often forget that before Islam, attitudes to women were
Ibn Umar (d. 73/692) said:
'When Prophet Muhammad was a live we were cautious when speaking and dealing with our women in fear that arevelation would come (from God) concerning our behaviour. But when the Prophet died, we were able to speak and deal with them more freely' [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 9:253-254]
This hadith/tradition is an admission that there was social resistance to the early Islamic reforms regarding women i.e. Islam came and supporting women, however, because of the strong anti-women cultural traits there was resistance by many men.
An example are the men of Mecca, who opposed the presence of women in Public forums. This resulted in the Prophet having to specifically state 'do NOT prevent women from attending prayers in mosques'
[Ibn Hazm, al-Muhalla bi al-Athar, 2:170; Ibn Hajr, 2:273-275; an-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, 3/4:382-385; al-Id, Ihkam al-Ahkam, 1:157]
Even after this statement men allowed women to attend prayers during the day but prohibited them from attending during the night.
This led to Prophet Muhammd having to explicitely state that his command 'do not prevent women from attending prayers in mosques' ALSO included prayers at night. [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 2:55-56; Ibn Hazm, al-Muhalla, 2:170; an-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, 3/4:383]
The above is a simple example of how many Muslim men, did NOT want women to be active outside of the home. They wanted to retain their pre Islamic customs of ignorance. When Prophet said, 'do not prevent women from attending prayers', these men, accepted it in half and only let women go to the mosque during the day. But later Prophet Muhammad had to further extend his statement to stress that men CANT stop women from attending prayers in the mosque by including the statement 'even at night'.
This resistance to the social participation of women in Islamic society, reflects clearly the environment of early Islam. And it is upon THIS basis when studying the early Muslim society we have to understand that people were predisposed to certain values - which as this example clearly shows, were incorrect.
May Allah the Almighty have mercy and guide us all, ameen.
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