Tuesday, November 26, 2013

To Be A Man...

 ...You Must Know Your Women

Writing the Forgotten Heroines series is an amazing, eye-opening journey for me. With every woman I read about, and every story I write about, I realize what an amazing heritage we have to look back on and learn from, subhanAllah. Let's reclaim it and make our generation, and those of the future, equally strong and beloved to Allah.

Men, the forgotten heroines of Islamic history would put you all to shame today. Don't think that, as men, you have no need to learn about the Sahabiyaat or other women - if anyone needs to know about them, YOU do. 

Honour the Ummahaat al-Mu'mineen, honour the women of the Muhaajireen and the Ansaar, honour the women who raised the likes of 'Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and Imam Bukhari, honour the women whose wisdom guided the successful khulafaa', the women who funded the Jihad against the Crusaders, the women who plunged into battle with swords and heads held high, the women who saved their brothers in Islam from certain death. 

Honour them by raising your daughters to be like them, honour them by empowering your sisters to be like them, honour them by supporting your mothers to be like them, honour them by being allies to the women of the Ummah of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam).

Muslim men, on the Day of Judgment, how you wielded your status as qawwaamoon will either be a means of entering you into Jannah amongst the Sabiqoon al-Awwaloon, or it will be a means of throwing you into the depths of Jahannam for being of the most unjust oppressors.

Be a man, learn about the women of Islam, and raise both your sons and your daughters to not only know them and respect them, but to become them.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review: Painted Hands

Painted Hands, written by Jennifer Zobair
Reviewed by Zainab bint Younus

Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair is the engaging, twisting narrative of an unlikely set of characters: Zainab Mir, the high-powered glamorous head of a Republican political campaign; Amra Abbas, workaholic lawyer who puts in brutal hours in the hopes that she’ll make it to partner of the firm; Hayden Palmer, fellow lawyer, party girl and unlucky in love; and Chase Holland, radio show host and golden boy for bigoted neo-cons.

Painted Hands falls somewhere between the categories of ethnic fiction and Muslim chick-lit; yet such a characterisation does not give justice to the story’s ability to draw the reader in and impart lessons so subtly that it takes a moment to even realise it.

There’s something for everyone in the narrative– Zainab is unabashedly secular, yet her brief brush with members of a local masjid reveals the hurt she feels at having herself, her work and even her sexuality openly judged and condemned by those who know nothing about her. Amra is both relieved and afraid to get married, in love with her fiancé but unable to confess the extent of her obsession with work; and, later, when she becomes a mother, struggles to know what she wants in comparison to the pressures of those around her. Chase Holland makes his living bashing Islam and Muslims, but finds that his bluster is harder to keep up around Zainab’s fiery challenges. Hayden takes her shahadah (declaration of faith) and is drawn into a circle of conservative immigrants, who briskly arrange her marriage and prod her into their own type of activism.

The series of events that brings them together in the most unlikely of conflicts is a fascinating journey that culminates in an intriguing, unexpected crescendo that is as poetic as it is dramatic.

The weaving of every thread of the narrative echoes the complexity and beauty of the henna patterns that the book is named after. Politics, culture, religion and romance are entwined and explored; the relationships between the characters and their struggles link to each other subtly yet meaningfully. No conflict is over-simplified or glossed over and although the book – and its main characters – are distinctly liberal, there is enough nuance and honesty in it that it can truly appeal to a wide and varied audience.

Although the characters are fictional, their stories are reflections of reality. Muslim women come from backgrounds as varied as those of Zainab, Amra and Hayden and have lives that are just as complex and rich as theirs. Painted Hands is both an acknowledgement and appreciation of what it means to be a Muslim woman in the modern Western world.

AnonyMouse (Zainab bint Younus) is a young Muslimah who has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. She writes for SISTERS Magazine, SaudiLife.net, and blogs at http://www.thesalafifeminist.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Prayer

“When a Muslim servant (of Allah) or a believer (Mumin) washes his face (in the course of Wudhu), every sin he has committed with his eyes is washed away from his face along with the water, or with the last drop of water; when he washes his hands, every sin they wrought is erased from his hands with the water, or with the last drop of water; and when he washes his feet, every sin towards which his feet walked is washed away with water, or with the last drop of water, with the result that he comes out cleansed of all sins.” [Sahih Muslim]

Hands trembling, water splashing, feeling only the scourge of sin upon skin…
He could still feel the caress of female flesh against his fingers, the sweet nothings he whispered as he coaxed a slow, yielding response to his own desire, masking his own need, wanting to be wanted…
She could still hear the deafening pounding of music against her eardrums, a wild invitation hissing through her blood, liquid courage thrumming within her as she tipped her head back and drank, reckless, seeking a release from her own soul…

 O Allaah, place within my heart light, and upon my tongue light, and within my ears light, and within my eyes light, and place behind me light and in front of me light and above me light and beneath me light. O Allaah, bestow upon me light.’

 Legs shaking, feet dragging, shadows upon the heart;
Haunting memories, nightmares of human evil, mocking reminders of every crime committed against self, against God…
He could still see the darkness of an alley; desperation lending fury to action, the snick of a blade to emphasize the demand for a wallet, a few measly dollars, anything to pay for the next fix…
She could still smell the acrid stench of vomit, musky overtones of smoke from cigarettes made from more than just tobacco; stained sheets and hollow satisfaction…

 When a worshipper of Allah uses the siwaak (to clean his teeth), and then stands in prayer, an angel comes and stands behind him, listening to the recitation of Qur’an. The angel continues to listen and draw nearer until he places his mouth over the worshipper’s, so that he does not recite one aayah but that it enters into the angel’s mouth. Therefore, purify your mouth for the recitation of Qur’an. (Al-Bayhaqi, authenticated by al-Albani)

 Can one be kissed by an angel when they’ve so often danced with the devil?

Tongue stumbling over half-forgotten verses; the distant memory of peace, evoked; and slowly, slowly…
Her shoulders loosen, taut muscles softening at an unseen touch; her voice sweetens with the recitation of once-familiar prayer…
His breath comes slow and deep, almost afraid as hope begins to unfurl deep within… 

 Indeed, Allah has said: I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.  
In the name of God, Most Beneficient, Most Merciful
All Praises are due to God, Lord of the worlds
(Allah responds:) ‘My slave has praised Me 
The Beneficient, Most Merciful
‘My slave has extolled Me’ 
King of the Day of Judgement 
‘My slave has proclaimed My Greatness’ 
You alone do we worship, and to You alone do we turn to for help

‘This is between Me and My slave and I grant to My slave what he has asked.'  
Guide us to the Straight Path 
‘All this is there for My slave. He shall be given what he prays for.’ 
The path of those whom You have graced 
‘All this is there for My slave. He shall be given what he prays for.’ 
Not of those who have deserved Your Anger, nor those who have gone astray 
‘All this is there for My slave. He shall be given what he prays for.’ 
(Narrated by Muslim, Malik, at-Tirmidhi, Abu-Dawud, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah)
 Pleading praises, weeping exaltations, grief-stricken glorification… What hope has a broken soul for the mercy of their Lord? 
 “The closest that a servant is to his Lord is when he is in prostration.” (Muslim) 

A yearning soul, a longing for love, a whispered prayer. My Lord, forgive me… my Lord, my Lord!

 "O son of Adam, as long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I have forgiven you for what you have done and I do not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky and then you would seek My forgiveness, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins that are close to filling the earth and then you would meet Me without ascribing any partners with Me, I would certainly bring to you forgiveness close to filling it." (Authenticated by Al Albani)

Sakeenah of spirit, awestruck awareness, tranquility so profound that – for now – the shadows are banished, soul glimmering with mother-of-pearl purity. 
"Verily, with hardship there is ease." (Qur'an 94:6)
 A soft sigh. A heart unburdened.  Indeed, after hardship comes ease.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Divorced Ramblings

Love Inshallah published my reflections on the unexpected aftermath of divorce.

I am twenty-two-years old. I am a rebellious daughter, a fierce writer, a determined feminist, a fiery niqaabi. I have been to six countries, living in three of them. I have a three-year-old daughter. And I am divorced.

Most people don’t know what to say, how to react. Some give me condolences, a sympathetic hand squeeze, a look of pity and sorrow. Others frown, shake their heads, mutter that I look too happy, too relieved, that my smile is too wide and my laughter too free.

They do not know that I grieved for my marriage before it even ended, that I celebrate my freedom every day, that my heart aches most not out of regret or anger, but out of quiet sorrow for those unusual moments that studded my marriage like shards of raw diamonds – unexpectedly beautiful, but with a sharpness that cuts deeper all the more for their brightness.

Divorce throws the world into sharp relief, reminds me of who I am, highlights the ridiculous standards and expectations of society, helps me laugh when I’d rather cry. Divorce tells me not to give up – and I don’t. I yet dream of love, plot for the future with all the ferocity of ambition, search and find beauty in all that has happened in my life.

What is even more unexpected is the rush of tenderness I feel now for my daughter’s father. He is no villain, but a man as lost as anyone else, as desperate for love as every other soul, as broken within as we all are. Though I have freed myself from having to fight his battles, I pray that he is able to find the strength and wisdom to fight them himself, and to be victorious against the forces that he struggles with inside himself.

One of the last things I told him was, “I don’t love you.” Now, I realize that I didn’t tell the entire truth. No, I did not love him as a husband, as a soul mate, as the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But every Muslim has rights over another Muslim, and one of those rights is to be loved for the Sake of Allah. This man is the father of my daughter, who loved me in his own way, however misguided… yes, I can muster compassion for him. And what is compassion, if not a pale, transparent, opalescent type of love?

In my sujood, where whispered prayers slip past my lips like unbidden pearls, where my heart’s true desires make themselves known, when my darkest fears are revealed and banished at that moment when my soul speaks to my Lord – one supplication finds itself repeated, over and over. O Allah, let him find true love.

Zainab bint Younus aka AnonyMouse al-Majnoonah aka The Salafi Feminist is a nomadic young woman with big dreams, a small daughter, and a penchant for too many pseudonyms. She blogs at http://www.TheSalafiFeminist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Ideal Muslimah - Muslim Montage

MuslimahMontage.com has featured my piece: The Ideal Muslimah.

 About Zainab:
Salafi feminist. Professional nomad. Untamed dreamer. Veiled warrior. Wandering scribe. Whimsical idealist. Wannabe biker chick. Incorrigible rebel. Absent minded mother. Faithful believer.

The Ideal Muslimah

The ideal Muslimah… is not afraid to have her own personality, whether she is as wise as Khadijah, passionate as A’ishah, fierce as Hind, noble as Zaynab, or demure as Maymunah.

The ideal Muslimah… follows the sunnah of Khadijah and uses her financial savvy to benefit the Ummah… and doesn’t allow others to tell her that she’ll never get a man that way.

The ideal Muslimah… is loved, valued, and married for her taqwa and beauty of character, not some shallow, arbitrary cultural standards of physical beauty.

The ideal Muslimah… is not a doormat. She has the wisdom of Umm Salamah, the audacity of A’ishah, the intelligence of Hafsa, the ego of Zaynab, and the humour of Sauda.

The ideal Muslimah… is someone who may never have children, like A’ishah; someone who may have numerous daughters but no sons, like Khadijah; someone who has children from a previous marriage, like Umm Salamah. Her worth as a human, as a believer, does not lie in her fertility.

The ideal Muslimah… has the courage of Zaynab bint Ali when she fights for what she believes in and faces down oppression, even if it comes from fellow Muslims.

The ideal Muslimah… does not allow her intelligence to be belittled or disrespected, for Allah created her to be of those who think.
{And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth – all from Him. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.} (Qur’an 45:13)

The ideal Muslimah… is not kept locked away or helpless. She is a vibrant, contributing part of the Ummah and doesn’t let anyone tell her otherwise – because Allah told her so.
{The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.} (Qur’an 9:71)

The ideal Muslimah… is not perfect.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were a people who did not commit sin, Allah would take you away and replace you with a people who would sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness so He could forgive them.” [Sahīh Muslim (2687)]

The ideal Muslimah… makes mistakes and knows it, but loves her Lord and repents to Him constantly.
{Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.} (Qur’an 2:222)

The ideal Muslimah… is beloved to Allah, Who promised her paradise.
{Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.} (Qur’an 33:35)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rekindling the Fires of Love

Umm Zainab Vanker shares some ideas on how to rekindle the sparks when those early days of marriage seem like distant memories.

We forget that before we became Mum, chauffeur, nurse, and more, we were a woman and wife first. It’s time we took the initiative and brought back that glint in our spouse’s eye (and a little spring in our own steps!). Here are a few ideas to spread throughout your days, nights, weeks, and months!


1. Take a shower
The best time for this is just after you’ve finished the sweaty housework or before your husband gets home. Buy yourself some really nice scented bodywash, lotion or talc powders that are light on scent but can be smelled when someone is close enough to you. The shimmery ones add a little extra sparkle, too!

2. Own a few modest yet sexy, fun clothing items
Depending on how many kids you have and their respective ages, have a few outfits to wear around the house that are modest but still make you feel feminine, sexy, and fun. And don’t forget to add some sexy lingerie. They help liven things up!

3. Comb your hair
Make sure to run a comb or brush through your hair and look a little less ‘bush woman’. Even if you’re just tying it up in a ponytail or a plait, use hair accessories to give it a different look; you’ll feel better without even realising it.

4. Use cosmetics
Run a little lip gloss or lip balm on your lips to make them feel and stay soft and sensual. Use a little light blush to bring some colour into your cheeks and, if not going outside, use some kohl or eyeliner.

5. Show affection
Show affection to each other by giving one another nicknames, hugging your husband when he comes home even from the masjid, and teasing each other in a playful way. So what if the kids see this type of affection openly? It will teach them the halal method of showing affection and help them in their marriages later on, insha Allah. Just make sure that they also see that when company is around (such as your parents or in-laws), certain things are not done in front of them out of respect for them as elders.

It's tough trying to keep things going daily, so at least have some weekly plans to keep the embers warm.

1. A special day
As Friday is our weekly Eid for us as Muslims, why not make it special, not just for the kids, but the whole family. Set a different feel and routine for this day every week. Dress to impress and light incense throughout the house.

2. Special clothes
All those clothes that you've got in your closet to wear for sisters’functions that don’t come out very often, why not wear them for the one person who will show you how much he appreciates it? Better still, there will be no fear about anyone describing you to others.

3. A special meal
Choose a day when your hubby is going to be home early, to cook that special meal that he likes so much. Something that you don't have time to make often, he’ll love it even more that you took the time to make it especially for him.

4. Adult time out
Make sure that you find some way, somehow, to sneak time alone with your spouse. If the kids are toddlers, use their nap time to steal time if he's home or once they’re in bed. If school age, then once they're in bed, that's your time with him. Even if he works odd hours, make sure to take at least 15 minutes alone together.

5. Discreet PDA’s (public displays of affection)
Depending on the country or society that you are living in, PDA's amongst Muslim couples can be done in a very discreet and tasteful manner. No, it is not haram. I am not suggesting any overt displays at all! Things like holding hands while you're walking, whether grocery shopping, window shopping or taking the kids for some fun in the park; teasing each other, sharing a drink or meal or snack together, or whispering to each other. Be creative!

Some things can only be done monthly. Try and find out your husband’s schedule, then plan even just one thing.

1. Date night/day
You don't need a lot of savings or even to do this outside the home. After getting the kids to bed early or for those lucky enough to have family members, take them for a sleepover for a night or out for a few hours during the day, and then plan a date! Inform him beforehand that you have booked this time with him, so he had better not book anything else.
Go out for dessert, take a drive somewhere, have lunch or dinner out. If you can't afford this, then make a special dessert at home or plan a candlelit dinner. Sit on the sofa and cuddle together and talk, not boring daily routine stuff but about anything else, even politics. Just talk!

2. Shop together
We all know most men hate shopping but that's because we don't make it fun! How do you make it fun? Well, all men love to see their woman in lingerie, so once a month tell him to you need his help in choosing which lingerie or underwear to buy. If he's too shy to go inside the store with you, at least he can help you choose from outside the store by nodding yes or no. You don't have to only listen and choose what he likes, but buy what you both agree on. Then go home and model them for him when you're alone. It doesn't just have to be lingerie but can be anything whether for you or him. And yes, you can buy him nice men's underwear or PJ's to wear instead of that ratty T-shirt and shalwar he calls pyjamas!

3. Bathe/soak together
Men like to be pampered, just like us! They have sore muscles and aches and sometimes taking a warm soak helps. So why not do it together? (If you have a bathtub, that is.) Buy some scented bath salts and fill the tub and tell him to get in… then surprise him by joining him. You'll both end up feeling relaxed!

4. Give each other massages
Buy a bottle of relaxing massage oil and give each other a massage at least once a month. Teach him how to do it if he complains that he doesn't know. Sometimes old pets can learn new tricks, if they're taught nicely.

Bi-yearly or yearly
Then there are things that can only be done once or twice a year!

1. School breaks/family breaks
During school breaks or family breaks, make sure to plan some things that you both like to do. Perhaps something nature-related or other shared interest (too bad if the kids find it boring, it's not only their break!).

2. A weekend alone
If and when possible, find a weekend when the kids are staying with family or at a camp or Islamic program to book a weekend away for both of you. Pamper yourselves if you can afford to.
The Internet is a great tool for finding deals. You don’t even have to leave the city you live in! Just make full use of your hotel room!

3. Re-enact your wedding night as you wish it would have been

Almost everyone wishes they could change something about their wedding night and that it was more memorable (especially without the awkwardness of that first night alone with each other!). Who says you can't re-enact it, with some tweaks to make it just as you wished it had been? There's nothing to be shy about or feel ashamed of. I promise you, neither of you will forget this night, not for a long time!

Once in a Lifetime:
Take a cruise or vacation of your dreams for a couple weeks. Travelling together makes you relearn the old and find out the new things about each other. You realise how much each of you have not only changed, but grown over the years and have become true partners as you both depend on each other for many things that you sometimes take for granted.

After 22 years of marriage, you realise that you cannot be serious all the time. Lighten up, be childish and silly together. Remember the early days and months of marriage and try to bring those feelings!

Umm Zainab Vanker (UmmAnonyMouse) has been married for 22 years, has 4 children, 1 grandchild, and is still looking for inventive ways to keep the embers glowing.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Raising Muslim Men: Where Are The Fathers?

In keeping within the SISTERS ethos to strive towards being the best Muslimahs we can be, this series - Raising Muslim Men - will take a holistic look at how we as mothers, sisters, educators, mentors and more can nurture our young brothers into being the best they can be.

UmmZainab Vanker voices her concerns about the disinterest shown by many fathers in raising their sons.

Mothers today, especially those of us who have sons, have this dream that our husbands will be a different kind of father to how their fathers or our fathers were to us. They will have a more active role in raising our son/s, being mentors and guides to them especially in the critical mid to late childhood and early adulthood years. Once mothers have weaned and toilet trained them, they would take over the teaching of the greater parenting areas, such as emotional and psychological growth and physical training young boys need, and not just the basics of salah, discipline, respect and how to behave at the masjid!

Many of us dream that our husbands will minimally spend an hour or so daily teaching them Qur’an, Islamic studies lessons and, for those who know Arabic, this beautiful language. But the reality is quite a different story!

Most fathers are so busy outside the home that when they do return, they just spend a little time with the family before the kids go to bed. Realistically, how many of our men today have a 9-5 job? Not many! Yet we as mothers still hope that on the days off, they will call the sons to be active with them at the masjid or Islamic centre, take them and teach them the skills they have and do things with them to establish a stronger bond on an emotional level so that they will be like friends one day.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the responsibility of raising our sons has been dropped onto the mothers’ laps. Realising that sons are very different to daughters, some mothers do have the skills and ideas to bring them up, but some have no idea at all what to do with boys! Mothers have, for the most part, had to take on and be somewhat of a father as well as a mother. There are still men out there who do take on the full responsibility of fatherhood, but they are sadly the minority.
Role models needed!

When listening to many Muslim mothers today, the main issue we hear is, “How do I get my husband to play a bigger role in the lives of our sons? To be the one who talks to him, guides and advises him like the Prophet (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did with Anas Ibn Malik, Abdullah Ibn Umar, Ali Ibn Abi Talib (radhiAllahu 'anhum ajma'een) and so many other young boys who were not even his own flesh and blood!"

I know from my own personal experience of raising three sons that there are times I wish we had a community around us where my sons could have good Muslim men as mentors. When their father is not able to be there for them, I wish there was someone we both trust equally to take on the role of a big brother/uncle/friend.

Unfortunately, this is just a dream today as we live in times where even many of the active brothers from the masajid (mosques) are only available for sports or supervising minor talks. I know the frustration most mothers feel in the search for good brothers to be mentors for our sons - to fill the gaps we see in our sons’ lives. It's easier to get similar initiatives for our daughters because we're the ones dealing with it directly. With sons we need for the most part to run it by the husband first, then if we're lucky and he agrees, it again falls into our laps to find those brothers who can be good role models as well as mentors and friends.

Somehow fathers passed on their responsibility for their sons’ lives to the mothers and we accepted it as we do with many other things we take on, without questioning. Then, when the sons are young men and have no real relationship with their fathers and can't even talk to their dads about what they’re really feeling or dealing with or get guidance, the blame is put on us. It became your fault for not fostering or forcing that relationship in which your son would feel comfortable opening up any discussion with their father.

When it comes to talking about the signs, rules and responsibility of puberty, how to pray salah in jama'ah, how to control their desires and deal with the trials of living in today's world, mothers have had to become naggers in asking their husbands to take the time to talk to the sons. Often, mothers end up taking on the task of explaining the birds and the bees, there being no help from any males they trust or can rely on to do so correctly. The other option is asking the imam at the masjid or youth group leaders to consider having a programme on this subject done just for the boys, so that neither mother nor sons feel embarrassed in explaining these details that Islam has made compulsory for them to know.

Look to the seerah

Islam did not say that the full responsibility of raising sons lies only on the mother! When we look at the examples from the seerah, we see that even those who were single mothers, whether widowed or divorced, sent their sons to the best of men in their community to learn skills they could not teach their sons. Safiyyah bint Abdul Mutallib (radhiAllahu 'anha) sent her son Zubair Ibn Awwam (radhiAllahu 'anhu) to learn horse-riding, sword fighting and many other skills from the best of men in her tribe. They could have just as easily said that they are too busy to teach another's sons, but yet they took him under their wings and taught him. Similar is the story of Imam as-Shafi'ee; it was his mother that took him to be taught by the great scholars of his time. It was due to these men giving their time and themselves that we get to see what great men these young boys became. When today's fathers complain about their sons having no appreciation for what they have done for them, for their sons not having the 'thinking' skills they had at their ages, then they have no one to blame but themselves.

What mothers can do

At the same time, we as mothers should not mollycoddle our sons or favour them over our daughters. If we want to raise a new generation of men who are closer in their actions to the Prophet (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his companions then it is our responsibility to make sure we teach them the skills of life. By this I mean cleaning up after themselves, cooking, sewing/mending their clothes, serving guests, cleaning bathrooms (yes, I mean toilets!) and looking after a household. We, mothers, hold the greatest of tools in our hands to mould the future men, husbands and fathers. We have it in us to try and make sure that we raise our sons to become like the husbands we want our daughters to have, while also pushing them to be the best of examples in Islam. Our sons today have the potential to follow in the footsteps of great leaders like Salahuddin Al-Ayoobi, Abdullah ibn Mubarak, Fudayl ibn Iyad and so many others.

Know that in the end YOU as the mother have the greatest influence on your sons throughout their lives. Just think, would Imam as-Shafi'ee be known as the great scholar without his mother’s guidance and sacrifice? Would Haroon Ar-Rashid have been the great khalifah without his mother and wife beside him? There are so many other examples from the history of Islam that we can point to in regards to the role we as mothers play. You can have the same relationship with them as you do with your daughters. We just need to make our other halves understand this great responsibility as well. For no boy can become great by himself, but needs the guidance of those men he looks up to and respects, while at the same time knowing his mother is there to be his guiding force and support.

Part 2 will provide some practical advice on how fathers, uncles and brothers in the community can take a hands-on role in being the best guides and models for our sons, so we don’t lose them to the greater pulls of society and its deceptions.

UmmZainab Vanker has been involved in grassroots da'wah in Vancouver and Victoria (Canada) for over ten years. She is extremely concerned with family issues, especially regarding young boys and girls in the Muslim community. She is also a mother to four children (a crazy daughter and three teen sons) and a grandmother of one. She continues searching for and struggling to find resources and mentors for them even after moving to a Muslim country.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Discovering Muslim Women in 6 Words

I'm surprised and delighted by the mention of my submission to the International Museum of Women's "Muslima Voices" exhibition in this article on the HuffingtonPost:

Discovering Muslim Women in 6 Words

"I Am The
Salafi Feminist."
-- Zainab Bint Younus


Not just a Muslim feminist but a Salafi feminist! How can a woman who covers head to toe be a feminist?

And here's why it's crucial that the women have all been allowed to speak for themselves.
In Zainab's own words, she refuses to believe that "women are either pretty covered-up lollipops or trashed unwrapped candies being bombarded with flies."

She goes on to explain:

"I am a happy wife and mother, and I loathe those people who try to tell me that I should only be happy in my role as a wife and mother. I believe in pursuing knowledge, Islamic and otherwise (and in fields other than gynecology or teaching kindergarten), and would really like to flip the bird at those twits still debating 'women's education in Islam.' ... I believe that men and women both have control over their actions and desires, and that a woman looking at a male speaker is not going to send her into a frenzy of lust, or that any man is incapable of keeping it in his pants when he sees a woman whose body is not covered from head to toe in black."

How's that for feminist thinking?

Suffice to say, her five words (she didn't even use the maximum allowed!) along with this backstory to explain them, widened my eyes. I came away believing that she is, in fact, a Salafi feminist.

In telling you this, I guess I've inadvertently exposed what my own six words could potentially be:

Muslims Can Also
Stereotype Other Muslims

So it's not just the West that needs to broaden its ideas of what a Muslim woman truly is but also the Muslim communities themselves.