Islam in the West – A Women’s Perspective

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).

                                                                * * *

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.

-Hanifa K

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The America I Have Seen

A response to Sayed Qutb’s book “The America I Have Seen”

Sayed Qutb is a prominent and controversial Egyptian Islamist revolutionary whose ideas have challenged the modern world and its values. In his early years, Qutb was sent to Colorado, US to pursue postgraduate education in the American educational system. During this time, he writes of his strikingly new surroundings, the culture shock that he experienced and his analysis of American lifestyle and morale in ‘The America I have Seen’. I regard this piece insightful and believe that many of the incorporated themes send the overall message that modern Western society is one of primitiveness and a chase for mere desire.

Qutb begins by outlining what he believes civilisation is and by what humanity should strive for. As he arrives in America, the first thing he notices is the overwhelming physical grandeur: the vast expanses of land, the famous landmarks and institutes and the displays of entertainment. People flock there because it is indeed the ‘Promised Land’, the life of everlasting pleasure, materialism, a society built wholly on capitalism. The hunger of money, power and success is all encapsulated in the so called, ‘American dream’. Yet, Qutb says that this is not what development is defined by.

‘The true value of civilisation that man has known lies not in the tools that man has invented or in how much power he wields. Nor does it lie in the yields his hands have harvested. Most of the value of civilisations lay in what universal truths and worldviews they have attained.”

The growing understanding of a society on human values and consciousness is more important than the physical and material belongings that they may have. Qutb realises that the difference between animal and human nature is that humans have a deeper void of spirituality, meaningful relationships and understandings of their innate purpose that they need to fill. Animals however do not possess this void. A dog, a lion or a bird would not care so much about its true value, morals and purpose in life, it just needs to eat, to sleep and to breed. The more humans ignore the notion of seeking insight and reasoning of their world and finding the truth of life, the more they return to the animalistic way of living. The nature of animals is to only fulfill their desires and Qutb sees in the American people.

‘I fear that a balance may not exist between America’s material greatness and the quality of its people. And I fear that the wheel of life will have turned and the book of time will have closed and America would have added nothing or next to nothing to the account of morals that distinguishes man from object and indeed, mankind from animals.’

One may ask however, what about all the scientific discoveries that the Western world has made that has progressed it? For surely, America is the most developed country on Earth, does that not count for something in the way of ‘universal truths’ and ‘worldviews’? Has America not come further than the rest of the world in education and in knowledge? Qutb says:

‘In America, man was born with science and thus believed in it alone. In fact, he only believed in one kind of science and that was applied science.’

Applied science reaches out with effective tools for creating, building, organizing and producing, it feeds into the American capitalist scheme. People are in a perpetual cycle to improve their way of living so they put all their energy into applied science that only provides solutions to boost their wealth and ego. These primitive values are the very roots of the foundation of American society as ‘first wave Americans’ only arrived there for construction and gathering of wealth. They have raised their generations with this mindset ever since.

We can relate this to atheism and especially the Richard Dawkins mentality where they will disregard the existence of God merely because of general science. They will claim that humans have no deeper meaning than basic survival, that we are just animals on the great scale of things. The reason why we exist in the form that we are is viewed as just a ‘coincidence’. I do not plan to prove the scientific reasoning behind why there is a God in this piece but rather I want to focus on their questionable perspective. Why is that we have reached the absolute zenith of civilisation, in science, in research, products and the market, yet humankind is lost in a sea of depression, anxiety, ungratefulness and the high levels of drugs, alcohol and violence? Anxiety and depression disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States* alone. Humans in the West have never been more developed than they are today, they have the finest quality of life and comfort that ‘science’ has provided them yet they’ve lost their happiness. They haven’t come far in morale and in attaining a level of emotional and spiritual knowledge. They have not filled their inner void with even one drop of sustenance. Science has not saved the world, nor has it saved our souls.

What exactly is it that has made the Western world lose their morality? Qutb uses examples of the places and circumstances that he has been in and the cultural shock he endured. He explains firstly of their hunger for blood and for war. They cheer on the side of football games, urging the players to hurt each other as they do when they engage in war with their own people (indigenous Americans) without a thought to peace and unity. Qutb also claims that the only reason why slavery was abolished was not because of a desire for justice but because the Northern parts of America were struggling to compete economically with the South who possessed free slave labour so they declared war on them. Qutb has observed that the American people laugh at the dead, they are that desensitized to find such things funny. This reflects the people’s absence of warmth and compassion where humanity is usually expected to act otherwise. They’ve even turned their places of worship into places of mere partying and dancing, losing all spiritual and religious connection in their societies. What is left are hollow people, with only material and hedonistic desires in their life, a world that is falling apart from the inside out.

Qutb’s descriptions of America may as well be about the whole world, as every nation has turned to the rat race of fame and money. The wheel of life is turning, the book of time is nearly over yet humans have not found their humanity again.

 

* (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Racial Equality – Ronia Ibrahim

(This is a submission by Ronia Ibrahim from New Zealand)

~In The Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful~

“Where are you from?”

It’s a question that I find impossible to avoid. But when you wear a headscarf and have a dark complexion, the question is virtually inevitable. Despite this, cultural heritage is something that I believe is deeply important in forming a large part of our identities. So, no, anonymous questioner, I am not offended by your query. What I do, however, find immensely frustrating is that you are only asking this question based on unfair assumptions and prejudicial judgements.

When the British started colonising the world 500 years ago, it left an enormous footprint on the globe. What resulted was a European culture that recreated societies on a massive scale. The entire developed world became a piece of clay, moulded, rolled and reshaped to resemble its sculptor: The West. There was now a set of ideals and traditions that became a societal standard. Clothing, music, food, holidays and religion now had their own category, deeming to be the norm.

Perhaps these principles gave justification for bigoted factions and the atrocities they committed against the vulnerable, in the last few centuries. For generations, people of colour have been the ones most susceptible to these pressing standards. The imperial period in Africa. The 40s height of the KKK movement. WWII. We massacred for melanin. Not only that, we massacred the sanctity of culture itself. When we sorted black and white into slave or citizen, when we compared blacks to animals, when we shamed pigmentation, we stripped away dignity, and in turn, we left people stung with the removal of an element of their humanity. Today, in the 21st century, these acts have been acknowledged and our views on race have drastically shifted into more humane stances. These stances, however, are not quite enough.

In the past few decades we have managed to live with the illusion that everyone of all colours of the rainbow hold hands and run into the sunset, living happily ever after. To tackle the issue of white normalisation we’ve attempted to collectively acknowledge every other race possible. The “melting pot;” as advertisers and people in power have expressed, aims to portray this as an example of society: a harmonious Earth stew consisting of every flavour of the world. Do mashed potatoes and laksa mix though? Do burgers blend with biryani? Just like how a melting pot requires thoughtful decisions on the mix of ingredients, our integration of ethnicities need to be cautiously applied. Our version unfortunately is instead a concoction; a desperate combination of ethnicities resulting in a mishmash of stereotypes and lost objectives.

This is the problem: we may claim to integrate our racial communities but what we are doing is plucking and selecting the various characteristics of cultures that suit us, seemingly fitting the idea of racial appreciation. You can’t tell me we have racial equality when characters like Raj Koothrappali and Han Lee exist on TV today. You can’t tell me these portrayals are fair, because they are clearly exaggerated. You can’t tell me it’s all just for a laugh because ethnicityour identity, our humanity – is not a joke.

You see, after we tried to gain consciousness of other ethnicities, we were so accustomed to white culture that we ignorantly labelled it as the default race. Everyone who differed was suddenly fascinating, but it wasn’t because they were interesting as a person, it was their race that dictated this. The word “ethnic” became a tag we were obsessed with attaching to people of colour, even though everyone has an ethnicity. In contrast to a “bland” white, coloured people were now received as “exotic” for their “ethnic flare”. Objectification became a tool we cruelly adopted to fit into the facade of racial awareness. For example giving rise to absurd fetishes of coloured women as piquant experiences: Latino women being “spicy” and black women being “sassy”. Our attempt to be inclusive has in fact left many exposed and robbed of their integrities.

Anonymous questioner, you don’t see me, you see my race. You’re Chinese? Help me with my algebra. Brazilian? Show me your football skills. I am not a person anymore, I am a convention, an assumption. Biased is our approach to ethnicity, allowing the objectification and exotification of people of colour by reducing them to stereotypes. Our cultural characteristics are plucked and selected only to seemingly adhere to the idea of racial appreciation, when we should be recognised as an exclusive individual. From this we can see there is clear imbalance in the way we treat each other on the matters of race. From this we can also see that the racial equality we preach, (aside from obvious inconsistencies that exist today) is not practised and contradicted on a daily basis, without our apparent knowledge.

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a little déjà vu here. Wasn’t it a few decades ago a lot of us were treating coloured people as animals? Not long ago weren’t there humiliating measures for those who did not correspond to white norms? So why is history repeating itself? I’d like to think it is just resuming. You cannot argue that we have bettered our views on race when we’ve only highlighted our differences to objectify coloured people and shun them into a corner labelled: DIFFERENT. In the same way, you cannot argue that we have racial equality when this imbalance of treatment between whites and non-whites continues to prevail today. Racial equality will occur only at the point when people of colour are celebrated for who they are rather than where they came from. What measures am I to take to attain that human right? Bleach my hair blonde? Lighten my skin? All this, just to conform to the white standard? This just sounds all too familiar.

 

Statement on the Minnesota Mosque Attack

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

And remember, when those who disbelieved plotted against you to restrain you or kill you or evict you. But they plan and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners. (Surah Al-Anfal verse 30)

We receive the news of yet another terrorist attack with a heavy heart, this time on our fellow Muslims’ dear masjid at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Minnesota, US in what seems like a never-ending string of hate violence against Muslims. These acts are arising out of blatant ignorance and sheer intolerance among those few people who refuse to coexist with others of different background and deem themselves superior to others. Acts of Islamophobia and xenophobia are becoming commonplace in the West as Western society becomes increasingly confused about where to draw the line between assimilation and the preservation of self identity and culture including the sharing of the same nationality with people of multiple different backgrounds. In these times, the Muslims must remain strong and patient, these attacks are not new to us nor have they ever been. We must reflect on the plight of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when the people of Makkah including his own family were ready to humiliate him, abuse him tremendously and call for his death. In those times the Muslims were few and weak however in the face of extreme terror, they had only responded with words of peace and of love, their full trust in Allah (SWT). They didn’t fail to back down on their mission to propagate the liberating message of Islam. It is through these steady actions and the overall mercy of Allah (SWT) that Islam and the Muslims were soon able to prosper in the Arab lands and beyond. Us Muslims living in the West should follow their example, and for every action they commit against us, we must be ready to respond with ten fold more peace, love and tolerance for our communities. It is Allah (SWT) who we ultimately place our trust in and such as He had granted victory to the first Muslims of Makkah, He is the one who saved the Muslims of Minnesota from any injury that very fateful day at the time of the Fajr prayer. We ask Allah (SWT) to protect our communities, to soften the hearts of others to our beautiful religion and invite them to Islam.

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the Earth easily, and when the ignorant address them harshly, they say words of peace. (Surah Al-Furqan verse 63)

the question of sincerity

In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

There is a very interesting story of one man who lived in the generation after the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) named Abu Nasr As-Sayyad, He was a fisherman that had very little money and his family were starving because of the lack of food. So Abu Nasr went to Ahmad bin Miskin and asked him what he should do, explaining that he really needs to feed his family. His Sheikh tells him to pray two rakaats to Allah (SWT) and to go to the ocean.

When he is there, he catches a huge fish which he then sells and later buys two plates of food for his family.

He goes back to Sheikh to give him thanks and offers one of the plates. Ahmad bin Miskeen says something very important, “O Abu Nasr As-Sayyad, had I helped you for the sake of getting any worldly benefit, the fish would have never come out, Allah (SWT) would never have put barakah in my advice and in your day. Go and feed your family”.

On his way home, he passes by a widowed woman with her child, out on the streets. They are both hungry and their eyes catch the plates of food that Abu Nasr has. Abu Nasr said, “I swear by Allah, I forgot about the hunger of my family. And I felt like Paradise came down to Earth offering herself to whoever would feed that mother and her child”. He gives them the food and returns home.

Abu Nasr goes home and he starts feeling worried and concerned about his family that are still left hungry. Suddenly there comes a knock at the door and someone yells out “Where is Abu Nasr As-Sayyad? I have come to repay my loan, I borrowed money from your father 20 years ago and I’ve been looking for him.They told me he has passed and you are the only remaining son. Here is your money back”. That night, Abu Nasr As-Sayyad becomes extremely wealthy.

After this, Abu Nasr starts donating thousands of dirhams in charity in a bid to thank Allah (SWT). However Abu Nasr says that during this time, there arose a problem. He became over confident in his good deeds and he felt like Allah (SWT) will accept them all so he started being extravagant and showing off in his donations. This meant giving more in quantity just for the people to see how rich he is and to make himself look great and merciful yet he Abu Nasr could feel in his heart, he wasn’t being sincere.

Abu Nasr had a dream one night. Yawm-ul-Qiyamah (The Day of Judgement) had begun and he was there before his scales of deeds in front of Allah (SWT) just like all the other people who had gone in masses before his turn. When it came to the weighing of his deeds, he had some bad ones but Abu Nasr was hopeful that the massive amount of charity he gave would save him. This sadaqah was put on in the scale of good deeds.

It weighed nothing. This charity had no value and no barakah. All of this came to zero because it was mixed with corrupt intentions, the intention of showing off (Riya) and it was done for the people to see and not for the true sake of Allah (SWT). Abu Nasr was left standing there in hopelessness, regret and in disappointment.

Then the Angels started asking, “Does he have anything remaining?”

They bring the two plates of food, all the way from the beginning that he gave to the starving mother and son, over his own hungry family in a merciful act of kindness. Abu Nasr cries, “What will these do for me?”

The two plates of food balance out the scales but he still needs more hasanat (good deeds).

By the will of Allah (SWT), the mother that he gave the plates of food to, her tears turn into physical objects. As does the smile on the baby’s face when the pain of his hunger was overcome. And these are put on Abu Nasr’s scales of deeds, on the side of the hasanat and the tears become like a big pond out of which a giant fish comes out and tips the scales completely. The Angels proclaim, “He made it, he made it’.

This dream startles Abu Nasr and when he wakes up, he says, “Had we done any of these deeds for any worldly benefit, the fish would never have come out”. He had learnt his lesson in what it means to do things for the sake of Allah (SWT) and the heavy price of impure intent.

The story of Abu Nasr contains an important lesson of the virtue of sincerity- something that we collectively have forgotten about whilst also distorting its meaning. Countless times, I’m sure that we have been told to, “Do things for the sake of Allah” and that, “Everything you do is for Allah”. But in all practicality what does that mean? Does it mean to turn to Allah with a lengthy intention (Niyah) before doing a good deed? There is that line of confusion in all of us when we are told these things but we know that within ourselves, Allah (SWT) is not at the forefront of our minds when we do good deeds, rather we are immediately thinking of how it positively affects another person. As an example, if you give money to a homeless person purely because you want them to have a meal that night or if you helped out with things at home because you knew your mother was tired, if these things were not done to please Allah but rather to please someone else, is this still considered for the sake of Allah?

Yes.

Because to do things for the sake of Allah (SWT) is to do them with a pure heart, with clean intentions. When Abu Nasr gave the food to the starving woman and her child, he wasn’t seeking validation or praise from anyone, he did it purely for the reason he did not want them to go hungry or to die. This clarity in intention is what saved him in the end for just these two plates of food, the mother’s tears and the child’s smile laid heavy on his scales. This is what counted as for the sake of Allah (SWT).  But all those later times he gave charity in abundance (which seems an amazing good deed) could not suffice for his salvation because of the state of mind and heart he had and that was for the people’s eyes and acclamation.

A great notion lies in this story because in our time, the youth now have social media and a greater desire for attention and validation. It is not honorary for us as Muslim youth to engage in premeditated acts of kindness for likes, views or praise. Our good deeds must be sincere, our love for others must be pure and whatever generosity or kindness that we show, must reflect a clean heart. If you look for fame and commendation from people for what you have done, you may gain it in this life but your hereafter will be reduced to nothing. To make Jannah our resting place, we need to cleanse our soul of the thoughts of which can hinder our path.

True reward is only from Allah.

social media and insensitivity

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

 

A dark age has befallen the Muslim Ummah. Intolerance, disrespect and discrimination towards the believers has become commonplace in the Western world while war, poverty, and senseless killing caused by the latter throws the East into frenzy. We have seen our sisters in hijab beaten and attacked, our sacred land of Ash Sham destroyed, Zionist oppression in our beloved Al-Quds, persecution of the Rohingya and Uighur Muslims and the fatal starvation of those in Africa caused by debt inflicted due to the usury system. It is the times like these where hope is scarce, we may be at the end of the tunnel and feel as if there there is no light. Every day we wake up to a new declaration of war and more lifeless bodies appear on our social media and newspapers.                    

The War on Palestine happened. We gathered in our thousands to condemn the Zionists. Thereafter the Syrian massacres happened. We cried as we saw children being pulled from the depths of the rubble. Then we heard of Yemen, of Burma, of the Central African Republic, Somalia, France, Belgium, Britain and recently Afghanistan, it happens all at once in an instance as the world delves into ignorance and war. It’s surreal. It’s hard to imagine, while we, the lucky ones are able to live in beautiful countries and come home to our families every night. How can we even begin to  envision F-16s dotting the sky, the sound of terror, the smell of blood while we wake up to birds and blue skies? What are we meant to do?

In this age of mass media, it’s so easy to get sidetracked into the illusion of fame and personal gain. Social media has created an outlet that in some areas can be used as a good thing to spread awareness of certain issues but at the same time when looking at the bigger picture, it has created this mirage. It has come to a point where we as Muslims, are able to easily look at and share images of our dead and bloodied brothers and sisters in the name of ‘awareness’ without feeling a drop of sympathy and empathy in our hearts. Our feeds are flooded with these hashtags and posts and in some cases we’ve distanced ourselves so much, it has become a joke. In all our helplessness, we’re able to make it our second nature to promote these heart-breaking images and videos without any second thought, to make it look like ‘activism’, to make it look like maybe we are in touch with the rest of the struggling Muslim nation. This heartlessness is in complete defiance to the mighty ayah of the Quran which tells us clearly our relationship with those in Anatolia, Sham, Yemen, Hejaz, Egypt, Gaza and elsewhere.

“The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” (49:10)

As a regular Muslim teenager, we already feel so helpless, we’re diving deeper into that abyss of ignorance by leaving everything up to our media to manipulate and mislead us. We should know that it isn’t fitting to post things just for the sake of it, to show people that we think we care. That things have gone past the age of ‘awareness’ and are waiting for action. Rather than instagram, twitter and facebook socialites, the Muslim youth should be up there as shining examples of leading global and community citizens. But what exactly does it mean to be a global citizen?

Each and every one of us are granted by Allah, a voice, intellect and strength. To find it in ourselves to utilize those qualities and to spend time on these things of benefit, we will experience a unity like no other. It’s a cliche to be told that the world can change with just one person and one good action but the truth in it still remains. The Muslim youth should be at the forefront of the community. Actions need to be taken. As Allah says about the youth and their potential

“It is We who relate to you, [O Muhammad], their story in truth. Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.” (18:13)

We, the youth, should be volunteering, organizing, fundraising, protesting speaking to members of the outside in our effort to make a change. The Youth need to free themselves from the chains of social media, of empty words and promises that are never fulfilled. We need to make ourselves heard in both this Earth but also in the Heavens.

Allah has not forgotten about us. He has not turned away from the cries of the Muslim Nation no matter what new oppressor we face nor these calamities. He Watches and Hears all things. Allah reminds us in Surah Al-Fajr when talking about the Ad, the people of Thamud and the Pharaoh who were granted extreme strength and wealth yet carried out injustice in the lands, Allah says,

“Indeed your Lord is in observation” (89:14)

This is in parallel to the oppressors and tyrants of today’s age who commit heinous war crimes under the mask of freedom, Allah is in count and Allah knows what is in the hearts of all men. For us as Muslims, we must be in this full consciousness that Allah is near and He is sufficient.

“And put thy trust in Allah, and enough is Allah as a disposer of affairs” (33:3)

This means that in all due respect to all our Muslim brothers and sisters living in these corrupted lands in fear and in war, it is better from us to make a sincere, heartfelt dua. Maybe this is where the thorn lies in our response. How many times has one been able to write paragraphs condemning deaths online, to write that they are in solidarity with our Ummah yet their hands are completely void of being raised in dua? What will a word on a screen ever help to achieve in their struggle when we could ask the One who predestines and changes the hearts and fates of men? Our culture of hollow oaths must come to an end and we must be able to turn our attention back to what is important. The trials of this world are only given and taken away by Allah so it is to Allah that we should ask for their pardon and easement and it is with Allah where our trust must lie. It is action that will change our conditions and end these trials not the use of corrupt media or fake activism as Allah says

“For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah . Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.” (13:11)

The Muslim Ummah can only stay divided if we blind our eyes and our hearts. With it being incredibly easy to fall into the cavity of feeling helpless and depressed, the Muslim youth need to be in consciousness of everything. Islam is a religion of action and if we all act collectively now and put our trust in Allah, the Muslims will win both this world and Jannah. Do not lose hope, it’s time for us all to move forward in the pursuit of Jannah.

introduction

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

This page is here to offer the various insights and perspectives surrounding the Muslim youth in areas of spirituality, mental health, society and politics.

Feel free to like, comment and share, your feedback and interaction is greatly appreciated.

-Hanifa ♥