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Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Women of the Qur’an: The One Who Complained

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

Khowla, the Woman who Complained

One of the interesting stories that come to us in the Qur’an, is of the Woman Who Complained. It is the name of the 58th chapter of the Qur’an. It refers to the story of Khowla bint Tha’labah, a strong and brave woman who was a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.
Khowla was married to a man with a hot temper. One day, her husband came home and they got into an argument. Her husband lapsed into a pre-Islamic practice, and said a particularly insulting phrase, referred to as Dhihar. Dhihar was done when a man told his wife that his relationship with her was the same as his relationship with his mother. Although this practice may seem strange in today’s world, it was a very extreme thing to say during that time. Moreover, it was not a phrase that could be forgotten. In that society, it was actually a type of divorce.

Her Dialogue

Khowla resented her husband’s action, as she did not want to be stuck in a bad situation because of his behaviour. After he had calmed down, he returned and wanted to be intimate with her. Khowla told him, “You won’t touch me until Allah and His Messenger decide the matter for us.” She left her house and went to the Prophet, explaining her situation and asking that something be done. However, nothing had been revealed pertaining to the pronouncement of Dhihar, so initially there was nothing that could be done. However, Khowla was determined to find a solution.

Before long, the Prophet received the following revelation.

“Allah has certainly heard the speech of the one who argues with you, [O Muhammad], concerning her husband and directs her complaint to Allah. And Allah hears your dialogue; indeed, Allah is Hearing and Seeing. Those who pronounce Dhihar among you [to separate] from their wives – they are not their mothers. Their mothers are none but those who gave birth to them. And indeed, they are saying an objectionable statement and a falsehood.” Al-Mujadilah 

Setting a Precedent

The verses condemned the practice of Dhihar as an odious practice. Allah also set a heavy penalty on the men who pronounced Dhihar on their wives.

Because of Khowla’s persistence and initiative, she not only fixed her own situation, but also helped the other women who had been affected by the practice of Dhihar. She was so respected that other male companions spoke very highly of her. However, what makes her so amazing, is the fact that her struggle was documented in the Qur’an.


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Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Women of the Qur’an: Bilkees, Queen of Sheba

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

Bilkees, Queen of Sheba

The Queen Bilkees is another woman mentioned in the Qur”an with a fascinating story. So fascinating, in fact, that scholars wondered whether she was, in fact, a human, or whether she was something more.

However, Bilkees was a human woman, who ruled over present-day Yemen. She had a vast kingdom, and she lived during the time of the Prophet Sulaiman. She was a female ruler who ruled with no consort, and she was also very wise. She had appointed a group of advisors whom she would consult, although the practice was that the king would rule alone.

The Prophet Sulaiman heard about her when one of his servants, the Hoopoe bird, returned from a prolonged absence. The bird spoke about her great kingdom and wealth, and about her magnificent throne.

The Prophet Sulaiman sent her a message, telling her about Islam. In her wisdom, she did not want to provoke conflict, and took the way of diplomacy. Eventually, she was invited to visit Sulaiman’s palace. There, she found her own throne, which Sulaiman had miraculously been able to summon. He also showed her the miracles in his palace, including a floor of glass which ran over a river.

A Deeply Spiritual Woman

When she realized that the way she had following was wrong, and that Prophet Sulaiman was teaching the true religion, she said, “Verily I have oppressed myself.” Thus, when she realized her previous mistakes, she as astute enough to admit them and change her ways. She knew that it wasn’t because he was a man and she was a woman, but rather it was a case of him being a Prophet of Allah.

She accepted Islam, and some day that she married Prophet Sulaiman as well. Regardless, she is documented in the Qur’an in her own right, as a wise, strong, and pious woman.


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Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Women of the Quran: Aasiyah

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

Aasiyah, wife of the Pharaoh

Aasiyah is significant in many ways. Firstly, she is connected to Prophet Musa, one of the five greatest Prophets and the most-mentioned in the Quran. She played a huge role in his life, saving him from certain death and raising him to adulthood. Her care enabled him to grow up to be the man who lead the liberation of the people of Israel. Secondly, she displayed immense courage, standing up for her faith even against her own husband.

A Maternal Figure

Prophet Musa was born at a time when the Pharaoh was killing all the newborn boys of the Banu Israel, to ensure that they did not defeat him. His mother was divinely inspired to put him in a basket and release him into the river. He was found by Aasiyah and her attendants. Aasiyah, who did not have children of her own, convinced the Pharaoh to allow her to adopt him. He agreed, and the young Prophet Musa was raised in the royal palace.

Aasiyah’s Courage

Eventually, Allah revealed the message to Musa. He confronted the Pharoah with it, and asked him to release the Banu Israel. He performed many miracles to prove himself. Aasiyah witnesses all this, and said, “I believe in the Lord of Musa.” In a beautiful prayer preserved in the Quran, she asked Allah to build her a house in Jannah with Him, and free her from the evildoers. Because of her faith, she was tortured to death by her own husband, the Pharoah.

Her story may have ended tragically in a material context. But it is preserved in the Quran to this day, along with the promise of her high rank in Paradise.


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Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Women of the Quran: Sarah

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

Sarah, wife of Ibrahim

Sarah, wife of the Prophet Ibrahim, is the oldest historical figure mentioned in the Quran. She appears both in the Quran and in the hadith traditions. In Islam, she is understood to be very different from how she is portrayed in other religions.

Rather than portraying her as a bitter and jealous woman, we know that, despite enduring hardships, she was confident that she would be a part of Allah’s miracles. She did have to watch her husband take a second, younger wife who gave birth to a son, Ismael. However, she displayed the character of a true believer by remaining patient and steadfast. Eventually, Allah rewarded her with a child of her own. She was an elderly woman by then, but Allah made it possible through his Mercy and Will.

A relatable woman

Many women can relate to Sarah. She was challenged with infertility, and her struggle is documented in the Quran. After a lot of struggle and patience, Allah granted her a miraculous child.

A group of angels, on their way to the people of Lot, stopped at the house of Ibrahim. They delivered the good news of a child to Sarah. Out of delight, she laughed out loud. This laugh of hers was mentioned in the Quran.

Her child was Ishaq, or Isaac, who became a Prophet just like his father. His son was Yaqub (Jacob), whose son was Yusuf (Joseph), upon them be peace. Therefore, Sarah became the matriarch of a glorious line of Prophets. These Prophets were followed, and are still followed, by countless believers.


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Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Amazing Muslim Women: Fatima al-Fihri

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.

Fatima al-Fihri lived in Fez, Morocco in the mid-9th century. She lived in a time where the women were very involved in the development of infrastructure. At that time, public institutions were supported by an endowment, or waqf. Because women, under Islamic law, are not obliged to supported their families, women with large fortunes would choose to channel them into waqfs. Whether it was a mosque, school or hospital, the waqf would ensure that the institution could be funded long-term. Fatima al-Fihri

Fatima was heir to a large fortune, and promised to build a university. At the time, there were no other universities in the world. In fact, the first European university wouldn’t open until the 11th century. In the year 859, Al-Qarawiyin (also spelled Al Quaraouiyine or Al-Karaouine) was opened. It was the first institution to offer standardized degrees at the graduate, post-graduate and doctorate level. In addition to a vibrant campus, she also added a mosque and a huge library. Many brilliant minds flocked to al-Qarawiyin, including the famous sociologist and historian Ibn Khaldun, to present-day Shaykh Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, faculty at Zaytuna College.

Fatima’s piety and social concern was evident in her planning. During the two years of construction, she took a vow of fasting, keeping the fast every day until the day of completion. In addition, she specified that the building materials be locally sourced. This allowed the surrounding community to benefit, and ensured that the building suited its natural environment.

Fatima al-Fihri is an example of what happens when women in a society are empowered. Al-Qarawiyin is the one lasting example of that society.


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Seeking Allah Through Service – Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari discusses how we can seek Allah through voluntary service during Ramadan, whether in our homes or in our communities.

Ramadan is all about two things:

1. The actual physical fact of the fast.
2. The intention behind the fast.

When one fasts one’s entire being is oriented toward Allah Most High. When one feels pangs of hunger one cannot help but feel a sense of empathy for those around one. Especially for those less fortunate. Ramadan is about being of service. Being of service to Allah Most High, and then being of service to the slaves of Allah.

Be of Service to One Another

As our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “As long as we continue to be of service to one another, Allah continues to help us.” We need to keep that in mind as we go about our fasting day.

Ramadan, from morning till night, is really an act of ibada (worship) as we all know. It is the outward ibada of abstaining from food and drink. But it is also the inward ibada of turning to Allah. Of understanding that any type of anger that arises, any type of frustration that we feel as a result of fasting, must be channeled and leveraged.

We have to understand that if we feel a bit snappish or frustrated, we need to keep in mind that at the end of the day of fasting, we will have a refrigerator full of food. Whereas our neighbor might not be so fortunate.

Combine the Inward and Outward Fast

What I would encourage all of us to do, starting with myself, is to change things up a bit in Ramadan. Have a shift so that Ramadan is not solely about the inward act of worship. Combine the inward and outward fasting.

Take a step toward your neighbor’s house. Check on that person and make sure he or she is doing well. Sign up to sponsor afters at your local masjid. Visit that person who is sick. Make sure that you reach outside of yourself. It is very easy for many of us to turn inward during the month of Ramadan because of the strenuous activity of fasting.

We want to retreat to the interior of our homes or into the masjid. We want to be with our Qur’an, reciting all day long. We want to make our dhikr, to read, to contemplate. And that is part and parcel of fasting. At the same time, though, we want to be able to reach outside of our selves.

So, take the opportunity in the month of Ramadan to perform an act of service you might not ordinarily do. Make a point of surrounding yourself with food. It is good for your discipline. Good for your will power.


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Fasting Is the Ultimate Expression of Love – Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari shares practical advice on how to make the most of our Ramadan and draw closer to Allah Most High through the Noble Qur’an

Ramadan, the whole experience from beginning to end, is a subtle way of expressing Love of Allah as enshrined in the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has said that “Fasting is an act of worship that Allah Himself rewards.” Meaning that the reward comes solely from Allah.

Fasting is different in that it is not visible, as is the prayer or like acts of worship. It is private. You do not know that someone is fasting unless they disclose it.

It is physically challenging and rigorous. For 29 days you abstain from that which is lawful. For a human to be able to be able to discipline the nafs and break the desires of the lower self is the ultimate expression of one’s love for Allah.

Fasting is the paramount way of bringing Divine love into one’s life. There is no way you can go through something as grueling unless you Love Allah and Allah loves you.

There is something called “al ba‘ith” – it is an impulse or a motivation, and aspiration that Allah creates in the believer to seek His presence, to turn towards Him, to repent. to be mindful of Allah‘s assistance and Divine facilitation for all favours in your life.

When Allah places in you the ability to endure the fast it is a gift from Allah to you.
Ramadan Scholars 2018


Ustadha Zaynab studied with Shaykh Khalil Abdul Rashid and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani amongst others.

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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.


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Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Amazing Muslim Women: Khadija

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.

Khadija bint Khuwaylid was a trailblazer in the early Muslim period. She is considered to be one of the first Muslims, the first female Muslim, the first wife of the Prophet and the first mother of his children.amazing Muslim women All these qualities truly make her from the amazing Muslim women.

The Nobility of Khadija

She was a noblewomen of the tribe of Quraysh, and was considered the “Leader of the Women of Quraysh.” Although she received many proposals from the wealthy elite of Quraysh, she declined them all.

She was also an entrepreneur. She hired the Prophet to work in her caravans that traveled to Syria to trade. She proposed marriage to him after observing his noble character and honesty. In doing so, she broke some barriers for the Muslims that would follow. She normalized the practice of women proposing marriage to men, even to those who were younger or less wealthy than them.

Her Strength and Wisdom

The Prophet would engage in regular spiritual retreats, where he would go into the cave of Hira and reflect. During that time, Khadija continued to support him, and did not discourage him. One day, he returned in a state of fear, and told her that he was seized by a presence who squeezed him and commanded him to read. Through her immense wisdom, she immediately knew exactly how to reassure him, and believed in him without hesitation.

The Prophet never forgot what she did for him. Years after her death, he would constantly remember her, saying, “She believed in me when everyone else rejected me, she believed in me when everyone else called me a liar.” His love for her was truly undying.


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Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Amazing Muslim Women: Hawa

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.

The first installment of the series speaks about Hawa or Eve: first woman to be created.

Hawa’s Story

Her story is narrated in Sura al Baqara, the second chapter of the Holy Qur’an. In this chapter, we learn about the Exodus as we know it in the Islamic tradition, and about the first two humans created in Paradise. We also learn about their deception at the hands of the Devil, leading to their exodus from Paradise.

Throughout the Qur’an, Hawa is referenced alongside Adam, as Allah refers to both of them in the dual context. This affirms that Hawa shares Adam’s status, accomplishments, and struggles. Most importantly, she shares his stature with Allah.

For example, they are both commanded not to approach the Forbidden Tree, rather than the responsibility being placed simply on one of them.  Thus, she is established as his equal, not his inferior.

Sharing Responsibility Rather Than Blaming

Later on, Allah says, “I will send you both down to Earth for a time.” Here, Hawa shares the responsibility of Adam’s situation. However, she is never blamed for their fall. In addition, their eating from the tree has been forgiven by Allah. Their exodus to Earth is part of Allah’s plan for both Hawa and Adam to be Allah’s Vicegerents, or Khalifa, on this Earth.

This responsibility does not include only Adam, and it does not exclude Hawa. Rather, they both possess intelligence and the unique faculties that Allah created in them, and they are both considered the Vicegerents.

The Context of Gender

Among the lessons we can take from Hawa’s story, is that  Hawa and Adam together compliment each other. Only when you combine Hawa with Adam, do you get an accurate picture of human nature. Rather than focusing just one gender, we are taught that we all have a special role to play in our lives, no matter who we are.


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