My question is : Can ladies as individuals or in group be allowed to step out of the house for giving dawah? Or for conducting ijtemas or other Islamic gatherings ? I am asking this because some scholars here are objecting to this. They say that women should be accompanied with their mehrams.
Islamic Voice replies:
Some people would like to quite literally apply rules that were meant for a 7th century Arabia to present context. They tend to bar all kind of interaction by women in public, like getting taught by male teachers, travelling alone, contesting elections, doing business, attending and leading prayers, being professionals, speaking in public etc. etc.
Let it be clear that the women prayed behind the rows of men in Masjid Nabawi during the time of the Prophet. They were consulted in political affairs. One woman (Umme Waraqah) was even appointed the imam of a mixed gender mosque in a suburb of Madinah. Women commercial inspectors were appointed by Hazrat Umar in Makkah and Madinah. They participated in wars as nurses. The question we need to ask today is:, if today’s society is more insecure than the battlefields of medieval period. Certainly not! There are all kinds of laws that protect women’s rights to education, employment, to represent people in legislatures, to be professionals and bureaucrats and even to serve in paramilitary forces. There are gender specific facilities in matters of transportation, public lavatories, jails, hospitals, etc. Why should the women then be barred from carrying out normal chores of life just like men? However, they should watch out for security and safety from the point of gender-specific crimes and harassment in a specific situation, just as men would also require to look for their safety in physically hazardous situations.
As for crimes, they happen everywhere. In the Western countries, the crimes against women are reported, registered and documented and their data is available in the statistics of their national crime bureaus. In Arab countries, the crimes perpetrated by the elite, the princes, the royal families and the men with political clout cannot be reported or registered. Even Saudi Arabian monarch King Abdullah’s ex wife had to file a writ in a UK court praying for release of her daughters kept incarcerated in a palace in Riyadh. Suppression of data does not make them any more safe than other countries. We and our ulema often take undue pride in low crime rate in Saudi Arabia and tom-tom about the women’s safety in that kingdom. Low crime against women is no sure guarantee of women’s liberties being available.
Any woman is perfectly within her right to go out for dawah work or for studies or job. She should ensure that she is modestly dressed and is focused at the objective she is pursuing.