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Women as Head of State
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Response: While browsing your web site, I came across the February 2002 issue of your magazine which contained the following query: Can a Woman become the Head of State? What you said was that if she enjoys the confidence of the majority, she can become the head of state. The fact that is it harām (prohibited) for women to rule Muslims. I think you are not aware of the following Hadīth:

Bukhārī reports on the authority of Abū Bakrah that he said: Allah has given me the privilege of a word which I heard from the Messenger of Allah during the days of [the battle of] Al-Jamal, when I was about to join the people of Al-Jamal and fight with them: When the Messenger of Allah heard that the people of Persia had appointed the daughter of Chosroes (Qisrā), he said: ‘People who appoint a woman as their leader will never succeed’. (Bukhārī, No: 4425)

Therefore, appointing a woman as a ruler is forbidden. I hope you take my correction in the right manner, as Muhammad (sws) said ‘Dīn is but sincere advice’.


Response: Thank you for your critique on my answer. I appreciate your concern. My dear brother, I am fully aware of the Hadīth you have quoted. However, in spite of being quoted in Bukhārī, it suffers from the following flaws:

1. It is a Gharīb Hadīth. In Hadīth parlance, a narrative which has just one narrator in any section of its chain is called Gharīb. It makes the narrative quite weak. It is only Abū Bakrah who is reporting this narrative at the top of this chain.

2. It is evident from the very text of the narrative that it was never known until the battle of Jamal took place. It was brought forward only after A’ishah (rta) faced ‘Alī (rta) in battle. Before that it was never heard of -- which of course is quite strange.

3. Last but not the least, if both the above two shortcomings are ignored and the Hadīth is interpreted to imply prohibition for a woman from being elected the head of state, then this Hadīth is against the Qur’ān. It is the purport of the Qur’ān (42:38) that anyone who enjoys the confidence of the majority is eligible to become the ruler of the Muslims. Nowhere does it exclude women from this general principle.

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