We are faced with challenges throughout life when family members, friends, or colleagues invite us to that which is displeasing to Allah (Mighty and Sublime). At times, the invitations seem benign as if no harm will come to anyone, while in other instances there are explicit calls to malign and undermine others. There are even occasions in which some people who we know may even ask us to spy on others to discredit them. The Qur’an gives us examples of women who did and did not cooperate with wrongdoers — examples for us, irrespective of gender, on how we can guard our deen for the pleasure of Allah (Mighty and Sublime).
Surah at-Tahrim discusses two women who are examples of what not to be as Muslims:
Allah strikes an example of those who disbelieved: the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut. They were under two of Our righteous servants but betrayed them, so those two [prophets] did not avail them from Allah at all, and it was said, "Enter you both the Fire with those who enter."1
It is relayed that Sharif Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (may Allah sanctify his spirit) stated that in these two women is the resemblance of the state of disbelief. Their opposition to the protection of the spiritual association and love with the believers brought them both the punishment of Allah (Mighty and Sublime).2 In other words, these two women worked against the interests of their husbands Nuh and Lut (peace be upon them) to undermine their da’wah and marginalize their beliefs that were taught to them by Allah (Mighty and Sublime).
In the case of Wa’ilah, the wife of Nuh, just as the people of Nuh called him, “a madman”3, she used the same talking point of the disbelievers by calling him insane.4 In the case of Wahilah, the wife of Lut, she informed his neighbors who lusted over men that Lut had handsome males as house guests. Those guests were actually angels, though she perceived it not.5 Lut had told these same neighbors before, “Surely you approach men with desire instead of women. Rather you are transgressors.”6 In both situations, these two women undermined their husbands and the believers they led. Nuh’s wife attempted to delegitimize Allah’s message by declaring her husband out of touch. Lut’s wife collaborated with and advanced the cause of the people of Lut even though she was not an active participant in same-sex intercourse.
In these two women are examples of why we should stay away from advancing the agendas of those who seek to undermine the agreed-upon matters of Islamic creed and to not participate in popularizing what is against traditional Islamic morality. We should reflect on these two as signs in light of the narrated words of the Prophet, “The facilitator of evil is similar to it.”7
Surah at-Tahrim moves on by then pointing us towards two women that we should emulate, Asiya the wife of Fir’awn (peace be upon her) and Maryam the mother of ‘Isa (peace be upon them).
And Allah strikes an example of those who believed: the wife of Fir’awn, when she said, "My Lord, build for me with You a house in Paradise and save me from Fir’awn and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoers." And [the example of] Maryam, the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into her through Our angel, and she affirmed in the words of her Lord and His books and was of the devoutly obedient.8
Even though Fir’awn was her husband and the most politically powerful man of earth, she believed in the message of Musa (peace be upon him) and openly disagreed with her husband’s false beliefs and oppression of the Children of Israel. She stood by her principles and was tortured for them, and made the prayer to Allah (Mighty and Sublime) as described in Surah at-Tahrim while she was being tortured.9
Maryam became pregnant without consorting with a man, and practiced patience and silence in the face of false allegations and insults from her people. Staying silent in the face of attacks against her character was her form of resistance, not giving into the public narrative and pressure that accused her of wrong.
And if you see from among men anyone, say, 'Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.' "10
So she pointed to him. They said, "How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?"11
In these two women are examples of how we should hold on to our sacred beliefs and morality even in the most adverse circumstances which could include imprisonment or being reviled in society. Asiya neither gave blind allegiance to her husband nor verbally endorsed the immoral status quo of the political order. Maryam, in her situation, patiently practiced silence. In both of these saintly women are signs of how we should deal with oppression or marginalization. There are times when forbidding evil must be verbally done even at risk to our personal safety, and there are other times when silence is the form of resistance to evil. Either way, neither one of them took the path of the Wa’ilah and Wahilah, who both spoke falsehood and actively promoted it with their speech. Asiya and Maryam did not take the path of taking wrongdoers as unconditional allies.
In these times of confusion and social pressures from family members, friends, activists, media pundits and politicians, it is essential that we stay grounded in what is pleasing to Allah (Mighty and Sublime), irrespective of lack of popularity, and to keep ourselves engrossed in du’a. I advise you as well as myself to stick to supplicating to Allah (Mighty and Sublime) for guidance and aid as Sharif Abd al-Qadir al-Jiylani prayed, “Oh Allah! Guide us with Your light to You and have us stand with sincere worship with Your power.12
1. Al-Qur’an, Surah at-Tahrim, Ayah 10
2. Al-Jiylani, Tafsir al-Jiylani, Volume 5, Page 233
3. Al-Qur’an, Surah al-Qamar, Ayah 9
4. Al-Jushami, Tahdhib at-Tafsir, Volume 10, Page 6996
5. Al-Jushami, Tadhhib at-Tafsir, Volume 5, Page 233
6. Al-Qur’an, Surah al-A’raf, Ayah 81
7. As-Subki, Tabaqat ash-Shafi’iyyah al-Kubra, Volume 6, Page 377
8. Al-Qur’an, Surah at-Tahrim, Ayatayn 11 & 12
9. Abdullahi bin Fudi, Diya at-Ta’wil fi Ma’ani at-Tanzil, Volume 4, Page 211
10. Al-Qur’an, Surah Maryam, Ayah 26
11. Al-Qur’an, Surah Maryam, Ayah 29
12. Isma’il bin Muhammad Sa’id al-Kiylani, Al-Fuyudat ar-Rabbaniyyah, Page 92
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