THE QUESTION IS, DO YOU HAVE SELF KNOWLEDGE
DO YOU KNOW YOUR OWN SELF?
In 2015, I had the opportunity of attending a “Marriage Conference” organised by one of our local organisations. Back then I had a couple of questions on my mind : “If a person in not married, is his or her deen half incomplete? Where do single people stand in Islam?”. Shaykh Omar Suleiman put my troubled mind at ease with his answer and explanation (which I’ll share in Part 2 of this post).
“If a person in not married, is his or her deen half incomplete? Where do single people stand in Islam?”
2 years later, on a Sunday, I had another opportunity of trying to understand this subject through a talk that was delivered by Professor Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj, a figure whom I adore and look up to with utmost respect. If there’s one person you want on your team to advocate for women empowerment, Professor Dr Harlina is that person.
I came to the talk, titled “Dilemma Seorang Wanita : Berdua Atau Sendirian” with an eager mind and high spirit, hoping Prof. Dr Harlina would shed some light on this matter and perhaps endorse the idea that it’s okay to be a single woman in this day and age. In all honesty, I have nothing against marriage. I am happy and thrilled to see people pairing up and live a fulfilling life with their partners. It’s just that I am on this “crusade” of trying to prove to people that being alone is not something to be frowned upon. It’s not something to be ashamed of, that each of us has our own path set by Allah to traverse. I am campaigning for the idea that whether you are a single woman or a married one, what matters is what you do with your life to make it count. That you lead a meaningful life doing things that make you happy and not submit to what society thinks will make you happy.
However, instead of getting what I hoped for, I obtained something different in return. It’s not that Prof. Dr. Harlina did not endorse my “campaign”, it’s that she tackled the topic from a different perspective than what I had in mind. She was objective and fair-minded in presenting her perspective of both options, which I find to be surprisingly refreshing. Whether you choose to be single or build a family, each comes with its own set of rights, responsibilities, advantages, challenges and rewards. All these were made clear throughout the 2 and a half hours of the session.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN
Whether a woman chooses to be single or get into marriage, she must first and foremost understand what it means to be a woman. The aspect of understanding her own self, or self-knowledge, as it is popularly known, is something that is rarely discussed or explored.
Delving into self-knowledge requires us to know what is the definition of a woman, from the Islamic, scientific and conventionally-accepted perspective. Prof. Dr Harlina made us all play in an interactive question-and-answer game to see how well we know about women from all the three perspectives, and the results had us cringing. Clearly we only know that women are female human beings but a majority of us were clueless when a question concerning a female chromosome number came up (46,XX) or when we were asked which ayah in the Quran specifically mentions the difference of creation between a male and a female (all went for Surah An-Nisa but actually the ayahs are in Surah Al-Layl)
92:3 وَمَا خَلَقَ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَى
And (by) He who created the male and female
إِنَّ سَعْيَكُمْ لَشَتَّى 92:4
Certainly, your efforts and deeds are diverse (different in aims and purposes)
Whatever path we decide, we must first have self-knowledge, we must know what it means to be a woman (back in those days and today, in this modern age), we must know what makes us a woman other than the fact that we get to wear skirts and dresses, we must know not just the biological aspect of a woman but the whole package; physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional aspect of a woman. All these will help us in making an informed decision in choosing whichever path we want and what to expect when traversing the path of our choice.
Self-knowledge is important because it’ll determine what type of person you want to be and how you react to situations around you.
Self knowledge is what sets apart a single woman who waits helplessly hoping her imam in white shining thobe would come to save her and a woman who chooses to take action of her life and make something good out of it regardless of her marital status.
Self knowledge is what will set apart a woman going into a marriage for the trivial of reasons like over the top wedding celebrations or wanting someone to accompany her on her lonely days and a woman going into marriage knowing that responsibility is upon her and her husband in building and nurturing their family so that they become contributing members of the society, that after the joyous wedding celebration is over, real life begins with real life challenges and rewards for those who bear patience in overcoming these challenges.
In Surah Adz-Dzariyat, ayah 56, we are told that Allah did not create both the Djinn and mankind except to worship Him. This alone tells us what we are meant to do, first and foremost in this world : To worship Allah. This is the first and main responsibility of both men and women in Islam. This is the status that we must first chase, before chasing other titles like “a free single woman” or “a happy wife to a perfect husband”. We must serve Allah first, He is the first relationship we need to get into with. In knowing that we need to serve Allah, we are freed from other form of “worldly” slavery.
We can be one of three :
- Deciding that we would only serve others but Allah : Our bosses, our spouses, our children, our friends, our wealth, our status.
- Deciding that we would not serve others but our own self : This is when our nafs become our master, we do what we want without regard for right or wrong.
- Deciding that we serve only Allah : We know that servitude to Allah comes as a package. That aside from Allah commanding us to worship Him, He commands us to be honest to people (to our bosses and our colleagues), to be kind to our family members and neighbours, to be just, to be merciful, to be watchful of our conduct, to be mindful of our choice of words.
Deciding to serve Allah is your liberation. If you choose not to serve Allah, you will automatically be a servant of human and material things, and that will make you a slave, not and abd’ of Allah.
Understanding our own self and purpose would also lead us to Surah Al-An’am, ayah 165 :
“And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.”
Whether we are a single or a married woman, we know that part of our life’s purpose in this world is to become a “khalifah”, to govern this earth in the most just and fair manner. If you are a single woman, you can translate this ayah into actions such as being an honest employer to your employee, being a kind neighbour in your community, upholding a character that promotes peace to all, even showing concern for the environment. If you are a married woman, you’d promote the same actions as well to your family members and your children. You would know that this world is bigger than just your family at home and that all of us are responsible in playing a part of a contributing citizen.
Author: Nur Izzaidah Abdull Zubi