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.


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

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.

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.