Islam · Women

Fact-Check: Fasting and Periods

Fact-Check

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

“O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.”

In the Holy Qur’an, chapter 2, verse 184 God has given the command to fast and so every year Muslims around the world fast every day during the month of Ramadhan.

I’ve recently seen stories on social media and on the BBC website about women who feel forced to pretend they are fasting and hide away to eat while on their periods. Some girls keep offering Prayers with their family while others are told by their mothers not to reveal that they are menstruating. This situation is so sad because it appears these girls are facing families who have little understanding or empathy.

A woman’s menstrual cycle is a natural part of her life but many women feel shy of discussing it openly. It is actually mentioned in the Holy Qur’an which should be enough to tell us it is a part of life. We are taught that certain people are exempt from fasting, including children, those on a journey and the sick. Menstruation with all its associated problems of cramps, back ache and more, is counted as a kind of illness in that fasting and performing the five daily Prayers would be a burden for a woman; “He desires not hardship for you” – Holy Qur’an, 2:186. And so menstruating women are exempt from fasting and the five daily Prayers.

When God Himself has ruled on a matter are these Muslim families ignoring the word of God when they don’t show understanding to their daughters and sisters? And even more sadly there are mothers who rather than quietly explaining to their menfolk, are complicit in this deception. As well as causing distress to the girls this is forcing them to lie, and worse, lie during the holy month of Ramadhan when we are all meant to work at becoming better people.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, both boys and girls, have always been encouraged to read and understand the Holy Qur’an by reading translations and commentaries in our own language as well as reciting the original Arabic. This removes any doubt or shadow from the subject by clearly showing God’s teachings.

If God can tell us clearly the rules regarding fasting and Praying while on a period it should be easy for family men to discreetly understand there will be days when the female members of the family are menstruating and thus leave them in peace.

I remember an English aunt telling me about staying with a family in Pakistan when she was still learning about Islam and when her period came being embarrassed at being seen not to Pray with the rest of the family in congregation. The women of the host family afterwards calmly checked the situation and explained to her that she needn’t offer Prayers because God had exempted her on this occasion and there was no need to hide this from the men in the family by continuing to Pray. After this she never felt embarrassed.

Of course those who are not fasting are allowed to eat as the exemptions are for a reason but as for eating openly, if I can help it I personally prefer not to eat in front of any fasting person, male or female, not because I am hiding from them, rather out of courtesy and because I don’t want to make their fast more difficult by the sight and smell of my food. At the same time the men in my family have always taken it for granted that the women and girls will sometimes not be fasting and Praying.

As God told Muslims to fast “so that you may become righteous” it is a natural result that a little thought and understanding during Ramadhan is needed and as a result we will be making life easier for one another as well as becoming more righteous and pleasing God, because after all we are participating in Ramadhan for His sake.

 

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Islam · Women

Women of Early Islam: Pioneers of Female Excellence

StandardBearers Blog

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

‘Deeds Not Words’. This is the slogan that the Suffragette Campaign championed when fighting for the simple right for women to vote in Britain. Indeed, it is certainly true that in cases such as the search for basic rights, actions speak much louder than words, and certainly the actions of many Muslim women down the ages stand as true testimony to the justice and honour women have been granted in Islam, not only in comparison to the pre-Islamic patriarchal society, but also the women in today’s patriarchy.

While the West is intent on protecting Muslim women from Islam as they erroneously perceive it, the reality is that Islam protected women upon the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Since the arrival of Islam and its establishment, Muslim women have benefitted from its rights, including the rights to inheritance, own property, work, divorce, as well as countless more. Yet, in September 2017, it was global news that Saudi Arabia had finally allowed women to drive.[1] Unfortunately, many are quick to believe that such absurd and oppressive laws were a result of the Islamic Sharia when in fact this was nothing but a distorted manipulation of the beautiful teachings to implement a chauvinistic society and perhaps keep tight rein on the women. So, allow me put examples of deeds to the words.

A primary right that Muslim women have been granted is that to have academic aspirations and to seek to fulfil those. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoined his followers to even travel to China if necessary to acquire knowledge. The significance of China being that it was a symbol of a land far and difficult to reach, stressing the importance for all of his followers to seek knowledge. This is most certainly a fundamental right as education is a valuable and irreplaceable key. Education allows women to enjoy an independence that they are otherwise denied. The Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)’s wife Hazrat Ayesha (May Allah be pleased with her) is regarded as one of Islam’s first scholars and many sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) were narrated by Hazrat Ayesha. In fact, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said that ‘half the religion could be learnt from Ayesha’.[2] Muslim women continued to take advantage of this right. In fact, the first ever degree awarding educational institute (university) in the world was established by Fatima Al-Fihre. Therefore, it is clear that Islam has granted such a basic right and that we can look to women such as Hazrat Ayesha and Fatima Al-Firhe as great inspirations of true scholarly excellency. Particularly, as today there is the widespread misconception that Islam does not allow women to study. The reality is quite the contrary, and indeed such examples do justice to the words of the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him).

Further, as opposed to the popular belief that Islam does not allow women to work, the truth is that Islam has recognised women’s desire and need to have a job and to make money for themselves. Indeed, all their earnings are their own and they are under no obligation to share their wealth with their husbands or fathers. Indeed, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)’s first wife Hazrat Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her) was a prominent and very successful business woman in Mecca. Hazrat Khadijah continues to inspire many Muslim women today, as not only was she a successful business woman, but she was known as ‘Tahira’ – the pure one – thus showing not only worldly success but immense moral purity and proving that these two concepts are not mutually exclusive. She was a wife as well as a business woman.

However, it is neither education nor successful businesses that make these and countless other women inspirations for women even of the 21st century. It was their steadfastness and ability to endure terrible suffering, showing true loyalty to their living God that makes them standard bearers. The women of early Islam withstood great torments by the opponents of Islam with such strength. Of Hazrat Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her), the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) said “She believed in me when the whole world refuted me and she attested to my veracity when the whole world accused me of falsehood. She offered me compassion and loyalty with her wealth when everyone else had forsaken me.”[3] The unity of Islam has given women a purpose to fulfil which is to be the nation moulders. This great task can certainly be fulfilled when looking towards the women of the past, that were fundamental in the establishment of Islam. By understanding that they were the first to take advantage of the rights bestowed upon them by Allah Almighty, women of today can look to the future and continue to use these same rights and continue a shining legacy.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-41412237

[2] https://www.alislam.org/library/book/pathway-to-paradise/womens-issues/

[3] https://www.alislam.org/maryam/Maryam-Jan-Mar-2014-EN.pdf

Islam · Women

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.

 

Islam · Women

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.

Hijab · Integration · Islam · Women

Muslim Women and Their Identity

Identity Muslim Woman Blog

Screenshot 2018-03-20 09.59.51Screenshot 2018-03-20 10.00.36Screenshot 2018-03-20 10.00.59

Hijab · Integration · Islam · Women

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.

 

 

 

 

Islam · Women

My Identity as a Muslim Woman

blog 1
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.

Islam · Women

My Identity as a Muslim Woman

blog 2
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!

Islam · Women

My Identity as a Muslim Woman

Identity Muslim Woman-WajeehaRana.png

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.

Science · Women

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