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Are Muslim women permitted to be heads of state?

Leadership in secular organizations:

When the Holy Prophetsas heard the news that the people of the Persia had made the daughter of Khosrau their Queen (ruler), he said:

Never will prosper such a nation as makes a woman their ruler.

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 64, Hadith 447)

Some interpret this Hadith to be a general statement applicable to all women. However, such an interpretation goes contrary to the Holy Quran, which gives an example of a ruler whose nation prospered under her leadership. In the Holy Quran 27:23–45, Allah Almighty narrates the story of the Queen of Saba. Firstly, her people prospered materially because of her leadership. Her  council of chiefs was inclined to  go to war with Hadrat Sulaimanas, but through her guidance, her people were saved from making war with himas and the inevitable defeat  it entailed. Secondly, her people prospered spiritually because of her leadership. She and her people were idolatrous. However, she accepted the unity of God and set an example of leaving behind idolatry for her people to follow. Because of her rule, her nation was saved from both material and spiritual destruction.

In reality, the Hadith “Never will prosper such a nation as makes a woman their ruler” is a figure of speech that applies specifically to the daughter of Khosrau, because if this Hadith is taken to have general application to all women, then it contradicts the Holy Quran wherein is the story of a nation that prospered while having made a woman its ruler. The rulers of Persia at the time of the Holy Prophetsas had come under Divine wrath, and on this occasion, the Holy Prophetsas was prophesying the fall of the newly crowned Queen of Persia.

This does not mean that women being rulers of countries is encouraged in Islam. The primary responsibility that Islam has placed on women is within the home, and the primary responsibility on men is outside the home, but there can always be exceptions.

In the future, when this Islamic ideal is established in the world through Ahmadiyyat, the culture of the world will have changed as well. When asked if Ahmadi women in the future will be politicians, Huduraba said:

When the Jama‘at will spread in the world, and Ahmadis will be in such large numbers that in that country the government will be of Ahmadis as well, or the politicians are Ahmadi, at that  time, a woman will be able to participate in the system   of Shura for expressing her opinion, but going out and giving speeches, holding gatherings, coming into the public like politicians, standing with men, if she does that, in such a government I think the system at that time on its own will be such that neither the woman will want it, and at that time, whoever the Khalifah of the time will be, he will decide in those circumstances to what extent permission will be given.

(Gulshan-e- Waqfe-Nau Class, October 8, 2011)

This is also the way the wives of the Holy Prophetsas conducted them- selves. Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

And when you ask them (the wives of the Prophet) for anything, ask them from behind a curtain.

(Surah al-Ahzab, 33:54)

Whenever the wives of the Holy Prophetsas addressed men, they did so from behind a curtain. This can also be guidance as an ideal for women in general:

The commandment embodied in the words, “And when you ask them for anything, ask them from behind a curtain,” is intended to discourage too much familiarity between the sexes, the pronoun هن (them) by implication, applying to all women.

(Holy Quran English w/ 5 Vol. Commentary, p. 2,132)
Leadership in spiritual organizations:

Allah Almighty made all prophets and khulafa’ men because of the unique responsibilities of these offices. The leadership within spiritual organizations are also all men by extension of this same principle.   The responsibilities of being amirs and imams were given by the Holy Prophetsas and Khulafa’ to men because these offices did not just carry the responsibility of secular leadership, but also religious leadership. The same principle is found in Ahmadiyyat as well.

However, when it comes to consultation, women give their advice in Shura. For example, after the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah was finalized, the companions were in a state of shock because they were expecting an immediate victory, and when they were instructed by the Holy Prophetsas to offer their sacrifices without entering Mecca and return to Medina, they did not respond. At that time, the Holy Prophetsas took the advice of his wife:

Um Salama said, “O Prophetsas of Allah! Do you want your order to be carried out? Go out and don’t say a word to anybody till you have slaughtered your sacrifice and call your barber to shave your head.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 54, Hadith 19)

On this, the Companions immediately came out of their trance and followed hissas example. Also, it is narrated that after the demise of the Promised Messiahas, before the election of the first Khalifah took place, Hadrat Amman Janra was consulted for her advice.

Khawajah Kamal-ud-Din was requested to wait on Hadrat Ummul Mu’minin and ascertain her view. She said that Maulawi Nur-ud-Dinra was the most honoured person in the community and should be Khalifah (Hadrat Maulawi Nur-ud- Dinra, p. 150–151)

Thus, in spiritual organizations, women are not in places of leadership, but they are a part of consultation.

Updated on January 4, 2019

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