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.

Social Barriers and the Islamic View

Social Barrier...BLOG

Zujaja Khan, London

On 20 February 2018, the international community will commemorate the UN World Day of Social Justice, this year’s theme being the migrant worker. It is estimated that there are 258 million international migrants, with 150 million of those being migrant workers. The United Nations defines a migrant worker as a ‘person who is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national’. By that definition, it may be safe to say that every one of us knows a migrant worker: our parents, teachers, doctors, local shop keepers, colleagues. In the UK alone, 99% of the horticultural labour force has been made up of migrant workers.[1]

Governments across the world have concerns about the permeating effect that migrant workers have on their social and economic culture. Not a month goes by without new headlines of the ordeals migrant workers face; in the last year alone, undocumented workers in the United States have been facing relentless scrutiny and persecution from their government. In 2017 the economic blockade of Qatar exacerbated the poor quality of life for migrant workers who were already living in poverty.[2] The Thai government introduced foreign labour legislation last year that would fine companies found to have employed migrant workers without sufficient documentation (a legislative move that has seen an ‘exodus’ of workers).[3] Migrant workers’ post-Brexit discomfort here in the United Kingdom has drastically altered the face of our labour force in the horticultural sector, leading to a crisis in farming.[4]

How best to go about the advancement of social justice for migrant workers is indeed a complex and deep-rooted question facing the global community, so providing a one-size-fits-all analysis or solution is futile. The wider picture here must be considered. However, from a cultural perspective I believe there does exist one commonality at the core of this dire situation: a practice of distrust.

The fundamental principle of Ahmadiyyat, the renaissance of Islam, is simple, yet profound: love for all, hatred for none. We strive towards a fairer, more peaceful and collaborative world. But the migrant worker’s life is thrown into uncertainty and scrutiny in every debate about national security, public safety, stable economies.

In the Holy Quran, it states:

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star. It is lit from a blessed tree — an olive — neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He will. And Allah sets forth parables to men, and Allah knows all things full well (24:36).

Allah here has made clear that His bounty is not specific East or West, or any particular region, and that no one group has superiority over another. The Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) emphasised this in his Sermon on the Mount, in which he said:

As God has made you one brotherhood, so be not divided. A non-Arab has no superiority over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one.

Of course, the situation of the migrant worker is a multi-faceted, ongoing political issue, but on a basic human level Islam teaches us repeatedly that love for all people is our duty as Muslims. With more love for humanity, our pursuit of justice becomes more enlightened and powerful.

As Muslim women in particular, we are in an advantaged position to help – we have the guidance of the Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet peace and blessings be upon him), our beloved Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad. In his Friday sermon delivered on 1 June 2012 he said that among God’s creation the greatest is humankind, most eminent of all creation but man becomes a true human being when he tries to be advantageous to others.

We have the examples of many women in Islamic history who have shown that our status as women is of equal measure to men. Therefore, in such a blessed position, it is vital for us to help advance the cause of others to bring about a more just and equitable society. Hadhrat Khadjiah (may Allah be pleased with her) is an excellent example for us as Muslim women; she was the first person to accept Islam, believing in the message the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) was sent by Allah. It is related that the Holy Prophet ( peace and blessings be upon him) said about Hadhrat Khadijah : “When people rejected me she stood by me; when people disbelieved, she believed and accepted Islam; when I had no support, she helped me.”

We mustn’t take our position as Ahmadi Muslim women for granted. We should remember that as a community, we are blessed with the leadership of Khilafat to enable us to harness our capabilities to create meaningful and lasting change in the world for all.

 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/09/lack-of-migrant-workers-left-food-rotting-in-uk-fields-last-year-data-reveals

[2] https://www.vox.com/world/2017/7/21/15960232/qatar-gulf-crisis-migrant-workers-saudi-uae-bahrain-egypt-diplomacy-middle-east

[3] http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/thailand-faces-labour-crisis-over-migrant-workers-exodus

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/09/lack-of-migrant-workers-left-food-rotting-in-uk-fields-last-year-data-reveals

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 Story of Mary, a Pure and Noble Example

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

Mary, mother of Jesus, can often be seen portrayed in paintings as a serene figure with her head always covered and has always been a revered figure for Christians, to such an extent that in some denominations her figure can be found in churches and even prayers are said to her. Children in the West are taught the Nativity story in primary school, how Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary were turned away from inn after inn until they found shelter in a stable where Jesus was born; among young primary school girls the role of Mary in the Nativity is a coveted one.

Along with Christians it is Muslims who also hold Mary in high regard and we can read about her in several places in The Holy Qur’an, about her own birth, her pious youth and the birth of Jesus and in fact chapter 19 of the Holy Qur’an, Surah Maryam, is named after her.

Before her birth Mary’s mother had promised to dedicate her to God. In chapter 3, verse 36 of the Holy Qur’an, the mother of Mary makes a vow to God,

“‘My lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do accept it of me…”

The fact the new child was a girl was at first perplexing until the realisation came that God intended something special of her. She grew up a model of piety and complete trust in God which was to prove a great support to her in subsequent events.

In 2014 the first mosque built by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ireland was opened in Galway and it was named Maryam Mosque (Masjid Maryam) after Mary, because of the fact she is a figure revered by Catholics, who are the majority in Ireland, and Muslims alike. At the reception held for the opening Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V stated:

Maryam, or Mary as known to you, is as greatly revered by Muslims as she is by Christians. In fact, in the Holy Qur’an, Allah has mentioned Mary at many instances and highlighted her esteemed status. Mary was the name of that pure and pious woman who is honoured by Islam so much that the Qur’an has said that all true believers are like Mary. This is because Mary established a very special relationship with God and she upheld her virtue and chastity at all times. She developed a special bond of love with God, whereby Allah conversed directly with Mary and He Himself attested to her truth. Mary believed in the Books of God, she was righteous and attained a special rank in terms of her obedience to God.“

The Holy Qur’an tells us of the moment when Mary found that God had chosen her:

“And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.”
Chapter 3, verse 43

The true story of the birth of Jesus is even more extraordinary than that portrayed in the Nativity because Mary actually found herself near to giving birth seemingly completely alone. There was no inn and no stable in which to take shelter; instead Mary found herself in pain lying outside under a tree. Imagine the situation and how terrifying it would be.

But Mary was not alone as God was with her and she was told;

“Grieve not. Thy Lord has placed a rivulet below thee; And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee.“
Holy Qur’an chapter 19, verses 25-26

The tree provided sustenance in the form of fresh dates, a nearby stream provided fresh water to drink and wash and God gave her the strength to endure the birth. This complete trust in God and strength of character she displayed throughout her life makes Mary an extraordinary and inspiring role model for all women whatever their faith. This unique position of being held in such high regard by people of different faiths makes her a uniting force.

As Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V further said in Galway:

“She was most certainly an example for all true believers. Her elevated status is reflected by the fact that the Qur’an says that true Muslims should develop the qualities of Mary and if they do so then they will be those who never cause harm or suffering to anyone. Every Ahmadi Muslim therefore seeks to instil within themselves the purity, nobility and piety of Mary herself.”

What an extraordinary woman Mary was that she has become a role model for people down the ages and remains so to this day.

 

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.

Why I Too Choose To Keep My Headscarf On!

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Sarah Ward Khan, London

Sometimes people stare at me in the street.  I’ve come to recognise that certain look that crosses a stranger’s face of confusion and bewilderment.  For I am a white woman in a headscarf – an anomaly, not fitting the mould.  There is no cultural or familial pressure for me to conform, mine is entirely a matter of choice.  I’m a walking oxymoron: woman from a culture of apparent freedom and advancement, dressed in the garb of supposed oppression and subjugation.

But I don’t worry about the looks of the occasional passer-by.  My life is not defined by these fleeting interactions based on assumption on both sides. My life and my choices are defined by a faith rooted in a love of God, deeper than considerations of others.  My dress is a deeply personal choice, selected by me and upheld by my own convictions.  Yet so often commentators believe that if I wear a scarf I must lack the intellect or awareness to understand my lowly status.

Yet the truth is something much more powerful and is known only to those who understand in the deepest recesses of their soul that hijab is a spiritual affirmation, a footstep on the path to enlightenment, inner peace and acceptance.  Let me explain how.  Covering the hair is an instruction of the Holy Qur’an.  It states;

‘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. 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….’(Chapter 24, verses 31-32)

Firstly, the hijab is not simply to ward off uncontrolled men.  The instruction in the Qur’an is aimed at men first, they are told to lower their gaze.  There is no burden on women to shield themselves from men, the burden is placed fully and firstly on the men themselves.

Secondly, the hijab is not to hide women.  Quite the opposite.  The Holy Qur’an tells women they are beautiful: all women, without comparison and without exception.  This single affirmation unites women in a bond of sisterhood, removes competition and increases self-confidence. Muslim women do not cover themselves in female company because they are then on an equal footing – they are all beautiful.  How many anxieties and discords could be eliminated if women embraced this philosophy, stopped doubting themselves and took pride in their elevated status as beings of inherent beauty?

Thirdly, wearing the hijab acknowledges that women are more than simply what they wear.  When we operate in an environment when we are covered, other people cannot judge us on our looks.  We do not elevate our physique and physical appearance to be our most important asset.  Instead, we invite people to judge us based on our character, our conduct, our speech and who we are as a person.  In a society where illusive and fleeting values of youth and beauty are paramount, we offer an alternative.  Know us as a person, the qualities that will not fade with the passage of time.  Judge us by our values that will weather any storm and improve with age and experience.

For the spirit of hijab is more than a fashion trend.  I have worn hijab since my youth, when modest fashion and hijabi trends were unknown to most of the Western world.  My adherence to hijab is not based on force, but on choice.  So I do not mind if I get the occasional stare in the street, for I am stronger than the fickle winds of change. I follow a long line of women from all cultures and religions, who knew that hijab is a positive affirmation of my intrinsic value as a woman.  And if I am the last hijabi standing, then I will continue to stand with the self-belief and conviction of faith that this practice is the right one and it is enduring.

Wearing The Hijab In Islam

 

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Navida Sayed, London

Over the last decade the hijab has become one of the most widely discussed and controversial topic not only in the West but also in Muslim societies. The covering of the head has also been debated among some Muslim scholars and they have joined in the debate on whether or not the wearing of a headscarf is required of Muslim women. Before we discuss what some scholars are saying we will see what led to this debate. [i]

Recently the topic of hijab came into the spotlight through social media platforms. Some European governments have introduced legislation against wearing the full face Hijab. In pursuit of their own political agendas some of the Western countries repeatedly intervene and attempt imposing and elaborating a dress code about how Muslim women should dress in the name of secularism, as a result this is dividing societies rather than uniting.  It leads to backlash and hatred against Muslim women in hijab. 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.  Sadly all the negative media propaganda and recent hate crimes against Muslim women in Hijab has resulted in some Muslim women to turn their back on wearing the veil and forming countercultural statements.

Women choosing to walk away from the hijab as feminists or because of modernity actually believe that the hijab is ingrained in culture rather than faith. They pander to the arguments of those who erroneously believe that Muslim hijab wearing women are brainwashed into saying they are wearing it out of choice and they are not forced to wear it. 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. To further confuse matters some Muslim males opposing the headscarf have jumped on the bandwagon too, they quote five so-called high profile Muslim Scholars as an authority who issued a fatwa on – ‘The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf’, I will only touch on some of their points here.

The first is Khaled Abou El-Fadl ‘ who critiques the predominant Muslim position of viewing the khimar (veil) as a piece of cloth that covers the head and face or just the head. He argues that if the headscarf itself causes women to stand out and put them in the way of harm and if uncovering the head is not considered socially immodest or licentious then it would be permissible for Muslim women to not wear the headscarf.’

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi also shares the opinions of Khaled Abou El-Fadl, Ghamidi and his affiliate Farhad Shafti that ‘the khimar (veil) was neither a religious act nor did it pertain to modesty.

Abdullah Bin Bayyah ‘argues that hardships allow for uncovering of women’s body parts or hair in public.

In relation to the wearing of the headscarf Bin Bayyah’s student Hamza Yusuf mistakenly asserts that ‘the laws are there to serve human beings, we are not there to serve the law. We are there to serve Allah, and that is why whenever the law does not serve you, you are permitted to abandon it, and that is actually following the law. … The law is for our benefit, not for our harm. Therefore, if the law harms us, we no longer have to abide by it.’

The late Shia cleric, Ahmad Ghabel deemed as an authority on Islam, ‘argued that the head covering was not obligatory but recommended, he also said there was no consensus as to whether hair constituted parts that must be covered.’

The fifth person the late Nasr Abu Zayd argued ‘covering of body parts and the hijab are subject to socio-cultural norms and therefore are changeable and not fixed. He opined that both are not legislated by Islam but are rather specific to the Arab culture.’[ii]

Citing the above-mentioned individuals as authorities on Islam is misleading. Deliberation on their arguments in detail is for another time. In a nutshell as scholars of Islam they are all inaccurately asserting with authority that Islam does not require women to cover their heads with a headscarf especially in countries where they may be facing discrimination or persecution because of their headscarves.  However the real and only authority on Islam is the Holy Qura’n.  In Islam, modesty and chastity are very important tenets of faith, and are achieved through establishing certain codes of behaviour and dress. It is said in the Holy Qur’an:

‘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…’ (Ch.24:V.32)

The veil is a word used generically, which could refer to Hijab, Burqa, Niqab, headscarf or outer garment used to cover the body. Because Islam is a global religion there is no specific or compulsory dress for all Muslim women. Each country or community adapts its cultural dress code to observe the Hijab in accordance with Qur’anic instructions. In essence, this does not mean that the Hijab stems from cultural dress in fact the beauty of Islam is that it allows women to adapt their cultural dress in accordance with teachings of Islam as mentioned in the above verse of the Holy Qura’n.  Observance of the veil is definitely part of a Muslim woman’s faith, as it is clear from the Holy Qur’an.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab in Western countries 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.  The Hijab establishes dignity and respect for women, so that they are recognised in society as individuals who are respected for their intelligence and personality 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.

 

 

[i] HuffPost Canada. (2017). 5 Muslim Scholars On The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/junaid-jahangir/islam-wearing-hijab_b_14046520.html

[ii] HuffPost Canada. (2017). 5 Muslim Scholars On The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/junaid-jahangir/islam-wearing-hijab_b_14046520.html

Why I Choose To Keep My Headscarf On

hijab

Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

The hijab is a piece of cloth that covers a Muslim woman’s hair and bosom. Yet somehow it seems to become the focal point of many debates particularly when discussing Islam. Many European countries seek to, or have legislated against, the hijab or some form of it. They justify this in the name of integration and freedom from the shackles of this supposedly backward and unnecessary practice.

Throughout my upbringing, modesty has always been an integral part of day to day life. The hijab, however was encouraged from around the age of 12, and I remember being excited at ‘growing up’ and the symbolic link of entering a world of new opportunities I had seen many other girls who were older, in my community do. In fact, I vaguely remember wanting to start at a much younger age but besides wearing it to the mosque, I was told to wait till I was older and able to commit to it fully by understanding it rather than just wearing it momentarily for the fun of it.

Once I entered secondary school, I wore a loose scarf around my neck and by year 9, so around the age of 13, I started wearing it loosely draped over my head. My hijab was worn with great pride yet up until the age of 16- 17 the connection between my faith and my hijab was superficial. I was wearing this piece of cloth over my head because my faith prescribed it for me. This is also the age where my inquisitive mind would bustle with the constant nagging thought of ‘Why?’ Why am I Muslim? Why does it make me so different to those around me? Why do I do the things I do? Why do I wear my hijab?

It was the rite of passage of being a teenager and finding yourself in this vast world of endless possibilities. These nagging questions, made me delve into my faith. I spent a year finding the answer to every why until I was satisfied that my faith, Islam, could provide a ‘because’ to every single one of my ‘why’ in a most satisfactory manner.

Now that I understood the multiple philosophical reasoning behind wearing my hijab, I put it into practice. Now, I would wear the hijab, not because my mother wore it or my friends at the mosque wore it but because I knew there had to be benefits for myself in it. So I observed myself and those around me and found that the hijab for me meant a life polar opposite to a life of one without it.

Rather than becoming ashamed and embarrassed of my modest dress and hijab, I grew to appreciate my true freedom when I was no longer bound to societal expectations especially in terms of how at times women can be objectified in our society. Instead of worrying how I looked, agonising every day over what to wear, pressurising my parents to buy the latest fashion, like many of my friends and peers were going through, I learnt to care less about how I appeared and more about how I behaved. It has given me a true sense of self appreciation, where how I behave, what I have to say matters, not how I look. I am no longer objectified but treated as an equal who has no obligation to dress in a certain manner simply to fit in. Every time I stepped out of the door with my hijab on, the world around me knew I was a Muslim and this is turn led me to always question my actions.

To those who would look at me confused, bemused, amused and now more recently somewhat angry, I’d politely smile back. Yes, I am wearing my hijab, yes it makes me different to those around me but I am liberated. Liberated of any material expectations and focused on my spiritual self. Every time I go out, taking part in any community work, or just extending an every day random kindness to a stranger, I am representing my faith in a positive light. My pride is visible through a simple piece of cloth that lets the world know I am a Muslim and I am proud of it