Life

Hijab – Are Muslim Women Oppressed?

By: Aicha Bentley

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               “This is a free country. You don’t have to wear that anymore.”  I paused and turned toward the person who addressed me, upon hearing this statement. I smiled and said, “Yes, this is a free country, but I am still a Muslim.”

Its statements like this which highlight the confusion many people have when it comes to the subject of the hijab. There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer for those who may have questions. A quick google search will not only give you many different answers, but will, sometimes, give extremely false information about hijab and its purpose.

The questions usually involve the idea of oppression and male domination. Did a man force us into this veil? Our father? Our husband? Do we do it out of fear? Was it part of a male dominated culture, which we are afraid to leave behind? In order to answer the questions surrounding hijab properly, one need look no further than the source; the Quran.

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment …” (Quran 24:31)

                In accordance with the Quran, we are instructed in every aspect of our lives. Hijab is one of those instructions. These instructions didn’t come from a man, but from Allah. For this reason we not only wear hijab in obedience, but we wear it with joy. Every time we put on a headscarf, we are not only obeying Allah, but we are wearing a sign for the world to see. We are making a statement. I am Muslim.

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This is where it gets confusing to many. Not all Muslim women wear hijab. I know, I just said that we are instructed to do so, but, just like Christianity and the bible, there are many different interpretations of Quran. Some women may feel that this verse means something altogether different than what I feel it says. It all boils down to the woman herself. It’s a choice. A decision made out of personal beliefs and what feels right to her. Does that sound like oppression to you? Sure, it does not.

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Many of us have fought to wear hijab. It’s that important to us. Honestly, though, we shouldn’t have to go through all this. It’s a new millennium. In this day and age, women shouldn’t be judging one another by what we are wearing. We’ve come too far. The next time you think of hijab, don’t think oppression, but think, instead, women’s rights.

How is it women’s rights to believe we must wear something over my head all day, every day? For starters, we do not wear it at home. We do not wear it with our husbands or with our families. Hijab is meant as, not just a form of obedience, but a shield against the outside world. We wear it when we leave our homes. When we are in the presence of men of non-relation. Once again, this is not because our husbands or fathers feel the need to hide us away. This is not some insecurity in our culture. It’s our own choice, to follow the words of the Quran. To trust in Allah and accept his guidance in all things.

“Oh Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when outdoors)….”         (Quran 33:59)

             8114334-Pile-of-Broken-Bricks-Stock-Photo    In the future, if you come across the path of a Muslim woman, don’t feel sorry for her. Don’t cast judgment. Ask yourself what kind of woman it must take to wear something so controversial, so misunderstood, into a public which challenges her at every turn. Certainly not an oppressed woman. Wearing hijab takes courage. When you see a woman wearing it, you are seeing a sign of faith and strength.

No, we are not oppressed.

Is Salah Your Priority?

All of us constantly strive to keep up with the struggles of life everyday, so much so that we often forget the purpose of life. We make time to prepare for exams, presentations, interviews etc. by sacrificing sleep, even till dawn if we have to. We try to get to the theaters on time so we can avoid the queue to get movie tickets. But do we make the same effort to make time for Salah? Which hardly takes 10 minutes if we are focusing only on the obligatory prayers that is.lines.jpg

Salah plays a very important role in our lives. Our lives revolve around Salah, not the other way around. Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The first thing which will be judged among a man’s deeds on the Day of Resurrection is the Prayer. If this is in good order then he will succeed and prosper, but if it is defective then he will fail and will be a loser [Tirmidhi].”

This clearly means that without Salah, we lose the purpose of life. Indeed, our purpose in this world is to worship Allah. What better way to worship the Almighty other than through Salah.

Salah helps us to get closer to Allah, through remembrance and sincere repentance. This in turn helps you in becoming a better person for the sake of Allah.

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Salah also protects us from the Shaitan. Shaitan constantly tries to misguide you from the path of righteousness. In Quran Allah Almighty says:

“Shaitan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?” (5:91).

You are just making it easier for the Shaitan by neglecting prayers, which is similar to neglecting Allah and the teaching of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). What does this make of you? In a hadith it is mentioned: “The covenant between us and them is prayer, so if anyone abandons it, he has become a disbeliever.” [Ahmad]

In todays world, we associate people from all walks of life, thereby engaging ourselves in many outdoor events, get togethers, outings, sleep overs, trips, work outs, reunions etc. Salah can be challenging in the above situations. Also while at these activities everyone presumes “they are busy and they don’t have  enough time”. Thereby conviniently missing out on prayers with this excuse. How do we not make this a excuse and make a little time for prayers too? Here are a few tips to get us through:

1. Do It Together

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When it’s time for Prayers get  together with your Muslim friends/ Colleagues/ acquaintances and pray together. Get them to join you at the prayer room/ mosque or any convenient spot, at a specific time that you all have agreed upon. This way when you forget or are busy, they can remind you and call you to pray with them.

2. Clean Will Do

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As long as a place is clean its a potential spot for prayers. If you uni/ workplace got no prayer rooms just find a clean secluded area and perform your salah. If you cant find a secluded area don’t feel shy to pray in front of others, even if they are non muslims. Maybe watching you pray will inspire them to want to know more about Islam.

3. Be Prepared

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Always carry a prayer mat along with essential praying utilities (for women) in your handbag or keep it in your office/ uni locker.In case your wearing clothes too complicated to take wudu in, make sure you take wudu before you put on you dress up or leave the house. If you cannot find water to take wudu, remember there are always mineral water bottles you could buy.

4.Excuse Me

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If you are in a group and its time for prayers.  Just excuse yourself for 10 minutes. Find a spot or a masjid and pray and rejoin them when your done. If they as you why, don’t be shy. Say its time for your prayer. Be strong.  Just 10 minutes of all that time spent with your group is all it takes.

5. Download apps

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There are apps with the local prayer times, compasses for Kibla directions, Nearest mosque, Quran etc. Download some apps to remind you its time for your prayer, set reminders and alarms so you wont miss a prayer.

These are just a few tips to help you not to miss prayers and keep you prepared for prayers during your busy schedule. But remember it mostly takes inner strength and strong Iman to be steadfast in prayer and we can all keep trying to reach such a level.  Never think of Salah as a burden. Salah is an opportunity for us to refresh our faith constantly and it revives us spiritually and intellectually.

 

Whisperings Of The Devil

By Noori Tirmizi Passela

Very so often it is easy to fall back into old habits, particularly when it comes tocute-meow-cat remembering Allah and avoiding the lure of worldly temptations. Gradually, despite even our best efforts, prayer and zhikr end up getting relegated to the sidelines of our lives in favor of work, family, leisure, and those rare moments when you just want to while away your time to the soothing purr of Youtube cat videos.

To each his (and her) own poison, is what I myself admit.

Hence, the adage ‘know your enemy’ has never been more relevant than a time like now. God works in mysterious ways, but the Devil lacks that brand of subtlety. So, now that we’ve identified our villain, it would also do ourselves well to conduct a brief background check.

Who or what is Shaytan?

You might recall Shaytan’s most memorable appearance in history in the span of a simple, yet telling, verse from the Holy Quran:

‘And (remember) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves unto Adam.” So they prostrated themselves, except Iblis. He was one of the jinn; he disobeyed the command of his Lord.’ (18:50)

While borne of a ‘smokeless fire’ (Sahih Muslim), jinn are still creations of Allah and like the angels and mankind, were brought to life for the sole purpose of worshipping Him. Which makes Iblis’ act of defiance all the more damning when taking our Creator’s wrath into account.

‘(Allah) said: “Then get out from here; for verily, you are outcast.”

‘”And verily My Curse is on you until the Day of Recompense.”’ (38:77-78)

Hence, if we can pin a defining trait unto Shaytan, it is that of willful disobedience, wrought by a strong sense of misplaced pride. Coupled with a knack for mischief and treachery, Shaytan certainly makes for a force to be reckoned with. Aadam (A.S.) and Hawwa (Eve) certainly found that out the hard way, and so has every single person you’ve ever known, at some point in their lives.

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What is meant by the ‘Whisperings of Shaytan’?

How many of you can honestly state, without a shred of doubt, that you have never delayed or just completely disregarded an act of worship in favor of pursuing activities which vary on the scale of relevance to your spiritual health?

Here is where I hang my head in shame. Blame it on the free Wi-Fi.

Or this could be the part where we conduct a crash course in the exact machinations of Shaytan’s modus operandi. Granted, your mileage may vary when it comes to the limitations of ‘exact’.

However, I’m sure you’ve all at least had a few moments like mine, where, despite your best intentions, you find yourself straying from the path of truth and virtue. If you’re confident that you haven’t, then I commend you on your state of denial.

Distraction is quite possibly Shaytan’s most finely-honed weapon in Hell’s vast arsenal. Made a resolution to start your preparations for Salah as soon as the first word of the Azaan rang out? Too bad your Facebook alert went off at the exact same moment. What about that time when you vowed to start reading the Quran? Oh wait, you dozed off watching sitcoms after stuffing your face with Mum’s cooking.

Feelings of envy and distrust are also common methods by which Shaytan creates discord. When the grass on the other side of the fence always appears greener, it’s sadly quite natural to find yourself blaming your neighbor for hogging all the luck whilst neglecting to examine the shadows in your own garden. Jealousy is a steep curve and it always leads downhill.

Let us also not forget how each and every sin of ours lends credence to Shaytan’s helping hand, from the seemingly harmless white lie blurted to get out of trouble to the more troubling thoughts that plague those who would go to the extent of harming their fellow human beings to satisfy whatever worldly desire stirred by these whisperings.

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A ‘whisper’ may be but a breath, but more often than not, a single breath is all it takes to put out the light.

Well, that was a cheerful discussion. Now how do we avoid falling prey to these whispers?

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“I seek refuge in Allah, from Satan, the Rejected.”

Many a time would have passed without us pausing to consider the significance of these words. Words, indeed, that we let slide too often in the commencement of our prayers, Quran recitation, and, sometimes, daily activities.

But It’s as simple as that.

Surah al Nas embodies this concept perfectly:

‘Say: “I seek refuge with (Allah) the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the Ilah (God) of mankind, from the evil of the whisperers (devil who whispers evil in the hearts of men) who withdraws (from his whispering in one’s heart after one remembers Allah). Who whispers in the breasts of mankind. Of jinn and men.’ (114: 1-6)

The challenge lies in the strength of one’s Imaan (faith) and if they truly have the intention to preserve it from the stain of evil thoughts.

So seek strength through constant remembrance of Allah in prayer and zhikr. Learn the meaning of the words which too often leave our lips without a thought. With knowledge comes power and the weight behind these verses will eventually leave their mark.

Of course, noble deeds cannot come into fruition without the niyyah (intention) to propel them. Take time to reflect on what you’ve learned from past mistakes and whether these missteps were really a sign that you just might be on the way to something better.

Back when I was in school, we learned that the word ‘Islam’ is derived from the root ‘slm’ which means ‘to submit, surrender’. It is a simple lesson that has since stuck with me, making it apt that we, as Muslims, submit completely to Allah.

Therefore, let us do just that and reject the path of defiance, inshallah.

Are You Afraid Of Ghosts??

By: Mass Shiara Usuf

The very mention of an unexplained appearance or what’s very commonly called “a ghost” brings fear into the hearts of many, almost everyone. Most of us have heard of people mentioning that they had seen so and so, who had died, reappearing in the house or area where he had died. Some of us might even have experienced hearing somebody talk and sound the same as our dead uncles and aunts.ghostglass-300x247.jpg

Then we also have cases of dead people walking about, standing next to the bed of their loved ones, making strange and haunting sounds,  or also apparently talking to us through somebody using their own voices. I recently also came across the mention of a school being closed down because there was a “ghost” in the school.

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So what do we do now??? People die, but they seem to be coming back, and putting fear into our minds and hearts. A grandparent who might have been very dear to us, a lady whom we loved the most and who had loved us back, dies and seems to be haunting and having fun with it. Does that even make sense? Why would a person who loves us so much make us scared after they are dead? We see loved ones dying and we cry so much due to their demise. So why are we scared when they “apparently” come back? Shouldn’t we be head over heels over the fact that they are back? Its seriously a food for thought. Its high time to get this fear off of our hearts and find the logical Islamic explanation.

Do Souls Come Back?

At the moment of death, in Islam, the angel of death arrives to retrieve the soul from the body. This angel (Israel ASWS) is an angel that delivers the soul and takes it to the next realm of this world, namely, the Hereafter. There is evidence in the Quran to prove that once the soul is taken from the person, it is not given a second chance to return back to this earth. This evidence being a very strong evidence against the belief that dead people walk about freely on earth creating havoc.

Allah mentions in Surah Al-Muminoon (23:99-100):

 “Until, when death comes to one of them, he says: “My Lord! Send me back, So that I may do good in that which I have left behind!” No! (Kalla) It is but a word that he speaks; and in front of them is Barzakh until the Day when they will be resurrected.”

These are the verses where Allah describes the plight of the unsuccessful people in the Hereafter. These people had wasted their lives in this world by not being righteous and drawn towards the temptations, wrong doings and false deities of this world, that after they die when they finally see their deed of accounts in front of Allah, they shiver and shudder in fear. They in fact, beg their Lord to send them back to this world so that they may return and do good in this world. For now, after seeing the Truth and the Haq of Allah’s words, they believe with certainty and want to return to get more chances.

Allah also says:

“And if you only could see when the criminals shall hang their heads before their Lord (saying): “Our Lord! We have now seen and heard, so send us back, that we will do righteous good deeds. Verily, we now believe with certainty.”  (Surah As-Sajdah (32:12))

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However, once man dies, his time is done. Its too late for a second chance. Allah has definitely given man, innumerable chances, and all he had done was waste those opportunities and the Mercies that were bestowed upon him, taking everything that was given to him for granted. Another verse which explains this further is in Surah Ghafir (40:12) where Allah says,

 “Therein they will cry: “Our Lord! Bring us out, we shall do righteous good deeds, not what we used to do.” (Allah will reply:) “Did We not give you lives long enough, so that whosoever would receive admonition could receive it And the warner came to you. So taste you (the evil of your deeds). For the wrongdoers there is no helper.”

The In Between

In verse 100 of Surah Muminoon (quoted above) Allah says, “and in front of them is Barzakh until the Day when they will be resurrected”

Which brings me to the definition of what actually is Barzakh. According to Muhammed bin Ka’b:  “Al-Barzakh is what is between this world and the Hereafter, neither they are the people of this world, eating and drinking, nor are they with the people of the Hereafter, being rewarded or punished for their deeds.”

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So very clearly Allah explains to us that we will never be given a second chance to return to this world. Ever. After the death of a person, in front of them is the barrier from this world and the hereafter. There is no way that Allah would allow them to cross that barrier and enter into the present realm of this world. In addition, the second assurance is, where Allah confirms to us saying that until the day of Resurrection, dead people will be behind this barrier, full description of which only Allah has knowledge of. Barzakh is a place where the people will either suffer as per their wrongdoings in this world, or would enjoy the bliss of rewards as per the righteous acts that they do in this world.

These verses actually gives us some awakening notes, and points to ponder, making it the right time to WAKE UP:

  1. Life in this world is temporary. Our aim and efforts should be directed to the life in the Hereafter, which is permanent and definite. Our actions in this world is what will give us the rewards or the torments of the Barzakh and will decide our plight on the day of Resurrection (the day our bodies and souls will once again be united).
  2. Its thus high time for us to make efforts to do as much righteous deeds as we can. As and when you remember Allah, praise and glorify your Lord and seek forgiveness for whatever sins you do. If you do not wish to be amongst those that will be begging Allah to send you back to this world (an effortless plee once you die), then start today and change for the sake of YOUR life in the hereafter.
  3. And last but not the least, there is no such thing as ghosts or dead people walking around as dead aimless souls, in Islam. Enough of Quranic evidences suggest strongly against any such possibility.

May Allah help us all to be successful Muslims Inshallah in this world and the Hereafter. Aameen!

New Mums Don’t Stress!!

By: Iman Said

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Whether you are becoming a mother for the first time or adding to your brood, the prospect of being responsible for all the needs of another human being, can be incredibly overwhelming. While pregnant, you are concerned about meeting the needs of your growing baby, how labour is going to pan out, and trying to prepare yourself for the life-changing moment when you bring your son or daughter into this world. I found that I received a lot of advice about pregnancy and labour, what kind of nappies to buy, what to pack in my hospital bag and heard constant references to how I would ‘never sleep again.’

While advice on practical things like that is helpful, two years and two children later, I wished that people had given me advice on the more important things and told me a little more about what to expect and how to cope with it all. Here’s a list of things you may be feeling as a new mum, and ways to cope with the roller coaster of emotions. When you feel:tired-dad-multitasking1

  • Tired: If you have family or friends nearby who have offered to babysit or help you to clean or will cook for you – accept it. Don’t try to be a martyr. Use that time to rest and recuperate or even just to shower and maybe take a walk by yourself – whatever you need to do to catch your breath and feel a little like you again.

 

  • Scared: A lot of mums are terrified at the prospect of having to care for someone so little, especially with several reports of cot deaths and deaths caused by suffocation with plastic packaging or from unsecured furniture falling on top of children. Worrying is part of motherhood and is completely normal – it’s good to be aware of potential dangers inside and outside your home that your child can be exposed to and how to minimise the risk of something happening. As long as that does not turn into a debilitating kind of worry where you are unable to function properly, you are doing just fine. 

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  • Unattractive: Pregnancy takes a toll on our bodies – there’s no question about it. It takes 40 weeks for us to grow full term babies within our bodies and for all those hormonal, skin and other bodily changes to take place, so give your body that much time at the very least, to recover postpartum. When you look down at that soft belly and those stretch marks, instead of being disgusted, be grateful you were chosen to carry your children and proud that you did it and did it well.

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  • Overwhelmed: There are days where it can seem like there isn’t a start or end. Days that begin with feeding, changing, rocking a baby to sleep and repeat. Add to that laundry, cooking, cleaning, self-care and anything else that you need to get done and it is enough to overwhelm anyone. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that what needs to get done, will get done and anything that doesn’t – there’s always tomorrow. If your baby is on some sort of a schedule, try and wake up about half an hour before they do. Just having 30 minutes to yourself, to wash up, throw some clothes on, do your hair, pray or meditate and have breakfast to yourself gives you a better start to the day and you will often find that the rest of the day pans out much better when you’ve had a good start.

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  • Confused: A lot of first time mums, and mums who have done it all before, can feel confused about various things from what dirty diapers should look like to how many feeds baby should be having to wondering why their belly button is red or what they should do for circumcision aftercare or how much tummy time they should introduce -the list is endless. No question is a stupid question. Knowledge is power, and the more you have, the better equipped you are to care for your child. Join baby forums online; learn from other mums who have babies the same age as yours and may be going through similar challenges. Speak to your health visitor or health care professional about any concerns you have, try not to Google symptoms that can lead to you being even more scared and confused. Your baby will go through several developmental phases and I found a resource called ‘The Wonder Weeks’ to be incredibly helpful in determining periods where I could expect my children to be crankier and clingier than usual, and I was able to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for them. This is available in app form too – so is handy to have on your phone.

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  • Guilty: I cannot remember a day in the past two years where I have not gone to bed feeling guilty that I did not do more, whether that is for the kids or my husband. It can be incredibly exhausting to always have to worry that you didn’t cuddle more, or that I had way too much screen time that day, or that you and your husband weren’t even able to have a conversation that wasn’t about the kids, but you are doing your best. For your family – that is more than enough. You don’t have to be perfect – because no one is, but to your children, you are amazing.

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The sleepless nights will end and will lead to weeks and months of ‘firsts’ and while the challenges may be different as they grow, the roller coaster ride of feelings, special moments and experiences will continue for as long as you are a mum. Remember that you are good enough, you are doing enough and you are mum enough.

**Iman is a work at home/ stay at home mum of two. A mother, wife and organising junkie – she blogs over at Andthenshesaid.com and Andthensheate.com, where she shares the beautiful, chaotic, ever-changing life journey that she’s on through her DIY, recipes and home organisation ramblings.