We reviewed request no. 794 for the year 2007 which includes the following:
Women, both Arab and English, sit on the consultative council of the mosque of East Anglia University in Norwich, U.K, where resolutions are passed by voting. Is it permissible for women to vote in such a council or is it only permissible for men?
Islam affords men and women equal rights and duties except in those matters which are contingent upon their unique dispositions. Islam gave women their full rights, raised their status, made them financially independent and gave them the right to dispose of their affairs. Moreover, Islam gave women the right to practice all civil rights as long as they are compatible with their nature.
One of the aspects in which equality is afforded to both genders is that of expressing one's opinion and giving counsel on matters—personal and public, religious and non-religious—as is attested by numerous evidences in the primary texts. These include:
- The saying of Allah the Exalted,
The believers, men and women, are protectors of one another: they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil. [At-Tauba, 71]
The holy verse does not distinguish between men and women in these two important rites; voting is considered a kind of advice and commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong.
- During the women's pledgeof allegiance to the Prophet, the women promised to follow the teachings of Islam. The holy Qur`an highlighted this incident in the following verse:
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), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter, --then do thou receive their fealty, and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. [Al-Mumtahana, 12]
- The Prophetsought advice from his wife Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) concerning the Treaty of Hudaybiyah.
- Asma`, Abu Bakr's daughter (may Allah be pleased with them both) encouraged her son, Zubair Ibn 'Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with them both) to defend Mecca.
Preventing women from voting results in the concealment of their knowledge and expertise and the suppression of their advice, both of which are disliked in Islamic law and well as being rationally repugnant. On this issue, Allah, Exalted be He says,
And remember Allah took a covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it: but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made! [Al-'Imran, 187]
It is known that those who were given the Scripture are held accountable for their deeds and they include both genders; no one has ever claimed that this accountability concerns only men. The relative pronoun in the verse is only masculine in accordance with the practice of most of the Qur`anic verses and sunnah texts.
Imparting knowledge and giving advice: religious recommendations
Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophetsaid, "Whoever is asked about [some] knowledge and conceals it, Allah will bridle him with a bridle of fire on the Day of Resurrection" [Reported by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ahmed. Al-Tirmidhi declared it fair].
The Qur`an states that giving advice whenever possible is from among the teachings of Islam. Allah says,
There is no blame on those who are infirm, or ill, or who find no resources to spend (on the cause), if they are sincere (in duty) to Allah and His messenger: No ground (of complaint) can there be against such as do right. [At-Tauba,91]
Allah made the exoneration of those who did not go out in Jihad with the Prophet—even the weak and sick—contingent upon giving advice to others for the sake of Allah and His Messenger. The Prophetsaid, "Verily religion is nasiha, religion is nasiha, religion is nasiha." The Companions asked: "To whom?" The Prophetreplied, "To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, the leaders from amongst the Muslims and to their common folk " [Reported by Muslim, Abu Dawud, Al-Nisa'i and Ahmed through Tamim al-Dari (may Allah be pleased with him). Al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisa`i reported it through Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him). Al-Tirmidhi declared it fair].
When the general notion of gender equality in regards to duties and obligations was established in the minds of scholars and after reading the numerous texts dealing with this issue and understanding the purpose of Islam in this regard, the well known Islamic principle stating that women are full sisters of men was also established. A similarly worded hadith was reported by Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ahmad through 'A`isha (may Allah be pleased with her). Al-Munawi declared its chain of transmission good. The hadith was also reported by Abu Dawud, Al-Darmi, Abu 'Uwana and al-Bazar through Anas (may Allah be pleased with him). Ibn Al-Qatan declared it authentic.
If some people believe that women, due to their gender, lack knowledge and especially the sort of knowledge which qualifies them for voting in legal matters, we mention 'A`isha (may Allah be pleased with her) the mother of the believers, who was a scholar and from whom a great number of men took knowledge; Karima, the daughter of Sa'id Ibn al-Musaib, who reported hadiths from al-Bukhari; and countless other virtuous prominent female scholars. It is known that among the purpose behind the Prophet's multiple marriages is the transmission of his sunnah by many of his virtuous wives. Allah Almighty says,
And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes, of the signs of Allah and His wisdom: For Allah is All-Subtle, All-Aware. [Al-Ahzab, 34]
It is permissible for women to vote in the above mentioned council on an equal basis with men.
Allah the Almighty knows best.