In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
This essay will briefly delve into the ideals, roles and responsibilities of a woman living under a democratic Islamic society in the West. A Muslimah is of major importance in all aspects of society whether it be in the home, in the community, in the workforce and even in state leadership. It is the woman’s special God given attributes of tender love, nurture, immense emotional strength, intelligence as well as her Imaan and obedience to Allah that highly contributes to a successful Islamic society and paves her path to Jannah insha’Allah.
We start by addressing the fatal flaws in today’s Western society. Women are seen as nothing more than primitive sexual beings, exploited by men for their body but also themselves, primitive in morality, intelligence and spirituality. To first of all confront the idea of modern day sexuality, it is more than normal for a woman to be lewd, salacious and participating in degenerate behaviour. The flashy alluring life of magazine cover models, skimpy dressed girls, the glitz and glamour is attractive to many and this is the life they are willing to chase. With little regard to what is morally correct, you will see throngs of women half-dressed, layers of makeup, in nightclubs getting drunk, sleeping around, their behaviour crude and vulgar. All that matters is the appearance and to come across as seemingly appealing to others – the ‘if you have it, flaunt it’ mentality. This obscene and disgusting behaviour has removed the dignity from women, for if one does not have respect for themselves, they will not receive it from others. Which explains precisely the reason why their male counterparts view them as objects of mere pleasure, easily disposed of when the facade wears off. In parallel to the improper actions and personality of women, we see here the unrefined frame of mind of women in the Western world. Everything becomes a game of money and so called ‘success’, women only after university degrees, high paying jobs and while this is in many cases beneficial, it also comes with the attitude of neglect and disregard to start a family. There is no balance of sorts and in this exhausting cycle, they cannot find men worthy and strong enough to take care of them in the first place. The society is where everyone fends for themselves, some women will even go to the extent of selling their bodies and prostitution is common because of how desperate they become. Women are less likely to start marriages, have children or even stay in long lasting relationships because their very mindset becomes just career orientated or merely for ‘fun’. They do not care about finding a true purpose for their life or seeking their Creator. Of course, this lifestyle never proves to fill the void of meaning and belonging inside every soul as we see many women falling into the depths of depression and encompassed by feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Women are nearly two times more likely to have these mental health problems rather than men. In my understanding, a primary reason for this could be because Western women do not feel protected or fulfilled by their life, expect material products to provide happiness and when that fails, they are more than willing to turn to the blinding euphoria of drugs and alcoholism.
However the sheer irony is that, after Western women continue to abuse themselves in this way, they will still say that their lifestyle gives them freedom. In the name of liberalism and feminism, many Western women are proud of their degenerate behaviours simply because it was something that the likes of them fifty years ago never had a chance to do. They see wearing provocative clothing as something progressive, indicative of them ‘having control over their own bodies’. They see a career orientated life as freeing, they are encouraged to put marriage and motherhood on hold as these are just sentiments of the past, meant to chain women to the home. They become stripped of their maternal instincts, they rarely show care, sympathy, basic affection or gratefulness because these, they believe are considered a sign of weakness. Attributes like grace, decency, modesty and elegance are disliked unless of course proved in a sexual manner. They regard their obscene behaviour as just a show of confidence, intermingling within the sexes is fully condoned. They wish to fashion themselves into replicas of males by imitating his dress sense, his hunger for money, his strength and manly attitude. In an effort to build equality between women and dominant males, these are the measures Western women believe they have to take. However progressivism has just come full circle, women back in the olden days did not have a chance to challenge themselves as the educational and working opportunities created for them by the patriarchal society were very few, now women enjoy those liberties but they do not have protection, peace of mind, morality and dignity- just the essential building blocks of a prosperous life. We see here that the Western way of living has ensured that women do not find a balance between their emotional needs and their contributions to society.
Westernised women will find their solution and purpose in Islam and to live in an Islamic community and government. Islam is the true source of liberation and has the answer for all dilemmas whether they be spiritual and moral or societal. Under Islam, women will find a fulfilling balance between their rights and responsibilities. First and foremost, the Islamic Community is dedicated to a woman’s protection whether they be single, married, divorced or widowed, young and old. Women will never have to resort to being out on the streets or fear a life of loneliness as it is the Community’s responsibility that the women among them are either under the guardianship of their fathers (and/or male relatives) or married to a righteous man that has full capability to take care of her. As the Quran says:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other and because they spend (to support them) from their means (Surah Al-Nisa verse 34)
The meaning of this is that, Allah (SWT) has decreed upon the man to look after women as it is his command that they protect and maintain them. It is the man’s responsibility to make sure that his wife, daughter, mother or sister are fed, clothed, are warm, sheltered and have their needs and desires met. Allah (SWT) recognizes and acknowledges the tendencies of both men and women as women are generally more sensitive and weaker than their male counterparts so He has lifted the burden of being a family’s breadwinner from women and rather placed it upon men because they are physically stronger and have general capacity to uphold this. Here we have the concept of Qawammah (the directing role that men have over women). Qawammah is not meant to subjugate women rather it is Allah (SWT)’s guideline of duties that is placed upon males according to their capabilities. This however does not mean a woman cannot earn her own living or obtain a higher education. Islam allows the woman to do this but there is upon her no obligation nor fault if she does not. If a woman works, she has full control of her own finances, anything she earns will be hers and it is not her responsibility to spend it on anyone else if she does not wish to. Her husband, father or brother cannot force her to make any financial decisions she opposes to. In the context of an Islamic Society in the West, women are encouraged to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, professors in universities, Islamic scholars and even uphold leadership roles in local councils or the government. These are jobs which prove to elevate her position in society and ensure that women are fairly represented and have their own voice in all matters of life. A woman will no longer have to resort to using her body or sex appeal to gain validation rather Islam points her to the correct path of utilising her intelligence and for her to reap hasanat (good deeds) from the fruits of her efforts that will benefit all.
The educational system will be crucial in an Islamic society and the curriculum will be reformed to suit and serve Islam’s ways. The woman has a huge role in this and she will be highly encouraged to acquire to a satisfactory level of education. Firstly, a Muslimah must be literate, able to read in both her native alphabet and the Quranic Arabic so as to deepen her own general and Islamic knowledge. She is then encouraged to pursue her passion whether it be in the sciences or the arts and create innovational goals that will serve her Islamic community. It is through the strong and intelligent women who strive to learn and seek to better their societies and carry out research that will rise the nation of Islam. It is through a woman’s intellect that she will dignify herself and Islam strives to make the Muslimah a person of substance. Allah (SWT) in the Quran asks the rhetorical question:
Are those who have knowledge equal to those who do not have knowledge? (Surah Az-Zumar verse 9)
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also heavily pushed for the education of the Muslim Ummah which can be outlined in the following hadiths:
‘Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave’
‘Seek knowledge even if it is as far as China’
‘Seeking of knowledge is a duty of every Muslim’
‘Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make a path to Jannah easy for him’
It is also crucial for the Islamic Society to have many teachers that are women. Women should be able to teach other women and girls and have study groups exclusively for women’s Islamic studies. These will be important as there are many areas in Islam that only relate to women and they will feel comfortable with each other to share their ideas and challenge themselves in the various fields of academia. The Islamic society will have separate curriculums for boys and girls that are suited to each gender’s nature and as each gender will have a different set of rights and responsibilities within the society. This is why it will be best to have professional women teachers for the betterment and development of the community. Women are also the ones who will give birth to and raise the future generation of Muslims which is why as mothers, they must have Islamic knowledge to pass onto their children. The Prophet (SAW) says:
God, His Angels and all those in the Heavens and on Earth, even ants on their hills and fish in the water, call down blessings on those who instruct others in beneficial knowledge (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 422)
The best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it (Sahih Al-Bukhari 4739)
When a women is protected and highly educated, she will not feel the need to use her body and sexuality to buy attention or respect. Women must understand that the following verses are a direct commandment from Allah (SWT) which makes the hijab compulsory upon women who have reached the age of puberty.
Say to the believing women that they reduce some of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose of their adornment except that which necessarily appears thereof and to wrap a portion of their headscarves over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers, their brother’s sons, their sister’s sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women (Surah An-Nur verse 31)
Oh Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves part of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful (Surah Al-Ahzab verse 59)
In the first verse Allah (SWT) is commanding women to lower their gaze, guard their private parts (so that does not lead them to major sins like fornication-zina) and to wrap a headscarf over their chests and not expose their beauty except to their husbands, immediate male family (mahrams) or women. This is the commandment that the head and chest must be covered in front of all other males that do not fit into the mahram category. The second verse refers to the general clothing that a women must wear and that it should be loose garments. ‘That is more suitable that they will be known’ – this the proper dignified and honoured way to dress in public and for a women’s own protection. I would like to reiterate that Allah (SWT) who created us women, without a doubt knows what is best for us so women must not be defiant to these commandments, rather we should accept them and strive to perfect ourselves so that He may be pleased with us. It is not an oppressive piece of clothing nor a way for men to silence women, it is simply a straightforward command from Allah (SWT) just like prayer and charity are, so it is very important that in the Islamic State, this level of modesty is upheld.
The interactions between men and women is an important factor that must be carefully considered in the Islamic State so as to not go to two extremes- one completely forbidding any interaction whatsoever and the other is to be so loose with free-mixing where the paths to fornication and acts of immorality are open. The Islamic community should however take a moderate stance. The reality is that women and men will have to frequently communicate with each other and work together especially in the work force. However men and women should know their place, all conversations should be direct and have a purpose. They should not talk longer than is necessary nor should a man and woman be alone together. The exchange should be a respectful one, neither flirtatious nor rude. In this way, men and women will be able to focus on directly the task at hand and all interactions will be fruitful and productive.
As the Muslim women has a very important role in the society, she must not also forget that she has an even more essential role in the family. I will first begin with her role as a wife. Women in Islam are free to choose who they wish to marry and it is against the Sharia to force a woman into a marriage she does not wish to be in as this will make the nikah invalid. Women are entitled to a mahr (gift of money) and any conditions they feel the husband must meet which will be on their wedding contract. Once married, women need to maintain a peaceful relationship with their husbands and strive to work together as a team through all of life’s challenges. She must motivate him to worship Allah (SWT) and to perfect themselves as Muslims; a wife and husband must be fully committed to Islam as the Islamic lifestyle will benefit both of them greatly. A Muslimah wife must be there to take care of her husband’s physical and emotional needs. She should advise him when he is challenged, care for him, support him in his work, and be grateful for all the things he is able to provide her. She should be smiling, be his every source of happiness and she must meet his physical needs . The Prophet (SAW) says
The best of woman is one when you look at her and feel happiness (Hadith Sunan An-Nasai)
And through every marriage there will be ups and downs and both spouses will have shortcomings but it is through patience and trust that they can overcome these. They must hide each other’s flaws and strengthen each other so that both of them may become the best that they can be. Allah (SWT) talks about the bond between a husband and wife in these beautiful verses:
And of His Signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought (Surah Ar-Rum verse 21)
They are like a garment for you and you are like a garment for them (Surah Al-Baqarah verse 187)
The question of polygamy also arises when referring to Islam and marriage. Islam does permit polygamy yet there are reasons and strict conditions surrounding this. We must look to the example of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He had multiple wives yet he married them not for pleasure, wealth or showing off but to protect them as some of them were slaves, widows or divorcees. In the Prophet (SAW)’s time, if a woman had lost her husband she would have lost her whole support and would be left out on the streets with no one to take care of her. This is why the Prophet (SAW) married these women so that they may have someone to provide for them again. If a man wishes to marry more than one woman, he must take extra care to treat them all equally. Allah (SWT) understands how hard this is and actually encourages that Muslim men only marry one woman:
Marry those that please you of [other] women in two, three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just then marry only one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline to injustice (Surah An-Nisa verse 3)
Following marriage, it is beneficial for women to become mothers and bear children as the family unit is a very integral part of Islamic society. The status of a mother is extremely high in Islam, mothers deserve the utmost respect from their family. Having children is not only a means of bringing purpose, value and happiness to a woman’s life and her marriage but it is also the way to propagate the Islamic nation and bring in the next generation of Muslims. However it is not essentially about having as many children as possible, it is about raising strong Muslims who fully obey Allah (SWT) and spread goodness about Islam. This is where the mother’s role comes in as she must be able to guide her children in the right direction, show them mercy, teach them about Allah (SWT), his signs and his creation. It is from the home where children are first taught and the values and morals that are instilled in them will stay with them forever. And for this reason, both the husband and wife should work together and encourage their children to follow the right path. In return, mothers in Islam have a right to great respect and gratitude from their children over fathers. This is because a woman must make very painful sacrifices to bear a child in her womb for nine days and thereafter spend all her time and energy into raising them. The following hadiths outline the importance of mothers:
A man came to the Prophet (SAW) and asked him, “Who amongst his near one had the greatest right over him?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “Your mother”. The man then asked, “Who after that?” and the reply again was, “Your mother”. The man then asked who is next and again the Prophet (SAW) said, “Your mother”. For a final time, the man asked, “Who after that?” to which the Prophet then said, “Your father.” (Narrated Abu Hurairah)
Paradise lies under her feet (referring to a mother- Narrated Al-Tabarani)
Alas it is through Islamic education and contribution to the Islamic society, marriage to a loved one and the raising of virtuous children where a woman will feel fulfillment in her life. She must strive to please her Lord above all and seek comfort in Him and through every single day that she is granted on this Earth, she must pray and remember His Name. To fully understand how Islam has given honour to women, we must study the lives of the greatest women in Islamic history. Through the next brief explanations, I plan to provide an overview into their heroic lives.
Asiyah (RA) – wife of Firaun
She was a kind and heavenly Queen with a pure heart yet married to the worst of humanity- Egypt’s tyrant Firaun (Pharoah). Firaun committed horrific acts like killing innocent women and children and severely oppressing the people in his land. One day, Asiyah’s maids find a baby boy in a cradle floating down the Nile river and they bring it to her. Asiyah falls in love with this baby and asks her husband if she can look after him. She says:
He will be a comfort of the eye for me and for you. Do not kill him, perhaps he may benefit us and we may adopt him as son (Surah Al-Qasas verse 9)
Firaun cannot deny his wife and thus lets her keep the baby. During this time, Firaunreceives word that one day a Prophet will be sent to overpower him and conquer his people. This angers Firaun and he consequently orders for the death of every newborn baby boy. The baby at hand in Firaun’s own palace is in fact Prophet Musa (AS) and when he comes of age and is given the divine revelation from Allah (SWT) to preach about the Oneness of God and guide his people to the straight path. Asiyah heard of Musa (AS)’s Prophethood and started learning from him. Her heart accepted Islam and she practiced her new religion yet she was in constant fear of being caught by her evil husband. She firmly believed in her new faith and her trust for Firaun was dying but her Imaan was growing stronger. Soon enough though, Firaun came to know of what his wife was doing and he tried everything he could to turn her back onto his way and offered her many luxuries and immense wealth. However Asiyah denied all of this and left Firaun’s palace. She was no longer protected and had to hide with the rest of Musa (AS)’s people. As narrated by Ibn Anas, Firaun later found her and tortured her for three days and started burning her body. She was nailed to the ground and suffered excruciating pain as they lay boulders on her chest and the other wives of Firaun would come and taunt her. Asiyah did not for one second doubt in Allah (SWT) that He would protect her. She would look up to the sky and say, “Oh Allah! Build for me a place with thee in Paradise”. Out of Allah’s mercy, the skies would open up and she caught glimpses of her home in Jannah. Firaun could not hurt her because her mind and heart was with Allah and as he grew all the more frustrated, they threw the one last boulder down on her chest yet Allah (SWT) took her soul before it landed. For her solid faith, her home will forever be in the gardens of Paradise. The story of Asiyah (RA) teaches women that if you give up the luxuries and pleasures of this life, if you give up that which displeases Allah (SWT), ultimately you will taste the sweetness of Islam and come out a winner above all. She also is a model mother, she nurtures Musa (AS), a baby who is not even her own son yet gave him her utmost care, love, appreciation and support. She was able to stand strong in the face of tyranny and disbelief even when it came from her husband who she used to love so dearly, this was the ultimate test and in the end, there is no compromise of Islam.
Maryam bint Imran (AS)- Mary, the mother of Prophet Jesus
Maryam (AS) was born to a very religious family from the Children of Israel. Her mother and father were both extremely pious people and dedicated their time to the service and worshipping of Allah (SWT). Because of this, from a young age Maryam (AS) was committed to the observance and assistance of the Sacred House located in Jerusalem. Maryam (AS) was revered and honoured by the people because of her gracious manners, her devotion to Allah (SWT)’s religion and for being a steadfast worshipper. Zakariyya (AS) who was her brother in law and also a Prophet of the Israelites would check up on her and he recounted astonishing miracles. Maryam (AS) would have provisions laid out for her, summer fruit in winter and winter fruit in summer without any person having had delivered them. When he asked of where she had obtained these, Maryam (AS) would say, “This is from Allah, verily Allah provides to whom He wills, without limit”. This is from the miraculous mercies of Allah (SWT) that He would bestow upon her and thus Allah (SWT) also wanted to grant her one of His Messengers – Prophet Isa as a son. One day, she was in seclusion from the rest of her people to a place facing east and suddenly Angel Jibril approached her in the form of a human man. Maryam (AS) was afraid of what may happen and she invoked, “Verily I seek refuge from the most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah”. This is what is recommended to be said if a fear of sin is held as it reminds the other of Allah (SWT) and may calm them. Upon hearing this Angel Jibril was so taken aback that he returned to his true angel form and presented himself to her as a servant of her Lord and said, “I am here to provide to you the gift of a righteous son”. The now fascinated Maryam (AS) asks, “How can I have a son when I do not have a husband and I do not commit wicked acts (fornication)?” Jibril replied, “Thus said your Lord, that is easy for Me. Verily Allah has said that a boy will be born from you even though you do not have a husband and have not committed any acts of lewdness.” From this miracle of Allah (SWT), Maryam (AS) was the first woman to have a son while still remaining a virgin. She suffered many pains thereafter from the pain of the childbirth and then the ridicule of the people as they thought she had sexual relations out of wedlock yet Allah (SWT) protected Maryam (AS) and constantly provided for her and her son, the Prophet Isa (AS) was able to convey the true message of Islam to his people from the early days of his life. The lessons that we are able to take from Maryam (AS) is that if a woman is steadfast in worship and takes care of not doing sins, then she will definitely be protected by Allah (SWT). Maryam (AS) is most prominent for her virtue of modesty and chastity, she protected herself from anything that would lead to sin and when she was faced with apprehension she invoked Allah (SWT)’s name. Maryam (AS) never needed the people’s validation and respect as long as she knew that Allah (SWT) was there.
Khadijah bint Khuwaylid – First wife of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
Khadijah (RA) otherwise known as the “Mother of the Believers’. In the times before Islam, she was working as a very successful merchant in the city of Makkah in Arabia, belonging to a wealthy tribe of Quraysh. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was one of her employees and he would be sent on business trips. When she heard of the Prophet’s impeccable manners, integrity and honesty and his proficient business skills, she became intrigued of him and offered him her hand for marriage. The Prophet (SAW) accepted, she was aged 40 and him 25, yet they had a peaceful marriage and Khadijah (RA) bore him seven children. The Prophet (SAW) used to frequently go to a nearby cave to meditate and pray and it was on one of these occasions that the Angel Jibril exposed himself and told him to, “Read! In the Name of your Lord”. Muhammad (SAW) was thus granted Prophethood but he was so shocked by this event that he ran back home to Khadijah (RA), sweating and shaking. It was Khadijah (RA) that took him to her cousin, to interpret this and when they realised that Muhammad (SAW) is now a Messenger of Allah (SWT), Khadijah (RA) immediately swore herself to be a believer. The years that followed were especially hard on them and their family. The Muslims were few, they were persecuted and mocked by the tribes of Makkah for what they believed in, many lost their jobs and wealth. Muslims faced starvation and it was extremely difficult to the extent they had to resort to eating leaves. Nevertheless it was Khadijah (RA) that continuously supported Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and was there by his side through it all even though she had to sacrifice many things. She was the strongest of believers, always steadfast in her worship that even Allah (SWT) gave her His Salaam. She made an ideal wife and mother, her home was always open to the Companions of the Prophet (SAW) and was the site of many revelations of Quran. Khadijah (RA) is the model Muslim woman: strong in her deen, highly educated, served Islam to the absolute best of her ability, giving up anything she had to and giving everything she could, and a faithful and trustworthy wife. The Prophet (SAW) said, “I have not yet found a better wife than her. She had faith in me when everyone, even members of my own family and tribe did not believe me and accepted that I was truly a Prophet and Messenger of Allah. She converted to Islam, spent all her wealth and worldly goods to help me spread this faith, and this too at a time when the entire world seemed to have turned against me and persecuted me. And it is through her that Allah has blessed me with children.”
Aishah bint Abu Bakr (RA)
Aishah (RA) was the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s greatest companion Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. She was born and raised in the folds of Islam and later did she marry the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his only virgin wife. Aishah (RA) was greatly treasured by the Prophet (SAW) and among the Companions. She was constantly giving in charity to anyone who came to ask for it. One day, a lady came to her house begging for food. Aishah (RA) told her maid to give her the piece of bread that they had. The maid said that if she gave her that, there would be no food for which she could break her fast with. Aishah (RA) told her to give the food away to help the woman and the evening would take care of itself. And by Allah’s mercy, she was sent a dish of meat that night. Any food or money that came Aishah’s way would be spent quickly for charity as Aishah (RA) had the softest and most generous of hearts. Aishah (RA) had a tradition of never keeping more than a day’s food or money in her house, she even sold her apartment and gave the money in charity. Aishah (RA) was beloved by Allah (SWT), many verses of the Quran came down to defend her when she was accused and slandered by the hypocrites. Aishah (RA) was forever strong in her trust to Allah (SWT). She was a loving wife to the Prophet (SAW) and they would often lie together in comfort and peace, the Prophet used to alway smile when she talked they joked lightheartedly. Many verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet (SAW) when he was with Aishah (RA). In the ninth year of the Hijra, Islam has successfully spread across Arabia so some wives of the Prophet (SAW) asked for increase in money. This upset the Prophet (SAW) and he separated himself from his wives for 29 days. After 29 days he came to Aishah (RA) and asked her whether she would live a life of ease and leave him, or choose him and live in hardship. Aishah (RA) ultimately chose that she would be with him and that her and her parents would give their lives for Islam if need be. Aishah (RA) dedicated her whole life to serve Islam, she became a revered scholar, she narrated many hadiths, would spend her time discussing issues of the religion and her fatwas were all accepted. She, like Khadijah (RA) is the perfect example of what it means to balance the duties of the family, education and the worship of Allah (SWT).
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I have written about these four women because they are the strongest of characters in Islam and they shaped the ideals of a model Muslim woman. There are of course many others such as Sumayyah bint Khayyat, the first martyr of Islam, who suffered a horrific death they those in Makkah for believing in the Prophet (SAW)’s teachings and Nusaybah bint Ka’ab who stood and fought in the battle of Uhud among the other Companions. These women all have different stories but we see with all of them that they did not compromise their religion for anything in the worldly life, yet at the same time they did not forget about their duties as a woman, their contributions to Islamic society, their desire to seek knowledge and their merciful and supportive qualities as mothers and wives. They have become the true winners of humanity by attaining to piety in this world. By following their example, woman in the West will surely find the greater purpose to their existence, they will live a life of fufillment and contentment, free from the chains of materialism, promiscuity and ignorance.
May Allah make the Islamic nation successful held high by those women who stand strong for this religion.