The Story of Mary, a Pure and Noble Example

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

Mary, mother of Jesus, can often be seen portrayed in paintings as a serene figure with her head always covered and has always been a revered figure for Christians, to such an extent that in some denominations her figure can be found in churches and even prayers are said to her. Children in the West are taught the Nativity story in primary school, how Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary were turned away from inn after inn until they found shelter in a stable where Jesus was born; among young primary school girls the role of Mary in the Nativity is a coveted one.

Along with Christians it is Muslims who also hold Mary in high regard and we can read about her in several places in The Holy Qur’an, about her own birth, her pious youth and the birth of Jesus and in fact chapter 19 of the Holy Qur’an, Surah Maryam, is named after her.

Before her birth Mary’s mother had promised to dedicate her to God. In chapter 3, verse 36 of the Holy Qur’an, the mother of Mary makes a vow to God,

“‘My lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do accept it of me…”

The fact the new child was a girl was at first perplexing until the realisation came that God intended something special of her. She grew up a model of piety and complete trust in God which was to prove a great support to her in subsequent events.

In 2014 the first mosque built by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ireland was opened in Galway and it was named Maryam Mosque (Masjid Maryam) after Mary, because of the fact she is a figure revered by Catholics, who are the majority in Ireland, and Muslims alike. At the reception held for the opening Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V stated:

Maryam, or Mary as known to you, is as greatly revered by Muslims as she is by Christians. In fact, in the Holy Qur’an, Allah has mentioned Mary at many instances and highlighted her esteemed status. Mary was the name of that pure and pious woman who is honoured by Islam so much that the Qur’an has said that all true believers are like Mary. This is because Mary established a very special relationship with God and she upheld her virtue and chastity at all times. She developed a special bond of love with God, whereby Allah conversed directly with Mary and He Himself attested to her truth. Mary believed in the Books of God, she was righteous and attained a special rank in terms of her obedience to God.“

The Holy Qur’an tells us of the moment when Mary found that God had chosen her:

“And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.”
Chapter 3, verse 43

The true story of the birth of Jesus is even more extraordinary than that portrayed in the Nativity because Mary actually found herself near to giving birth seemingly completely alone. There was no inn and no stable in which to take shelter; instead Mary found herself in pain lying outside under a tree. Imagine the situation and how terrifying it would be.

But Mary was not alone as God was with her and she was told;

“Grieve not. Thy Lord has placed a rivulet below thee; And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee.“
Holy Qur’an chapter 19, verses 25-26

The tree provided sustenance in the form of fresh dates, a nearby stream provided fresh water to drink and wash and God gave her the strength to endure the birth. This complete trust in God and strength of character she displayed throughout her life makes Mary an extraordinary and inspiring role model for all women whatever their faith. This unique position of being held in such high regard by people of different faiths makes her a uniting force.

As Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V further said in Galway:

“She was most certainly an example for all true believers. Her elevated status is reflected by the fact that the Qur’an says that true Muslims should develop the qualities of Mary and if they do so then they will be those who never cause harm or suffering to anyone. Every Ahmadi Muslim therefore seeks to instil within themselves the purity, nobility and piety of Mary herself.”

What an extraordinary woman Mary was that she has become a role model for people down the ages and remains so to this day.

 

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The Benefits of the Hijab

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Yusra Dahri, London

Introduction

Recently, a lot of controversy arose from Ofsted’s (Amanda Spielman) fear of the hijab ‘sexualising’ young girls, aged 4 to 5, who may wear headscarves in primary school.

There is no Islamic requirement for girls to wear a headscarf until they have reached full physical maturity, so it’s perfectly acceptable for a primary school child not to wear it. However, a young girl may want to wear it out of pride or love of her religion, or because she wants to emulate her female relatives out of admiration.

Isn’t it better for girls to have their mothers as role models, than the public figures who are arguably more ‘sexualised’ than anyone else? In fact one of the purposes of the hijab is to prevent the sexualisation of young women, which is only one of its benefits.

The Benefits of Wearing the Hijab

First and foremost, dressing modestly and wearing the headscarf allows you to please Allah, as you are fulfilling the commandment set by Allah in chapter 24 verse 32 of the Holy Quran for women to , “…restrain their looks and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty or embellishment except that which is apparent thereof and that they draw their head-covering over their bosoms…”  Ultimately, it should be our goal to please Allah.

One allegation often thrown at the way Muslim women dress is that it hides them, allowing them to be ignored by society. This is simply not true, as many Muslim girls I know would agree. The verse above is aimed specifically at women, giving them a unique role and also a great responsibility. Nowadays, the most common image of an ordinary Muslim is a girl in a headscarf, as it’s a well known Islamic symbol. By being outwardly Muslim we can shape the way people view Islam by simply carrying out the daily tasks of our dynamic lives.

The hijab is our statement to the world. It shows we are not afraid and we have no ‘inferiority complex’ of how we are viewed from a western perspective because our first priority is our religion. This not only protects us from unsavoury situations because we raise our modesty as our highest virtue, but it also shows us who our true friends are. No girl in secondary school wants to learn later on that her classmates ridicule her religion, but by wearing a headscarf you can see who would naturally approach you anyway.

This also creates interest as it’s very possible, even likely, that your classmates have never really encountered anyone who has worn a headscarf before, and would like to learn more about it. This creates a source of tabligh. I know that my own classmates were curious as to why I dressed modestly and had plenty of questions!

Sometimes we can be afraid of this type of confrontation, because we are not used to having things that are normal to us being questioned. However, it is nothing to be scared of, as it’s perfectly natural human curiosity and completely harmless. Instead we should be confident about the reasons why we wear the headscarf, and try to learn as much about it as possible, so we can genuinely answer anyone’s questions to the best of our ability.

It is also a constant reminder to us who we are. As Muslim girls, our outward modesty can remind us of the inward modesty that we need to maintain. Sometimes it can be very tempting to act in a certain way in order to ‘fit in’ but later on we realise that the school setting, which is our whole world right now, is only temporary.

Later on, you will be glad that through the hijab you were able to develop character, make decisions for yourself and stand your own ground. Personally these are things I learned from wearing a headscarf, but it can mean something different to everyone who wears it, even though we all wear it for our faith in Allah the Almighty, which shows how unique it really is.

There are many benefits to wearing the hijab, and I hope they prove invaluable to you too, Insha’Allah.

School and Well-being

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

At my school in West London there was a uniform policy of skirts, blouses and blazers. Trousers were not allowed at all until after I left when the great number of girls from the Indian sub-continent led to a change so trousers and in fact a traditional shalwar kameez in standard navy blue joined the uniform list. Until sixth form, when I was able to wear loose trousers and a loose shirt I had to follow the uniform policy. This meant instead of bare legs, socks or sheer tights I wore thick, ribbed opaque tights with my skirt. Islam requires obedience to authority and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always advocated following rules so I felt this was a compromise which kept my dress modest while conforming to the uniform policy.

By the time my own children started school things had changed; skirts were and are still part of the uniform but have been joined by trousers giving the girls freedom of movement while keeping their legs covered. Schools are pretty tolerant about the requirements of different faiths and have allowed my children to sit out of Christmas Carols and to say their Prayers in an empty classroom during the short winter days.

While headscarves, or hijabs, were visible in some schools during my schooldays now they have become much more common. Muslim girls in secondary schools are routinely able to cover their heads but younger primary aged girls are also sometimes doing so. The subject of primary aged girls wearing headscarves arose recently with reports of some Muslims women approaching Ofsted with the wish to ban the headscarf in primary schools. This was followed by a report that Ofsted inspectors were to question young girls who do wear a headscarf. My reaction on hearing this was why are they trying to make trouble where there is none and is this really going to help a child’s well-being?

There are some primary schoolgirls who wear a hijab; in Islam the requirement to cover the head is once a girl reaches an age of full maturity which can start around the age of 12 or 13 so before that time she doesn’t need to do so and a parent shouldn’t force her to do so either. However there are cases where a girl may wish to cover her head; she may have seen women in her family wear a hijab when going out and wish to do the same. It would not occur to her that she is covering her head from men as the only reason would be innocently wanting to be like the women of her family. In that case is it really necessary to legislate against her action? Very young girls often wear bikinis or make-up which makes them look like their mum and at school will talk about how their clothing can attract the boys. Should legislation be extended to cover this too?

The idea of Ofsted questioning young Muslim girls about covering their heads is a dangerous one and brings up reminders of when children were questioned under the Prevent strategy to uncover evidence of extremism. A child drawing a picture of a man cutting a cucumber which he mispronounced as sounding like “cooker bomb”, another who drew his terraced house spelling it as “terrorist house” were both cases where children and their families were treated as suspects of sorts due to innocent mistakes. A policy of questioning young girls could go the same way.

Leaving aside mistakes being made it would not be healthy for a child to be singled out from their school friends to justify why she covered her head; there are enough reports of stress and mental health issues among young schoolchildren without adding to them when we should be helping children lessen any stress. Even in cases where older girls need to be asked about their hijab it should be ensured this is done sensitively and without making the girls feel they were being singled out for doing something wrong. It is difficult enough for Muslim children these days hearing about terrorist atrocities in the news as well as listening to anti-Muslim sentiment, sometimes to their faces; they can do without the added stress of being made to feel something they are doing or even their very faith is hated or wrong.

Growing up is a difficult time for children when even small problems can feel insurmountable; as adults our treatment of children needs to be in a sensitive manner so as not to add to any anxiety that may already be building up. Common sense needs to be used; if a young girl wishes to cover her head let her; if there are any concerns about a child which need further investigation it should be done in a sensitive manner through proper channels and not merely because she covers her head in school. Rather than causing problems where there are none our goal needs to be putting the well-being of our children first and help them grow up to be relaxed, confident young people who will make positive contributions to society.

Why I Too Choose To Keep My Headscarf On!

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Sarah Ward Khan, London

Sometimes people stare at me in the street.  I’ve come to recognise that certain look that crosses a stranger’s face of confusion and bewilderment.  For I am a white woman in a headscarf – an anomaly, not fitting the mould.  There is no cultural or familial pressure for me to conform, mine is entirely a matter of choice.  I’m a walking oxymoron: woman from a culture of apparent freedom and advancement, dressed in the garb of supposed oppression and subjugation.

But I don’t worry about the looks of the occasional passer-by.  My life is not defined by these fleeting interactions based on assumption on both sides. My life and my choices are defined by a faith rooted in a love of God, deeper than considerations of others.  My dress is a deeply personal choice, selected by me and upheld by my own convictions.  Yet so often commentators believe that if I wear a scarf I must lack the intellect or awareness to understand my lowly status.

Yet the truth is something much more powerful and is known only to those who understand in the deepest recesses of their soul that hijab is a spiritual affirmation, a footstep on the path to enlightenment, inner peace and acceptance.  Let me explain how.  Covering the hair is an instruction of the Holy Qur’an.  It states;

‘Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-covers over their bosoms….’(Chapter 24, verses 31-32)

Firstly, the hijab is not simply to ward off uncontrolled men.  The instruction in the Qur’an is aimed at men first, they are told to lower their gaze.  There is no burden on women to shield themselves from men, the burden is placed fully and firstly on the men themselves.

Secondly, the hijab is not to hide women.  Quite the opposite.  The Holy Qur’an tells women they are beautiful: all women, without comparison and without exception.  This single affirmation unites women in a bond of sisterhood, removes competition and increases self-confidence. Muslim women do not cover themselves in female company because they are then on an equal footing – they are all beautiful.  How many anxieties and discords could be eliminated if women embraced this philosophy, stopped doubting themselves and took pride in their elevated status as beings of inherent beauty?

Thirdly, wearing the hijab acknowledges that women are more than simply what they wear.  When we operate in an environment when we are covered, other people cannot judge us on our looks.  We do not elevate our physique and physical appearance to be our most important asset.  Instead, we invite people to judge us based on our character, our conduct, our speech and who we are as a person.  In a society where illusive and fleeting values of youth and beauty are paramount, we offer an alternative.  Know us as a person, the qualities that will not fade with the passage of time.  Judge us by our values that will weather any storm and improve with age and experience.

For the spirit of hijab is more than a fashion trend.  I have worn hijab since my youth, when modest fashion and hijabi trends were unknown to most of the Western world.  My adherence to hijab is not based on force, but on choice.  So I do not mind if I get the occasional stare in the street, for I am stronger than the fickle winds of change. I follow a long line of women from all cultures and religions, who knew that hijab is a positive affirmation of my intrinsic value as a woman.  And if I am the last hijabi standing, then I will continue to stand with the self-belief and conviction of faith that this practice is the right one and it is enduring.

Wearing The Hijab In Islam

 

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Navida Sayed, London

Over the last decade the hijab has become one of the most widely discussed and controversial topic not only in the West but also in Muslim societies. The covering of the head has also been debated among some Muslim scholars and they have joined in the debate on whether or not the wearing of a headscarf is required of Muslim women. Before we discuss what some scholars are saying we will see what led to this debate. [i]

Recently the topic of hijab came into the spotlight through social media platforms. Some European governments have introduced legislation against wearing the full face Hijab. In pursuit of their own political agendas some of the Western countries repeatedly intervene and attempt imposing and elaborating a dress code about how Muslim women should dress in the name of secularism, as a result this is dividing societies rather than uniting.  It leads to backlash and hatred against Muslim women in hijab. This has resulted in many with little awareness of Islam to identify Muslim women in hijab either with terrorism or as oppressed women in desperate need of liberation from their hijab.  Sadly all the negative media propaganda and recent hate crimes against Muslim women in Hijab has resulted in some Muslim women to turn their back on wearing the veil and forming countercultural statements.

Women choosing to walk away from the hijab as feminists or because of modernity actually believe that the hijab is ingrained in culture rather than faith. They pander to the arguments of those who erroneously believe that Muslim hijab wearing women are brainwashed into saying they are wearing it out of choice and they are not forced to wear it. Activists are taking the removal of the hijab to a whole new level, from videos and blogs on how to remove the headscarf to linking the headscarf as an out dated cultural practice. To further confuse matters some Muslim males opposing the headscarf have jumped on the bandwagon too, they quote five so-called high profile Muslim Scholars as an authority who issued a fatwa on – ‘The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf’, I will only touch on some of their points here.

The first is Khaled Abou El-Fadl ‘ who critiques the predominant Muslim position of viewing the khimar (veil) as a piece of cloth that covers the head and face or just the head. He argues that if the headscarf itself causes women to stand out and put them in the way of harm and if uncovering the head is not considered socially immodest or licentious then it would be permissible for Muslim women to not wear the headscarf.’

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi also shares the opinions of Khaled Abou El-Fadl, Ghamidi and his affiliate Farhad Shafti that ‘the khimar (veil) was neither a religious act nor did it pertain to modesty.

Abdullah Bin Bayyah ‘argues that hardships allow for uncovering of women’s body parts or hair in public.

In relation to the wearing of the headscarf Bin Bayyah’s student Hamza Yusuf mistakenly asserts that ‘the laws are there to serve human beings, we are not there to serve the law. We are there to serve Allah, and that is why whenever the law does not serve you, you are permitted to abandon it, and that is actually following the law. … The law is for our benefit, not for our harm. Therefore, if the law harms us, we no longer have to abide by it.’

The late Shia cleric, Ahmad Ghabel deemed as an authority on Islam, ‘argued that the head covering was not obligatory but recommended, he also said there was no consensus as to whether hair constituted parts that must be covered.’

The fifth person the late Nasr Abu Zayd argued ‘covering of body parts and the hijab are subject to socio-cultural norms and therefore are changeable and not fixed. He opined that both are not legislated by Islam but are rather specific to the Arab culture.’[ii]

Citing the above-mentioned individuals as authorities on Islam is misleading. Deliberation on their arguments in detail is for another time. In a nutshell as scholars of Islam they are all inaccurately asserting with authority that Islam does not require women to cover their heads with a headscarf especially in countries where they may be facing discrimination or persecution because of their headscarves.  However the real and only authority on Islam is the Holy Qura’n.  In Islam, modesty and chastity are very important tenets of faith, and are achieved through establishing certain codes of behaviour and dress. It is said in the Holy Qur’an:

‘And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-covers over their bosoms…’ (Ch.24:V.32)

The veil is a word used generically, which could refer to Hijab, Burqa, Niqab, headscarf or outer garment used to cover the body. Because Islam is a global religion there is no specific or compulsory dress for all Muslim women. Each country or community adapts its cultural dress code to observe the Hijab in accordance with Qur’anic instructions. In essence, this does not mean that the Hijab stems from cultural dress in fact the beauty of Islam is that it allows women to adapt their cultural dress in accordance with teachings of Islam as mentioned in the above verse of the Holy Qura’n.  Observance of the veil is definitely part of a Muslim woman’s faith, as it is clear from the Holy Qur’an.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab in Western countries do not struggle with any kind of inferiority complex or dilemma about whether or not they should wear the hijab. They do not feel constricted or objectified instead they feel confident and empowered.  The Hijab establishes dignity and respect for women, so that they are recognised in society as individuals who are respected for their intelligence and personality rather than for their physical appearance.  For Muslim women having the right to choose what to wear including the hijab is the most liberating and empowering choice of all.

 

 

[i] HuffPost Canada. (2017). 5 Muslim Scholars On The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/junaid-jahangir/islam-wearing-hijab_b_14046520.html

[ii] HuffPost Canada. (2017). 5 Muslim Scholars On The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/junaid-jahangir/islam-wearing-hijab_b_14046520.html

Why I Choose To Keep My Headscarf On

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Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

The hijab is a piece of cloth that covers a Muslim woman’s hair and bosom. Yet somehow it seems to become the focal point of many debates particularly when discussing Islam. Many European countries seek to, or have legislated against, the hijab or some form of it. They justify this in the name of integration and freedom from the shackles of this supposedly backward and unnecessary practice.

Throughout my upbringing, modesty has always been an integral part of day to day life. The hijab, however was encouraged from around the age of 12, and I remember being excited at ‘growing up’ and the symbolic link of entering a world of new opportunities I had seen many other girls who were older, in my community do. In fact, I vaguely remember wanting to start at a much younger age but besides wearing it to the mosque, I was told to wait till I was older and able to commit to it fully by understanding it rather than just wearing it momentarily for the fun of it.

Once I entered secondary school, I wore a loose scarf around my neck and by year 9, so around the age of 13, I started wearing it loosely draped over my head. My hijab was worn with great pride yet up until the age of 16- 17 the connection between my faith and my hijab was superficial. I was wearing this piece of cloth over my head because my faith prescribed it for me. This is also the age where my inquisitive mind would bustle with the constant nagging thought of ‘Why?’ Why am I Muslim? Why does it make me so different to those around me? Why do I do the things I do? Why do I wear my hijab?

It was the rite of passage of being a teenager and finding yourself in this vast world of endless possibilities. These nagging questions, made me delve into my faith. I spent a year finding the answer to every why until I was satisfied that my faith, Islam, could provide a ‘because’ to every single one of my ‘why’ in a most satisfactory manner.

Now that I understood the multiple philosophical reasoning behind wearing my hijab, I put it into practice. Now, I would wear the hijab, not because my mother wore it or my friends at the mosque wore it but because I knew there had to be benefits for myself in it. So I observed myself and those around me and found that the hijab for me meant a life polar opposite to a life of one without it.

Rather than becoming ashamed and embarrassed of my modest dress and hijab, I grew to appreciate my true freedom when I was no longer bound to societal expectations especially in terms of how at times women can be objectified in our society. Instead of worrying how I looked, agonising every day over what to wear, pressurising my parents to buy the latest fashion, like many of my friends and peers were going through, I learnt to care less about how I appeared and more about how I behaved. It has given me a true sense of self appreciation, where how I behave, what I have to say matters, not how I look. I am no longer objectified but treated as an equal who has no obligation to dress in a certain manner simply to fit in. Every time I stepped out of the door with my hijab on, the world around me knew I was a Muslim and this is turn led me to always question my actions.

To those who would look at me confused, bemused, amused and now more recently somewhat angry, I’d politely smile back. Yes, I am wearing my hijab, yes it makes me different to those around me but I am liberated. Liberated of any material expectations and focused on my spiritual self. Every time I go out, taking part in any community work, or just extending an every day random kindness to a stranger, I am representing my faith in a positive light. My pride is visible through a simple piece of cloth that lets the world know I am a Muslim and I am proud of it

 

Be Not Divided: Interfaith Relations

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

In a recent example of interfaith dialogue, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community met with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury on 10th October 2017 where he spoke about the need for tolerance in society and for mutual respect to be displayed by all people and communities.

Just as these two great faith leaders met so the rest of the population is given a renewed opportunity to meet with and get to know people of other faiths during a dedicated Interfaith Week held every year.

Islam lays great emphasis on building bridges with other communities as Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad stated in an address in Canada on 22nd October 2016:

“It is absolutely true that we, Ahmadi Muslims, are peace-loving and seek to build bridges of love and hope between different religions and different communities.  However, this is not because we have deviated from Islam or ‘modernised’ it in any shape or form. Rather, it is because we follow Islam’s authentic teachings.”

It appears to be such a simple action which can lead to tolerance and peace throughout society and Interfaith Week is one positive step in that direction.

The different regions of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association UK, also known as Lajna, have taken the opportunity this week to arrange visits to places of worship of other faiths and are each holding an Interfaith Seminar to connect with women in their area. This has resulted in visits by Ahmadi women to Hindu Mandirs, Sikh Gurdwaras and Jewish Synagogues across the country aimed at learning about other faiths and making friends. It comes as a pleasant surprise to discover women from the Hindu community not only in big cities but in the green and less populated areas of Surrey and Hampshire!

It is not only during Interfaith Week, however, that Lajna branches hold interfaith events; throughout the year members can be found arranging visits to places of worship and holding seminars with women of all faiths and, indeed, none. The theme of these events may be different, discussing various world problems and women’s issues but there is one factor which always emerges; the women from all the various faiths find they have so much common ground and the differences between people are not as great as they sometimes appear.

“As God has made you one brotherhood, so be not divided.”

These words were spoken in the year 632AD by the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) during his Farewell Sermon. As we find ourselves passing through times of difference and division leading to great turmoil in the world these words are ones we should always bear in mind in our dealings with others.

 

 

Lower Your Gaze

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

One of the questions that most often get asked of Muslim women is why they wear the headscarf; those who disagree with it claim it is forced on women and unnecessary in the modern world. Another is why in Islam women can’t shake the hand of men in greeting; here accusations of disrespecting Western culture are laid. Similarly segregation is a topic that often arises with claims that Muslim women are shut away and Islam is a backward religion for enforcing it. Many a time just because women are not shown in photographs with men, reports of segregated events have been greeted with the demand “where are the women?” as if women are locked away at home not allowed to venture forth into the world.

The Holy Qur’an is filled with wise guidelines for men and women, designed to lead to a pure and happy society. It says to men in Chapter 24, verse 31:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.”

Islam advocates the separation of men and women outside immediate family members unless necessary, for example for education, medical attention or in the workplace etc; in these cases men are required to lower their gaze and women to dress modestly and cover their heads. While following these requirements women are able to excel in their studies and jobs as well as leading full lives. If women themselves are asked about sitting separately from men they will tell you they feel a sense of comfort, safety and freedom in an area men are restricted from entering and so can relax and enjoy time with other women.

On the topic of segregation Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, worldwide spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has said:

“If you do not wish to mingle freely with men or to sit alongside them it is your own choice, made of your own volition, in order to preserve your honour and dignity. If you do not choose to shake the hands of men, it is because your heart demands that you follow Islam’s teachings, which provide true dignity for women. Such conduct is not based on the demands of men but is the result of your freedom to make your own decisions and is a symbol of true independence.”
(Address at Lajna Ima’illah UK Ijtema, 24th September 2017)

Last year evidence emerged in the U.S. of allegations of assault and misogynistic behaviour in high political echelons including derogatory comments regarding women which were dismissed as “locker room banter”. In the past few weeks the media has been filled with new stories emerging regularly of assault and inappropriate behaviour by men. This torrent began with allegations concerning Hollywood figures and have quickly escalated to include many other men including politicians in the UK. What has become of respect and the dignity of women when men feel it acceptable to behave inappropriately towards women they mix with?

In the world today, as is currently being shown in recent news stories, it has become clear that women are often finding themselves in working or social situations ranging from uncomfortable to dangerous. Women need to feel safe which is not always the case. Does all this not illustrate that criticism of Islamic principles is wholly unfounded and that there is great wisdom behind the teachings of Islam?

 

Facts Behind The Hijab

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, London

The hijab is a garment that bestows its wearers wings of liberation. However, for those who fail to understand it, it is unjustly labelled a cage of oppression. In order to bring some clarity to this heavily misunderstood garment, a review of some facts is in order.

A Divine Commandment

Not uncommonly these days, one hears of the odd individual boldly announcing that the hijab is not a Divine commandment but a cultural tradition. A rather absurd notion when we observe that the hijab is universally adhered to across all cultural and geographical boundaries; from the Arabian deserts, to African villages and the suburbs of London and New York. So the hijab belongs to no-one culture, it is a practice of faith.

Let us clarify this matter with the Divine authority of the Holy Qur’an.

In chapter 24, verse 32 it states

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…”

There is much to be learnt from this verse, Firstly, that the hijab is not just a headscarf. Certainly not; there is much greater depth and breadth to this topic. The concept of the hijab defines a standard of modesty. The eyes observe the hijab through restraint of one’s gaze. The tongue observes the hijab through use of appropriate language when speaking to the opposite gender. Indeed, every part of the body partakes in observing the hijab in its own way.

Free Choice

Over and over again, Muslim women are told their hijab has been forced upon them, that they are unable to make decisions for themselves, or that they are deprived of their freedom. In reality, the only force involved for the vast majority of Muslim women donning the hijab is the force of persuasion of a beautiful teaching. If the hijab was to be forcefully enforced on Muslim women, would not a punishment be prescribed for those who don’t wear it? However, there is none to be found, only the wonderful realisation that Islam is a religion of choice. Once one is convinced of the truth of Islam and chooses to come under its fold, naturally then such a person adheres to its teachings.

Crucial For Social Morality

Without the physical aspects of the hijab, the moral state of society enters a steep decline. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that the physical hijab enables women to be “distinguished and not molested”[i]. Society today is testament to the need for such physical barriers. Take the music industry for example, sexual assaults have been recognised as a worldwide problem to such an extent that the Swedish Bråvalla Festival has been made female-only until, as Emma Knyckare, the Swedish comedian organising the event, tweeted, “…ALL men have learned how to behave themselves”[ii]

Certainly then, before the hijab is outlawed and brought to question attention needs to be brought to the moral training of men.

Modesty is First Prescribed for Men

Prior to the verse cited above, the Holy Qur’an instructs the following, to men.

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” (Chapter 24: Verse 31)

So in fact, the concept of hijab is first prescribed for men. A certain standard of modesty is expected of Muslim men. Islam recognises the inherent differences between men and women, hence, it prescribes an additional physical covering for women. It places women in the driving seat, letting them decide who they wish to reveal their beauty to. Indeed, modern day advertisement testifies to the power of female beauty, wherever attention needs to be drawn, it is done so with women.

A Means of Liberation – Ask those Who Don it!

Sadly, the words ‘oppression’ and ‘hijab’ are often found in the same sentence. Would the world dare to ask those who don the hijab if they are oppressed or liberated. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t make for much of a headline as it would elicit only the resounding chorus of ‘We are independent, free and liberated women. This is our choice, the wisdom of which we see and experience daily. Just as no individual should to be stripped of their clothing, we should also not be stripped to what is akin to nudity to us, under the false pretext of liberation. If there is wisdom greater than Islam’s then show it to us, persuade our hearts and minds with arguments and reasoning as Islam has done.’

[i] Chapter 33:Verse 60
[ii] Swedish music festival to be female-only ‘until all men learn how to behave themselves’, Christopher Hooton, The Independent, Wednesday 5 July 2017
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/sweden-music-festival-men-female-only-bravalla-rape-sexual-assault-emma-knyckare-a7824366.html

Beautiful, of the Creation of Allah

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By Qudsia Ward, Cornwall, UK

Beautiful, of the creation of Allah, are diamonds.

Diamonds are carbon – carbon is in all life forms; essential!

Diamonds are transparent, crystal, bright and clear.

Diamonds are lustrous, reflecting and refracting light into a myriad colours.

Hard and strong, diamonds mark and shape materials around them.

Diamonds are beautiful; diamonds are valuable.

Beautiful among the servants of Allah are Lajna Ima’illah.

Lajna are women – essential for all Jamaat life.

Almighty Allah, the Effacer of sins, make each one of us clear, pure, transparent as crystal.

Make each Lajna member beautiful reflecting Your light, Your Magnificence, Your Beauty.

Almighty Allah, the Fashioner, enable Lajna together shape and mark our community in the best of ways.

Omnipotent Allah, the Protector, guard and protect all Lajna Ima’illah members and enable them to enhance their value and serve Thee, fulfilling the purpose of their creation.