Friday, March 30, 2018

Muslim Women's Day...

...should be every day.

Things like International Women's Day or Muslim Women's Day or Women's History Month always makes me think of how and why we are in a situation where we *need* these designated days to raise awareness of the fact that women do play a huge role in society, in history, in life.

As women, we need no specific reminders of significant men or male contributions to science and art and politics and literature and religion. It is the default curriculum that we are taught.

But women? We barely know the names of our grandmothers.

As children, we are taught alongside our brothers about the Prophets and great male Companions. We are taught their names, their struggles, their personalities.

But women like Maryam, Aasiyah, Hajar, and Khadijah? They were good wives and mothers, we are told.

If we want to know about who they really *were* - as women, as believers, as beloved to the Creator - we must dig through books, desperately seeking snippets of more than their wifehood or motherhood; we must sit through lectures that invoke their names to tell us how we should be more demure, more obedient (to men, usually), more of a wife and mother.

Uncovering the legacy of our #ForgottenHeroines is like digging for treasure, each tiny discovery more valuable than the pearls and diamonds we are so often compared to.

For us, as women, unlearning the ways we have been told of these women is difficult - relearning them as vibrant, amazing, powerful, world-changing individuals is new and strange and sometimes uncomfortable, because it goes against so much of what we have been taught.

But this isn't just about us as women.

This is also about our brothers. How many of our fathers, brothers, and sons know who their own ancestresses were? How many of them know the names of the women who carried this Deen forward?

How many of them know the women who fought, with their hearts and minds and swords and pens, to uphold Islam in the face of shirk, kufr, colonialism, and misogyny?

How many Muslim men today know the stories of the women who raised the Ummah with their blood, sweat, and tears?

Today, draw your siblings and children and strangers close; today, tell the stories of Hawaa, who was created to be a vicegerent of this Earth; of Hajar, for whose sake God sent His angel to release the blessed spring of Zamzam, in whose footsteps we follow in pilgrimage.

Tell the stories of Umm Musa and Aasiyah, the women whom God chose to raise a Prophet, the women whom God comforted with His Divine Promise, the women whose stories we recite during every khatmah of the Qur'an.

Tell the story of Maryam, she whom God elevated above most of mankind; tell the stories of Sumayyah and Nusaybah, who gave their lives for love of God; of Hafsah bint Sireen, a lioness amongst scholars; of Zaynab al Ghazali, who faced down a modern day Pharoah.

Tell these stories, today and every day.

Tell these stories so that our sons and daughters do not need to be reminded, one day or one month out of the year, that women matter and have always mattered.

Tell these stories so that we remember the women that God reminds us of.

#MuslimWomensDay

Divorce - a Spiritual and Emotional Journey

For a while now, quite a few people have asked me about divorce - especially the emotional process of deciding to get a divorce, and going through it. 

First of all, for women, there is this crazy ridiculous societal stigma against even *considering* divorce as an option. We are reminded so often about the hadith that a woman who asks for divorce for no reason will not smell the fragrance of Jannah, yet we overlook the fact that most women do *not* ask for divorce lightly - few women *want* to rip apart their entire lives, let alone those of their children, and the social consequences for being a divorcee do their part in further strongly discouraging women from seeking divorce.
What we seem to deliberately overlook, however, is that woman-initiated divorce existed at the time of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and was not condemned - the famous hadith of the wife of Thabit ibn Qays cemented the concept of khul' and the understanding that incompatibility in a marriage is a legitimate reason for divorce, as was also the case of Zaid ibn Harith and Zaynab bint Jahsh.
Many women have asked me "when do I know for sure if I should get a divorce"? That is a question that no one can answer except yourself. My own personal barometer was the wife of Thabit ibn Qays, who said "I fear for myself kufr if I remain with him." Explanations of this hadith discuss how this meant that she was afraid that she would not be able to uphold his rights as a husband or deal with him justly. I truly believe that the way she expressed it was beautiful and reflective of a believer's attitude, with equal concern for the other party as well as for one's own spiritual well being.
And, of course, one must absolutely do research - both legal and Islamic - and consult with those of knowledge and good advice (because unfortunately common sense and wisdom isn't something everyone is blessed with not, not even shuyookh)... and finally, Salatul Istikhaarah. Reading and understanding the meaning of the du'a of Istikhaarah will really teach you what it means to have complete trust in Allah and His Qadr.
If you have finally made the choice to divorce, then be aware that it is going to HURT. It is going to hurt like hell. It doesn't matter if you are the one initiating it or not, divorce is agonizingly painful even as it can also feel like a blissful escape. Being married - whether for a year, four years, or fourteen years - is a unique experience that makes you bond with another individual in a way that is difficult to replicate in any other way. You sleep with them, you live with them, you witness their highs and their lows... you get to know that person in a very special way. And once you've decided to seek divorce - and I'll be honest, even before you make that final decision - you will likely spend nights sobbing yourself to sleep and feeling as though your world is crumbling around you. You may very well experience strong depression as well as guilt. You will find yourself slipping up and saying or doing things which you will be ashamed of later. You will make mistakes and you will experience heartbreak.
That's just how it is. Divorce sucks even when you actually need it.
Which leads to me to the most important point: There will be no one who truly understands what you are going through. Not even other divorcees will really 'get' you. Family and friends can sympathize but will have their own perspectives. But you know who WILL understand you better than you understand yourself? Your Creator.
Divorce and its accompanying challenges can be a catalyst for you as an individual to grow closer to Allah. It is the perfect time to increase your du'a, your dhikr, your sadaqah, and your qiyaam al-layl. It is the perfect time to acknowledge your weakness, recognize your own flaws and faults, and seek comfort and forgiveness and mercy from Al-Wadud, ash-Shaafi. You will discover the true extent of your own limitations and how none of us are perfect... not your ex-spouse, and not yourself. The only being who is perfect is the One Who created us all.
Divorce can make you become a better person - but it can also bring you down and tempt you into behaving in a less than graceful or mature manner. What's necessary to keep in mind is the amazing hadith:
"How amazing is the affair of the believer! There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” (Muslim)

Wahn 'alaa Wahn

Amongst the many reasons that Allah described what a mother goes through as "wahn 'alaa wahn" is that the process of reproduction is one that is both physically and emotionally devastating.
In a best case scenario, a woman is married to a good man who loves her and takes care of her, has a strong support system, and access to medical and social resources.
But it is still her body which is being used to keep this new creation alive - for 9 months of pregnancy, during which her own bodily resources are drained; during childbirth, which is one of the most severe traumas a human body can experience in the course of a normal lifetime; and for 2 years more, when she breastfeeds and is the sole or primary caretaker of the child.
But in a worst case scenario? Or even a less-than-absolute-worse-case scenario?
There are numerous women forced into pregnancy against their wills, with men who do not care about their well-being. They have no support network, are expected to maintain certain duties regardless of their health, likely have other children whom they are responsible for, and may even be expected to contribute to the household financially or with physical labour. Access to birth control, abortion, or basic medical resources is limited or non-existent.
Pregnancy is used as a form of control over women. Numerous women stay in abusive relationships "for the kids"; they are reluctant to leave without their children and are often threatened with the idea of their children being taken away from them; they are also impregnated in order to make them less mobile and even more financially dependent. And, of course, the risk of maternal mortality is ever-present, moreso in some areas than others.
If all this sounds outlandish to you... it's likely because you are not a woman, or are privileged enough to be oblivious to these realities of numerous women around the world.
The process of reproduction is not a joyride, or something that most women engage in with ulterior motives or as an advantage to be wielded over men.
Rather, it is an experience that not only irrevocably changes our bodies, but impacts our lives permanently in every other way as well - with devastating outcomes for those who cannot afford the privileges of a healthy relationship or the medical, emotional, and material resources required to guarantee a basic level of stability.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Resources About Women of Islamic History



Women Around the Messenger by Muhammad Ali Qutb (http://www.kalamullah.com/Books/women_around_the_messenger.pdf)

Great Women of Islam (Darussalam)
(https://www.muslim-library.com/dl/books/English_Great_Women_of_Islam_Who_were_given_the_good_News.pdf)

Great Women in Islam by Tariq Suwaidan
https://www.amazon.com/Great-Women-Islam-Tareq-Al-Suwaidan-ebook/dp/B00E5IMI26

The Women of Medinah (Ibn Sa'ad; translated by Aishah Bewley)
http://www.tahapublishers.com/the-women-of-madina~103

Khadijah: Mother of History's Greatest Nation by Fatimah Barkatullah
https://www.learningroots.com/products/khadijah-mother-of-historys-greatest-nation

Return of the Pharoah - Zaynab al-Ghazali
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKASMwUWV9c)

Educating Muslim Women: The West African Legacy of Nana Asma'u
https://www.amazon.ca/Educating-Muslim-Women-African-1793-1864/dp/1847740448

Al-Muhaddithat by Sh Muhammad Akram Nadwi
https://www.amazon.ca/Al-Muhaddithat-Scholars-Mohammad-Akram-Nadwi/dp/0955454549

Women Inspired by the Beloved (audio series) by Dr Hesham al Awadi
(https://www.muslimcentral.com/playlist/hesham-al-awadi-women-inspired-by-the-beloved/)

Mothers of the Believers (audio series) by Suhaib Webb
(http://www.enjoyislam.com/lectures/Imam%20Suhaib%20Webb/index.html)

Female Companions (audio series) by Dr Zeid adDakkan
(http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=lectures&Option=author&Author=Zeid%20Dakkan)

Mothers of the Believers by Omar Suleiman (available through BayyinahTV)
A'ishah, Our Mother, Our Teacher
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flgYPlycrVs

Khadijah, the First Companion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgWiuOupU0o
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKASMwUWV9c

Khadijah, Mother of the Believers by Yasir Qadhi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_H95i_go5M

A'ishah bint Tal'ha
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEIUkvALd-E

IdealMuslimah's list of articles and lectures: http://idealmuslimah.com/personalities/sahaabiyaat.html 

When Muslim men say things like, "I've never seen Muslim women discriminated against!", it is simply more blatant evidence of male privilege in our communities.
You have never seen the discrimination we face because you are protected from it.
You do not walk into the masjid only to be told sorry, you can't pray here. You aren't sent to go around the back of the building, edging past overflowing garbage bins. You don't have to hold your breath to stop yourself from gagging at the smell of the winding staircase to get to the women's prayer area... which is dark, dingy, and oftentimes a fire hazard.
You aren't the ones who show up for "community meetings" only to be left alone in the women's section with no way to contribute - bc they won't send a microphone or allow you in the main musalla.
You aren't the ones who email and phone the masjid board for weeks in the winter, begging them to turn on the heat so that the aunties attending Qur'an class don't spend two hours shaking from the cold.
You aren't the ones told that it is not appropriate for you to do I'tikaaf in the masjid. You aren't the ones told that you cannot use the masjid shower facilities because you walking through a room to get to them will "distract" other worshippers.
So when you say that you've never seen discrimination against Muslim women... we know. We know that you can't fathom that all of us this happens when you, personally, show up to a clean, well-lit, welcoming space for worship and socializing and seeking knowledge.
As a child, I used to go with my father *everywhere* that he would go to give halaqas and khutbahs. For the first few years, I was cheerily oblivious - I got to sit in the front row or play off to the side.
When I got older and was sent to the women's section, the difference was jarring. All of a sudden, I was in small, cramped rooms with gross bathrooms, couldn't see or hear the halaqah properly, and they alwaysssss had a funky smell.
Brothers who cannot believe that these problems exist need to learn to seek out Muslim women's voices and listen to us. We are not all "proggies" to be dismissed - we are the women who fight every day to strengthen our emaan even when our communities threaten to pull us down.
And this is why it is important for so many of you, my dear brothers in Islam, to shut your mouths and open your ears to listen to the Muslim women IN YOUR COMMUNITIES to hear what we have to experience and deal with.
On the flip side... there are those Muslim men who *do* make an effort to ensure that women have a beautiful, clean space to be in and equal access to Islamic facilities.
My father used to personally vacuum, scrub the toilets, and burn bukhoor in the women's section of the Islamic center he used to be responsible for. Everyone who walked in commented on how wonderful it smelled and how neat and tidy it was.
Women were able to walk into the Islamic library at any time in the day to borrow books and audios or use the computers.
When the space became too crowded in Ramadan for Taraweeh, he arranged it so that women were able to pray in the men's musalla as well as our own space; the men were shifted to a temporary separate space for the duration of the month.
What is sad is that truly inclusionary spaces for women at Muslim facilities are still relatively a novelty and an exception rather than the norm.
We go out of our way to praise what *should* be a basic standard of how our community operates.
We need to *expect* that women's needs are anticipated when building a new masjid or expanding an existing one - and parental needs in particular should be kept in mind for both men and women. For example, baby change tables should be available in both men and women's bathrooms.
It should not be considered a "favour" to provide clean, safe, beautiful spaces for Muslim women to worship in and within which we can participate in our community's spiritual and social development.
Rather, we should consider it part and parcel of cooperating with one another in goodness and piety, and communally sharing the responsibility of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.
{...And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.} (Qur'an 5:2)

The Pen has been lifted...

The hadith regarding those from whom the Pen is lifted is one which we should all reflect upon with regards to mental health issues in our communities.
Mental health is already under-diagnosed; those with severe illnesses such as BPD, schizophrenia and others are often claimed to be possessed or acting out. Certain actions they may commit while in a state of severe illness are taken as though deliberate.
Those with other forms of mental health issues such as clinical depression and so on are too often dismissed as having "weak faith."
What we DO need to be aware of is that mental health is not a black-and-white, cut-and-dry issue. It is not simple enough to judge someone as "majnoon" or not - nor is it up to us as laypeople to do so.
For those of us who do suffer from such illnesses, we also need to be aware of what we need to do to take care of ourselves medically and spiritually.
Chemical imbalances do not equate lack of faith; should we emerge from an 'episode' of mental illness to discover that we have said or done something wrong and regularly would be considered sinful, know that we have been forgiven for what was committed while in such a state, inshaAllah.
However, we also cannot use our mental health issues as an excuse or scapegoat for behaviour that is unacceptable, when we are in a state of cognizance and overall mentally healthy and aware.
It is a matter of great delicacy, and it is not up to anyone to make sweeping statements regarding the status of other people's mental health.

For Love of the Prophet

Funny how for some people, acceptance and forgiveness and love and loyalty exists for everyone *except* the Messengers of Allah.
The gheerah I have seen for people like Amina Wadud is astounding - the level of die-hard loyalty and adoration, refusal to question anything she says or accept any critique, is the kind of gheerah that I rarely see from the same people towards RasulAllah himself.
It is beyond disturbing to think that the type of love we *should* have for God and His Chosen Messengers has been assigned to those who seem to have very little confidence in God's decisions to begin with.
Here's what I want to know: if we, as Muslim women and Muslim feminists in particular, want to invoke the names of Maryam, of Aasiyah, of Khadijah, of Sumayyah, of Nusaybah, of Hind - then should we not remember that these women not only *believed* in RasulAllah, but loved him?
Hind bint Utbah (radhiAllahu anha) - once a woman dedicated to destroying Islam - said, on the night that she swore bay'ah to Allah and His Messenger:
"By Allah, there was no house on earth that I wanted to destroy more than your house. Now, there is no house on earth that I so dearly wish to honor and raise in glory than yours."
Thus was Hind - a woman of greater ferocity and honour and strength than any modern day Muslim feminist.
The greatest women of history pledged their love and allegiance to Allah and His Messenger; Allah elevated them *due* to their love for Him and His Messengers.
Who are we to ever imagine reaching their heights, without love for the ones they loved?
The Messenger of Allah said: “No one of you truly believes until I am dearer to their than their father, their son, their own self and all the people.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 15; Muslim, 44.)

Disappointment, frustration, and resentment - these are everyday emotions which can often be challenges to our emaan, sabr, and shukr without even realizing it.
Some of us can be great at recognizing bigger fitan in our lives and turning to Allah during those times, but falter when it comes to the small everyday experiences with those emotions.
Unfairness can grate on our nerves and trip us up when it comes to being patient or controlling our frustrations and remembering the right ad'iyah and reminders of patience in the moment... just when it's most important for us to be conscious of the need to wrestle with our wounded egos and actively ask Allah to improve our inner states.
It is these every day tests that can be most difficult for us to pass - even as we hit 'like' and 'share' on spiritual Facebook posts and lectures, even as we pat ourselves on the backs for being good religious Muslims, we're still shooting ourselves in the foot when we allow our nafs free reign to sulk and complain.
Thankfully, Allah is always the Most Forgiving and Merciful, and even if we've already sabotaged ourselves a hundred times this week, He is ever ready to accept our tawbah, no matter how sheepish or embarrassed or still upset we may be feeling.
Just as our small, everyday failings can pull us down spiritually, so too can our small, everyday victories - whether it is reciting dhikr in a moment of agitation or swallowing one's perfectly valid ire - cause us to rise and succeed far more than we may ever realize.

Muslim Women's Day

Things like International Women's Day or Muslim Women's Day or Women's History Month always makes me think of how and why we are in a situation where we *need* these designated days to raise awareness of the fact that women do play a huge role in society, in history, in life.
As women, we need no specific reminders of significant men or male contributions to science and art and politics and literature and religion. It is the default curriculum that we are taught.
But women? We barely know the names of our grandmothers.
As children, we are taught alongside our brothers about the Prophets and great male Companions. We are taught their names, their struggles, their personalities.
But women like Maryam, Aasiyah, Hajar, and Khadijah? They were good wives and mothers, we are told.
If we want to know about who they really *were* - as women, as believers, as beloved to the Creator - we must dig through books, desperately seeking snippets of more than their wifehood or motherhood; we must sit through lectures that invoke their names to tell us how we should be more demure, more obedient (to men, usually), more of a wife and mother.
Uncovering the legacy of our #ForgottenHeroines is like digging for treasure, each tiny discovery more valuable than the pearls and diamonds we are so often compared to.
For us, as women, unlearning the ways we have been told of these women is difficult - relearning them as vibrant, amazing, powerful, world-changing individuals is new and strange and sometimes uncomfortable, because it goes against so much of what we have been taught.
But this isn't just about us as women.
This is also about our brothers. How many of our fathers, brothers, and sons know who their own ancestresses were? How many of them know the names of the women who carried this Deen forward?
How many of them know the women who fought, with their hearts and minds and swords and pens, to uphold Islam in the face of shirk, kufr, colonialism, and misogyny?
How many Muslim men today know the stories of the women who raised the Ummah with their blood, sweat, and tears?
Today, draw your siblings and children and strangers close; today, tell the stories of Hawaa, who was created to be a vicegerent of this Earth; of Hajar, for whose sake God sent His angel to release the blessed spring of Zamzam, in whose footsteps we follow in pilgrimage.
Tell the stories of Umm Musa and Aasiyah, the women whom God chose to raise a Prophet, the women whom God comforted with His Divine Promise, the women whose stories we recite during every khatmah of the Qur'an.
Tell the story of Maryam, she whom God elevated above most of mankind; tell the stories of Sumayyah and Nusaybah, who gave their lives for love of God; of Hafsah bint Sireen, a lioness amongst scholars; of Zaynab al Ghazali, who faced down a modern day Pharoah.
Tell these stories, today and every day.
Tell these stories so that our sons and daughters do not need to be reminded, one day or one month out of the year, that women matter and have always mattered.
Tell these stories so that we remember the women that God reminds us of.