Hijab · Islam

Dignity of Hijab and Ill-Advised Solidarity Against it

Hijab, Solidarity_.png

by Navida Sayed, London.

In Islam, modesty and chastity are very important tenets of faith, and are achieved through establishing certain codes of behaviour and dress. However over the last decade the hijab has not only become one of the most widely discussed controversial topics but has resulted in Muslim women dealing with endless challenges and negativity.

In pursuit of their own political agendas repeated stabs by some to intervene and attempt imposing a dress code on how Muslim women should /should not dress has divided society. The publicity surrounding such attempts has led to backlashes against Muslim women in hijab and has also resulted in some women abandoning the hijab to fit into society.

Social media platforms can be dynamic catalysts of global public opinion, especially responsible for generating popular beliefs and attitudes about most things, including discussion on Muslim women.  This has resulted in many with little awareness of Islam to identify Muslim women in hijab either with terrorism or as oppressed women in desperate need of liberation from their hijab.

Recently some non-Muslim women decided to wear hijab in solidarity with Muslim women, a personal choice and a nice gesture to support Muslim women already facing antagonism. To make matters worse social media then became a platform for ridicule suggesting ‘take off your hijab in solidarity’ with feminists and ex-Muslims.

Women choosing to walk away from the hijab as feminists or activists are taking the removal of the hijab to a whole new level, from videos and blogs on how to remove the headscarf to linking the headscarf as an out dated cultural practice or view it merely as a piece of cloth. If any women removed their hijab out of defiance, because it was enforced on them, this enforcement is clearly against the teachings of Islam. It is not for man to either impose or enforce the hijab on women, nor punish them for not observing it.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab do not struggle with any kind of inferiority complex or dilemma about whether or not they should wear the hijab. They do not feel constricted or objectified, instead they feel confident and empowered. Hijab establishes dignity and respect for women, so that they are recognised in society as individuals who are respected for their intelligence, personality and academic achievement, rather than for their physical appearance. For Muslim women having the right to choose what to wear, including the hijab, is the most liberating and empowering choice of all.

Ironically whether it is a political figure or a journalist it’s men who always try and dictate the dress code for Muslim women. Yet they seem to be clearly unaware that men were the first to be instructed in the Qur’an to lower their gaze and not ogle women in society. Being aware of men’s weak innate nature, God further guided women to cover themselves as a preventative measure for their own protection.

Muslim women are granted the right to dress how they choose and will not remove their hijab in solidarity with anyone, because among other things it will not make the world a better place. If women were safe in a world where covering up was not a choice we would not see so many high profile sexual harassment cases. But it all comes down to choice in how a woman wishes to dress, Islamic dress code should not repeatedly be targeted.

Women in hijab will stand by in solidarity, which results in real support for the betterment of society. Women united in true solidarity can confront problems together, not with hatred or derision for one another’s beliefs and practices. Lets stand in solidarity and mutual respect for one another to counter all hurdles which threaten to divide us.

Advertisements
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.

Hijab · Uncategorized · Women

School and Well-being

wellbeing

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.

Hijab · Islam · Uncategorized · Women

Facts Behind The Hijab

finalfactsbehindhijabblog.png

Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, London

The hijab is a garment that bestows its wearers wings of liberation. However, for those who fail to understand it, it is unjustly labelled a cage of oppression. In order to bring some clarity to this heavily misunderstood garment, a review of some facts is in order.

A Divine Commandment

Not uncommonly these days, one hears of the odd individual boldly announcing that the hijab is not a Divine commandment but a cultural tradition. A rather absurd notion when we observe that the hijab is universally adhered to across all cultural and geographical boundaries; from the Arabian deserts, to African villages and the suburbs of London and New York. So the hijab belongs to no-one culture, it is a practice of faith.

Let us clarify this matter with the Divine authority of the Holy Qur’an.

In chapter 24, verse 32 it states

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…”

There is much to be learnt from this verse, Firstly, that the hijab is not just a headscarf. Certainly not; there is much greater depth and breadth to this topic. The concept of the hijab defines a standard of modesty. The eyes observe the hijab through restraint of one’s gaze. The tongue observes the hijab through use of appropriate language when speaking to the opposite gender. Indeed, every part of the body partakes in observing the hijab in its own way.

Free Choice

Over and over again, Muslim women are told their hijab has been forced upon them, that they are unable to make decisions for themselves, or that they are deprived of their freedom. In reality, the only force involved for the vast majority of Muslim women donning the hijab is the force of persuasion of a beautiful teaching. If the hijab was to be forcefully enforced on Muslim women, would not a punishment be prescribed for those who don’t wear it? However, there is none to be found, only the wonderful realisation that Islam is a religion of choice. Once one is convinced of the truth of Islam and chooses to come under its fold, naturally then such a person adheres to its teachings.

Crucial For Social Morality

Without the physical aspects of the hijab, the moral state of society enters a steep decline. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that the physical hijab enables women to be “distinguished and not molested”[i]. Society today is testament to the need for such physical barriers. Take the music industry for example, sexual assaults have been recognised as a worldwide problem to such an extent that the Swedish Bråvalla Festival has been made female-only until, as Emma Knyckare, the Swedish comedian organising the event, tweeted, “…ALL men have learned how to behave themselves”[ii]

Certainly then, before the hijab is outlawed and brought to question attention needs to be brought to the moral training of men.

Modesty is First Prescribed for Men

Prior to the verse cited above, the Holy Qur’an instructs the following, to men.

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” (Chapter 24: Verse 31)

So in fact, the concept of hijab is first prescribed for men. A certain standard of modesty is expected of Muslim men. Islam recognises the inherent differences between men and women, hence, it prescribes an additional physical covering for women. It places women in the driving seat, letting them decide who they wish to reveal their beauty to. Indeed, modern day advertisement testifies to the power of female beauty, wherever attention needs to be drawn, it is done so with women.

A Means of Liberation – Ask those Who Don it!

Sadly, the words ‘oppression’ and ‘hijab’ are often found in the same sentence. Would the world dare to ask those who don the hijab if they are oppressed or liberated. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t make for much of a headline as it would elicit only the resounding chorus of ‘We are independent, free and liberated women. This is our choice, the wisdom of which we see and experience daily. Just as no individual should to be stripped of their clothing, we should also not be stripped to what is akin to nudity to us, under the false pretext of liberation. If there is wisdom greater than Islam’s then show it to us, persuade our hearts and minds with arguments and reasoning as Islam has done.’

[i] Chapter 33:Verse 60
[ii] Swedish music festival to be female-only ‘until all men learn how to behave themselves’, Christopher Hooton, The Independent, Wednesday 5 July 2017
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/sweden-music-festival-men-female-only-bravalla-rape-sexual-assault-emma-knyckare-a7824366.html
Hijab · Islam · Uncategorized · Women

My Veil of Confidence

Untitled.png

By Riyya Ahmad, age 13, Aldershot, UK

Islam has suffered from false allegations about the veiling of Muslim women for centuries. The media portrays the veil, or hijab, to be a restriction on Muslim women when it is really an act of modesty.

It is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islam. Society believes that women who cover their heads, and wear modest clothes somehow have little freedom and are not able to express who they are. In fact, the very opposite is true. My veil actually inspires me with confidence in my day to day life.

If one looks with a deeper gaze on this subject, it will be found that the veiling of women is not something that Islam has introduced. The previous revealed scriptures also contain traces of similar teachings and Islam came only to complete and perfect them. It is a complete honour to follow in the footsteps of such a pious lady, Mother Mary (Hazrat Maryam) who is always depicted as having her head covered.

The Holy Quran says:

“O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you raiment to cover your shame, and to be an elegant dress;…” (7:27)

Islam provides guidance for a peaceful, harmonious and logical way of life.  You will find that the hijab is a means of protecting women, and providing them with freedom from many social ills and it is a blessing for them. The word “purdah” is also used to describe the concept and the practice of hijab. The Holy Quran has laid down that, one of the methods men and women are to use to achieve that goal is hijab. It says in the Holy Quran:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts…” (24:31)

And then women are addressed:

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…” (24:32)

Living in western society, it is inevitable to be asked why I wear my hijab and how my veil inspires me. And every time, my answer remains the same; it makes me who I am. It is a part of my identity. Without it I would not be as confident as I am today. It protects me, while still letting me do the daily tasks I desire to do. The veil is my spiritual way of gaining closeness to Allah the Almighty and my faith.

Thus the question follows: do you ever feel constrained by your veil? I reply, “If my hijab restricted me from being out and about like you, then yes my hijab would constrain me. If my hijab limited me from achieving the education we all have a right to, then yes my hijab would constrain me. But if I am out and about alongside you, and I am building an educational career to the same level as you, then you tell me, does my hijab constrain me?

My veil is not just an ordinary cloth draped around my head, it is my respect, my dignity, my honour, my faith and my blessing from Allah the Almighty, surrounding me as I go confidently in the direction I desire.

Hijab · Uncategorized · Women

Ofsted and Hijabs: Truth Unveiled

InstagramCapture_1c72b3e7-0817-49a4-aa5e-dad6349a88db.jpg

Sarah Waseem, London

I read with some surprise and concern that a group headed by former Parliamentary candidate Amina Lone, is planning to meet with Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Schools to discuss the “unacceptable rise of the hijab in state funded primary schools”.

In a rather convoluted letter, the group argue that primary schools, by allowing young girls to wear the hijab are in some way sexualising them and denying them gender equality. Interestingly, they seem not to have any concerns about the sexualising of young Jewish boys wearing the kippah, or young Sikh boys wearing the patka. Also, the fact that most primary school do not include dresses or skirts for boys in their uniform policy does not seem to present concerns for them regarding the ‘sexualising’ of boys.

It is correct that Islamic teachings do not require young girls to wear a head covering until they reach puberty, apart from when they are performing Prayers. However, the reality is that girls mature at different rates, with some starting menarche at primary school. Therefore, a general ban on hijabs in Primary School would hinder these girls from practicing their faith.

The covering of the head by adult Muslim women is clearly mandated in the Holy Qur’an, in chapter 24 verse 32 or in some editions verse 31. The group argue that some Muslim countries pressurise women to “cover up”. However, many of these countries have also allowed extremist versions of Islam to flourish. They have appalling human rights records including religious discrimination against other faiths, AND other sects of Islam, notably Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. This is nothing to do with the hijab or the suppression of women’s rights but is politically motivated to achieve the dominance of one group over another.

For the authors to refer to the horrific treatment of Yazidis by so called Islamic State, in the context of Primary Schools allowing the hijab as part of their uniform policy is just inexcusable. The majority of the Muslim world has repeatedly condemned the actions of so called Islamic State and distanced themselves from them. For example, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad has repeatedly warned about the dangers of international governments supporting extremist groups through their funding of weapons.  Wearing a hijab does not turn Muslims into terrorists and murderers!

The authors disingenuously link FGM to Islam when the overwhelming evidence shows that this practice is not permitted according to the teachings of Islam. Moreover, FGM is a terrible practice that is also prevalent in certain Christian and pagan societies.   The authors also disingenuously allude to an association between Islam, child sexual exploitation and forced marriages. I challenge them to produce references from the Holy Qur’an  to support any of these allegations.

I find it sad that once again, Islamic practises are being attacked in such a sensationalist way by focusing on women, the very section of society that the authors seem to want to ‘empower’.

Wearing the hijab does not disadvantage girls and women in any way. I invite the authors of this letter to meet with ladies from our Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, doctors, teachers, business women, health professionals, lawyers, all of whom lead fully integrated lives in society and wear the hijab.

 

* Edited for correction on 11/09/2017

 

Hijab · Islam · Uncategorized · Women

The Significance of Gender Segregation at Jalsa Salana

Screenshot (506).png

By Navida Sayed, Hounslow, UK

Every year thousands of Ahmadi Muslims flock to Jalsa Salana UK (the Annual Convention) in Alton, Hampshire. The aim of the event for the members of the community is to attain spiritual advancement, unite in universal brotherhood and promote peace. Many guests attend for whom a salient feature of the convention is the segregation of the sexes. The separation of Muslim men and women at religious gatherings can be perplexing, misunderstood and sometimes difficult to accept especially in Western society.

Segregation of the sexes exists in all spheres of society including schools, hospitals, prisons, members clubs, workplaces and gyms. Yet when Muslims uphold the same principle it is seen as a medieval sign of the oppression and subjugation of women. Unfortunately some misconceptions are due to atrocities and injustices against women inflicted by bigoted extremists. To make matters worse, the negative biased and sensationalised stories about women in Islam plague the media. Taken together this creates a public narrative that there is a need to rescue and liberate Muslim women from the clutches of the faith of Islam.

In any workforce employees happily comply with company regulations in order to keep safe and protect their rights. Disregard or disobedience could result in disciplinary action or even termination of employment. Likewise practicing Muslims are expected to understand and obey the teachings of Islam, which is the faith of their choice. The commandments of Islam for both men and women to observe Purdah (veiling as a mindset) are for the betterment of society. This does not necessitate that teachings of Islam are out-dated and in need of reform.

For Ahmadi Muslims the separation of men and women during prayers and religious events has always been the norm and stems from Islamic teachings relating to Purdah. Many individuals may be completely unaware that males were the first to be instructed in the Qur’an to lower their gaze. Being aware of men’s weak innate nature, God also commanded women to cover themselves as a preventative measure. In Islam a woman is not regarded as a sex object and is free from exploitation and harassment.

Those who strongly oppose gender segregation on the grounds that both genders are being deprived of each other’s company are not aware Islam upholds the belief that intimate relationships should be confined to the private domain of marriage only. The separation of the sexes in mosques and religious gatherings is a preventive measure both for men and women to maintain the highest standards of good behaviour, dignity, self-restraint, modesty and purity.

The separate spaces are for their own comfort and ease where they do not have to cover up and where they can relax and reap the benefits of attending religious gatherings. Religious settings and gatherings such as the Jalsa Salana are not places of social hangout rather the prime focus is to reap spiritual benefits through prayers and listening to the speeches.

Sitting separately from men at community events or wearing the Hijab, does not restrict a Muslim woman’s role. She is encouraged to seek education and is not restricted to pursue a professional career. Ahmadi Muslim women excelling in highest standards of academic achievement can be witnessed in the award ceremony on the second day of Jalsa. Muslim women have all the rights that Muslim men enjoy, and in some ways, have certain privileges, which men do not enjoy. In a recent survey amongst 323,500 American adults, 56% of working mothers with children under the age of 18 said they would prefer to stay at home and take care of their house and family. A Muslim woman has the right and choice to stay at home and raise the children and for her husband to shoulder the financial responsibility for family. Another privilege is that a Muslim man has absolutely no right to demand anything from his wife’s income, property or wealth and Islam gives her the right to spend it as she wishes.

At the Jalsa Salana we welcome all interested in discovering the true teachings of Islam including the treatment and rights of women. Islam has granted women a position of dignity and honour and was the first religion to formally grant women a status never known before. The moral, spiritual and economic equality of men and women as propagated by Islam is unquestionable.

At Jalsa special guided tours are offered and female guests have the option of visiting the women’s area too. Leading some of the tours over the years, I found the reactions of the female guests were always the same. Whilst walking across there would be an air of silence, suspense and a few questions amongst the groups. Upon entering the ladies arena the guests were astounded, some politely commenting that they expected to see only be a few women behind a curtain in a small space. Of course the prime question always arises, why do we sit separately?

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community made life easier for its members especially for women to enable them to have recognition through their own women’s organisation known as the Lajna Ima’illah. Ahmadi Muslim women around the world have their own mosque areas, offices and at Jalsa Salana an entire ladies arena to themselves.

The women’s organisation works alongside their male counterparts under the direct guidance of the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his helper and guide).

If anyone still considers that Ahmadi Muslim women are regarded inferior to men because of the segregation all they need to ask is who does the cooking? The answer people maybe expect is the women as there certainly would be no shortage of female participants at the Jalsa. In reality meals cooked over the course of the three day event for thousands of guests attending the Jalsa are all prepared by men, including peeling hundreds of bags of onions and potatoes, cooking and washing the gigantic pots and pans in very hot working conditions. Men could say that this is unfair on them, but they never complain and take on the task voluntarily and happily to serve the guests of Jalsa Salana. Likewise the men do all the cleaning and all of the heavy work.

At Jalsa the women also have the privilege of being addressed by the spiritual Head of the community Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahamd directly in their own gathering on the second day of the convention when he also awards female students for their academic achievements. The Lajna Ima’illah (women) have office bearers and teams of women in all departments such as health & safety, security, registration, administration, press & media, audio visual, camera crew, Voice of Islam radio, hospitality, Humanity First, discipline, first aid, exhibitions and much more. All the women are volunteers and at Jalsa Salana the volunteers comprise academics, professionals and housewives working in unison with the men all united as one. As Ahmadi Muslim women, we have absolutely no problem with the segregation, rather it is a source of great freedom and success for us. Furthermore segregation applies equally to men as it does to women, so any question of inferiority cannot apply for both are bound by this rule in equal measure.

We invite all female guests attending the convention to visit us on the ladies side and witness for themselves women leading women. Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we are well aware and educated about our rights in Islam. The men in the community are also reminded about their womenfolk’s rights. One of the beautiful aspects of Islamic teaching is that by defining the role of women in society, and then by giving dignity to that role, it makes women feel fulfilled, empowered, respected and liberated. As Ahmadi Muslim women who experience this at first hand we can vouch for the wisdom and benefits of this teaching, as the independence we gain from segregation is a source of great strength.

 

Hijab

The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly

Flowersweetest.jpg

Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

Once upon a time, a poet of the British Isles remarked “the flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly”. He wrote in praise of a beauty that was hidden, a charm that was veiled and a loveliness that sought no advertisement. A flower whose fragrance was all the more sweeter and lush for its lowliness and modesty.

Such a reverence for the modest has sadly dwindled from among us. Somewhere in the tumult of history, the shy, lowly flower has been swept away by the winds of modernity. Winds that feed and nurture only the bright, the brilliant and the bold.

So it is that modesty has become a relic of a bygone era. Those who still cling onto antiquated notions like it are told they are like birds, whose unseeing eyes are unaware of the bars of their own cage. We, they instruct us, need only shed our chains and be released from our prison.

There is a kind of humour in this. As Muslim women, our worldview, like that of our sisters of other faiths, is centred not on gaining some token of liberation or trophy of empowerment but on being submissive to the will of God. For it is our conviction that true happiness lies in striving to establish a connection with the Divine and in living life according to the principles He has laid out, principles which if followed bring peace to the heart and contentment to the spirit for they are so perfectly in tune with our natures.

As Muslim women, feminist icons will never be our role models. Instead, we look to the example of the one saintly woman whose praises were extolled in our scripture, a holy personage revered and loved by Christians and Muslims alike, Hadhrat Maryam (peace be upon her) otherwise known as Mary.

Mary is addressed in chapter three, verses 43-4 of the Qur’an which state.

And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.

‘O Mary, be obedient to thy Lord and prostrate thyself and worship God alone with those who worship.’

These verses enjoin purity, piety and complete devotion. Mary (peace be upon her) exemplified all of these virtues. And as we know, one of the most iconic aspects of Mary’s image was of course her veil.

Islam, being a complete system of life, for every moral exercise or virtue it seeks to inculcate has an ‘outward form’ or practical step. To build a connection with the Divine, we pray. To be compassionate, we give alms. To learn sacrifice and suffering, we fast. And to increase in modesty and inner light, we cover ourselves and conduct ourselves accordingly.

In this connection, the Qur’an enjoys women to ‘show not of their beauty’ and to “draw their head-coverings over their bosoms” for that is closer to modesty[1]. As with all things, the choice lies with the woman whether or not she wishes to act upon this teaching.

The Qur’an is a scripture that encourages this attitude in its followers, “Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds”. (6: 163)

Love and devotion of this degree must always come from the heart. And if we truly do see the headscarf as a garment of devotion, then we must allow women the agency to enter into this bond of devotion themselves out of love and love alone.

So, the philosophy behind veiling is simple. It is an attitude to life that places at its centre devotion to God and that does away with the objectification of the female form that consumerism encourages and engenders. It is freedom itself. Well a kind of freedom rooted in submission.

However, we aspire to no more. For it is as Wordsworth said in a moving poem dedicated to his wife

True beauty dwells in deep retreats,

Whose veil is unremoved

[1] See Quran 24: 32

Note: Written upon hearing of the ECJ rulings of the 14th of March

Source: https://closetothesourceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-flower-of-sweetest-smell-is-shy-and-lowly/