Saturday, February 27, 2010

Women who help

My first real counselling job was at an Islamic counselling centre in the heart of Johannesburg. This was also the first time that I got to associate with a large group of Muslim women. The experience was one I will never forget. The centre was run only by women, the Director was a woman, the staff members were women and all the volunteers, about 20 of them were women. Perhaps there is nothing remarkable about this, but for me, being someone who did not previously associate with that many Muslim women, it was very inspiring.

Now, I had volunteered at the Campus counselling centre while I was still at university, so I knew a little bit about volunteering, but these women took volunteering to another level! I was definitely not prepared for their dedication and commitment to what they were doing. Each volunteer would come in to the centre once a week on a specified day, and believe it or not, the woman assigned to a certain day would be there, every single week; and when she could not be there she would change days with another volunteer or make some other plan. Besides this, these women always attended meetings, were always there for training sessions, and really enjoyed the social events held by the centre.

The interesting thing was that their commitment and dedication was closely linked to their Islamic identity. These women regarded it as a duty to be helping their fellow Muslims and a form of Ibaadat (worship) and so within this framework, their dedication was completely understandable.

Since then I have had the privilege of meeting and working with many other Muslim women, who selflessly dedicate their time to others, purely for the love of Allah, and still whenever I see this, I am inspired. These types of women inspired me to do my Psychology Master’s Thesis on Muslim women’s groups and whether they empower women within the South African context. The results were interesting, and I was not really surprised when it was revealed that Muslim women do not really fit the Western idea of a truly empowered individual. You see, I think it may have been sad if they had, because this Western idea of empowerment seems to be a very selfish idea, one that focuses on individualism, teaching people that they are more important than anyone else, and this idea does not fit in with the Islamic idea that reminds us that others are just as important as ourselves and that we all have a duty towards each other. No, individual empowerment according to the Western ideal would be undermining the true worth of these selfless and amazing women, who have realized a long time ago that when they help others, (in whatever way they possibly can, whether it’s by giving out sandwiches to the poor waiting in long hospital queues in Johannesburg’s overcrowded public hospitals, or through counselling or teaching and guiding others, or even if it’s just through making an old person happy), when they help others, their own lives become more fulfilled and their connection with Allah becomes stronger.

I will say once again that I feel privileged to have met many such women and the lessons I have learnt from them are invaluable to me. This is the true nature of many Muslim women, selfless, caring, enterprising, dynamic, helpful and dedicated, all for the pleasure of Allah!

May they be rewarded eternally Inshallah Ameen!
Image from:

The poem below is based on my admiration of these women and the inspiration they have given me- so to my Amazing Muslim Sisters- This one's for you!

A Special Kind of Person

There’s a special kind of person,
that’s high above the rest,
for a very simple reason,
and it’s, for others they want the best!

This special kind of person,
cares not about herself,
but wants to share with others,
all the good things of this life.

This special kind of person,
who gives from deep within,
and who’s not afraid to share,
as she is filled with love and care!

This special kind of person,
who opens up her heart,
and who welcomes everyone in,
right from the start.

Now, this special kind of person,
never knows that she is special,
and so it is for us to tell her,
just how much she means to all.

We thank you very much,
for this special kind of person that you are,
and want to tell you truly,
that in our eyes you are a real star!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Dedication to Our Great Mother- Ayesha (May Allah Be Please with her)

She surpassed them all in knowledge,
What she learnt was not from any College.
She had the Best of Teachers,
The one favoured by Allah above all creatures.

Her knowledge was not restricted,
Religion, medicine, poetry, were some of her areas of expertise,
She had patience when afflicted,
When people slandered her she was given divine ease.

She was so ready to defend,
The religion of truth to the very end;
She could not be deterred,
Once her mind was made up, her conviction could not be stirred!

The epitome of bravery,
Very, very far from oppression and slavery;
She stood for honour and truth,
Always ready to cite what she knew of hadeeth.

She relayed what she had heard from the Prophet (SAW),
In plain and simple terms, without any effort;
Her memory was excellent,
And in faith and courage did she never wilt.

This headstrong lady is our legacy,
A true Mother of the Faithful Believers,
Her life goes down in history,
An excellent role model, one of the Best Achievers!

Her piety and fear of Allah was so strong,
Even though she hardly committed any wrong,
At times she wished that she was like a tree,
In Paradise she wanted to be!

She was afraid to account for her deeds,
Because she feared what would await her,
To Allah she was so near,
And yet she cried and worried about what her fate would be.

People spread many lies about her,
But we Muslims hold her very dear,
She was very beloved by the Prophet (SAW),
And all that they say is just truth distorted!

The truth of the matter is simple and clear,
Oh! If we could even come near,
If we were only a little bit like her,
We’d be filled with true beauty and honour!

Oh, Ayesha, May Allah be pleased with her,
Our beloved and dear mother,
Oh, faithful and honoured believer,
We will always remember your fervour!

Your example we will try hard to emulate,
We’ll teach it to our sisters and daughters,
We’ll completely ignore those who speculate,
And we will use your life story to enlighten ours!

May Allah (SWT) guide us all on our journey of life and make it easy for us to practise the example of this beautiful lady, Insha’Allah Ameen!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Evolution of a headscarf

I look at myself in the mirror, long hair falling down, over my shoulders. I know I’m supposed to be covering this beauty of mine, but somehow the headscarf just doesn’t seem to have a place on my head, at least not right now anyway, maybe one day, a long time from now, but definitely not now!

At least I’m wearing it in the evening. I’ve been told that there are many harmful things out there and the headscarf serves as protection. It’s not tied very tightly though, it’s almost falling off my head.’s off again; this piece of cloth just doesn’t seem to stick!

The Holy Qur’aan is being recited beautifully. The angels will not come near if a woman’s hair is uncovered. The headscarf finds its way back on; hair completely covered on this occasion.

I’m growing up now, a young woman of about 18 or 19. I know it’s really time that I don the headscarf, a guilty feeling brewing inside. Today I decide to take it with me; it’s hiding comfortably inside my handbag. A beautifully coloured one it is, a thin fabric with a patterned look, pieces of the fabric cut out to make it look fashionable. I try to take it out and put it on, who knows, it may even look very pretty, and it’s not really like a real headscarf, this is more like a fashion accessory. It stays inside the handbag though, stubborn and shy it remains!

My mum just returned from Hajj (Pilgrimage). She brought me back a stunning long, black headscarf. The gold trimming around it shines brightly and beautifully. This may just be The One! I wear it for a short while; it sits loosely on my head for a brief time. Then it elegantly slides down and rests on my neck, draping around my shoulders.

I’ve heard wonderful news! I’ve been favoured with an amazing gift- I’ve been chosen to go for Hajj. The most amazing experience of my life this is. My hair completely covered for a full 7 weeks.

I’m back at home now; I feel that the blessings of Hajj still remain with me. The most important blessing- the headscarf seems to be stuck on me! A square cotton one; folded in half to make a triangle. It’s comfortable and cool, tied up with a safety pin.

The headscarf on occasion seems to protest, a little bit of the front of my hair becomes revealed. Aha! I find the solution very quickly; soft lovely coloured head caps to wear underneath.

I look at other women around me. One particular lady wears a long headscarf; draped beautifully around her head, falling down her shoulders and covering her breasts. It makes her look so pretty-Masha’Allah. This headscarf seems to make her radiate. I wonder how difficult it is to wear a headscarf that way; it seems to take her very long. ‘It’s very easy’, she tells me; ‘I’ll show you how to do it sometime’; ‘you’ll see, it’s really not that hard at all’.

She was right; it wasn’t that difficult after all. It took me a while to get used to, but it’s slowly becoming second nature. I never knew that wearing a headscarf could be this much fun, choosing different styles and coloured ones.

Today I look inside the mirror, my soft, long, two-toned headscarf draped twice around my head. Not a strand of my hair is showing. The hair remains neatly in place, headscarf finally sitting still. It’s found its place of belonging here, remaining steadfast on my head. I cannot do without it, leaving the house without it would be impossible! I do not see my long, brown hair, but I feel more beautiful than I ever did!

Who knows where we’ll go from here, but I sure do hope we never part! I have come to love my headscarf, and can’t imagine myself without it. I can’t imagine how I’d feel- lost, naked and exposed, perhaps. No way, I’m not doing without it, I always need to have it with me- to help protect and cover me! The journey’s been quite a long one, and I don’t know why I resisted to begin with, but if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt-it’s never, ever to think that anything right, and prescribed by Allah Almighty will be too difficult to attempt.

Allah can create ease even in the most difficult of things!

Image below from: 
May Allah guide us all Insha’Allah!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kindness to Women

                                “Be kind to your women,” did he (SAW) advise,
This uttered over and over, by the Prophet most wise,
In his (SAW) final words men were reminded,
And there is no one that surpassed him (SAW) in kindness!

Respect to the mother, three times was uttered,
Vulgar and harsh words to women he (SAW) never muttered,
Hitting and swearing did not even feature,
The best example we have, from Allah’s most beloved creature!

The status of women so quickly elevated,
Through the mercy of the One who Created.
With the simple and pure religion of Islam,
Women were protected from all harm.

Those daughters who used to be buried alive,
Became our great mothers,
For Islam only did they strive,
And the light from their lives has now spread to all quarters.

The Prophet (SAW) it was who consulted his wives,
Sharing all areas of their sacred lives,
He (SAW) listened to what that they had to say,
What wisdom there is in following his (SAW) way!

“Your wife is a mercy from Allah”,
These were the words of the wise Khalifa (Omar R.A.),
Who told men that wives were protection,
As they help to keep men away from sin.

So, respect and kindness to women is emphasized,
And the extent of their honour has many surprised,
For the truth of the matter is simply put,
Treat women with kindness if righteousness is your pursuit!

(image from

Friday, February 19, 2010

So...what’s it really like to be a Muslim woman?

The media seems to know, all types of books from novels, to academic books claim to fact, now that I think of it, it seems everyone these days knows what’s it like to be a Muslim woman!

We’ve heard it all, all the opinions, the theories, discussions and discourses, the comments about Muslim women. What we don’t hear often enough though is what a Muslim woman thinks it’s like to be a Muslim woman. Ironic, isn’t it?

It can become extremely frustrating listening to these people. I can’t help thinking, ‘Oh gosh! Not another person who doesn’t have a clue what it’s like to be a Muslim woman, talking about Muslim woman’. I mean, seriously, could you imagine what it would be like if I went around talking about, I don’t know, say, what it’s like to be a European male, when I have absolutely no idea what it’s like at all. It would be ridiculous right? People would question what makes me an expert in the field and they would undoubtedly argue that I cannot possibly know what it’s like to be a European male.

So why the double standard when it comes to talking about Muslim women?

Yes, sure it can be argued that research has been done on the issue and thus people are given leeway to talk. I have to agree that there is some research that is accurate, but surely every person talking about Muslim woman today has not taken the time to make an intense inquiry and rigorous examination into this topic before talking about it. It would be impossible for every person to do this given the fact that it’s extremely time consuming, costs quite a bit of money and requires the proper expertise.

So, does the saleslady in the shop who had to mention to my sister how sorry she feels for Muslim women wearing the headscarf, all the while abusing the word “shame”, qualify to make statements about us? Or, do the group of men who had to comment on my friends complete Islamic attire as we walked passed them in the shopping centre qualify to make statements about us? Have these people dedicated time to learning about the lives of Muslim women by spending time with us, or have they even just bothered to ask us our opinion? I think not!

So, what’s it really like to be a Muslim woman? Well, for starters, it’s really frustrating that we have to hear everyone and anyone talking about us like they’re experts in the field. What’s more frustrating is that they’ve got it all wrong! And it’s irritating that they hardly ever come to us to ask us what we think or how we feel, instead they’ve just taken it upon themselves to “liberate” us, when we don’t even want the “liberation” they’re offering. And, while we have come to love the way we dress because this makes us feel closer to our Creator, they’ve decided to take up issue with it, expecting it to be natural for us to want to shed the clothing that we’ve come to love. And what’s worse is that even when we try to speak to them, when we try to show them that we are educated and intelligent and perfectly capable of engaging in conversation with them, they turn their backs on us, and hear only what they want to!

So, I think it’s time we speak for ourselves, and so I’m saying with absolute conviction (and I promise you, no male oppressor is holding a gun to my head forcing me to say positive things about being Muslim), - so on my own accord I’m stating that I absolutely love being a Muslim woman! I love the clothes I have chosen to wear and when I go out in the street it makes me feel good to know that I don’t have to bother about males staring at me in the wrong way. I love the headscarf covering my hair, and I enjoy choosing which colour I’m going to wear with which outfit. I love that my religion, Islam, has afforded me enough respect and honour to insist that I be treated as a human being, and not an object of male desire. I love that people address me with respect, Muslims as their sister and non-Muslims as a virtuous woman. I love that I don’t have to go out and work because the males in my family know that it’s their duty to provide for me; at the same time, I love that I can go out and work because as a Muslim woman I am respectful of myself and others and I will thus behave in a fitting manner. I love that as a Muslim I am encouraged to gain knowledge in all areas as far as I possibly can. There are many things that I love about being a Muslim woman, but the thing I love the most is that owning up to my identity as a Muslim woman has brought me closer to my Creator, and in that way I am beginning to learn what true love is all about.

www.hickerphoto.comAdmitting that I am a Muslim woman, a Muslim woman in this time when all eyes are on us, makes me feel happy because being a Muslim woman is really not about dressing in a certain manner, or staying indoors, or whatever else people have reduced it to. Being a Muslim woman is about being a whole person, a person who can find harmony between her spiritual and physical self, a person who knows that her intellect is as important as her outside beauty. I have not chosen to be a Muslim woman, I was fortunate enough to be born a Muslimah, but I have chosen to assert my identity as a Muslim woman, and if I was to choose again, I’d make the same choice, over and over and over again, because being a Muslim woman is simply marvellous and anyone who disagrees with me has either not understood Islam properly, or have been unfortunate enough to be around people who have not understood Islam properly.

So, there it is- a simple answer to what has seemingly become a very complicated question. What’s it really like to be a Muslim woman? ... In one word- It’s Great! (Alhamdulila- Thanks to Allah)

If you really want to see how it’s possible for me to say this, then keep reading this blog, I pray that eventually you begin to understand!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Coming Soon

This blog hopes to expose the truth about Muslim women, not the media's version of the truth, but the actual truth of what Muslim women are really like, from a Muslimah's experiences and perspectives.