The Muslim Woman – The Protofeminist

As a proud Muslim woman, growing up in a western society, Im well acquainted with the popularised notion that Islam serves to oppress and subjugate women, robbing us of an identity and rendering us voiceless. This simply could not be further from the truth. Islam serves to liberate women, and free them from the constraints of this society.

From the inside, Its clear the provisions that Islam provides for women. We have rights, responsibilities and a duty to our Ummah. Islam has created for women, fundamental and imperative rights, not only to protect but to preserve our dignity.  However, im aware that from the outside, this isn’t always clear. Im all to often confronted with the perpetuated stereotype of the oppressed ‘Veiled Victim’ A voiceless entity in need of a western saviour to validate her.

So when posing the question, does Islam liberate or subjugate women? The answer simply lies in the amount of importance we, as a unit, are given.

Unbeknownst to most, Islam gifts women with many fundamental and legal rights. The equal right to divorce, active consent in marriage and the right to pursue an education, include some of the rights that are considered imperative for women in Islam. Some of which, were considered highly radical for the rest of the western world within the 7th century, in which women had very little sway in society.

It wasn’t until the first wave feminism many hundreds of years later, that western women were given the right to participate in political matters. The suffragette movement paved way for women in Britain and America with the Married Women’s Property Act, and later, the right to a political vote. However, very little attention is paid to the honours that where given to Muslim women over fourteen – hundred years prior.

Islamic history testifies the equality of women, and their importance in shaping the identity of Islam. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had the deepest respect for women, and showed it readily in his exceptional treatment of his wives and female companions. Our Islamic history is positively laden with empowered females, who helped perpetuate the spread of the message of Islam. In fact, Islam has a huge amount of female empowerment embedded right into its roots.

Khadijah (ra) played a significant role. Widowed by her husband, she maintained a position of a prominent business woman in a predominantly patriarchal society. Also, through her wealth, she funded most of the ventures of the Prophet (saw).  Aisha (ra) also portrays a strong female figure, with her political astuteness and Scholarly narrations. She took a public and prominent role in politics, representing the importance of the female voice. A voice that, ironicaly,  was silenced and ignored in Western society at the time.

These examples of strong independent women, serve to contradict the notion of the Muslim woman as a voiceless entity. In fact, they represent the sheer importance of women in constructing half of society and half of the Ummah.

The Curved and Crooked Rib

Written for and Published by Pure Matrimony – Muslim Marriage Guide

Woman was made from the rib of man. She was not created from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be stepped upon. She was made from his side to be close to him, from beneath his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.

The rib cage has been specially crafted by Allah SWT to encase and enclose the heart, and its surrounding structures. The curved and crooked rib, is perfectly formed to serve its enshrouding function. And just like the ribs protect the heart, women were created to protect and safeguard man.

The Prophet (saws) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble) his neighbour. And I advise you to take care of the women, for they are created from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked, so I urge you to take care of the women.”

The comparison drawn between woman and the rib, is a beautiful reminder that women, are created imperfect. We have our off days, our emotions are fervent and sometimes, the pressures of daily life can get on top of us. But this is all part of our nature, and we are created perfectly to fulfil our primary role as care giver. Our  emotions help us to be better wives, better mothers and to be compassionate when tolerance is running thin.

As a husband, its important to remember that your wife will not be exactly the way you want her to be. She has her own method of doing things, her own techniques and quirks, and these may not always coincide with your preferred ways. But rest assured, she is perfectly suited for her function, and for you, her chosen companion.

The beloved Prophet SAW, advises not to try and fix these ‘faults‘ in your wife, nor change her disposition, but to leave her as she is and accept that the female nature is comprised of many attributes, most of which are significantly different from the genetic make-up of man. This does not mean, that one is superior above the other, but that, just like the rib, men and women are too created in perfect adherence to their purpose. Neither man nor women is complete without the other, they both have a need for each another, like two sides of the perfect coin. For where one is weak the other is strong.

The Prophet SAW described women beautifully, as delicate glass vessels, to be handled with love and care. In your hands, know that you have one of the most abundant blessings of Allah SWT, a partner for you to dwell in tranquillity with. And If treated well, your wife will be a source of joy and comfort for you, a form of protection and purity, and a safe haven on this flawed and imperfect world.

Therefore, be not forceful with your wife. Embrace her differences and know that it is her fluid nature that makes her perfect for her role. Do not enforce your will upon her, women respond to kindness and affection, much more readily than harsh words and instructions. Do your very best to ignore her perceived faults, and focus upon and take benefit from her positive qualities, you will find they are present in abundance. Above all, be merciful towards her, for if you try and straighten her, sure enough, just like the rib

… you will break her.

‘Happily Ever After’ – How not to enter into a relationship

Written for and published by Pure Matrimony – Muslim Marriage guide

‘Happily ever after‘…possibly the most loaded words in the entire English language. When these three words are uttered, almost involuntarily, vivid imagery invades the mind of glistening horse drawn carriages and endless romantic sunsets. Coupled with unrealistic media depictions, young impressionable minds are swept away with childhood tales of true love, which often portray a defenceless female who aimlessly stumbles upon prince charming, saving her from a life of spinsterhood and destitution, and upon meeting, and completing one another’s lives, the couple wed and, you guessed it …live ‘happily ever after’.

You see, Instilled within us, is a notion of incompletion. That we as individuals, are in someway deficient until we discover our long lost other halves and unite to create a picture perfect version of ‘us’. This sense of longing only substantiates the simple fact that our souls are hungry for completion, but we cannot be satiated by love alone. The constant yearning for human companionship and belonging cannot simply be quenched by the uniting of two very different individuals. In-fact, our ever-present deficits within our characters can only be filled by a power much higher than anything we wield, here on earth.

Therefore, it would seem that these three relatively harmless words, have a much more malicious affect, than our fairytales would have us believe…

The biggest misconception we face in marriage, is the notion that this is the end of the story. That the ultimate climax has been reached and its all up hill from here, which is exactly what the our fairytales tell us. However,  this simply could not be further from the truth. Instead of seeing marriage as the ultimate ending, we must alter our perceptions and actually see marriage for what it is, a new beginning. A new challenge, that requires us to take on new roles and responsibilities, and adapt to life as a unit rather than an individual.

A marriage can only thrive, when it is seen for what it truly is, an act of worship in obedience to Allah swt. A state in which you can gain a better relationship with Allah swt, through obtaining and maintaining a better relationship with your spouse. Just look at the mercy of Allah swt! in creating a happy life for you and your partner, you are fulfilling one of the greatest aspects of our faith. That’s why marriage can be seen a one of the greatest vehicles in taking you towards God, as it is after all, half your deen.

However, problems arise when many of us seek marriage, not as an act of worship, but rather to fulfil our own needs and desires for companionship. Its completely human to want intimacy and closeness, these are some of the biggest blessings of being in a relationship. Although, if this is the case, you may find that your relationship, despite being close and connected, will not be entirely fulfilling, simply because you entered it with the wrong intentions.

Trust me, as a self confessed hopeless romantic, this can be a hard concept to grasp, but you must remember that disillusionment will inevitably lead to disappointment. You see, by holding a mere person in such high esteem, we come to expect things from our partners. For example, how many times have you felt like your husband should instinctually know how you feel, or what your thinking ect ect. By pinning all our hopes on dreams on this mere mortal, we put them in a position they were never meant to be in, and one they are certainly not equipped to deal with. This will inevitably leave you feeling disappointed and disheartened… What we need to remember is that it is God, and God alone, who can fulfil our souls. Not our partners. In fact marriage should first and foremost be a joint effort to strive towards the bigger picture of Jannah to meet our creator.

So, we can conclude that when entering into a relationship, its crucial to go in with a real understanding of what to expect. Yes, there may well be moments of pure marital bliss, but they will be accompanied by some hurdles. Be prepared and above all, be realistic. As Shakespeare so eloquently said…expectation is the root of all heartache. Also its simply unfair to go to someone with empty hands wanting to be filled by them. it’s a much more desirable position to enter into a relationship fully satiated with your faith in Allah swt and be able to share that with your partner as apposed to be left wanting. True fulfilment as an individual comes from a solid relationship with the creator, and the creator alone.

Marriage is so often considered the end of the story, but its not at all. Jannah is the conclusion and simply the very best ending to any story, may we meet there one day …ameen.

The Masked Avenger – In Favour of Female Education

With the Taliban war against female education dramatically escalating, more than 1,000 girls’ schools and colleges in Pakistan have been forcibly closed, leaving thousands of girls denied sufficient education simply due to their gender. Female school buses, carrying bright fruitful individuals with a longing for education, are being targeted by militant forces, rendering many females afraid to even make they’re daily venture to the promising school grounds.

However, female subservience and compliance with the Taliban may be well on its way out, with the introduction of a strong female protagonist. ‘The Burka Avenger’, created by local Pakistani celebrity Haroon Rashid, is a cartoon character that addresses the prominent issue of every female’s right to education.

The humorous cartoon, targeted at a youthful audience, depicts a well mannered school teacher, who by day, teaches at a local female school, but by night, becomes a cloaked vigilante, challenging all those who deny education to her fellow female counterparts.

It is of no doubt that these efforts are in response to recent events regarding 15 year old Pakistani educational activist, Malala Yousufzai. In which, the Taliban, enraged by her ability to speak out about the educational crisis within her country, and her open defamation of the Taliban’s ban against girls in school, open fired at her in efforts to silence her ever resonating voice. However, The highly publicised case and the media frenzy which ensued seemed only to create more awareness for Malalal’s cause. Instead of silencing the 15-year-old, the attack only made her voice more prominent.

The masked avenger, sheathed in a traditional Burka outfit, differs somewhat to the archetypal female superheroes we encounter within Western fiction. Despite possessing infinite strength, Wonder Woman, is often revered for her revealing outfit, accentuating her female assets,  as apposed to her exceptional skills. However, The Burka Avenger symbolises liberation from female objectification, with her loose fitting outfit and superior martial-art combat skills, Thus representing a resounding sense of female empowerment, as apposed to appealing to a predominantly male audience.

Haroon Rashid, co-creator of the Burka Avenger, states that ‘Each one of our episodes is centred around a moral, which sends out strong social messages to kids,”  Mr Rashid told the Associated Press in his first interview about the show. “But it is cloaked in pure entertainment, laughter, action and adventure.” The Cartoon is said to be laden with other strong politically inclined messages such as protecting the environment and accepting others without discriminating, a particularly poignant message for a country in which militants continuously attack religious minorities.

It is apparent that Pakistan, somewhat resembling a proverbial barren wasteland of educational potential, is in a transitional state, the ball is truly rolling to educate their citizens to a better understanding. With the help of now prominent media figure Malala, her resounding voice is being used to educate the rest of the world to the plight that young females are facing daily. Perhaps this influx of media interest may change the political imbalance which is prevalent within Pakistan, just like it states in a prominent quote from the Burka Avenger ‘The girls of today are tomorrows mothers, if the mothers are not educated, the children of the future will too be illiterate’