Delight Of Our Eyes

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Munazzah Chou, Farnham, UK

Ijaz is the Arabic word Muslims use to describe the inimitability of the Quran and refer to its miraculous beauty. The Quran teaches readers to pray,

‘Our Lord, grant us of our spouses and children the delight of our eyes, and make each of us a leader for the righteous.’ (25:75)

With this prayer we ask that our spouses and children make us so happy that we are moved to tears and that within them we find refuge from the storm of the outside world. This same phrase is also found in the Quran to describe the emotion of Prophet Moses’ mother when after having hidden her baby, he was found by Pharaoh’s wife and returned to her care. This gives some indication of the depth of feeling that we are praying for.

A husband and wife each play their part in enabling such a sublime marriage. The first step must be the realisation of the sanctity of marriage. This is explained by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad, the second successor of the Promised Messiah, who writes,

“It entails a heavy responsibility for both man and woman, but I find very few people realise it. When it is attempted, it is done on a very inadequate scale. The Islamic law has only distinguished between two sets of rules. One pertains to God Himself, and the other to our fellow beings. Marriage therefore falls into the second category and may be considered to be its chief proponent.”

That the relationship with a spouse makes up the most significant part of ‘Haququl Ibad’ (rights of people) is revelatory.

The Quran describe the relationship and responsibilities of a husband and wife in the following verse:

‘They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them.’ (2:188)

The use of the metaphor ‘garment’ here is just another example of the beauty of the Quran and its remarkable capacity to convey great depth of meaning in just a few choice words. Clothing is worn for protection, adornment and to hide defects. In the same way, man and woman should protect each other’s honour and morals, and make each other feel secure with love, support and understanding.

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an,

He said, our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function.’ (20:51)

Islam views marriage as an equal partnership between two people, by which they can gain Allah’s pleasure. The roles of husbands and wives are clearly defined so that each knows what is expected of them. A husband has been assigned to working outside the home as the breadwinner; whilst a wife is physiologically suited to bearing children and has been made responsible for their upbringing and maintaining the home.

Just as in any system, different individuals are assigned different roles for optimum functioning, similarly, in the family unit the man is the head of the household, he bears the ultimate responsibility for providing for that pious and safe place within which paradise is formed under the feet of mothers. In return, men receive obedience and support from their spouse; the obedience of a righteous wife to a righteous husband.

Islam has organised the rights of spouses in such a way that if each of them perfectly fulfils the other’s rights they will each be the delight of the other’s eyes. However, if one of them misuses this right, then marital life which is a partnership will fail. Islam acknowledges the rights of the wife over her husband just as it acknowledges the husband’s rights over his wife. If both know their Islamic rights and duties, it will create a social climate conducive to the achievement of the real goal of life, the achievement of righteousness and communion with God.

 

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The Nation Builders

Nation-Builders

 

Ayesha Mahmood Malik, Surrey, UK

Mothers – whether perceived from a secular or a theocratic angle – or measured through a religious or irreligious lens – regardless of cast, colour and creed – the notion of motherhood embodies an innate sense of selfless love and giving that knows no bounds. A mother loves not for want of love in return, she endures and sacrifices endlessly and silently not in the hope of a great reward, and she strives resiliently not knowing when the striving will cease. She is the archetype of ceaseless and boundless affection that no other relationship in God’s earth has ever been able to emulate.

It would follow that the reverence attached to such an institution would be without question and universal. However, at the dawn of the Islamic faith, girls, including mothers of the future, would often be buried alive at birth. Islam became the first religion to afford mothers the lofty station of having paradise under their feet, as stated by the Holy Prophet, (peace be on him) and in terms of respect and obedience due arguably even ahead of the fathers; on another occasion he named the mother three times through service of whom paradise could be earned before naming the father.

If a mother’s stature is privileged in Islam it is because a mother carries a heavy onus as well on her shoulders. She is charged with the primary responsibility of rearing the next generation of individuals and ensuring that they become responsible members of society, giving back to their communities. She is also to ensure their high moral values and a sense of duty to civic society. A mother’s role is inimitable if discharged faithfully to forming the building blocks of peaceful, well knit and tolerant neighbourhoods, districts, societies and nations.

Thus, a woman who chooses to give up her career and become a stay-at-home mum in order to focus her entire energies in this noble task ought to be deeply respected and appreciated for her choices. However, the modern world chooses to class her service under the un-recognised work category of ‘housewife’ – the category that doesn’t stop giving but which receives no recognition. In fact, ultra liberal pundits see this as a reduction of women’s capabilities and them being relegated to the confines of their home and being made to sacrifice otherwise successful careers.

Yet it is an established fact that without the contributions of this under-recognised, under-revered work group the world would lack its leaders, it teachers, its scientists, its lawyers, its engineers. The world would be without the sense of stability and security which is borne out of walking into the house to the fresh smells of home made food. A mother’s love and devotion indeed form the foundations whereupon the buildings of lifetime success are constructed.

On one occasion the Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was asked to clarify the Islamic position on female imams. Poignantly, he responded by questioning what an imam can really do for his people? His Holiness went on to respond to his own question stating how an imam could not guarantee high moral values and righteousness out of anyone following him in prayer but a mother can. Hence, he concluded that a mother was far more powerful than an imam.

Muslim Women and Their Identity

Identity Muslim Woman Blog

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Identity As A Muslim Woman

Identity Muslim Woman 2 Perspectives

                                                      Aneela Mahmood, London

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Then why today do I receive sympathetic stares or judgmental glares when I walk out with my head and body covered? Why must freedom be defined by how little one wears and oppression be judged against how much one wears? In the name of freedom, women are pressured into wearing little to no clothes- because how little you wear defines how free you are. These are nothing but sexist ideologies conformed by misogynists to benefit their own desires. I, as a Muslim woman can proudly say that I have not allowed myself to become victimised by these misogynistic views on what defines a free and liberal woman. To me a free woman, is one who doesn’t allow others to dictate her freedom; one who doesn’t allow herself to feel undermined by pejorative views of those around her; and one who strives to amplify her own peace rather than seeking to advance that of others. Hence, I can proudly define myself as a free Muslim woman.

My identity as a Muslim woman may be questioned and mocked. However, nothing can change what I as Muslim woman harbour within me. Protection of my chastity, dignity and honour through the perseverance of my hijab and humble demeanour is what defines me.

The devotion to seek and discover my happiness through prayer is what defines me. The desire to please Allah above all others, is what defines me.

Thus, whilst the so-called ‘progressive’ women of the developed world desperately endeavour for acceptance in the contemporary society, I as a Muslim woman, primarily strive for the acceptance of Allah Almighty; and that is what defines me.

 

                                                          Bareya Khan, Thornton Heath

A Muslim woman is not only a blessing for herself but for the entire world. The birth of a young Muslim girl allows her parents to open the doors of paradise unto themselves. The marriage of a Muslim woman allows her and her spouse to have completed half of their faith and the role of a Muslim mother allows her children to find paradise under her feet. Thus the identity of a Muslim woman is that of a blessing. Her identity is in what she is able to give to the world through her being; to her parents, to her life partner and to her future generation as well as herself. She grows in all aspects of life and every aspect of her speaks for her faith and her love of God. She uses her lips for truth rather than lies. She uses her voice to spread kindness rather than hate. She uses her ears to listen rather than to ignore. She uses her hands for charity rather than for spreading hurt. She uses her faith for prayers rather than to curse. That is the identity of a Muslim woman.

As a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent form of subjection. My value is not determined by my looks and my natural beauty, but my worth is determined by what I aspire to offer to this world on a much higher scale; a scale of righteousness, a scale of piety. I don’t need society’s standards of what is beautiful to define my worth and my identity. My worth and my salvation lies not in this world, but the Creator of this world.

I am honoured, and I stand strong as ever, because I am a Muslim woman. I do not adorn myself with diamonds and pearls, but with the values of a Muslimah, a believing woman. Patience. Compassion. Strength. Righteousness. Tolerance. Modesty. Humility. Honesty. Love. These are my values, and this is my identity. I am proud to be a Muslim woman.

 

 

 

 

My Identity as a Muslim Woman

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Iffat Mirza, London

Living in the Western world where many are quick to judge me on my veil and my different lifestyle as well as many preconceived stereotypes being projected on myself by the public is challenging. However, all this fades to nothing. Being a Muslim woman is an honour; It comes with a sense of community, duty, and ambition. My identity as a Muslim woman is that of serving my community, an identity that strives to break free of not only the stigmatisation of Muslims but also the barriers of women, even in the Western world.

On a physical note, my identity is most often defined by my wearing the veil. Questions such as “do your parents force you to wear it?͛” and statements from non-Muslims such as ‘surely, you can take it off now – your parents aren’t here’ are far more common than one would hope. However, these responses from people who are not Muslims only reinforce the beliefs that Islam taught me – that I am not here to please society, rather I only serve to please my Allah. My response to the first question is always ‘no, I do it for Allah,’ and to the latter statement the response is simple – I believe God is Omnipresent. I try to always live my life knowing that Allah is watching me. The veil is my declaration to the world that I am proud to be a Muslim woman and that I believe in the commandments of Allah. Therefore, my veil is a part of my identity that I want to present to society.

Furthermore, my identity as a Muslim woman is that of an ambitious woman. Islam has taught me that I can, and by the Grace and Blessings of Allah, I will. This includes wanting to help improve my community, to help in the efforts to bring about peace and to improve myself. I am inspired to have ambitions to achieve academic and worldly excellence as well as religious; as a woman, Islam has allowed and encouraged me to do this.

My identity is of a happy, confident and faithful Muslim woman.

My Identity as a Muslim Woman

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Nabila Khalid, Manchester

A person’s identity͛ or more accurately one’s self-concept͛ is defined as their belief about themselves. So who am I? What is my identity?

I think of myself to be a career-orientated British Ahmadi Muslim woman. I grew up with a clear vision of studying hard, gaining a degree and establishing a successful career in the medical industry alongside volunteering for the community (future possible self). So I studied hard and gained a BSc in Biomedical Science. Fast forward 8 years since my graduation, today and I am a stay-at-home mother, a wife and an active member of my local community.

I decided to take a break from advancing my career to get married, build a home and focus on advancing myself as a wife, mother and member of the British community. Why have I made these choices? My religion guides me. It has allowed me to unapologetically be equal to my husband despite being a stay-at-home mum and not going out to work alongside him.

I consider myself to be a feminist; as our faith repeatedly tells us we are equal. Maybe I am not a feminist in the popular sense of the term; I do not want to be the same as men, I cannot be the same as men as biologically I am made differently. For example, to be expected to carry out the same roles as men at the same time as incubate, birth and nourish another human being is not equality in the slightest.

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist developed the “hierarchy of needs – (physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, self-actualisation) in an effort to bring a sense of order to the chaos of human behaviour. The first 2 needs are self-explanatory and form the basic needs for survival.

The third need is belonging – through the guidance of my beloved Imam and Caliph (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad), my present self has found its place in the community as an Ahmadi Muslim, mother, wife and British woman. And it has allowed me to do so without compromising my esteem (the 4th need).

My future self needs to work on achieving the last stage, self-actualisation, as this is a difficult one to achieve. A stage achieved by many great personalities in history. On a spiritual level for example, by women such as Hadhrat Maryam (Mary), Hadhrat Khadija and indeed the perfect man the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be on him, also the Promised Messiah (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad), and Jesus, the Buddha etc.

Luckily the Promised Messiah in his book The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, defines what I interpret to be the spiritual aspects of self-actualisation as Nafsi Mutma͛innah * which translates as ‘the soul at rest͛’ and tells us how to work on achieving it. May we be able to do so!

My Identity as a Muslim Woman

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By Wajeeha Rana, Slough

The question of my identity as a Muslim woman has been raised repeatedly, at university and in the work place. This is perhaps because quite evidently, I am identifiable as a Muslim from the way in which I dress, and my choice to wear the hijab is a very prominent symbol of commitment to my religion. I feel an indescribable bond with my fellow Muslim women, of which many share this common identifier. As an Ahmadi Muslim woman, I am quite literally part of a sisterhood, one in which I feel that it is in identifying as a Muslim woman that brings out the best in me. I do not experience any hindrance in serving my faith or the wider community, rather the feeling of belonging and having a common objective has always been an invigorating one.

I also believe that identity is not something which can simply be defined by one͛s outer appearance. For example, my identity can be made up of a vast number of things, such as my race, my culture, and my personality. However, my identity as a Muslim woman can never be separated from me, because the positive influence of my faith is so deep rooted in my every day. It is Islam that has taught me that I as a Muslim woman have a responsibility and right to education, while many societies all over the world seem to suppress women͛s rights. It is also Islam that has taught me how to integrate into society in a dignified manner. I do not feel lesser than anyone or distracted by discussion about whether my status could in any way be inferior to a man in Islam. It is indeed Islam which has taught me that just presenting myself as a Muslim from the outside is not the whole point. The inner must reflect the outer, and so I strive to better myself so that any good act is not just a reflection on my character, but on me as a Muslim woman, who takes pride in this identity and feels empowered by it every day.

Women in Science

Blog Women In Science

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

When we think of women and science the most well-known names that spring to mind are Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, and Ada Lovelace. Each was a pioneer of modern science and they have continued to serve as inspiration for generations of girls and women who have expressed interest in the sciences and have overcome many obstacles to achieve their aspirations. However, the issue remains that the male to female ratio of recognised scientists rests in the favour of men. It is surprising to note that of all the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, only 2.3 per cent are women, while in the field of physiology and medicine, only 5.3 per cent are women. (1)

The truth is that women have always been involved in the sciences but are only just beginning to be recognised for it. There is evidence of women in ancient civilisations contributing to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. The earliest noted female in a STEM profession is Merit Ptah, who lived between 2700–2500 BCE, during the Ancient Egyptian era. (2) She was known as ‘the Chief Physician’ and was greatly respected in the court, however, as one would expect, there are far more recorded instances of men’s contributions to science.

Since the Dark Ages, particularly in Europe, many women were excluded from higher education and therefore from scientific societies, yet continued to contribute where possible, and were indeed, pioneers in many theories and discoveries. Indeed, many fundamentalists in many parts of the world would wish to see a return to the Dark Ages where women are confined to the four walls of the home. Belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, I am grateful that I have always been encouraged to pursue an education. The fifth Caliph of the community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, has reminded us that that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had placed great emphasis on the education of girls. However during the late 19th or early 20th century, girls and women had little access to education and particularly very few Muslim girls had the opportunity to pursue secular or religious education.

The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him), revived the true teachings of Islam and encouraged the pursuit of secular and religious knowledge amongst all Ahmadi Muslims including women. Hence, Ahmadi Muslim girls have been excelling in education and outperforming boys in many countries. Indeed, many women of our community are pursuing higher education in the sciences.

Women such as Ms Naeema Ahmad are paving the way towards a number of breakthroughs in many areas of science. She is the Founder and CEO of Africa Alternative Energy Initiative (AAEI). She is also the winner of the continental-wide Gathering of Africa’s Best Award in 2017. It is so encouraging to not only see women such as Ms Ahmad leading projects such as alternative energy, but also being recognised and appreciated for their works. This is what inspiration looks like.

One is inclined to ask, ‘how do we improve this?’ Steps have indeed been taken, for example the UN have declared 11th February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Furthermore, there are plenty of organisations conducting admirable work in offering bursaries, scholarships, and training for women who wish to pursue the sciences. However, the fact of the matter is that this can be too late for many girls.

Particularly in the British educational system, children are made to think about their career paths from about the ages of 14-16, whilst they are choosing and completing their GCSE qualifications. Therefore, young girls must be inspired and supported before they reach this age. It is imperative that primary and secondary students be taught about the many women that have led scientific research – not only in previous centuries, but those leading the disciplines in modern society. Serving as inspirations from a young age, girls will grow knowing that ‘scientist’ is not a profession reserved for men, which unfortunately is a stereotype which is consistently reinforced. As a young British woman, who has only just left the British school system, I cannot remember being taught about any female scientists in my GCSE curriculum, three year ago. This confused me. I knew that there were plenty of accomplished women in science throughout history, so why did I only ever hear of the men?

As with any problem, it must always be tackled at the root. In this case that means portraying the sciences as a realistic and achievable dream to young girls. To do this, they must be taught about the fascinating breakthroughs that women have achieved through the years: from Merit Ptah to Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman in space.

1 http://www.un.org/en/events/women-and-girls-in-science-day/
2 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Merit-Ptah

The Benefits of the Hijab

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Yusra Dahri, London

Introduction

Recently, a lot of controversy arose from Ofsted’s (Amanda Spielman) fear of the hijab ‘sexualising’ young girls, aged 4 to 5, who may wear headscarves in primary school.

There is no Islamic requirement for girls to wear a headscarf until they have reached full physical maturity, so it’s perfectly acceptable for a primary school child not to wear it. However, a young girl may want to wear it out of pride or love of her religion, or because she wants to emulate her female relatives out of admiration.

Isn’t it better for girls to have their mothers as role models, than the public figures who are arguably more ‘sexualised’ than anyone else? In fact one of the purposes of the hijab is to prevent the sexualisation of young women, which is only one of its benefits.

The Benefits of Wearing the Hijab

First and foremost, dressing modestly and wearing the headscarf allows you to please Allah, as you are fulfilling the commandment set by Allah in chapter 24 verse 32 of the Holy Quran for women to , “…restrain their looks and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty or embellishment except that which is apparent thereof and that they draw their head-covering over their bosoms…”  Ultimately, it should be our goal to please Allah.

One allegation often thrown at the way Muslim women dress is that it hides them, allowing them to be ignored by society. This is simply not true, as many Muslim girls I know would agree. The verse above is aimed specifically at women, giving them a unique role and also a great responsibility. Nowadays, the most common image of an ordinary Muslim is a girl in a headscarf, as it’s a well known Islamic symbol. By being outwardly Muslim we can shape the way people view Islam by simply carrying out the daily tasks of our dynamic lives.

The hijab is our statement to the world. It shows we are not afraid and we have no ‘inferiority complex’ of how we are viewed from a western perspective because our first priority is our religion. This not only protects us from unsavoury situations because we raise our modesty as our highest virtue, but it also shows us who our true friends are. No girl in secondary school wants to learn later on that her classmates ridicule her religion, but by wearing a headscarf you can see who would naturally approach you anyway.

This also creates interest as it’s very possible, even likely, that your classmates have never really encountered anyone who has worn a headscarf before, and would like to learn more about it. This creates a source of tabligh. I know that my own classmates were curious as to why I dressed modestly and had plenty of questions!

Sometimes we can be afraid of this type of confrontation, because we are not used to having things that are normal to us being questioned. However, it is nothing to be scared of, as it’s perfectly natural human curiosity and completely harmless. Instead we should be confident about the reasons why we wear the headscarf, and try to learn as much about it as possible, so we can genuinely answer anyone’s questions to the best of our ability.

It is also a constant reminder to us who we are. As Muslim girls, our outward modesty can remind us of the inward modesty that we need to maintain. Sometimes it can be very tempting to act in a certain way in order to ‘fit in’ but later on we realise that the school setting, which is our whole world right now, is only temporary.

Later on, you will be glad that through the hijab you were able to develop character, make decisions for yourself and stand your own ground. Personally these are things I learned from wearing a headscarf, but it can mean something different to everyone who wears it, even though we all wear it for our faith in Allah the Almighty, which shows how unique it really is.

There are many benefits to wearing the hijab, and I hope they prove invaluable to you too, Insha’Allah.

School and Well-being

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

At my school in West London there was a uniform policy of skirts, blouses and blazers. Trousers were not allowed at all until after I left when the great number of girls from the Indian sub-continent led to a change so trousers and in fact a traditional shalwar kameez in standard navy blue joined the uniform list. Until sixth form, when I was able to wear loose trousers and a loose shirt I had to follow the uniform policy. This meant instead of bare legs, socks or sheer tights I wore thick, ribbed opaque tights with my skirt. Islam requires obedience to authority and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always advocated following rules so I felt this was a compromise which kept my dress modest while conforming to the uniform policy.

By the time my own children started school things had changed; skirts were and are still part of the uniform but have been joined by trousers giving the girls freedom of movement while keeping their legs covered. Schools are pretty tolerant about the requirements of different faiths and have allowed my children to sit out of Christmas Carols and to say their Prayers in an empty classroom during the short winter days.

While headscarves, or hijabs, were visible in some schools during my schooldays now they have become much more common. Muslim girls in secondary schools are routinely able to cover their heads but younger primary aged girls are also sometimes doing so. The subject of primary aged girls wearing headscarves arose recently with reports of some Muslims women approaching Ofsted with the wish to ban the headscarf in primary schools. This was followed by a report that Ofsted inspectors were to question young girls who do wear a headscarf. My reaction on hearing this was why are they trying to make trouble where there is none and is this really going to help a child’s well-being?

There are some primary schoolgirls who wear a hijab; in Islam the requirement to cover the head is once a girl reaches an age of full maturity which can start around the age of 12 or 13 so before that time she doesn’t need to do so and a parent shouldn’t force her to do so either. However there are cases where a girl may wish to cover her head; she may have seen women in her family wear a hijab when going out and wish to do the same. It would not occur to her that she is covering her head from men as the only reason would be innocently wanting to be like the women of her family. In that case is it really necessary to legislate against her action? Very young girls often wear bikinis or make-up which makes them look like their mum and at school will talk about how their clothing can attract the boys. Should legislation be extended to cover this too?

The idea of Ofsted questioning young Muslim girls about covering their heads is a dangerous one and brings up reminders of when children were questioned under the Prevent strategy to uncover evidence of extremism. A child drawing a picture of a man cutting a cucumber which he mispronounced as sounding like “cooker bomb”, another who drew his terraced house spelling it as “terrorist house” were both cases where children and their families were treated as suspects of sorts due to innocent mistakes. A policy of questioning young girls could go the same way.

Leaving aside mistakes being made it would not be healthy for a child to be singled out from their school friends to justify why she covered her head; there are enough reports of stress and mental health issues among young schoolchildren without adding to them when we should be helping children lessen any stress. Even in cases where older girls need to be asked about their hijab it should be ensured this is done sensitively and without making the girls feel they were being singled out for doing something wrong. It is difficult enough for Muslim children these days hearing about terrorist atrocities in the news as well as listening to anti-Muslim sentiment, sometimes to their faces; they can do without the added stress of being made to feel something they are doing or even their very faith is hated or wrong.

Growing up is a difficult time for children when even small problems can feel insurmountable; as adults our treatment of children needs to be in a sensitive manner so as not to add to any anxiety that may already be building up. Common sense needs to be used; if a young girl wishes to cover her head let her; if there are any concerns about a child which need further investigation it should be done in a sensitive manner through proper channels and not merely because she covers her head in school. Rather than causing problems where there are none our goal needs to be putting the well-being of our children first and help them grow up to be relaxed, confident young people who will make positive contributions to society.