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Influential Muslim Women – A Reader

This reader gathers various SeekersHub resources on inspiring Muslim women, where Companions, scholars, or community leaders, both past and present.

Women Documented in the Qur’an

 Hawa, the First Woman

Sarah, Wife of Prophet Ibrahim

 Aasiyah, Wife of the Pharoah: A Brief Biography

Lady Asiya and the Mother of Musa

Lady Asiya – Her Life of Faith and Trials 

Bilkees, Queen of Sheba

Maryam, Mother of Isa: A Brief Biography

Lady Maryam – Her Virtue and Merit

Lady Maryam – Her Favor and Blessings

The One Who Complained (Al-Mumtahina)

Women from the Family of the Prophet

Khadija bint Khuwaylid: A Brief Biography

Lady Khadija – Before Revelation

Lady Khadija – After Revelation Until Her Passing

The High Rank of Sayyida Khadija

Lady Aisha: Most Knowledgable of All

Slander Against Lady Aisha

 The Love Between Lady Aisha and the Messenger of Allah

What Are Some Resources on the Life of the Mother of the Believers?

Fatima az-Zahra: Introduction and Virtues

Fatima az-Zahra – Prophetic Care and Concern

The Life of Umm Salama

Umm Salama – The Knowledgable Women’s Rights Activist ..

 Umm Ayman – The Prophet’s Mother After His Mother

Female Companions of the Prophet

 Sumayyah, the First Martyr 

Umm Ma’baad: Hadith Narrator

Fatima al-Fihri: The Visionary

Who Was the Companion Sayyida Furay’ah (Allah Be Pleased With Her)?

Khansa’ – The Poetess of Islam

Nusayba – Defender of the Prophet

Women Through the Ages

Amra bint Abdurrahman

Nafisa al-Tahira

Fatima al-Fihri

Maryam al-Istirlabiyya

Karima bint Ahmad

Fatima bint Saad al Khayr 

Razia Sultan

Al Adar Al Karima

Bibi Raji

Queen Aminatu 

Nana Asma’u 

Amina Assilmi

The Death of a Star – On the Passing of Aminah Assilmi

Women: Agents of Change – Dr. Ingrid Mattson 

“I Love Being a Woman!”

SeekersHub’s Female Teachers

Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Shaykha Noura Shamma

Ustadha Mariam Bashar

Ustadha Nagheba Hayel

The Power Of Storytelling with Ustadha Mehded Maryam Sinclair 

 

 

 

 

The Write Legacy: Interview with Dr Saadia Mian and Sr Ambareen Syed

Fatimah Gomez interviews two female Muslim authors, who were guest speakers at the recent Muslim Women’s Literary Conference. interview

Dr. Saadia Mian

Fatimah: Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Saadia Mian, author of Crowning Venture, and a deeply inspiring person who also completed the memorisation of the Qur’an.

Dr. Saadia, you gave a beautiful uplifting talk about the journey of your book The Crowning Venture, and how this book has changed your life. I’d like to start off from the beginning— where did your writing journey essentially begin?

Dr. Saadia: Well to start with, I was writing on and off for the past five years, usually being inspired by the journeys that my medical career took me upon. I was always a reader, and this has enabled me to write even more.

Fatimah: From what you mentioned during your talk, writing The Crowning Venture was something very personal and involved you telling your reader many personal experiences that you went through along your journey in memorising the Qur’an. Can you tell us how you were so motivated write about these experiences, no matter how personal they were?

Dr. Saadia: Well you see, I realised that if I didn’t let people know and understand the beauty of the journey that comes with learning the Qur’an, nobody would ever know how journey is. I always ask myself, “Is this a message that will help others?” And with this mindset, we as writers have to be willing to write freely from our hearts and not be afraid of what others think of our writing or how they will respond.

Fatimah: And who would you say motivated you the most along your writing journey?

Dr. Saadia: Well, I had amazing editors that really pushed me to write what I wanted to convey to my readers without worrying about anything. They always supported me and encouraged me to write now and they would be able to edit everything later accordingly.

Fatimah: Many of us struggle with articulating the seriousness of our writing. How would you say is a good easy to show others how serious you are with your writing?

Dr. Saadia: I would say just keep on writing, push aside your fears and get your feelings out with your words. Eventually people will come to realise how passionate you are.

Fatimah: And what would be one piece of advice you’d like to leave us with?

Dr. Saadia: The best thing that I can tell you is to find people who are willing to support you and who you can lean on throughout your writing journey. This path of writing isn’t meant to be travelled alone.

Fatimah: Thank you Dr. Saadia, for giving us this amazing opportunity of benefiting from your experience and words.

Dr. Saadia: You’re very welcome.

You can find out more about The Crowning Venture here


Sr. Ambareen Syed

Fatimah: Here we also have with us Sister Ambareen Syed, author of the Henrietta Gee series and mother of six beautiful children.

Tell us, Sister Ambareen, where did you first discover your passion for writing?

Sr. Ambareen: Well, ever since I was young, I was always a big reader. I loved reading sci-fi books and when I started to hit my teen years, I started entering contests with my manuscripts and won them, which encouraged me forward along my writing journey.

Fatimah: And what inspired you to write the Henrietta Gee series?

Sr. Ambareen: It began with storytelling. I used to create stories of this girl named Henrietta and tell them to my kids. They always begged me for more stories and this encouraged me to write them down. Eventually, these stories grew into the Henrietta Gee series.

Fatimah: Amazing. It’s always beautiful seeing inspiration coming from your own children.

Sr. Ambareen. (Laughs.) Yes, definitely.

Fatimah: How would you advise Muslim writers of today to embed the spiritual perspective into their writing?

Sr. Ambareen: Firstly, we must understand that other people will always connect differently to our writing, compared to how we do. But it’s also important that we take advantage of this opportunity of literacy that has been presented to us and use this, striving to uplift our society with our works.

It also comes back to your intention. You have to think of your intention before you write, think about what kind of feelings you want to leave your readers with. What kind of lesson do you want them to think about and take to heart. This makes a difference in our manuscripts because it gives a meaning to our words, creating a message for our readers.

Fatimah: Very important. I know a lot of young writers out there today who are passionate about their work but don’t feel encouraged enough to stay motivated along the journey of literacy. What would you like to tell them to encourage them forward?

Sr. Ambareen: Keep writing. Just keep along at it, don’t even bother to edit your ideas. You want to let the creative process and ideas flow out first, and then later you can hard-core edit everything.

Fatimah: Well thank you so much Sister Ambareen. I’m so glad that you were able to share some of your time with us and hopefully, have motivated and inspired others with your words. Until next time.

Sr. Ambareen: Alhamdulillah, it was my pleasure.

You can find out more about the Henrietta Gee series here


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.


 

Queen Aminatu –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 female scholarshipfeatures Queen Aminatu from the 10th century.

Queen Aminatu ruled a place called Zaria, which is now a province of Nigeria. Queen Aminatu’s mother ascended the throne when Aminatu was 16. She learned to ride horseback for military campaign, to wield weapons, and military strategy. When her mother and brother died, Aminatu took the reign at age 34.queen aminatu

Leading Zaria was very difficult at the time, because there was a lot of tribal unrest and very little unity. Queen Aminatu is credited as being the first ruler to unite the area and bring peace and security to the land. She did this not through just the military expeditions that she led, but also through her strategy. When settling up a military camp, she would build a clay wall around the boundaries of the camp. After the military left, cities would form within those protective walls.

The political stability that Queen Aminatu’s leadership, allowed the opportunity for safer trade and new imported goods, including the cola nuts which came from Sudan. She is known as being a fierce leader, who bought peace to the Hausa land, bringing safety and economic prosperity. She ruled Zaria for a total of 34 years.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


 

Bibi Raji –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 female scholarshipfeatures Bibi Raji from the 9th century.

 

Bibi Raji was from Delhi, and lived in the 9th century of the Islamic calendar. She is known for her establishment of buildings and institutions, some which are still standing today, including the Dargha Suleman. By doing this, she was leaving a legacy that would remain for years to come.bibi raji

She was deeply concerned about the accessibility of education, and would give scholars stipends and awards for their work. She would also give students scholarships and pay for their expenses.  This was a far cry from today’s education system, where teachers make low wages and students fall to huge loans. Bibi Raji was dedicated to giving to both educators and students, so that could concentrate on the quality of their work.

Bibi Raji was also dedicated to uplifting women’s education. She opened a girls’ school with the ethos of ensuring that women could access education and the resources that came with it. She was a trailblazer for women’s education and female representation, centuries before the Western societies caught on.


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.


Resources for Seekers

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 female scholarshipfeatures Maryam al-Istirlabiyya from the 4th century.fatima al-fihriMaryam al-Istirlabiyya

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.


Resources for Seekers

Nafisa al-Tahira–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 female scholarshipfeatures Nafisa al-Tahira, a great scholar from the second century of Islam.nafisa

Nafisa al-Tahira was a great Egyptian scholar. She was a descendant of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and she was raised in his blessed city.

When she was a young girl in Medina, her father would take her to the Prophet’s Mosque to pray every single one of the five daily prayers. She memorised the Qur’an at a young age, and began memorising the Hadith as well. Before long, she became a scholar of the various Islamic sciences.

After she married, she moved with her husband to Egypt. There, she became a famous scholar. People would line up for hours to ask her questions and seek her advice, and the line would extend down the street. In fact, the great scholar, Imam Shafi, counted her as one of his teachers.

She went on the Hajj pilgrimage 33 times, and would stand in prayer through the night, crying to Allah for herself and the Ummah.

She was a very kind and caring woman. She was once asked to take care of a Christian child who was unable to walk. She cared for her and prayed for her ability to return. By the time the parents returned, the child could walk again.

Nafisa was a great woman, and we continue to celebrate her till today.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


Resources for Seekers

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Women of the Qur’an: Maryam

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, in partnership with Muslimah Media, speaks in a 6-part series about women who are documented in the Quran.Maryam

Maryam, mother of Isa

Maryam, who is the mother of Prophet Isa, peace be upon them both, was born into the Jewish society that was located in Palestine. In this society, there were strict gender roles, with men playing the more frontal roles.

One of the roles that boys played, was being placed in the temples for the sole purpose of praying and worship. A family that volunteered would have their status elevated in the eyes of the people. When Maryam’s mother was pregnant, she pledged her child to that role. But when her gave birth, she found out that her baby was a girl. She didn’t know what to do, as women did not play that role. However, Allah inspired the authorities to accept her.maryam

As she grew older, Maryam, peace be upon her, lived in the temple. Due to the strength of her worship, great miracles would happen in the temple. For example, her uncle would see out-of-season fruits in her home, provided by Allah.

The Miraculous Birth

One day, an angel appeared and told her that she would give birth to the Messiah. When she was ready to go into labour, she retreated outside the city. She knew that she could not go to her family or community, as an unmarried woman, placed in the temple, who suddenly had a baby. As the labour pains overtook her, she cried out in despair to Allah, who sent comfort and food to her as she gave birth.

Afterwards, she wrapped up her baby and headed back to her town, ready to face the fire. When the townspeople saw her, they admonished her, a woman with righteous parents and ancestors, for having a baby out of wedlock. However, Allah revealed to her to take a vow of silence, and gesture to them to ask her baby. Sure enough, the baby Isa spoke out in defence of his mother.

Her Strength and Courage

Maryam, peace be upon her, is mentioned in the Quran by name. In fact, she is so honoured that a whole chapter of the Quran is named after her. Part of the reason she is praised so often, is because she endured so much hardship as a single mother. Because of her strength, courage and piety, she is one of the best women to ever walk this earth, and will be in the highest level of Paradise.


Resources for Seekers

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Amazing Muslim Women: Sumayyah

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, in partnership with Muslimah Media, speaks in a 5-part series about the amazing Muslim women who paved the way for others after them.

Sumayyah bint Khayyat was a truly inspiring woman who sacrificed so much for her faith. She was a slave, and a socially outcast woman. Unlike some of the other Companions, she had absolutely no wealth or social standing to protect her.

In other words, she went in knowing that she would have to sacrifice everything. She was one among a small handful of people to openly declare their faith during the early days of Islam.amazing Muslim women

Her Sheer Courage

She and her husband Yasir were both slaves. After they had their son Ammar, it is said that they may have been freed. Regardless, the family was still treated as outcasts of society. Not only that, but the family boldly announced their faith, which made the Meccans decide to make others an example of them.

They dragged the three of them out to the desert, and tortured them under the heat. Her body was encased in iron armor which, under the sun’s rays, began to burn her body.

First Martyr of Islam

Sumayyah’s faith was so strong that even as she was being beaten, she would defy her capturers by smiling and saying the name of Allah. This exasperated the Meccans, because no matter what they tried to do, she still stayed strong.

Eventually, Abu Jahl lost his temper and drove a spear into her abdomen, ending her life. Thus, Sumayyah bint Khayyat became the first martyr, male or female, to die in the way of Islam.

Sumayyah is an example for us as Muslims. She was proud of her faith and found peace and liberation in it, even though it came at a great cost. She remained patient through great hardship. And because of her faith and dedication, she was promised paradise.


Resources for Seekers

Three Things Social Work Taught Me – Aisha Hollyer

The first reaction Aisha Hollyer gets when she says she is in the field of social work, “MashaAllah! It must be so good to work with the less fortunate; you must feel so fulfilled, and it must be such a good reminder!” It is, she writes, so much more complicated.

 

“Anze! Anze!” (Miss, Miss!)

He couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven years old, and unhealthily slender. Although his bright green eyes were dimmed by dark circles, they transmitted their emotions to me, loud and clear.

It was the end of March, the day of an ice storm, and my work had sent me from the settlement office to the hotel where the Syrian refugees were placed until permanent housing could be found for them. Since the storm had closed the schools, my coworkers and I were taking over the job of taking care of the hundred or so children living there.

“Pleease, Anze! Pleeease!”

I felt like crying as I reached out and touched his cheek. The tiny toy car he was clutching wouldn’t have been something a Canadian boy would have looked twice at, but boy was begging me to let him take it, he didn’t have any other toys.

Haltingly, I explained to him that this roomful of toys was a temporary program in the hotel, for the children to play in until they moved out, but that he could come back every day and play with it here.

That day, my heart broke.

 

Muslim Social Work – It Comes With A Price

Although I did choose to enter the field because I wanted more than monetary compensation out of my career, it wasn’t long before I realized that any sort of fulfillment—or indeed, even any sense of feeling closer to Allah and your purpose in life—did come with a price. My journey through the field of social work, although just begun, was quite an eye-opener, and there were some extremely important lessons I learned from them. Here are just a few:

Lesson 1: Intentions are Still Important

Even an environment of social service can quickly look very superficial and corporate. If you’re not careful, it can become just another cycle of working for a salary, trying hard to impress your coworkers or manager, gossiping about clients, or revelling in the feeling of power you will likely have. In fact, being in power positions, or privy to sensitive information, can even reveal some of the darker sides of your ego (nafs) that you didn’t notice before.

What I learned: Being in the act of helping others, whether directly or indirectly, does not automatically make one a better Muslim; in fact, one of the shaytan’s traps is to disguise something evil as something good. Renewing your intention daily or even several times a day, along with heartfelt prayers for sincerity and acceptance, should become routine in order not to fall into those traps.

Lesson Two: Ransack Your Relationships

Put simply, being in the field of social work propels you to a different plane of reality. All of a sudden, you’re witnessing poverty, hunger, homelessness, and trafficking—not only on a global level, but right in your own backyard. You lose the ability to care for the things you used to, while discovering several areas of concern and abilities that you never knew you had.

Now all of a sudden, going to Starbucks with friends represents the equivalent of a full day’s food supply for someone you know. Talking about clothes and shoes is not just pointless, but absurd, because you know people who don’t have that luxury. And the shows and vlogs that your friends follow are now little slices of the carefree life that you’ll never be able to have, embedded as they are in emotions and values you only distantly remember understanding.

What I learned: If Allah has chosen that type of life for a person, then it is nothing but a blessing. If He had meant for someone to help people, then of course He would give them the tools and knowledge necessary to do that. The opinions of other shouldn’t matter.

It was important to appreciate the situation Allah had put me in. Alhamdulillah, it wasn’t long before I was able to be content, and realize the blessings of being on constant “dose of reality” mode. It made me much more grateful for the blessings in my life. It gave me an appreciation for the struggles of others. Most importantly, it got me to focus on more important things, rather than just the superficial things some of my peers were involved with.

Lesson Three: Deal With the Disconnect

Even after overcoming that last hurdle, there is another factor to be considered for a Muslim, or anyone who considers social work a vital part of their spiritual practice; the fact that they may not find anyone to give them the help they need.

On one hand, I had friends who were Muslim and whom I could relate with in terms of my religious beliefs and spiritual practices. When I was down or upset, they knew how to remind me and bring me back up. However, after I got into social work, they couldn’t really go in too deep, because the types of things I’d need to talk about would either depress them,  or they were weren’t used to hearing about some of the issues prevalent in our society.

On the other hand, I had friends, mostly classmates, who were completely nonreligous, swore profusely, and had certain other unfortunate habits. However, they were extremely concerned for the wellbeing of other people, and went to great lengths to be involved in the good, such as working against poverty or discrimination. In fact, I heard more “ISIS does not represent true Islam” arguments from them than I had heard from the Muslim community! Although heartening at times, it was easy to experience feelings of disconnect from everybody; never truly having a person to turn to.

What I learned: Put simply, you can never depend on people. Whether it be a best friend, a family member, or even a spouse, it’s not healthy to rely on them for your emotional, mental, or spiritual wellbeing. If you do, you will be sorely disappointed, because people aren’t perfect and so any relationship with them cannot be perfection.

For me, moments of isolation have a way of bringing certain things to realization—things I would never have discovered otherwise. They are blessings in disguise, forging a connection through pain that could never have been borne from blissful ignorance.

Also, no matter how dark it seems, you will never be left without hope if you keep in mind that, “Verily, after hardship comes ease.”

Two months later…

“Anze! Anze!”

The boy walking towards me looked vaguely familiar. He couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven years old, with a slender yet healthy frame and bright, eager green eyes.

“Hi, Anze!”

I felt like crying as I swept him off the sidewalk into a giant hug, holding on for a long time. I could hardly believe that this was the same boy I’d dealt with, a short time ago.

I finally put him back down to meet the smiling eyes of his mother and a few siblings. She hugged me, and again I could barely contain the emotion inside me, from seeing them so well and happy after all they’d been through.

After exchanging pleasantries, like where they were living and how they liked it, she invited me to drop in to visit them anytime, repeating the address several times till I got it.

That day, my heart healed.

That moment was truly a gift from God. It helped me realize that Allah is truly the Most Merciful, that desperation is never valid, and that He will, inshaAllah, make things better.

Resources for Seekers

 

Cover photo by Ezry Abdul Rahman, woman photo by Adi Suwijo, mother and child photo by Hamed Masoumi.