In the Golden age of Islam, Muslim scholars were polymaths, making discoveries in all fields and advancing science, math, engineering, economics, medicine, astronomy, art, and human rights in amazing ways. From the first hospital and university to the first tooth brush, Muslims contributed greatly to the world during a time that is ironically called the Dark Ages. But do inheritors of this great Islamic legacy exist today? They do indeed. Let me introduce you to a few of them:
A Muslim feminist who established the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) in order to empower women and enable them to contribute in all aspects of life. Maha recently passed away.
Dr. Teepu Siddique
A Muslim neurologist who, with his team, succeeded in discovering one of the causes of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Dr. Khalid Shah
A Muslim molecular neurotherapist and stem cells professor who successfully discovered a brain cancer treatment by prompting stem cells to kill brain cancer cells.
Dr. Zainab Alwani
A prominent American scholar, academic, and activist who is reclaiming gender equality in Islamic scholarship.
A Muslim internet entrepreneur who co-founder YouTube.
A non-profit, Muslim organization whose mission is to “work with different organizations from Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds, to campaign for justice for all peoples regardless of their background.”
A Muslim sophomore New Jersey who founded redefy.org, a multi-platform organization whose mission is “to boldly defy stereotypes, embrace acceptance and tolerance, redefine our perspectives positively, and create an active community.”
A Muslim Chemist who won the 1999 Nobel Prize for his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy.
A non-profit, Muslim organization that is dedicated to alleviating human suffering and supporting individuals and their communities in their efforts to become more self-sufficient.
A Muslim activist who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.
These are only a few of the Muslim men and women who contribute to our world in amazing ways. Just because you haven’t heard about them on the news doesn’t mean they aren’t out their working hard for a better tomorrow.
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Also, let’s not blind ourselves to the reality that Muslim women suffer violent abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, and other relatives within and outside of this country, regardless of the fact that abuse is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN in Islam. Call any Muslim women’s shelter in America and the first thing they will tell you is that if you are not suffering from domestic abuse, they literally have no room for you.
She sits with her rolling chair turned slightly away from the desk, listening patiently as I explain my symptoms and current state of health. When I’ve finished, she smiles kindly. I’ve seen the smile a hundred times. Not on her. On the others.
“So, you’ve been diagnosed with . . .”
I repeat my diagnosed conditions, again, more slowly this time.
“I see. And where … ?”
Again, I tell her I’ve been treated in various countries: the US, Saudi Arabia, and now Oman. I remind her I also go to the university hospital.
“Oh, so you see Dr. Maha?” She looks up, as though my seeing this particular doctor provides evidence of the reality of my claims.
“Saw. I saw her. She discharged me from her clinic.” I say it as politely as possible, but I can feel the loathing inside. Let’s just say, it was a mutual discharge.
“Ahhhh,” she murmurs.
My husband is sitting on the examination table across from me, waiting for the doctor to say what all the rest have.
“Do you exercise?” she asks.
His eyes light up. Bingo!
“Not regularly. No. I hurt. All the time. Everywhere. Everything. All day long.” I’m there for a referral. But before I can get one, I have to play the game of, “You Should Lose Weight”.
August 1947, Pakistan was created for its citizens both men and women as a state where they would live free of discrimination and deprivation, as stated by the newly born constitution proposals of Article 25 and 34. Its founding leaders strove for equality for both men and women in all spheres, but soon after this nation fell into the hands of corrupt politicians and dictators obsessed with a harsh view of Islam.
As a faith community, we are facing a serious crisis in human (and God given) rights violations. Many of those “in charge” are and have been misusing religious texts to cripple more than half of our population- women.
We are a global community and these issues have infected our lives on a global scale. Because of these issues, Saadia Haq and I are “Excavating Shariah” in an attempt to chip away at the fiqh interpretations (human understanding of the Shariah (Islamic) law) that have either intentionally or unintentionally ignored the female experience, oppressed women, or co-opted women’s religious dedication.
In my previous post I wrote about how ridiculous is it to claim that “honor” killings are Islamic (Part I here) when they are in fact murder. The whole time I was writing I kept thinking: talk about the victims, tell their stories and speak out for their justice. I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t challenge the perpetrators of their murders. I wonder if the lives of these women could have been saved if their families really knew what Islam dictated, instead of their culture.
Would they be alive and happy today if only their families knew?
Forced into marriage
Would Shafilea Ahmed’s parents still have murdered her “because she failed to conform to their wishes for an arranged marriage and she allegedly ‘brought shame’ on the family” if they had known that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: “A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow) must not be married until she is consulted”? (Sahih Muslim)
Would she be alive today if her parents had only read the Quran 4:19 “O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will […]”
Or would it not have made any difference to their egos?
Choosing her own husband
Would Saba Maqsood still have been shot for marrying a man she loved if her family had been reminded that a woman has the right to choose her husband, as Khadija choose Muhammad (pbuh) and as many other female companions of the Prophet (pbuh) chose their husband?
Would the family of Saba still feel justified in their crimes against her if they had heard the hadith about a woman who “came to the Prophet, (pbuh), and mentioned that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophet, (pbuh), allowed her to exercise her choice.” ? (Abu Dawud)
Or would they have still allowed cultural dictates to cloud their judgement?
Accused without evidence
Would Ayah Ibrahim, still be with us if her uncle who imagined an inappropriate relationship between her and her fiance would have known that accusing women without evidence is a huge sin?
Would Ayah be married to her betrothed today if her suspicious uncle had read this verse of the Quran: “Indeed, those who [falsely] accuse chaste, unaware and believing women are cursed in this world and the Hereafter; and they will have a great punishment” 24:23?
Would her uncle have even cared?
Getting a divorce
Would Mona Mahajneh‘s brother still have shot her if he had known divorce is perfectly acceptable, if he had read one word about divorce in the Quran, if he had known the Prophet himself legitimized divorces between couples and even married a woman name Zaynab bint Jahsh who was divorced?
Would Mona still have been shot in front of her son if her brother wasn’t only concerned about cultural mores that only value a woman based on her virginity?
Would she have had a chance to heal from her attack if her culture was able to see her as a whole human being and not just a hymen?
I wonder if her father had been the one raped, would he find himself guilty of being impure and call for his own murder?
Having an inappropriate relationship
And would all the women who have been murdered for having a relationship with a man before marriage (real or imagined by family members), would they still be alive if their families had known that flirting, kissing, and even fornicating are not actions punishable by death? Would these women still be alive if their fathers, brothers, uncles were educated even a little bit in Islam and not so much in culture?
Would knowing the following hadith have changed their minds?: When a man approached the Prophet after having kissed a woman, seeking forgiveness and guidance. God revealed to the Prophet the following verse: “‘And perform the prayers, between the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night. Verily, the good deeds efface the evil deeds,’ (11:114). The man asked the Messenger of God ﷺ if the revelation of this verse applied only to his situation. The Messenger of God responded, ‘It applies to all my ummah [nation of Muslims around the world, male and female].’” (Bukhari)
Or would they still have clung to a false and paranoid idea of “honor”?
Would any of these women be victims today had their family members truly known what Islam dictates? Or would cruel and irrational cultural practices have won out in the end anyway? Islam came to free us from these backwards, ignorant and evil practices, but still we find that many cling to culture over Islam, and still more claim their culture is Islam. In this willful ignorance women suffer, are murdered and are living in fear for no reason other than power plays, appearances, and egotism.
No more! It is time we educate ourselves and our families. It is time we pry culture away from Islam and know the difference, and know those who wish to abuse power falsely in it’s name. It is time we stop hiding behind culture and admit when wrong is wrong. It is time to expose the truth, save lives, and end these ignorant and detrimental practices. It is well past time to #TakeBackIslam
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