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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 female scholarshipfeatures Amina Assilmi from the 14th century.Amina Assilmi

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.


 

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.


 

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 female scholarshipfeatures 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?

Muslim Women's Literary ConferenceOn 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 female scholarshipfeatures 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 female scholarshipfeatures 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.


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

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 female scholarshipfeatures Fatima bint Saad al Khayr from the 6th century.fatima al-fihriMaryam al-Istirlabiyyafatima bint Saad

 

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.

 


Resources for Seekers

 

Fatima al-Fihri–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 Fatima al-Fihri from the 3rd century.fatima al-fihri

Fatima al-Fihri was a great visionary, living in modern-day Morocco. After receiving a large sum of money through inheritance, she planned and built the Al-Qarawiyyin university and mosque.

She did her work in phases, beginning in the month of Ramadan. Firstly, she built a well for the future construction workers, showing that she had a good sense of labour justice and ethical work. After the well was built, she moved on to building the rest.

The project took two to three years. After Ramadan ended, Fatima continued fasting every day, saying that she had begun the project fasting, and wanted to complete it while fasting.

Al-Qarawiyyin University still runs today, thanks to Fatima’s hard work, organisational skills, and insightful planning. It remains the oldest degree-granting university in the world, which laid the groundwork for modern-day institutions. Every time we come across a university or similar educational institution, we should remember Fatima al-Fihri and her dedication.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.


Resources for Seekers