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Great Article!

Posted by (Group Admin) on Mar. 4, 2007 at 12:46 PM
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A sister from MI, sent this to me. The area that is in red, was highlighted by her.

A Woman’s Place

By  Ms. Saleha Bhamjee

Writer - South Africa

  Image I recently got my normally imperturbable husband in a flurry when I wrote a magazine article on Ramadan and mentioned in that essay that I was disappointed by not having a masjid in the area that I could attend for Tarawih. Even my sister was up in arms about what I wrote. They felt that perhaps I was being "too progressive." I must admit to being perplexed by that statement, and had a good chuckle to myself imagining what they would say were they to see a website from a certain group. No doubt, it would make for some fine entertainment — "Mr. and Mrs. Conservative meet the Progressives." The computer would probably come under attack.


A Matter of Choice

But on a more serious note though, I had to concede that I had perhaps expressed myself a tad clumsily in that piece, for my issue is not so much with not having a masjid that caters for the sisters in the area as it is with men taking it upon themselves to make choices for women under the assumption that women are incapable of making decisions for themselves. For as a mother of four and a half, I doubt whether I would make it to the masjid very often if I were to have the kind of mosque that I requested.


South African Islam and Indian are more or less synonymous. And it is within this community, my community, where keeping women as ignorant as possible is actually seen as a virtue by some. Among our Malay Muslim community, the problem simply does not exist. Perhaps this is a sweeping generalization, but it certainly is the impression I get.



Debating Closed Rooms

Consider, for instance, a little forum that we sisters in the community started up to buy orthopedic equipment in the hope of making lives easier for families having to deal with bedridden geriatrics or people with physical disabilities. Barely a month after our first fundraiser, someone in the community saw fit to question whether we were allowed to do such a thing as women. This question was sent to a mufti at a publication that is known for its put-a-woman-in-the-corner-and-keep-her-there views, and the answer given was "No, it is not permissible." We were advised to give our money to an organization that is run by men.


What is it with Indian men? Why do they feel threatened by women that display proficiency in any way? We are not challenging men in their playground ... oops, arena. Unlike the feminist movement that is a product of a confusion in the West, we are not setting out to do anything a man can do and to do it better. We are merely trying to assert our rightful place in society and be an asset to our communities.

Sure, many of us have families, but as any mother would tell you, just staying home and looking after children does not provide sufficient mental stimulation for an adult. We need interaction with other humans. Then why not interact with other sisters and do something worthwhile at the same time and leave the judgment to Allah?

Vast Horizons for Women     


Where are our hafizahs (memorizers), qari'ahs (reciters), alimahs (scholars) of Qur'an and Hadith — those who actually become pivotal figures in society; and lest I get lynched, naturally I mean scholars among other women — rather than those contented with being homemakers? Where are our women leaders? To become a female leader in the community often means to become a controversial figure. But I ask you, does it really have to be that way?


For too long we have been told how wrong it is for our sisters to be educated in the coed universities. But are there really any alternatives? Universities for women that would provide the same standard of education? A pipe dream, they say, since no steps have been taken in that direction after more than 100 years of Islam in South Africa. And it is then these same voices that condemn our sisters for studying at the coed universities who would also demand a female gynecologist — Muslim preferably — for their wives. But how foolish it is to demand a gynecologist that hasn't been to university!


Having mothers who are enlightened, educated, active community workers will only produce better children, children who could be the next Salah Ad-Din or Imam Abu Hanifah. A perfunctory glance at the biography of some of Islam's greatest luminaries will often reveal a mother of amazing substance behind their achievements. A mother who made sacrifices and struggled for her child's education. A mother in whose heart the love of Islam was a raging river. How does one arrive at such love for Islam without an understanding of it, without a deep understanding that is the outcome of having access to knowledge?


Yet we continue denying our daughters access to knowledge and in so doing have produced many generations of unremarkable Muslims who lack a very basic understanding of Islam, not to mention a deeper one. We have produced scholars who can do no better than a superficial teaching at makatib — afternoon Islamic classes for children — and who lack the foresight to become dynamic leaders who guide people to the beauty of Islam. As a result of this, we see people who live as Muslims in name only, people who are discomfited by their distorted faith, people whose worst childhood memories are often centered around afternoons in these madrasah classes; whereas these should be their best memories, the kind of electrifying moments when their hearts were imbued with a deep love and profound understanding of Islam.

It is not Islam that is lacking, but it is we. And I firmly believe that our starting point should be our daughters, our mothers, our sisters. That way, we could once more bring Islam to its former state of glory. For even in the earliest days, it was the love of Islam in the hearts of women that sent men to the battlefields to raise the word of Islam high. Let us raise it high once more. The next time you consider a superior education for one of your sons, consider it for your daughters.


Saleha Bhamjee is a freelance writer based in South Africa. Her writings have appeared in various print and online publications both locally and abroad. She is an Islamic Writer's Alliance member and can be contacted at

by on Mar. 4, 2007 at 12:46 PM
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Replies (1-2):
mishmish Group Admin
by on Mar. 4, 2007 at 12:59 PM
Isn't it sad to think that what this woman has the right to want and ask for is viewed as threatening to those in her community! Elhamdulilah we live here. I love that women are and can be active participants in our communities. I think the conservatives in her community are right, in the since that she is "progressive" because, after all  if you truly know Islam and the truth to the roles that women can play ,it is Progressive,in the since that it isn't as backwards as some may think...unfortunately, the word progressive has taken on a  negative and or political connotation in recent times w/ emergence of
various groups.
proud2bmom3 Group Owner
by on Mar. 4, 2007 at 2:01 PM
assalamu alaikum,
It is a shame how social practices distort the message of Islam.
Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him ordered men not to keep the women from the masjid. a woman should be able to go for salat, for Khutba , for taraweeh for lessons and yes for Eid..

Islam ORDERS man to provide education for the women in his life. mainly education in their faith. and if they don't then the women are required to look for someone else to teach them.
Islam orders women to learn vocations and skills to benefit the society and to aid others in the community. now, you know a woman is better to be seen my a woman OB/ Gyn. if there was no Muslim woman that is a doctor then it becomes fardh ( wajib, obligatory ) for at least one woman in that community to get the education to qualify her for it.
teachers, nurses, doctors,,,,etc.
I can never understand men that think a woman should stay bare foot at home, while prophet Muhammad's wives were teachers at the mosque. they used to teach men and women. Khadija had her own business to run.
as long as the woman maintains her decency and prevents fitnah. then there shouldn't be anything wrong with her being active in her community. especially if she is doing something that benefits her deen, her family, her community and her Ummah.

I feel sad for women that think it is ok to be marginalized. or that it is ok to just be content with cooking and cleaning.  if you don't know what goes on in the world then how are you going to be able to prepare your children for it?

thank you mish mish for an interesting article.

can the rest of the sisters comment on how things are done in their culture or their communities? 
would love to hear from you on that

love and salaamWink
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