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Outspoken: The Power of a Woman’s Voice

Using the beautiful example of Juwayriyyah bint al-Haarith (RA), Zainab bint Younus explains that Muslim women should not be shamed into staying silent.

“Muslim women should be seen, not heard” is a belief that – if not spoken outright – is implicitly understood and reinforced constantly. “A woman’s voice is ‘awrah” is another catchphrase that is floated around commonly and used to shame Muslim women who stand up for themselves in any way. “Women who speak are fitnah!”

If anything, one common trait amongst all the wives of RasulAllah (SAW) – besides being of those who were guaranteed Jannah – was that, in their own way, they were incredibly strong women who were never afraid to stand up for themselves or to speak out. Juwayriyyah bint al-Haarith (RA) was the daughter of an Arab chieftain – making her, in essence, a princess of sorts. When her father’s tribe waged war against the Muslims and were defeated, they captured prisoners and spoils of war as was customary at the time. Amongst the prisoners was Juwayriyyah (RA), who was the prisoner of Thaabit ibn Qays. Despite the fact that Juwayriyyah’s husband had just been killed in battle, rendering her a widow and captive, she was nonetheless both courageous and intelligent. She immediately began to arrange her own ransom, reaching an agreement with Thaabit that she would ransom herself for nine measures of silver.

She also arranged it so that she was given a meeting with Rasool Allah (SAW). With her head held high and her dignity undiminished by her circumstances, she addressed him with an eloquent and powerful speech:
“O Messenger of Allah! I am Juwayriyyah, the daughter of al-Haarith, the leader of his people. You are not unaware of what has befallen me. I am a captive of Thaabit ibn Qays, and I have bargained with him to ransom myself for nine measures of silver – so help me to free myself!”

In these brief words, Juwayriyyah (RA) established herself as a woman of intelligence, dignity and of faith. Her very first words made it clear that she had accepted Islam – why else would she refer to him as the Messenger of Allah? – and called attention to her situation by emphasising her former position as the daughter of a leader, and her current position as a prisoner. She made it known that she was not helpless and idle and would not allow herself to remain a prisoner. This not only ensured that everyone present was aware of the fact that she had taken pro-active measures, but also called upon Rasool Allah’s sense of honour, compassion and generosity to assist her.

Indeed, this small speech was all it took to guarantee freedom not only for herself, but also for her entire tribe. Rasool Allah (SAW) was  so impressed by her that he immediately told her, “Would you like something better than that?”

Quick-witted as ever, Juwayriyyah (RA) didn’t simply accept, but rather asked, “What is it?”

Rasool Allah (SAW) said, “I will pay your ransom and marry you as well.”

Her answer was swift. “Yes, O Messenger of Allah!”

And with that, she was included amongst the ranks of the Mothers of the Believers. Not only that, but due to her acceptance of Islam and her position as the wife of Rasool Allah (SAW), she also secured the freedom of her entire tribe, as well as bringing them closer to Islam. The power of her words – of her voice – was clear.

Unfortunately, it’s common today in many Muslim cultures and communities to find that women who speak up, whether in defence of themselves or for a specific cause, are penalised for voicing themselves. Their modesty, their piety and even their personal lives are often targeted, sometimes with crude insinuations made. It is appalling that these accusations are thrown around at women who are doing little more than following in the footsteps of the heroines of Islam – the wives and daughters of Rasool Allah (RA), his female Companions and the great female scholars of the Tabi’een.

In a time when the Muslim Ummah is besieged on numerous fronts – militarily, economically and socially – the example of Juwayriyyah (RA) is one to be told to every Muslim man and woman, reminding us that no matter what situations we find ourselves in, Allah I helps those who help themselves. In Juwayriyyah’s case, it was her pro-activeness, her quick mind and her courage that changed her from not only prisoner to princess, but also into a woman of Jannah. By modelling ourselves on Juwayriyyah (RA), we will discover that one of the greatest tools for changing our less-than-ideal circumstances is complete trust in Allah I while never backing down from the numerous obstacles that will inevitably be in our paths.
Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Ar-Ra’d:11)

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young woman who finds constant inspiration in the lives of the Sahabiyaat and other great women in Islamic history. She hopes that every Muslimah is able to identify with the struggles of these inspirational women and follow in their footsteps to become a part of a new generation of powerful Muslim women.