Characteristic of a competent woman in the Quran
Every year a great gathering with the title of choosing the miss world is held in which many girls and women from all over the world participate to be graded in the main aspect the west has for choosing the competent woman: appearance.
But Allah, who is the creator of the beauty, mentions other characteristics as the worthiness of a woman and in His viewpoint, who is the true judge, the competence standards are some other things which unlike appearance should be acquired.
In this article we have tried to list the standards of a competent woman in the Quran. Some of these characteristic are the characteristics of a competent human being that the competent woman should have and others are specific to women because of their special nature:
1- Remembrance of Allah
One of the attributes and characteristics of an exemplar and competent woman, is frequent and continuous remembrance of Allah during her life. Allah has mentioned this quality as one of the qualities of true believers and extolled them as follows:
“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women… for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward (1).”
In the previous verse, 34, of this surate, Allah commands the wives of the prophet (PBUH) to always recall divine signs and words of wisdom revealed in their homes:
“And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes, of the Signs of Allah and His Wisdom: for Allah understands the finest mysteries and is well-acquainted (with them).”
Desiring Allah and the Hereafter is the essential standard of superiority and competence of a women compared to other women; the most holy Allah has told this fact in the following verse to the wives of the prophet (PBUH) who should be exemplar for other faithful women:
“O Prophet! Say to thy Consorts… But if ye seek Allah and His Messenger, and the Home of the Hereafter, verily Allah has prepared for the well-doers amongst you a great reward (2).”
The most exalted Allah mentions this attribute about Asiya, faithful wife of Pharaoh, whom He regards as an exemplary even for men and says:
“And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: “O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden” (3).”
And also the great Allah has described and praised Ahl al-Bayt (Imam Ali (PBUH), Lady Fatimah (PBUH), Imam Hassan (PBUH) and Imam Hussein (PBUH)) and called them as “the Righteous” and expresses their desire for Allah:
“As to the Righteous… And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, (Saying), “We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks” (4).”
2- Faith and righteous deed
From the viewpoint of the Quran, faith accompanied by righteous deed is the inseparable requisite to religious faith and the most important attribute of an exemplary and competent woman. Pondering over the verses of the Quran, makes us realize that faith accompanied by righteous deed is the essential asset of human in order to achieve success and prosperity in this world and the Hereafter:
“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions (5).”
“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 (6).”
3- Obedience to Allah and His messenger and submission to their commands
Complete obedience to Allah and His messenger and unquestioning submission to their commands and advices is of other attributes of competent women and exemplary ladies. There are numerous verses explaining this fact:
“It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path (7).”
4- Purity and chastity
In the viewpoint of the Quran, an exemplary and competent woman is pure and chaste and a lady devoid of any impurity, uncleanness and misdeed. The verses about purity are divided to two groups:
1- The verses contemplating the absolute purity and avoiding any kind of uncleanness and misdeed.
2- The verses contemplating the purity and chastity of women and devoid of any sexual sins and illegitimate relations with strangers (non-Mahrams).
The first group can be mentioned referring to the following verses as an example:
- “Behold! The angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations” (8).”
In this verse, Allah has preferred Lady Mary (PBUH) to other women of the world because of her purity and mentioned her among chosen and competent women.
This point indicates the high importance and value of purity for women and also expresses this fact that this attribute is one of the standards of superiority and excellence of every woman.
- “… Women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity. These are not affected by what people say. For them there is forgiveness, and a provision honourable (9).”
But the second group of verses are numerous, we mention some of them herein:
1- “This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you… Chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues (10).”
2- The most exalted Allah says in praise and commendation of Lady Mary (PBUH), who is one of the women chosen by Allah in the world, that she was a pure and chaste woman and says:
“And (remember) her who guarded her chastity. We breathed into her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples (11).”
3- The most holy Allah in Surate of Al-Mumtahina, verse 12, mentions chastity and avoiding impurity of sexual deviation (adultery) as the stipulation for acceptance of women’s penitence and also the stipulation for acceptance of their swear of fealty with the prophet of Islam (PBUH) which expresses the high importance of this attribute among other attributes of exemplary and competent women in the holy Quran’s perspective.
“O Prophet! When believing women come to thee to take the oath of fealty to thee, that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication)… Then do thou receive their fealty, and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins), for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (12).”
4- Allah in praise and commendation of exemplary and competent women, has described them with purity and trusteeship in the absence of their husbands and has praised them as follows: “Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard (13).”
An exemplary and competent woman in the viewpoint of the Quran is a virtuous woman who honor this matter in all fields of personal, familial and social life (economical, political and cultural relationships and liaisons). By a little reflection in the verses of the Quran, we come to this fact that virtue is of the most precious and excellent esteems for human, man and woman:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things) (14).”
The Quran introduces honesty and truthfulness as the characteristics of role model and competent women. In Surate of Al-Ahzab, verse 35, we read: “And for true men and women… For them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.”
The most exalted Allah says in praise and commendation of Lady Mary (PBUH), whom He regards in the Surate of Al-E-Imran, verse 42, as one of the women chosen by him in the world, that she was a truthful woman and says:
“Christ, the son of Mary, was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth (15).”
7- Hijab and appropriate covering
One of the other characteristics and attributes of exemplary and competent woman in the Quran’s perspective is Hijab and appropriate covering. The concept of Hijab for women – regardless of the its extent and appearance –and the women’s restraint from exposure in inappropriate covering in front of non-mahrams, is a constant and definite tradition for Muslims from the beginning of Islam till now and also is one of the issues that all scholars and religious jurisprudents from all creeds and sects of Islam has reached consensus about it and they had and have unanimty (so-called Ijma) about it throughout history and it can be certainly said that: no religious jurisprudent and learned Islamologist hasn’t any doubt about it. In addition to the definite tradition and indisputable consensus and numerous and various narrations from Shia and Sunni, many verses imply this issue, only two which we mention herein as example and proof.
1- “And say to the believing women… That they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof. And they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands (16).”
2- “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad). That is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (17).”
According to the mentioned verses and narrations related in the commentary of these verses and also considering commentators’ and scholars’ opinion about it, there is no room for doubt about the necessity of Hijab and covering for women and as well as the importance and exalted stand of this matter in divine instructions and also this fact is clearly evident that Hijab is a symbol of Islam and a sign of obedience to the Quran’s instructions and hence the secret and cause of anti-Hijab policy of the western and eastern colonialist countries and also those who are westernized and secular and have low self-esteem in Islamic countries can be found out.
8- Avoiding show off and doll up for strangers (non-mahrams)
Restraint from show off and makeup and also any behavior, parlance and act that attracts attention of non-mahrams and provokes them is of other attributes and characteristics of competent woman and exemplary lady. It is worth noting to mention two verses of the Quran about this matter.
1- “And say to the believing women… And that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments (18).”
Allameh Mutahhari (May Almighty Allah be pleased with him) has a wise discourse about showing off and makeup of women while interpreting and explaining the mentioned verse and expressing the philosophy of Hijab. He says:
“But the reason why the Islamic command to cover is exclusive to women is because the desire to show off and display one’s self is a particular trait of women. She is the hunter in the field of domination of the hearts of men and man is the prey as man is the hunter in the field of domination of the bodies and woman is the prey; a woman’s desire to display herself comes from this essence of the hunter in her nature. There is no precedent in the whole world for men to wear tight and transparent clothes or provoking makeups. It is the woman who wishes to capture hearts and imprison man because of her particular nature, so indecent and illegitimate exposure is a women-specific deviation and therefore the order of covering was issued only for them. (19)”
2- “And make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance… (20).”
Shahid Mutahhari says while interpreting and explaining these two verses:
“Do not leave your home to show off and doll up as in the Age of Ignorance. It is not the intention of this command to imprison women in home, because the history of Islam clearly shows that the holy Prophet (PBUH) took his wives to journeys and didn’t prohibit them from leaving the house. But the intention of this command is that the women don’t leave the house to show off. (21)”
Finally, it worth mentioning the point that as much as showing off for attracting other’s attention is prohibited and indecent; it is accepted and admirable to attract and fascinate the husband and even it is encouraged and recommended and women who are apathetic toward this matter or have poor performance, are seriously reproved.
9- Chaste eyes
Of other attributes of exemplary women and competent ladies is to have chaste eyes and avoid to look with lust and pleasure to non-mahrams. In other words, ogling and gazing to non-mahrams is prohibited and indecent for all believing men and women.
The Quran says about this matter:
“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze… And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze (22).”
Shahid Mutahhari says while interpreting this verse: “The compendium of this command is that man and woman should not stare into each other, should not ogle, should not look at each other with lust, should not look at each other to be pleased…”
10- Bashfulness and pudency
The most exalted Allah in the holy Quran expresses an example of proper pudency while narrating the story of Shuaib’s (PBUH) daughters and prophet Moses (PBUH) and invites women to bashfulness and pudency:
“And when he arrived at the watering (place) in Madyan, he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said: “What is the matter with you?” They said: “We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take back (their flocks). And our father is a very old man.” So he watered (their flocks) for them; then he turned back to the shade, and said: “O my Lord! Truly am I in (desperate) need of any good that Thou dost send me!” Afterwards one of the (damsels) came (back) to him, walking bashfully. She said: “My father invites thee that he may reward thee for having watered (our flocks) for us.” So when he came to him and narrated the story, he said: “Fear thou not, (well) hast thou escaped from unjust people.” (23)”
The point that is noticeable and instructive in this story is hidden in the phrase “walking bashfully”: the most salient excellences for women is bashfulness and pudency; because among all attributes and characteristics of Shuaib’s daughters, just bashfulness and prudency has been noted.
1- Al-Ahzab, verse 35
2- Al-Ahzab, verses 28 & 29
3- Al-Tahrim, verse 11
4- Al-Insan, verses 5 & 9
5- Al-Nahl, verse 97
6- Al-Nisa, verse 124
7- Al-Ahzab, verse 36
8- Al-E-Imran, verse 42
9- Al-Noor, verse 26
10- Al-Maidah, verse 5
11- Al-Anbiya, verse 91
12- Al-Mumtahina, verse 12
13- Al-Nisa, verse 34
14- Al-Hujurat, verse 13
15- Al-Maidah, verse 75
16- Al-Noor, verse 31
17- Al-Ahzab, verse 59
18- Al-Noor, verse 31
19- The matter of Hijab, p. 73
20- Al-Ahzab, verses 32 & 33
21- The matter of Hijab, p. 152
22- Al-Noor, verses 30 & 31
23- Al-Qasas, verses 23 & 25