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I’ll Marry Your Sister and You Marry Mine – Swap Marriages in Yemen

Yemeni man and wife with baby

Yemeni man and wife with baby

In the Arab world, when a man gets married he makes a payment to his bride’s family. However in parts of Yemen when a brother and sister from one family marry a brother and sister from another, dowries are often not paid – but this can have tragic consequences.

 

By Mai Noman
BBC Arabic Service

A young man approaches a friend to ask for his sister’s hand in marriage – in exchange for his own sister’s hand. This is “swap” marriage or “shegar” as it is known in Arabic, an ancient marriage custom still practised in Yemen.

The way it works is: “I’ll marry your sister, if you marry mine.”

But the other side of the bargain is: “If you divorce my sister, I’ll divorce yours.”

Swap marriage came about as a way to help poorer families avoid paying dowries, and that is still a big attraction to some families in Yemen today. A dowry can come to about $3,500 – even though most people earn less than $2 a day.

Yemeni village elder in traditional Arab clothing

Yemeni village elder in traditional Arab clothing.

When there is no money to pay for the dowry and other wedding expenses, that’s when “people marry shegar” says Mohamed Hamoud, a village elder in Sawan, not far from the capital Sanaa.

But the survival of swap marriage also owes something to the fact that Yemen is a deeply proud and conservative country whose strict adherence to ancient traditions and values have kept the fabric of society unchanged.

“Our traditions are too important to us,” Hamoud says.

He acknowledges, though, that the practice is in decline, for one simple reason: “It causes too much misery.”

That’s because couples forced first to love can sometimes then be forced to divorce.

Nadia, a young woman in her late 20s, married a man whose sister married her brother. It was a happy marriage and she had three children – before her brother’s marriage broke down, and she and her husband were torn apart.

“Swap marriage is the worst kind of marriage, it’s better to spend all your life alone than to marry this way,” she cries.

Her children were taken away from her, including her youngest, who was then seven months old.

“I begged them to return my daughter to me, I told them, ‘It’s not right, she needs me to breastfeed her.’ I asked them, ‘What have I done wrong?'”

She had done nothing wrong. For her in-laws it was simply a tit-for-tat response. What happened to their daughter had to happen to her.

Yemeni child plays in Sawan, in front of traditional Yemeni homes

Yemeni child plays in Sawan, in front of traditional Yemeni homes.

Nadia considered resorting to the law to get her children back, as the law does side with mothers in these cases, but she decided against it. In practice, tribal and social customs tend to overrule the law of the state.

She did not see her daughter again for three years. “When I saw her for the first time after all those years I thought to myself, ‘She won’t recognise me.’ I imagined her saying: ‘You are not my mother how could you be my mother when I haven’t seen you since I was a few months old?'” she says.

Many religious scholars oppose swap marriage and have declared it un-Islamic on the grounds that the dowry is an essential part of the Muslim marriage contract.

“The dowry payment is meant to provide women with some financial security as they leave their home,” Yemeni sheikh Mohamed Mamoun explains.

But in some cases swap marriages occur even when families do pay a dowry. In fact, whenever two families exchange daughters, the couples’ fates will most likely be sealed together.

Brother and sister Waleed and Nora married their cousins in shegar, but both families paid dowry and agreed not to make the two marriages dependent on each other.

The swap in this instance was meant to ease the mounting pressure on parents to find suitors for their daughters. In a country where more than a quarter of females are married off before the age of 15, a girl’s family starts to worry if their daughter is not asked for by her mid-teens. It was also a case of following the examples set by previous generations, as Waleed and Nora’s parents had happily married their own cousins in shegar.

Neither sibling wanted this marriage and yet they did little to try and stop it.

“We’re not the type of children who could say ‘No’ to their father,” says Waleed.

They decided to surrender to what they saw as their destiny and give the marriages a chance. But it wasn’t long before Waleed’s relationship started to face problems.

After nine months, and against his family’s wishes, he decided to divorce his wife.

Yemeni woman walks in front of a wooden door

Yemeni woman walks in front of a wooden door

Waleed’s in-laws, overcome with grief and anger, then decided to return his sister to her parents in retribution, ignoring the original agreement that the marriages would not depend on one another. And also ignoring the fact that Nora had turned out to be happy with her husband.

“Of course I felt guilty about my sister, she had to live away from her husband,” Waleed says. But he insists he couldn’t bear his unhappy marriage any more.

The dilemma of whether to choose your own happiness over your sibling’s is just one of many complications couples face when entering this kind of marriage.

Fortunately, through the intervention of family and friends, Nora was reunited with her husband, but not all those who “swap marry” are as lucky.

Nadia is a case in point, and her pain and heartache will be familiar to many Yemeni men and women.

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The New Muslim Trap: Why Muslim Converts Must Exercise Caution in Marriage

Women Muslim convertsWritten by Michelle Yeung, for the Allahcentric Blog.

For the vast majority of converts I know, their embracing of Islam happened between the ages of 18 – 26. There’s something about those several years after one finishes high school and one moves out of their parent’s home, that finally forces them, to think. There’s also something else that people of that age often have in common; they feel a strong need to settle with a life partner, which for a Muslim, means marriage.

I don’t have an opinion on whether converts should look to marry immediately, or wait, that probably depends on their own circumstances. However, I would advise any new convert to exercise particular caution as to how they go about meeting a potential spouse. As I listened to one convert sister tell me her story of her own desire to marry and the challenges that faced her,  this enabled me to realise some of the reasons for their particular vulnerability to becoming trapped in a difficult marriage situation.

New Converts can often be Very Vulnerable

Two young Muslim womenBecoming Muslim and practicing Islam is a big life change. Not just in the actions themselves, but in the person’s entire life. New converts often find themselves distanced from their previous group of friends, and even family. All of the new things that they are reading, and being told, can be over whelming and whilst the new convert realises they will never be truly alone, the first couple of years can at the same time be horribly lonely.

“I’d sometimes cry myself to sleep at night, because I felt very lonely. I felt closer to Allah at those times and it felt good, and yet I would have loved to have had another person there with me, seeing me through day by day. I had a small group of friends, but they all had their own husbands and children and I felt like I had nobody. I felt that my best option was marriage.”

Lack of Protective Forces, Such as Muslim Family and a Community

The sad truth is, some people do seem to take advantage of this situation. When both parties are Muslim, the families would meet and the woman’s guardian would approve the marriage. For converts, the process is often quite different, and they may be left making key life decisions such as marriage on their own.

“I was never really a part of any Muslim community. I had a few friends, but we weren’t so close that I would tell them everything. I just didn’t feel like a belonged anywhere, I felt distanced from my family, and I didn’t exactly fit with my local Muslim community. This made me want to focus just on me, on doing my own thing, my own way. I didn’t value the community in the way that I should have done, or I do now. I guess I was a rebel, always wanting to remain independent. So when it came to meeting somebody, I didn’t tell people, I didn’t want their advice, I just wanted to do things my way and he also convinced me that this was the best thing to do in my situation”.

Looking for a Fast Way to Reach God, Through a Spouse

Muslim sister reading Azizah magazine.

Muslim sister reading Azizah magazine.

Muslims believe that marriage in itself is a good, beneficial thing. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that marriage is half of the religion. New converts seem to have a tendency to want to carryout every single thing that is deemed good, straight away, and marriage is one of these actions.

“I didn’t know it then, but yes, I was looking for a fast way to reach Allah. I thought that if I could get married, to someone really good, then I’d quickly become just like them in that respect. I thought I’d be whisked off overseas by him and transformed into this great Muslim woman. I didn’t know that he had no intention to ever take me with him.”

Can be a Little Naive

It’s natural to see the good in all people, but it can sometimes be more challenging for new Muslims to distinguish true good character from mere actions. New Muslims often seem to be very easily impressed by other Muslims, just based on a few things the person says or does. For example, a brand new Muslim sister may find it very difficult to cover her hair immediately, and could then begin to hold the Muslim women who do, in exaggerated esteem.

“I wasn’t so naive as to think anyone who was Muslim could be trusted. But I suppose I must have thought that anyone who talked in an impressive way would also do the things they preached about. If a brother wore a thawb, talked about visiting his skaykh overseas, and was highly thought of as a community activist, who was I to think that they weren’t all that they made out to be? What did I know after all as a new convert?”.

My advice to any new convert considering marriage, would be to:

  1. Tell your friends and family that you are corresponding, and involve people whom you trust
  2. Meet their family and make sure that they are fully aware of you
  3. Be extra cautious if they seem to be wanting to cut corners (e.g. not involving parents, not agreeing to a mahr, being unclear about living arrangements or financial support once married – sisters)
  4. Ask select people about their din and their character
  5. Perform the salatul istikhara, and make lots of du’a for guidance.

Michelle Yeung is a British convert currently living in Toronto with her husband.  She runs the Sister has Style blog, and is the educational services manager for SeekersGuidance.

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Mother’s Day in Islam

Muslim mother and child

Mother and child reading Quran.

Answered by Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah
Reprinted from VirtualMosque.com

The Question

Can I Celebrate Mother’s Day in Islam?

The Answer

The short answer is that it is permissible and there is no harm in it.

To continue:

Man is the creation of Allah. Allah Most High has honored man for his humanity: He molded him with His own hands, breathed into them from His Spirit, ordered the angels prostrate to him, and expelled Satan from His mercy because the latter arrogantly refused to obey his Lord’s command to prostrate to man. Respecting humanity is one of the angelic characteristics that forms foundation of Muslim civilization. Dishonoring, humiliating, and disdaining humans are provocations of Satan that shake the very foundations of civilization.

Allah says “Whoever chooses Satan for a patron instead of Allah is verily a loser and his loss is manifest.” (Qur’an 4:119)

“Will ye choose him [Satan] and his seed for your protecting friends instead of Me [Allah] when they are an enemy unto you? Calamitous is the exchange for evil doers!” (Qur’an, 18:50)

Just as Islam honors individuals from the perspective of their humanity without looking at their sex, race, or color, it has also added another form of respect associated with the various type of roles Allah gave them appropriate to their God-given characteristics. This additional form of respect includes respecting one’s parents whom Allah has made a cause for one’s existence, joining thanking them with thanking Him.

Allah says: “And We enjoined upon man concerning his parents. His mother begot him in weakness upon weakness and his weaning is in two years. Give thanks unto Me and unto thy parents. Unto Me is the journeying.” (Qur’an, 31:14)

In the Qur’an, Allah coupled His worship with kindness and respect to one’s parents saying:

“Your Lord decreed that you worship none save Him and (that you show) kindness to parents.” (Qur’an, 17:23)

This is because Allah made them the apparent cause for existence. Thus, one’s parents are the greatest worldly manifestation of the characteristic of creation.

The Prophet designated mothers as the ones most worthy of excellent companionship. Indeed, in this he gave them precedence over fathers.

Abu Hurayrah relates that a man came to the Messenger of Allah and said, “Which person is the most worthy of my excellent companionship?”

He replied, “Your mother.”

The man asked, “Then who?”

The Prophet said, “Your mother.”

Then the man said, “Then who?”

The Prophet replied, “Your mother.”

Then the man said, “Then who?”

The Prophet said, “Your father.”

(Bukhari and Muslim)

Muslim mother and child

The Mother Child Relationship

Islamic Law affirms that the relationship between a child and its mother is a natural, organic relationship. So his relationship to her is not dependent upon whether she bore him within marriage or out of wedlock—indeed, she is his mother in all circumstances. This is contrary to paternity, which can only be established through legal means.

Respecting one’s Mother Implies and the Ruling?

Respecting one’s mother includes: taking care of her physical well-being, honoring her and treating her well. Nothing in the Shari’a prohibits an occasion in which children express honoring their mothers. This is merely a matter of organization. There is nothing wrong with it and it bears no connection to the issue of innovation about which so many people murmur. Rejected innovations are new things which are contrary to the Shari’a, since the Prophet said, “Whoever creates something new in this affair of ours which is foreign to it, it is rejected.” (Bukhari and Muslim). The divergent meaning is that whoever innovates something which is not foreign to it, it will be accepted and not rejected.

The Prophet approved when the Arabs celebrated national commemorations and tribal victories in which they would sing of their tribal feats and their victories days. Imam Bukhari and Muslim narrate in a hadith that ‘A’ishah said: “Abu Bakr came to see me. I had two young girls with me who were singing what was sung at the Battle of Bu’ath.” In addition, prophetic narrations note that the Prophet visited the grave of his mother Aminah and that he was never seen to cry more than on that day. (al-Hakim)

The Meaning of Motherhood

Muslim mother and sonIn the Arabic language, the word ‘mother’ refers to the source, to a habitat, to the chief, and to the servant of a people who takes care of their food and serves them. This last meaning was related from Imam al-Shafi’I, who was among the experts of Arabic language. Ibn Durayd said, “That to which all other things around it are ascribed to it is called a ‘mother’.” Because of this, Mecca is dubbed ‘Mother of cities’ since it is in the center of the world and the direction to which people face [in prayer], and because it is the most significant city of all.

Since language is the vessel for thought, for Muslims the immediate sense of word is associated with that person whom Allah made the source for an individual human’s formation, who then sheltered him, took care of his nurturing and upbringing; was endowed with love to care for him and to look after his needs. In all of this, it is the mother who is instilled with the affection and mercy to which her children seek comfort.

Just as this meaning is clear in the original linguistic meaning of the word and words derived from its linguistic root, our literature clarifies and evidences this further with the compound-word silat al-rahim [lit. womb-ties] in that this physiological attribute found in mothers has been made a symbol for maintaining family relationships which form the foundational elements for building human society. The most rightful and most deserving for this ascription is none other than the mother, who is the reason life continues and families are formed and is the outward manifestation of mercy.

This matter reaches its fullness and perfection with that magnificent religious sense portrayed by the chosen, beloved Prophet in his saying, “Family ties cling to the Throne, saying ‘Allah unites whoever united me, and severs whoever severed me.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

There is a hadith qudsi wherein Allah Mighty and Majestic says, “I am Allah and I am the Compassionate. I created family ties and I derived My name from the womb. I unite whoever unites them, and I will sever whoever severed them.”

The Prophet said, “In Abdullah bin Jud’an’s house, I witnessed a treaty [so great] not even the most prized camel would be dearer to me, and if I had been called to participate in it in Islam I would had answered.” (Al-Bayhaqi)

So according to this, celebrating Mothers’ Day is religiously permissible; there is nothing that prevents it and there is no harm in it. Rejected innovations are innovations which are in contradiction to the Shari’a. Things whose basis the Shari’a sanctions cannot be rejected and there is no sin upon the person who does them.

And Allah Majestic and Most High knows best.

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7 Things your Muslim wife won’t tell you

Hands of a Muslim couple at their wedding

Reprinted from MuslimVillage.com, author unknown

Most men have a hard time understanding women. Even a woman they’ve been married to for years. One minute she’s perfectly fine, the next, she’s crying like a baby. She complains about something but when we offer advice on how to fix it, she still isn’t satisfied. After several years of marriage (and counseling) I’ve learned to not worry so much about what my wife says. Instead, I should worry about what she doesn’t say.

1. Above all, She Wants Your love

When a wife shows her husband less respect, he in turn shows her less love.

And when a husband shows his wife less love, she in turn shows him less respect.

And the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Stop this prophecy before it becomes self-fulfilling. Show love to your wife.

That’s what she wants. Love her despite her flaws and quirks.

And Inshallah, she’ll respect you despite your flaws and quirks.

2. She’s Bored

It’s the same thing every day.

Week in and week out.

Not only is she bored but she’s also tired.

She has to care for the kids and run the household and then pamper you.

Just thinking about doing that every day makes me want to crawl under my covers and hide. I can imagine how the average Muslim housewife must feel.

And let’s not forget about working woman. Many Muslim women have to work a full time job as well as hold a house down.

So brothers, I implore you, make your wife feel special. Give her a break.

Take her out sometimes. Surprise her with a surprise meal. Bring her favorite desert home.

Just do something every now and then to break the monotony.

3. She Wants to be Complimented

Young Muslim couple and daughterAppreciation. Everybody wants it. No one wants to feel as if the hard work they do goes unnoticed or even worse, it taken for granted.

Your wife does not have to clean your dirty clothes. And she does not have to cook your meals. But she does. And she does that on top of all the other things in her life:

  • Caring for the kids.
  • Working or going to school.
  • Striving to be a better Muslimah.

Show your Muslim wife that you appreciate and are thankful for the things she does to maintain you and your family. A simple “thank you” is a good start.

4. She’s Insanely Jealous

There’s a reason most women don’t care for polygamy. Be very careful how you talk about other women around your wife. Don’t ever compare your wife to another woman.

  • Don’t compare her to some female movie star.
  • Don’t compare her to your mother.
  • Never, ever compare her to your ex-wife (or other wife!)

She’s wants to know and believe that she is the center of your universe. So make her feel that way.

Even the Prophet’s (pbuh) wives got jealous. Aisha (RA) even got jealous of Khadijah (RA) who was dead.

Expect, and respect, the same type of jealousy from your wife.

5. She Wants You to Help Her become A Better Muslimah

I can’t stress enough the importance of men taking the role of leader within their families.

And that’s the problem with a lot of Muslim men these days.

Not only are they not being good leaders, they’re being led by their wives (or mothers, or other women in their lives).

Your wife desires and wants you to be her leader. And what better way to lead her than to be show her how to be a better Muslimah?

But you can’t show her how to become better if you’re not that great either. Therefore, you have to upgrade your Iman. You have to improve yourself and then pass it on to her in a gentle, respectful way.

6. She Doesn’t Like to Nag, But Sometimes You Make It Hard

It’s a common myth that women like to nag their husbands. That’s not entirely true.

Yes, there are some people (men and women) whom you can never please. No matter what you do, they’ll always find fault in something. Let’s be reminded of the following hadith:

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The Prophet said: “I was shown the Hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful.” It was asked, “Do they disbelieve in Allah?” (or are they ungrateful to Allah?) He replied, “They are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good (charitable deeds) done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, ‘I have never received any good from you.” – Sahih Bukhari.

So, yes sisters should be careful about denegrating the things your husband does for you.

But very often, you brother, make it hard for her to hold your tongue.

Perhaps you’re always finding fault with her and she looks for things in your character to get even.

Perhaps you’re not working (or not working hard enough) and she has to work to take up some slack.

Perhaps you’re just not that great of a guy.

Once again, upgrade yourself and give her less reasons to complain and nag.

7. More Than Anything, She Wants a Stable, Happy Relationship With You

Happy couple silhouetted against the sunsetWomen don’t get married just because they think it’s gonna be fun.

They get married because they want a happy family life and they believe you’re gonna give it to them.

Outside of her religious duties, that’s the most important thing in a Muslim woman’s life. Raising a happy, stable, Muslim family.

The funny thing is, it’s very easy for you to give that to her.

  • Stop acting like a jerk. Be a good husband to her. Be kind. Show her you love her.
  • Don’t threaten her with divorce or taking a second wife. Yes, you have the right to do both. But using them as threats is inappropriate and detrimental to your marriage.
  • Trust in Allah, watch out for the tricks of Shaytan, and be patient with her. There’s nothing Shaytan would love more than to destroy your marriage.

See? That isn’t all that hard, now is it?

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10 MORE Romantic Things to Do for Your Wife

Newlywed Muslim couple

Newlywed Muslim couple making a “heart” sign with their hands.

Wael Abdelgawad | Zawaj.com

My first post on this subject, 50 Romantic Things to Do for Your Wife, was very popular, so I’m doing this follow-up with ten more great things to do to make your wife happy.

1. Turn off your phone and other devices and spend uninterrupted time with your wife. Go for a picnic, go out to dinner together, or just sit down and enjoy cuddling time – regardless, turn off your phone altogether. Don’t just put it on silent or vibrate! TURN – IT – OFF. This tells your wife that she is more important than anyone else who might seek to interrupt your time together.

2. Be a gentleman. Pull out her chair for her, open the car door for her, help her put her jacket on, hold the umbrella over her head in the rain. Do these things even if your wife is an athlete and could run laps around you, ha ha. Okay, maybe a tiny minority of women will find these things sexist or archaic. But I think 99.9% will see them for what they are: little kindnesses, courtesies, and signs that you care.

Young Muslim couple and child.3. Compliment what she’s wearing in an authentic way. Be specific. You might say, “I love how the green of that dress brings out the green in your eyes.” Or, “That dress really flatters your figure. You look so svelte.” Or, “That color makes your skin glow so beautifully.”

4. When you’re out to dinner together and share a dessert, let her eat most of it, and don’t make any comments about it.

5. Take care of your body and appearance. Exercise regularly. Quit smoking. Dress well. These things will make you more attractive to your wife, which naturally leads to more romance and a happier marriage.

6. Buy her flowers regularly. I know this is a cliche’, but I have a few original suggestions: First, flowers can be expensive, so find out where the wholesale flower market is in your city. You’ll find that flowers are much cheaper there, and they often sell to the public. Second, purchase different kinds of flowers each time. Buy your girl some of the odder varieties, and ask the seller something about them so you can share something interesting. Last, consider planting them in your own garden, so they won’t cost anything at all.

7. Give her a foot rub at the end of a long day. If she’s been wearing shoes all day and her feet are smelly, start out by washing them with a hot washcloth, then rubbing in some scented lotion. Then massage her feet nicely. This tells your wife that every part of her is important and beautiful to you. Plus, it feels amazing.

8. Ride the Ferris Wheel at the fair and make out at the very top.

9. Go into one of those coin-operated photo booths and make funny faces together at the camera. This one is cliched as well, but it’s still fun!

10. Cook together. Plan a special meal together and work together from beginning to end – shop together, and cook the meal together, and clean up together. Cooking alone can be a chore, but cooking together is fun.

Do you have any more ideas? Please share in the comments. And you should definitely check out:

50 Romantic Things to Do for Your Wife.

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Saudi Woman’s Female-Only Electronics Repair Business Thrives

Mariam Al-Subaie repairing electronics

Mariam Al-Subaie, successful business owner.

RIYADH — A Saudi woman’s startup has so far repaired 49,000 electronic devices successfully for female customers.

Mariam Al-Subaie said her dream was to serve her country with her knowledge and skills.

“There is a big opportunity in the market. Many women who seek to repair their mobile phones and laptops fear to take them to repair shops run by men because they don’t want to expose private documents and pictures of family members saved in the devices to strangers,” said Al-Subaie. Al-Subaie said technology was her passion.

“I graduated from Arts School but I had always been intrigued by the electronics. I was inspired by the German inventor Konrad Zuse who invented the world’s first programmable computer in 1941,” said Al-Subaie, who started her business to primarily serve women in society.

She added it was important for her to thrive and prosper while sticking to Saudi traditions and customs.

“Privacy is an important issue in Saudi society. I would like to tell all the women in Riyadh that they do not have to compromise their privacy while engaging in any trade. I receive 90 to 120 mobile phones each day. I also receive laptops and other devices to repair,” said Al-Subaie.

She added that she employs a team of women technicians and electrical engineers.

“My team is my backbone. We all have the same vision and we want to serve our country by doing what we love. I encourage other women to do the same in my city or other cities of the Kingdom. As women, we need to stand up on our own feet,” said Al-Subaie.

She said her startup is only the beginning of her goals in life. “I aspire to become an inspiration for all the women in my society. I would like the younger generation of girls to know about me and decide to take steps to give back to their society,” said Al-Subaie.

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The Importance of Making a Good Space for Women in the Masjid

Muslim students praying at CSU Sacramento

Imam Umar Aboul Sharif
Adilah S. Sharif

Challenges of Women Space in Masjids

Last Friday, I was all set to give a Khutba about the need for Muslims to plan ahead on an individual and community level. My notes were ready and I was in full “Khutba mode”. But before sermon time, I decided to change the topic completely — to talk about the exclusion of Muslim women from the mosque and community life.

It wasn’t an earth-shattering event that made me change the topic. It was an email. And it proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was one of five emails I received last week about Islamic events with a clear “brothers only” statement. One notice for a regional conference even stated categorically that there was no space for women and children under 15 at the event.

But the emails were only part of the story. A week before, I had given a Khutba in another, brand-new mosque in the heart of Chicago. After the prayer, while in the elevator, I overheard four Muslim sisters speaking angrily about their experience in the Masjid.

“If I wanted to watch TV, I’d stay home,” said one of the women, disgusted. I asked them what was wrong, and they told me how they could only see the Imam through a TV system set up in the women’s section. Moreover, the space was inconvenient, uncomfortable and was changed twice that day. This was despite the fact that months ago, the leadership of this mosque had promised me that they would involve sisters in decision-making about how the women’s space would be set up.

The Khutba

I was speaking in Chicago’s oldest mosque where the main prayer hall accommodates about a thousand people. It has a small, curtained off space in the corner for about 40 or so women. Due to the sensitive nature of my topic, it did occur to me before the Khutba that I might not be invited to give a Friday sermon there in the future. Nonetheless, I made the following points and asked these questions:

Who decides how women’s space in the mosque is allocated and organized?

How many women sit on the Board of Directors of our mosques?

If women are part of the Board of Directors, are they elected, chosen by women, selected by both men and women or are they simply the wives of male board members?

I also reminded the audience that in the Prophet’s mosque, women could hear and see the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings are upon him, and later, the leaders of the Muslims (Khulafa) when they spoke from the pulpit. Actually there are reports of interaction with the Prophet when women raised questions. Caliph Omar even went back to give another sermon to withdraw his opinion when a women from the audience gave him critical feedback after his Khutba.

Moreover, when the Prophet felt that the women were too far away to hear or he had specific points to make, he would walk over to their section and present a Khutba for them.

Examples from Islamic history

Women in early Islamic history were active not just as “mothers and wives” but contributed as individual Muslim women in all aspects of the community.

On a scholarly level, there was Aisha, may God be pleased with her. She is credited with disseminating the knowledge of Islam and information about almost all aspects of Islamic life. Today, nearly half of the Islamic jurisprudence of the Hanafi school of thought (which is followed by about 70 percent of the Muslim world) comes through the students of Aisha alone.

On a political level, there was Umm Salama. During the signing of the Treaty of Hudaibiya, when none of the Muslim men agreed to forego Hajj due to the demands of the pagan Meccans, the Prophet consulted Umm Salama. Her advice to him was to perform the rituals indicating that they would not be performing the pilgrimage, and the Muslims would follow. He heeded her advice, and as she suggested, the Muslims accepted this.

After the death of the Prophet, one major issue was how to preserve the authenticity of the Quran. Although the Quran had always been committed to memory and writing, the written pages were scattered. When a master copy was put together at the time of the first Khalifa, Abu Bakr, that copy was not kept with him or any other Muslim man. It was kept with a woman — Hafsa (may God be pleased with her).

Finally, in Madina during the leadership of Omar (may God be pleased with him) Al Shifa Bint Abdullah was made in charge of trade and commerce in the city.

These are just a few examples of the dynamic role women played in early Islamic history. But they are of no use if the inclusion of Muslim women in the mosque and community is reflected only in theory.

“Men’s Islam” or Islam for All

While sisters are a full part of the community, many mosques are run as though Islam is just for men. This is evident by looking at women’s spaces, their decoration, their uncomfortable size and design, the absence of women from the Board of Directors of most mosques and the relegation of their activism and ideas to a “women’s committee”.

Muslim women in North America are as professional as Muslim men and contribute as generously. I remember fundraising in a New Jersey Masjid. Five Muslim women contributed $25,000 each within the first 12 minutes. It inspired me to ask the audience: is there a man who can match these donations?

And that’s how women’s participation is. They know they will not get to Jannah because of the good deeds of their husbands. Each man and women has to find his or her own way to success in this world and next, knowing that God’s promise is this:

“I will deny no man or woman among you the reward of their labors. You are the offspring of one another.” (Quran 3:195).

“Each person shall reap the fruits of his/her own deeds: no soul shall bear another’s burden.” (Quran 6:164)

The Reaction to the Khutba

Normally, two or three people will approach me after a Khutba to thank and compliment me for it. This time, ten times more people came over, appreciating what I had said, Alhamdu lillah. That’s one of the most positive instances of feedback I’ve ever gotten in years of giving Khutbas! Although I have yet to hear the response from the leadership of the Masjid, this gives me hope that the community is ready for change.

A few board members also spoke very positively about the points I raised, including one of the founding members. The question is, who is stopping the change?

Current Chicago Masjid Spaces for Women

In Chicago, I estimate that in about ten percent of the Friday prayer locations, there is proper space for sisters’ participation. In these places men and women are in the same location without a curtain or wall separating them. In terms of the remaining 80 percent of mosques that do have a space for women, these are often cramped and inconvenient. By inconvenient, I mean that women cannot see the Imam or do not know what is happening in the congregational prayer. In about 10 percent of the Chicago-area mosques there are no spaces for women.

One Muslim sister in the city related to me her experience after visiting one of the largest mosques in Chicago that had an inconvenient room for women. When she entered the women’s area, a group of sisters was standing in line, thinking prayer had started because the recitation of the Quran could be heard. Taking Quran recitation as a cue for congregational prayer, the sister joined the others in line. After several minutes, when the man ended his recitation without calling for the next step of prayer, Ruku, the women learned that it was not a prayer. Needless to say, the women were humiliated and upset about this confusing situation. This is just an example of the practical problems this segregation in prayer places causes.

An additional problem in mosques where women cannot see the Imam is the fact that the noise level often becomes unacceptable. This tends to be because most men dump the responsibility for taking care of their active children on their wives when they go to the men’s section of mosque. Also, since women can’t see what’s going on, they end up talking to each other. This leads to the Imam asking women to “be quiet please,” furthering tension and exclusion.

When women are out of sight, it’s also more likely that they will be out of mind. That means their discourse and participation are ignored on a Masjid and community level. Moreover, few women have easy access to the Imam, which worsens the problem, since the Imam is the one man who can make a significant difference in bringing women’s issues and problems to the attention of other Muslim men in the community. This perhaps explains why you don’t normally hear many Khutbas on women’s challenges here in America or abroad.

Negative Dawa

The situation becomes worse when non- Muslims visit. They see there are hardly any women present in the mosque. Or, if there are a few, they are confined to a small and less ceremonious corner. What kind of Dawa is this? What kind of impression does this give in our current context, where the battle against stereotypes is ten times harder than it was pre-9/11 America? This visual impact is far greater and far more lasting then tens of books lauding the status of women in Islam. Since Shahadah (witnessing) is the first pillar of Islam, this obstacle to outreach must be dealt with.

Of course, women, unlike men, are given a choice by the Prophet to pray at home or in the mosque. But the Prophet was categorical in telling men “do not stop women from coming to the Masjid.” Friday prayers are also optional for women. But considering that Friday sermons are the only Islamic educational opportunity available to most women in the North America Muslim women should attend Friday prayers. This is especially important because we do not yet have a widespread tradition of female teachers, as is the case in the Muslim world. I am pretty sure Caliph Omar would have encouraged Friday prayer attendance by women if he was alive today in the United States, may God be pleased with him.

Who is stopping women from the Masjid

Knowing both of these Masjids, their volunteer leadership, and the fact that women are on their boards, I don’t think either of them stops women from attending and participating. The first Masjid’s president did make an announcement twice in front of me inviting women to visit the new location to help determine the sisters’ space. I think, perhaps, need sisters taking these issues more seriously instead of accepting the current situation.

In the second Masjid, I learned that some sisters prefer to pray behind a curtain. An easy solution could be to make a larger area where women who do not want a curtain between the men and women, as was the practice in the mosque of the Prophet, can pray. Behind them, women who are comfortable praying behind a curtain can do this.

With lower donations as a result of donor chasing by the FBI, extra expenses for security and legal battles, which six or seven Masjids in the Chicago-area are going through, the last thing on the mind of Muslim leadership is women’s space. About 80 percent of the Masjids in the Chicago area do not have any permanent Imam. Volunteers like me are asked to offer the Friday sermon on a rotational basis. Almost all of these Masjids’ leaders are busy professionals who volunteer their time to run the community centers, schools and Masjids. Unless someone is pushing for something, things will continue as they have been.

This is why I have come to the conclusion that the agenda of women’s space will not come to the forefront unless Muslim women take it upon themselves.

Establishing a Muslim Women’s Caucus

It is time that sisters come together and provide leadership in clearly defining a Muslim women’s manifesto for change in mosques in North America. If these sisters are practicing Muslims, they will have a far higher level of success in demanding change and leading it.

I would like to make a plea to leading Muslim women in North America who are respected and honored by the community to call a national women’s caucus on these issues. In this conference, the following things need to be discussed and tackled:

1. An agenda outlining change in the Muslim community centers and Masjids in which

* Each Masjid should formally declare that it is unIslamic to stop women from attending a mosque

* The need to restore women’s space in the mosque as it was at the Prophet’s time (i.e. without a curtain or a wall separating men and women) is stressed

* Develop a welcoming space where they have a clear view of the Imam

2. One-third of Masjids’ Board of Directors should be composed of sisters, one-third of brothers, and one-third of people born in North America.

3. A mechanism for an ongoing Muslim Women’s Caucus needs to be developed

On the issue of women’s exclusion from the mosque, this Muslim Women’s Caucus may want to do the following:

1. Invite the leadership of major mosques, as well as national and continental Muslim organizations to a closed-door dialogue with an equal number of Muslim women leaders present.

2. Give a deadline to all Masjids that do not have a space for women to allocate one in consultation with women.

3. If space is extremely limited and there is no cultural and ideological objection to it, then allocate time for additional congregational prayer for women lead by women as was done by Umm Waraqa with the Prophet’s permission when she lead her staff regularly in prayers in her own home as reported by Sahih Abu Dawud. (If thousands of women lead other women in prayers throughout Pakistan, it can be done in a mosque here as well).

Shura (consultation) has been a way of life for Muslims (42:38). If our families and our communities are not run on Shura, open communication and proper representation, how will we grow?

“The true believers, both men and women, are friends to each other. They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil; they attend to their prayers and pay the alms and obey God and His apostle. On these God will have mercy. He is Mighty and Wise.” (Quran 7:71)

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Top 5 Complaints of Wives and What to Do About Them

Top 5 Complaints of Wives and What to Do About Them

By Haleh Banani, M.A. Clinical Psychology
Reprinted from MuslimMatters.org

Coming soon: Win His Heart: A Psychological Approach for WOMEN

Muslim woman at the beach

Every man dreams of having a woman who can please him on many different levels. One that fulfills his desires, stimulates him intellectually and soars with him to new spiritual heights. A unique woman that will not only be a source of comfort, but also a source of strength.

It is very easy to dream and have expectations of your spouse but what do YOU have to do in order to attract a woman with these qualities and keep her giving at that level?

Generally, men are quite puzzled by women. They are not sure what to do or say to please the women in their lives. Whatever they do seems to get them in trouble. Since most men have this confusion, they simply stop trying.

This lack of effort from men creates frustration and discontentment. Most women feel extremely dissatisfied in their marriages. Within my practice as a marriage therapist, I have heard from dozens of women who have a long list of complaints about their husbands. These complaints lead to deep rooted unhappiness and many times divorce.

Top 5 complaints of women about their husbands

  1. Communication
  2. Financial issues
  3. Sex
  4. Lack of compassion
  5. Too strict/too jealous

Almost every couple I have ever done marriage counseling with has complained about problems in communication. Most of the time women complain that their husband does not share his feelings, he shuts off, he doesn’t listen and he doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants in a diplomatic way.

Lack of communication or miscommunication is the bulk of the problem in most marriages. If people don’t know how to get their message across, how to listen or how to resolve conflicts they will face perpetual problems in their lives. Here are some suggestions in effective communication skills:

  1. Make I statements…. never start the sentence with YOU. Say: “I feel neglected when you don’t prepare dinner” rather than saying, “You never prepare dinner.”
  2. Always keep your voice down and refrain from name calling.
  3. Seek first to understand then to be understood. Tough one, but very effective!
  4. Share your thoughts and feelings with your spouse to make her feel a part of your world. Don’t shut her out or else she will feel extremely insecure and suspicious.
  5. Don’t give one word answers – try to elaborate and fulfill her need to know. She shows you she cares by asking many questions.
  6. Listen attentively – that means no checking emails while she talks and no watching T.V. Simply look in her eyes, listen and acknowledge her. Women loved to be looked at!
  7. Give your wife compliments on everything you like about her – she needs constant reassurance on her beauty, on your love for her, on her cooking. Say it again and again with a smile. It will never get old!
  8. Validate her feelings – say things to make her feel understood. Tell her you understand that she is sad, that she has a right to feel hurt or neglected. The worst thing you could ever do is tell a woman she is wrong to feel a certain way.
  9. Ask for things with gentleness and kindness without being harsh or demanding. If a woman feels like she is being told what to do and how to do it – she will resist. If she is asked kindly and made to feel special she will rush to do it to in order to fulfill her need to please others.
  10. Never compare her to anyone to get her to change. This is detrimental to the relationship, brings about hostility and a feeling of inadequacy. If you want her to improve in any given area compliment what she is already doing right.
The credit trap

Avoid getting into debt.

Financial Issues

Each person is brought up with different views and experiences with money. Some are brought up in affluent families that spend frivolously while others come from more modest backgrounds that are trained to save. When individuals with such striking differences unite there is bound to be tension and arguments. That is why money is one of the biggest reasons people fight and even get a divorce. Here are some suggestions for peacefully dealing with money issues.

  1. Learn about each other’s view of money. Become acquainted with their experience with money in order to better understand each other.
  2. Discuss openly issues or concerns you have about your financial situations.
  3. Avoid getting into debt at all cost. If you can’t afford it – just don’t buy it. Simple as that.
  4. Set a budget together and try your best to stick to it. If you slip, and go over the budget, quickly get back on track.
  5. Increase your knowledge about resolving financial problems by reading books, attending seminars or listening to CDs.
  6. Be honest and never hide or deceive your partner about financial issues because it could really damage the trust.
  7. Try to compromise and come up with a win/win solution when you disagree.
  8. Agree to disagree.
  9. Consider the pros and cons of having a two house income or even having a part time job that can help alleviate the financial burden.
  10. Save….Save….Save! You never know what the future holds so always be prepared.

Sex

The area of a couple’s life which offers the most potential for embarrassment, hurt, and rejection is sex. The majority of couples I have done therapy with have had issues in this area of their life. It is such an essential part of the marriage and yet very few couples ever talk about it. The goal of sex is to be closer, to have more fun, to feel satisfied, and to feel valued and accepted in this very tender area of your marriage. “Your wives are a tilth unto you; so go to your tilth when or how you will.” [Qur’an 2:223] Here are some suggestions to having a more satisfying sex life.

  1. Fulfill your wife emotionally so that she can be receptive to you. Women shut off sexually if they don’t feel loved, appreciated or desired.
  2. Set the mood…light candles, make dinner, give a massage, get flowers or anything that makes her feel special and loved.
  3. Prolong foreplay. Make sure she is ready.
  4. Take your time and don’t rush her.
  5. Share your likes and dislikes in a gentle, positive way making her feel safe. Instead of saying you never do such and such say: I loved it when you…..or I would love it if you would….
  6. Never criticize or make fun when getting intimate.
  7. Always accentuate the positive – make your suggestions in a way that you are making a good thing even better. Even if you are dissatisfied don’t let her feel it.
  8. When receiving your partner’s request, try not to see it as criticism. Have the attitude of a professional chef that is not insulted if a customer doesn’t crave a particular meal, but makes accommodations that will satisfy the customer’s palate.
  9. Make her feel attractive and desired. The more you give her compliments, the more confident she will feel which will help her to relax and enjoy.
  10. Make sure you try to fulfill her first in order to create a strong, positive association to intimacy.

Lack of Compassion

Muslim couple sitting close togetherMen have different ways of expressing their feelings and emotions. Some express their love and concern for the family by simply working hard and providing the very best. They feel that the time they spend at work is an emotional deposit because they are putting so much effort so that their family can be comfortable. Unfortunately, this form of expression of love is generally not sufficient for most women. Women expect the men in their lives to connect with them on an emotional level, provide support and have fun together. “The best of you are those who are the best to their wives.” (at-Tirmidhi)

Here are some suggestions in showing compassion so that you can connect with your wife on an emotional level.

  1. Tell your wife you love her daily – don’t make it just a once a year event.
  2. Never enter or leave the house without a proper greeting. Let her feel that you are happy to see her and that you will miss her when you leave.
  3. Make daily deposits in your emotional bank account with your wife by being understanding, forgiving, cooperative and by using words of endearment.
  4. Call your wife or send sweet messages during the day. “…And live with them in kindness…” (Nisaa 4:19)
  5. Eat at least one meal a day together and spend time sharing what you have done.
  6. Give lots of compliments.
  7. If she is feeling sad or angry, show her love and compassion by hugging her. If she says she doesn’t want to talk about it, she doesn’t mean it… you just have to insist sweetly.
  8. Learn to apologize. Even if you were not wrong apologize for making her feel bad. Win her heart not the argument! Amazing what two little words (I’m sorry) can do.
  9. Get her gifts and flowers so she feels that you thought of her. It doesn’t have to be something expensive – just a gesture that you were thinking of her. “And do good. Truly, Allah loves the good-doers.” (Baqara 2:195)
  10. Be supportive and helpful with the kids. Offer to take care of the kids while she does something (anything) for herself. If she has the chance to recharge she will be a much better wife and a nicer mom!

Too Strict or Too Jealous

It is understandable that a man feels responsible for his wife and wants to make sure that she does not exceed beyond the boundaries that Allah has established. “Everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for those in his charge; the man, in his home, is a guardian and responsible for his household.” (Bukhari and Muslim). It takes diplomacy and gentleness to set guidelines without coming across as too strict and unreasonable. It is always a little flattering when a husband becomes jealous, but when it becomes excessive it is unhealthy and a source of stress for women. There needs to be mutual trust and respect in order to live in harmony and peace. Here are some suggestions for maintaining boundaries without being too strict or too jealous.

  1. Be a spouse to your wife not a father. Don’t treat her like a little girl with a long list of rules. If you treat her like a child she will act like one.
  2. Give her space to make decisions – if you hold her too tight she will feel suffocated.
  3. Respect her and treat her like a partner not an employee.
  4. Trust her – don’t interrogate her for every little thing. Gently ask questions.
  5. Be reasonable in setting boundaries – if you are too strict she will either resent you or not abide by them when you are not around.
  6. Don’t assume anything – check your assumptions and verify before accusing her of anything.
  7. Be kind and understanding so that your wife will happily try to please you. Don’t be a harsh dictator that needs to be overthrown.
  8. If she dresses or acts inappropriately just talk to her, educate her and help her to understand. Make her feel that you are concerned about her. Never be forceful.
  9. Try to make excuses when she falls short.
  10. Be playful with your spouse if you feel some jealousy. Make her feel how much you are attracted to her, how appealing she is to you that you simply don’t want to share her. This will flatter her and make it more likely that she will be more careful.

When you become more sensitive to the needs of your wife and you put effort in supporting her and connecting with her you will reap the rewards of having a more content wife. A happier wife means a happier home which means more peace and tranquility for you. By becoming more aware of these common complaints and implementing the suggestions you will definitely score big with the woman in your life!

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14 Benefits of Marriage in Islam

An elderly Kyrgyz Muslim couple

An elderly Kyrgyz Muslim couple

by Shahina Siddiqui, Soundvision.com

The Basis of Marriage in Islam: Equality of All Human Beings

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Quran 30:21).

“O Humans revere your Guardian Lord, Who created you from a single person created of like nature its mate, and from this scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah through Whom you claim your mutual rights.” (Quran 4:1).

The above verses of the Quran lay out the framework as to what are the basis, the objectives and the goal of marriage in Islam. In the ultimate Wisdom of Allah we are first told that both partners man and woman are created from the same source. That this should be paid attention to as it is one of His signs.

The fact that we come from the same soul signifies our equality as humans, when the essence of our creation is the same, the argument of who is better or greater is redundant. To stress on this fact and then to talk about marriage in the same verse is of great significance for those of us who are in the field of marriage counseling.

The shift in this attitude of equality of genders as human beings cause a imbalance in marital relation ship that leads to dysfunctional marriage. When ever one party considers themselves superior or above the law there is a shift in the balance of power that may lead to misuse or abuse of power as the less valuable partner is seen as an easy prey. Many marital difficulties are based on or caused by control and rule stratagem.

By stressing on the equality of all humans men or women and making it the basis of marriage, Allah in His infinite wisdom has laid the ground rules for establishing peace, as well as the assigning of different roles to husband and wife as functional strategy rather than a question of competence as humans.

Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has stated that: “men and women are twin halves of each other” (Bukhari). This Hadith also brings home the fact that men and women are created from single source. Furthermore, by using the analogy of twin half the Prophet has underlined the reciprocal nature and the interdependent nature of men and women’s relationship.

Muslim couple sitting close together

Five Conditions for a Peaceful Marriage

The objective and the goal of marriage in Islam according to the above Quranic verse is to enable us to dwell in peace and tranquility. It is important for us to reflect on these words and their significance in the Islamic frame of reference.

In order to have peace certain condition must be met. These prerequisites to peace are:

  1. Justice
  2. Fairness
  3. Equity
  4. Equality
  5. Fulfillment of mutual rights. Therefore any injustice whether it is oppression, or persecution, cannot be tolerated if there is to be peace in Muslim homes.

In the domestic realm oppression is manifested when the process of Shura (consultation) is compromised, neglected or ignored. When one partner (in most cases the husband) makes unilateral decisions and applies dictatorial style of leadership, peace is compromised. Persecution is present when there is any form of domestic abuse being perpetrated.

Tranquility on the other hand is a state of being which is achieved when peace has been established. Tranquility is compromised when there is tension, stress and anger. It is a mistake to take tranquility to mean perpetual state of bliss. Since being Muslims does not make us immune to tragedies and catastrophes.

In fact Allah tells us in the Quran that we will be tried (2:155,57). What a state of tranquility does is to empower us to handle life’s difficult moments with our spouses as obedient servants of Allah. Allah in His infinite Mercy also provides us with the tools by which we can achieve this state of peace and tranquility.

The second principle besides Shura on which the Islamic family life is based is Mercy (Rehma), and in this verse Allah is telling us that He has placed mercy between spouses. We are therefore inclined by our very nature to have mercy for our spouses. Mercy is manifested through compassion, forgiveness, caring and humility.

It is obvious that these are all ingredients that make for a successful partnership. Marriage in Islam is above all a partnership based on equality of partners and specification of roles. Lack of mercy in a marriage or a family renders it in Islamic terms dysfunctional.

Allah further states that He has also placed in addition to mercy, love between spouses. It should however be noted that Islamic concept of love is different from the more commonly understood romantic love so valued in the Western cultures.

The basic difference is that love between man and woman in the Islamic context can only be realized and expressed in a legal marriage. In order to develop a healthy avenue for the expression of love between man and woman and to provide security so that such a loving relationship can flourish, it is necessary to give it the protection of Shariah (Islamic law).

14 Benefits of Marriage in Islam

Marital love in Islam inculcates the following:

Indonesian Muslim couple

Indonesian Muslim couple

1. Faith: The love Muslim spouses have for each other is for the sake of Allah that is to gain His pleasure. It is from Allah that we claim our mutual rights (Quran 4:1) and it is to Allah that we are accountable for our behavior as husbands and wives.

2. It sustains: Love is not to consume but to sustain. Allah expresses His love for us by providing sustenance. To love in Islam is to sustain our loved one physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, to the best of our ability (to sustain materially is the husbands duty, however if the wife wishes she can also contribute)

3. Accepts: To love someone is to accept them for who they are. It is selfishness to try and mould someone as we wish them to be. True love does not attempt to crush individuality or control personal differences, but is magnanimous and secure to accommodate differences.

4. Challenges: Love challenges us to be all we can, it encourages us to tap into our talents and takes pride in our achievements. To enable our loved one to realize their potential is the most rewarding experience.

5. Merciful: Mercy compels us to love and love compels us to have mercy. In the Islamic context the two are synonymous. The attribute Allah chose to be the supreme for Himself is that He is the most Merciful. This attribute of Rehman (the Merciful) is mentioned 170 times in the Quran, bringing home the significance for believers to be merciful. Mercy in practical application means to have and show compassion and to be charitable.

6. Forgiving: Love is never too proud to seek forgiveness or too stingy to forgive. It is willing to let go of hurt and letdowns. Forgiveness allows us the opportunity to improve and correct our selves.

7. Respect: To love is to respect and value the person their contributions and their opinions. Respect does not allow us to take for granted our loved ones or to ignore their input. How we interact with our spouses reflects whether we respect them or not.

8. Confidentiality: Trust is the most essential ingredient of love. When trust is betrayed and confidentiality compromised, love loses its soul.

9. Caring: Love fosters a deep fondness that dictates caring and sharing in all that we do. The needs of our loved ones take precedence over our own.

10. Kindness: The Seerah (biography) of our beloved Prophet is rich with examples of acts of kindness, he showed towards his family and particularly his wives. Even when his patience was tried, he was never unkind in word or deed. To love is to be kind.

11. Grows: Marital love is not static it grows and flourishes with each day of marital life. It requires work and commitment, and is nourished through faith when we are thankful and appreciative of Allah blessings.

12. Enhances: Love enhances our image and beautifies our world. It provides emotional security and physical well being.

13. Selflessness: Love gives unconditionally and protects dutifully.

14. Truthful: Love is honesty without cruelty and loyalty without compromise.

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Every Day is Mother’s Day!

Muslim mother adjusts her daughter's hijabBy `Abdul-Fattah `Ashoor, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Faysal Mawlawi
IslamOnline.net, March 20, 2007

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

It goes without saying that every committed Muslim is supposed to pay his parents, especially his mother, due respect. One should try to show dutifulness to one’s parents, no matter whether they are Muslim or not.

On the other hand, what Islam goes against is the idea of marking a special occasion such as celebrating the Mother’s Day in a way that implies that mothers do not deserve due respect and care except on this one day. If we are going to make the whole year a Mother’s Day, then Islam welcomes celebrating the occasion with open arms!

Indeed, Muslim scholars have maintained various opinions regarding the issue. Here below we will attempt to furnish you with Juristic views as regard this issue:

First of all, Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, states:

Dutifulness to parents, especially the mother, and treating them kindly is an act of worship enjoined in both the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Being dutiful to parents is not confined to a specific time. It is an obligation that should be observed every time, as all people commonly know.

Yet, the Mother’s Day, as it’s known nowadays is a Western habit. The Westerners specified a day and called it the Mother’s Day. On that day sons and daughters show gratefulness to their mothers and offer them presents. It has become part of important feasts in the West, whereas we Muslims have no other festivals except the Lesser and the Greater Bairams. Any other celebrations are deemed mere occasions or anniversaries; and this is applied to the Mother’s Day.

The Mother’s Day implies paying more attention and exerting more effort in expressing gratitude to mothers. So there is nothing wrong in that.

However, there are two reservations worth mentioning; first, considering the Mother’s Day a feast; second, confining the task of showing dutifulness to mothers to that specific day, giving implication that throughout the whole year, just only one day is for showing love to parents. If such two anomalous points are addressed, then there is nothing wrong in considering the Mother’s Day a chance to give more care to mothers.

Muslim mother with her two children in AustraliaThus, we may take the Mother’s Day as a chance to lay more emphasis on our duty towards our mothers, as Islam enjoins us, because dutifulness to parents is a genuine Islamic teaching.

But Muslims, in doing that, should never deviate from the Islamic teachings, they should do things in Islamic manners, not in Western manners. Hence, they would not be imitating the non-Islamic habits of the West.

Hence, viewed in juristic perspective, we can say that celebrating the Mother’s day is controversial among the contemporary scholars. While a group of them consider it haram (unlawful) as a kind of blind imitation of the Western non-Islamic habits, which have no benefit for Muslims, another group see it halal (lawful) on condition that showing gratitude and dutifulness to parents should not be confined to that day only.

Moreover, the well known erudite scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi states:

The Arab tend to blindly follow the Western in their celebration of the Mother’s Day, without trying to understand the wisdom behind inventing such an occasion.

When the Europeans found that children do not deal properly towards their parents nor give them their due right, they resorted to specifying an annual occasion for children to remedy the situation. But in Islam, mothers are to be given due respect and love every time, not only one day a year. For example, when one goes out, he kisses one’s mother’s hand seeking her pleasure and blessing.

A Muslim must not allow any gap between him and his mother, he must offer her presents every time. This indicates that Muslims can dispense with such an occasion, the Mother’s Day. Unlike the case in the West, where it’s a vogue for some children to show indifference to their mothers’ feelings, and, what’s more, it is so common to see some parents being dragged to infirmaries (as their kids have no time for them), dutifulness to parents in Islam, alongside with worshiping Allah, is a sacred duty.

In this concern, Almighty Allah says: (And We have commended unto man kindness toward parents. His mother beareth him with reluctance, and bringeth him forth with reluctance, and the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months, till, when he attaineth full strength and reacheth forty years, he saith: My Lord! Arouse me that I may give thanks for the favor wherewith Thou hast favored me and my parents, and that I may do right acceptable unto Thee. And be gracious unto me In the matter of my seed. Lo! I have turned unto Thee repentant, and lo! I am of those who surrender (unto Thee).) (Al-Ahqaf 46: 15)

Reflecting on the aforementioned Quranic verse, we find it stressing both parents’ right, but reviewing the following verses we find them paying special care to the mother and tackling the hardships she suffers in pregnancy, fosterage and rearing children.

In this verse, Almighty Allah informs man of the debt he owes his mother since he was a fetus, passing by the process of childbirth, infancy, childhood until he comes of age. A child normally forgets the hardship which his mother underwent during pregnancy. Hence Almighty Allah draws his attention to such hardships, laying emphasis on her great status in Islam.

Muslim mother reads Quran with her daughters

Finally, Dr. `Abdul Fattah `Ashoor, professor of Qur’an Exegisis at Al-Azhar University, concludes:

Holding celebrations in honoring others and commemorating anniversaries are neither feasts nor Islamic. But one may seize any chance to express gratitude to those who deserve it. This is how we should consider the Mother’s Day. The mother has a special place in the Islamic culture, and all other civilized cultures. So it is something good to do anything to please her and show gratefulness to her.

So dedicating a day to showing good feelings towards parents, especially the mother, is by no means blameworthy as it does not contradict the Islamic teachings, nor can it be merely considered a form of joining the Western vogue of making celebrations. Conversely, it is a kind of devotion to Allah’s orders that we should be dutiful to our parents.

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Confessions of an Ex-Feminist: What it Means to Be a Woman

Muslim woman and the shahadah

By Lamya Sadeq
Business Management & Self Development – Egypt

“Am I a woman?”

No, I am not questioning my gender.

What I mean is…

Do I think of myself in that sense? Do I use that word, proudly, when referring to – or even thinking of myself?

Growing up, I was your regular tomboy. I did not play girl games, and I did not own dolls either. I did not wear dresses unless I was dragged to a wedding or a family function. I did not like to let my hair grow long.

Come to think of it, I did not have many girl friends all the way through college.

I did not wear makeup. Umm … I did not own makeup was more like it. I viewed the attempts of some girls to be understanding, cute, feminine, compassionate, and my best-friends to be a true testament to the shallowness of women. I used to pride myself on the fact that I talk like guys, think like they do, and even shop like they do (Go to the mall – Enter only one store – Buy what I need – Get out in less than 30 minutes)

However, as fate would have it, I grew out of it, because I learnt to embrace who I am. It was very strange being aware of the fact that I am now proud to be a woman. Actually I am thankful to be a woman. Wait… I am thrilled to be a woman.

I learnt that being a woman does not mean that I have to talk too much, wear makeup, alienate myself from my beliefs and causes or ‘Oooh’ and ‘Ahh’ over every passing baby (I mean, really… Leave the babies and their mothers alone for God’s sake!!!!)

Transformation

I began to realize that I was force-fed an idea of what makes a woman. I realize now, sadly, that pop-culture has had a huge impact on shaping my ideals and notions on many gender-related concepts. I never thought that I would be a poster-image of the magnitude of damage pop-culture (stereotypical, negative, untrue, agenda-based and sexist) can have on one’s life.

Muslim female martial artist Sara Khoshjamal trains for Beijing Olympics

Muslim female martial artist Sara Khoshjamal trains for Beijing Olympics

I was blown away by the recognition that I let myself be manipulated into becoming ashamed of who I was. I kid you not!!!!! I was furious and shocked at how much I have missed out on.

So, I did what I thought was the only right thing to do in light of the circumstances; I went back to my most trusted reference, my belief system.

– What do I know of how Allah (SWT) views women?

– How did Allah (SWT) refer to us in the Qur’an?

– Were we viewed as shallow beings?

– Were we viewed as objects of enjoyment?

– Were we viewed merely as mothers or wives?

Answers to those questions have filled volumes of books. I will not attempt to further educate myself or you (who I am sure are all more knowledgeable than yours truly) on the empowerment of women in Islam.

“I’ve been a woman for a little over 50 years and I have gotten over my initial astonishment. As for conducting an orchestra, that’s a job where I don’t think sex (gender) plays much part.” – Nadia Boulanger, conductor.

“I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner.” – Sir, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

“O mankind, We have created you a male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another.” – Quran, Surat al-Hujurat 49:13

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From IslamOnline.net. Lamya Sadeq is a qualified expert in the field of international business development, and information systems. As well as holding a Masters in Training and Development, Lamya Sadeq runs courses and workshops in aspects of Islamic self development and outreach, as well as workshops in business development.

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