Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review: Dahling, If You Love Me, Would You Please, Please Smile?

Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile? is the first published novel by Rukhsana Khan, a Canadian Muslim writer. Targeting young tween and teen readers, the story revolves around 13-year-old Zainab. Her older sister Layla is bossy, judgmental, and quick to find fault in her – which is all too easy when Zainab is already struggling to fit in at school, where she’s the only Muslim girl and one of the very few ‘brown’ kids.
The issues Zainab finds herself faced with are many, and darker than what most adults ever suspect their young teens of being confronted with it. Manipulation, bullying, the sexual exploitation of a friend and an attempted suicide are all disturbingly common in the eighth grade.
Desperate to belong, Zainab is trying hard to figure out how to let her Islamic values guide her actions and decisions. How can she help her friend Jenny, who adoringly seeks the attention of the most popular guy at school… despite his predatorial behavior? How can Zainab become popular enough that being brown won’t be a matter of shame? How can she improve herself as a Muslim when her sister Layla insists that she is too flawed to be a properly good Muslimah?
Wisely observing Zainab’s dilemma, her teacher Mr. Weiss gives her a challenge: putting Zainab in charge of the school play. Thinking to use her new position as a way to become more popular with the other kids, Zainab discovers that her new role is more difficult than expected. As she faces new obstacles and navigate through greater conflicts, Zainab learns what it really means to become a brave, responsible Muslimah, by standing up for what’s right even when it seems impossible.
Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile? is a teen novel that I found surprisingly darker and deeper than expected, yet appreciated even more precisely for that fact. Rukhsana Khan doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to broaching these sensitive topics, yet her characters reflect a realistic and compassionate understanding of what it means to be a young person facing difficult situations.
I highly recommend this book for the 11-16 age group, especially for kids who are attending public schools and have almost certainly been exposed to these issues already. This novel is a great way to foster discussion between Muslim parents and teens on how to deal with difficult and serious subject matter.

Zainab bint Younus is a young Canadian Muslimah who has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. She’s constantly on the hunt for new (and old) novels written by Muslim authors, and is already looking to replenish her rapidly dwindling collection. Zainab blogs at

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 

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.