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden." Asia, was all freed not only from the "external" Pharaoh but, more importantly, from the Pharaoh within.
Another example that clarifies that being a woman does not hinder being an exemplar to all humans, not only to women, is the story of Hajar, the wife of Ibrahim and the mother of Ismael. Her shuttle between Safa and Marwa mounts near the Ka'aba, looking for a source of water for her small child to drink became part of the ritual of pilgrimage Haj in Islam. Her shuttle became an eternal symbol for the trust in God as expressed in strife for finding the means of attaining life. The fruit of her shuttle was the emergence of pure water of zamzam; a symbol of the water of life when sent to the searching soul. It bursts from the blessed land.
To sum up, when reading the teachings of Islam with no influence whatsoever of the accumulated cultural misconceptions, we can see that they do not claim any spiritual or mental superiority of men over women for the mere sake of biological differentiation. The criteria of judging are always related to the degree of spiritual purity of any human in general and the extent to which s/he is spiritually free from the limitations of matter. The honored and perfected women that the Prophet mentions are exemplars to all humanity, men and women.

2-Sufi awareness enhances a new scope for women's self-image.

Self-images often decide the focus of humans' whole life directly or indirectly. Self-images that are imposed externally by societies, parents, cultural backgrounds and/or misconceptions of religious teachings have been leading humans usually to internalize illusive models that they try to fit in. In such cases humans are driven away from their true potentials and deprived from inner freedom. Being distracted from listening to the voice of the divine within, they fall victims to being captured in the physical differentiation. Accordingly they are apt to regard the male/female relationship from the perspective of competition, domination, exploitation. Gender discrimination is the fruit of a distorted approach to the ultimate cause of all humanity. Women, sometimes reduce their image of themselves into prototypes assigned to them through cultural dogmas and stagnant tradition.
Islamic teachings, when focusing on calling humans to be Servants of God, are liberating them from loyalty to any transient dimension whatsoever. Islamic teachings uncover that devotion to God, the One, the Absolute indicates full freedom of any dogma. Humans, through Islamic teachings, are guided to purify their hearts continuously to realize spiritual freedom. This is understood to be the core wisdom behind the "concepts" of all forms of worship in Islam. Every person is also invited to investigate all the potentialities that s/he is endowed with spiritually and physically and make good use of them in realizing the ultimate goal of human existence.  As such, the teachings stimulate humans to perceive themselves justly by striking a balance between the divinity within, the origin "the One Soul" that transcends gender on one hand, and the factual potentialities and capabilities of their physical existence, on the other.
The dynamic and balanced interaction between the two levels of existence in each human would produce infinite numbers of unique human journeys. Being a male or a female is a true factor within a wholesome reality.
In other words, in Islamic teachings there are no traces for predetermined images or prototypes that humans need to fit into for the mere fact of being males or females. Rather, there are truths that each can live according to, freely and interact with, vigorously. Being "human" truly is the general self-image that teachings of Islam call upon all people to realize.
The word Insan in Arabic means humankind, male and female. It is used 58 times in the Holy Qur'an to be pointing to "humankind" in general. The overall meanings included in all the verses uncover that Al Insan is a "quality" of creation and a "potentiality" that exists in all humans. When wo/man perceives her/himself as Insan or works for being an Insan s/he would go through a long journey of self-knowledge and self-realization. The Holy Qur'an uncovers all the attributes of humankind Al Insan:
1-S/he is distinct among creatures:
We have honored the children of Adam (HQ: 17: 70)
We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but Al Insan5 undertook it; (HQ: 33: 72)
We are nearer to her/him than (her/his) jugular vein.(HQ: 50: 16)
2- S/he strives for attaining closeness to God :
O thou Al Insan! Verily thou art ever toiling on towards thy Lord - painfully toiling - but thou shalt meet Him.(HQ: 84: 6)
3- S/he has an earthly nature with all its attributes, positive and negative:
We created Al Insan from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape;(HQ: 15: 26)
in order to try her/him: so We gave her/him (the gifts), of Hearing and Sight.(HQ: 76: 2)
He has created Al Insan: He has taught her/him speech (and Intelligence). (HQ: 55: 3, 4)
Verily, Al Insan is given up to injustice and ingratitude.(HQ: 14: 34)
4- S/he is destined to the Last Judgement:
That Day will Al Insan be told (all) that s/he put forward, and all that s/he put back.(HQ: 75: 13)
Hence, Islamic teachings guide humans to perceive themselves from the perspective of their spiritual origin. Their means for keeping up their spiritual identity vivid is to discern the wisdom behind all creation and make the best use of it.
Wo/Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (with the thought): "Our Lord! not for naught hast thou created (all) this! (HQ: 3: 191)
Within that approach the degree of intelligence; talents; health; education; social, economic or political status, are things that humans are guided to make full use of. From that perspective Islamic teachings so strongly urge for seeking knowledge with stress that it is the right and the duty also of every human being. Prophet Mohammad says it explicitly, " seeking knowledge is a religious duty for each Moslem, male or female. He also commands parents not to practice any form of gender discrimination while bringing up their children. He says that a parent who honors his daughter and does not prefer his son to her (in any matter) will enter Paradise.
To sum up, when teachings of Islam guide people to be devout Servants of God, they free them totally from any dogmatic images of themselves. The self-image that is recommended is regarding oneself as a "human being", Insan. There are no prefixed images, then, that wo/man are guided to fit in arbitrarily. Rather, there is awareness that being Insan is a high quality of existence that humans are potentialized to realize. The way to fulfil it is to work for realizing spiritual freedom and investing God's endowments fully. The sign of a good believer in Islam is to be grateful shakir to the Divine. This word in Arabic implies the nature of healthy growth that is the fruit of making the best use of all potentialities, spiritually and physically.

3-Inner Spiritual Freedom leads women to betterment of performing their roles as mothers, wives, daughters and/or leaders in any field.

We can see in our daily lives conflicts of different degrees that stem, among so many things, from the predetermined "prototypes" that societies, traditions or cultures indirectly push humans to internalize. In some societies, for example, women internalize the idea that their prime role in life is to be subordinate to their husbands. The stereotype of a "good wife" as the one that is blindly obedient to her husband reaches a degree of a dogma. To fit into such a stereotype, women find that they accordingly suppress many of their individual capabilities in favor of the priorities in life where on the top is what the husband decides. Most of the time priorities are arranged according to his own agenda because he himslef is brought up to believe that women are subordinate to men. Being that marginalized women suffer with different degrees because their capabilities are not made good use of. The result is psychological imbalance in their relations with husbands and children.
On the other side of the picture we find among "modern" classes a different kind of imbalance. Women put "self realization" (in the sense of having economic independence, career..etc.) as a top priority. In practical life conflicts emerge between that goal and duties towards husbands and children. Women are too overloaded and torn to set balance. Many times they are obliged to sacrifice family life. It is known that the percentage of divorce in modern societies is increasing.
The two opposite examples are two sides of one coin. In both cases the imbalance echoes a deficiency in the way humans approach their "roles" in life. In the first case where women are regarded as mere subordinate, injustice takes place because their capabilities as humans are overlooked. In such societies generally teachings of religion are misrepresented to serve the interest of one party (men) against the other (women). Other injustices are triggered. Parents, for instance, in some areas do not give equal care to educate their daughters. They assume that her "role" in life as a wife or mother does not need the trouble they might face for educating her, (the percent of illiteracy is higher among females than males in developing countries). In the opposite example imbalance takes place because one element of life; "self realization" is given an absolute value. Consequently it swallows all other variables and, again, reduces a woman into a "role" that is over imposed upon her and she loses inner freedom, in her rushing to fit into it. She goes into a kind of a maze where she does not know how to get out from.
Teachings of Islam guide humans to a way of life where they are prepared to play many different roles that all go in harmony when wo/man is spiritually free. Spiritual freedom leads naturally to balance while performing all roles. This is very practical because the roles that humans are to perform are not over imposed, nor rigid or predetermined. Within the ultimate goal of existence where humans are guided to realize inner freedom and develop all factual capabilities, they get more qualified for giving every aspect of life its due, not more not less. Conflict happens not because "roles" are really in conflict but because humans lose the inner focus. As a result each role takes more or less than what it actually deserves. The person her/himself suffers because the outer imbalance leads to lack of inner freedom. So the spiritual part of her/him cries for being nurtured but s/he cannot hear it being involved in the fog and noise of matter. Accordingly the physical existence gets grossed and egoistic inclinations get too huge to give any care or justice to others' rights or needs. S/he loses all inner peace and harmony. Qur'an points to this truth when saying,
Allah puts forth a Parable - a man belonging to many partners at variance with each other, and a man belonging entirely to one master: are those two equal in comparison? - (HQ: 39: 29).
The many partners are the "roles" that are given absolute value, so each opposes the other because each wants to enslave human to serve it alone. The way out is when humans are devoted entirely to one master, so each role fits into the whole peacefully. All teachings of Islam guide to inner peace. Peace is the fruit of setting the balance. Balance is set when all roles are seen as "means" for realizing the ultimate goal of existence.
From that perspective when consulting Islamic teachings concerning women we can clearly see that they are manifold. With inner freedom a woman would investigate the role(s) she would perform within given circumstances, freely. She would be more capable to arrange priorities justly in a way that keeps the balance by giving each role its due. The balance as such is not quantitative, but rather an inner aspiration for justice that would reflect on her attitude towards her own self and others equally and within a focus of keeping up inner freedom. Accordingly there would not be prototypes for women's roles but quite a great number of models that represent the sum total of persons who express inner freedom through the actual circumstances of each. Each model would be as unique as the fingerprints of each human being. The criteria of judging are the efficiency of performing each role and how a woman is qualified for this role or that. Also what she CHOOSES FREELY, regardless of what "others" try to impose. The Holy Qur'an says,
On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. (HQ: 2: 286)
And a prophetic Divine Hadith Hadith Qudsi says, "each human being will be asked (in the Day of Judgement) about the way s/he spent her/his money, health, knowledge (namely, whole life)". The holy sayings uncover an eternal law: the point of consideration when a human's strife on earth is evaluated is the extent to which s/he made good use of God's endowments to her/him. The good or bad use implies the direction s/he took; being a devout Servant of God or serving the aspirations of the limited physical ego. The burden that one carries is her/his money, health, knowledge, and any means in one's life. It does not matter if they are many or few capabilities but what matters is the "quality" of using them.
So an Islamic approach to women's role(s) in life opens the way wide to their share in all fields within the following principles:
  1. The criteria of judging their capability or incapability of sharing in any activity are based on factual knowledge not dogmas or predetermined and over imposed decisions. In that respect scientific researches in many domains are required to investigate the extent to which biological attributes have/have-not effects on women's faculties needed for some fields or others. This rule applies on both individual and collective basis.
  2. There is no role in life that deserves to be honored or dishonored for its own sake. Each role, big or small, is respected as long as it is the free choice of every person and she performs it conscientiously with a spirit of love, generosity, and selflessness. While no one is deprived arbitrarily from performing any role, differentiation of roles must be looked upon from the perspective of integration and cooperation. Regarding any role in life as humiliating in itself is the result of the measurements of material arrogance. Spirituality regards all roles as kinds of different "services"; each is fully appreciated.
  3. The message that a woman carries as a "wife" and/or a "mother" is very important and deserves good care from the side of both males and females. Prophet Mohammad's guidance to women to obey their husbands does not imply limiting their roles in life to being wives, nor giving men free hand to dominate their wives unjustly. It is rather an attraction to both men and women to realize that their marriage relation is given a touch of holiness through which they can both attain spiritually. To obey her husband is guidance to every wife to respect that kind of relation. The same guidance is directed to husbands when the prophet says, "the best of you are those who are good to their wives " & "take good care of women (mothers, daughters, wives). Care does not imply domination or superiority for women are also guided to take care. From the same perspective, the Prophet bestows great honor on motherhood when he says, "The Garden is most accessible to mothers". Definitely motherhood in that context does not imply the mere biological faculty of giving birth to children. It is a spiritual status that a mother would attain because she handles that "role" in life from the perspective of devotion to God alone and not any egoistic motivations. Certainly the prophetic Hadith does not imply that fathers are not accessible to the Garden.
To sum up, teachings of Islam do not impose predetermined or rigid roles on women, nor deprive them from performing others. The teachings rather give open, wide and dynamic scope of roles. The core point is that humans are urged and encouraged to make good use of all their actual capabilities freely and invest them in realizing the ultimate goal of their existence. Each can realize the ultimate goal of her/his existence through a very unique way that is the fruit of inner spiritual freedom expressed through her/his own individual capabilities and given circumstances. Each role(s) is seen as honorable when a woman makes of it a "means" for being a devout Servant of God. To fulfil that truly, she would perform it with due knowledge, conscientiousness and sincerity.

4-This approach to the roles of women would affect societies positively through new models of human development.

Models of national development in different societies express generally the aspirations of individuals according to the way they approach life. The "goals" that each nation appoints are listed in accordance with how people arrange their "priorities" and the "means" by which they plan to fulfil them. Models of development vary considerably because of value differences in any society. What is common among most models of social and economic growth is that all of them try to make full use of natural and human resources towards a purposeful change that each nation plan. In a society that makes of materialistic aspirations absolute goals, priorities are given to satisfying hedonistic and egoistic motivations.
Within a kind of culture where physical aspirations are paramount wo/men are not given good chances for realizing themselves as spirits. Their physical interests grow too many and too demanding to give any care to their spiritual essence. When the different roles they perform are handled from the perspective of matter alone conflicts naturally emerge, not only among competitors but also with each human individual and her/his own self.
An Islamic perspective to national development is broadly an approach where:
  1. The supreme goal is to generate an environment where all humans are supported to be realized spiritually. Spiritual motivations would help each one discover the mission s/he is endowed with fulfilling.
  2. Priorities are given to investigating means and tools that help all humans, of all spiritual grades, within variance of roles, to set balance between their spiritual goals and those necessary for worldly life.
  3. Natural and human potentials are regarded as endowments of God to humans and, hence, a responsibility to be shouldered. The Prophet says each of you (men and women) shoulder the responsibilities of taking good care of whatever is under her/his auspices.
  4. The means to realize any goal should be honorable and honest.
Setting balance in approaching the "concept" of development would affect women positively. A society where spiritual freedom is enhanced would be very fair in giving women due respect. It would put in its plan a consideration for investigating the capabilities of women, giving them equal rights and concurrently help them fulfil their role(s) without falling in conflict. The roles would never be over imposed but rather discovered flexibly with full respect to all roles.
As such An Islamic program of development concerning education would give equal interest in presenting the best education to girls and boys. There would be special programs of education planned to push girls to be aware of their humanity as a base and of their femininity as a gift of God that needs respect and care. With spiritual freedom enhanced for all, girls are brought up with self-esteem and confidence. Boys likewise would be brought up to regard girls as equal but not necessarily uniform for there is awareness that humanity is the very broad range that allows individual differences to be integrative. Boys would be taught that their masculinity is not superiority but a kind of responsibility that they share within a wholesome human mission. Young girls, as such would be brought up to be prepared for their roles as mothers as well as sharers in any other activities, small or big as their capabilities allow. They would be supported by regulations of societies to perform all roles in full harmony.
To sum up, the notion of development as seen from an Islamic Sufi perspective would welcome all current programs, world wide, that enhance equality of both sexes in chances of education, employment, political rights and leadership. That is because Islamic teachings stress the concept of justice with all its dimensions and applications guiding that any decision should be based on factual basis, not dogma or prejudices of any kind. So, many researches in all fields are required where the results are used as pointers for making any decisions when issuing any regulations. Justice does not imply over imposed uniformity. Justice implies guarantees to equal chances when investigating potentialities and capabilities; education and training; and ensuring that women are not deprived from performing any role(s) in society for the mere sake of being a "woman".

General Conclusion

A Sufi approach for rediscovering women's way of expressing the Divine is in full harmony with natural potentialities of humans, spiritually and physically. It calls upon humans, males and females, to attain spiritual freedom and, hence, they can always discover new ways for human realization. Teachings of Islam, as read from a Sufi perspective guide humans to the Path of spiritual freedom that starts by working for setting Balance between their transcendental heavenly origin and factual physical capabilities. Balance, on one hand, implies that they purify themselves continuously from dogmas, stagnant traditions, and over imposed images of any kind. On the other hand they are responsible for making optimum use of all God's endowments to them in earthly life. As such, they should be keen on making use of faculties of intelligence, talents, creativity and all other capabilities in developing their life. Within that frame of reference different injustices towards women would disappear. They would have a better chance for performing their roles more efficiently and in full harmony.
Because some of the dogmas that hinder women from being justly treated are mistakenly ascribed to religions, in general and Islam in particular, the approach presented herein calls for new interpretations of Scripture within some basic principles of Islam:
  • The Holy Qur'an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad never bestow any superiority or inferiority of any kind to humans depending on biological dimensions.
  • The Path to spiritual realization does not depend upon gender but rather on whether human grows spiritually or not. Guidance is there for all.
  • The responsibility that every human being shoulders is always in proportion with the God gifted endowments added to the extent to which s/he works her/his will.  As such journeys to spiritual realization are innumerable; each is very unique.
  • The criteria of reference- when determining the roles that wo/men are supposed to perform- are: efficiency, capability, given circumstances not gender.
  • No one has the right to dominate or exploit another under any label. Rather each one has a duty to fulfil towards the welfare of all; and has a right to be cared for.
  • Because Sufism is generally defined as the essence of Islam, Sufis can play a major role in developing new approaches to Islamic teachings to set Balance on different levels. The HolyQur'an and Prophetic Sunna can inspire pure hearts, open minds, and knowledgeable people infinitely. They still contain intact treasuries.
  • Aisha Rafea is the daughter of Master Rafea M. Rafea, an Egyptian prominent Sufi (1903-1970). She is a writer with special interest in spiritual culture and literature. She has an MA in mass communication from the American University in Cairo.
  1. Mary Daly, After the Death of God the Father, 1971, Documents from the Women's Liberation Movement, An On-line Archival Collection, Special Collections Library, Duke University.
  2. (Palmer &Colton: p. 482). History of the Modern World, R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton, 1987, New York, Alfred A. Knopf
  3. Day of Forgiveness of Great Jubilee, Angelus March, 12, 2000,
  4. In the original Qur'an in Arabic the word is "Nafs" which means soul. Some translations include the word "Nafs" as "single person" pointing to Adam, and Eve as "his mate". Since the verse does not say that explicitly, we prefer to translate "Nafs" as "Soul" to be pointing to the "origin" of humankind in general regardless of gender.
  5. The word Insan is put instead of "man" because it better expresses the fact thatQur'an points to humanity in general. Even though the word "man" is used also to mean humans, male and female, the word Insan sends away any confusion. Note that the use of  pronouns can be safely written s/he; her/him; her/his.