On Saturday I had an amazing day, Alhamdulilllah (All Praise is for Allah). We hosted a ladies workshop. Through the mercy of Allah, I learnt far more than I could ever teach and the experience left me feeling humbled and in awe of the perfect system of Allah and the beauty of Islam.
The group of ladies that attended was diverse and multi-cultural and naturally this meant that we got to hear a variety of experiences. I can’t tell you how beautiful it was to hear sisters talk about Muslim sisterhood and how they feel they belong. The cherry on the top for me was when a sister who reverted two years ago said that she loves us all for the pleasure of Allah and she spoke about how Islam has changed her life and how amazing it is for her to be part of the Muslim sisterhood.
Now let’s not paint a perfect picture here, because there is no such thing as the perfect picture, flaws are always inevitable and mistakes are going to be made without a doubt. It was saddening to hear some sisters speak about their negative experiences when greeting other Muslim sisters with the greeting of peace, As-salaamu alaykum, these experiences including being ignored and snubbed.
The negativities will exist of course, people are human and we are thus prone to weakness, but we need to have reminders such as these, reminders of how Allah Almighty actually intended it to be, because this will clarify our understanding when things are flawed or imperfect, it is our human error and weakness and by no means is it a reflection of Islam or how Allah intended things to be. If we understand our wrongs then only can we change it.
This all got me thinking about the true meaning of sisterhood in Islam. You see although I am a born Muslim, I wasn’t always a part of this Muslim sisterhood that I speak of. There was a time when I felt very far removed from Muslim sisters. Coming from a different cultural background from majority of the people I grew up with and went to school with naturally made me somewhat of an outsider. We shared the same religion, but unfortunately many people tend to mix culture up with religion and when I was growing up people tended to connect more on the basis of culture than religion. So since I couldn’t identify with girls on a cultural basis, this obviously made me averse to the Muslim girls around me, feeling that I was and never would be the same as them.
I recall when I began wearing hijab, one of my biggest issues was that I didn’t want to be the same as all the other Muslim women. My reasoning was that I had never fitted in with them and I disagreed with their way of seeing things in so many ways, so I didn’t want to be seen by others as the same as them. I laugh now at how I made an attempt to wear my hijab differently to how everyone else was wearing it, just so that I didn’t seem the same.
Allah had a different plan for me though, of course a better plan. Somehow through my field of work I was pushed in to working with Muslim women, and finally Allah allowed me to meet amazing sisters who valued themselves based on the religion of Islam and not on the culture they came from. Whereas before I always felt unable to connect with other women, now I began to find it easy, and this was simply only because we had common ground and a common goal and intention and that was Islam and reaching closeness to Allah Almighty.
SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah), over the years I have been blessed to connect with many women in this way, purely for the pleasure of Allah and I have formed bonds with women in a way that I never thought was possible. I have experienced real love between sisters, not blood sisters, sisters in Faith. So this is why it moves me so much to have experiences like I did on Saturday. This is why I feel honoured to be present when a Muslim sister who has met other sisters for the first time is able to openly proclaim her love for them. I feel humbled, because Allah Almighty has allowed me to understand the true meaning of sisterhood and I know that I can connect with any sister when our vision and mission is the pleasure of Allah Almighty.
My reminder on Saturday was that Islam is not about culture, people have cultures, that’s what gives order and understanding to their everyday practices, but Islam surpasses cultural beliefs and when Muslim sisters get together, they should be able to connect with each other on a real level, heart to heart, soul to soul, all working and striving to earn Allah’s pleasure. This is sisterhood, the bonds that have been forged by none other than the Ultimate Creator. We can look beyond everything else and feel mutual love and care, we can cry with one another and laugh with one another, we can feel at home and like we belong even though we’ve only just met. We can listen to each other’s stories with patience and understanding and genuinely care for each other. This is true sisterhood and the beauty of it, the reality of it is that Allah Almighty’s pleasure is central to it. We have no need to backbite or slander each other, nor do we have the need to compete or show who is better. We understand that in the eyes of Allah we are all equal and if we truly love Allah then we will easily love each other. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah) over and over for allowing us to experience this true sisterhood and my prayer is that Allah allows the bonds of true sisterhood to be strengthened so that all Muslim sisters can identify with each other as one and we can stand together when we really need to do so.
May Allah Almighty guide me and forgive me and always give me the ability to see the truth wherever it exists.
Image 1 from here
Image 2 from here