Islam has and always will be a religion of women

Published: November 21, 2017

For Muslim women in general, it showcases that head scarf or not, Quranic name or not, pigmented skin or not, there is a real danger in existing as Muslim. PHOTO: FLICKR

To Muslim women,

Islam is a religion of women. I will speak these words until my heart stops. Islam is a religion of women. Our Prophet (PBUH), who was delivered the revelation, was a man, but his first and truest disciple was his wife. She was a woman of stature, endurance, patience and poise. And to reiterate what has already been said, she was a woman. With female hands was the first iftar made.

We would have no Adam, John, Jesus, Joseph, Idris, Aaron, Moses or Abraham without Eve, Elizabeth, Mary, Rachel, Barkanah, Jochebed, and Amathlaah.

Even in the Prophet’s (PBUH) family, although it was Hazrat Ali (RA) who went down in sajdah (prostration) before the sword of his enemy, and his son Imam Hussain (RA) who was massacred at Karbala, it was Bibi Zainab (RA), the Prophet’s (PBUH) granddaughter, who was tasked to carry the weight of the carnage back to the believers, and subsequently, to the rest of time. It is Bibi Fatima (RA), the Prophet’s (PBUH) daughter, who is said to have come to the aid of the needy and the helpless – in her black chadar do foreignness and aliment reside.

Islam lives in our wombs. The Shahada lives in our wombs. Salat (prayer) lives in our wombs. Sawm (fast) lives in our wombs. Zakat (alms) lives in our wombs. Hajj lives in our wombs.

You have no Islam without women. It is on a woman’s back that Islam finds its alter.

Islam is birthed by women. Islam is kept alive by women. Islam, in its submission and in its excellence, dies if its womankind is not protected.

During the month of Ramazan in the Islamic year 1438, women were not protected. Seventeen-year-old Nabra Hassanen was beaten to death while on her way to Qiyam prayer recently in her North Virginia hometown. Regardless of the fact that her death has not been ruled a direct hate crime, it comes at a time where Muslim women specifically face the brunt of Islamophobia, direct or indirect, both in this country and abroad.

Nabra stood as a pinnacle of what it means to be Muslim, to be a young woman, and to be a black American. She wore a head scarf and Islamic robes, and had chosen such symbols of devotion at a commendably young age. Whether her awful death was an outcome of that choice, we may never know for sure. But she does represent the fact that for veiled Muslim women, their existence is one that is often objectified into being purely a threat, and their lives are endangered at any given moment because of this. For black Muslims, this is only heightened by the racism already rampant in this nation. For Muslim women in general, it showcases that head scarf or not, Quranic name or not, pigmented skin or not, there is a real danger in existing as Muslim.

To Nabra, I want to say that since your passing, I have meditated in your name. It has become my zikr – I remember you. When the strength in my fast wanes, I remember you were not able to complete yours. I find strength in your name. In prayer for strength, I call on many names; Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Hazrat Ali (RA), Imam Hussain (RA), but I do not forget yours. You are a martyr of our times, who went out to pray and was faced with violence. As someone who has felt the physical end of Islamophobia, who has faced boys chasing her in elementary school hallways to pin her in bathroom stalls in order to berate and shame her, who has dealt with physical violence at the hands of other people of colour (POC) on middle school playgrounds and suburban back allies.

As someone who has felt the physical hands of hatred on her, Nabra, I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry we could not protect you. And now, just like Bibi Zainab (RA), Bibi Fatima (RA), and the rest of the Muslim womankind, may you go down in history as being the definition of a devotee. Islamic history has a problem with remembering the women who represent it, but we will not forget you. May you rest in power, sweet child. May you forever rest in power.

To Muslim women – I love you dearly. Regardless of what stage of Islam you operate in, regardless of how Muslim you feel, know that you are valid and that I love you. You also face its largest burden – criticised, objectified, victimised, both within the religion and without. Know that you carry the power that Bibi Zainab (RA) used to rally the believers in tragedy. Know that you carry the virtue of Hazrat Khadija’s (RA) first salat. Know that you carry the utter grace of Bibi Fatima (RA) and her devotion. Islam is not a religion of current parted mosques and patriarchal judgments. It is a religion of women. It belongs to you. It always has and it always will.

To those who do not value us, I will repeat what I started this piece with – Islam is a religion of women. I will speak these words until my heart stops. Islam is a religion of women. On a woman’s breath does submission rest. Without us, you would not have the faith you try to use against us. I promise, you will fail time and time again to do so. Islam belongs to us. This will never change.

This post was originally published on BrownGirlMagazine and republished with permission.

Suraiya Ali

Suraiya Ali

Suraiya Ali is a desi/Persian artist, writer, and novice theologian from Dallas, Texas, currently studying in LA. She truly wishes she could have fought by Hector during the Trojan war and has seen Bajirao Mastani 10+ times.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • hp kumar

    Muslim girls should have freedom to choose their religion and way life. like women from other religion they should have right of liberty and of course they must feel eminicipated. presently they r the most oppressed of womankind.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Wow! Really?!Recommend

  • tuk

    Islam gave more rights to women than any other religion and allowed ijtehad. If we had followed on that tradition, it could be the most progressive religion of today. Alas, we are still stuck on justifying four wives and half inheritance for women!Recommend

  • Hasan

    Ms Ali. I respect your views and sentiments. Will you like to comment on inheritance, right as a witness in a court of law, right to effect divorce conferred by Islam to women, polygamy, etc.
    What was the status of when in the Muslim world during the last 1500 years?Recommend

  • Rahul

    If Islam is the religion of women, why do Muslim majority countries all treat women badly.Recommend

  • Shelly

    The thing that oppresses them is the misogyny that prevails among men due to backward traditions, not Islam.Recommend

  • Azam Kapoor

    Funny, to say the leastRecommend

  • Patwari

    Well, see, er, oh,..Can’t be worse than Hindu women.
    Who were forced to commit sati just 30 years ago.
    Now that [sati] is a heinous, barbaric, human sacrifice custom.
    Say, if the Raja of Dosa and Idli-pur dies, all his wives, plus 100
    concubines all have to commit sati. If they resisted the yogis and
    swamis would tie them, and throw them on the fire. Done. Finished.
    No argument, all so simple, you see?Recommend

  • Patwari

    There were good reasons for allowing four wives in those
    ancient days. It has been explained 89,853,879 times.
    Yet here it is again.
    After wars and battles etc. many men were killed. Leaving behind
    many widows, and girls of marriageable age. But not enough men to
    go around. So the reason for four wives. To make these women productibe
    contributing members of society/culture.
    This was practiced by Vikings, Goths, Germans, Romans, Visigoths, Mongols,
    Tartars, Barbarians, Atilla the Hun, Greeks, Persians, Sumerians, Akkadians,
    Ancient Egyptians, Jewish tribes… one form or another.
    After World War1 and World War 11 there was severe shortage of men in Europe’s
    blood soaked soil. Because millions of young men died during these wars.
    But of course, the mullas will give you a different explanatlon….each time.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    Nice Satire.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    And how do u explain that such practice is strong amongst 95% of Muslims in world. Are you saying all these majority of muslims are backward ?Recommend

  • narendra

    Useless article, in contrast with the reality.
    Right to wear the dress of choice, get rid of Batman(Veil) dress (being imposed on the little girl child as well), right to divorce (only reserved for men), Polygamy (by men only). Complete restriction in day to day life, never lived by the muslim women, a liberated life of any women in maximum cases.

  • maynotmatter

    In ancient Hinduism the concept of marriage was open ended and both men and women had freedom to choose or change partners if they are not satisfied in any level emotionally or physically with their current partner. Alas such practices were lost and few men decided to introduce the practice of Sati and Veils in Hinduism, which is more cultural rather than mandated by any Hindu religious books. But what follows is the shaming of entire religion by such practices which existed not more than couple of hundred of years and was indeed introduced around the time of mughal and british invaders with the logic that by such practices they r protecting shame of a woman. Whatever the reason was what resulted in dogma which is till date a ugly spot on Hindu religion. But today such practices are gone, its only less then 20% people in India who still practice Ghoonghat (veil system). Hindus evolve trying to catch up with modern times.

  • Hasan

    Mr Tuk: Do you agree with polygamy and half inheritance??Recommend

  • Hasn

    Backward traditions were prevelant in pre-Islamic era, and what happened afterwards? Half inheritance, polygamy, rights as a witness, divorce etc are allowed by Islam; they are not part of backward traditions. So believe them and do not blame backward traditions.Recommend

  • Patwari

    But,..but,,..see,..Hindustan treats it’s women folk very badly. It is the world wide
    leader in bad treatment of it’s women kind. Specially if women are raped in broad
    daylight on the footpath/pavement. And passersby film it on their cameras instead
    of helping the poor women. Now that is bad bad karma for nearly 2 billion Hindustanis.
    After all, they call Bharat the Rape Capital of the World. Bad juju.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Once the Bharatis get the Caste System figured out, things might get a tad better.
    Currently a Dalit Hindu woman is raped by a non Dalit Hindu man every 7 minutes.
    Does not matter if the Dalit woman is wearing a shuttlecock burqa or wrapped in
    15 yards of a sari.Recommend

  • wb

    Do you know what a man can do if the wife disobey’s? Do you know a man can give divorce, but a woman cannot give divorce, a woman can only SEEK khula, and not GIVE khula. Do you know that it takes two women to replace one male witness? Do you know that men don’t have to wear hijab, but women do? Do you know that women only get less than what a man gets in inheritance?Recommend

  • wb

    It is far far worse than Hindu women.

    My dear, there is no Sati today. Probably you need to get out of that hole more often and learn to use Google once in a while. Be careful though. Don’t do like Maleeha Lodi!!!Recommend

  • Komal S

    Sati or wife burning, burying or committing suicide post Husbands death has been prevalent across the world at various times. There is nothing Hindu about it. Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Did I say anything about Islam?since you came across opposing my point of view so let me dig little deep inside do you rate achievement of muslim women overall as compared to women from other community and if misgyony is the reason behind prevlant backwardnees then why muslim men r not ready give freedom to their girls?can you explain?Recommend

  • hp kumar

    And pl donot give backward tradition like execuses.even rich country like Saudi Arabia and qatar didnot do anything to bring their women to mainstream.pakistan is doing much better in comparison.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Did you know that sati was abolished only recently. Otherwise,
    straight to the fire pyre for widows.
    Did you know if a regular hindu’s shadow falls on a Brahmin
    hindu, the Brahmin can kill him. It’s allowed. No questions asked!
    Did you know a Brahmin Army officer will not eat food cooked by
    low caste hindu cooks in the army.
    Did you know that Hindustani Army is segregated by caste system.
    A lower caste hindu cannot become an officer over higher caste hindus.
    Did you this Caste System Bharati Army has been defeated 4 times
    by the Pakistan Army. [not even 1/3 it’s size!]
    Did you there are 3,000 hindu Castes ! And 25,000 sub Castes!
    This is not counting those who are outside, the achhoots,…Untouchables.Recommend

  • Patwari

    In your rush,…you misspelled the Muslim name you
    have been using. Try Rahul, Govinda, Parminda, Golnath……Recommend

  • Rohan

    Then why does it have Jehad and burqaRecommend

  • ab

    Do you know these are very elementary things which can be answered by any average Muslim. but the problem is that you don’t ask. you only imply.Recommend

  • Memona

    Despite you highlighting some very important issue in Islam, the women still feel safe in Islam rather than in Hinduism.Recommend

  • Shelly

    Yeah i doubt it’s present in 95% of muslims. Recommend

  • Shelly

    It’s all because of the wrong interpretations and misunderstandings. For example, the half inheritance thing is because of the different responsibilities, a man’s family(parents, siblings) and wife have right over his inheritance, no one has a right over the wife’s inheritance. The witness thing was only mentioned in case of finances and nowhere else, simply because of that time, when women were uninvolved in it. Polygamy is only allowed if certain conditions are met which make it literally impossible. A woman can easily get a divorce, if she’s not able to, that’s a cultural problem.Recommend

  • Shelly

    Because these men have no real understanding of their own religion.Recommend

  • Anoop

    You are basing this on what?

    Women need 4 male witnesses to even prove rape in Pakistan, like most islamic nations.

    Women participation in workforce is consistency bad in most Islamic societies.

    Indian women far outshine Pakistan and Bangladesh in sports, especially in Olympics.

    Do you want me to quote relevant passages from Quran and Hadith on worthiness of women?Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Who does understand islam well?Can you give an example?Recommend

  • Shelly

    Actual educated Muslims that don’t confuse their culture for their religion.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Please do. Specially from Quran. On the worthiness of Women.
    You will have zilch. nada, nyet, nope.
    As far as Hadiths are concerned. There are different interpretations.
    And they can be twisted and molded to fit a twisted and sick ideology.Recommend

  • Memona

    Ridiculous. India has over 1.3 billion people so stop this comparison with Pakistan. What do you want to prove here, that Pakistani women don’t get chance to represent their country? Pakistan has more women in its parliament than India does. Pakistani women are also combat ready fighter pilots in airforce…..something India really needs to work on.

    Please tell me about ‘Sati’ practice in Hinduism where a widow either voluntarily or by force commit suicide as result of her husband’s death. Also why women on menstrual cycle are banished in Hinduism?

    And what makes you think muslim women or Pakistani women in particular follow Hadiths of Quran for their daily life? Your not making senses here.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    I asked for a test case.Your answer is too simplistic.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Wait for my reply!
    Since, in my experience, quoting the text gets my comment deleted, i’ll mention the verses, you can go ahead and look it up.
    Happy Googling! :)Recommend

  • Patwari

    No need to Google anything. The BJP factory is grinding
    these fake things by the bushel.Recommend

  • Shelly

    Muslims in the West and in countries like Azerbaijan, Turkey, Malaysia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Tunisa, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, Kuwait, West African Muslim states like Senegal, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Comoros in east and many others. Even Iraq used to be so much better before America ruined it and turned it into what it is today. Most of these countries have Muslim majority but you probably don’t hear about them because they don’t fit your narrative like Saudi Arabia does.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Pakistan + Bangladesh is .5 Billion people. That’s actually 3rd largest country in terms of population.
    How many Olympic medals have women won? ZERO.
    Please enlighten me how many cases of Sati were reported in 2017 and also do tell me when last was a case reported?
    There is a limit to spreading falsehoods.Recommend

  • Memona

    China with same population as India have so far won 599 Olympic medals since 1932, while India only managed 24 medals since 1900, Pakistan won 10 medals since 1948. So How is India even better in Olympics?

    There are reports of ‘Sati’ practice in each year in India especially in Rajasthan.

    Again tell me why do I care about Bangladesh? Anyway Pakistan has 207 million as of 2017 and Bangladesh has 166 million people that’s 373 million. The UP state in India alone has more people than whole of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Anoop

    So predictable. ZERO Olympic medals for women from 0.5 Billion Muslims, but you are worried why India is lagging behind China?
    Your claim that Islam is somehow better than Hinduism for women is very hollow.
    Regarding Sati, I’m sure you Googled and didn’t find anything. Typical response of a hard-headed, ignorant person who can’t admit when she is wrong.Recommend

  • Memona

    So your judging Islam based on Olympic medals? India lagging behind a Muslim country Pakistan where women are trained fighter jet pilots in military and huge number is serving in politics is obviously not important to you. Even Afghanistan has trained female fighter jet pilots.
    1.3 billion people & some odd 5 women won medals at Olympic makes Hinduism better than Islam? And when I tried to compare your population and your medals with china you have nothing to say as usual.

    The Sati practice was widely prohibited by Islamic rulers in India and later by Britishers, [but it still occurs up to the present day and is still regarded by some Hindus as the ultimate form of womanly devotion and sacrifice [from article]. Today widows are not allowed to be remarried in Hinduism and their heads are shaved off after the demise of their husbands, they are forced to live a degraded life.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Are you serious?

    To win Olympic medals you need women playing at the grassroots levels in the thousands. Not every women who plays sports will climb up the ladder to win. More Olympic medals indicate more women playing sports.

    Its a far better indicator of women’s freedom than some fighter pilot non-sense you keep talking about.

    BTW, not sure what you are trying to prove, it is obvious you haven’t bothered to Google at all about Indian women in IAF.

    China and India are different civilizations with different histories and political and economic models. Comparing them doesn’t make much sense. Chinese are ahead of India. I’m willing to concede women are free in China than India.

    Pak-Bangladesh speak Indian languages, share history with India, similar Economies, same parliamentary democracy. Comparing Pak-Bangladesh with India gives us a more accurate picture on role of women in Hinduism vs Islam.
    Also, check the workplace participation index with respect to India and Pak-Bangladesh. Women barely come out of their homes, in India they are more free, thanks to Hinduism.

    “but it still occurs up to the present day”
    I’m waiting for you to show me the many cases from 2017.
    Don’t tell you were actually lying! I’m waiting..Recommend