Living as a minority….

Recently, I came across a lecture and it addressed some crucial issues very relevant to me I am truly grateful and happy about the decisions I made. No regrets. I have the best family, a very supportive husband and Alhamdulillah a very comfortable lifestyle containing all that I need to be a happy fulfilled Muslimah. (I always tell myself that I got the ticket to Jannat right here at home) However, there were a few minor adjustments I had to make moving from a developed Islamic state to a developing non-islamic nation.

Listening to this lecture made me feel really good. Why? Because the speaker was the first person to acknowledge how I felt. He claimed that, if you are living as a minority in a place governed by an unislamic institution and are actually happy with the way things are, then there’s something wrong with you. I, for a start, am quite frustrated about certain issues here. Living as a minority in an unislamic environment is a natural recipe for dissatisfaction for a Muslimah. It is true that Emaan does not necessarily get cultivated in an individual just because he/she was brought up in such and such Islamic place. With respect to the strength of one’s emaan, it doesn’t matter where you live and under what circumstances. The best example being of the Sahabah (peace be upon them) who were tested time and again, in the most grueling pre-islamic times.

However, I can assert the fact that practicing my religion in an Islamic nation was definitely much easier as compared to now. I realize that this is one of my test, as promised by Allah.

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,’ and will not be tested.” (Quran 29:2)

If we claim to be a true Muslim, then naturally, we must be prepared to give the test, to tighten our belts, because, Islam is not the religion of the weak hearted.

There are quite a few active Muslims who, Mashallah, are doing real good work in India. I have seen some really impressive islamically active Muslims in a few cities in India & Pakistan who have a vision and are contributing in however small ways they can for the community. However, the plight of women in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, seems to be really disheartening. I have sadly seen very few women who participate in social, economic or any kind of services for the betterment of the Ummah. However we do see some Muslim women folk who have sadly become superstitious, believing in strange concepts due to lack of involvement in the community and learning avenues. And the other way around, on the extreme side, we have overly fashion crazy, trendy, stylised muslimah sisters who are always found in the malls shopping, shopping and only shopping.

One of the issues that needs to be addressed is the shortage for avenues for women to pray while travelling.. This is mostly due to lack of funds and support from the government and the community to build and sustain exclusive wash areas and prayer rooms for women in masjids. Unlike most Islamic cities in the middle east and elsewhere, most of the local Muslim community is struggling to make ends meet, and worrying about the plight of women in the community is sadly, least of their worries. However, kudos to those masjids in Mumbai, Delhi and few other places here who do have facilities and learning centres for women and children. The truth is… cannot clap with one hand. And we can’t blame others for our state as well. There is a general disinterest from indian muslimahs to go to the masjid and be more involved in community work due to social stigmas and imaginary fears. I say imaginary, because initially it seemed to me that its the men who push the women out. And so I tested that concept. Several times. I simply walked in and prayed in the last row. I found none hostile and no one stops you.

So it boils down to us. If we really wanted to, we would have actively participated in the community and have a place in the masjid. Alhamdulillah, in the middle east, we had the government funding and maintaining women’s sections in the masajid. I had a lifestyle which involved considerable traveling while I was working or studying. No issues to pray anywhere, be it an airport, mall, university or a masjid at the end of a block, or anywhere else – UK, Singapore, Malaysia, the middle east. I was able to squeeze a number of activities into my daily routine and at the time of prayer, life would slow down as soon as I enter a masjid, stand toe-to-toe and shoulder-to-shoulder with my Muslim sisters. It was an environment where I used to thrive. Feel alive and happy. Achieve, study, work, meet people, shop, learn, family picnics, swimming, running, traveling… the world was mine…..

I look at all these women outside during prayer times in India…all covered head to toe….but they miss their prayers without a care in the world. I really wish to ask if they think praying doesn’t apply to them. The frustrating part is that I have met so few (sisters in India) who are bothered the slightest about this issue. It may seem insignificant, and small, but we fail to realize the importance of grooming intelligent Muslim women in our community.

An intelligent islamically active mother is THE factor who gives birth to an intelligent progressive Muslim nation. The women in our beloved Prophet SAW were actively involved in almost all aspects of Islamic activities. Whoever heard of them being restricted to the kitchen? No! They were well-versed with Islam, Seerah, educated, intelligent, strong women who brought out the best of the Ummah, strong hearted, not afraid of anyone but Allah. We had scholars, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, business men, leaders, military officials, world class Imams, all striving for the sake of Allah. So why are our sons and daughters not doing so well? Well, Intelligent strong women will bring out intelligent and strong progeny. Study the Seerah of our Prophet Muhammad SAW. Look at the number of noteworthy women during his time and of the Sahaba (Peace be upon them all). It is Sunnah to have an entrance and separate facility for ablution for women in masaajid. Women even attended the Jumuah Khutba in masaajid, asked questions to the Imams themselves, were involved in Madrasas and innumerable things. I’m not saying do not pray at home. Pray at home, in your bedroom, because that’s where we reap the maximum sawab. I’m just saying as Muslim women, its our responsibility to bring this issue out in the open and educate people. If funds are collected for construction of masjids, why the fear to make them sunnah compliant? Let us go a step further and make them accessible to women. Moral degeneration you say? Well, I say, trust the word of the Rasool of Allah SAW when he asked us not to stop the women from entering masajid. Pre-islamic times were as bad as the times now. Assert hijab, modesty, and enforce discipline. Are we too weak to do that?

Ever wondered why crazy women like Amina Wadood are coming up around the world? The same reason why terrorists spring up. Suppress rights, oppress people, ignore Sunnah and in return what do you get? Extremist groups, committing unislamic, despicable acts, apparently to bring attention towards injustice, not to mention the bad name given to the Ummah, thanks to these ding-dongs.

Don’t you see what is happening now? Our women have degenerated into mindless machines. Just attending big functions and marriages loaded up with gold, Hijabs vanish away for occasions such as these and tongues wag freely with all the gossip of the world not to mention the extent to which they are steeped in superstitions. Too much make up? Oh you’re in trouble. Too less makeup! Guess what? Trouble again. Gossipy gals are not going to leave you alone. And to think that these are the very women who are our mothers, sisters, wives and would-be-mothers of the next generation.

And do you not see the men of today in the subcontinent. Do they gossip??!! Oh yeah!!! Do you see many in media, the like of Zakir Naik? No! (Oh, never mind the never-ending fatwa generating Maulana’s issuing sacred Fatwas left right and center on absolutely anything and everything!!! That’s an entire different topic, the sanctity of Issuing Fatwas) Technology? No! Leaders? Not many. Politically savvy, exceptional intellectual imams who can lead the Ummah??? NO!!!!! Entrepreneurs, like some of our Sahaba? A handful. Are they giving proper rights to their wives? Sharing the burdens the way our Prophet (peace be upon him) used to do? No way!!! Few unconventional Indian men exist here who do. It’s a mindset here that men are not to go anywhere near the kitchen. Who cares if his wife is juggling three kids and running the whole house? “It’s her job!” they say. You’re expected to be a complete package – a great cook, a model, working professional, a mechanic, a plumber, a maid, a nanny, caretaker, homemaker, and gardener, all in one, tailor and everything in between. Don’t even get me started on the tarbiyyat the would-be-brides get from their moms and the cursed dowry system still prevalent here. I’ve never seen dowry being given to the groom anywhere else. The Arab world, Singapore, Malaysia and other places all have their boys working hard to equip themselves with sufficient finances and assets so that they can afford to start a family. Muslims in the subcontinent see girls as a burden, why? Because when she gets married, they apparently HAVE to gift a pre-specified list of items for the couple! Forgive me, as I myself did not escape easily from an issue like this but I was successful in averting some major ones with my husband’s help Alhamdulillah. So it’s a start. I mean, yes accept gifts, but please do not make it customary or essential. Let marriages be easy. Do not demand impossible mehers. Do not demand a grand dinner party. If the boy cannot afford to make a comfortable abode for his bride, then he shouldn’t be getting married in the first place.

We run far away from anything ‘new’. We want to stay backward. Be cowards. It’s still not too late. Don’t let this happen. Speak out! Let’s get involved. Talk openly about issues facing the ummah in our country. We will face rejection. We will be called names.

Things are getting tougher, harsher, more challenging. Proclaim yourself a Muslim, and expect to be tested. Do not be of those who do not care. Do not be of those who are ‘so busy with life’ that you don’t have time to do Jihad. Jihad of the mind. Get serious with your Islam. Try to strive to make an Islamic environment. You are the mothers of the next generation. Make your sons and daughters lion-hearted and brave. Make it possible to bring about a change. Make the world yours.

I’d really like to hear from more Muslim sisters living in a similar situation. What are our options? What else can we do to contribute? How to break free from these issues? Send in your thoughts. Maybe with your help, I can publish a more positive message to today’s Muslim girls, InshAllah.


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