The fact cannot be denied that in the world of today if a nation or a country does not emphasize and focus on educating its people then the future of such people is doomed and they can neither compete nor survive in the fierce competition this world has at present. Therefore, all the members of a nation have to strive and struggle towards knowledge and learning if a nation is to survive and be successful.
The importance of education is without doubt imperative for a nation, the second thing that is even more important than that is the equality in education where both men and women receive equal education rights and facilities. The general perception of people about women in Islam is that they are considered the lesser being and that they have no right of being educated and striving for knowledge in Islam. This notion is wrong and women have the same rights towards education as men do. There have been great Muslim women in the history of Islam that standout as a true role model for Muslim Women The lines below firstly discuss the importance of learning and education in Islam and then discuss the equality of this opportunity in both the genders.
In Quran Allah Almighty says:
“Proclaim! (or Read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created – Created humans, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful – He Who taught (the use of) the Pen – Taught man that which he knew not.” (96:1-5)
This is the very first ayah that was revealed upon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It can be seen that this ayah evidently talks about learning and Allah Almighty teaching humans. Therefore, the importance and significance of learning in Islam can neither be questioned nor objected. A Muslim has to strive in the way of learning in the most adverse of situations.
At another place in Quran Allah Almighty says:
“Likewise, We have sent you (Our) Messenger (PBUH) from amongst yourselves who recites to you Our Revelations and purifies and sanctifies (your hearts and ill-commanding selves) and teaches you the Book and inculcates in you logic and wisdom and enlightens you (on the mysteries of spiritual gnosis and divine truth) which you did not know.” (2:151)
This ayah tells of the responsibilities of a Prophet, among which the most important one is the teaching of the Book and imparting of knowledge and wisdom to people who earlier had no idea about it. Therefore, seeking of knowledge is necessary for people while its imparting is the Sunnah of Prophets.
As far as the allegation that Islam discriminates between men and women pertinent to learning, or it does not encourage or enforce the learning of women is concerned, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said in his hadith:
“Acquisition of knowledge is binding on all Muslims (both men and women without any discrimination).” (Ibn-Maja)
From this hadith two things become clear. The first thing is the fact that the acquisition of knowledge is not optional for Muslims; rather it is binding or mandatory. Hence, there is no excuse for not striving in the way of learning. The second thing that becomes clear from this hadith is the fact that the acquisition of knowledge is imperative on Muslims. In this hadith Prophet (PBUH) did not say that the acquisition of knowledge was applicable on Muslim men, nor did He say about Muslim women only, rather He addressed all the Muslims which makes it clear that when it comes to seeking knowledge, there is no discrimination in Islam.
This equality of seeking knowledge is not just specific to words only, rather there are examples from the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that tell of the quest for learning of Muslim women. There was a case when the Muslim women of His time went to Him with a proposal in which they said:
“You are always surrounded by men for imparting knowledge so appoint a day for us.” (Bukhari)
The Prophet (PBUH) complied to their request and He would go to them on a particular day and teach them about Islam. This hadith again speaks of two things, the first thing being the fact that the women of His time were conscious of learning the Holy Quran and Islamic knowledge, therefore, they spoke for their right and did not hesitate in moving forward in the way of learning. The second thing that becomes clear from this hadith is the fact that Prophet (PBUH) complied to their proposal and would go to teach them. This shows that Prophet (PBUH) had no problem in teaching women and he complied to their request of equal treatment pertaining to learning.
The reason why Muslim nations are far behind compared to the developed countries is the fact that the Muslims have failed to understand and implement the Islamic way of life in society and Quran pertaining to seeking knowledge and learning. They have marginalized women when it comes to learning and this marginalization of women is that has caused them to be far behind in the race of progress and prosperity. If Muslims properly understand and implement this message of Islam, there is no denying the fact that Islam can take back the same glory which it had in its prime.