Can women memorise the Quran?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
This article is a response to a request from a sister. She pointed out that some cultures stopped women from memorising the Quran, so how could one prove to them that it was allowed?
I must admit that I was stunned that cultures like this existed. I did some research but was unable to find anything related to this. However, I did find some other reasons (completely illogical ones) that some “shaikhs” used to stop women from memorising the Quran. I’ve responded to those reasons as well.
Please keep in mind that this is not a “refutation” of any sort and that I am just a layman. So please excuse me if I sound like a know-it-all. It’s a bit tough writing sometimes, because there is so much room for misunderstanding!
To the sister: Firstly, please forgive me for the delay in writing this article. Secondly, I’m not sure if this is the reply that you had in mind. Please let me know your thoughts and if the article sufficed you. I’ve answered the people directly [just in case you assume that the article is addressed directly to you]. Barakallahu feek.
[Completely useless but nevertheless interesting note: For the first time in a decade, I actually used a pen and a paper (as opposed to MS Word) to write down the first draft of this post. ]
So here’s my answer in point form:
1) In reality, the ones who claim that women cannot memorise the Quran need to provide their proofs, because what is famously known is that women can do so.
The questioner clearly stated that it is in some cultures, which in itself should prove that this is not from Islam.
The one who says this should show us where it has been prohibited. Also, which person of knowledge has actually said that women cannot memorise the Quran?
2) I’ve seen many people asking for “proofs”. The problem is that some people don’t understand what constitutes proof.
I’ve noticed that many people want a direct ayah (verse) from the Quran or a direct hadeeth stating that X is allowed or that Y is not allowed.
Yes, all the proofs are derived from the Quran and Sunnah. However, not all the proofs are direct.
For example, the prohibition of taking drugs is not found directly in the Quran and Sunnah (as drugs didn’t exist at that time). What is found is direct evidence that all intoxicants are unlawful. Using qiyaas (analogy), the scholars derived that drugs too are unlawful.
Sometimes, the absence of proof is itself a proof.
For example, the original ruling with regards to daily habits (i.e. those that are not acts of worship) is that they are allowed (mubaah). So if someone says “Drinking mango juice is unlawful” then he/she has to bring the proof because it is lawful due to the above mentioned principle.
Those who wish to know more about this issue should study a science called “Usool Al-Fiqh” (Principles of Jurisprudence). There is another subject called Qawaaid Al-Fiqhiyyah (Fiqh Maxims) that explains principles like the one mentioned above.
Note: I would like to point out that I’m not trying to put anyone down by asking them to study these subjects (if they haven’t done so already). I just found them to be mandatory for a student of knowledge and also very useful for daily life, so I thought I would share this information.
Proof that Women can Memorise the Quran
So, what are the proofs that a woman can memorise the Quran?
1) One of the proofs is the principle which is derived from the following hadeeth:
سئل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عن الرجل يجد البلل ولا يذكر احتلاما ؟ قال : يغتسل . وعن الرجل يرى أنه قد احتلم ولم يجد بللا ؟ قال : لا غسل عليه . قالت أم سلمة : يا رسول الله ، هل على المرأة ترى ذلك غسل ؟ قال : نعم إن النساء شقائق الرجال
Aishah (radiallahu anhu) narrated: The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was asked about a man who finds wetness and does not remember having a wet dream. So he said: “He is to perform ghusl (full ablution).” And (he was asked) about a man who had a wet dream but does not find any wetness so he said: “No ghusl is required of him. Umm Salamah (radiallahu anha) said: “O Messenger of Allah! Is the woman required to perform ghusl if she sees that?” He replied: “Indeed the women are twin halves of men.“
[Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadeeth No. 113. Graded "sahih" by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadeeth No. 113. He had originally weakened this hadeeth but later changed his opinion.]
[Note: There is some difference of opinion over the authenticity of this hadeeth. However, this principle (i.e. the women are twin halves of men) is well known].
So, what does this principle mean? It means that whenever we find a ruling in the Quran and the Sunnah that is addressed to men, it also applies to the women, and if we find a ruling that is addressed to the women, it also applies to the men unless there is proof to differentiate between the two.
This is actually very obvious because the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was sent to both the men and the women.
So, for example, women have been prohibited to pluck their eyebrows. This prohibition extends to the men. Men (i.e. the male pronoun has been used) have been prohibited to steal the money of orphans so this extends to the women.
However, if there is proof that this ruling is only for one gender, then and only then is it limited to that gender.
For example, we know that the men are allowed to marry more than one wife. Can the woman marry more than one husband? No, due to the many proofs that show us that she cannot do so. For example, there is an ayah (verse) which states that a woman cannot remarry her first husband (after three divorces) until she marries another man first.
Also, we know that that the women are required to wear hijab. What about the men? Obviously not, because the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) never wore it!
So, in our case, we all know that there are many ahadeeth praising those that memorise the Quran (some of them can be found here). If we follow this principle, it means that these virtues also extends to the women, because there is no proof to limit it only to the men.
Another proof that points to the above mentioned principle is the following hadeeth:
Abdur Rahman ibn Shaibah said: ‘I heard Umm Salamah (radiallahu anha), the wife of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) saying: “I said to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam): ‘Why is it that we (i.e. the women) are not mentioned in the Quran as the men are?’ ”
She said: ” Then one day without my realising it, he was calling from the minbar (pulpit).” She said: “And I was combing my hair, so I tied my hair back, then I went out to my chamber in my house and I started listening out and he was saying from the minbar: ‘O people! Verily, Allah says in His book:
إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّـهُ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
“Verily, the Muslim men and women, the believing men and women, the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble (before their Lord Allah), the men and the women who give Sadaqaat (i.e. Zakaah, and alms, etc.), the men and the women who observe Saum (fast), the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).” [Surah Al-Ahzab (33) : 35]
[Musnad Ahmad, Hadeeth No. 26603. Shaikh Shuaib Al-Arnaut said that its isnaad (chain) was 'sahih'.]
[Please excuse me for not providing the Arabic text of the narration.]
So this ayah (verse) shows that it doesn’t matter if the men are being referred to, because the women are automatically included in that reference (unless there is an explicit exception as in the examples above).
2) The Companions (radiallahu anhum) of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) were the most knowledgeable of people and we have been asked to follow them in goodness.
وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
“And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhaajiroon (those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and the Ansar (the citizens of Al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhaajiroon) and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.” [Surah At-Tawbah (9) : 100]
There were many female companions of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) that memorised the Quran. Some of them have been mentioned in this article.
We can see (from that article) that some of the wives of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) memorised the Quran. If they did it, isn’t this proof that even the women should strive to do it?
3) This point is not a proof in itself but an addition to the above.
As I mentioned above, if something is only limited to one culture, we can safely say that it is not from Islam.
Subhan Allah, I find one of the most amazing things about Islam to be that it is practiced across the world by different cultures. And I’ve felt that this is also a way that Islam has been preserved.
For example, some people try to claim that hijab is cultural. Of course, the Quran and sunnah disprove that. Also, the fact that all the cultures wear hijab disproves that as well! If it had been a cultural thing, how is it that ALL the cultures do it?
Likewise, women of different cultures, across the centuries, have been memorising the Quran. So if it was not from Islam, why do ALL the cultures practice it?
A Reply to the “Shaikhs”
As I stated above, when I searched for more information on this issue, I found that some “shaikhs” think that women should not memorise the Quran. According to them, she’s going to get busy with the house and the kids and will not have time to review the Quran and so she’s going to forget it!!!
Subhan Allah, this is truly one of the strangest arguments I have come across. It made me realise how Shaytaan (the devil) stops people from doing the good or commanding it. He doesn’t say “Stop the good”, rather he beautifies our evil deeds so that we end up stopping the good things.
The above argument can be replied to from the following angles:
[Note: I haven't mentioned the relevant proofs because in this case they are well known.]
1) Has Allah asked us to worry about what our future (in this life) holds or has He asked us to do good deeds in the present time, before death comes?
Obviously, it’s the latter.
Should a young unmarried woman be worried about a future that she might not live up to (marriage, kids and taking care of the home)? Or should she worry about doing deeds at present?
Perhaps a person may finish memorising the Quran and die the next day. We have NO guarantees as to how long we will live. This is what we are constantly reminded about in the Quran: do good deeds before death comes.
Also, if we have to worry about the future, shouldn’t we be worried about the future that will DEFINITELY come i.e. the hereafter?
2) If everyone only did the deeds that they were 100% sure of continuing with, we’d all be in serious trouble.
Rather we need to focus on starting the deed and taking it day by day. This applies to everything that we do.
We can’t just stop doing something because of an imaginary future in which this deed will become difficult to do! Rather one should focus on the present and put in the efforts so as to gain the rewards in the hereafter.
Also, keeping oneself occupied with good deeds keeps one away from sins.
So, a good present will lead to a good future, insha-Allah.
Also, when a person starts a voluntary act and then stops it, he still has the rewards for the deed. They don’t get wiped away (unless he commits major shirk (worshipping others besides Allah) or major kufr (disbelief)).
For example, if a sister wants to start fasting Mondays and Thursday (due to the rewards involved). Should she be worried about her consistency 10 years from now? Or should she start doing it now so that she can increase in good deeds and keep away from sins?
If she starts, this gives her a chance to work on her consistency. If she doesn’t start, then how she even think of consistency?
Also, even if she is unable to continue with this in the future, at least she has earned the rewards for all the Mondays and Thursdays that she did fast.
Likewise, there is so much reward in memorising the Quran. One of the reasons is due to the amount of effort involved in doing so.
If she starts to memorise surah by surah, she’ll eventually finish, insha-Allah. [Please read this post on my main blog.]
However, if she doesn’t even start, then there’s no way that she’ll finish memorising the Quran.
Also, if she finished memorisation but was unable to review, then she’ll still have the rewards that she earned for the memorisation.
Note: The above issue begs the question: Is it a sin to forget the Quran after having memorised it?
Some scholars considered it a major sin. The hadeeth that is used to prove this is weak though.
However, it is agreed that it is a dispraised act (assuming that it was not something mandatory that kept a person away from the revision).
Still, the issue that I mentioned above still applies. We can’t assume that we won’t get time to review in the future and then stop memorising in the present because of that. It just doesn’t make sense.
3) As I said above (again and again), we don’t know what the future holds. Perhaps a person will die early, or she may not marry or she may marry and not have kids or she may marry and have kids and have her in laws or a maid to help out.
So why are these “shaikhs” only focusing on ONE possibility??
4) If one has to choose something, why not choose memorising the Quran over the kids?
No, I’m not asking anyone to do so (I think that one should strive for both). My question is why is it that people always ask us to choose the worldly life over the hereafter?? Isn’t it meant to be the opposite?
5) Sorry, but aren’t the kids going to grow up? Or are they always going to remain young?
She can review after they grow up, can’t she?
6) If a person memorises the Quran and then forgets it, isn’t that more motivation for her to review as opposed to if she had never memorised it to begin with?
That’s what I’ve noticed anyway.
I’ve heard people going on and on about how they can’t remember surahs that they’ve memorised and it’s obvious that they feel bad.
The same thing happens to be. I’ve memorised Surah An-Nisaa but I never reviewed it properly so it’s getting lost. I feel SO bad every time I recite it or come across any ayah (verse) in it.
However, I don’t get the same feeling when I recite Surah A-Maaidah, the surah after it, because I haven’t memorised it.
So, perhaps a woman who has memorised the Quran will feel more motivated to do the review out of guilt. However, if she hadn’t memorised it to begin with, she might not feel the same level of motivation to memorise something new.
7) I don’t ever want to hear about women complaining about the lack of time for worshipping Allah due to the house and the kids.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُلْهِكُمْ أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَلَا أَوْلَادُكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ
“O you who believe! Let not your wealth or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. And whosoever does that, then they are the losers.” [Surah Al-Munafiqun (63) : 9]
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَاجِكُمْ وَأَوْلَادِكُمْ عَدُوًّا لَّكُمْ فَاحْذَرُوهُمْ ۚ وَإِن تَعْفُوا وَتَصْفَحُوا وَتَغْفِرُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
إِنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلَادُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ عِندَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ
“O you who believe! Verily, among your wives and your children there are enemies for you (i.e. may stop you from the obedience of Allah), therefore beware of them! But if you pardon (them) and overlook, and forgive (their faults), then verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas Allah, with Him is a great reward (Paradise).” [Surah At-Taghabun (64) : 14-15]
The women at the time of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) had children and homes to take care of as well, and their lives were harder. Yet, they had time to worship Allah.
You know why? Because they put Allah first, and so He made things easy for them.
Whereas today many of us put wealth, family, house, education, society, status, etc above Allah (though we don’t openly admit it) and so we are punished as a result of this. The lack of blessings in our time and our inability to get things done is due to this. This should cause us to do more ibaadah (worship) but unfortunately what happens is that people don’t understand.
So they think that they can get more done by leaving the ibaadah, subhan Allah, and that’s the start of a vicious circle.
And of course, as everyone knows, “too busy for ibaadah” is just an excuse. After all, the people who say this have time for shopping, watching tv, going to parties, chatting for long hours on the phone, facebook, twitter, three course meals, long sleeping hours, etc!
In just about every lecture I attend, there is a question about a woman’s responsibilities and how she can combine those with seeking knowledge.
Just yesterday, one of my classmates asked one of our teachers, Ustadh Abdullah Al-Kamali about whether it was a sin upon her if she left seeking off knowledge due to her other responsibilities with kids, home and work.
You know, he didn’t even let her finish the question. He just said that there was no contradiction between the two and that she should do both. She needed to strive and seek help in Allah, and then things would be easy for her. He (quite rightly) did not give her the possibility of stopping the good deeds.
So, this is my reply to the ones who invent reasons as to why the women cannot memorise the Quran.
My advice to those who listen to such people would be to ignore them and continue with the good deeds.
If I have said anything wrong, then please feel free to comment on this post.
Allah knows Better.