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Inspiring Women in Muslim History That We Should Know

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Women are degraded and considered to be solely homemakers; I’m not degrading homemakers. Of course, I appreciate them, but this is about labeling women incapable of entering other fields. If we focus on Muslim history, we will encounter thousands of incidents in which women have taken the lead. Women like Fatima- Al-Fihri and Sutayta al-Mahamili succeeded in education and mathematic fields. They have set the example that women are no less than men.

We don’t have to set a day for women; instead, we can celebrate them every day, and here I’m writing this as a tribute to all the amazing women out there.

Let’s meet some amazing women in Muslim history!

1. Fathim al-Firhi

She was a game-changer in the Islamic community and civilization. Though her hometown was Qayrawan, she moved from there to Fez (now Morocco) with her father. Fathim al-Firhi and her sister played a prominent role in making education one of the essentials for women in those days. The girls grew up in an educated family, and they were competent in hadith and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).  

Fatima’s inheritance from her father was considerably huge, so she utilized them to build a mosque for the community. Al- Qarawiyin was the first and oldest madrasa (Islamic learning center) that later became the world’s first university. It was established in 859, and students worldwide joined the university to learn Islamic studies, languages, astronomy, and sciences. Thanks to this university for making Arabic numbers popular even in Europe. Hence, the Firhi sisters are among the best examples of Islamic women’s role in Muslim civilization.

Sharika Hafeez’s Medium blog on The Woman Who Founded the World’s First University shares many interesting facts that anyone would love to read.

2. Sutayta al-Mahamali

The daughter of Judge Abu Abdallah al-Hussein was a brilliant lady who had her heart and soul for mathematics. She was a genius in the 10th century, and the world celebrated her knowledge in mathematics. Unfortunately, she has now become a history that people hardly speak about.

Her father guided her, along with many other reputed scholars. Her specialties weren’t in one subject; instead, she was well-versed in hadith, Arabic literature, and jurisprudence. On top of all, she excelled in fara’idh (successoral calculations) hisab (arithmetics), which were also parts of mathematics developed in 987. She invented solutions to some mathematical equations, including algebra aptitude. Many mathematicians have utilized her equations. Her ability to create equations showed that she had tremendous skills in mathematics.

You can also watch this video that shares some more insights about Sutayta.

3. Al-Ijliya Al-Astrulabi (Mariam)

She’s the woman behind astrolabes. She was a 10th-century scientist who was born in Syria. According to ancient Islam, she was the only female astronomer at the time. She was solving problems related to the placement of stars and the sun, and her academic brilliance was beyond best.

Her interest was piqued after seeing her father’s passion for developing Astrolabes. He used to share his insights with his daughter. Mariam had to work with complicated precision and calculations of mathematics. However, she mastered it over time. Her innovative and intricate designs caught the eyes of the city ruler, Sayf Al Dawla, and then she was employed in Aleppo court. Apart from this, she supported timekeeping techniques and navigation.

The Al-Ijliya, the main-belt asteroid 7060, was found by Henry E. Holt and was named after Mariam, and that proved her significant role in the study of Astronomy. Plus, Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian American author, penned down a novel termed ‘Binti,’ which was awarded Nebula Award, and the main character revolved around Mariam.

She can be an inspiration for the girls who want to make their dreams in the field of inventions and research.

4. Zaynab Al Shahda

Calligraphy is one of the activities that most Muslims enjoy doing. Zaynab Al Shahda was also one of those people who loved to do calligraphy, and she was famous for her work in hadith and Islamic law (fiqh).

She was too good at what she was doing, so praises kept flooding without a break. She was then appointed as Yaqut’s (last Abbasid Caliph) teacher. Zaynab also did the calligraphies at Musa’s place. She was an established teacher who could brilliantly guide the students on the right path. People made an effort to study and receive ijaza (a license authorized by the professional) from Zaynab.

Her brilliance was proved after she received Siqat al-Dawla due to her strong ties with the Abbasid Caliph, al-Muktafibillah. She considered learning literature and science as her pastime activities.

She is an excellent example for the girls these days. They can prove their point that women were never oppressed in Islam. According to Islam, focusing on a career and building oneself with a superior level of integrity and intelligence wasn’t gender-biased.

5. Queen Amina of Zaria

Amina of Zaria or Warrior queen was another name that she was famous for. She led the military to expand the Hausa people’s territory to North Africa, and it was considered the most massive borders that marked history.

Women in Subsaharan Africa succeeded in a wide range of fields during Muslim civilization. Amina was one of the women who did her role as a warrior. Bakwa Turunku was her father and the founder of the Kingdom Zazzau (now Zaria) in 1536.

Amina earned her people’s trust and respect as she led the military with her fantastic military strategy. She was in command between 1588 and 1589. She also used engineering skills during her campaigns, and her fierce military usage stood out among everything else. She was praised and credited for the construction of the Zaria wall.

All in all, it’s clear that women warriors and women leaders weren’t frowned upon during Muslim civilization. Thus, it should get established in the minds of current Muslim society.

If you are interested, you can watch this short clip about Warrior queen, Amina!  

Wrapping up

Some of the inspiring women in Muslim history have left behind many things that we can still utilize. Their mark on Muslim history isn’t insignificant; instead, it’s highly appreciated and most cherished. These women have influenced the lives of other women who have been struggling to find their individuality.

In Muslim civilization, women from different backgrounds and faiths got together and developed the communities alongside men. Their past work, inspiring lifestyles, and strong-willed personalities have become a guide for the current generation.  

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Palestine is Entrenched In the Heart of Qatar World Cup

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The Tunisian fans holding a huge banner of Free Palestine in Qatar World Cup FIFA 2022

Almost every match of the Qatar 2022 World Cup has witnessed signs of having Palestine entrenched in the heart of World Cup’s fans by either raising the Palestinian flag, wearing a Palestinian kufiyah or chanting slogans in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Palestine is a kind of country that is physically absent but spiritually present in the heart of the World Cup in Qatar. There is hardly a match, event, or promotional activity without the presence of the Palestinian flag, even though its team does not participate in the tournament. This edition of the World Cup tournaments is, by all means, different and holds significant importance since its beginning 92 years ago for the Arabs and the Palestinians. Since the beginning of the tournaments, Palestinians have been looking forward to spreading awareness about their suffering and getting their voice heard on a large scale.

What is in the heart, is in the heart

Arabs’ unity at its best in supporting Palestinians is present in a chilling way in the Mondial. This is almost the first time for Muslims, Arabs, and especially Palestinians to have their powerful platform to speak aloud. They need to speak loudly about their suffering in the largest gathering ever. The Palestinian flag has been flown with pride at stadiums across Doha since the tournament kicked off.

The unifying power of football has been unmistakably displayed, with Palestinians eager to throw their support behind Arab teams upsetting football’s international elite. On the other hand, Arabs have also shown signs of solidarity with the Palestinians during the tournaments. “My friends and I have been exchanging videos posted online showing Arab people waving the Palestinian flag, it’s a testament that we are one and Palestine is alive in the hearts and minds of all Arabs,” a fan said.   Furthermore, Arab activists on “Twitter” launched a campaign to boycott companies supporting the “Israeli” occupation, and widely raised Palestinian flags during the World Cup Qatar 2022. Beautifully, Tunisian fans chanted for Palestine and raised the Palestinian flag outside the stadiums beautifully displaying Palestine entrenched in the heart of the World Cup.

Tunisian fans singing for Palestine ” the beloved Palestine” song

A light-up message “Gaza is in our hearts” appears at a building during the FIFA World Cup.

Qatar encapsulates timeless universal solidarity with Palestine

It is not surprising to see the Qatari fans’ support for the Palestinians in the Mondial. On top of all supporting countries, Qatar has always shown solidarity with the Palestinian question whether spiritually or financially. Significantly, Qatar has seized the chance not only to spread Islamic culture and history but also the Palestinian question as well. Likewise, a Qatari man filmed a video on social media showing him distributing Palestinian armbands.

Several Qataris wore armbands featuring a pro-Palestinian design at the Mondial, according to photos posted on Twitter. The armbands bore the black-and-white design of the kufiyah scarf that is synonymous with the Palestinian cause. They were an apparent response to players and officials protesting FIFA’s players who wear the gay armband on the pitch. On top of all of that, Winterhill Hospitality, the official Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup hospitality-booking site, has put ‘Occupied Palestinian territories’ as a country option, without mentioning ‘Israel’ on its list. Moreover, it launched a popular campaign called “The Palestinian Dream” in Qatar. It aims to raise awareness of the Palestinian cause and the crimes of the occupation. It also has another aim: taking advantage of the major global event “World Cup”.

In addition, a Qatari man appeared in a video refusing to talk to an Israeli reporter as a way of showing solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Not only him, but also many Qataris showed refusing to interact with Israeli reporters. They also held the Palestinian flags high in every street, car, and stadium.

Pro-Palestinian fans refusing to interact with the Israeli media

Israel is hopelessly isolated as Palestine is entrenched in the heart of the masses

As a sign and a result of showing solidarity with Palestinians, the masses have hopelessly outcasted and isolated Israeli media in front of the world. The Israeli media appeared isolated amidst large numbers of Arab fans. Whenever knowing their Israeli identity and hear their broken Arab accent, pro-Palestinians rally around them with dozens of Palestinian flags. For more, click here. “We feel hated, surrounded by hostility and unwanted,” an Israeli journalist said. Another Israeli reporter interviewing a Saudi fan burst into anger shouting that “Israel stays for doomsday.” This is a sign of covering up the distress and anger in which he is. This Mondial has proved the hatred of Arabs, Muslims, and some Westerners worldwide for the Israelis. A Saudi fan was overwhelmed in a video telling an Israeli reporter that he is not welcome here.

Saudi fan confronts an Israeli reporter in Qatar World Cup 2022

As a result, Israeli media started to flounder for being a redundant intolerable guest. “After a while, we decided to claim we were Ecuadorian when someone would ask us where we were from,” an Israeli reporter said. Read more on this: Is anti-Semitism essential for the survival and growth of Zionism and Jewish peoplehood?

Israeli reporter denies he’s from Israel after being spotted by a football fan at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Yemeni, Saudi, and Tunisian masses gave a harsh lesson to the Israeli journalist Jay Hochmann. This happened when he stood among their groups to impose himself among them, so they cheered “Palestine”. Furthermore, Yediot Ahrnot said that their coverage of the World Cup showed the magnitude of the Arabs’ hatred of Israel. It also noted that Iranian, Qatari, Jordanian, Moroccan, Syrian, Lebanese, and Egyptian fans were looking at them with hate looks.

General view

Summing up, it is the instinct of Arabic peoples to show such solidarity with Palestinians. All the presented signs show that Palestine is entrenched in the heart of World Cup fans. Through their unity and awareness, the Palestinian question is strongly dominant in the scene. Most importantly, let us not forget the enormous efforts of Qatar of supporting Palestinians in all circumstances. One of the most critical factors to make full benefit of the Qatar World Cup in support of the Palestinian cause is to communicate directly with match commentators, presenters, and influencers. This can be via television, radio channels, or social media sites to highlight, talk about, and address the Palestinian issue during their comments on the games.

In addition to the need to interact on social media sites via several tags, most notably Palestine in the World Cup, to get the issue to the extreme and the most significant gatherings. This interaction proved that the question of Palestine is still alive and still entrenched in the hearts of all Arabs and Islamic peoples in the World Cup. Qatar World Cup FIFA has become the main platform to convey the Palestinian question to the whole world. On the other hand, negligence and outcast, at least, are what Israelis got due to their bloody deeds against Palestinians. From our platform, we announce our support for Qatar and the Palestinian question as well.

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The Scope of inter-religious pluralism within Islam

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Even though pluralism is a loaded term, its generic meaning suggests a phenomenon of peaceful coexistence between entities of diverse cultural, religious, and political inclinations. It is important to remember that pluralism does not mean the elimination of difference, nor does the word “tolerance” do justice to its intended purpose. Pluralism is not merely tolerating the other but engaging with the beliefs of others with peaceful dialogue and action. The scope of inter-religious puralism within Islam proposes this kind of pluralism.

Also, read Islamic Democracy: Is Democracy Compatible with Islam?

What does Pluralism mean in Islam?

Looking at the subjective meaning of pluralism within the ambit of Islam, the proponents of various Islamic discourses have proposed that pluralism is a pronounced feature of Islam. Many Muslim intellectuals claim that pluralism is central to the fundamental essence of Islam. A convincing case can be made for the presence of a compelling pluralistic ethos within the Islamic scriptures.

In his essay, Reformist Islam in Comparative Perspective, Mehran Kamrava claims that the rise in the level of religiosity amongst Muslims has given rise to other forms of Islam. One of which according to him is “likely to have the most resonating consequences for Islamic jurisprudence in both the near and the distant future” and calls it “intellectual Islam”. He claims that it is through this form of Islam that a Muslim reformist discourse is introduced. Which has produced significant work to locate the place of inter-religious pluralism in Islam. He further derives some themes out of the reformist discourse, very important with their reference to pluralism in Islam:

“First is a deep and abiding conviction in Islam as faith and a system of belief. In its current manifestation, the discourse of reformist Muslim intellectuals does not seek to instrumentalize Islam for purposes of achieving modernity in a manner palatable to the masses at large. Islam is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself. It simply needs to be re-thought and reformulated. The reformists’ reliance on and endless references to the Qur’an bespeaks of the text’s cultural centrality to them.”.

Such display of absolute faith by Muslim reformists whilst having reformist inclinations bespeak of their balanced position. A flexible modern vision can develop interfaith dialogue. The abiding conviction to Islam earns a sense of authenticity for their thought process in the eyes of fellow Muslims.

Read here, Islamophobia: Impacts on Muslim Women

What is Democratic Pluralism?

The next theme of the reformist discourse is “democratic pluralism”: “Pluralism, the reformist discourse’s proponents maintain, is a salient feature of the spirit of the Qur’an and the hadith.” (Kamrava )

To support his claim he cites another Muslim intellectual Abdulaziz Sachedina who quotes:

The challenge for Muslims today, as ever, is to tap the tradition of Koranic pluralism to develop a culture of restoration, of just intrareligious and interreligious relationships in a world of cultural and religious diversity. Without restoring the principle of coexistence, Muslims will not be able to recapture the spirit of early civil society under the Prophet.

In the globalized world, the facets of modernity like its political model of the nation-state have become a governing principle for all ethnic, cultural, and religious pluralism. This means the only larger identity governing the religious identity of the people is that of the nation-state. In the religiously pluralistic society of today, people may have different identities, but the model of the nation-state promises all of them the same status. People might identify with different religious inclinations, but the state identifies them as either citizens or residents of the state. This is exactly the kind of challenge that Sachedina talks about when he implores Muslims to revive the tradition of pluralism that is central to the Islamic texts for peaceful coexistence in the globalized world.

Also, read Why should dignified Muslims never normalize with Israel?

The Case of Muslims living as a minority

If Muslims live in a minority in a nation-state that runs on one of the political models of modernity like democracy or secularism, then for the sake of the welfare of Muslims they need to fulfill the duties that the nation-state demands from them. Andrew March talks about the jurisprudence of Muslim minorities also called Fiqh al-aqalliyyat al-muslima in Arabic:

Fiqh alaqalliyyat tends to be a discourse where departures from traditional Islamic commitments are not seen as desirable, and certainly not goals in and of themselves, but where creative rethinking often occurs in subtle and pragmatic guises. It is thus an important object of study for those interested in the ideal moral encounter between a public religion like Islam and modern/post-modern secularism. (March 6).

Important questions of interest toward non-Islamic institutions have been addressed from within internal Islamic discourses that advocate for a positive Muslim attitude concerning the issue of pluralism.

Read here, How Practical is the Secular Democracy of India? Curbing of Religious Freedom in Kashmir

Islam’s relation with other Faiths

The third theme within the reformist Islamic discourse is “Islam’s relations with other great faiths”. An important aspect central to the Muslim understanding of pluralism is the conception that god’s message in the Quran is universal and that the revelation was made through more than just one prophet, which means that the revelations had multiple manifestations. The basic underpinning for this idea can be seen in the Quran which mentions the monotheistic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. Far from denying the Quran in fact validates that Torah and Bible were predecessor scriptures affirming that their message has come from the same god. Many Quranic verses echo the sentiments which envisage a world where diversified people are united by their pious intentions and mutual devotion to God.

Also, read Islam in 2075: World’s Largest Religion!?

Some Important Milestones in the Islamic History

Apart from the theoretical contributions to promote Islamic pluralism, efficient action has also been taken within the Muslim discourse on a practical level to perpetuate inter-faith harmony.

One such historic step was the “1981 adoption of the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, whose article XIII states: Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and worship in accordance with his religious beliefs.”.

Apart from this, another significant step was taken in 1990 when the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam was adopted, Article 1(a) of which states:

“All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the grounds of race, color, language, sex, religious belief, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. True faith is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human perfection.”

Read here, Is This the Ultimate Solution to Rising Islamophobia in India?

Islamic Tradition of Peaceful Coexistence

The Quran recognizes fundamental rights for all humankind whether Muslims or non-Muslims and explicitly forbids compulsion in faith. The Islamic texts also provide a practical model of implementing pluralistic ideals which have greatly affected the treatment of non-Muslims in Muslim lands. Contrary to the Islamophobic stereotypes, Islam not only acknowledges pluralism, but it also goes beyond the reductive concepts of tolerance and intolerance to endorse and encourages a tradition of peaceful coexistence.

Also, read Islamophobia: Impacts on Muslim Women

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How Practical is the Secular Democracy of India? Curbing of Religious Freedom in Kashmir

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In Kashmir, a Closed Mosque Belies India’s Religious Freedom

Even while a right-wing Hindu nationalist government is ruling India for the past 8 years now, India still professes to be a secular democracy. The constitutional grounds for India’s secularism have been carefully accommodating religious freedom. However, the past 8 years have been witnessing a shrinking of sorts for the religious freedom of Muslims. The Indian government seems to be particularly adamant about curbing the religious freedom of Kashmiri Muslims.

In 2022, the Indian authorities arrested prominent religious clerics across Kashmir under PSA (Public Safety Act). After that, the Indian government banned schools run by FAT (Falah-e-Aam Trust ). FAT is an affiliate of the banned Islamist organization Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir (Jama’at). Another incident followed with the circulation of a video of Kashmiri students. The video showed students being forced to chant Hindu hymns sparked controversy over social media. However, these are not isolated incidents that reveal the curbing of religious freedom in Kashmir.  

Read here, The BJP Enforcing Patriotism By Instilling Fear- “Har Ghar Tiranga” Campaign in Kashmir and Other Schemes

Curbing Religious Freedom in Muharram

Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar is one of the holiest months for Shite Muslims worldwide. During this month, Shia mourners gather together to hold a procession. They recite eulogies, and chant slogans to mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson Hussain.

However, since 1989, the Indian government has prohibited some of the major Muharram processions in Kashmir. The government issues an order each year prohibiting Muharram processions due to “security reasons”. Kashmiris claim that the Indian state has been curbing their religious rights on the pretext of “security concerns”. Kashmiri Muslims have a history of raising their voices against the curbing of their religious rights by the Indian government. Nonetheless, this history of resistance against religious inequality has always been violent for the Kashmiris. Every year, Shia mourners face police thrashings, beatings, and arrests while trying to take out Muharram processions.

Since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the police arrested 15 Shia mourners. They also arrested a well-known preacher named Manzoor Ahmed Malik. The police charged them under the stringent anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). According to the police, they allegedly chanted free Kashmir Slogans during Muharram processions.

While talking to the Wire, Arshid Ahmad, a Shia mourner told The Wire “In contemporary times, the ‘step-motherly’ treatment of Muslims is unacceptable and the government should reconsider the decision on Muharram bans. This minority bears the brunt of the repression, even though other religious pilgrimages are permitted with full security and pomp,”.

“We are protesting and condemning this ban but no one is listening to us. If the government can allow other religions to perform their religious rites, why ban the Muharram procession?” Muzzafar, another mourner asked.

Most mourners who talked with the media brought up the Amarnath Yatra, a 40-day pilgrimage. They questioned why the government couldn’t guarantee protection for the Muharram parade for one day.

Also, read Lawlessness in Police Custody- Custodial Killings in Kashmir

Janmashtami Procession held by Kashmiri Pandits Amid Police and Army Security

Days after Muharram, Kashmiri pandits staged processions throughout Srinagar to celebrate the birth of the Hindu god Krishna. The government allowed Hindu devotees to take out the religious procession and provided them with tight police and army security.  

Amid massive spectacle and show, the government supervised and safeguarded the religious procession. National news outlets in India were hailing this incident as “signifying a perceptible improvement in the situation in the strife-ridden Valley”. However, none of the Indian media called out the hypocrisy of the Indian government that has been curbing the religious freedom in Kashmir for Muslims for decades.

Read here, Kashmiri Pandits Face Targeted Killings

The Grand Mosque in Kashmir Closed For Friday Prayers For Three Years

The Jamia Masjid or the grand mosque in the heart of Srinagar city is a 600-year-old that has been cherished and venerated by Kashmiris for centuries and is of historic and religious significance. On important religious occasions throughout the year, thousands of Muslim worshippers have been visiting the grand mosque. Friday is considered the holy day of the week for Muslims and congregational prayers are of utmost importance. Yet, Kashmiris haven’t been allowed to offer prayers in Jamia Masjid for three consecutive years now.

Additionally, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Hurriyat leader, and the mosque’s chief preacher has been kept under constant house arrest and is not permitted to give Friday sermons. Recently, the Lieutenant Governor of Kashmir Manoj Sinha disputed reports of Mirwaiz being under house arrest, yet a few days later, the Hurriyat leader was denied permission to deliver the Friday sermon at Jamia Masjid. In attempts to deny the claim of “prolonged closure, of the Jamia Masjid” the LG declared that it had only been in effect on three Fridays this year. However, the mosque’s administration made it explicit that this year, prayers have been prohibited for 14 Fridays so far by the enforced presence of the CRPF and J&K Police.   

To Kashmiris, the prolonged closure of the Jamia masjid serves as a bitter reminder of their helplessness. And the attempts of psychological warfare. This is yet another incident that speaks of the curbing of religious freedom in Kashmir.

Read more here, India Bans Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT) schools in Kashmir

Religious Freedom Vanishing From The Largest Democracy In The World

India prides itself internationally as the world’s largest democracy. According to the Indian constitution, the government “will not discriminate, patronize, or meddle in the exercise of any religion.” Its constitution guarantees religious freedom, which entails that individuals should be able to adhere to and freely practice their religious views. However, the religious freedom and claims of secularism mentioned in the Indian Constitution are utterly absent when it comes to Muslims and particularly when it comes to Kashmir.

Read here, The Case Of The Gyanvapi Mosque Explained

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