Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gheerah: Selfish Jealousy or Honourable Protectiveness?

One of the most incorrectly translated and misunderstood concepts related to social issues is that of gheerah.

Commonly translated as 'jealousy' (and limited to men), the term 'gheerah' has unfortunately been used to justify extremely controlling and even abusive behavior from men towards their wives or other women over whom they wield authority.

A better translation of gheerah is 'honourable protectiveness' rather than jealousy... a Muslim man's gheerah is a deep sense of selfless honour that ensures his chivalric behaviour and respects the dignity of the women around him. It is a sense of sincere concern and protectiveness that doesn't extend to being controlling or abusive.

One example of gheerah done right is illustrated in the famous story of azZubayr ibn al-‘Awwam and Asma bint Abi Bakr. Though Asma refused a ride from RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) himself due to her consideration for azZubayr, her husband was the one who wept and told her that it would have been preferable to him if she had ridden with RasulAllah, than suffered the long and arduous journey she had been undertaking on her own.
This was a beautiful type of gheerah – one where he put his own personal preferences aside out of care for the wellbeing of his wife, where his sense of honour was *selfless*, not *selfish*.

In addition, gheerah is NOT limited to men. While women are often referred to or written off as ‘jealous,’ the implication is often that it’s a selfish type of jealousy, or a dishonourable one. What is often overlooked is the honourable gheerah of a woman towards her menfolk: her father, her brothers, her sons, and so on. How is this gheerah manifested?
Interestingly enough, it is almost identical in many ways to the gheerah of a man over his womenfolk – the sense of selfless honour and chivalry, a sincere concern related to pleasing Allah and not having someone transgress His boundaries.

Such an example would be that of a woman who sees her father or brother (or, for that matter, any Muslim man) interacting with a non-Mahram woman in an inappropriate manner… whether it simply be that he is being overly friendly with her (or that she’s putting the moves on him), or that there’s something obviously flirtatious going on.
One very obvious example of what we see today is that of mashayikh on their Facebook pages – and women acting overly familiar with them. Even if the shaykh has only good intentions in behaving in a ‘friendly’ manner with everyone in general, his mother, sisters, or even his daughters could feel gheerah towards him due to the high risk of fitnah (in more than just one obvious way) that mashaayikh do feel.

The sense of protectiveness, defensiveness, and dislike of this situation is all related to gheerah.

What distinguishes honourable gheerah from selfish jealousy is that one is not feeling offended on account of their personal preferences, but on the basis of pleasing Allah and being aware of His boundaries. Thus, it can be defined as ‘spiritual jealousy’ – the consciousness that arises from having taqwa and wanting the best for one’s brothers and sisters in Islam.

Another important point to note that is honourable gheerah never leads to inappropriate actions – for example, we all know about the unfortunately common (in some parts of the world) situation of men who killed their sisters or their daughters out of a twisted sense of ‘gheerah,’ with absolutely no legitimate Shar’i excuse for doing so.

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Masud:
RasulAllah said: “There is none having a greater sense of Gheerah than Allah. And for that He has forbidden the doing of evil actions (illegal sexual intercourse etc.).” (Bukhari)

"The foundation of the Religion is Gheerah, and the one without Gheerah is one without Religion, for Gheerah protects the heart and enlivens the limbs, and shields one from evil and lewdness, and lack of Gheerah kills the heart so that the limbs die, so that there remains not even shielding from [the minor things].

And the example of Gheerah in the heart is the example of the strength that shields one from sickness and fights it off, so if the strength leaves, he will be faced with the sickness, and will not find anything to protect himself from it, so it will establish itself [within him] and destroy him.” (Ibn Qayyim, Ad-Daa’ Wad-Dawaa’)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Fatherhood Crisis

(Originally published at

“Sisters, you are the shepherds of your children! Sisters, raise your children well, for the future of the Ummah lies in your hands! Sisters, your role as mothers is the most important in the world!”
Such is the mantra repeated over and over again, to audiences of women who have already had this message ingrained in them from youth. But where are the reminders to Muslim fathers?

It's become a common cultural standard that women are assumed to be almost solely responsible for the raising and educating of children, from infancy right up until adulthood. The role of fatherhood, on the other hand, seems to have been relegated to one of financial obligation, and little else.
When we look to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), however, we see a very different model of fatherhood.

Prophet Muhammad, The Father

Ali ibn Abi Talib was raised in the household of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and, RasulAllah was his father figure. When Ali accepted Islam at the age of 12, he didn't do so out of indifference or merely because he 'had' to.
He had been raised to be intellectually capable of pondering what faith meant, what the consequences of accepting that would be, and the seriousness of living according to Islam. Thus, when he accepted Islam, it was with a keenness of intelligence and awareness that was directly cultivated by RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam).

Similarly, Zayd ibn Harithah who was also raised by (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam), in such a dedicated manner that when Zayd's biological father and uncle came to take him back home, he refused to go with them. Zayd was approximately eight years old when he was captured by raiders and sold into slavery in Makkah. The nephew of Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) bought him and then gave Zayd as a gift to her. She, in turn, gave him to RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) who freed him and raised him as his own son.
When Zayd’s father and uncle came to claim him, Zayd informed them, “I have seen from this man (Muhammad) such amazing things that I could never prefer him over anyone else.” (Ibn Sa’ad, Ibn Athir, Ibn Hajar).

Immediately after this, RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) formally adopted Zayd who became known as ‘Zayd ibn Muhammad’ until the Qur’anic verse was revealed forbidding this type of adoption.

Such a close bond could only have been the result of truly dedicated parenting. Zayd was also one of the first people to accept Islam, along with Ali and the rest of the Prophet’s household.
As an adult, RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) made Zayd a commander of the Muslim army no less than seven different times, until he was martyred in the Battle of Mu’tah.

Nor was RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) an exception when it came to fatherhood. His Sahabah followed his example.
Umar ibn al-Khattab (radhiAllahu 'anhu) didn't abandon his son 'Abdullah to his wife to raise; he didn't expect 'Abdullah's mother to be solely responsible for Abdullah's education or the refinement of his manners. Instead, he took a hands-on approach and ensured that Abdullah accompanied him from a young age, as is evidenced in the following hadith:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
The Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhiwasallam) said, "The example of a believer is like a green tree, the leaves of which do not fall." The people said, "It is such-and-such tree; it is such-and-such tree."
I intended to say that it was the date-palm tree, but I was a young boy and felt shy (to answer).
The Prophet said, "It is the date-palm tree." Ibn 'Umar added, "I told this to 'Umar (later on), who said, 'Had you said it, I would have preferred it over such-and such a thing!" (Bukhari)

Abdullah ibn ‘Umar grew up to be known as ‘the Jurist’ – but would he have become such a great man if it weren’t for the way his father made a point of involving him in the daily gatherings of the elder Sahabah with RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam)?

Unfortunately, there are far too many fathers today who prefer to leave their sons to be raised by social media and less-than-ideal friends, assuming that “their mother will deal with them”… until they suddenly realize that their sons are no longer young boys, but overgrown males with no understanding of Islamic manhood.

This situation, in fact, took place in the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab (radhiAllahu ‘anhu), and his stance on fatherhood is further demonstrated in this narration:

It is related that a man once came to ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, complaining of his sons’ disobedience to him. ‘Umar summoned the boy and spoke of his disobedience to his father and his neglect of his rights.

The boy replied: “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen! (Prince of believers)
Doesn’t a child have rights over his father?”  “Certainly,” replied ‘Umar.  “What are they, Ameer al-Mu’mineen?”  “That he should choose his mother, give him a good name and teach him the Book (the Quran).”  “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen! My father did nothing of this. My mother was a Magian (fire worshipper). He gave me the name of Julalaan (meaning dung beetle or scarab) and he did not teach me a single letter of the Quran.”  Turning to the father, ‘Umar  said: “You have come to me to complain about the disobedience of your son. You have failed in your duty to him before he has failed in his duty to you; you have done wrong to him before he has wronged you.” (Source

Note that when ‘Umar mentioned the teaching of the Qur’an, it meant to the companions much more than what we assume – he didn’t mean that the father hadn’t simply taught his son the literal words of the Qur’an, but rather, that he had neglected to teach his son the meanings of the Qur’an as well.

A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) described RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) as:
His character was the Qur’an.” (Muslim)

The automatic understanding was that his character was an embodiment of the teachings of the Qur’an.
‘Umar’s rebuke to the complaining father wasn’t that it was the mother’s fault for not teaching the son how to be a good Muslim (or even a good person) – the responsibility was upon the father to raise his child according to the Qur’an.
In failing to carry out his responsibilities towards his son, the father was to blame for his own son’s disobedience.

Today, there are countless books and lectures aimed at mothers about the importance of their role – yet few, if any, focused on Muslim fathers. As a result, our Ummah has been faced with a crisis of fatherhood: one where Muslim men have minimized their role as the head of the household and relegated themselves to providing only financial support, rather than being present, hands-on parents.

Subsequently, we have an entire generation of Muslim youth growing up with no idea of what it is like to be a truly responsible Muslim man.
It is time that we recognize the seriousness of the situation, and change our understanding of the role of Muslim men as fathers – by returning to and reviving the Sunnah of The prophet (PBUH) and his Companions. They were the men who exemplified what it meant to be true Muslim men … leaders of both their households, and of their Ummah.

Zainab bint Younus Kathrada aka The Salafi Feminist 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 at age 16; and began writing regularly for SISTERS magazine at the age of 19 until today. She also blogs at

Monday, May 12, 2014

#MuslimSexEd: What You Need to Know About Talking to Your Kids

Does #MuslimSexEd start only when your kids are about to hit puberty, or much sooner? What do parents, older siblings, and community members need to know about talking to Muslim youth about sex, puberty, and all that other messy stuff? Is #MuslimSexEd just about technical stuff, or so much more?

Click here to listen to "The Birds and the Bees" by Umm Zainab Vanker and The Salafi Feminist.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Ummah's Shame, The Ummah's Hope

A young girl comes home to her family, her hand resting over her stomach, while others’ faces turn red in shame and anger. A young woman stands in the streets, cradling her infant and silently bearing the acrid judgment of the public.

Whether victims of rape, financial difficulty, or their own unfortunate sins, young women who find themselves unexpectedly with child are immediately judged, shunned, and written off as burdens to society. The attitude towards them is that they are not only unwelcome, but are useless and have nothing of benefit to contribute to the world around them. As a result, this turns into the cycle of self-fulfilling prophesy – by condemning them for their mistakes and withdrawing meaningful support, these young girls and women find themselves adrift, worn down and often unable to believe in their ability to provide a better life for themselves and their children. Furthermore, they may find it difficult to believe that their children will be able to become a force of positive change in the future.

Maryam bint ‘Imraan (‘alayhas-salaam) was a very young girl when she was visited by the angel Jibreel and given the news of her miraculous pregnancy. The priests and masses of Bani Isra’eel reacted with anger and disgust, and she was forced to leave her sanctuary and find an isolated area wherein to give birth to her son, Prophet ‘Isa (‘alayhis-salaam).

In today's day and age, Maryam bint 'Imraan would be considered just another young girl pregnant out of wedlock. When the priests of Bani Isra'eel kicked her out of her sanctuary due to her pregnancy, she was effectively rendered homeless. We would have written her off as another unfortunate statistic and pity her child as being unable to have a stable home or any kind of meaningful future.

Instead, Maryam became one of the most famous women in Islamic history. She defied the odds and the animosity of her society, and was able to raise a Prophet who changed the course of history.

Although Maryam was falsely accused and was honored in the Qur’an for her great status, a core lesson remains: it is all too easy to judge a woman for her sins, whether perceived or real, but it is a higher level of good character and wisdom to recognize the blessing in every individual’s situation.

One of the reasons that Maryam was able to remain strong, and to raise her son with firm belief in Allah, was because she had support: the support of her family, including her mother – whose unique supplication to Allah ensured that out of all of mankind, only Maryam and ‘Eesa would not be touched by Shaytan. Maryam was not only supported by the women of her family, however, but also by a man: Prophet Zakariyya (‘alayhis-salaam), who had been her guardian and knew first-hand of her character, and who was well aware that the birth of ‘Eesa was a divine miracle.
Without the support of those who believed in her, Maryam could have allowed herself to surrender to despair, and live a quiet, ignominious life without making an effort to raise her son to become the man who was one of the greatest Messengers to walk the Earth.

Often, young girls and women are stigmatized for their mistakes and given little, if any, chance to repent and strive for a better life. Their children, too, are labeled and ostracized, marked indelibly as being unfit or unsuitable to be a part of the greater Ummah.

Just imagine young ‘Eesa (‘alayhis-salaam), being raised in a society where everyone knew the gossip related to his mother. Even today, there are distasteful words used to describe children who are considered illegitimate – and it is known that the Jews considered ‘Eesa (‘alayhis-salaam) as such, wa’l iyaathu billah. Although the miracles of his infancy were known, and it was obvious that he was no ordinary child, he and his mother were still human, and thus subject to the cruelties of slander… just as the children of young women in unfortunate circumstances today are treated.

Despite their outer circumstances, despite the accusations against Maryam’s honour, despite the stigma that ‘Eesa grew up with due to the circumstances of his birth, Maryam and ‘Eesa were both chosen by Allah above all of mankind:

{"O Maryam, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.”} (Qur’an 3:42)

{"O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve…”} (Qur’an 3:55)

It is all too easy for us to pass judgment on others simply because of what we see from them, but it is those same people who could be our Ummah’s greatest hope.

As Muslims, our duty is not to shun and condemn, to withdraw hope and assistance from fellow Muslims, no matter how severe we see their sins as being. Rather, our duty is to help these individuals – to help them overcome their errors, to seek Allah’s forgiveness, to repent and to strive to become greater Muslims. The very people whom we may look down upon, may be the ones who have the potential to become leaders for this Ummah.

Never give up on the hundreds and thousands of young, pregnant girls and single mothers. Never write them off as "hopeless" and their children as 'burdens' to this Ummah.
Instead, think of them as one of the most powerful sources of hope for this Ummah: Those who, with strong emaan and the right tools, could raise a generation of heroic Muslims who have overcome the odds with a strength that will help change this world for the better.

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