Monday, September 15, 2014

The Purity of an Adulteress




Hidden pasts. Dark secrets. Tragic love. Broken hearts. These words don’t just belong to soap operas or romantic novels, to movies or non-Muslim societies. They are human themes that have spanned time, affecting saints and sinners and everyone in between.

Muslim women are no exception. In many peoples’ minds, the ideal Muslimah is a pure, innocent, and sheltered being, protected from all that is wrong and sinful, a Madonna to be placed on a pedestal and revered as a figure of incorruptible chastity.

The reality, however, is that Muslim women are human beings with desires and inner demons, just like everyone else. Even in the earliest Islamic history, in the idealized Islamic, Prophetic society of Madinah, the Companions of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) led lives that were fraught with personal battles. Some of the Sahaba were known for being alcoholics; others confessed to cowardice on the battlefield, the urge to steal, and more. The female Companions were not immune, either.
Some of the most powerful stories about the Muslim women of Madinah are about two female Companions who are not known by their names, but only by the names of their tribes.

It is recorded in Sahih Muslim (Kitab al-Hudud, the Book of Punishments), that there came to RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) a woman from the tribe of Ghamid. The woman approached him and said, “O Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me.” The Prophet’s eyes filled with grief and he turned away from her, dismissing her from the gathering.

The next day, al-Ghamidiyyah returned and once again publicly confessed her crime. “O Allah’s Messenger, why do you turn me away?” she beseeched. “Perhaps you turn me away as you turned away Ma’iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant!”

RasulAllah answered, “If you insist upon it (the punishment), then leave and return only after you give birth.”
Months later, al-Ghamidiyyah returned to RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), with her baby wrapped in blankets. She presented the child, saying, “Here is the child whom I have given birth to.”
RasulAllah answered, “Leave, and suckle him until he is weaned.”
Approximately two years later, al-Ghamidiyyah returned with her child, who was holding a piece of bread in his hand.
“O Allah’s Messenger, here is my child, as I have weaned him and he can now eat (solid) food.”

Upon this, RasulAllah entrusted the child to one of his other Companions, and pronounced the punishment of zina upon al-Ghamidiyyah. She was placed in a ditch that came up to her chest, and he commanded the people to come forth and stone her.
Khalid ibn Waleed flung a stone at her head, at which blood spurted forth from her and splashed Khalid’s face. Furious, Khalid verbally abused her. RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) heard Khalid’s curses and rebuked him, saying “Khalid, be gentle! By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.”
After she died, RasulAllah prayed the funeral prayer over her body and al-Ghamidiyyah was buried.[1]
 (Sahih Muslim)

Imran bin Al-Husain Al-Khuza`i reported,
“A woman from the tribe of Juhainah came to Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) while she was pregnant from adultery and said to him, "O Messenger of Allah! I have committed an offense liable to Hadd (prescribed punishment), so exact the execution of the sentence.''

The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) called her guardian and said to him, "Treat her kindly. Bring her to me after the delivery of the child.'' The man complied with the orders.

At last the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) commanded that it was time to carry out the sentence. Her clothes were secured around her and she was stoned to death. The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) led her funeral prayers. `Umar questioned, "O Messenger of Allah! She committed Zina and you have performed funeral prayer for her?'' He replied, "Verily, she made repentance which would suffice for seventy of the people of Al-Madinah if it is divided among them. Can there be any higher degree of repentance than that she sacrificed her life voluntarily to win the Pleasure of Allah, the Exalted?''[2]
(Sahih Muslim)

These were women who committed zina, a sin which is considered to be one of the greatest sins, which has a prescribed punishment in the Shari’ah. Even today, there are vulgar words used to describe women who commit zina: slut, harlot, whore. The social repercussions for women even suspected of having committed zina is severe – even if they are, in truth, innocent.

Yet when RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was faced with these women, how did he react? Did he curse them, shame them, declare that they were no longer fit to be called Muslim?

No. Rather, he recognized their faith and – before anything else – extended to them a way out, a merciful option which would allow them to live their lives as they had before, to give birth to and raise their children in peace. What mother doesn’t want to witness her baby’s first smile, first steps, first words? What mother doesn’t want to be there to watch her child grow up before her eyes, to provide love and comfort, to take part in the pride and joy that accompanies childhood, adolescence, and adulthood?

Instead, both these women sought forgiveness and purity from their Lord, to bear a punishment in this world rather than in the Hereafter. RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), in turn, shared with the entire Muslim Ummah that these were women who had made the greatest of all sacrifices: sacrificed their husbands, their infant children, their reputations, their lives… all for the ultimate Pleasure of Allah alone.

These were women who, if they publicly confessed their crimes today, would be scorned and humiliated by their fellow Muslims, who would be damned to Hell by many, who would be told that they had failed in their Islam. These were women whose actions, even today, are considered to be amongst the worst sins an individual could commit.

Yet these two women – Muslim women who lived in the greatest era of Islam, in the society built by RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) himself, who were in the company of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) – were able to redeem themselves in the Sight of Allah and His Messenger. By virtue of their repentance, their acknowledgment of the severity of the sins they committed, these Muslim women were able to elevate themselves from a position of lowliness and shame to one of honor and dignity, and displayed an incredibly high standard of courage and emaan.

Through submitting themselves in humility to Allah alone, seeking His forgiveness and His pleasure, these women proved themselves to be true Muslim women, the heroines of Islam.

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. She blogs at http://www.thesalafifeminist.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Words Will Never Be Enough

After seeing all the statuses being shared by mashaayikh and ustaadhs about domestic violence - all of which are deeply appreciated - and related discussions about divorce, a woman's right to khul', and so on, what has really been weighing on my mind is the ease with which we speak about the technicalities - e.g. "No woman should ever be abused; abuse is a valid reason for a woman to seek and receive divorce" - and the continuing difficulty to actually implement those legal rulings.

Muslim women across the world, whether in the East or the West, face an incredibly difficult challenge in having their right to khul' even acknowledged, let alone respected. Woman after woman has been turned back by imams and shaykhs who 'mean well' and 'don't want to break up families' and are told, "sister, be patient; sister, your reward is with Allah; sister, don't be hasty."

Few of those women know that the Shari'ah has given them provision to escape such a tormented existence; of those who do know, many of them are told by the men in authority, those of 'knowledge,' that they - as women - do not understand that "marriage is serious," "a family is serious," and that "you cannot just interpret Islamic law as you wish."

And then we wonder why women run away from home, we wonder why Muslim women seek divorce through secular courts instead of through Islamic provisions, we wonder why so many women find solace in the progressive Muslim movement, where such statements are not tolerated.

I'm not going to claim that all such leaders or imams are misogynstic or hateful of women at heart.
What I am saying is that the majority of them will simply never know or understand the emotional, psychological, and physical torture that women endure in their marriages.
What I am saying is that a lack of pro-active female scholarship, and a lack of direct influence from those women, is part of the problem that the mantra of "have patience, sister" remains the go-to advice for women who show up at the Imam's office bruised and battered, both outwardly and inwardly.

What I am saying is that just as men tell us women that we can never understand the fitnah of women, so too can they never understand the fitnah of being a woman, of being marginalized, of being silenced; of being told that we will never truly understand Islam, that we are incapable of understanding our own God-given rights, that unless we obey the status quo, no matter how many degrees or ijaazas we have, we will never be knowledgeable enough to be taken seriously, to be given our rights unless there is a man standing in front of us and speaking for us and who is willing to fight for us every step of the way.

This Ummah has failed its women. This Ummah, and its leaders, its students of knowledge, its scholars - many of whom are men - has failed its women. This Ummah prefers to treat the incident of Thabit ibn Qays and his wife as an aberration or an isolated incident, rather than evidence for a woman to leave a marriage she cannot tolerate. This Ummah prefers that its women are tortured and die at the hands of those who have been enjoined with Qawwamah, those who have been entrusted with a serious Amaanah, those whom we should be able to trust wholeheartedly, not live in terror of.

O Allah, You are the One Who hears the du'a of the oppressed.
O Allah, You are the One Who tests those Whom You love.
O Allah, You are the One Who is All-Knowing, All-Wise, Most Just.

O Allah, grant this Ummah, men and women, Taqwa that we may not abuse the authority You have entrusted with.
O Allah, grant this Ummah, men and women, the courage to speak and stand and fight for the truth.
O Allah, grant this Ummah, men and women, the ability to fight against oppression and injustice and to spread justice in the land.
O Allah, grant this Ummah, men and women, the ability to implement your Divine Laws in the most beautiful and perfect of ways, that no man, woman, or child suffer oppression in Your Name.

Rabbanaa, taqabbal du'a.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Safe Spaces, Safe Adults

Sex ed is almost always seen as awkward and rather torturous amongst Muslims - and that's just between same-gender parents and kids, let alone when it's an adult of the opposite gender doing the talking! Yet a beautiful story from the life of A'ishah gave evidence of a very different attitude entirely.

'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Aswad narrates:

"My father used to send me to A'ishah and (as a child) I used to go to her (i.e. beyond the curtain). When I became adult (i.e. reached puberty; became baaligh), I came to her and called to her from behind the curtain: "O Umm al-Mu'mineen, when does the bath become compulsory?"
She said: "So, you have done it, O Luka'! And (in answer to the question), when the private parts conjoin."

(Al-Dhahabi in Siyar A'lam an-Nubala)

This narration demonstrates a very unique relationship – that of a young boy and an unrelated (non-Mahram) woman. Although ‘Abd al-Rahman first spent time with A’ishah when he was a pre-pubescent boy, he didn’t cut off his relationship with her as soon as he reached puberty… nor was he shy or embarrassed to approach her immediately.
In turn, from A’ishah’s response, it is evident that she was fond of him, and that their relationship was close enough that she teased him gently about becoming a man according to the Shari’ah. SubhanAllah!

How many Muslim youth – boys and girls alike – feel comfortable enough to approach an elder of the same gender, let alone of the opposite sex? How many of them feel that they won’t be scolded or treated harshly, but rather showered with affection and treated with kindness?

It is time for us to recreate an Islamic environment for our youth: one wherein a young girl can get her period for the first time around a non-Mahram male, and feel safe with him; and a young boy can admit to a non-Mahram woman that he has reached puberty, and feel comfortable doing so.

#MuslimSexEd

Thursday, August 28, 2014

His Laughter, Her Love


A house full of laughter is a home full of love… and truly, the home of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) rang with laughter whenever Sawdah bint Zam’ah (radhiAllahu ‘anha) was present.

Most people overlook Sawdah, even though she was the second woman whom RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) married after the death of Khadijah.

Sawdah was much older than A'ishah bint Abi Bakr, whom RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) married shortly after, and it's commonly known that she gave up her allotted days and nights with RasulAllah for A'ishah's sake.
According to many narrations, and by her own admission, Sawdah wasn't particularly beautiful, either - she is described as "elderly and fat."

What many don't realize, however, is that it was her age which RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) appreciated - or rather, the qualities associated with it: wisdom, maturity, and understanding.

Sawdah was the first stepmother for the daughters of RasulAllah, especially for Fatimah (radhiAllahu 'anha), who was still quite young at the time.
She had a nurturing personality, and a sense of humour which endeared her to her husband, her stepchildren, and her co-wives alike.

It was known that when RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was feeling sorrowful or grieved due to the hardships related to the Da'wah of Islam, it was always Sawdah who was guaranteed to make him smile with a quick-witted joke, and Sawdah who offered him advice and comfort without requesting anything from him except his company.

Once, when RasulAllah’s face was drawn with weariness, she teased him, “O Messenger of Allah! I prayed behind you yesterday, and you prolonged the prostration for so long that I nearly had a nosebleed!”
Her husband, the beloved Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) threw his head back and laughed so hard that his molar teeth were visible. The sorrow in his bearing disappeared, and his smile lit up the heart of Sawdah with joy.
(Tabaqaat al-Kubraa)

And while many women would have felt jealous at the arrival of a younger, beautiful wife, Sawdah took A'ishah under her wing immediately.
It is related that amongst the wives of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam), no two of them were closer to each other than Sawdah and A'ishah.

Sawdah’s sense of humour made it easy for the other wives to get swept away in the fun. Hafsah and A’ishah in particular used to enjoy getting up to pranks, and Sawdah was sometimes their target.

Once, A’ishah and Hafsah were sitting together when Sawdah came to visit them, bedecked in finery. Raising their eyebrows at each other, Hafsah said to A’ishah, “RasulAllah will come and see her, and forget about us!” Then, with a mischievous gleam to her eye, Hafsah told Sawdah, “The one-eyed one is coming! (i.e. implying the Dajjaal.)”
Sawdah panicked and asked, “Where can I go, where can I go?!”
Looking serious, Hafsah pointed at a tent outside – one where people would abandon unwanted items, and which was full of cobwebs and other creepy-crawlies. Picking up her skirts, Sawdah fled to the tent, and Hafsah and A’ishah broke into peals of laughter.
They were still laughing when RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) joined them, and asked them about the cause of their mirth. The two women were laughing so hard that they couldn’t even speak, and all they could do was point at the tent where poor Sawdah was hiding in fear.
Filled with love for Sawdah, RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) rushed over to her and reassured her that it was not yet time for the Dajjal to come, and helped her up, brushing off the cobwebs and comforting her.
(Musnad Abi Ya’la, Tabarani, and al-Haythami)

Despite all this, Sawdah remained as easy-going as ever, and deeply fond of A’ishah in particular. The affection as mutual, such that when Sawdah passed away, A'ishah wept and said:
"No woman is more beloved to me than Sawdah, whom I would rather be than anyone else.”

Today, when many Muslim men express boredom with their spouses or complain about the waning beauty of their wives, Sawdah's marriage to Rasulallah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is a reminder that physical beauty is not the only thing that matters.

There are many different types of love, and every woman is to be loved, respected, and valued for who she is - without being compared to others or belittled for what she may lack in comparison to other women.
In a marriage, the human heart requires more than just outward beauty; and Sawdah’s warm, loving personality was a perfect example of why RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) found such comfort and joy in her.

As the famous hadith states, even a smile is a sadaqah – so for every woman who loves to laugh and make others join in her joy, is a mountain of reward, inshaAllah… just like Sawdah (radhiAllahu ‘anha), the beloved wife of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse/ The Salafi Feminist) 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. She blogs at http://www.thesalafifeminist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Muslim Woman's Grief

We Muslim women, we grieve for our men, we mourn them while they still live.

We grieve for the father who held us close in our infancy, in our toddlerhood, who twirled us around and called us his princess... and then who faded away as we grew gangly and got acne and began to slam doors behind which we sobbed, grieving the loss of a father who still lived.

We mourn for the father who comes home from work, face drawn and pinched, shoulders bowed from the weight of being called 'terrorist' by co-workers, eyes burning from being pulled over by cops for 'looking like Usama', wrists raw and chafed from Homeland Security dragging him away in handcuffs to be 'interviewed' at their airport, making him miss his flight to visit his dying mother.

We grieve for the brother who used to heckle us, who used to squabble over cheese and crackers and chocolate chip cookies, who used to stand up for us against the bullies at Madrasah, watchfully ensuring that our recess at the playground passed uneventfully... and then who faded away, growing angry and snappish, withdrawing into a bedroom with video games and emerging with dark circles under his eyes, ignoring us until our hearts break with grief for the loss of a brother who still lived.

We mourn for the brother who grows a beard, who is awkward but proud of his struggle to be a practicing Muslim, who carefully tucks a prayer mat into his backpack; who watches the news with horrified eyes as he watches men and women and children who share his skin colour, his curly hair, his impish smile, being blown to bits by the government of the country which he lives in, who is approached by venomously smiling spies trying to twist his words of grief into grandiose statements of terrorism, who wonders if he is truly as alone in this world as he feels.

We grieve for the greybeard masjid uncles who used to ruffle our hair and give us sweets after Jumu'ah, but whose smiles turned to frowns as we grew too old to venture into the men's musalla; who forgot that even as we were shunted into musty smelling broom closets, we still remembered the clean, open space of the men's hall; who started referring to us as 'fitnah' when only a few years ago they used to give us piggyback rides and teach us the alphabet.

We mourn for the masjid uncles who find themselves on TV when reporters barge into the masjid, demanding condemnations and explanations, who blink in confusion and try to be confident but whose tongues, trained in the professional languages of lawyers and doctors and engineers, slip from the stress and slip back into Arabic-tinged and Urdu-lilted quirks of speech; who find their pictures splashed on the front page of the newspaper, turned into bogeymen, mocked as illiterate foreigners.

We grieve for the husband who would walk in through the door with flowers, his beard unable to hide his smile, his eyes brighter than the fireworks he takes us as a late night surprise when we thought he'd be busy at work... and then whose face grew lined not with laughter, but weariness, whose sweet nothings in our ears slur into exhausted murmurs, then silence.

We mourn for the husband who teaches young children at the masjid, who shoots hoops with the teens in the driveways and mentors them with Qur'anic verses and Prophetic sayings; who looks over his shoulder warily, never sure which alphabet soup agency is watching him, who hesitates before sending every email, unsure of whether his words could land him in jail, who has been betrayed by the country he lives in, works in, used to dream of his future in, who is haunted by images of his brothers in faith being held in iron cages, who knows that somewhere out there, is a cage waiting for him.

We have lost the men we love, not through death, but through life.

We Muslim women, we grieve for our men, we mourn them while they still live.

(Copyright BintYounus)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Humans Over Hooris - Who's Superior?

A lot of women are made to feel jealous of the Hoor al-‘Ayn, and much of it due to the way that male speakers discuss the Hoor of Jannah in contrast to the believing women of this world.

Unfortunately, so much emphasis is given on describing the Hoor al-‘Ayn and their alleged “superiority” to human women, that the lessons shared are in fact contrary to the Sunnah of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) himself.

Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) said that:
“Every man in heaven will go to 72 of the creatures of Allah (houris) and 2 of the women of mankind, these two (human, believing) women are superior to the creatures of Allah (houris) with their worshipping (good deeds) they had performed in this world.” [Bayhaqi, al-Bas wa’n-Nushur; Tabari, Tafsir; Abu Yala, Ibn Hajar, Fathu’l-Baari, Tabarani and others]

Umm Salamah (Radiahallahu Anha) narrates that she said to the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam):
“O Rasûlullah, are the women of this world superior or the hûrs (of Paradise)?”

He replied, “The women of this world will have superiority over the hûrs (houris) just as the outer lining of a garment has superiority over the inner lining.”

Umm Salamah then asked, “O Rasûlullah, what is the reason for this?” He answered, “Because they performed salâh, fasted, and worshipped [Allah]. Allah will put light on their faces and silk on their bodies.
[The human women] will be fair in complexion and will wear green clothing and yellow jewelry. Their incense-burners will be made of pearls and their combs will be of gold. They will say, ‘We are the women who will stay forever and we will never die. We are the women who will always remain in comfort and we will never undergo difficulty.
We are the women who will stay and we will never leave. Listen, we are happy women and we will never become sad. Glad tidings to those men for whom we are and who are for us.’” [Tabrânî]

From these two powerful ahadeeth, it is obvious that contrary to what is commonly taught today, the Sahabah and Sahabiyaat were clearly aware that the believing women of this world are far, far superior to the Hoor al-‘Ayn.

Take a moment and just think about how much time is spent in the Qur’an describing the Hoor al-‘Ayn… think about all the time that men spend talking about the Hoor al-‘Ayn…
Now take that, and multiply it - by 10, by 20… according to one narration, the believing women of this world who enter Jannah will be SEVENTY TIMES MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THE HOOR AL-‘AYN.

In addition, the believing women will be queens over the Hoor al-‘Ayn; the Hoor were created not merely to be a reward for the believing men, but a reward for the believing women as well, for they will be servants to the Mu’minaat.

Whenever Allah describes something in the Qur’an and RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) explains it in the Sunnah, it’s always for a reason. Never does Allah or His Messenger belittle or put down Muslim women; to the contrary, the Qur’an and Sunnah are filled with examples of how Muslim women are empowered and honoured, in both this world and the Hereafter.

Unfortunately, however, some Muslims have conveniently chosen those things which they find personally attractive, and created a skewed narrative which has served the purpose of making Muslim women dread - wa’l iyaadhu billaah - even the thought of reading the descriptions of Jannah, because they’ve been subconsciously taught to be jealous of the Hoor al-‘Ayn.

Ladies, remember that it is Allah alone who knows us better than any other human; remember that Allah is the Most Just, the Most Compassionate, and the One Who will reward us beyond our imagination’s comprehension.
As believing women, who will inshaAllah enter Jannah, we will never be shortchanged by the One Who promised us a perfect, eternal reward.

And men, if you’re reading this… just remember that there’s no guarantee that you’re going to enter Jannah anyway. All that time you waste thinking about the Hoor al-‘Ayn and trying to make your wife jealous about them (and joke’s on you anyway, your wife is inshaAllah going to be so much better than them), is time that you could be spending actually doing good deeds and *earning* Jannah to begin with.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

With Every Ramadan, There Is A Mark Upon My Soul

Originally published at OnIslam.net. I originally wrote this at the beginning of Ramadan, which explains the optimism at the end of it; were I to re-write it, I would end it much more soberly. Nonetheless, enjoy!

2007, aged 16:

Giggling, tripping over my friends in excitement, darting from room to room of the house that served as a masjid to our small island community in Victoria, Canada.

Welcoming the adults who entered with whooping exclamations of “Ramadan Mubarak!” and lovingly serving them with cool glasses of water between every four rak’aat, eager for the barakah of these blessed nights. Shoulder to shoulder and foot to foot with my closest friends, supporting each other in prayer as we did in everything else, our supplications earnest and naïve about our futures.

{The month of Ramadhan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion.} (Qur’an 2:185)

2009, aged 18:

My bare feet warm the smooth marble tiles in the courtyard of a hundreds-of-years-old masjid in Heliopolis, Cairo, listening to the voice of my then-husband as his recitation of the Qur’an streamed into the hot, earthy Egyptian air, leading over a hundred people in Taraweeh.

Smiling, nodding, gesturing helplessly as I was embraced by enthusiastic young Egyptian women my age, who weren’t put off by my inability to communicate. Raising my hands in takbeer and folding them over my slowly swelling stomach, terrified of motherhood but struggling to place my tawakkul in Allah, searching for Laylatul Qadr and the answer to my prayers.

{The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.} (Qur’an 97:3-5)

2011, aged 20:

Cloistered in a beautiful masjid richly decorated with ayaat carved into silken wood; just one of the many women clad in swirling abayaat, the murmurs of their voices between units of prayer revealing the lilt of Kuwaiti Arabic.

Clouds of smoky bukhoor wafting between each saff, tickling my toddler’s nose, embracing us as we knelt in sujood. Delicate crystal finjaans filled with dark, bitter gahwa or liquid amber chai, sweetened with dates and du’a, savouring these precious moments of fragile peace.

{It is He who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their faith.} (Qur’an 48:4)

2013, aged 22:

Breathing in the tropical breeze dancing through the open-air masjid in my parents’ neighborhood in Malaysia, splashes of pink and gold calligraphy tint the edges of my vision. My heart smiles with the contagious cheerfulness that the locals exude and letting me forget, a little bit, the lingering heartache of divorce. A reminder that after hardship comes ease; verily, the promise of Allah is true. Inna wa’dAllahi haqq… the imam’s voice rises, swelling, a Divine sign.

{So be patient! Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth.} (Qur’an 30:60)

These, then, are my memories of Ramadan, in four different countries over the span of several years. Truly, the earth of Allah is vast, a planet upon which we undertake hijrah of both the body and the soul. This Ummah is strong and fragile, beautiful and flawed, as are we all.

From girl to woman, wife to single parent, I have grown and struggled and failed and succeeded – all through the Wisdom of Allah, all through His Mercy and His Ni’mah. Every Ramadan has changed me, every Ramadan has marked my soul with the Qadr of Allah.

And this year?

2014, aged 23:

This Ramadan was another gift from Allah, the beginning of a new me. Mother, writer, entrepreneur, and much more, bi ithnillaah. This Ramadan was my lingering farewell to Malaysia, a second parting from my family, and prayers of eager anticipation for the next chapter of my life.

The blessings in my life are numerous, uncountable; this month, I have only gratitude, only love, only joy. I plead for the forgiveness of my Lord, the pleasure of my parents, the future of my child, the love of my soul mates.

For myself, and for the Ummah of prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), this Ramadan is the beginning of the rest of our lives.

{So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?} (Qur’an 55:13)

Zainab bint Younus is a young Canadian Muslimah who has been active in grassroots da’wah and writing about Islam and the Ummah for the last eight years. She was first published in Al-Ameen Newspaper (Vancouver, Canada) at the age of 14; became a co-founder, writer, and editor for MuslimMatters.org at age 16; and began writing regularly for SISTERS magazine at the age of 19 until today. She also blogs at http://www.TheSalafiFeminist.blogspot.com and is the mother of a four-year-old girl.