Knowledge empowers both the spiritual and the intellectual self. Both deserve to be empowered and respected, and knowledge is a key pillar on which this upliftment rests for both. In this article, we look at the woman’s right in Islam to an education: of both the religious and other kinds.new
In Islam, we believe in the concept of going up ranks in Jannah through one’s steadfastness in understanding religion. The intention to improve oneself and the world around them will likewise be rewarded greatly.
In our practical work at the MWA for instance, we believe that the religious education needs as well as broader educational needs of Australian Muslim women are paramount in creating a learned, elevated community.
We extend our support beyond formal learning spaces, and understand the importance of informal and non-typical forms of education, as our greatest role model the Prophet (SAW symbol) himself was illiterate, but far from unlearned. Individuals should have the ability to improve their knowledge in all ways that they deem beneficial for this world and for the hereafter.
The importance of religious education
According to Islam, religious education is to be seen to be just as important as any other form of education. The following hadith refers to religious education in specific:
“Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
In Australia’s formal institutions, religious education is often not given as much focus. While Muslims can certainly benefit from the current education system and excel in mainstream academic fields, as a community, we also deserve to have spaces to be educated of our religion and be spiritually enlightened. We need a safe environment for people in our community – including our women and children – to teach about Allah, His Prophet and the clear foundations of Islam. This knowledge can be the pillar upon which a more confident living by the teachings of Islam is possible for Australian Muslims.
How we should view education as a community
Education goes beyond learning about our core Islamic texts, though it most importantly and foundationally starts there. It is also the right of Muslim women to have their secular education needs met just as they are for their non-Muslim counterparts, to be effective contributors to society and gain the same independence.
Muslim women deserve as much a platform and respect to speak about their morals, to have as high a quality of life through their careers.
We need to have at least basic education to navigate in a highly stressful world that is becoming increasingly aversive to both Muslims and women.
The Prophet (SAW symbol) said about worldly education,
“To listen to instructions of science and learning for an hour is more meritorious than attending the funerals of a thousand martyrs and more meritorious than standing up in prayer for a thousand nights.” (Sunan ibn Majah)
How education can power our relating to others in society
Being educated allows us as Muslims (both men and women) to better communicate our values and religion with the rest of society. Whether it be through physical interactions or through the virtual world, we can create a larger presence through which to validate Islam and create positive perceptions of being informed of reality and morality.
The importance of the two forms of education can be summarised thus: Islamic education is concerned with the full Islamic life and guided by the teachings from the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, while education in general is concerned with a basic standard for living.
There are many ways that we can educate ourselves at a personal level:
- Never take what opportunities we do have for granted
- Use the examples of the Prophets to be inspired to put more effort into what we believe in
- Keep in contact with family and keep our eyes open about the changing world around us
There are also ways to create the ideal educated community, but this requires all of us:
- Involve our friends and family
- Develop friendships through organisations like MWA
- Support parents who are trying to raise their children
However, increasing knowledge is not a simple task everywhere in Australia. Education needs to be structurally applied and made easy for the public to individuals of all ages and regardless of cultural context. When the right of education is denied, adults struggle in finding opportunities to express their skills. Adults that don’t have formal learning opportunities also find limitations in their professional connections and abilities. And a lack of education reduces peoples’ opportunities for an improved quality of life.
Here at MWA, we aim towards providing a space where Muslim women can feel inspired to learn and be supported through their journey. This includes putting into place initiatives that provide the community with resources to update their skills and safe spaces which rejuvenate spirituality and allow us to connect as a community.