Monday, May 31, 2010

The Masjid- A Place of true love

I always knew that the function of going to the Masjid was more than just for prayer, but recently I was reminded of that once again.

The truth is that I don’t often go to the Masjid to perform my prayers, I usually perform them at home. The Masjid nearby me does not have a place for women to pray and to be honest, if it did, I don’t know if I would actually be a regular attendee, or if laziness would have overcome me and kept me at home anyway, Allah knows best.

In any case, recently I was performing my zuhr salaah at the Masjid and a fellow Muslim sister who came to stand next to me reminded me of the deeper function of the Masjid. The sister seemed to have a cold and because she was coughing aloud she turned to me and apologised. As I looked at her to tell her that it really didn’t matter and that she was not disturbing me at all, something strange overcame me. I felt a love in my heart, for my fellow Muslim sister, who I had never met before this day, someone I would probably never see again.

As we stood there side by side, going down together, bowing to our Lord Allah, in unison, it dawned on me that we were exactly the same, at that moment, our hearts united by our belief, our fingers moving the same way as we counted the amount of times we recited dhikr, we were one and the same, there was no difference at all. All that mattered was that we were Muslim sisters, and this is what had led me to feel love and compassion for this woman who I had met for the very first time.

Now what if we were praying together every day, in the same Masjid, 5 times a day, wouldn’t that unite us far more than this? Wouldn’t the love between sisters be far deeper then? Wouldn’t the compassion be more genuine, more heartfelt, and wouldn’t the need to support and help one another be more profound?

My Muslims sister greeted me warmly as we were leaving the Masjid, she made a small prayer for me in her greeting and we parted ways, we’ll probably never see each other again, but this momentary unity of our hearts will live on in the lesson it teaches.

It is even more clear to me now that the Masjid is above anything else a place of connection, not only do we connect with our Creator, but through the mercy of Allah (SWT) do we connect with one another as well, in a way that we cannot connect in any other setting or circumstance. Through our common belief are we united with people who we may never have associated with otherwise. It doesn't matter what our cultures or backgrounds are, what our interests or occupations are, what our status in society may be, at the Masjid we are all exactly the same and when all the superficialities of life are absent, then we are shown true love!

May Allah increase the love between Muslims insha'Allah Ameen.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

How it feels to be an outsider

Here's another article a friend of mine sent to me about a Non-Muslim trying to figure out what it's like for Muslim women. This one is from Australia. It's interesting to see how people's opinions begin to change once they actually know what it feels like. Insha'Allah more people will begin to open their minds and go in search of real truth instead of blindly believing all that they are told. In these times when things are becoming increasingly difficult for Muslim women May Allah give all Muslims strength Insha'Allah.

This reminds me of a lecture by Sheikh Khalid Yasin entitled 'The strangers', if you haven't seen it you should check it out, its availabale for free download on Alhamdulila this is a beautiful lecture which talks about how Muslims are different and this woman referring to Muslims as "outsiders" just reminded me of that.
How it feels to be an outsider


TO walk around Perth dressed as a Muslim is to be treated as an outsider in your own town.In a week of allegations that Muslims were plotting a terrorist attack in Australia, I donned full Islamic garb and walked through the city to gauge public reaction.

Would people see me as a harmless shopper, or would they suspect I was hiding a bomb under my clothes?

My mission was to test tolerance towards Muslims by dressing as one for the day. I had the full support of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, whose president, Ameer Ali, viewed it as a chance to highlight some of the issues faced by Australia's Muslims. I visited shops and cafes in Forrest Chase, Northbridge and Hay St Mall, before catching a bus and train. I was surprised at how accepting younger people were, suggesting that Perth may be able to shrug off racism. But I wasn't prepared for the hostility from older Australians. The first cheap shot came from an elderly woman walking through Forrest Chase. "Stupid woman," she hissed at her mate as they passed me. Later, as I was waiting at the crosswalk outside Perth railway station, a woman in her 60s saw me standing beside her and said to her companion: "Move away from the bomber."

With the help of Perth's Muslim community, I was fitted in black trousers, a long black dress called an abaya, a headscarf (hijab) and a facepiece (niqab). My eyes were the only visible part of my body. I chose the facepiece because I wanted to test its impact on others, but my Muslim adviser told me it was up to individuals to decide whether they wore just a headscarf or covered their entire face. My senses were on high alert the minute I stepped out of The Sunday Times building. Most people did a double take on seeing me and then either gave me a hostile stare or – in the case of several young women – smiled encouragingly. It soon became obvious that many people thought I was dressed this way as an act of defiance. In their view, I was snubbing my nose at the anti-Muslim feeling said to be running high in the Australian community. I had heard of Muslim women being spat at and abused. One woman even had her headscarf torn from her head at Carousel Shopping Centre. In the morning, I was accompanied by a Muslim woman wearing the headscarf, but not the facepiece that I wore. In our two hours of walking around the city we were twice subjected to vilification. "Imagine how this must affect you if it happened every time you left your house," she said. It was then I realised how much we take for granted our right to feel safe in our own community and how people take only seconds to decide if you are friend or enemy. But for every snide remark and hostile stare, I was surprised by the extra respect I was shown by young men and women. Every shopkeeper I approached was much more polite than I had experienced when dressed in my usual clothes. And on a train, where I feared I might be regarded as a suicide bomber, I was twice offered a seat. It was a similar story on a bus, which was standing room only. By this stage I had removed the niqab so that my face was showing – but nothing else. This seemed to ease some of the tension I had sensed earlier in the day.

Back at the office, workmates asked me how uncomfortable I had been walking around Perth in my Muslim clothes.

The icy stares on the street had forced me for the first time in my life to be wary of anyone who came near me.

Of all the garments I wore, the facepiece caused the most discomfort. With it positioned just under my eyes, I found it difficult to look straight down. It also made drinking a juice in a city cafe a challenge. On the plus side, I found being hidden under all those garments surprisingly liberating. For the first time I was able to walk down the street without the usual scrutiny of my figure, face and hair. (emphasis added by Zarina) On the downside, dressing as a Muslim woman showed me how it feels to leave home every day unsure of your own safety.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Story Of A Finnish Journalist Experimenting With The Veil

Someone sent this story to me as an e-mail and I decided to post it here because it is so relevant and very interesting. Just goes to show that if people truly find out for themselves what its like to wear the niqab and abaya, their perceptions will not be so negative and they will gain a proper understanding. May Allah Almighty guide us all towards the real truth. Insha'Allah

Jamadi-ul-Awwal 28, 1431 A.H, Thursday, May 13, 2010

The sight of a woman wearing an entirely black abaya dress complete with its veil became the center of attention in the Itäkeskus mall in Helsinki , the biggest city in Finland . No one knew that the person behind the niqab was not a true Muslim woman, but a journalist, a non-Muslim from the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, one of the leading newspaper in the Scandinavian region.

The name of the journalist is Katja Kuokkanen. She purposely disguised herself as a Muslim woman because she wanted to feel herself how it is like to wear the Islamic clothing's complete with its veil in the midst of the society in Finland which is still foreign to Islam, how does it feel to be stared at with a strange and terrified gaze from the people around her.

Kuokkanen wrote about her experience and feelings during and after she put on the niqab.

This is what she wrote…

The black niqab made from chiffon material sometimes dropped and covered both of my eyes. At one time, I tripped and hit the shoulder of a guy in an ethnic goods store. The man gesticulated apologetically - in the usual slightly absent manner.

Then, he looked at me and realized that I am a woman dressed in a black abaya-niqab, the dress specific to Muslim women. Suddenly, the man nearly bowed and renewed the apology. I think he is an Arab, through the dialect when asking for the apology. I had never been regarded with such great respect before.

From the ethnic store, I headed for the Metro station. When I got onto an orange metro car, I received an unexpected reaction. A drunken man shouted to his three equally wasted friends in the crowded carriage:

“Hey, that is one hell of a sight!” the drunken man yelled.

Hearing that scream, the other passengers skillfully avoided looking at my veiled face. But suddenly a middle-aged woman said to me, “hey, you dropped your thing,” while giving me my hairpin that had dropped on the seat behind me. I could not say thank you to the woman as I could not decide whether I could speak Finnish and blow my cover.

Next, a young Somali girl who worked as a shopkeeper, helped me fix my veil. She said that it was unusual for a Muslim woman in Helsinki to wear the dress like I was wearing. The Somalian girl also said that she, as much as possible, tried to abstain from wearing an all black clothing. She considered the color black as dramatic, attracting a lot of attention. Cheerful multi-coloured scarves are better, she said, adding that in Finland Muslim women are allowed to decide themselves how much of their face they want to cover.

And at the Itäkeskus mall, I noticed many people staring at me with a strange or even frightened look. A young man with a can of cider in his hand loomed up from behind a column and almost spilled his drink in panic.

I began to get myself used to wearing the abaya and veil. I myself begin to get used to the garment. It was light and yet warm, though it was difficult to see properly from behind the veil sometimes.

Then, I decided to drop in to a flea market located in the car park on the roof of the adjacent Puhos mall. On the Turunlinnantie pedestrian crossing, I suddenly met an elderly Somali woman who says in a quiet voice: “As-Salamu Alaykum”, an Arabic greeting used by Muslims which means “Peace be upon you”. I was touched by her greeting. I do not usually have any contact with Muslim women. The same is repeated many times: Muslim women of different ages and from different ethnic origin wearing various styles of niqab greeted me using words that I do not understand at that time, but I eventually found out that the utterance consists a prayer for prosperity and safety.

Later on, another man was hanging out at the door of an ethnic store and shouting: “Hello! Hey! Wait!” I did not wait. I felt that a fully-covered Muslim woman would not respond to such a call as she always look after her honor very much.

Some hours later, I decided to take the Metro back into town, to the downtown Kamppi Center .

Usually I have to run away from eager cosmetologists or hair stylists who are badgering me with their sales pitch at the mall. Not this time. If you are wearing an abaya-niqab, you are left in peace.

Along the course, the journalist was reflecting on her experience throughout the day, on the reactions of the people towards the abaya and veil that she donned and she herself felt that wearing the abaya and veil was not as bad as many people think. She then without hesitation affirmed that wearing the abaya and veil, “is absolutely not bad at all. If you wear it you would feel peace.”

This story becomes an irony at a time when the European countries are racing towards banning the jilbab and niqab. Those who are imposing the restriction should be reading this story of the journalist from Helsinki , so that there should no policy of prohibiting the jilbab or niqab, which originally was imposed due to the Islamophobia attitude of the western society.

Submitted by a Mujahid

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Celebration of beauty?

The world is a buzz, once again with a woman at the centre of the sensationalism. The recently crowned Miss USA 2010 is being hailed as the “first Muslim Miss USA” and many people regard this as a victory. I will not go into the contradictions that this involves; the implications are obvious enough to have many eye brows raised. The whole idea of a beauty pageant in itself is ridiculously exploitative, and instead of celebrate a woman’s beauty, it turns her into this object of adoration and lust. Below all the glitz and glamour, how many people really take ‘beauty queens’ seriously? But that’s not a concern here; most people already understand the absurdity of beauty pageants.

This has got me thinking though, at this point and time in life, amidst the banning of the niqab and burqa in more than one European country; I don’t believe it is a coincidence that this woman with Arab- Lebanese roots becomes crowned as Miss USA.

The sad thing is that once again a woman has being used in the game of politics, and it’s even sadder that she is oblivious to this, happily smiling waving and jumping for joy , celebrating her title as a beauty queen. Crowning this Arab woman as Miss USA, is telling the world, ‘hey look, she’s a Muslim, and she’s liberated, beautiful and sexy”, and the point this is making is basically, “you see, Muslim women don’t need to cover up their beauty, it can also be celebrated”. Really, think about it, why else would they make such a big deal of this?

It plays well within the current political climate doesn’t it? While they’re plotting and planning, banning the veil and burqa, fining women for dressing how they want to (which is blatantly preposterous and nobody does anything about it), here emerges the first Muslim Miss USA, and she definitely isn’t wearing any burqa, veil or even headscarf. So what this does is strengthen their argument against the veil, seemingly making it as if religion has nothing to do with the veil and someone can be a Muslim without all that “covering up”.

Using women for bigger agenda’s is not something new. If you study historical events you will see that this is commonplace. Women are always regarded as weaker human beings who can be exploited and used in many ways to get men to succumb. In this case, it’s just being candy coated so it looks good on the outside and nobody will question it.

So for those people who see this as evidence that America is definitely “the land of the free”, where people of all faiths are embraced and where diversity is celebrated in all spheres, even beauty pageants, I urge you to think again. In my opinion this is nothing more but a socio-political tactic, a woman once again being used as a pawn in the great game. It’s really saddening to see that in so-called modern times, such archaic methods are still being employed.

Nevertheless, there are those people who have not been fooled by the deception and illusion that we are currently being fed; those that can see through the hidden agendas and who wishes not to celebrate false victories. Those who understand real truth and real beauty will understand exactly what I’m trying to say here.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In dedication to a woman of paradise- Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her)

A history of great female role models
Perfect examples, the best of characters
And exceptional morals
A legacy for us all to follow

One such great lady was Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her)
Dearly beloved by her Blessed father (Peace be upon him)
A wonderful daughter, wife and mother
A woman of such high calibre

She has taught us about true beauty
And has shed light on reality
The epitome of modesty
In paradise will she receive her bounty

She willingly gave up worldly pleasures
So that she could have eternal treasures
A model of simplicity and utmost patience
No other woman can reach such high stations

No servants did she have to wait on her
To do her own housework she’d prefer
She put others needs above her own
Unselfishly giving and caring, with limits unknown

Oh Fatima, how could we dare to forget your example
You are a light in all of the darkness
What other way is better than the one you’ve shown
Why is it that your life is not better known?

Studying your life will bring us peace
It will help us to solve things with ease
Knowing your beauty will give us strength
Our love for you should have no length!

May Allah shower his blessings and peace on our beloved Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An educated Muslim woman?

I had a strange encounter last week which got me thinking about things. As I was walking towards our weekly ladies workshop session with a box of savoury goodies (it was almost tea time), a man who was sweeping stopped me and asked what was in the boxes. I explained to him that it was snacks for the ladies in our workshop. The exchange between us was short and simple, to the point, a common, everyday encounter. Then as I was walking away he asked me an odd question. “How come you speak English so well?” I looked at the man very confused because as a South African citizen, English is my first language. Although there are 11 official languages, I unfortunately only speak 2 of them, the other being Afrikaans. So I mumbled some stupid response like, “uhm, English is my home language, I’m from South Africa”, thinking that maybe the man thought I was from another country because I am Muslim. But, then he said, “well, you must be very educated”.

Okay, so how did he come to that conclusion from our simple exchange, really the reply I gave him was simple, I did not use complicated words or anything like that, and most Muslim women I know, whether they are educated or not speak English the same as I do. This got me thinking, what do people really think when it comes to Muslim women and education. Do they think that we lack knowledge and that we are not even able to have a simple everyday conversation? Perhaps this was not the case with the man in question, if I had more time I probably would have asked him what his reasoning was and so on. Generally though, what do people really think about Muslim women and is it that strange to see a Muslim woman who is educated?

It seems to me that people have the wrong idea about education, at least here in South Africa that is the case within the Muslim community. There’s a clear divide between what is called “secular” education and “religious” education which never quite made sense to me since all knowledge comes from Allah. But this divide goes back to the way in which people treat education. You see, for many people, education is equated with monetary gain, a formal job, the corporate persona and so on. So it’s strange to see a Muslim women, dressed in hijab and a cloak, working in the community, who is educated, because it’s more common for university graduates to be out in the workplace, fitting in with the modern, urban lifestyle.

Maybe this is why so many Muslims regard education as something that is not for Muslim women. Perhaps people believe that religion and formal education cannot go together. Of course at this point I’m thinking about how unnecessary and utterly absurd all of this is. I mean, in the time of the Prophet (SAW) women were extremely educated and yet they were the perfect Muslim female role models as well. Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) had knowledge in all areas, her knowledge was not restricted to what is regarded today as “religious knowledge”. The same applied to the Prophet’s daughter Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her) and in fact with many of the women of that time. Yet, today it’s strange to find an educated Muslim woman who wants to strive to excel in her formal studies and at the same time wants to strive to be the best Muslimah that she can be.

Alhamdulila, this complete split between what is regarded strictly as religious knowledge and all other knowledge is slowly beginning to change and there are many people, especially young Muslim women who are realizing that they can be educated and still use that education to enhance their own lives as well as the general Muslim community. Hopefully soon the idea of having an educated Muslim woman will cease to be something strange and come to be accepted as a norm.

Image from: