Fadumo Dayib is making rounds in international news for all the right reasons. She is the first female presidential candidate for Somalia, a country known for its long civil war and patriarchy. Her daring ambition has earned her both widespread admiration and hate. She has even received death threats, but the accomplished mother of four says that she is not deterred. When I read about her in a Marie Claire article about a year ago, I was immediately inspired by her bravery and vision. She was a modern-day role model that I could look up to.
Last year, I was honoured to co-interview her in a Facebook Q&A session hosted by Mombasa-Toa Donge Lako group. We fielded many questions ranging from feminism to Somali culture to East African geo-politics. All the questions were fascinating and her responses were always direct, concise, and educated.
One question, in particular, stands out in my memory as it had been one that I had been wondering about myself for quite a while. It is in regards to the legitimacy of Muslim female leaders:
Question: We often hear that Islam forbids women from assuming leadership positions, how have you overcome that?
Answer: Islam does not forbid women from assuming leadership positions. If that were the case, all mothers would go to hell as childbearing and rearing is the most difficult leadership position ever assigned to any human being.
To make it short, the Hadith cited was interpreted by the scholars to refer to the position of ruling over all Muslims under a single ruler. This is what was previously called a “caliphate”. Even then, there’s actually a lengthy discussion and debate about whether this Hadith is giving a general ruling or was specific to the Persian Empire at the time, which is when the Prophet PBUH said, “A people will no succeed if they surrender their affairs to a woman.” As for ruling a country, it’s not really an issue because I would be governing a specific location for a segment of the Muslim population. In this case Somalia. An example that can be cited here is when Umar ibn al-Khattab RA put a woman to be responsible for the market in Madina, which meant she’d ruling over men in that capacity.
One issue with Muslims today is the attachment to terms without understanding the concepts underlying them. This has caused a great deal of confusion, especially with regards to politics. A president of a country is not technically supposed to rule in the same capacity as medieval ruler did. In a functioning democracy, there’s a parliament or a senate or a congress as bodies which are supposed to counterbalance the executive branch of government. Technically speaking, the president is not really the “ruler”. They’re the head of a group of people that form a party which is in power, who are in turn checked by other branches of government. This is a simplification, but I say it to illustrate a point: the governmental systems in place today are not the same as those the scholars were living under and interpreting the Quran and Hadith in light of. Hence, it is a mistake to quote a single verse or Hadith and cite what past scholars have said about them without taking into account other plausible interpretations that could run contrary to what they said. This is not to mention Balqees, the Queen of Sheba, mentioned in Surah An’Naml in the Quran who Prophet Suleiman called to Islam. Balqees was mentioned in a way of praise in the Quran for having led her people to success with her wisdom and consultation with them. Stories like hers are what the Quran calls “lessons for those with intellect” and “lessons for those who ponder and reflect”. The Prophet PBUH Sunnah is supposed to be an explanation of the Quran, not a contradiction against it. Unfortunately, we live in a time where many Muslims have rejected traditional scholarship and methodology and have resorted to nihilistic approaches where they think quoting a single verse or Hadith can be authoritative to make something permissible or impermissible. May Allah guide us all.
I overcome this challenge by highlighting that our religion gave us rights long before others caught on. Islam is peace, it brings mercy and enlightenment. Anyone distorting its beautiful teachings and tarnishing its image needs to be checked. It is our obligation to do so. We need to learn our religion instead of parroting what certain sheikhs have said. The first verse was Iqra. And read we must. We also need to understand what we read in order to apply in our daily lives.
A full recording of the interview can be found on Donge’s Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/168336429956770/search/?query=fadumo%20dayib
Ms. Dayib’s official website is https://fqdayib.com/
(Photo from Ms. Dayib’s Facebook page)