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.

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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 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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Heroes and Heroines of Islam: Part 5 by Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf

We regularly hear of the great heroes and heroines of Islam. However, we know little about what made these men and women so beloved to Allah and their people. In these series of talks, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf speaks about these famous men and women.

In the fifth and final installment of the series, Habib Kadhim speaks about the qualities that gave these people their strength and courage. heroes and heroines of Islam

Returning to Allah

As an example, we have Umm Salama, who was faced with difficult times. She made a duaa to Allah, asking that her losses be replaced with something better.  For many people, it is difficult to think of finding fulfillment after suffering a loss. However, it is important to remember that Allah can, indeed, make that happen. The Prophet promised us that even the smallest test, such feeling the pain of a thorn, is a chance for believers to return to their Lord and be rewarded for their patience.

Using Our Talents

Habib Khadhim concluded the lecture by encouraging everyone to use their particular talents for the benefit of Islam. Whether it is a good memory, deep empathy, or good speaking skills, we can bring great benefit if we use these qualities well. We may or may not be recognized for our efforts, but we can be sure of our reward with Allah.

In the next life, we will see many great women who we did not know about on this Earth, but caused great light to be brought to Islam. For example, the mothers of Imam al-Bukhari and Imam al-Shafi, were both single mothers who likely did not have a lot of resources. However, through their piety, commitment, and righteous parenting, they were both a means for reviving many Islamic sciences.

This concludes the series “Heroes and Heroines of Islam,” by Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf. 

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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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Heroes and Heroines of Islam: Part Two–Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf

We regularly hear of the great heroes and heroines of Islam. However, we know little about what made these men and women so beloved to Allah and their people. In these series of talks, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf speaks about these famous men and women.

In the second segment of the series, Habib Kadhim speaks about the lesser-known heroes and heroines of Islam; those who struggled behind the scenes. We might not know their names, however we definitely feel their influence on us.heroes and heroines of Islam

The Unknown Teacher

There were some companions around the Prophet, whose work was famous although their names remain unknown. For example, Abu Huraira, one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  is famous in the Muslim world for his great legacy in the transmission of Hadith, or Prophetic narrations.

However, we do not know much about the Companion who taught Abu Huraira about Islam, and supported him in becoming Muslim. Whoever this man was, we know that he is receiving the like of Abu Huraira’s rewards, because of the knowledge and help he gave.

The Famous Poet

Another example occurs later on in Islamic history. Imam al-Busiri is well-known for his work, Qasida Burda (the Poem of the Cloak), one of the most famous poems in praise of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

Imam al-Busiri was an extremely talented poet, well-known among royalty and kings at the time, whose praises he used to sing. However, he soon became paralyzed and could not move.

When one of his close friends visited him, he said, “You are a skilled poet, why don’t you write a poem in praise of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace?” Imam al-Busiri asked him, “I am paralyzed, what use will it be?” His friend said, “What use is this mastery of the Arabic language and rhetoric that you possess?”

Imam al-Busiri spent the rest of the night writing the poem, and when he woke up in the morning, he was completely healed. Not only that, but the poem of praise is frequently recited in Muslim communities all over the globe, because of the friend of Imam al-Busiri that supported him.

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I’tikaf: When The Aching Bones of Your Wives May Testify Against You

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I’tikaf is intended to be a blessed time for those who have the opportunity to engage in it so why is it causing so much marital discord between couples who Jazmin Begum-Kennedy is counselling?

Iʿtikāf (Arabic: اعتكاف‎‎, also i’tikaaf or e’tikaaf) is an Islamic practice consisting of a period of staying in a mosque for a certain number of days, devoting oneself to worship during these days and staying away from worldly affairs. The literal meaning of the word suggests sticking and adhering to, or being regular in, something, this ‘something’ often including performing supererogatory (nafl) prayers, reciting the Qur’an, and reading hadith.

Every year, I read wonderful social media updates from brothers preparing to go to i’tikaf followed by others praising them and requesting them to make dua. This ought to be a beautiful thing but unfortunately for the wives left behind, it is often a nightmare.

Few men make enough fanfare or even mention who will

  • pack their things for them,
  • do grocery runs,
  • cook fresh food each day,
  • send the fresh food to the men in i’tikaf each day, twice a day – for iftar and suhoor,
  • take care of the children and the school runs,
  • serve their parents,
  • serve their in-laws
  • take care of her own health, while pregnant or otherwise

All this on often little to no resources.
For these women, engaging in more prayer, Qur’an reading and quiet reflection during the blessed 10 nights of Ramadhan are a remote possiblity.
Don’t get me wrong- I am all for i’tikaf but men need to make provisions for their womenfolk first before they set off. Every year I am left counselling mothers who have been left to take care of young children and demanding inlaws, as well as send freshly cooked food to their menfolk at the mosques. Often, they are not left with much money or resources to barely feed the children and elderly in their care, let alone send food to their men in i’tikaf.

“But My Wife Doesn’t Mind”

I don’t just listen to the women’s side of the story. I have spoken to many men about this. Last year, one brother messaged me saying how the companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  often left for months and years and no one complained. He insisted that his wife didn’t complain either. When I asked him if he had asked her, he did not reply.
We do not live in societies that allow for such privileges. When the companions of the Prophet ﷺ went away, they left their families in a community with extended families and friends. They had maids as well as wet nurses for support.
These days, women have to do school and mosque runs, shopping, take children to appointments, chores for in-laws etc. Everything is done by one person – the mother.
On top of the daily grind of life, there’s the added stress of arrange the delivery of fresh, pipping hot food because she doesn’t want to upset or anger her husband who has gone to get closer to Paradise.

Is This The Path To Paradise?

What blessing is there in striving for Paradise, off the back of another human being?
I acknowledge that being in service to those in worship is a form of worship itself, and may Allah reward all who engage in this to the best of their abilities. However, on the flip side, there is a disturbing element of injustice and oppression.
Just before I wrote this, I was consoling a mother who is experiencing a very difficult pregnancy and has a toddler to attend to. She can barely keep her head up due to the sickness and exhaustion. Her beloved husband set off for iti’kaf leaving her with strict instructions on making sure his two meals are delivered at the right temperature.
I try not to aggravate situations like this. I try to hold my tongue, for what it’s worth. I advised this woman to go to her parent’s home so she can get some much needed respite. She is drained. She is carrying life in her womb. It is her God-given right to be nurtured during this fragile time and her God-given right to request her husband stay home and make himself useful. I told her to print this profound hadith and hang it in her home so all can see what our beloved Prophet ﷺ had to say:

The best of you are those who are best to their wives.

SubhanAllah, it is time to reflect on why we do things and how our actions, even if it’s to do something good can be so damaging for our hereafter. I was reminded by a fellow mother, Sumayyah Omar on Muslim Mamas that the Prophet ﷺ said,

“The most beloved people to Allah are those who are most beneficial to the people. The most beloved deed to Allah is to make a Muslim happy, or to remove one of his troubles, or to forgive his debt, or to feed his hunger. That I walk with a brother regarding a need is more beloved to me than that I seclude myself in this mosque in Medina for a month. Whoever swallows his anger, then Allah will conceal his faults. Whoever suppresses his rage, even though he could fulfill his anger if he wished, then Allah will secure his heart on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever walks with his brother regarding a need until he secures it for him, then Allah the Exalted will make his footing firm across the bridge on the day when the footings are shaken.”

Scholars and Imams, Insist On A Checklist

Wouldn’t it be great if the imams in all our mosques would read this hadith out during Friday sermons in Ramadan? And then advise the men to follow basic protocols before packing their bags? Moni Akhtar, another mother from Muslim Mamas made a great suggestion: the masjid should give out a form of prerequisites before men are accepted into i’tikaf:

  • Have you asked your wife if she can cope without you?
  • Have you left her with provisions?
  • Have you paid for a cleaner to come and help?

Guidance and prompting from the ulema is sorely needed to raise greater awareness.
I would love to leave on a good note but instead I am forced to leave a warning. Your women and those in your care may not utter a word  now but their aching bones will testify against you on the Day of Judgement. May Allah have mercy upon us all, ameen.

Photo credit: Juliana Cunha

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Jazmin Begum Kennedy (JBK) is a ‘Qualified Housewife.’ By day she is a mother, wife and teacher; by night she wages war against oppressors and writes books. She is an experienced teacher of primary and secondary education, an acclaimed professional artist (JBK Arts) and published author of Mercy Like the Raindrops, Blessed Bees, No School Today and the upcoming novel, Fifteen. Jazmin is an online counsellor specialising in domestic abuse, rape and child abuse. She also physically helps victims of domestic violence flee their abusive marriages. She is the co-founder of the Nisa Foundation, working as a women’s aid worker for victims of domestic violence. JBK currently homeschools her three children, whilst managing a network for Home Educators in the Greater Manchester area of the United Kingdom.