Khulat Saqi, London
Having recently started at university, I reflected on how privileged I was to be able to have the freedom to study my chosen subject in a higher education institute. The right for women to study at a university in Britain was only granted after many years of protests by women, finally resulting in a change in legislation ensuring women a university education in 1877.
In today’s society the view of women in Islam is often misunderstood, with many western democracies still believing Muslim women are being repressed and deprived of their rights, especially in terms of education. In fact, since the advent of Islam, the importance of seeking an education for women was afforded to all Muslim women. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) emphasised this when he said:
“It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge.”
And to the extent to “seek knowledge even if you have to go to China,” and to “seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”
The Holy Qur’an also teaches us a short prayer, which says:
“O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:115)
Not only does this show that Islam supports women’s rights in education but women are actively encouraged to seek a good education. Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) encouraged his wives also to obtain knowledge, saying that “half the religion of Islam could be learned from his wife Hadhrat Ayesha (Allah be pleased with her)”. This clearly demonstrates the importance Islam lays on women’s education.
Like any new student starting university, I was unsure what to expect and anxious about making new friends and adapting to the new environment. I have noticed that a large part of university culture is centered around drinking but I haven’t felt that by not partaking in this, it has impacted my ability to make friends and experience other aspects of university life. I feel confident to dress how I choose to, including wearing a hijab without feeling this is inhibiting me in any way. In fact I feel empowered, whilst I may be covering myself, I am not covering my capabilities or character and it has never been a hindrance for me. I have been able to achieve and experience the same opportunities as other students, whilst preserving my dignity and demonstrating devotion to my faith.
I feel fortunate to be studying in London, a metropolitan city, a hub of different cultures and faiths where I feel difference is not only accepted but also appreciated and even encouraged. At university, there is a diverse student population with diverse needs however I feel represented amongst the student body, for example there are separate faith prayer rooms and also the option of ‘girls only’ sports activities. I feel empowered to practice my faith whilst being an active member of the student community. As a Muslim I should not, and thankfully do not feel the need to compromise my values to fit into and be part of such a community.