Saturday, April 24, 2010

The obsession with body image

Today I had to conduct a psychological assessment with a young girl who amongst other things, is struggling with anorexia. Obviously I cannot give away details of the case but this just made me think about things. Here’s this young girl, 16 turning 17 soon, intelligent, seemingly warm and kind, with so much potential and so many opportunities ahead of her, and yet all she is “taught” to focus on is the way her body looks. She and many other young girls like her, have been led to believe that a woman’s body is the most important thing.

It makes me so angry when I think that this ridiculous obsession with women’s bodies has become so extreme that anorexia and bulimia are diseases that occur so commonly. It’s distressing when you consider what a woman has to go through and how low her self-image and confidence has to be for her to cause such grievous harm to herself, and for what? All in the name of “beauty”?

I don’t have to tell you where this comes from, we all know quite well how society’s ideas of the beautiful body has shifted over the years. There used to be times when fat or big women were regarded as the beautiful ones because thin women were regarded as unhealthy. Now, extra skinny women have become the norm, their bodies regarded as the ideal of beauty, to such an extent that for celebrities and models it’s unusual if you are not anorexic or bulimic. This is saddening for many different reasons.

When you think about all this it makes it easier to understand the persistent need to uncover Muslim women. It makes sense why people can’t leave Muslim women to dress how they want to. When Muslim women cover themselves up, this defies the norms of society. It’s not easy to tell exactly what a women’s body looks like when she is all covered up in loosely fit clothing. If you can’t see what another woman’s body looks like then you only have yourself as the guide, and you don’t have to weigh yourself up according to others perceptions of beauty, and thus, you become satisfied with your own body image. Covering up is not about hiding, it’s about being reminded that a woman is more than just a beautiful body. In fact, covering up is about the assertion that all women are beautiful, despite what their bodies look like. There doesn’t have to be one “ideal” that the rest of us should be tirelessly struggling towards. Every woman’s body is ideal for her and covering up makes it clear that no one has the right to decide for a woman what her body should look like.

I am convinced that the entire fashion industry serves only to lower the self-esteem and confidence of women, leaving them unhappy and unsatisfied, constantly yearning to fit in with the common perception, or I’d like to say “mis-perception” of what it is to be beautiful. Let’s not even mention the financial gain that comes from things related to dieting and slimming, from books to pills to every imaginable exercise device, it’s an ever expanding business, isn’t it?

Every woman knows what it feels like to go into a clothing store, see an item of clothing that you like, try fitting it on and find that the size “small” doesn’t fit right or that the “medium” is too tight and now you have to buy a “large”. It becomes distressing for women, and more often than not they end up feeling unattractive, and seriously, this really does not help with their self-esteem. Yet these differences that have been created between clothing sizes are so superficial it’s ridiculous. One day I did a little experiment. I took size “small” pants and measured it up against a size “large”. The difference was minimal, a few centimetres only, that’s all...a few centimetres differentiating between what is considered “small” and what is considered “large”. Then I thought about the impact of these few centimetres. A woman who takes a size “large” is made to feel that she is overweight, unattractive, etc, while a woman who takes a size “small” is regarded as beautiful, petite and “ideal”; and the difference is a few centimetres! Can you begin to understand the superficiality in all this? Everything defined by clothing sizes and weight, it’s sickening to say the least.

Now I’m not saying that Muslim women are immune to all this, because unfortunately we are all a part of this superficial, warped system of thinking. But, when you begin to don clothing based on covering yourself up then sizes don’t matter anymore because you begin to understand that it really is not important at all. So whereas before I may have bought my clothes according to size, now I make sure that I buy my clothes according to how much of my body it will conceal, and so naturally I don’t have a set size, it fluctuates, and this gives me freedom from the oppressive system of boxing women up according to different sizes, and of course, this is only one of the benefits.

I’m not saying that women shouldn’t take care of their bodies, by all means they should; through healthy eating, cleanliness, good grooming and even exercise, women should take care of their bodies, but there’s a difference between taking care of your body and becoming obsessed with your body image.

One has to wonder, why all this focus on women’s bodies? Many women will argue that it’s about liberation and freedom. They believe that showing off their bodies makes them free, they are convinced that they are making this choice to reveal their beautiful bodies... honestly this has never made complete sense to me. I mean, I get how a woman would feel that it’s her choice, and so on and so forth, but who is admiring that beautiful body? The answer to that is obvious, but I’ll point it out anyway, it’s the men who are gawking and staring at her! And if she gains pleasure from having men stare at her body then how can this be freedom? How can it be freedom when it’s dependent on something that someone else does? Would a woman be so ready to freely reveal her body if it did not fit in with popular ideas of beauty? For any woman who says yes, I have to ask, why then do women go on crash diets and fitness programmes and so on, in preparation for summer, to make sure that when they reveal their bodies, it fits in with mainstream ideas of a beautiful body. I don’t know about you, but I believe that true freedom is deciding what makes me feel happy or not, what I am comfortable with and not what men like, or what other people have decided is beautiful.

So, now I have to wonder, is it liberating to constantly have to worry about everything you eat because you are afraid of gaining weight? Is it liberating to guiltily eat food only to experience self induced vomiting thereafter? Is it liberating to have to deal with the pressures of not fitting in to your size 8 clothing? Is it liberating to look at yourself in the mirror every single day and never be satisfied with what you see because it doesn’t fit in with popular ideas of beauty? Is it liberating to deny all the other factors that make you up, like your intelligence, your inner beauty and warmth, your caring nature, your personality, your friendliness, only because these things don’t matter in the world out there? Is all this liberating?

I think that it’s time that people stopped focusing on a woman’s outside body as if it’s the thing that defines her. I think it’s time people began to realize that a woman is much more than the physical being that they see; that she exists on all levels-spiritual, psychological, social, intellectual, and physical. I will argue that the Islamic system comes the closest to this ideal way of seeing a woman, and yes I am totally aware that many people will argue against my assertion, but I will stick to it nonetheless!

To all my sisters, Muslim and non-Muslim, you should not allow yourself to be defined by body image, you are more than that, you are beautiful in many ways, and you will only begin to see that when you stop spending so much time and effort focusing only on beautifying your body.

May Allah Almighty give us all true guidance and correct understanding and may Allah grant us satisfaction and gratitude with all that He has given us, Insha'Allah Ameen!
Image 1 from:
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Announcement- Hijab Diaries Blog

Please read the post below!!! This is going to be great insha'Allah!!!
Sister's you have to particpate in this! Brothers, you can encourage the ladies in your life to share their stories.

Asalaam wa Alaykum

Sisters, every girl or woman, no matter what your status is, when you decide to wear Hijab or progress to a stage of higher Hijab, the decision is not always as simple as should be. Yes, it is part of our Islam to adorn the Hijab, but many of us, especially those of us who live in the Western world, do not wear any form of Hijab. No judgement on any person, Allah is the judge and we should support each other and guide and teach one another to become better people.

To think back, there were always a lot of questions I had, and always thoughts of doing the right thing followed by my whims to not give up my so called “Freedom”. But once I came back from Umrah Allah shukr, everything became really simple, but I kid you not, I still had a fight ahead of me. There were days of frustration, that I felt that my face looked a little fatter, or that my scarf made me look really clumsy and that it did not blend in really well with my different environments.

What really helped was talking to other ladies, those who already adorn the Hijab and those who were thinking of doing it. Together we shared our experiences, triumphs and glory days, there were also the bad days, which get even lesser as the days go by and you get stronger. That’s when the fun kicks in, it’s amazing, and yes Hijab can be fun.

Appreciating the journey of wearing hijab made me want to do something where other sisters could also begin to appreciate their own journeys. After much pondering , Allah (SWT) guided me towards a fellow Muslim sister and together we came up with this fantastic idea about a blog called, “Hijab Diaries”, where you can tell us about your experiences, share or ask for advice, and this is especially wonderful for our youth, and to promote Hijab amongst them.

So here you go sisters please take advantage of this blog, it’s your platform and opportunity to be heard and to help others in need.

Sister’s each one of us has our own “hijab story” to tell, how we came to wear hijab, what motivated us, what it was like, how people reacted to us and so on and so forth. This is the place for you to share that story. Please send your stories to and insha’Allah we will post it on the blog. You can follow the link below to get to the blog:

This blog is for all Muslim sisters, it is all of ours so we would love to see many stories posted.

So off you go and start writing your story, and we will do the same!

By Zeenat Sirkhot in association with Zarina Hassem

Monday, April 19, 2010

The veil - oppressive or liberating?

Adapted excerpt from:
 Hassem, Z. (2008). An exploration of women's groups as a tool of empowerment for Muslim women in South Africa. University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg: Unpublished Masters Dissertation.
For some women it is inconceivable that the veil can be referred to in any positive way, especially as a form of liberation or empowerment. Moghissi (1999) for instance writes that arguments and justifications made in support of the veil are inaccurate. She argues that for most Muslim women in many countries there is no free choice with regards to the donning of the veil; instead coercion into wearing it is the norm. She writes that for many women, being forced to wear the veil is a type of torture and in some countries women’s choice is between wearing the veil and death, as they are killed if they do not submit to wearing it. She indicates that only a few women choose to wear the veil because they want to turn back to a more authentic way of life, but most women who choose to wear the veil don’t do it for religious or spiritual reasons, but for other reasons such as wanting to get accepted for a job, wanting to get married or as a form of resistance against capitalist governments. Furthermore, she indicates that the veil aids in perpetuating class differences between women(Moghissi, 1999).
El-Solh and Mabro (1995) state that; “the donning of the veil is motivated by a number of complex factors” (p. 11). Some women don the veil as a form of protest, while others wear it as a form of piety; for some it may be a response to their vulnerability, while others wear it in order to assert cultural authenticity, for others, it is worn as a form of national liberation, while others are forced to wear it by their family, community and government. They argue that it has to be remembered that in contemporary Muslim societies a political factor needs to be taken into account when discussing the veil (El-Solh and Mabro, 1995).

Leila Ahmed (1992) mentions that the discourse of the veil cannot be separated from politics. Historically discussions in the West surrounding women in Islam began by the late nineteenth century as a result of “a fusion between a number of strands of thought all developing within the Western world in the latter half of that century” (Ahmed, 1992, p. 150). The narrative of colonial domination, in which all other cultures and societies were inferior in relation to European culture, combined with the emergence of the language of feminism combined to create the new centrality of Muslim women in Western discourse. The veil and seclusion of women began to be regarded as symbols of Muslim inferiority and degradation of women in Islam. In order to divert vocal feminism, which was increasing in the Victorian period, Victorian men shifted the focus onto other men, from other cultures and the treatment of women in those cultures. This resulted in the fusion between women’s issues, their oppression, Colonialist discourse and the culture of other men. It was within this framework then, that the veil began to be regarded as a symbol of oppression and backwardness (Ahmed, 1992). Protests against particular political systems therefore involved women donning the veil once again. In Egypt for instance, many women donned the veil in response to failed modernization attempts and to return to Islamic principles. As is the case in present day societies, the discourse of the veil cannot be separated from politics and the unfortunate thing is that women are most of the time at the receiving end of political agendas without being given the chance to choose for themselves.

When women do have a choice, and when they choose to wear the veil for religious reasons that are far removed from social or political ones, then a much more positive and liberating experience is described by them. Na’ima Robert is a Muslim woman who lives in London, who was brought up with Western ideals and role models. While still at university she decided to embrace Islam. In her book: From my sisters’ lips she describes her experience of converting to Islam, the challenges she faced as well as the positives that she encountered. In addition, she describes the experiences of other women, educated and brought up in the West, exposed to Western ideas and morals who like her decided to convert to Islam. She writes that she was first struck by Islam on a trip to Egypt, where she was confronted with Muslim women wearing the hijab, or headscarf as she describes it in this case. She says that one evening she met a beautiful Egyptian woman wearing the veil, and wanted to understand why. She writes; “ I asked her the question that had been burning in my brain since I had arrived in Cairo: ‘Why do you cover yourself? You are so beautiful.’ To this day her answer hits me with its clarity and simplicity. ‘Because’ she said, ‘I want to be judged for what I say and what I do, not for what I look like’” (Robert, 2005, p. 24).

Na’ima Robert goes on to describe the experience that she and the other women that she interviewed had when deciding to wear the veil. She writes that initially it was difficult because you can no longer rely on your looks to get you what you want. However, they came to learn that they no longer needed the attention of men to justify their lives and they chose to make their bodies their own private space. These women clearly indicated that they were wearing the veil as an important religious obligation because Muslim women are instructed to do so in the Qur’an. Robert (2005) writes that not only did wearing the veil encourage modesty in dress and conduct but it also gave these women a strong Muslim identity, one that gave them a sense of pride. Furthermore, Robert (2005) writes that the old ways of relating to women’s bodies were no longer applicable to them because their bodies were no longer on display. This meant that they had to be treated differently. She writes; “this endowed our interaction with men with a new level of respect and courtesy, however begrudgingly it was granted. We were clearly no longer sexual objects-we had to be treated differently” (Robert, 2005, p. 186). Finally she writes that the wearing of hijab is liberating, not only because men relate to you differently, but because as a woman you no longer have to worry about buying the latest clothes, keeping the hour glass figure or focusing on every aspect of your appearance, and you begin to understand that there is much more to you than just your appearance. In addition, these women reported that wearing of the veil made them feel more protected (Robert, 2005).

Similarly, women from Soweto who converted to Islam also mentioned that they felt more protected when they wore long clothes and the veil. For them, this form of dress protected them from harassment on the streets. “To them the clothes act as a liberating force, giving them a sense of self-empowerment on Soweto’s dangerous streets (Hadfield , 2005, p. 58).

Safia Iqbal (1988) writes that hijab is truly a weapon for women to fight exploitation in every field. She says that there is no reason that the hijab should hamper a woman’s activity. Instead, it allows her to conduct activities in peace. “She can pursue education or a career too, participate in war, drive vehicles and perform all the outdoor jobs as shopping, farming, working in factories or offices etc. as well as or rather better than any other woman can” (Iqbal, 1988, p.54). For her, hijab symbolizes dignity, modesty and elegance and at the same time it serves as a protection for women. She writes; “the hijab ensures a woman’s right to security and privacy. When it guards her privacy, it becomes a symbol of her honour. When it shields her from molestation and exploitation and facilitates her free movement outside, it becomes a symbol of ‘woman’s liberation’, liberation from the male-dominated values in modern society” (Iqbal, 1988, p.57).

It is clear then, that when the donning of the veil is not related to a particular political system or political agenda, and when it is adopted for purely religious and spiritual reasons, then women themselves view this as something positive and liberating.

Too often though a one-sided perspective is adopted in discussions of the veil and only the negative effects are mentioned without people being open to any positive experiences of the veil. In doing this, women's positive experiences are brushed aside as being unimportant and irrelevant. This type of one-sided and biased thinking does not do justice to the issue of the veil at all, and narrows it down purely to a social or political symbol.

In order to have a full understanding of this issue, it needs to be regarded in it entirety and a holistic approach which focuses on both the negative and the positive effects needs to be adopted, otherwise all that we will continue to have is biased arguments which leave out important information.

  • Ahmed, L. (2002). Women and Gender in Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • El-Solh, C.F. & Mabro, J. (1994).Introduction: Islam and Muslim Women. In C.F. ESolh & J. Mabro (Eds.), Muslim Women’s Choices (pp.1-25). Providence: Berg Publishers Ltd.
  • Hadfield, E. (2005). Veiled Hope: Why Township women are turning to Islam. Marie Claire, April, pp.57-60.
  • Iqbal, S. (1988). Woman and Islamic Law (Revised Edition). Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors.
  • Moghissi, H. (1999). Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism. London: Zed Books.
  • Robert, N.B. (2005). From my sisters’ lips. London: Bantam Books

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let us speak for ourselves!

I'm sure by now many of you might have heard of the article printed in 'The Citizen' newspaper on Monday (12 April,2010). If you haven't, let me fill you in. This article is not anything new, it is an opinion piece written by a Non-Muslim woman about what she thinks about the veil. If you'd like to read the article, click on the link below:,1,22

If the link doesn't work, the article is entitled "Peering out from a prison", and you can find it on The Citizen website. The title gives away the writers entire opinion doesn't it? Once again someone who has no idea what it's like to be a Muslim woman has decided to share their opinions about what they think it's like to be one!

I think it's time that we, as Muslim women began to speak for ourselves. There are too many people from all walks of life who have decided that they need to speak for us. We have our own voice and we need to make ourselves clear. Alhamdulila many people have already responded to this article in an attempt to shed light on the truth. Maybe if more Muslim women speak out against biased opinions such as these, it will make a difference and help people to understand our views and perceptions instead of resigning to the belief that we have no opinions, ideas of our own and intelligence.

Below is my response to this article, I'm sure that you have your own responses.

Let us as Muslim women speak for ourselves!!! May Almighty Allah guide us on our path and give us strength, Insha'Allah Ameen.

13 April 2010

The Citizen Newspaper

To Whom It May Concern

Re: Article by Jennie Ridyard (The Citizen, Monday, 12 April 2010)

This is in response to the Opinion piece ‘Peering out from a prison’ by Jennie Ridyard published in The Citizen (Monday, 12 April, 2010).

At the onset I would like to make it clear that I understand that Ms. Ridyard has a right to her own opinion, and since her article is an opinion piece, it would probably be argued that well researched, factual and contextual information is not necessary. If this is the case, then it makes sense why Ms. Ridyard’s article was allowed to be published.

I trust that just as Ms. Ridyard has a right to her opinion, so too do I, and I hope that my opinion is given the same weight as that of Ms. Ridyard’s.

I am a South African Muslim woman who is proud to admit that I have chosen to don Islamic clothing. While it is evident that Ms. Ridyard finds this offensive, for many Muslim women, myself included, the over-revealing way of dress of many Non-Muslim women is also offensive to us. However, since people do have “freedom to wear exactly what they choose”, as Ms. Ridyard has stated, we believe that we should not be taking up issue with this because the fact is that it is none of our business.

It appears that Ms. Ridyard has been majorly influenced by negative and stereotypical viewpoints about Muslim women and the veil, which is so often portrayed in the media. While this type of thinking and perceptions may be common within the media, it fails to portray the whole picture and in so doing ignores very important truths.

The idea that a woman’s physical appearance and her clothes allow her to be human and gives her expression, “thoughts, feelings and perceptions”, is a patriarchal idea in its own. Since when does a woman’s face or what she wears equal her mind or her intellect? Indeed, a Muslim woman wearing a veil is covering her face, not her mind or her heart. Furthermore, if “the veil obliterates women”, then why do veiled women continue to receive so much attention?

I think that it would be very sad if in fact a person’s identity was only about the way they dress. Surely identity is far more multi-dimensional and holistic than that, and the human experience exists on many different levels, not just the physical level.

While it is true that in many instances Muslim women are forced to wear the veil, this is definitely not true for all women, and this is especially not true within the South African context where most women who wear the veil do this by choice! I know of many Muslim women, of all ages, educational backgrounds and social status who have made this choice to wear the veil without being coerced or threatened, and for these women the veil is regarded as a symbol of liberation instead of a prison.

I urge Ms. Ridyard to take some time to find out the truth for herself instead of falling prey to negative stereotypes and speculation. She speaks about how she thinks the veil silences Muslim women, taking away their voice, but when she and others like her take it upon themselves to speak on behalf of Muslim women then this simply silences us further.


I cannot tell Ms. Ridyard, or anyone else what they should write about, but I appeal to you, if you are going to write about Muslim women, please take the time to ask them how they feel first.

To learn more about how Muslim women feel, I refer you to the following blogs:

From A proud Muslim woman

Zarina Hassem
M.A. Psychology (Wits)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Muslim woman’s path to knowledge

“I’m studying for my Science exam”, my 30-something friend unashamedly and boldly replied to me when I asked her what she was busy doing. A few days prior to this she told me that the Department of Education had decided that they might bring the final exam forward for students currently completing their Grade 12 exams through correspondence. It was quite late at night and I was feeling the tiredness overtake me, I could not imagine how she was feeling. What with having to juggle a husband, 2 children, a full-time job and studies! I honestly have so much admiration for this woman. I wonder if I would have had the courage to do what she is doing, and I really don’t think I would have.

This woman left school when she was about 16 years old and changed her entire life. From being a rebellious teenager she began to wear niqaab (face veil), and got married shortly after, and the remarkable thing is that this was all her choice!

After she got married, she studied an aalima course, to completion (which is about 5 years of intense study). Now, in her 30s she made the decision to complete her high school studies.

Some of you might be wondering what’s so inspiring or remarkable about this. You might even argue that it’s no big deal, and that studying and education is not that important anyway. Some of you might think that this woman is wasting her time, that she has what every woman needs already. But, before you think further, let us consider the implications of all this a little more.

“I want my children, especially my daughter to know that there are possibilities out there, that they can do more, and that they can reach amazing heights and still stick to the Allah’s laws. I want them to understand that as Muslims we are encouraged to do this”. This is one of my friend’s major reasons for going back to study, to show her children that Islam does not restrict women; that both men and women are encouraged to seek knowledge, and to emphasize that as a Muslim she is encouraged to use her potential, learn more and excel at whatever it is that she is doing. She has understood that if she is more informed and the more knowledge she has, she will be able to use this to assist her children and to understand the world that they live in. Moreover, she has understood something that many people are still unable to fathom; that receiving education does not equate having a high powered corporate job. There are so many positive things that women are able to do with education, but they are restricted because of the fear that once they receive education they will want to dedicate their lives to a career instead of a family, and admittedly this fear is very real. However, a lack of knowledge and education can also bring about negative consequences, so where does one draw the line, and can a woman have a balance between family, education and work, all the while adhering to her religious duties?

For my friend there are certainly times, especially closer to exams, when the pressure mounts, and everything feels too much to handle and her time with her husband and children gets cut short and she thinks to herself; “Why am I doing this!” But she has the support and encouragement of her husband and family and she knows what her priorities are and she tries to take things in its stride, and at the end her results are always excellent. It seems to me that this balance is achievable with a correct understanding between people, and with the right intentions.

One major misunderstanding of most women is that your life’s ambition is over when you get married. It’s like before you get married you can study, work or do whatever it is, but once you get married, there’s no need for anything else because now you have fulfilled your ambition. Now, I am definitely not saying here that marriage is not an important ambition, I’m also not saying that women should all go and work and study, despite being married. What I am saying though is that our purpose goes beyond just being married, our purpose is to worship Allah and in my opinion, in order to do this in the best way, we have to use the abilities that has been given to us to enhance our own lives, the lives of our children, the lives of our family members and the lives of people in our community.

At this point I have to emphasize that the quest for Islamic knowledge should take precedence! It does not help if a woman or anyone else for that matter has knowledge in many different fields and areas but lacks Islamic knowledge. Only with the correct Islamic knowledge, can all other forms of knowledge and education be put into good practice. My friend’s example is once again testimony to this. She first acquired in-depth Islamic knowledge and now she is able to use the other knowledge that she is gaining in a positive way and in a way that does not go against the rules of Islam. With her understanding of Islam and her strong emphasis on Deen she can integrate her current studies into her life in a meaningful way.

Alhamdulila, everything happens with the will of Allah and I am thankful that I have had the chance of witnessing the path that my friend has taken because it has taught me so much. No one is too old to learn new things and the quest for knowledge should not be deprived to anyone, male or female. The most important thing I have learnt from her though is that as a Muslim woman, you can do many things while still upholding your Islamic duties and following the rules of Islam. When my friend sits down to write her final exams, she will be wearing her niqaab, she will be dressed in her long cloak, she will have her husband and children eagerly waiting to hear how it went, and I know that she will excel, because she has not chosen a path at the expense of her Islam and before she begins her exam, I know she will be talking to Allah. For me, this is a female Muslim role model, and so, when she gets her final results and passes, as I know she will, this will be for all her Muslim sisters!

May Allah (SWT) give her success and help us all to uphold the true religion of Islam, no matter what we are involved with (obviously as long as it is in accordance with the rules of Islam).

Image from:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Who said Muslim women don’t have fun?

It was the end of the year and since the ladies of the Muslim women’s group I belong to had worked hard the entire year, and of course, because we’ll use any excuse to go out and have fun, we decided to have a team building, ladies day out.

First we had to decide where we would be going, there were so many options we did not know where to begin. One of the ladies took the consideration to do a full internet search on interesting places to go to. The list included many things and we were all excited about the options. A day at the Lion Park sounded fun, (yes we live in Africa, but there are not any animals walking on the streets of Johannesburg, I can assure you of that). Then there was the option of going on a quad bike trail, or we could go paragliding. The other option was to go to Magaliesberg, a nearby mountain resort where we could just chill out, or a relaxing day at a Beauty Spa... The list presented too many options and it seems like its human nature for us to find things more complicated the more options we are given.
Did I mention that if we had chosen any of the above activities, it would have been Islamically acceptable. You see the ladies in the women’s group are very strict about adhering to Islamic rules, in fact whenever anyone suggests anything, people start asking; “Is it Sharia’h compliant?” So, all the activities chosen would have to be within the bounds of Islam, within a certain travelling distance, and not anything that was haraam/ unlawful, or that would violate the pardah (covering) of Muslim women in any way.

I bet some of you are thinking, hey I didn’t know Muslim women could do paragliding. Or, A Muslim woman on a quad bike trail; are you kidding me?

Eventually we did not choose any of the activities on our list, because as many of you would know, it’s very difficult for a group of women to agree on one thing; what suits one doesn’t suit another and then the time of year isn't right and so on and so forth. We did end up going for adventure golf though, and had a grand old time, Tiger Woods jokes included and everything! Anyone watching us might have found the scene strange- A group of Muslim women, fully covered, some in long cloaks, with burqa, laughing and joking as they missed the hole more times than they actually got the ball in.

Now that I’m writing this, it reminds me of times when my sisters and I would go to the beach, and walk into the sea, fully clothed and have hours and hours of fun! (Nowadays it’s even easier, what with the Burqini on the market and all that).

So, does clothing determine the amount of fun people can have? Does religion? The only time these things will restrict “fun” is if the “fun” is something unlawful and immoral. Without getting into the whole issue of different perceptions of fun too much, I will say that only clean, pure enjoyment , where a woman is safe and not forced into doing things that she does not want to, can be regarded as fun, because every other idea of fun, always has some negative consequences, and most times, the negative consequences have to be faced by women alone.

So, after the ladies day out, the women already began planning the next ladies day out, in fact they were insistent that the next one should be a ladies weekend out! The planning continues, and perhaps our very efficient ‘fun planner’ as I will refer to her from now, is already making her list, who knows what we’ll be doing next, but I am sure that whatever it is, it will be a whole lot of fun!

Image from:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Muslim women trying to make a difference in their own way

The other day I was speaking to a fellow Muslim sister who was very enthusiastic and excited about spreading the importance of Islamic dress. This woman wanted to find new and interesting ways of getting young Muslim women and girls to realize that dressing Islamically is not at all boring or outdated. She told me about other women that she had come into contact with who had similar ideas and interests. For instance, she mentioned a lady who teaches women how to tie the headscarf in many different styles.
 Shortly after that I was in contact with an old school friend of mine and she began discussing the importance of doing da’wah (spreading the word of Islam). My friend’s passion and excitement matched the Muslim sister’s I spoke to as she continued to emphasize how spreading the word of Islam is every Muslim’s duty, men and women.

This made me realize that there are so many Muslim women out there who are trying to make some sort of difference in whatever way they can. Whether it’s by encouraging other women who have made the choice to change the way they dress or even just by sharing ideas, experiences or perhaps even delicious recipes.

The point is that Muslim women are beginning to understand that they can be a source of comfort, support and even inspiration for one another, and moreover they are beginning to realize that they can make important differences! The Muslim sister network seems to be growing and Muslim sisters all over the world are connecting with one another and thinking about ways that they can make important changes in each other’s lives and in the broader society.

There are dynamic and interesting Muslim women who are tired of hearing all the negative stereotypes, tired of having other people relating how they think Muslim women feel, tired of others making assertions about how they dress, and tired of others dictating to them what type of women they think they should be. There seems to be an increasing need for Muslim women to speak out, to have a voice instead of having others speak for them. And, so it is that Muslim women are making efforts to do whatever they can, according to their own capacity.

It is clear that a heightened Muslim female identity is being developed. Muslim women are beginning to develop a pride about who they are and they are actively making choices for themselves! No longer are Muslim women content to follow their Western counterparts, now there are Muslimah’s creating their own beauty and fashion magazines, deciding for themselves what dictates they wish to live by and becoming content with who they are and what their religion stipulates from them.

The result is that wherever you look you are sure to find some Muslim women making an attempt in some way, it doesn’t matter what way, because with the correct intention, a small effort can make a huge difference, and every single person has the ability to contribute in some way or the other. Makes you feel really good to be a Muslim woman, doesn’t it?

May the Almighty Allah reward every single Muslim sister in abundance and may He accept everyone’s efforts, Insha’Allah Ameen.

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