Exploring Allah’s 99 Names: Ar-Raqeeb

One of the common attributes we often learn about Allah (SWT) is that He is always watching us and what we do every second. One of His 99 Names is Ar-Raqeeb – the One that is All-Observant. However, there is more depth to the meaning of this name that we sometimes can easily overlook.

Allah (SWT) is watching us constantly – so should we feel a sense of nervousness or unease? Definitely not. His watchfulness and observation comes from His ultimate care. I imagine it must be similar to how we look out for those we care most about and love. Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali reiterates that the All-Observant “is one who knows and protects. For whoever cares for something to the point of never forgetting it, and observes it with a constant and persistent gaze.” Honestly, what better protector than Allah (SWT)?

I always remember this one story my mom would tell my siblings and me while we drove to Sunday school about how there is no hiding from Allah (SWT). The story was about three children during Ramadan and their mother was testing them in a way and told them that they were allowed to eat during Ramadan if no one was around to see it. One child ended up saying something along the lines of; there is nowhere in this universe we can go that is hidden from Allah (SWT) as He is watching over us and never tires of observing us.

I also think about this one ayah from Surah Ali Imran a lot:

…and you were on the brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it. [Quran 3:103]

I reflect upon this ayah often in terms of Allah (SWT) guiding us back to His path when we have been so lost in this dunya. I also think about this ayah in relation to my personal affairs. During times where I wanted something so bad and was sure it would be mine and would bring me endless happiness, I was then taken away from it. It was removed from my life entirely, leaving me absolutely shattered, confused, and in a deep moment of sadness. However, then I think about Allah (SWT) and how He is observant over my heart and of others, and He knows what lies in the unseen. Perhaps if I had gone through with continuing relations with someone that I thought was meant for me, I would be in constant turmoil and distress for numerous reasons that I would not be able to see for myself. I would be more miserable and possibly would have lost myself had I gotten “my way.” He saved me when I was at the edge of ruining myself, at the brink of a pit of fire because He is Al-Aleem – All-Knowing, Al-Basir – All-Seeing, Al-Wali – The Protector, and Ar-Raqeeb – All-Observant in ways incomprehensible.

Through this name we can feel immense comfort that we are never truly alone and Allah (SWT) is with us and watching, observing our affairs, and protecting us with His divine protection. Internalizing and reflecting upon this name and the true meaning behind us will bring us closer to ihsan – the highest level of spirituality, true excellence. May Allah (SWT) make us people that achieve excellence. Ameen.

China Is Still Actively Committing Genocide Against Uyghur Muslims

There is literally a genocide happening in China right now and has been for over a year. No, unfortunately this is not a click-bait one liner to get you hooked in to read this article. You may have already heard about what is happening to Uyghur Muslims in China, but it is far from over.

For several years now, prominent news outlets such as The New York Times and The Guardian have been reporting on the oppression and surveillance of about 11 million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, in addition to other Muslims in the region. So much of this reporting almost sounded so out of bound and unreal that many people ended up dismissing it as false news and that it truly wasn’t happening. However, investigative journalism, which is a form of journalism where reporters deeply dive into a single topic for months and even years prior to releasing a report, has proven all allegations to be reality. Through this type of journalism as well as social media, images and stories have been revealed showing the truth of what is currently happening to Uyghur Muslims – from internment camps disguised under “re-education camps,” to torture, mass rape, destruction of mosques and other extreme violations of human rights. China is literally treating Islam as a “mental illness.”

I sit here in New York and ponder at these atrocities and what we are doing as an ummah to change our condition. It’s a lot, it seems like the suffering of Muslims and minority groups in general, globally is only increasing and it makes me feel really helpless and sometimes selfish even. However, these are normal feelings to have, but we cannot allow this idleness to be our only state.

In the case of the genocide of Uyghur Muslims, it is extremely difficult to help because we cannot even donate properly to help due to the restrictions the Chinese government has put in place in regards to contact with other nations. That is why I am writing this piece, because we need to continuously raise awareness.

Signing this petition can help as it will reach politicians to demand them to condemn these violations of human rights. A lot of times social media is used as a tool to spread hate, but let’s use it to our advantage and spread awareness wherever we can instead. Sharing and speaking up in our direct communities, especially to those who have access to the larger public such as imams and religious leaders can have an effect. In addition to all of these acts, let us also take time to reflect on our individual condition during this continuously chaotic life. How can we become better Muslims for the sake of other Muslims? Although China has put extreme restrictions on any help towards the Uyghur Muslims, they cannot ever stop us from making dua for them. What we do on an individual level as Muslims daily, effects the entire ummah – as the hadith goes,

“This ummah is like one body, if one part is hurt then the whole body suffers.” – Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

It is very concerning that many Muslim majority countries are remaining completely silent and turning a blind eye to what is happening in China. In July 2019, the UN Human Rights Council penned a letter condemning China for its oppression of the minorities in Xinjiang. It was signed by 22 countries, including the UK, Canada, Japan and Spain. However, not a single Muslim country signed it. During a time where millions around the globe are deprived of the most basic human dignity, it really is up to us to be a voice for the oppressed and not remain silent towards such injustices.

Make the Most Out of a Quarantined Eid

We’re all gearing up for a very different, but special Eid this year. We hope that everyone truly does stick to proper social distancing procedures. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still make this the best Eid yet! Here are some ways to keep the spirit of this time alive, but still follow social distancing guidelines:

1) Pray your Eid salah in the morning, wear your best clothes, and eat something sweet (preferably a date)

2) Still take your Eid selfies! It’s important to keep as many of our regular Eid traditions as much as we can.

3) Treat yourself & your fam! Don’t forget to do your mandatory Eid Starbucks / Dunkin runs.

4) Have a picnic with your family in a park. Be sure to wear masks & stay safe.

5) Take a nice scenic drive of walk, wherever you are

6) Facetime with family members & friends you can’t be with this Eid + have a little virtual Eid meal together

7) Take time for yourself & reflect on the blessings that this Ramadan has brought and make dua!

Most importantly, remember that this is a day that Allah (SWT) has given us & blessed us with and we should honor it in the best ways we can. Wherever you are, even if you are spending this Eid alone, know that you are very much loved & deserve to have a relaxing, beautiful day for yourself. Eid Mubarak!

 

8 Ways To Make The Most Out Of Ramadan On Your Period

Let’s be real – knowing that your period is approaching during Ramadan can cause some sliiight worry/sadness (or at least it does for me). Not going to lie, it’s nice to be able to get a break from physically fasting, but I always get a bit down and feel disconnected even when I’m not able to fast. I tend to feel like the days that I’m on my period during Ramadan, are just passing me by and there’s nothing I can do about it, I inevitably feel left out.

However, there are still SO many ways for us to feel connected to this blessed month even on our periods, even during a time when our masjids are closed. Here’s a quick little list to help you keep that momentum going & remember that there is barakah in so many different acts we do, especially during this holy month.

1. Listen to Qur’an recitations

Here’s a link to one of my favorite reciters with many different Surahs included. I like to color or clean while listening to Qur’an too – it can be super cathartic.

2. Increase your dhikr (remembrance of Allah)

Use the time that you normally would to pray, for dhikr.

3. Help prepare iftar

This one’s a given, and I’m sure most of us already do help with iftar, but now’s a great time to use your energy & try out any cool new recipes that you can taste-test before hand too.

4. Listen to Islamic lectures/podcasts

We’re in such a blessed moment in time where so many Islamic figures are putting out amazing virtual seeds of knowledge. I personally have been following Yaqeen Institute’s daily Qur’an 30 for 30 livestreams/podcasts that highlight learnings through a Juz a day. Sh. Omar Suleiman also has these great short daily videos centered around the angels & they’re presence within our daily lives. Such beneficial information is so accessible to us & truly does help us remain connected like never before.

5. Keep making those duas!

One of the greatest things about Islam is the fact that we can talk to Allah (SWT) any time we want, however, and wherever we want! Take this time to remember that He is close & listening and keep your loved ones, those suffering, our ummah, and yourself in your duas.

6. Pick up some Islamic literature

My fave go-tos recently have been “Disturber of the Hearts” by Ibn al-Jawzi & the “Daily Wisdoms” series from Abdur Raheem Kidwai. These definitely help me keep my spirituality high & have great reminders.

7. Learn & reflect on Allah (SWT)’s 99 names

Learning His names truly is such a great & easy way to help get closer to Allah because we learn about who He is & all of his supreme attributes

8. Try practicing or memorizing a new Surah

Or even delve into some tafsir of any Surah you’d like. Either way, try to find ways to keep the Qur’an active in your daily schedule.


Remember that this is a time that Allah (SWT) has blessed us with. Take care of yourself during this time and don’t forget to eat & rest as you are supposed to. I know there’s still a level of “shame” of having your period during Ramadan, especially if you live with male family members. Remember that having your period does not impede on your worship or devotion. Allah (SWT) wants ease for you & this is your right from Him. We also wrote a post a few years ago on this very topic that you can visit here.

Let us know if you have any other tips on how you keep your spirituality high during your period!

Reflections: A Quarantined Ramadan

Now that we are all well into self-isolation / quarantine / social distancing or whatever else you want to call this lifestyle, I’ve been trying to reflect on how this time is inevitably connected to our imaan and Islam as a whole. As this is the first time for us to experience a pandemic, it can almost seem like this is the first time something to this degree has ever happened in the history of the world. However, we know this isn’t true, unfortunately. Having more free & alone time has lead me to start thinking about how I should spend these days in the best way. It has also made me think: has anyone in Islamic history ever had to go through such a situation where they were completely alone/closed off to society and “regular” life for an extended period of time?

There are actually countless instances throughout the history of Islam that emphasize times of complete self-isolation & the virtues that can come from it. We learn numerous facts about our prophet Muhammad (SAW) & his life, it’s almost so obvious that it’s easy to forget that he was in self-isolation during such crucial points of Islamic history. The very first revelation of Qur’an that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) received was while he was in complete seclusion in the cave of Hira. It was in a time like this – so removed from society & the distraction of the worldly life, that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was able to not only begin his revolutionary journey as the Messenger of Allah (SWT), but also to reflect and find true reliance on Al Wahid & Al Ahad (the One & Only). It was only in pure solitude that he was able to find true peace in He who created certainty.

A story that many of us can connect with on some level is that of Maryam (AS). Allah (SWT) revealed her struggles in the Qur’an as she was ostracized by people & removed herself from society with prophet Isa (AS). She truly had no one to rely on or to speak to except for Allah (SWT). Although she had trust in Allah (SWT), we learn that even Maryam (AS) shares the same humanity as us. Even she had a moment of weakness in all of this despair and loneliness, so much so, that she had the thought of, “I wish I had died before this, and been a thing long forgotten,” [19:23]. However, in all of her despair & sadness she still remained with Allah (SWT) and eventually gave birth to prophet Isa (AS), who ended up not only being a great strength & relief for her, but for all of mankind to come.

These are only two (great) examples of how solitude reminds us to turn to Allah (SWT) and remember that He is in control of everything. These instances, as well as all of the chaos the world is going through right now, remind us that Allah (SWT) is indeed Al Awwal (The First) & Al Aakhir (The Last). It is inevitable for us to feel stuck or bored given the current circumstances and the fact that our lives have predominantly always revolved around “contributing to society” and being “productive” in the greater cause for the economy. However, we now really do not have a choice, but to place our energy and focus elsewhere (i.e. on Allah!).

What a unique time we have been blessed with this Ramadan. The physical portion, in every aspect whether it’s food or community, is truly taken away from us, and we are left to focus on nurturing our spirituality and mental wellness. Insha’Allah we all reap immense benefits from this month as well as beyond this time, and may we all re-connect with the Qur’an & Allah (SWT) in a beautiful way.

Ameen & Ramadan Mubarak!

Forgiveness: Liberation From The Past

I read this statement the other day and it truly resonated with me: “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be any different.” It sounds kind of harsh and even negative, however I believe it could not be more true.

Often times when people we once loved become the very same ones that torture & break our souls, there’s a level of disbelief we inhibit. Disbelief in the fact that they were capable of hurting you to such an extent and maybe even disbelief in Allah (SWT) and how He could allow this to happen. Speaking only from personal experience, it’s extremely difficult to grapple with the fact that sometimes the plans we create and the people we hold near to us, are not in line with the path or qadr (decree/destiny) that Allah (SWT) has written for us — no matter how hard that is to believe.
When people hurt us & exit our lives, we can easily get into this never ending mindset of, “maybe if I had done xyz differently,” or “if I didn’t say that one thing, maybe…” or even “they might still be in my life if I hadn’t stood my ground or protected my values.” We start sinking deep into these unrealistic scenarios in our heads that we could have done or been something different and that person would not have betrayed us. We put blame on ourselves to rationalize someone’s betrayal against us. These questions inevitably trap us from moving on and living the life with recognition of the blessings we have been given.
I will be the very first to say that I have a difficult time fully forgiving those that have truly destroyed me in the past. However, I am learning that forgiving does not mean being open to letting people walk all over you again nor is it a sign of weakness. Being able to forgive is strengthening your own soul and life. Learning to forgive yourself and others allows you to be free again. Healing from heartbreak is a real process and the truth is, forgiveness does not just come overnight. Forgiveness is more for your own self more than for anyone else. Understand that everything was written by the greatest writers of them all — nothing is by chance or coincidence. Our circumstances of the past are not supposed to be different so we should really stop tiring ourselves out with the “what if’s” and impossible scenarios that only lead us towards sadness and attachment to a reality that has come and gone. Be thankful for the hardships that may have taught you in unseen ways. Be hopeful that whatever is to come is from Allah (SWT) only and that alone should ease our minds. He is with us through it all.

The Key To Getting Through Hardship

The past few months have been trying for me. The past few months have indeed been trying, but alhamdulillah for it all. I kind of took a pause on writing simply due to the fact that I felt like I just didn’t have it in me. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and defeated. I started a new job the first day of Ramadan. On the second day of Ramadan, my family and I lost someone very dear to us (may Allah SWT forgive her and bring her family peace, ameen). Throughout everything, I’ve also been going through an immense amount of heartache for various other personal reasons. The feeling of being so overwhelmed by grief, sadness, confusion, and anxiety has really, truly been such a challenge for me. However, I’m still here, alhamdulillah. If you’re going through tough times and you’re reading this, I wish I could help make them better. There are two pivotal mental/spiritual actions that have really been helping me cope and find my balance again, and they are: #1 – remembering that Allah (SWT) is with me and #2 – truly thinking about every single blessing (big and small) that I have.

We all have fluctuations in our iman (faith), and that is perfectly normal and okay. The key is to keep pushing through the phases where you feel the most distant from your faith and Allah (SWT) – keep pushing yourself to pray salah or to read an ayah from the Qur’an or to make a simple dua’a even. By doing this, you will never go too astray. During my times of stress and difficulty, I’ve been reflecting on one particular ayah from Surah Ash-Shu’ara. The ayah actually is a record of Prophet Musa (AS) saying, “Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me” (26:62). This statement is abrupt, short, simple, but very powerful and reassuring. When I think about this ayah, I truly remember Allah (SWT) and feel His assurance, peace, and might. I feel so lost and alone at times, but this ayah is a strong reminder that Allah (SWT) really does have me; He is quite literally with me and will guide me so long as I seek Him out, even during my lows. He is the best protector and friend there is. This ayah also reminds me that this dunya (worldly life) and all of its worshippers are just not the ones to be losing my mind over. People are guaranteed to bring inconsistencies and disappointment.

I’ve never experienced someone close to me passing away. I had never been to a janazah or a burial until this past Ramadan. The burial process absolutely shook me to the core. It has been almost three months now and I am still in complete awe. From everyone reciting Surah Al-Fatiha, and continuous recitations of “La Ilaha Illallah,” over the grave and then finally the complete closure of the body deep into the ground. SubhanAllah. This was such a stark reminder for me. It was a reminder for me to step up my game with my Creator, the One, Ar Rahman, Ar Rahim, Allah (SWT).

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. To Him we belong and to Him we shall return. He is our one and only return. These worldly pleasures and stresses aren’t the ones to be worshipped or to waste our time over. Our hearts and souls are with Allah (SWT) and He is forever with us. We must constantly seek Him out in our times of peace and in our times of need. It’s absolutely easier said than done, especially when we have so many accessible distractions surrounding us. However, this is the ultimate test. Honestly, no matter what, Allah (SWT) is the only source that can bring true contentment and peace of mind. He is constant, while this world and everyone that is in it, are not at all.

In times of sadness, anger, and impatience with certain situations in my personal life, I’ve recently learned to look at all that Allah (SWT) has given me in my life, all that His boundless mercy encompasses. Actively seeing the beauty and love that He has surrounded me with, automatically removes that frustration that often grows within me. I never realized how easily and how often I really overlook such blessings in my life. It’s only when I lose it, that I remember how great I had it – whatever ‘it’ is. I am ungrateful and forgetful, but I am trying to work on this. I find myself to be in much more of a pleasant state when I step back and see what I am blessed with, whether it be something such as the flowers I see outside or a restful night’s sleep, remembering these “little” aspects of life really puts everything into perspective and forces you to see that these are the blessings that truly do end up being the “big things.” Our mind just becomes too enveloped within the demands of this dunya that we so quickly are able to forget the reality that is around us and that Allah (SWT) has destined for us.

If you’re going through difficult circumstances right now, know that you are blessed and that Allah (SWT) is with you, closer to you than your jugular vein.

“And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.” Surah Al-Qaf (50:16)

Even though it’s hard to remember and sometimes to even fathom, keep in mind that having good thoughts of Allah (SWT) is an act of worship and an obligation of tawheed. You are never truly alone in your hardships.

Ramadan Mubarak: Remembering Allah (SWT)

I don’t know if this holds true for anyone else, but lately, I’ve been really going through it with life. These past few months of 2019 have been so trying, so unpredictable and such a whirlwind, I feel like I’ve had to face so many challenges and go through so many changes all at once, especially pertaining to my ability to stand up for myself, create boundaries, as well as having to make major decisions regarding my career. It’s so easy to become consumed by everything and to let the stress of continuous decision-making take you away from remembering your purpose.

So much constant change and “adult-ing” can really exhaust the soul and take a serious toll on your overall mood and personality. We never stop to think about how everything affects our hearts and our relationship with Allah (SWT). When we forget Allah and become too consumed in this life to remember our purpose and our Creator, life becomes bitter and draining and we begin to feel this looming sense of vacancy within us. It’s far too easy to forget how simple the remedy for feeling so overwhelmed, sad, or stressed can be. We live in an era where everything is so accessible, the knowledge truly is at our fingertips and the will to seek it out and implement it is within us.

So how can we really restore our faith and start remembering Allah on a constant basis again? Going back to basics here, but an under consumption of salah (daily mandatory Islamic prayers) and reading and/or recitation of Qur’an is guaranteed to take a real big toll on your spirit. Allah (SWT) reminds us of this reality in the Qur’an:

“And whoever turns away from My remembrance, indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” [Surah Taha 20:124]

With the month of Ramadan at our doorstep, there’s no better time than now to actively try and refresh our faith by taking heed in the mandatory aspects of Islam such as salah and dhikr. Just by practicing these two acts alone with sincerity and patience, we are promised to see and feel a significant difference in our daily lives. What also helps me is by simply looking outside and seeing the life around us. Everything is in motion, has life because of Allah. Allah (SWT) is sufficient enough for us in whatever our needs are and in whatever problems we come to face. He is always with us, we just have to remember Him and it will get easier. Allah (SWT) reminds us:

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” [Surah Al Baqarah 2:152]

Who wouldn’t want to be remembered by Allah? I think one of the most important facts to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel “good” enough, Allah does not ask perfection of us, He only asks remembrance and in exchange for this, He will heal the broken parts of you with His light and in ways that nothing in this world can. You don’t have to be the most righteous person to call upon Him or to make sujood, you just need to be humble and sincere in your connection. We all constantly need Allah (SWT), so we’re kind of already designed to be in the perfect state of receiving His all-embracing mercy and His immediate help and superior compassion. Thinking positively and greatly of Allah (SWT) is so key in changing your entire outlook of life. Once you see Allah (SWT) in the best possible light, you will feel so much more secure, confident, and content.

As we enter into Ramadan, let’s remember to remember that Allah (SWT) is near and that He is the ultimate Protector, Helper, and Friend. Reflecting upon some of Allah (SWT)’s 99 Names can also prove to be highly beneficial in re-connecting your faith and finding a balance between this life and your spiritual self.

Some of the 99 names of Allah include:

Ar Rahman (الرحمن) The Beneficent 

Ar Raheem (الرحيم) The Most Merciful

Al Ghaffaar (الغفار) The Ever Forgiving

As Sabur (الصبور) The Patient

The pursuit in knowing Allah and his true greatness will allow us to better our own flaws and thus increase our taq’wah and actions. Don’t be too hard on yourself when life gets tough, we are only human and our emotions and faith fluctuates throughout time. Be patient and kind with yourself and others, and it will get better insha’Allah.

 

New Zealand Mosque Terrorist Attacks: Should We Be Afraid?

“Friday is the best of days. It was on this day that Hadrat Adam Alaysi salaam was created, it was on this day that he was granted entry into jannah, it was on this day that he was removed from jannah (which became the cause for man’s existence in this universe, and which is a great blessing), and the day of resurrection will also take place on this day.” (Sahih Muslim)

Friday. Jummah. This was the day that an Australian born citizen felt compelled to walk into Masjid Al-Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand and murder innocent Muslims observing their Friday prayer. I can’t seem to fully digest this reality. I can’t believe that we live in an age and society where violence is so normalized and allowed to the point where someone can massacre a place of worship with one hand, while live-streaming it in the other. Social media moves fast, it hasn’t even been a full 24 hours since this terrorist attack was committed, but I feel like we’re always so quick to move on to the next news story. We need to stop moving so rapidly and understand how attacks like this affect our psyche and lifestyles as Muslims living in the West.

This terrorist attack has shaken us all on a deeper level. It’s shaken us to the core, not only because it was an attack in a Western country, but also because of how much we can see ourselves in the same position that these Muslims were in right before their lives were taken from them. The intent of this terrorist was to not only terrorize the Muslims in this local masjid, but to also terrorize the rest of the world by creating an entire Facebook Live video of such a violent act. He not only wanted to inflict fear, terror, and violence in that masjid, but he wanted the world to fall into fear and compliancy. This fear is the kind that pushes people towards compliancy. Compliancy of forsaking everything that makes you different in order to be more “acceptable” and palatable. Forsaking the most precious things that we have: our iman, faith, and Muslim identity.

I’ve been seeing so many posts flooding all social platforms today, all understandably fueled by anger, sadness, and confusion. Some speak to how we should remove our hijabs and not go to the masjid or “look” openly Muslim, in order to remain safe, while others are ready to physically put up a fight against the Islamophobia. It’s a slippery slope with social media because it’s so easy to get consumed and influenced by other people’s opinions, so much so that we lose sight and density of the real issues at hand.

On this Friday, let us just take a moment to not be so reactive with our hurt, but to reflect on not only the Muslim lives that were taken as a direct result of ignorance, irresponsibility and racism from powerful world leaders as well as western mainstream media, but let’s also remember how fleeting this dunya and our lives really are. It has been about 18 years since 9/11 happened, and Islamophobia does not indicate slowing down in the slightest. When events like this occur, it’s easy and almost innate to become fearful by default, but let us not let go of our faith and purpose so easily. Yes, we are targets, but we must not become consumed within a cycle of fear, that either results in us catering to what they want or becoming just like them. Additionally, let us not forget that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions endured so much violence for believing and spreading the truth of Islam, however they never backed down in their faith. If we look closer, we’ll see that the ones, who remained strong in their faith and worship, were always the most successful.

Let us also not forget that Allah is with us, closer than we can imagine. He is always watching, he is the All-Knowing and has a superior wisdom that we cannot comprehend.

Remember to take time out of your day to remember Him greatly, and appreciate those closest to you.

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“Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah ‘ and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.'” Al-Quran [41:30]

Am I The Ideal Muslim Woman?

Feeling out of place within your identity as a Muslim, let alone a Muslim living in the west, let alone a Muslim woman living in the west – is something that isn’t uncommon. It’s easy to feel displaced even if that can be hard to admit sometimes. So often, us Muslim women are facing struggles that no other group of people seem to go through or understand. Whether in our communities or in the public space – our self-worth, and empowerment can feel like it’s fleeting at a constant rate. What helps me find that inner strength again and feel genuine ease is remembering my heritage of being a Muslim woman and the strength that is woven in that history. We have so many resources that connect us back to the great women of Islam – empowerment is at our fingertips.

In today’s society, where we see others abusing women in unimaginable ways, it truly can become almost involuntary to envelope in these feelings of self-loathing and doubt. We begin to get stuck in this mindset that our personal growth as individual Muslim women is stagnated and limited within both our own Muslim communities as well as our larger society. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by the superficial portrait of the “ideal Muslimah.” I mean, who even is she? Does being the “true Muslim woman” mean succumbing to the male-controlled cookie cutter woman? Does it mean unconsciously assuming stereotypical attributes assigned by non-Muslims and western media? Where does my individual spiritual reality lie in all of this? Does it even belong to me as a Muslim women? Why must we have this strange feeling of unfamiliar self-consciousness when wanting to pursue personal spiritual goals? Am I inevitably striving to fit into this one-dimensional, non-existent image of a “perfect Muslim woman?”

Does being the “true Muslim woman” mean succumbing to the male-controlled cookie cutter woman?

So many questions, but the answers are not too far away. All it takes is looking back into the very first real women of Islam. Yes, real, living, breathing women – each with her own individual differences, mind, strengths, and weaknesses. They were simply humans, just striving to the best of their abilities to please Allah (SWT). It’s important to remember that the priority of the first women of Islam was always to stay near to Allah (SWT). Yes, they were daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers, but ultimately those priorities were secondary to obeying Allah. They didn’t fit into that one-dimensional image painted by today’s patriarchal culture and society. In fact, they more often than not inadvertently rebelled against those “norms.” Amongst them were great scholars, teachers, poets, entrepreneurs, and health-care providers to name a few. They are heroes and it’s important to consider them as nothing less than that.

As young Muslim women growing up or even as more mature Muslim women, we have been so accustomed to having to feel like we are a burden or “un-Islamic” for dreaming big, for speaking up, for striving for our deen individually. We begin to blame and often “feel bad” about wanting to further our professional careers or personal growth. Perhaps even the toxic patriarchal cultural mindset kicks it up a notch and we begin to internalize rhetoric such as, “Why would a Muslim woman even bother to aim high when Allah has ‘commanded’ her to remain at home permanently and not be seen or heard in any sense?” We begin to internalize these false ideas and this is what ultimately shapes our outlook on our potential. We need to start actively flipping the questions, like, “Why can’t a Muslim woman have an impact on the community?” Enough of being unkind to ourselves, because this is not what Islam teaches us. Eliminate harmful cultural thinking that ambitious women are un-Islamic or “too modern.” I’m not “too” anything. I’m just enough.

They are heroes and it’s important to consider them as nothing less than that.

This is detrimental behavior to feed to our young girls especially. To teach the youth to perform merely the obligatory aspects of Islam is theft. We must not teach let alone act upon Islam in such rigid, violent manners. Our Lord is nothing less of the Most Merciful, so why does our own practice not reflect that? It’s so easy to feel alone in today’s age as a Muslim woman. Not only are there a number of stereotypes that work against us, but standards are being lowered while expectations are being raised. This faulty and imaginary definition of the picture perfect Muslim woman does not exist. It only hinders us on a global level from striving to be better as it’s counterproductive in its messaging towards us.

I’m not “too” anything. I’m just enough.

What I don’t think I will ever truly understand is why do they want so badly to deny us of our basic humanity? It’s as if Muslim women can be nothing more than an object of ultimate obedience. Sorry, but I’m not a dog. Our predecessors were genuinely liberated by Islam and empowered by Allah (SWT). Strength and valor was a result of their practice and dedication to the deen. Because of their true belief and following of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Allah (SWT), were they able to grow and live fulfilling lives. This is the very reason why we need to go back to our own roots now more than ever. We need to change our cultural narratives and stop hiding behind the comfort of these norms that seem so “set in stone.” When we look back at the powerful people who carried out Islam in the best of ways, we will then be able to thrive in this dunya just like they did. Honestly, without us looking back at our own history, it becomes so much easier to fall victim to cultural restraints, thus being overcome with the sense of a distorted identity. That is how we become brainwashed and manipulated. It sounds lame, but knowledge truly is power.

Why do they want so badly to deny us of our basic humanity?

If you’re conflicted about how you can live Islam in a way so that your character genuinely speaks to it, seek out knowledge. Seeking out self-knowledge will always bring you to your authentic character. When you become self-assured in your identity as a Muslim woman, that vibe will manifest in all areas of your life. Always remember, “perfection” is not a part of our duties as Muslims. We can only strive to do our best, ask Allah (SWT) for His Mercy and Forgiveness, and try again.

And yes, you can still make a lit cup of chai for your family and also dominate the professional world.