Global tawbah

Dear Readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

Today is a happy day. Alhamdulillah (=praise and thanks to God) I am officially moved into a new place to stay. I pray it will be an abode of peace, joy, learning and teaching. A step closer to that long lasting and eternal home, at least in the way it may manifest in this life-form where we are bound by the time-space continuum (Muslims believe in an after-life where the human soul will enter another reality not bound by the four dimensions this life is bound in, and that that reality will be eternal. Not limited in that reality as we are here, we will have a greater or more real experience/understanding of the Creator there than we can here).

Therefore finally I am settled enough to be able to say something about the very disturbing global events that have been unfolding, specifically in the Muslim world. I do not want to make this blog a venue for political discussion, hence why I’ve refrained from commenting on many events over the past few months…though I have not been silent in other venues. This talk though, has to be shared. The popular media will not broadcast the views of the Muslim scholarly leaders enough, so let me do my part.

The talk is by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, an American Muslim leader and authentically trained scholar. He is perhaps one the most influential Muslims in the English speaking world today. Consistently ranking among the foremost in the annual top global Muslim 500 lists. He converted to Islam as a teenager, then travelled to the Muslim world and studied at the feet of authentic scholars for 10 years, obtaining ‘ijaza’ (=license) to teach several classical works from top scholars, many who can trace their ‘sanad’ (=chain of transmission) via famous scholars all the way up to beloved prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) or to the authors of the classical scholarly works. He then returned to America and obtained a nursing degree and worked as a nurse. Thus fulfilling another scholarly etiquette in that he obtained secular training and also had his livelihood from a secular job and not from religious discourse (mark of a good scholar).

He is now founder-faculty at Zaytuna college in Berkeley University. The USA’s first Muslim liberal arts college. And he is my teacher. This talk is delivered in Malaysia, perhaps a few weeks ago. It is relevant for he addresses current global events. The Q&A period in the second half will especially hit home. And more so will it if you are a Muslim young person struggling to navigate your faith through current events.

He is addressing a Muslim audience, so there are a number of Arabic terms he uses. I will try to update this post with a translation later on. I don’t want to wait to do that so posting now. It is long, but well worth the listen.

Finally to join my voice on this public forum to that of all the scholars and millions of Muslims condemning the actions of ISIS and their ilk. They are monsters. What they have done to Muslims is heinous and condemnable, and what they do to non-Muslims is more heinous and condemnable. They are a scourge upon the good name of our beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him) and a scourge upon his way. They have nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with them. I repeat that, they have nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with them.

To end ‘tawbah’ in the title means ‘return’. This is a call to Muslims to return to God, to return to our teachings and return to the way of our beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him). We have left it too long and our nation is being humiliated. We have much to do and no time to waste. Allah give us the strength to work and live noble lives.

 

Muslim Women in Science

Assalamu alaikum dear readers,

There have been several issues I have wanted to blog about recently, however I have been prevented from doing so due to  pressing personal issues. So in passing, a quick video I wanted to share. It is ~5 mins and a delightful listen delivered by Professor Emeritus Dr. Salim Al-Hassani, associated with the multi-award winning global exhibition, 1001 inventions:Muslim heritage in our world . He uncovers something I’ve been coming across in my studies in Islamic knowledge too – that Muslim women’s contributions to all facets of knowledge in the Islamic world is largely unearthed. For example, there was recently published a manuscript written by a very prominent male Muslim scholar, As-Sulami about a 1000 years ago, where he chronicles 80 famous Muslim women scholars/saints of his day! This manuscript, ‘Dhikr an-Niswa al-Muta’abbidat as-Sufiyyat’ was ‘lost’ for about 900 years until recently discovered in a library in Saudi Arabia and now has been translated into English. You can buy it from Amazon.

Prof. Al-Hassani mentions that of about 5 million manuscripts surviving from the Muslim Golden Age, only about 50,000 have been edited so far. Many of these manuscripts are rotting away in libraries in Italy, Spain and in old European cities. (where they went during the Renaissance).

He speaks of Fatima Al -Fihri, who founded the world’s longest running (still functioning) University. I did not know that she is reported to have fasted throughout the time of the building of this University. [Aside – her sister built a mosque in the same city at about the same time. Fatima chose instead to build a University. The Arabic word for University is ‘jami’at’ – the female form of the word for gathering!]. Indeed blessing of God upon her, for her work seems to have been accepted by God as evidenced by its longevity. In Muslim spirituality we consider something lasting as a mark of God’s being pleased with that service. While many good deeds if not rendered upon a sincere intention (that is the intention of it being purely for the worship of God, and not to ‘display one’s piety’ or please society or for fame etc.) are often short-lived. I find this a fascinating standard – as truly one will never know in one’s life-time how good one’s actions have been found… but posterity will!

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Finally a word to my sisters before I post the clip – Sisters! we have a lot of work to do. The Muslim nation is in crisis upon crisis and knowledge starts in our laps. We have to participate more in our mosques, societies, communities and surroundings. Whether Muslim  or non-Muslim…we have to retake our place in building humanity. It is the woman who brings wisdom to temper the excesses of the power-hungry male ego. Lets stop ‘trifling with trinkets’ and get to work. Allah SWT speaks of this weakness of mind that ensues when we raise our girl-children with trifles…

43:18
English interpretation by Shakir

What! that which is made in ornaments and which in contention is unable to make plain speech!

Quran (43:18)

It’s time to get serious – as I’ve often said, there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world…roughly half are not really participating. We have a lot of work to do. Let’s say bismillah and begin!
Peace to all, enjoy the clip

‘Fathima Knight in shining armour’!

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I was greatly delighted to ‘attend’ online, the first commencement ceremony of Zaytuna college. Zaytuna (=Olive/Olive tree) college is North America’s first academic Muslim liberal arts college. I believe it’s degree certification is from UC Berkeley. It was set-up by Sh. Hamza Yusuf Hanson, the scholar interviewed in the series I blogged recently.

I have been following the budding and growth of this institution keenly the past four years and it was  a proud moment to be able to witness its first commencement. The occasion was graced by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, one of the few remaining ‘giant scholars’ in the Muslim world. He is a master of many spheres, speaks fluent French in addition to a very high caliber of Arabic and has a CV I have no words to describe, so I won’t. Suffice to say, that in his demenour and service he has come to embody what a true scholar is, and he is one of the teachers of Sh. Hamza. It is a great compliment to Zaytuna college that Sh. Bin Bayyah made the trip out for the commencement despite his 80+ years and difficulty with travel. He did it due to his heartfelt support of the endeavor. And indeed, it is a desperately needed endeavor. You may catch a glimpse of him in the clip, the elderly gentleman in traditional garb with his scholars turban. Knowledge has always been a prized possession for the Muslim, and God bless Sh. Hamza and his likes, who are fighting hard to bring back the light of learning to the Muslim world.

Faatimah Knight is a shining example of what a young person schooled in such an environment of sound knowledge and real scholarship can produce. Imam Zaid Shakir, is a well known and well beloved figure in the North American Muslim world. He is an African American ex-US marine (if I’m not mistaken) who converted to Islam several decades ago, and then schooled in traditional Islamic scholarship, who is now a teacher at Zaytuna. Imam Zaid mentions that whenever he sees Faatimah walking down the aisle, he calls out to her as ‘Fathima Knight in shining armour’. A compliment this young lady well deserves. This young lady is just that – someone inspiring for her truthfulness, sincerity and determination to follow her true heart.

I was so inspired and ‘taken’ by the depth and wisdom of her commencement address, delivered with such obvious sincerity that I wanted to share it with you. It is a 9.5 min clip. I hope you will be able to listen and be as inspired as I was. I pray for this young lady and may there be many more like her. She is well named by wise parents, after the daughter of the beloved Messenger of God, Fathima az Zahra (=the resplendent one… a title given to her by the people out of love. The world’s second oldest continuously running university, Al-Azhar in Cairo is actually named after her)

May God protect and increase this beautiful young lady. I am happy to note she has been offered a full scholarship to grad school in the illustrious University of Chicago Islamic studies program. I believe she refused a full scholarship for undergraduate study in U of Chicago to go to Zaytuna. She is one of the 14 students of the class of 2014. May God bless them all, their teachers and all who have supported this difficult and challenging endeavor.

 

 

 

 

Give30 , sadaqa, zakat and Happy Canada day

Dear Readers,

I was informed of this wonderful initiative by one of my brothers and wanted to highlight it here. Ramadan is a month of charity. Many of us save a lot of money on our grocery bill and entertainment/excursion bills etc., which is then given in charity. The hunger pangs and bouts of thirst we experience by fasting, doing their job of softening the heart so we renew our empathy with the majority of the world’s population still suffering from hunger and thirst. And we thank Allah SWT for this, for had it not been for this strong annual reminder, who knows who heedless/negligent we would be of other’s suffering.

Many Muslims give their ‘zakat’ during this month. Zakat is third pillar of Islam, one of the 5 obligations upon a Muslim. It literally means ‘purification’ and is an obligatory tax Muslims must give to poor Muslims/wayfarers/and a few other categories of people who qualify. 2.5% of a person’s wealth, if he or she meets the threshold to be ‘zakat-able’ must be given. The calculations can get quite complicated. This is due annually and it is up to the person to decide when to pay it. Almost all the Muslims I know, pay it during Ramadan though. One – because the fasting person is beloved to God, and any good deed done during this month is more beloved to God than at other times. And two – perhaps this experiencing of mock-poverty we feel does indeed propel us to give. Allah subhahanawa ta’ala a’lam (=God the most Exalted and High, knows best – we consign the knowledge of our comments whose truths we don’t know, to God most High and say He knows better than we do. So only He knows if my statement is valid or not)

Apart from zakat, any other charity is called sadaqa. Sadaqa comes from a root word that means ‘truth’. Giving charity does free one’s soul to experience truth, as indeed giving zakat ‘purifies’ one’s wealth. Ramadan is a month of exaggerated charity. The prophet, peace be upon him, was the most generous of men. But during Ramadan, his charity people said ‘was like the wind’. Allah elevate and bless him and his beloved family and make all his followers like him!

BTW the prophet peace be upon him, would fast excessively and was almost always hungry. They say people would not see smoke rise out of his chimney for 3 months at a stretch. His diet was mostly bread and dates. Though he loved meat, he (peace be upon him!) would never eat meat and bread together…considering it too much a luxury. But this does not mean, as some Muslims erroneously believe, that he (peace be upon him) was poor. There were periods of poverty, but for the most part he (peace be upon him) ruled a vary large state. His hunger was due to his extreme generosity and due to his frugal habits. In fact in our tradition, poverty – the real kind – is considered an oppression and completely disliked. We must fight to eradicate poverty in the world. But poverty that is voluntary, that is a different matter and may indeed be a safeguard from the traps of materialism. May Allah elevate the soul of our beloved and grant us the supreme felicity of meeting him.

Give30 is a remarkable effort. It’s a very Canadian story. And its a very Muslim story. It’s a Canadian Muslim story 🙂 – the kind I wish the news would cover more. But to be fair, they already have. I wanted to post it up on Canada day, but didn’t make it to do yesterday. However here is our brother who has been inspired by Ramadan, to organize the collection of money he saves by fasting so it may benefit local foodbanks. The blessed prophet said it was best to give charity locally. And though I know most of my Muslim brothers and sisters feel the strong pull to give to international organizations what with the horrendous global suffering contrasted to life in rich nation, still there is plenty of need here. So I hope you will share this initiative and promote it.

 

Website linked above and here it is again

www.give30.ca

 

Happy Canada day everyone and Ramadan kareem (=May Ramadan be generous for you!)

The honored guest has arrived! and my attempts to sight hilal ur-Ramadan

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you!

My dear readers, Ramadan Mubarak! (= congratulations on Ramadan/wishing you a blessed Ramadan/Happy Ramadan…any of these will work, again its a phrase hard to translate). Thanks and praise to Allah for the felicity to meet another Ramadan. I pray you are all well and in good health to meet her, in happiness and ease.

Of the many things I am in love with in this way of life – deen ul-Islam (the religion or way of Islam) is the way our lives are tied to the natural phenomena. I love it that the five prescribed ritual worship cycles or salat (some call it prayer but prayer is what we do at anytime) are tied to the position of the sun in the sky. These are obligatory ritual acts of worship. The word ‘salat’ comes from a root that means to ‘do good’, ‘to align rightly’, ‘to recalibrate’. It has all these meanings. It is the daily 5-time reminder of who we are, where we came from, where we are going to, and who we belong to. It’s that one-on-one meeting of the slave with his or her Maker that is the most precious thing in the world.

And I love it that the way we count the months is tied to the phases of the moon. There is something very magical about the moon. And something more magical about how this moon and sun tie into each other. About the passage of day and night. About the light and dark. The Quran talks of these often in many many places. Again, I love these passages too much not to share, so here is one instance below. Where Allah SWT swears by these immense creations…and scholars of Quranic interpretation say, that whenever Allah SWT swears by something that is a mark of the greatness of that thing, and also a mark of the import of the message that is sworn upon – in this case, to have a pure upright character or soul or self.

These are the first 11 ayat (=signs) from surah Shams (=sun). Unfortunately the English does not capture the cadence, rhyme or rhythm of the Arabic. Also there is no ‘neuter’ gender in Arabic. Everything is either male or female.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of Allah the most Loving, the One showing Love

91:1
By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;
91:2
By the Moon as she follows him;
91:3
By the Day as it shows up (the Sun’s) glory;
91:4
 By the Night as it conceals it;
91:5
 By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure;
91:6
 By the Earth and its (wide) expanse:
91:7
 By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;
91:8
And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-
91:9
 Truly he succeeds that purifies her (meaning one’s soul)
91:10
And he fails that corrupts her (meaning one’s soul)!

Now the fact that it is the moon that determines the count of the months is significant also for religious reasons. Since the third main pillar of the deen is the obligatory fast during the month of Ramadan. So much has been said about this that I won’t repeat anything here, except to say briefly that during this month Muslims are obligated to fast from dawn to dusk. The fast entails keeping away from all usual pleasures – definitely of lawful eating, drinking and marital relations and also (though less strictly observed) of too much of the sensual pleasures such as movies, music, TV etc. even if lawful. It is a time one removes the ‘creature-pleasures’ to free the soul to experience divine realities. The spiritual masters say that a too satiated body is heavy on the soul and so cannot be tuned into the call of the Creator. So then, removing those creature comforts paves the way for those heart-valves to open. In addition to this there is exoteric cleansing of course and much charity and feeling for the poor is an outcome.

One of the results of this tying between the deen ul islam and the natural phenomena was the necessitated great feats in astronomy and mathematics that were part of the Islamic golden age. Precise calculation of time became increasingly more important as the Muslim world expanded. There is divine wisdom in action.

So I went out to see if I could sight the hilal ur Ramadan (=crescent of Ramadan). It is a magical experience. Something very special about seeing that new moon during the few minutes it appears before it sets close upon the heels of the sun. I was not blessed with that sight this month though, as it was too cloudy. But I caught a mesmerizingly beautiful sunset instead.

While some Muslims rely on astronomical tables to determine the month, other opinions favour the need to sight the moon with naked eye. Some scholars hold a local sighting is necessary and others say a global sighting suffices. Two witnesses are required. I was tracking crescentwatch.org that tells when there is a chance to see the moon (as in astronomical possibility) and tracks user sightings. I felt greatly elated to hear that the moon was sighted in Sydney that morning and so waited to see if I too would catch a glimpse of her that night. Being in Western Canada we were among the last to see her, except for Hawaii which would be much later. Also for my non-Muslim readers to know – for us, the ‘day’ begins with the night. So when the hilal ur Ramadan is sighted thus marks the first ‘day’ of Ramadan. Great joy then! as mosques began the special night prayers and people gather to celebrate this most special of special times.

May her stay with us this year bring much peace and tranquility to all people, especially in those Muslim lands torn apart by bloodshed and hatred. God have mercy upon us all.

Here is a screen capture from crescentwatch tracking the crescent’s march across the globe.

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And here is a image of the crescent announcement

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And finally the beautifully peaceful sunset I encountered, though I did not see the hilal ur-Ramadan

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A chat among scholars

Dear Readers,

I came across this ‘chat’ on youtube. It is an obviously an old recording. But it was delightful to me and I thought to share it. Why? because it is a chat between two of the greatest scholars of Islam, in the English language, today. Both these men (Allah ihfidhuma = Allah preserve them both) have had a great impact on my life. They are extremely well schooled in the classical or traditional Muslim scholarly tradition and both individuals who converted to Islam in the 70s (independent of each other).

A few words on the Muslim scholarly tradition. There is a well known hadith from the beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him). He is reported to have said

“Scholars are the inheritors of the prophets.” [Related byTirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and others] Ibn al-Mulaqqin, Zayla`i, Ibn Hajar, and others seemed it sound (hasan) or rigorously authentic (sahih)]

Please see here for a nice commentary on this hadith by another one of my beloved teachers, Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. Gems from there are

A sure sign of having this knowledge & inheritance is that one upholds excellence of character, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The weightiest thing on the Scales on the Day of Judgment is good character.” [Abu Dawud] And he said, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character, and the best of you are those best to their spouses.” [Tirmidhi]

The best of good character is restraint and forbearance (hilm), for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Forbearance (hilm) is the best of character.” The most beautiful of character and conduct was the character and conduct of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk).

True inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reflect some of this excellence and beauty in their character and conduct. This character emanates from making Allah one’s true concern; being conscious of Allah; and true love for Allah.

What Islam uniquely brought (as per my limited knowledge) in the field of religious scholarly tradition is the ‘sanad’ system. Loosely translated as ‘chain’, the sanad is the living link between generations. In this system, knowledge is transmitted teacher to student, teacher to student and so on and on all the way up to the first teacher, the prophet of God, Muhammed (peace be upon him). For the westerner, the easiest way to understand it is the apprentice system. In the apprentice system, traditions are handed down generation to generation, without change and the knowledge is most authentic because the training of the student is not only in theory but in practice. In the context of an apprenticeship in ‘religious knowledge’, the student often lives with the teacher (or sheikh) and imbibes characteristics, mannerisms, ways of life that no book can hold. Students do not ‘graduate’ after a few years of study, nay, rather they are moulded over decades until they finally take their place as a full-fledged scholar. Usually this place is cemented upon the consensus of the populace. Being a trainee in scientific academia, I see so many parallels between that system and my own training. For example, how many a PhD student comes out of the long doctoral ‘apprenticeship’ imbibing their advisor’s method of thinking, writing, or  methodology of deducing arguments! Anyone who has been through this track will know what I mean.

So then an authentic scholar does have a sanad all the way to the prophet, peace be upon him. And so they really are inheritors of the prophets. The greatest catastrophe (as I’ve said often before, sorry for the repetition) upon the Muslim nation nowadays is the widespread dearth of such scholars. Worse, even the Muslim population is no longer able to distinguish a real scholar from a weak one or a poorly trained one, even from an imposter (and oh don’t we have plenty of those!). Once the population is unable to hold the scholarship to a high standard, then that results in poorer scholarship which leads to a more dummed-down population. It is a spiral downward.

This catastrophe is a result of the colonial period it is true, but still no point looking back and blaming others, it is time for us to revive authentic knowledge in our nation. Only so that we Muslims are aware of what happened, we should know, that there were scholars assassinated en masse in places like Turkey during the colonial era (targeted assasinations also took place in Iraq as recently as the American occupation of that country, not just of religious scholars but also of the secular academia – but this leads to another topic). There was also a systematic denigration of religious education in the minds of the common man by the colonial powers in the countries they ruled. I once listened to a well-researched talk on this from a visiting doctoral student from the USA. And indeed, I then could put two and two together and understand the poor estimation my own grandfather (Allah rest his soul) used to view the Ulema (=Muslim scholars) with. At the same time, their caliber was so poor that they were known for many lapses in good character and no honest person could admire them.  An example of that downward spiral.  That period was truly a colonization of the mind, for the remains of it still exist and many Muslims of today from those countries still reject religious scholarship. May God grant our hearts and minds are opened from this imperial domination and grant us sound scholars, as well as protect us from the sin of imposing such injustice upon another, no matter even if in our own home!

So here are two luminaries, both ‘signs’ of Allah :). An American convert from California and an English convert, who both independently journeyed, sought and found, and lived with authentic Muslim scholars and learned copiously as well as obtained license (=ijaza) to transmit Muslim scholarly works and who are now back in their respective homelands doing a great deal of good in spreading sound knowledge. My Muslim readers will know them well, for my non-Muslim readers – they are Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson (who has founded the first Islamic seminary in the USA – at UC Berkeley) and Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad or Tim Winter who is a professor of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University and is building a truly unique mosque/community center there. Apart from their very high caliber of Islamic scholarship, they are both masters of the English language, and as such are rare gems indeed.

Albeit their amazing stories, there conversation is more enjoyable. I felt this was a treat, so I hope you enjoy it too. I do believe one of the greatest lawful pleasures of life in this world is the gaining of sound beneficial knowledge (no matter the field) and being among the erudite. May God grant the latter pleasure in the hereafter as well!

BTW the Arabic word for discovery ‘kashf’ has a root that is shared by the word ‘ecstasy’! Indeed a true discovery is true ecstasy. I leave you then, to hopefully, experience some of that here.

May Allah preserve and increase them both and to you all the same!

Peace be with you all

 

 

With thanks an award

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you all

Alhamdulillah (=praise and thanks to God) I am returned home after a deeply amazing time in the mountains of Albany, NY at sheikh Mokhtar’s Tazkiyathun Nafs retreat. Indeed it is reviving an ancient Islamic scholarly practice of khalwa (=retreat) to be able to be quiet, meditate, engage much in dhikr (=remembrance of God) and learn from authentic texts and high-calibre teachers, who teach not only during lesson time but more so out of it, and then to enjoy time immersed in the amazingly bounteous creation of God most high. I was very blessed to be selected to go.

It was doubly nice to return to the happy news that my dear sister Keidi (http://anchorwithkeidi.wordpress.com) has kindly nominated me for a Muslim blogger award. Graciously do I accept and here is what I must do to do so. I must display the award and follow a number of steps. So here goes;

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Here are the rules for accepting this award:
Display the Award anywhere on your Blog.
Announce your win anywhere within a blog post and link back to the Blogger who awarded you, to thank them.
Optional: Include an English translation of one of your favorite surahs or verses from the Quran, with Book & Verse notation.
Optional: Present at least 7 deserving Bloggers with this Award, if you are able. If you are not able, the award is still yours – Congratulations!
If you are able to generate another round of this award, please Link your Awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment (or a pingback).

 

Both the optional conditions are difficult – it is very hard to pick just one favourite ayat/surah from the Quran, and also hard to nominate bloggers who have not already been nominated 🙂 But I will try

A favourite ayah (=’sign’, loosely translated as verse) of the Quran is the ayatun Nur (=verse of light) that comes in the Surah of the same Nur (=light). It is ayah number 35 of surah 24. It is too beautiful for my poor efforts at commentary to do anything but dishonor, so I will just give the ayah with translation. I wish my readers could hear it recited too, it is beautiful. So much do I wish it, that I’ve sourced a youtube of the recitation of this ayah. The video has the recitation of a few more verses after as well.

24:35

 

Sahih International Interpretation

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.

 

And here are nominations for the award

http://diffrntstrokes.wordpress.com/

http://northcountytutoringcenter.com/

http://asqfish.wordpress.com (I have found via their latest post that I know this beautiful lady, mashaAllah!)

http://islamwich.com

http://urwatulwuthqa.wordpress.com/

http://adventuresofsufigirl.wordpress.com/

http://deensisters.wordpress.com/

http://therevertmiyabhai.wordpress.com/

http://healing-hearts-blog.com

http://fajr-literary.com/

 

 

The honored guest is less than a ‘moon’ away!

I am interrupting my series on Spain because I must express my growing joy that the month of months is so close upon us. The month of Sha’ban began a few days ago with the new moon. The next new moon will be Ramadan! Muslims all around the world wait for this month. For us, ‘she’ is an honored guest. We clean our homes in preparation of her coming, and look forward to Ramadan days of cleansing the body that prepares the way for the nights of cleansing the heart. [For my non-Muslim readers, we keep our body away from food, drink, sexual relations during the day, as well as keep our eyes and ears away from things we should not look at and what we should not hear as well as try to keep our tongues away from speech not pleasing to the Divine. Then in the night there are long communal prayers, these are optional. Usually the whole Quran is recited during them by the end of the month. The standing by night in the quiet with a body enjoying the feeling of food and drink after that long fast is a very peaceful beautiful feeling. Hard to describe, it needs to be experienced]

Only a heart clean is fit to reflect divine light and what a lot of dirt accumulates in a year! So Ramadan is the Muslims great yearly shake-out and rejuvenate time. And indeed, if our hearts cannot reflect that divine light while we walk on the earth, what a poor sojourn it is. May Allah purify all our hearts and strengthen them!

The early generations of the followers of the blessed prophet (God be pleased with them all) would divide the year into two- the six months following the end of Ramadan they would supplicate to God to accept their good deeds during the month and the other six they would ask God for the bounty of meeting another Ramadan. From here

Ma’la Ibn al-Fadhl said about the Salaf (the pious predecessors): “They used to call upon Allah for six months until Ramadan reached them, then they would call on Him the other six months that Allah may accept it from them.” And Yahya Ibn Abee Katheer said, “Their supplication used to be,‘O Allah, keep me safe until Ramadan, and make Ramadan faultless for me, and secure it for me as an accepted (month of virtue).’”

 

So much to say about Ramadan…may Allah give me the blessing of meeting it, and may He give me tawfeeq (=success, felicity) to share more about Ramadan with you my dear readers. For now, I leave you with an episode from a must watch series; “traveler with the Quran”. Sheikh Fahad Al-Kandari (Allah preserve him), whose adab(=etiquette, manners, comportment) is truly a coolness to the eye hosts this series. He is hafidh-ul-Quran (=protector of the Quran literally, meaning one who has memorized it) and he travel the world interviewing huffadh-ul-Quran (pluran of hafidh-ul-Quran). Amazing series – especially the episodes from Tunisia and Algeria etc (people used to be jailed for learning Quran there as recently as 20 years ago- unbelievable!) to China (it was forbidden to learn or teach Quran till as recently as 5 years ago). No wonder the Muslim world is in disarray – if its people have been so divorced from their book. Indeed the colonial period was a catastrophe, that many scholars say equals if not exceeds the catastrophe that was the Mongol invasion that decimated Baghdad in the 12th century. May knowledge return to the Muslim nation. May Allah bring us back closer to our book!

Since Ramadan is the month when we envelope ourselves with Quran, its recitation, its reflection, and since it is the month of its first revelation…I thought it apt to share an episode. It was hard to pick an episode to share, I love so many of them. Here is one from China. I think many of you wouldn’t know about the ethnic Hui Muslim Chinese community (not the Uighers of West China). Islam has been in China since about the 9th or 10th Century CE, and has existed peacefully side-by-side with its non-Muslim neighbours.

Please click on ‘CC’ for English captions.

I am also incredibly impressed by the fluent Arabic spoken by the Chinese teachers.

To end, here is echoing the prayer for meeting Ramadan

“Allahumma balighna Ramadan”

(=O Allah give us the bounty of meeting Ramadan)!

It is a prayer to be made often, may we have the blessing of life to meet the blessed month once more

 

Peace be with you all

 

 

 

 

Modern influential Muslim women

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum

Now, a couple of posts ago I promised to follow up with a more detailed post highlighting modern influential Muslim women at the request of my dear reader ‘genometalk’. This is a reminder to myself never to promise something with a definite time-line attached unless I can be sure to meet it. Please forgive me for the tardiness of this post, it should have come a few days ago. But I’ve had a couple momentous life-events come to pass in the meantime and was a little unwell due to that as well, and this I hope will excuse me. Allah forgive me. Breaking a promise is a sign of the ‘munafiq’ (=one whose is in a state of ‘nifaaq’, which means hypocrasy) and being a munafiq is a terrible state to be in indeed. We know this from the well authenticated hadith of prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him)-

Muahmmed (peace be upon him) said, “There are three signs of “Munafiq”; When he speaks he Lies, when he promises he breaks those promises and when he is entrusted, he embezzles.” (Hadith Bukhari and Muslim).

So with the prayer this fulfills my promise and thanks to be able to do it;-

Here are some names that have been coming to mind the past few days that I have enjoyed contemplating on this post. They are in no particular order and not the outcome of extensive research, rather of some moderate research and names that are well-known in the Muslim community. I purposely wanted to include examples of leaders/exemplars in the religious and secular fields.

Dr. Ilham Al-Qaradawi

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Prof. Ilham Al-Qaradawi is professor of Physics at Qatar University and Adjunct Professor of Physics at Texas A&M University in Qatar. She received her Ph.D. working in the field of positron physics from University of London, UK in 1991.

Over the past decade, she has established a positron laboratory at Qatar University and successfully built the first slow positron beam in the Middle East. She has also established an environmental radiation measurement laboratory. Dr. Al-Qaradawi is involved with Europe’s CERN in the Antihydrogen experiment AEGIS. She is the founder of the Qatar Physics Society. Dr. Ilham Al-Qaradawi is a fellow of the institute of Physics and a member of many international societies. She also sits on the advisory committee of the World Nuclear University Radiation Technology Summer School and the World Council on Isotopes, and has lectured in the World Nuclear University Summer Institute for the past four years.

Prof. Ilham Al-Qaradawi has been awarded many awards for excellence in research, for Arab Women in Science and outstanding contribution to science. She has had many appearances on Al-Jazeera channel and several other TV channels and newspapers and magazines.

She has been listed by the Arabian Business magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in the State of Qatar and one of the 500 most influential Arabs in the world for the year 2012 and 2013 and one of the top 28 Arab scientists in the world and by CEO Middle East magazine as one of the100 Most Powerful Arab Women for the year 2012.

Above is taken from her website, www.ilhamqaradawi.com

[Interesting to many of my Muslim readers maybe (and perhaps for my dear non-Muslim readers also) is that she is the daughter of a very prominent orthodox scholar in the Muslim world, the Eygptian theologian, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who was exiled from Egypt for 30 years during the Presidency of Hosni Mubarak. I believe he delivered the Friday sermon in Tahrir square soon after the overthrowing of Mubarak. On this note, a prayer for my Egyptian brothers and sisters – Allah ease their present difficulty and increase them in what is pleasing to Him, SWT (=subhahana wa ta’ala, most Exalted and the most High)]

 

Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed (Ustadha is a title meaning something like ‘teacher’. It is affectionately given, She is not of the stature of a shaykha in terms of religious knowledge acquired, but she is certainly a recognized teacher by the community)

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A gifted and powerful speaker, she is raising young Muslims to new heights of self-awareness. Here is her bio from her website, it doesn’t do her justice. I have personally met many sisters who say her teachings have personally benefited them through life-events, and I can say the same. I also had the great delight of meeting her briefly, a simple and humble person. Allah bless her

Yasmin Mogahed received her B.S. Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic Studies and served as a youth coordinator. She also worked as a writing instructor at Cardinal Stritch University and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an instructor for  AlMaghrib Institute, a writer for the Huffington Post, an international speaker, and author, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Yasmin recently released her new book, Reclaim Your Heart, which is now available worldwide. Visit her website, yasminmogahed.com, where you can find a collection of her articles, poetry, and lectures.

 

Dalia Mogahed

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The sister of Yasmin Mogahed. Her forte is different to that of her younger sister, but no less powerful. I will let her bio from the Huffington Post speak for her

Dalia Mogahed is Chairman and CEO of Mogahed Consulting, a Washington, D.C. based executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Muslim societies and the Middle East. She is former Executive Director of and Senior Analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies where she led the analysis of surveys of Muslims worldwide, including in the U.S. and Europe. With John L. Esposito, Ph.D., she is coauthor of the book Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Dalia was appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where she served on the Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation Task Force. Arabian Business magazine recognized her as the most influential Arab woman in the world, and The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre included Mogahed in their list of the 500 most influential Muslims. Ashoka named her the Arab World’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010, and Mogahed received her alumni association’s prestigious Forward Under 40 award for outstanding contributions by a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. She is a WEF Young Global Leader and serves on the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Arab World.

 

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

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The past president of ISNA (Islamic Society of North America). I blogged about her here.

 

Anse Tamara Grey

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I mentioned this dear Shaykah in a previous post. Here is more about her

Anse Tamara Gray was born in 1966 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Soon after converting to Islam in 1984, she traveled to Damascus, Syria; where she lived for almost twenty years while studying core subjects of the Islamic tradition such as theology (aqīda), hadith, Qur’anic exegesis (tafsīr), and Islamic law. She also received a certification (ijāza) in Qurʾanic recitation from the late preeminent scholar of the Qur’an, Shaykh Abū al-Ḥasan al-Kurdī, in 1997. Anse Tamara Gray holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science and elementary education from Macalester College and a Master’s degree in curriculum theory and instruction from Temple University. Her career as an educational consultant includes curriculum design and implementation, administrative support, teacher training, and sensitivity training. Her speaking engagements encompass women’s issues in Islam and the Middle East, education, geographical issues, and other matters related to education, social issues, and Islam. She currently resides in St. Paul and serves as the founder of Rabata, which organizes educational activities for Muslim women in the form of online classes, workshops, and weekend intensives.

 

Dr. Feryal Salem

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Dr. Feryal Salem received her ijaza in Qur’anic recitation from the late Syrian scholar Abu al-Hasan al-Kurdi in 1998.  She has since then studied a number of related Islamic sciences including: Shafi’i and Hanafi jurisprudence (fiqh), Islamic theology (aqida), the Prophetic biography, Arabic grammar, Muslim inheritance law, classical logic, Qur’anic sciences (ulum al-Qur’an), and Islamic legal methodology (usul al-fiqh).  In 2009, she received a degree in the hadith sciences from the Nuriyya Women’s Hadith Institute of Damascus attached to the ancient Umayyad Mosque complex and whose program of study includes studying various hadith texts and classical commentaries.  In addition to her traditional study, Dr. Salem has completed a PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on hadith methodology from the University of Chicago. She currently resides in Hartford where she is Assistant Professor of Islamic Scriptures and Law at the Hartford Seminary as well as Co-Director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program and Director of the Imam and Muslim Leadership Graduate Certificate Program.

 

Baronnes Warsi

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Voted Britian’s most powerful Muslim woman recently, she is a powerhouse. Here are excerpts from her bio here

A lawyer, a businesswoman, a campaigner and a cabinet minister, Sayeeda Warsi has had many roles, but she is best known for being the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet and the foremost Muslim politician in the Western world.

One of five girls born to immigrants of Pakistani origin in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, Sayeeda studied law at Leeds University, going on to work for the Crown Prosecution Service before setting up her own legal practice. Her father, a former millworker and bus driver who set up his own business, instilled in her values of freedom, responsibility and aspiration.

 In 2007 she was elevated to the House of Lords aged 36, making her the youngest peer in Parliament. Later that year she travelled to Sudan and famously helped to secure the release of the British teacher Gillian Gibbons who was on trial for blasphemy.

In 2010 she was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron as Minister without Portfolio, becoming the first Muslim to serve in a British Cabinet.  In 2011 she provoked support and controversy when she famously declared that Islamophobia had ‘passed the dinner table test’. In 2012 she led the UK’s largest ever ministerial delegation to the Vatican, gaining global coverage for a speech which called on Europe to strengthen its Christian identity. Outspoken and challenging on the issues that many people seek to avoid, she has become an interesting and distinct voice on topics previously considered taboo. She led the government’s campaign to criminalise forced marriage and spoke out on the sexual grooming of children by gangs. Her business background and her passion for manufacturing have made her a champion for British business both at home and abroad, and as a result she has played a key role this government’s foreign policy priorities. Her campaign to ensure that Britain became the first western country to issue a Sukuk (Islamic bond) succeeded when Prime Minister Cameron announced the UK’s intention to implement this in 2014.

 

This young lady is no stranger to most of my readers I think. My inspirational little sister, Malala Yousufzai.

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Her courageous stand for what is right no matter the situation she is in, is such a powerful reminder of the personality of the women who were the vanguard of this Ummah (=nation, a word Muslims use to refer to the entire Muslim community. It has a more personal meaning than that, as Muslims do consider ourselves to be part of one very large very diverse and very old family). I won’t include a bio here, as she is so well known.

Another well known modern highly influential Muslim woman; Tawakkul Karman.

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Most of my readers would likewise be familiar with her story I think. I never tire of hearing her speak. What is most striking about her when she speaks, is her honesty and simplicity. Another personal thing I love about her is something she had likely nothing to do with – her name :). For my non-Arabic speakers, it has a very special meaning. Something Muslims remind each other to do all the time. ‘Tawakkul’ means to have trust in God/rely on God/be God-conscious. Again, it comes from a grammatical derivation of a root word which is composed of the three letters ‘w k l’. From it is also derived one of the ‘names’ of God, Al-Wakeel, meaning ‘The Guardian’. As in it is only God who is the protector of all. A very beautiful hadith on this topic I have to share

  Umar (Allah be pleased with him) said: I heard Muhammad (peace be upon him) saying, “If you all depend on Allah with due reliance, He would certainly give you provision as He gives it to the birds who go forth hungry in the morning and return with full bellies at dusk.” (At-Tirmidhi)

That tangent aside, here is an excerpt from an article in the Guardian about this remarkable lady, recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 2011 and tireless campaigner for human rights and freedoms. And all of this within the fold of Islam. Fighting to bring justice back to so-called Muslim leaders who have forgotten that justice is a cornerstone of the way of the prophet (peace be upon him)

Known to some of Yemen‘s opposition movement as the “mother of the revolution”, Tawakkul Karman has emerged as a crucial figure among the youth activists who began camping out at Change Square in central Sana’a in early February, demanding the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade rule. In Yemen, a 32-year-old mother of three may seem an unlikely leader of the fight to overthrow the president, but Karman – a journalist and human rights activist – has long been a thorn in Saleh’s side and has been jailed many times. She was catapulted into the international spotlight this January after being seized from her car and slung into prison. Thousands of people poured on to the streets of Sana’a calling for her release. It was a key moment in Yemen’s uprising when the tide began to turn against Saleh

 

Here is someone I doubt many of you would have heard of, despite the fact that TheMuslim500 calls her likely the most powerful Muslim woman in the world.

Sheikha Munira Qubaysi

No picture is available of her as she like many Muslim women I know, prefer not to have their photograph circulated. Here is a bio of her and her movement. Taken from the above linked The Muslim 500 (chronicles top 500 influential Muslims) and other sources. She is given the title ‘Her Eminence’ in the Arab world

Munira Qubeysi is the head of the largest women-only Islamic movement in the world. It offers Islamic education exclusively to girls and women. Qubeysi commands around 80 schools in Damascus alone, teaching more than 75.000 students. She is one of the most significant Islamic scholars in the world; her movement focuses on learning the Qur’an and six Hadith collections by heart. Qubeysi is arguably the most influential Muslim woman in the world, albeit in great discretion. By training a new generation of female Islamic scholars, Sheikha Qubeysi has made Islamic knowledge widely accessible.

 

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser (Here sheikha does not refer to her religious standing but is simply a title)

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From her website; In Qatar, her home, her highness serves as Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), a private non-profit organisation founded in 1995. Its flagship project is Education City, which covers over 14 million square metres and houses branch campuses of renowned international universities and institutions. QF also is engaged in numerous scientific research and economic and social development projects. Sheikha Moza serves as the Vice Chair of the Supreme Council of Health and she also served as the Vice Chair of the Supreme Education Council from March 2006-February 2012. In these roles, she has helped enact major top-down reforms of Qatar’s public schools and healthcare system. Also, more recently, she chairs the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, a new training and research hospital that is envisaged to become a leading institution for women and children’s specialty care.On a regional and international level, Sheikha Moza has launched multiple projects including the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq, the Silatech initiative to address the growing challenge of youth employment in the Middle East and North Africa, and Education Above All, a policy research and advocacy organization concerned with a single policy area: protecting the right to education in conflict-affected areas.

I realize I can continue this post for quite a bit longer. So I will stop now. I think the above gives you a glimpse of the variety of prominent roles women play in the Muslim world. I suppose due prevalent misinformation and due to unfamiliarity with a foreign system, many in the West think of women in the Muslim world as subjugated and backward. It is true there is patriarchy in the Muslims world, but that is true in the Western world as well – it may only be not so open (e.g., look at salary scales for men and women for the same jobs). What is true in the Muslim world is that women are more modest in their dress – and this has always been considered a strength rather than the opposite. I don’t want to go into a hijab discussion in this post, so suffice to say that the headscarf is usually considered by Muslim women a symbol of empowerment and not otherwise. It has always traditionally allowed us to move freely in male dominated societies and be respected for our prowess and intelligence and allowed us to interact with men sans a superimposition of our sexuality. That said, let me close this post by highlighting a poster from MuslimScience.com; It is their list of top 20 Muslim women scientists globally. As a young scientist myself I was ecstatic to find it. I hope the names are readable, if not, link here

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Finally I want to end by sharing a letter of appreciation written for a great teacher by her student, upon her death. I wanted to share this, as for me, it beautifully portrays the great place women and women-scholars have always had in our tradition. This letter has been translated to the English here, from where I take it. It was written notably, by a male student and given in the dignified and honorable Arabic style of presentation that I am coming to love more and more the more I study it. Most people are not aware of the movements of preserving knowledge going on in the Muslim world. Indeed I did not know either until recently. An unfortunate side-effect of my colonial education, albeit it was very good in many other ways.

Here is the letter, it is about Dr. Da’ad al-Husayni

al-Ḥāfiẓa al-Jāmiʿa Dr. Daʿad al-Ḥusaynī (1938-2009)

The people of Greater Syria have a beautiful quality, namely that they love the men and women of sacred knowledge.  With this merit also comes a shortcoming in that many of them do not become aware of their scholars until after they have passed.  Before our tears had yet to dry for our dear brother and teacher, al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Ustādh ʿAbd al-Hādī al-Ṭabbāʿ, God willed that another great and noble scholar, whose likeness is rare to find, be taken to the eternal abode.  The scholars of Damascus and the carriers of God’s book submitted their affairs to His divine will with the death of Dr. Daʿad al-Ḥusaynī (may God have mercy on her).

 Dr. Daʿad earned her PhD in mathematics from the Soviet Union and was one the oldest professors of mathematics in the Department of Science at the University of Damascus.  She was born in 1938 and her father was the late teacher and guide Muhammad ʿAlī Ḥusaynī al-Jazāʾirī.  She was an individual of many talents. During her youth she studied in Moscow and taught in Algeria before settling at the University of Damascus.

She became devoted to her faith and transformed both in heart and action.  She was a leader of the Islamic women’s movement in Syria and one of its most senior teachers.  She was certified (mujāza) in all ten recitations of the Qurʾān (acquiring the station of al-ḥafiẓā al-jāmiʿa li-l-qirāʾāt) at the hands of the blessed scholar of Syria, Shaykh Abū al-Ḥasan al-Kurdī—may God preserve him and continue to benefit the Muslims from him.

Hundreds of women graduated under her tutelage as certified reciters of the Qurʾān.  The students of these reciters then produced thousands of other women reciters of the Qurʾān.  She was rigorous in her precision and exactitude in Qurʾānic recitation.

She spent her life as an upright spiritual guide, a devoted wife, a dedicated mother, and a great scholar.  This is attested to by all who interacted with her and witnessed her qualities of distinction and leadership.  I was privileged to have been her student in mathematics at the university during the late seventies.  Later, I was honored to have met with her many times at the meetings of the board of directors of the Badr al-Dīn al-Ḥasanī Foundation for Sacred Sciences.  She was an individual who possessed strength of character while maintaining a balance in her life that was further exemplified by her farsightedness.  Until now, I recall her firm command over a college lecture hall of hundreds of students whose eyes had never been exposed to a woman in a headscarf who was capable of instructing them in mathematics (keeping in mind that she was one of the rare women in the universities at that time who practiced Islam to this level).  I can also testify with all honesty that she was one of the most proficient professors with whom I had studied mathematics and to this day, I possess in my heart the greatest of respect and gratitude towards her.

While she published only a small booklet on the science of tajwīd, she engraved the Book of God on the hearts of thousands of our mothers, sisters, and daughters.  She also published books on mathematics, problem solving, and numbers.  She possessed—may God have mercy on her—the most lofty of good character, exceeding benevolence and had a luminous smile that encompassed both resolution and kindheartedness.

She is survived by her husband, Muḥammad Nadhīr al-Māliḥ, as well as a son and daughter.  Her funeral prayer was held on Thursday the 23rd of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, 1430 AH or March 19, 2009 CE at the Shāfiʿī mosque in West Mezze Damascus.  She was buried in the Najhā cemetery.  Her funeral was attended by an abundance of scholars of sacred knowledge and people of spiritual excellence.  It was also witnessed by thousands of men and women who are carriers of the Book of God in their hearts.

O Allah, have mercy on her in the grave and soothe her loneliness by the truth of Your Book that was her best companion, and make her and our brother ʿAbd al-Hādī al-Ṭabbāʿ of those who intercede on our behalf. O Allah, make those whom she has left behind from among her children, homeland, and students to receive the utmost of goodness and exchange this loss to the Muslim community with another bounty.  Indeed, God does not take or give except that everything is set in a balance. Innā lillāh wa innā ilayhi rājiʿūn.

Composed by one of her students and sons in knowledge, upbringing, and virtue: Aḥmad Muʿādh al-Khaṭīb al-Ḥasanī.

 

Peace be with you all

 

 

 

 

 

15 Important Muslim Women in History

Dear readers,

Peace be with you all, I just came across this and  I couldn’t but share it 🙂

Sometimes, one gets rather tired of the misconception of women in Islam…not just from non-Muslims. I have heard silly things said by Muslim women themselves…notably who come from patriarchal societies devoid of much islamic education. Here’s the article, do read. Nice pictures too 🙂

15 Important Muslim Women in History.