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Amina Assilmi –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Amina Assilmi from the 14th century.

Amini Assilmi accepted Islam in 1977. She was an activist, educator, public speaker, and advocate. Her contributions to American Muslim society are vast.

Some she worked for the National Organisation for Women, where she advocated for rape to be listed as a war crime during the Bosnian war. They won their case, but when the awards ceremony came, the organisers did not want her on stage because of her hijab. Only after much negotiation was she allowed to dress as she chose.

She was also instrumental in the campaign to issue an Eid postage stamp. Postage stamps are a little portrait of American life, and having a postage stamp commemorating Eid was a great step for Muslims in America.

Amina was also a speaker, who spoke at many Islamic events, such as ISNA (the Islamic Society of North America). In addition to speaking, she was an instrumental part of the establishment of many of these organisations. She was also involved in early broadcasting media, such as Sound Vision.

All during her community involvement, she was suffering from a variety of diseases, including cancer. At one point, she was using a wheelchair, but later recovered and regained the ability to walk. She  also experienced many family struggles. However, eventually her family accepted Islam as well.

Amina died in 2005, and is very much missed by the American Muslim community. May Allah send us more leaders like her.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


Nana Asma’u –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Nana Asma’u from the 13th century.

Nana Asma’u was a scholar, poet, and pedagogue who changed the environment of the Sokoto Capliphate where she lived. She uplifted the people around her and ensured that the women were educated in matters of religion, education, health and other sciences.Nana Asma'u

She was a deeply spiritual woman. It is said that she possessed karama, or miracles associated with the pious. She corresponded regularly with the scholars of her time, and was fluent in four languages. She would write her poetry in the language of the people she was writing for, many of which were intended for curriculum purposes.

Her educational movement was her response to the overwhelming amount of people in the villages who were uneducated. She developed a creative method to reach them, which was to prepare “team teachers.”  These teachers would come to her to learn her system. She would teach them her curriculum, dress them in her signature uniform, and send them out to the villages to educate the residents.

Nana Asma’u was a deeply concerned leader, who revolutionized the education system of her time. She is a great example for all teachers and educators, as well as anyone who would is concerned about the next generation.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


What is the Muslim Women’s Literary Conference?

On October 27th, 2018, Daybreak Press held its 4th Annual Muslim Women’s Literary Conference. Fatimah Gomez was an attendee and gives us an overview of the conference.

The Muslim Women’s Literary Conference, which took place in Toronto, Canada at a college chapel, was a golden opportunity. It was hosted by Daybreak Press, an independent publishing company that strives to empower and raise the voices of Muslim women from all over the world.

Daybreak Press lets women recognise their identities by taking a firm hold of their own narrative. The organisation is part of Rabata, a larger, academic-focused organisation that aims to provide an uplifting and spiritual experience of Islamic education for women.

There were many speakers from diverse backgrounds, who spoke about the importance of using words to convey a heartfelt message. Discussions explored the topic of serving others with the fruits of our lives and religion through our own words. As Shaykha Tamara Grey, the founder of Rabata said, we are very fortunate to have the ability to showcase the beautiful writing that Muslim women have to offer through a platform as large and easily accessible as Daybreak Press. As we have seen in our history, few literary works and manuscripts written by women have survived.

Ustadha Shehnaz Karim, who has studied under various scholars of Syria, spoke about writing through a spiritual lens, whether for ourselves or for others. This is a way of connecting with God and finding inspiration along our spiritual journey to Him. “The written word is something holy,” she said.

Because of that, how we convey our messages to others is very important, lets them know who we are. She said that writing can be a means of prayer, writing to Allah when we’re not ready to openly talk to Him. Instead, we can choose to freely express ourselves through written words, and this creates meaning and a beautiful and sincere connection with our Lord. When we reflect on what we have written, we are ultimately discovering who we are, through a mirror of our own words.

When it comes to self-identity within today’s societies, it’s very important as Muslims to see ourselves and our identities reflected in literature. This helps us initially recognise who we are, which later leads to a stronger image of who Muslims are.

Sister Ambareen Syed, a writer and mother of six, mentioned that beautiful virtues are universally recognised by readers. And when our audiences are ready to hear the virtues of our religion through written works, we must be ready to step forward and be willing to articulate the golden image of Islam. She explained that we can do so by replicating a prophetic model in our texts, through characters and ways of beliefs. With this in mind, we are striving to uplift and elevate our society by the power of our own words alone.

It is vital to make a sound intention before writing, because without it, the writing loses its purpose. If one has the ability and gift to touch their readers and communicate a message that remains true to their identity, then they must pick up the pen and write, taking this priceless opportunity to send their message to our readers. As Muslims, we are people of faith and we strive to close the gap of misunderstanding by realising the true identities of who we are and letting the world hear our articulations. We must write to provide a voice for ourselves and others, because if we don’t, nobody else will.


Fatimah Gomez is 15 years old, and the second eldest of five. She’s currently in high school and has had a passion for writing since age 9. Recently, she completed her first book for Muslim youth, which she intends to publish soon. She enjoys playing and watching soccer, training for taekwondo, jdm cars, discovering the beauty in art and poetry and connecting with Allah’s creation.


Asma Ibret –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Asma Ibret from the 12th century.

Asma Ibret was an artist and a calligrapher in the Ottoman times. She studied with the most famous teacher in her time. She must have begun while she was quite young, as she finished her first work at the age of 15. It was a beautiful calligraphic description of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace. The piece had been commissioned by someone who gave it as a gift to the Sultan. The Sultan found it so beautiful, and so expressive of the beauty of the Prophet, that he gave Asma a prize. From there, he employed her on a daily salary.

Her works still exists today in museums and private collections around the world. Her final work, done at the age of 28, lives in the home of a Saudi family, and is a beautiful copy of the Qur’an.asma ibret

Asma used her art to honour the Prophet, as well as the Book of Allah. She was given the honorific title of “Ibret,” meaning an exemplary. She is an amazing role model for young artists and creatives of today.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


Mumtaz Mahal –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Mumtaz Mahal from the 11th century.

Mumtaz Mahal is best-known for being buried in the Taj Mahal tomb, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. However, little attention is given to her full and active life.

At a time when the sanctity of marriage was overrun with political ambition and greed, Mumtaz Mahal was married to the emperor, Shah Jahan in a love marriage. She was a very devout woman, and would perform many night prayers, seeking good for her husband and for her people. It is said that she was able to ease her husband onto the straight path through her piety.mumtaz mahal

Mumtaz would travel with him on his military expeditions and on his Hajj pilgrimage, and he trusted her so much that he gave her the Imperial Seal.  She gave birth to 14 children, although 7 of them died in stillbirth or while still young.  Throughout this time, she remained an active part of court, and was particularly concerned about gardening and beautifying the palace. She was also interested in watching sports, and was a balanced and well-rounded woman.

She died giving birth to her 14th child, which caused Shah Jahan to go into grieving for a full year. When he emerged, his hair had turned white, and he had a bent back. Their daughter, Jahanara,  stood by his side and nursed him  until he was healthy enough to return to rule the country.  Over the next 23 years he built the Taj Mahal as a final resting place for his late wife, in an attempt to display what she had meant to him and to the world.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


Al Adar Al Karima –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Al Adar Al Karima from the 8th century.

Al Adar Al Karima was the Vice-Regent of Yemen for a 14-month period, delegated by her absent son. During that short time, she was able to create peace between the warring tribes, and build a sense of justice and fairness in the land.

Al Adar was known most for her philanthropy. She was know as “The Generous Queen,” and “The Lordly Lady of Piety.”  She would use her own money to build schools and other institutions, and would sponsor students of knowledge. She would make the effort to travel out herself to search for people in need. She would be the one to enter their houses to visit them, and to find out exactly what they  needed.

She was a woman of great faith, prayer, and generosity, and a role model for all women.

 


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


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Razia Sultan –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Razia Sultan from the 7th century.

Razia Sultan was the Sultan, or political leader of the Delhi Sultanate, appointed by her father at his deathbed as he saw her as the most capable leader of all his children.

When she ascended the throne, her first project was to  build diplomatic ties with the Abbasid Caliphate, which ruled over the Muslim lands. This was an extremely significant political step, as it legitimised the lands of the Delhi Sultanate as part of the wider Muslim Ummah. She also took great pains to ensure that the non-Muslim civilians under her rule were treated with dignity and honour.

She was a patron of the arts and education. She established various libraries and centres of learning to ensure that literature and knowledge, both religious and secular, were a firm part of the society. She was also deeply concerned for the infrastructure, and took care that roads and bridges were built to serve the people.

Razia Sultan dealt with her fair share of political challenge. There were many people who protested against her leadership, not only because she was a woman, but also because her family came from slave origin and were not from a noble tribe. When rebellions would happen, she would go out herself to fight against them, as she was a talented horsewoman.  Eventually, she and her husband were both ambushed and killed. Her brother, who took over after her death, was not capable of the role and was also removed, proving that their father was right when he said that Razia Sultan had been the only one worthy of the throne.

 


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


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Fatima bint Saad al Khayr –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Fatima bint Saad al Khayr from the 6th century.

 

Fatima bint Saad al Khayr was born in China to a family originally from Valencia in Islamic Spain. She grew in a home of great scholarship, and at age seven she was sitting in hadith circles as a serious student of knowledge. At age 19, she was an accomplished scholar, which indicates that perhaps she was a child prodigy.

After she got married, she moved to Damascus with her husband. He was a secretary to Nur al-Din Zenghi, the teacher and mentor of Salahuddin. She became a sought-after teacher in Damascus. and later moved to Cairo where students would travel  to learn from her.

Fatima bint Saad al Khayr is an immense example of dedicating one’s life to the study of Sacred Knowledge.

 


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Karima bint Ahmad –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Karima bint Ahmad from the 5th century.

Karima bint Ahmad

Karima, originally of Turkmenistani origin, travelled far and wide with her father. After going to Jerusalem, and as far as Iran, they settled in Mecca. She studied with many great Meccan scholars until she herself became a scholar, specialising in hadith, particularly in the collection of Sahih Bukhari. She became known as “The Shaykha of Mecca,” and was extremely sought after by students of her era.

The scholar Ad-Dhahabi spoke highly of her, saying that she was a woman of knowledge, piety and goodness. She was extremely careful in her assessment of who to grant her ijazah, or authorisation. She lived to the age of 100, and made a huge impact on the community around her.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


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Maryam al-Istirlabiyya –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Maryam al-Istirlabiyya from the 4th century.

Maryam al-Istirlabiyya

She was a well-known scientist and engineer, who worked with a tool called an Astrolabe. Although no longer common, it used to be a very important tool, and would function like a GPS. It would be used as a navigation tool, and as a compass. People would use it to find the direction for prayer, for astronomy, and to guide ships and caravans on their journeys.

Maryam was the most famous designer of astrolabes, to the point where she was actually named after them. Her work was so accurate and precise that she was appointed by the ruler of the time, Saif al-Dowla, to create these tools. She is a great role model for young women interested in science, math, technology and engineering.


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