Features

Safeguarding Yourself: Time For Change

Laiqas blog 1

Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

In recent months, media coverage of high profile sexual assault cases has driven countless women to speak up about the sexual harassment and assault they themselves have faced in all walks of life. In the UK alone, at least half of British women have been sexually harassed at work or a place of study and despite the widespread effort to achieve gender equality, reported cases of sexual assault have increased between 2012 and 2017 [1]. Police recorded offences have more than doubled to over 120,000 cases reported in the year 2017 [2]. These statistics raise questions as to why this issue is so widespread and commonplace and has not been effectively tackled. Even more worryingly, according to a BBC survey 63% of women said that they did not report sexual harassment at work or places of education to anyone. This portrays a bleak image where sexual harassment is almost expected and accepted as part of daily life if you are a girl or a woman.

While harassment of any form, including sexual is illegal, gathering evidence and proving it can sometimes be difficult which could be one reason many women do not report it. Therefore, any solution to tackle this issue requires preventative actions as lack of successful prosecution shows it cannot and does not serve as a deterrent. Yet debate on how to effectively reduce sexual harassment is often stifled when suggestions are presented that involve refuge for or change in behaviour by the victim. It is considered victim blaming and for many a no go. Yet the ‘Protection from Harassment Act 1997’ should have safeguarded women from unwanted sexual advances, it seems that women are no less at risk now than they were then [3]. It certainly has not eradicated harassment or even come close which calls for an alternative solution to be considered. With the media continuing to perpetually sexualise women and reducing their status to a mere object designed to be ogled, as a society it embeds the notion that the role of a woman is only one of a visual pleasure for others. With that sense of entitlement, sexual harassment is the next natural step if self-restraint is not exercised. For that reason, in the first instance Islam prescribes protection for all women in the way of men lowering their gaze. In the Holy Qur’an, it says:

‘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.’ (24:31) [4]

If truly adhered to, the man that does not look directly at women out of respect, how will he even consider harassing her? In this way, Islam does not only protect Muslim women but all women. However, Islam also recognises that this injunction does not apply to non-believing men and therefore is nowhere enough to fully protect women from harassment so it goes on to say:

‘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, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments thereof save to their husbands, or to their fathers or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers or the sons of their brothers or the sons of their sisters or their women or what their right hands possess or such of male attendants who have no wickedness in them, or young children who have not yet attained any concept of the private parts of women. And they walk not in the style that such of their beauty as they conceal is noticed. And turn you to Allah all together, O believers that you may succeed.’ (24:32) [5]

Alongside other guidance that Islam sets out, the essence of modesty is the keystone to protecting women from any unwanted sexual advances. Islam guides women towards modesty to protect them from sexual harassment. If we lived in Utopia where all men would truly lower their gaze and respected women, then perhaps women wouldn’t have to take actions to safeguard themselves. The sad truth is, even in Western countries where there is a strong fight towards gender equality, sexual harassment is commonplace and even more worryingly, on the rise. Yet gender equality cannot be achieved without women receiving the respect they deserve. No woman deserves to be cat called, approached with unwanted comments or even worse. Safeguarding yourself from anything negative is not victim blaming. It is simply being sensible in a less than ideal world. The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, has elaborated on the philosophy of modesty as follows:

‘It should be remembered that to restrain one’s looks and to direct them only towards observing that which is permissible is described in Arabic by the expression ghadde basar, which is the expression employed in the Holy Quran in this context. It does not behove a pious person who desires to keep his heart pure that he should lift his eyes freely in every direction like an animal. It is necessary that such a one should cultivate the habit of ghadde basar in his social life. This is a blessed habit through which his natural impulses would be converted into a high moral quality without interfering with his social needs. This is the quality which is called chastity in Islam.’[6]

As a Muslim woman, I experience the protective nature of modesty myself in my daily life. Hearing the notion of women protecting themselves from any form of abuse as ‘victim blaming’ is incorrect and insulting. Is locking our front door to protect ourselves from burglars also victim blaming? It is simply recognising that despite all other efforts, theft can happen and requires preventative measures. In the same way, women need to accept that alongside education and reformation of the way society views us, we should take measures to protect ourselves and modesty is a large part of that. Sexual harassment shouldn’t become a part of our everyday life, accepted as a by-product of our freedom and modesty shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to that freedom. Instead modesty allows us to go on in our daily life without the fear of being objectified and treated as though our only purpose in this life is a superficial one. There is no freedom for a woman if she constantly worries and continuously finds herself at risk of sexual harassment. It stifles her ability to conduct her work with full confidence and to the best of her ability. Yet if her dress portrays modesty, she stands out of the crowd as someone whose sole purpose isn’t to visually appeal to others.

In an ideal world the way a woman dresses should not have a bearing on her safety or the respect she is given, however we also cannot deny that in our current society, the Islamic solution is the one that truly protects women.

 

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41741615

[2]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffencesinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017

[3] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/40/contents

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 24:31

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 24:32

[6] The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, pp 23-25

 

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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.

Islam

Our Response: The Need to Lift the Stigma

Our response

Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

Fasting in the month of Ramadhan is obligatory for every man and woman, except for those who are travelling or sick. Also exempt are women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating. As a mother of two, I have more than once been exempt from fasting for all those reasons. But when reading the recent articles on how Muslim women have been shamed for eating during Ramadhan, it struck me how yet again, cultural ignorance has been mistaken for Islamic rules. I have experienced both, the cultural ignorance and the true application of Islam’s openness in these matters. The former has nothing to do with the latter. In fact, it was Islam that lifted the stigma of menstruation 1400 years ago through Holy Scripture as well as through the teaching of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) and yet here we are again, subjugating women into shamefulness. Does Islam really require women to conceal such a common natural phenomenon that affects roughly 50% of the world’s population?

‘And that He creates the pairs, male and female,’ (Surah Al-Najm, verse 45)

When God Himself has created woman, then there is nothing in the functioning of His creation that is shameful. It is only Islam that not only gave rights to women such as the right to divorce, the right to inherit, the right to vote, the right to have an equal voice and at the same time normalised the differences between men and women. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) openly spoke about matters pertaining to women, his teaching also demonstrated that menstruation was not something to be ashamed of. Muslim women are exempt from Praying, fasting and other aspects of daily life to ease any hardship this time may bring.

Sadly, as time has passed cultural ignorance has now in some sections of society infiltrated the beautiful and pure teachings of Islam and once again, women find themselves compelled to pretend something so natural and universal does not exist. When the Qur’an that is read by every Muslim man and woman, clearly speaks about menstruation, when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) clearly spoke about menstruation to Muslim men and women during his counsel, how is it right to associate this shame surrounding menstruation with Islam?

Furthermore, the pretence of women not having menstruation verges on the point of deception and lying. That deception and lying can then lead into a myriad of other sins.

‘Most hateful is it in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.’ (Surah Al-Saff, verse 4)

How can it then be acceptable that women should not disclose that they are not fasting and instead pretend otherwise? So, it is simply not feasible to associate the stigma surrounding menstruation to Islam. It has been used as a beating stick since the dawn of mankind and Islam only normalises them. Cultural stigma needs to be removed as it hinders the truth being spoken and allowing Muslim women to practice their religion as it was prescribed for them.

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.

 

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.

Islam

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

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
Uncategorized

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.