Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Certain Type of Bro

Verily, a Certain Type of Bro can be identified in the following ways:
His profile pictures are of him carefully posing his flexed biceps in a casual and yet thoughtful manner as he gazes into the distance, pondering upon the Divine Wisdoms of the Universe (he will of course share his deep pontifications in the captions of said pictures).
His social media is filled with Islamic reminders about modesty and humility, while reminding his dear sisters in Islam to protect their modesty from the attacks of those who seek to destroy the hijab... while he flexes those biceps to show the Ummah that the Muslim brothers will always defend their Muslim sisters.
He is deeply invested in all conversations regarding the dangers of the opposite gender, while frequenting the social media feeds of well known Muslim women so as to know what they are up to at any given time, that he may give them sincere naseeha... repeatedly.
He laments the Muslim marriage crisis and occasionally reminds us all of the great hikmah behind polygamy in Islam. He helpfully provides us with pictures of himself at various weddings so as to emphasize the importance of the rishta process.
His da'wah is Very Important and Very Meaningful and this is evident in all the pictures that he takes with the victims - errr, saved souls - of his Ten Minute Shahada ambushes (I mean, da'wah sessions).
My dear sisters in Islam, do not be lured by the false Facebook promises of these Certain Types of Bros.
Know that the truly pious Muslim man will guard his modesty (and selfies) and will not put himself on display for every sister to enjoy with a prolonged, no-blinking first gaze.
If his da'wah is sincere, it will be evident in the truthfulness and beauty of his words and his emaan... not the carefully chosen polo shirt that conveniently highlights his most attractive features.
Never marry the wanton males that parade themselves openly in the streets for every Fatimah, Christina and Anjali to check out.
Dear sisters, remember that the pious Muslim man is like a pearl in its shell: a treasure to be uncovered only by the one who has a halal relationship with him. Such a man will be your male hoor of this Dunya and Aakhirah - so do not sacrifice your standards for the male whores of this world!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Ali Huda TV - a review

Touted as the new “Netflix for Muslim kids,” I was quite excited when I heard about the launch of Ali Huda TV. I’m pretty thoroughly sick of Paw Patrol and random weird cut-and-paste YouTube Kids videos, and so I logged into my new Ali Huda account in anticipation of having my three-year-old son captivated by something other than bizarre remakes of children’s nursery rhymes.

Unfortunately… my three year old, a connoisseur of Netflix, PBS Kids, and YouTube Kids alike, was epically unimpressed. And so was I. While I appreciate the good intentions behind the website, I was disappointed to notice the lack of both variety and quality programming. Of the animated programs available, few were up to par in comparison to mainstream cartoons. While Christian producers have done exceedingly well in producing high-quality children’s shows and movies that impart religious values as well as engaging entertainment, Muslims sadly struggle to develop the same.

Divided into age groups (age 2-3, 4-5, and 9-12) and categories (Travel and Outdoors, Science and Craft, Songs and Nasheed, and more), Ali Huda does try to imitate the Netflix layout, which makes for easier navigation - but only on desktop. Unfortunately, trying to access it on a mobile device is nigh-impossible due to the inability to navigate it without being logged out or simply taken back to the home screen without a way to actually navigate the shows.

One thing that Ali Huda could do to improve their service is to include classic Muslim children’s shows and movies - the Adam’s World Series, Zaki, Muslim Scouts, Hurray for Baba Ali, and so many more pioneering examples of Muslim entertainment. There are entire collections of famous nasheed artists such as Native Deen, Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Talib al-Habeeb and others, and to have their work collected on one streaming service would be extremely helpful to those of us who otherwise rely on YouTube playlists that our kids can easily click out of.

Of course, I do appreciate that the first effort has been made to provide this kind of halal streaming option for Muslim children. My daughters enjoyed the “Science Made Cool” show, although they wished there was a hijabi girl also involved in the experiments, instead of being relegated to the “Kids in the Kitchen” show. While the “Saladin” and “Ibn Battuta: Prince of Explorers” cartoons try to bring famous Islamic figures to kids’ attention, unfortunately, the quality of the animation was so poor that it rather failed at its purpose.
I also appreciate that Ali Huda donates to a charity for orphans, and that there is a special discount for schools - this is quite beneficial for those who run full-time Muslim schools, or even part-time community Madrasas.

Something for people to keep in mind is that exposure has a lot to do with how well Muslim children will handle “Muslim TV” - when my daughter was quite young, I restricted her entertainment heavily and only allowed her to watch select Muslim entertainment. Since she had very few options, she enjoyed whatever it was that I let her watch. My three year old son, however, is your average toddler whose screentime indulgences include Daniel Tiger, Paw Patrol, and Pokemon - hence his much high standards.

I look forward to seeing Ali Huda develop further, and hope that the people behind it are able to fulfill its full potential by reaching out to other Muslim media and entertainment creators. I also hope that they are able to reach the level that Netflix has in being able to work with other Muslim developers to create new entertainment that is high quality, creative, and appeals to Muslim kids who already have a higher expectation of what will capture their attention.

The Muslim community is in dire need of greater media and entertainment that is not only produced by our own writers and artists, but also meets a higher standard that can compete with mainstream non-Muslim options. Ali Huda has the potential to be a great resource for Muslim kids, and I truly hope that they are able to develop themselves further to meet a major need in the Muslim community.

Rating: 2/5

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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Fragility of a 'Good Day'

For those who are struggling with various life challenges, having a good day or a good week becomes particularly precious.
One becomes aware of the way things are going "right," and is wary - perhaps paranoid - that maybe things are going *too* well. It is at this time when it is most important to remember who grants us ni'mah and what we can do to increase the barakah in our lives. If we want to maintain the goodness that we've been blessed with, we need to do that which causes it, and stay away from that which will destroy it.
Many times, we think that the acts of piety expected of us are too grand or ritualistic for us to do or maintain - praying Tahajjud every night, or fasting every other day, or completing a khatmah every week.
In truth, the ways we can bring about barakah in our lives can be quite small, yet deeply meaningful.
Starting the day with salatul Fajr, prayed on time; saying the du'a to leave the home; reciting even snatches of Qur'an on the bus or at work; biting one's tongue when the urge to mutter something inappropriate hits you; being mindful of your relationships with both loved ones and strangers; giving sadaqah, even if it's a dollar to a beggar.
Such things may seem insignificant, but they are the things which add up. The sincerity behind these actions is what makes it easier for us to bear daily inconveniences and to appreciate the everyday happinesses.
On the flip side, we can easily jeopardize our blessings when we start taking them for granted or slip back into bad habits. The moment we are quick to make a condescending comment about someone; the moment we tell ourselves, "Eh, such-and-such is just a small sin, no big deal," is the moment that we are showing ungratefulness towards our Lord's Mercy and gifts.
We should be aware of both our blessings and the ease with which our actions could destroy them all; we must be thankful, but never stop asking for forgiveness; we must be constantly vigilant against our Nafs.
One of the Salaf said, “If I disobey Allaah, I see that in the attitude of my riding beast and my family.”
{And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.} (Qur'an 14:34)

Virgin Hunters

The Muslim obsession with female virginity is disturbing, because it completely ignores the *Islamic* values and conceptualization of spiritual chastity.
Demanding a virgin bride turns a blind eye to:
1) sexual abuse and rape
2) those who may have engaged in zina but also did sincere tawba (this includes converts and 'born Muslims' alike)
3) divorcees and widows
4) the importance of MALE chastity
Using the hadith of Jabir to point out "look, RasulAllah commanded us to marry virgins!" is a very convenient and selective reading of the hadith of Jabir. When Jabir explained his reasoning, RasulAllah approved of his decision, and indeed praised it.
Jabir himself was a young man, possibly previously unmarried himself - presumably, a virgin. The recommendation to marry a 'virgin' was more along the lines of marrying someone closer to him in age so that they could relate to each other better on a personal level.
Of particularly worthy note is that Jabir married a 'matron' (previously married woman) because he was looking out for his family - specifically, his young sisters, who had no other caretaker.
He purposely chose an older, more experienced woman so that his sisters could have a loving maternal figure who would look out for them and care for them... not someone who herself was too young to know how to raise children well.
It's very convenient for bros to quote the hadith of Jabir to justify their search for some pure, virginal, unblemished wildflower who has never seen a nonMahram man in her life... while they themselves have a far from spotless past and struggle with basic adult responsibilities.
Narrated Jaabir ibn 'Abdillah:
"Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said to me, "Have you got married O Jabir?" I replied, "Yes." He asked "What, a virgin or a matron?" I replied, "Not a virgin but a matron." He said, "Why did you not marry a young girl who would have been playful with you?"
I replied, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! My father was martyred on the day of Uhud and left nine (orphan) daughters who are my nine sisters; so I disliked to have another young girl of their age, but (I sought) an (older) woman who could comb their hair and look after them."
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "You have done the right thing."
(Sahih al-Bukhari)
Virgin hunting brothers take note: think with something other than a certain appendage and your ego.
(Although, hey, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and vice versa. Bros, be ready to have your virginity inquired about. There's nothing wrong with seeking someone who meets a certain standard so long as it is not a *double* standard that you're holding.)

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Female leadership as a sign of Qiyaamah


Question: "I saw a Hadith that says that female leadership is a sign of Qiyamah is this authentic? Does it necessarily say it's a bad thing?

When the best among you are your rulers, the rich amongst you are liberal and the affairs of your State are decided upon by consultation among yourselves, then the surface of the earth is better for you than its inside. And when the worst among you are your rulers, the rich among you are miserly and the affairs of the State are entrusted to women, then the inside of the earth is better for you than its surface (Tirmidhi)."

Answer:

Although this hadith was narrated by Imam atTirmidhi, he himself commented the following regarding its authenticity:
“This hadith is ghareeb (strange), and we do not know of it except from the statement of Saalih al-Mirri, and Saalih al-Mirri has strange ahadith which only he narrates. They are not to be followed, while he is a righteous man.”
As well, Shaykh al-Albani has declared this hadith weak in his book Da’eef al-Jaami’ asSagheer, and it is included in the collection of weak ahadith, Al-Targheeb wat’Tarheeb.

Due to the weakness of this hadith, it should not be taken into consideration and there is no need to discuss its meaning.

http://fatwa.islamweb.net/fatwa/index.php?page=showfatwa&Option=FatwaId&Id=80325

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Not every day or night of Ramadan is one of spiritual uplifting and glowing soulfulness. Sometimes we will be overcome by anger, frustration, resentfulness, despair; sometimes there will be good reason for it, sometimes they're more than the situation deserves, but either way, we will feel them. It's not all from Shaytan, necessarily - these are simply human emotions and realities that we are guaranteed to go through and be tested with.

It's easy to feel like we're 'failing' Ramadan because of it. It's easy to feel as though the day of fasting was wasted, that the night of prayer in the masjid was pointless, because our minds are still roiling and our hearts is still feeling heavy and it feels like our souls are pretty much doomed because, well, we suck.
I'm not going to give some warm fuzzy platitudes about how to feel warm and fuzzy. (I'm not particularly good at that kind of thing anyway.)

I'll be blunt: Ramadan is *meant* to be this way. It's not a month where we magically turn into angelic creatures; nor will all our bad habits (physical or mental) disappear; nor will our lives suddenly become easy.

To the contrary, everything becomes exponentially harder.
There's the obvious fact that we are trying to fast from ill speech and ill deeds in addition to physical needs, but there is also the fact that everything in our daily lives becomes suddenly highlighted and almost exaggerated - average things like food and drink are deeply appreciated, small annoyances become spectacularly aggravating... and our sorrows are felt more deeply, our character failings become more obvious, and our daily struggles become infinitely more difficult.

Many of us are praying Taraweeh in these blessed nights seeking reward from Allah, and a precious sense of peace and tranquility. But that sakeenah is not always - and not necessarily - the true goal of our worship.

Often, we don't realize that it is bringing ourselves to Allah with our negative emotions that is the real litmus test. He already knows us better than we know ourselves, but the challenge is in *us* trusting in Him - instead of turning to other human beings to vent our frustrations. So many times, our first instinct is to tell our best friends, or our parents, or our spouses (or Facebook) how upset we are, yet we forget that the only being capable of doing anything about it is the One in control of Divine Decree.

Whatever is happening in our lives, whatever we are feeling, it is because He has decreed it to occur - perhaps as a test, perhaps as a punishment, perhaps as something that will result in benefit for us in the future, perhaps as something that we don't realize is actually preventing us from a greater harm... and perhaps as a means of us growing closer to Him.

While we should certainly try to seek patience and contentment (and of course that ever-elusive yet ever-desired inner peace), we must remember that the Prophets, the Messengers, and the pious had their fair share of feeling restless and troubled. Their tests didn't disappear because of their prayer, yet they consistently turned to Allah with their distress.

As Ya'qub ('alayhissalaam) said:
{...I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah...} (Qur'an 12:86)
And what better time to complain to Allah than now?

The full moon has never looked so breathtakingly beautiful, nor so heartbreaking.

We have watched it blossom every night, accompanying us on our drives to the masjid, peeking through our windows at suhoor. As the crescent has grown with every moonrise, so has our own emaan - strengthened by hours of qiyaam, illuminated by dhikr.
As amazing as the full moon is, however, its beauty is nothing compared to the true Light of the Heavens and the Earth:

{Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.}

And the following verse should resonate with us even more:

{[Such niches are] in mosques which Allah has ordered to be raised and that His name be mentioned therein; exalting Him within them in the morning and the evenings...}

As the moon wanes, our worship and our faith should not. Rather than start focusing on Eid coming up or giving into the mid-Ramadan slump, these nights of the full moon should remind us to fill our own hearts with light, to hasten to the niches of light, to seek the Light of our Creator.
These are the nights to beseech our Lord:

{O Allaah, place within my heart light, and upon my tongue light, and within my ears light, and within my eyes light, and place behind me light and in front of me light and above me light and beneath me light. O Allaah, bestow upon me light!}

Many people consider Ramadan to be a time of togetherness - of having communal suhoor and iftaar, of praying taraweeh in Jamaa'ah, of family traditions and the excitement that pulls you through each day.
But for some of us - even born Muslims - Ramadan is a time where our solitude is more pronounced than ever.
The true nature of fasting is such that it is a deed that we do that no one else can truly know about except our Lord - not just whether we are abstaining from food and drink, but how well we are struggling with our inner selves.
Anger, resentment, frustration, heartache... in the absence of the distractions of food and socialised rituals surrounding it, our baser selves emerge at the forefront in all their uncomfortable, unpleasant glory.
Ramadan is a time of taking ownership of who we really are, of admitting our own faults, of confronting ourselves, of being forced to stop deflecting blame onto others.
Ramadan is a time when only we know how well we have made it through the day - or not. In the moments between sajdas and suhoors, between the physical humbling of our bodies and the rituals of worship, we alone know if our hearts are any softer, any purer, any more penitent.
We are not all saints and spiritual paragons. Most of us are painfully human, stumbling over ourselves, clinging with bloodied, tear-stained fingertips to the knowledge that every time we fall - once, twice, ten times a day - alLateef, alWadud, arRahmaan, alGhaffaar is there to catch us, to love us, to have mercy on us, to forgive us.
We who are so very alone, whether in the midst of bustling households or the silence of our own company, are never truly abandoned, though it may feel that way.
{The one who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And the one who comes with vice, their reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive them. The one who draws close to Me a hand's span, I will draw close to them an arm's length. And whoever draws near Me an arm's length, I will draw near them a fathom's length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to them running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet them with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided they do not worship something with Me.}

A lot of us were/are stressed over the long days, but - as always - there are incredible blessings in these lengthy days of Ramadan.
In the winter, the days are over so swiftly that we've barely done our basic chores before it's time for iftaar and the taraweeh rush.
In the summer, though, we have more than enough time for everything: the kids' school routine, our own work, time to work on our khatmas, time to prepare food, and best of all, time to squeeze in a nap (if you're extra privileged, that is).
If we have slipped up in the morning, we have hours to do tawbah and seek to perfect the rest of our fast. If we have used harsh words or watched too many YouTube cat videos or spent too much time on Pinterest staring at food (*cough*), we still have many chances to do istighfaar and work on filling the remainder of our time with activities pleasing to our Lord.
Our nights may be too short for lengthy qiyaam, but our long days as fasting believers means that we have ample opportunity for du'a, dhikr, & qira'ah.
Though sometimes the wait for iftaar seems interminable, it is in those moments that we have even more to be grateful for - more chances for us to be counted as those who endured hunger and thirst solely for the pleasure of our Lord, more time for us to be counted amongst those ransomed from Hellfire, more opportunities to be of those who will enter Jannah from Baab arRayyaan, more blessed minutes and hours to become of Ahlul Qur'aan.
In years to come, we who have been blessed to witness this year's Ramadan will be deeply grateful for it. We were chosen to be of those who sacrificed comfort for a long month, a month of heat and hardship, and for that, we will inshaAllah be of those:
{Reclining therein on raised thrones, they will see there neither the excessive heat of the sun, nor the excessive bitter cold,
The shade thereof is close upon them and the clustered fruits thereof bow down.} (Qur'an 76:13-14)

It will strike us - that moment, like a punch in the gut, of anger, or resentment, or jealousy, or bitterness - just when we think that we have read enough Qur'an to make us religious enough, prayed enough qiyaam to be spiritual enough, endured enough hunger and thirst to be good enough - too good for these feelings.
It could be a minor matter, something petty or trivial; or it could be something that strikes at some of our most painful insecurities. There is something about experiencing such a moment in Ramadan that makes it feel even more intense than it would normally. Our inner human instinct, that initial flare of emotion, seems amplified.
In that moment, the choice before us is even more difficult - and more meaningful - than it is at other times.
Will we choose to become defensive and deflect? Will we become sullen and simmer in our rage? Will we focus on the wrongdoing of others, seize onto their slights against us, harbour a silent grudge? Will we latch onto our own self-righteousness and build inside ourselves a convincing argument of how wrong the other party is, how faultless we are, what victims we are to others' selfishness?
Or will we bite back the urge to lash out, and remember that we are no better, no less human, no less inclined to making silly mistakes and committing unintended offences towards others?
Will we swallow our pride and insecurities, and rather than allowing ourselves to wallow in our emotions, acknowledge the ways in which *we* need to change for the better?
Will we take this as a moment to turn to Allah, wounded pride and stinging hearts and all, and seek His healing?
Will we be of those who say:
{..."Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts [any] resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Kind and Merciful.} (Quran 59:10)

Standing in line at taraweeh, the mind makes a quick mental catalogue - that girl's forearms are showing, that aunty's feet are uncovered, that lady's scarf is slipping. Ugh, don't they know it's Ramadan and their salah probably isn't valid now?
The angels on their shoulders write a detailed catalogue - that girl just gave away her entire week's salary in sadaqah secretly, that aunty's heart has been cleansed of all grudges, that lady's children have the best adab and akhlaaq out of everyone in the masjid. Their beauty is magnified in the Sight of Allah and the angels who ascend to witness their Lord's slaves in worship.
The angels on our shoulders write down an even longer list - today, you lost your temper; today, you spoke harshly to someone and drove them away from the masjid; today, your recitation of the Quran did not go deeper than your throat; today, you assumed that your 'knowledge' made you an intellectual, that it made your actions impeccable, that Allah has guaranteed the acceptance of your deeds simply because you (think you) know more about the Deen than everyone else.
Today, the person we were judging - however silently - may well enter Jannah long before we even smell its fragrance.

Ramadan is for the heartbroken and heartbruised; for those who feel like all they really have to cling to is the hunger and thirst of their fasting, and the meagre rak'aat of taraweeh; for those who don't have great spiritual reflections or transformations, but who prostrate themselves nonetheless begging Allah to accept what little they are capable of - the faltering recitation of the few surahs they are still struggling to memorize, the stumbling of weary tongues over half-remembered du'as, the sorrow of those who know they should do better, who *have* done better in the past, but who are too heartsore now to do more than fulfill their obligations and hold back the aches in their chests.
Ramadan is for the heartbroken and heartbruised; for those who flinch at the Divine Verses of warning, of punishment and hypocrisy, whose sinking hearts and guilty consciences are outweighed only by the desperate hope and knowledge of their Lord's Mercy and Love, who know that this is the month they can count on to have their souls freed from the chains of Fire they had earned throughout the year.
Ramadan is for the heartbroken and heartbruised; the ones who once considered themselves confident and then found themselves humiliated; the ones who overestimated their own strength and were brought abruptly back to earth, their faces rubbed with the dust of reality; the ones who were convinced that they were of the purified, of the pious, of the righteous... and then found themselves staring into a reflection warped beyond recognition.
Ramadan is for the heartbroken and heartbruised, for those of us who have betrayed ourselves, for those of us who feel betrayed by others, for those of us who have learned to trust no one and nothing but our Lord.
Ramadan is for the heartbroken and heartbruised: for those of us who fast the days and pray the nights with nothing more than sheer faith and the promise of Allah's forgiveness to keep us going.
Man saama Ramadan emaanan wah'tisaaban, ghufira lahu ma taqaddaama min thanbih.
Whosoever fasts Ramadan with emaan and ihtisaab (assurance of its reward), their previous sins will be forgiven.
Man qaama Ramadan emaanan wah'tisaaban, ghufira lahu ma taqaddama min thanbih.
Whosoever prays qiyaam in Ramadan with emaan and ihtisaab (assurance of its reward), their previous sins will be forgiven.

Have you ever had that moment where, all of a sudden, you remember something that you said or did in the past, the severity of which you only realized later on?
That sharp inhalation, shortness of breath, the flush of humiliation, the sick lurching in the pit of your stomach as you recall hurtful words, or an action that was so clearly displeasing to Allah... it is a very physical reaction, a recoiling from your own past deeds.
It may not even be the first time you think about those actions, it may not even be the first time to make istighfaar because of them... but sometimes, it may be the first time that you really and truly feel absolutely sickened at the realization of the gravity of it all. It might not even have been a 'big deal' - perhaps it was a cruel joke to a sensitive friend, or not having fulfilled a promise that was important to someone, or betraying a secret that you didn't think was all that serious.
And yet... and yet, at this moment, your memory of that action is stark and gut-wrenching.
It is a deeply unpleasant feeling.
It is also a very necessary one.
Tawbah - seeking forgiveness from Allah - is something that we speak about, especially in Ramadan, the month of forgiveness. However, it's also something that we tend to speak about in general terms, or write off as something simple - "Just say astaghfirAllah and don't do it again."
In truth, tawbah is about much more than muttering istighfaar under your breath. It is a process, an emotional experience, one that engages your memory, your soul, and your entire body.
The first step of tawbah is to recognize the sin - whether seemingly small or severe - and to understand just how wrong it was. Each and every one of our deeds is written in our book of deeds; each and every deed will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment for us to be held accountable for. There are times when we say things so casually that it doesn't even register to us
how we could be affecting the person we've spoken to - as RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) once told A'ishah (radhiAllahu 'anha), "You have said a word which would change the sea (i.e. poison or contaminate it) if it were mixed in it." (Sunan Abi Dawud)
The second step is to feel true remorse. It's not enough to rationally acknowledge that action as being sinful; one must *feel* guilt, remorse, and grief over having committed it.
This experience is so much more powerful than a mere "I'm sorry," or "omg that was awful"; it is an act that embodies our submission to Allah because it requires us to make ourselves incredibly emotionally vulnerable, and in that moment, to experience a deep pain and acknowledge our wrongdoing. It is to hold your heart out to Allah and to beg Him, with every fiber of your being, with tears in your eyes, with a lump in your throat, wracked with regret, to please, please, *please* forgive you - because without it, without His Mercy and His Forgiveness and His Gentleness and His Love towards us, we have no hope and we will be utterly destroyed.
{Rabbanaa thalamnaa anfusanaa, wa illam taghfir lanaa wa tar'hamnaa, lanakunanna mina'l
khaasireen!}
{Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers!} (Qur'an 7:23)
This experience of tawbah is powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking. It is meant to be. It is a reminder to us of how truly dependent we are upon our Lord and our Creator, how nothing else in our lives can give us joy or a sense of peace if He is displeased with us. It is a reminder to us of how deeply we crave His Love, of how desperately we need it, of how His Pleasure is the ultimate goal of our existence.
Finally, there is the step of resolving never to commit that sin again, to redress the wrongs if possible, and to follow up the bad deed with a good one.
The vow is one we make to ourselves, asking Allah's help to uphold it - because we are incapable of doing anything at all without His Permission; the righting of wrongs is what we do to
correct our transgression against others' rights over us, although there are times when we may well be unable to seek another individual's forgiveness, whether because of distance, death, or
otherwise; and the good deeds to undertake as penance are numerous, whether they be sadaqah or increased 'ebaadah.
But it doesn't end there. And it never will.
Tawbah is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It's not even a once-a-year event, or once a month, or once a week. It is meant to be a daily experience, a repeated occurrence, in the earliest hours of
the morning, in the depths of the last third of the night, during your lunch break or your daily commute or in the middle of a social gathering.
Tawbah is a lifelong journey, for who amongst us doesn't commit mistakes and errors every day?
All we can do is beg of Allah not only for His Forgiveness, but also:
{Allahumma ij'alnaa min at-tawwaabeen.} - O Allah, make us amongst those who are constantly engaging in repentance!

I have been through Ramadan while pregnant, throwing up, and struggling with thoughts about killing myself.
I have been through Ramadan breastfeeding, sleep-deprived, and utterly isolated from family and friends.
I have been through Ramadan in a uniquely poly situation, wondering how it was that I managed to survive not just the hunger and thirst, but the emotional roller coaster that felt more exhausting than the five kids, late hours, and the scramble to complete my khatmah on time.
Each year, I nursed different wounds, sought healing for old scars, and found solace in solitude in the middle of the night.
Each year, I thought that my circumstances were too much, too difficult, that I wouldn't be able to get through the month without utter failure.
Each year, my Lord blessed me with a heart that was just slightly softer, a mind just slightly wiser, and a soul just slightly more conscious of Him.
This year, I am more privileged than ever - the kids are no longer homeschooled, I have immediate family nearby, I have work hours that accommodate my schedule, and there are over 18 hours of daylight in which to accomplish all that I had set as my Ramadan goals.
And yet... and yet, halfway through Ramadan, I have already failed, and there is no one and nothing to blame except myself. In a month of self-accountability, I have held myself to shamefully low standards and made excuses for my poor commitment.
My personal faults have become painfully clearer, my weaknesses more obvious, my struggles more embarrassingly simplistic and yet feel emotionally insurmountable.
The inspirational quotes and posts are all over Muslim social media, and they are indeed excellent reminders. They are encouragement to those of us lagging behind, a gentle push to remember that the month isn't over yet, that we still have time to change, to get better, to earn the Pleasure of the Most Merciful.
Nonetheless, it is difficult... as it should be. Ramadan strips us of our pretenses and shows us who we really are, in times of difficulty, in times of ease, in times of mediocrity.
The test lies not in hunger or thirst or desire, but in discovering who we are each year. We who may have emerged strong in times of crisis may find ourselves slipping in times of leisure. It is not enough for us to rest on the laurels of past trials, to depend on mere belief as the means of passing the litmus test of true faith and character.
The test is renewed each year to match who *we* are each year. We believe, but we must also show the depth of how our belief translates to action, to character, and ultimately, to who we will choose to be... for the rest of Ramadan and after.
{Alif, Laam, Meem.
Do the people think that they will be left to say, "We believe" and they will not be tried?
But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.} (Quran 29:2)