By: Nabila Ikram Detroit, MI
Monday evening on August 13th, women from all backgrounds came together in the gymnasium of the Muslim Center to hear and learn about the role of women’s education in Islam. The lecture was provided by Anse Tamara Gray who is a scholar residing in Syria. She has her ijazas (permits to teach others) in Qur’an and Tajweed (proper recitation of the Qur’an). She has also studied other subjects, such as hadith (documents of the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and practices) and fiqh (law).
Anse Tamara Gray recently came to the U.S. on tour as part of the “Rabata Retreats”- a series of lectures and events dedicated to bringing women together for Islamic education and enlightenment. Having lived in Syria for the past 20 years, she briefly discussed her own journey from accepting Islam to moving to Syria and pursuing Islamic scholarship.
Anse Tamara converted to Islam in her teenage years in Minnesota in 1985. She soon began to feel a lack of support from the small Muslim population of her community and also a strong sense of superiority from men. She prayed for God’s guidance and sought a connection with her newly accepted faith. Soon, she met a woman from Syria who told her of a female scholar who was educating a few students, in the hopes of preparing them to attain their ijazas – an honor that no Muslim woman was documented for receiving up to that point. Soon enough, Anse Tamara married and moved to Syria with her husband and began pursuing her Islamic studies under female scholars. In 1991, the first female received her ijaza in Qur’an- but not before struggling to find a scholar who would be willing to issue it to a female.
To explain the significance, an ijaza is similar to a PhD. One theory has it that the concept of the Western doctorate actually originated from the Islamic ijaza system. To obtain an ijaza one must complete in-depth studies for several years and pass rigorous testing. Therefore, the attainment of an ijaza by the young female student was a major feat and one that was unheard of in the modern Muslim world. From that point on, thousands of women have received their ijazas in Qur’an and many women have received ijazas in the seven books of hadith.
Although, as noted, this is a major accomplishment, one should remember that, ironically, it is a major accomplishment for the modern Muslim world. Hundreds of years ago, including under the Prophet’s leadership, female scholarship was prominent and encouraged.
Recently, scholars, such as Alim Mohammad Akram Nadwi, have decided to study and search for Muslim women scholars. Up to 2007, his research unearthed at least 8,000 documented female scholars throughout Islamic history. According to Anse Tamara, that number is currently at 12,000. These women were not simply high-achieving students, but were teachers, doctors, and even scholars who issued fatwas (legal rulings and opinions).
The importance of education can be illustrated by this story: Umm Waraqa was a contemporary of the Prophet and was incredibly learned in the Qur’an and its recitation. She used to teach the other women of the community at her home. When a war was to take place and the Prophet had summoned men and women to participate as soldiers and nurses, Umm Waraqa also volunteered. However, the Prophet told her to stay. She told him that she wanted to die a martyr and the Prophet gave her the title, referring to her as “The Martyr” from that point on. The Prophet deemed Umm Waraqa’s work of educating others as so important that he denied her permission to participate in the defense of the community, an act considered of notable honor, and still gave her the title.
Another case that illustrates the high and respected status Muslim women held in the past, is of Fatima bint Qais, who was a knowledgeable and respected scholar of her times. After having a personal experience with divorce and learning from the guidance she received from the Prophet regarding it, Fatima bint Qais issued fatwas based on the experience. There came a time when Caliph Umar disagreed with the fatwas she was issuing. However, although he made his opinion known, he did not stop her. As Anse Tamara said, “our tradition is a tradition of respect for opinion.” Fatima bint Qais’ opinion was so respected that the scholars of the four madhabs (schools of thought), Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafi’i, included it in some way when establishing their respective rulings and laws.
A final story is of a woman who was a scholar of hadith in the early generations after the Prophet and had published a book on the topic. Students from various places would come to study under her. One of her students asked to see her book so he could assess if he was completing his assignments correctly. The scholar told him that the only way his work would be approved was if she personally looked at it. As his teacher, she would not allow him to self-correct. Therefore, his work was assessed and approved by her personally. This point became a point of pride for him as he would use it as proof that his education was valid and to be trusted.
Unfortunately, all of these stories portray something that is almost unheard of in most parts of the Muslim world and communities today. There was more women’s scholarship in Islam in the past, than there is today, in the age of “women’s rights”. Anse Tamara stated that one of the primary reasons for this is Colonialism; when Muslims lost connection to their roots and faith, they also lost many of the values and principles that are held in high regard in Islam. This included education for all- men and women.
Anse Tamara encouraged everyone to seek knowledge. She gave basic, practical tips such as learning enough Arabic to be able to read a dictionary. Many translations of Arabic texts can be unreliable as they may carry personal interpretations and overtones of the translators. Therefore, if one comes across a translation that seems doubtful, one should be able to easily look up the terms in a dictionary and arrive to a more accurate meaning of the text. If learning Arabic is not a possibility at the time, she also suggested reading more than one translation for the same purpose.
During the Q/A session, Anse Tamara was asked about the permissibility of female scholars teaching in front of a male or mixed-gender student body. She clarified that unless the teacher herself chooses to not teach a male or mixed-gender student body, she is not religiously barred from teaching as long as rules of modesty are observed. Such rules include appropriate clothing and using a professional, not feminine, tone when speaking.
The overall lesson of the lecture was that women have a high status and significant role in Islam. Throughout history, Muslim women were held in esteem and were provided and encouraged to take part in opportunities to increase their knowledge and share it with others. As much as the world may have developed over the past hundreds of years, one aspect that seems to have actually backtracked is the role of women and the importance of their own education and their contributions to society. As Anse Tamara said several times, Muslim women have lost their voices and have learned to dismiss themselves. The only way they will regain their proper rights and positions is if they study the faith and act upon it. “When you are strong, no one can bully you. Strength in Islam comes from knowledge.”
By: Nabila Ikram Detroit, MI
Over 3,000 Muslim athletes and officials are said to be present at the Olympics taking place in London this year. As in every Olympic game, there are a couple of significant aspects of this year’s events.
The first and foremost, is the mere fact that the games are taking place during Ramadan. All the athletes are managing their time in different ways. For example, some athletes are continuing to fast, such as those on the Moroccan team. Others, such as the Egyptian team, have been advised by religious counselors that they are exempt due to the fact that they are traveling and in a foreign land. Yet, others plan on giving to charity enough for 60 needy people to make up for their voluntary missing of their fasts. The organizers of the Olympics have also been accommodating athletes by providing snack packs to the athletes that include items such as dates.
Another significant attribute of this year’s games is the continued involvement of Muslim women. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei have sent female athletes to the Olympics for the first time ever. The women faced incredible political and social difficulties as they fought for the honor to represent themselves and their nations. For example, Wojdan Shaherkani, 16, who competed in Judo was labeled the “Prostitute of the Olympics” by ultra-conservatives in her home country of Saudi Arabia.
Many of the athletes wore hijab, or the headscarf, and modest clothing, which in itself was a challenge for some women as their home countries required them to wear traditional attire, while the Olympics Committee required them not to. Therefore, after much discussion, a compromise had been made between the two to allow athletes to continue wearing the scarf or modest attire, but with some modifications to meet sport safety and other rules. Regardless of the obstacles, the women made it to the games and although most did not last long, their efforts and appearances were noted by the international community and have begun to pave the way for future female athletes.
The diversity of the games in which Muslims, males and females, are competing range from track, swimming, rifle competition, weightlifting, and many other areas.
The BBC has been covering the Olympics in much detail. The website has a comprehensive list of all the participating countries with profiles of their athletes and Olympic-related stories. Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/countries/
By: Noor Salahuddin Chicago, IL
Surah Furqaan in Quran – e – Majeed is the 25th surah (chapter) with 77 ayaat (verses). Furqaan means the “criterion” or the “standard”, and the meaning of this word is to distinguish between good and bad. In this surah, Allah taala (the Greatest) helps us distinguish between the two so we may become better at judging our own actions.
And the servants of the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth Hawna, and when the foolish address them they say; "Salama (peace).'' And those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing. And those who say: "Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Hell is described as an evil abode and as a place to rest in. And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor stingy, but are in a just balance between them [Surah alFurqaan 25:63-67]. Allah taala dislikes extremes in anything and that is evident in this ayah. What is meant here by Hawn is serenity and dignity, as the Messenger of Allah said: When you come to the prayer, do not come rushing in haste. Come calmly and with tranquility, and whatever you catch up with, pray, and whatever you miss, make it up.
These are the attributes of the believing servants of Allah, those who walk on the earth Hawna, meaning that they walk with dignity and humility, not with arrogance and pride; similar to the Ayah: And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance... [17:37]. One should always be humble and fear Allah, as we are reminded in this ayah.
As mentioned, these people do not walk with conceit or arrogance or pride. This does not mean that they should walk like sick people, making a show of their humility, but rather that they should not be overbearing. It is said that the Prophet Adam used to walk as if he was coming downhill, and as if the earth were folded up beneath him.
Moving on to the next part, and when the foolish address them they say: “Salama”). If the ignorant people insult them with bad words, they should not respond in kind, but they forgive and overlook, and say nothing but good words. This is what the Messenger of Allah did: the more ignorant the people, the more patient he would be. This is as Allah says: And when they hear Al-Laghw (evil or vain talk), they withdraw from it [28:55]. Allah rewards patience and perseverance and this ayah reminds us that we must not lose patience or hope in times of adversity.
Then Allah says that their nights are the best of nights, as He says: And those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing. This means worshipping and obeying Him. This is like the Ayat: They used to sleep but little by night. And in the hours before dawn, they were asking for forgiveness [51:17-18]. Their sides forsake their beds... [32:16]. Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord... [39:9].
Allah says: And those who say: "Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable punishment” meaning, ever-present and never ending. Al-Hasan said concerning the Ayah, Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Everything that strikes the son of Adam, and then disappears, does not constitute an inseparable, permanent punishment. The inseparable, permanent punishment is that which lasts as long as heaven and earth.
This was also the view of Sulayman At-Taymi: Evil indeed it is as an abode and as a place to rest in, meaning how evil it looks as a place to dwell and how evil it is as a place to rest.
And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor stingy... The best Muslims are not extravagant, spending more than they need, nor are they miserly towards their families, not spending enough on their needs. But they follow the best and fairest way.
The best of matters are those which are moderate, neither one extreme nor the other, but are in a just balance between them. This is like the Ayah, And let not your hand be tied to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach. [17:29]
Source: Tafseer Ibn Kathir
By: Engr. Kayser Nazmee
On Friday April 20th, MCWS was visited by Lauren (Sarah) Booth where she addressed a crowd of over 500 people. To refresh the readers’ memory, Booth is the English broadcaster, journalist and pro-Palestinian activist who embraced Islam in September 2010. She is well known in the news world as well as in the UK as her half-sister Cherie Booth is married to Tony Blair. She is also the daughter of famous British actor Tony Booth and model, Pamela Smith.
It was a religious gathering called Angels’ Circle at MCWS where an Muslim scholar is invited to give a speech on a contemporary or spiritual issue after Maghrib prayer on Friday nights. This event was also accompanied by a mini fundraising effort by Muslim Legal Fund of America, a non-profit organization who reviews cases, evaluates attorneys, negotiates fees and provides funding for cases that impact civil rights and liberties of Muslims.
However, the attraction of the night was Booth who illustrated her journey to faith, her struggle in Gaza, the occupied land in Palestine, her witnessing of Palestinian people being oppressed yet also so humble, patient and decent. It was an eye-opener for the audience, which consisted of predominantly born Muslims.
Her encounter with faith as in her own words, “… I experienced as cold water was dropped on my head and running down my body…” was very influential for many. This happened even before she committed to the Shahadah. She briefly elaborated her life before and after the Shahadah, how it was encouraged even by her little daughters while criticized by news media, including her own colleagues in The Guardian
. The link below depicts an example of a blog under The Guardian
web page published on October 25th, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/oct/25/lauren-booth-conversion-islam?intcmp=239
She had openly expressed her fear and repudiation to Islam and Muslims before her trips to the Middle East, before her interaction with Muslim cab drivers, before interviewing widows in Gaza and before her spiritual experience in the Masjid. She understands the mindset of her colleagues since she once lived that life and ideology.
She is a firsthand witness of what is happening in the Gaza, the needs for humanitarian aid, and how Israel has created a virtual concentration camp containing millions of women and children without food, without medication, without basic necessities of life, without any human rights, without freedoms, without any hopes for the future, living on the rubbles of their homes demolished by Israeli F-16’s and tanks.
Booth acknowledged that being a British journalist she is well suited to contribute much more for the liberation of Palestine and for the entire Muslim Ummah. She urged the American Muslim community to get involved, stay united and connected, and make known all harassment by any authority or private entity.
By: Anas Alkatib - Davenport Universtiy
I had the privilege to be invited and to attend a monologue at the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus. The monologues were talking about the Muslim women who wear a headscarf or a Hijab (in Arabic). Although the word Hijab is not proper Arabic, it has become part of the Muslim American experience parlance and refers to the Muslim woman who wears a headscarf.
Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about going because I’ve always heard about The Vagina Monologues, but never attended one because it’s a little bit too private for me to even talk about. Unlike The Hijabi Monologues, where I was intrigues to say the least, and to see and hear what kind of performance it will be and what kind of stories they will be telling.
I’ve always heard and read about on many occasions the good, the bad and the unspeakable acts against or for Muslims and mainly Muslim women because they are starkly identified by their headscarf, but to listen to it up close and live from actual people was a must.
The Hijabi Monologues was written by Sahar Ullah and others. They wanted to create a space for American Muslim women to share their stories. Many Muslim women share the experience of facing an entire set of assumptions about their faith, politics, preferences, education, class, etc. based on whether they choose to wear, a headscarf. For this reason, The Hijabi Monologues never claim to speak for all Muslims women, because of course not all Muslim women are Americans, and not all Muslim women are Hijabi.
The performance proceeds would benefit First Step which is an organization based on the belief that domestic and sexual violence are damaging to those individuals directly involved and to society as a whole and that it is criminal conduct which cannot be tolerated. With the belief that all individuals shall be provided safety and must be treated with dignity and respect; a cause worth fighting for. And benefiting the two programs was the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Arab American Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence program, and The Domestic Violence Program (VOCA)
Awesome Job to all the sisters who participated and the incredible words starting with “I’m Tired” by Uzma Anwar,
“Introduction” by Shannon Snideman,
“Hitting on a Hijabi 101” by Sara Alrayyashi & Teri Bazzi-Oliver,
“Light on my face” by Jessica Mull,
“The People You Meet” by Jatia Sylvester,
“My Son’s Wedding Feast” by Tina erkins,
“Inside My Hands” by Sabrina Ali,
“The Hijabi Protectors” by Liala Sobh,
“The Good Wife” by Teri Bazzi-Oliver,
“The Story About the Really Quite Subdued Shy Not Sociable Hijabi” by Emma Slonina, and
Last but not least
“10 Things” by Sara Alryyashi.
The Hijabi Monologues was written by Sahar Ullah and others, whom they want to create space for American Muslim women to share their stories. Many Muslim women share the experience of facing an entire set of assumptions about their faith, politics, preferences, education, class, etc. based on whether they choose to wear, a headscarf. For this reason, The Hijabi Monologues never claim to speak for all Muslims women, not to mention, not all Muslim women are Americans, and not all Muslim women are hijabies.
Sahar Aziz Legal Fellow – ISPU
Late last year, a Staten Island woman and her toddler were attacked
by a pedestrian who punched her in the face, pulled on her scarf, asked her why she was in America, and called all Muslims and Arabs terrorists. One week later in Seattle, Wash., two American citizens of Somali descent were physically attacked
at a gas station. The female assailant called them suicide bombers, terrorists and told them to go back to their country. She then slammed the door on the leg of one of the women, kicked her and pulled off her headscarf. After the attack, one victim was afraid to leave her house because her Muslim headscarf could invite further violence. Immediately after 9/11, anti-Muslim prejudice was manifested most prominently as racial profiling, with Muslim men being the primary targets. The failure to effectively combat it has emboldened bigots into more open expressions of hatred directed at those regarded as most vulnerable: women.
Since the Ground Zero mosque controversy in 2010, Muslim women have increasingly reported being attacked in public or threats of such.
A month after the Staten Island attack, a Muslim woman wearing the headscarf in Columbus, Ohio was stalked, verbally harassed and then pepper-sprayed by a man shouting religious and ethnic slurs
such as, "Tell all of your Muslims that this is not your country," "Go back to wherever you came from" and threatening, "I will kill you." That same week, on Dec. 23, 2010, a man in Twin Falls, Idaho, physically harassed
a head scarved Muslim woman and her two children.A few weeks later, a woman convert to Islam received threats and intimidation by a neighbor. The reported verbal threats
included, "I'm going to kill you" and "I'm going to shoot your dog and [rape you] while you pray with your head on the ground." The neighbor physically intimidated the Muslim woman by shoving her against a wall, monitoring her with binoculars and attempting to unlawfully enter her apartment -- common acts of intimidation against women living alone. Unfortunately, these cases are just a few of
many where Muslim women, especially those wearing a headscarf, are victims of violence by some Americans determined to violently expel Muslims from the country. Growing anti-Muslim bias in America is no secret. Over the past few years, numerous reports
have exposed concerted anti-Muslim campaigns that mobilize people to hate their Muslim compatriots. For example, the Center for American Progress meticulously documents seven foundations spending over $40 million to fund anti-Muslim propaganda that has been widely repeated by political leaders, grassroots groups and the media. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an expert on hate groups in America, also reports the apparent surge in anti-Muslim sentiment in America is driven by a small, closely knit cadre of activists. The hate generated by these professional anti-Muslim bigots often leads to violence. Against this backdrop, Muslim women in America wearing a headscarf have become both visible and vulnerable targets. But their voices and experiences are glaringly unrepresented in the discourse and policies addressing anti-Muslim bigotry. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest threat to Muslin women is no longer limited to domestic violence in the home but rather unprovoked attacks in public places by bigoted strangers. To many, the Muslim woman's headscarf marks her as a terrorist or co-conspirator to terrorism. Meanwhile, her gender marks her as easy prey to cowardly acts by those who seek to violate her body and personal dignity. Only when a Muslim woman is victimized by her male family member, thereby fitting the stereotype of Muslim men as violent savages, do her gender rights receive attention. But in a post-9/11 world, her physical safety is threatened right here in America by segments of the public increasingly distrustful of Muslims. Yet the silence of American women's rights groups is deafening. No longer can defending Muslim women's rights be defined by clichés of the oppressed Muslim woman in Muslim majority countries victimized by her barbaric Muslim husband. Public acts of violence, and threats of more, warrant the attention of government officials, women's rights advocates and all Americans concerned with violence against women.
American women's rights advocates should be working alongside American Muslim women to secure all women's rights to be free from physical attack, both at home and in public. Similarly, programs aimed at preventing hate crimes, violence against women, and
discrimination against Muslims should address the unique forms of discrimination faced by Muslim women in America -- both as Muslims and as women. Only when we all, men and women alike, can express our viewpoints and practice our faiths without fear of physical violence can we honestly declare this a nation of tolerance and freedom. Sahar Aziz is an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and a legal fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is the author of a forthcoming law review article From the Oppressed to the Terrorist: American Muslim Women Caught in the Crosshairs of Inter-sectionality that addresses Muslim women's rights. This article was first published in the Huffington Post on November 2, 2011
By Tasnia Elahi
Islam is the religion of compassion and forgiveness. It cherishes and respects women, and with no doubt, Islam brings the true message of peace and love for humanity. However, many Muslim women feel disconnected to their culture and religion. Many children have never felt a sense of belongingness to their mosques, and the stereotypes of Muslim women sometimes make children feel low and disrespected. To make a change in the Islamic society, Muslims should be aware of simple steps that could improve women’s self-esteem. If the change starts at a young age, the future of Muslim women will surely look brighter.
The fact is, Muslims are losing more and more women from the mosques and are losing touch with their religion. Allowing this to continue could potentially cause problems. Where will Islam stand in the future without strong and dedicated Muslim women? We must amend youth in general, especially girls, in order for the Muslim community to carry on and prosper.
One way for girls to feel like they have a more comfortable place in Islam is to drop the dress focus. While proper clothing is important for both boys and girls, it should never be the primary focus when trying to welcome children to Islam. Gradually, the issue of dress should be planted within the youth and shouldn’t be forced on them. Girls are often told to cover their hair when at times they do not fully understand why. They will feel more comfortable if they learn how to dress by seeing other women’s clothing in the mosques and being told why proper dress is important.
Another way women can feel respected in the mosques is by improving the women’s prayer area. The women’s area is usually smaller and darker than the men’s area. When children feel that they’re not in a warm and welcoming place, they most likely won’t want to come back in the future. Top priorities should include having a larger space for women and the children that usually accompany them, cleaner bathrooms, and a sound system that would allow sisters’ to clearly hear the prayers and speeches.
Women should feel wanted and needed in the mosques. Activities and events just for women should be available at least once or twice a month.
Last Saturday, on March 26, a local Islamic school - Crescent Academy International, hosted a ‘Muslims Ladies Fashion Show’ at the joint facility shared with the Muslim community center in Canton, MCWS. Islamic designers from the area contributed their clothing to the many models participating in the fashion show.
The beautiful set, delicious Middle Eastern food, and reasonably priced tickets had guests pouring in. Women and children were filled with happiness and excitement while sharing hugs with old friends and meeting new ones. Women felt appreciated and enjoyed the atmosphere of the gathering.
Simple steps can be taken to lead to a more prosperous Islamic society, starting with changes in how women are treated at the mosques.
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