Speak up for Her #Violence Isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey

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Who is she?

She is the girl in your neighborhood, at your masjid, or college. She is the girl who doesn’t have a voice across the world. Who accepts what life has given her. She is the child that was never given a choice. She is the quiet one whose eyes tell a story. Who’s plight is undermined by industries that sell women. She is the writer who converts her sorrows to poetry. Who speaks volumes without speaking. Speak up, for her.

You have a voice. Speak up, for her.

You have a voice. Speak up, for her. (photo: Baby Z proudly supports #SpeakOut tabarakAllah, mashaAllah)

Today is February 14th 2015. Valentines day: a day to celebrate love. Love is defined as a special, sacred bond of deep affection shared between individuals. However, many within our communities are not celebrating love. Many are entrapped in a difficult cycle: the cycle of abuse. It does not discriminate. Men, women, and children are all affected and violence is not fifty shades of grey.

If you have not already heard from Kim K’s tweet, this year a racy film will also be released just in time for the occasion. The book and film itself are shocking to those who have experienced abusive relationships, as the film romanticizes abuse.

But, this post is not about Fifty Shades of Grey-the book or movie.

Rather, we hope to use the fame and platform that both the book and film will generate to shine light a problem within our communities.

Why are we taking the time to talk about this issue?

Research has shown that 1 in 4 women from around the world will be a victim of violent abuse in her lifetime. Within our communities, especially our Muslims communities, abuse can be a taboo topic. The environment created around even mentioning the topic of domestic violence is met by harsh glances, stares, and forced apathy. It is not our business to pry into the private life of others-this much is true, but if we cannot be receptive to those who are in need of help, then we have failed one another. Many of us live in a confusing culture; on one spectrum the issue is hushed over and on the other in a society that promotes movies like Fifty Shades. Enough said.

A recent study of 57 closed-case files from an American Muslim women’s shelter revealed that 37% had experienced multiple types of abuse, 23% experienced physical abuse, and 12% experienced emotional abuse.1

In a study of 190 Muslims seeking mental health counseling in Northern Virginia, 41% experienced domestic violence in the form of verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Victims were 71% adult females, 12% adult males, and 16% children. 60% of all clients experienced verbal or psychological abuse in their lifetime, 50% physical abuse, 14% sexual abuse, and 3% reported having a relative killed.2

So, what can we do?

We are not counselors or therapists. Not wanting to make familial situations worse, sometimes it feels as if there is nothing we can do to help…however that is not that case. There is always hope!

Here at Handbags and Hijabs we’re going to be running a series of posts under the tag #ViolenceIsntFiftyShadesOfGrey. We will be doing research within our communities to learn about programs that exist to help those in unfortunate situations.

A few key points to keep in mind are:

  1. Be aware. Be open and more importantly able to listen. Once we open ourselves up to be supportive to individuals undergoing situations of domestic abuse, Those in need will only be wiling to speak up if they know that someone is willing to listen.
  2. Speak Out. Dialogue. Talk. You shouldnot advise someone if you do not have the proper training or experience. But, you can speak up about your stance, and speak out against violence. It is important to realize that many victims feel guilty for the situations they are in. When we express our views against violence, we are emphasizing to those who reach out that they should not feel bad in doing so.
  3. Reach out to your community. Talk to our local communities. Ensure there are programs for women, men and child where they can go for support. You do not have create them, many times programs are out there, but taking the time to find them, find out what they’re about, and support them!

Our research will be bringing you organizations and support centers that are actively working to help in this cause. Insha’Allah with each post we will highlight the work and efforts of these organizations to further strengthen their efforts, promote awareness and ultimately help save lives.

The first group who’s initiatives we would like to highlight is the Thakaat Foundation. Thakaat Foundation is not your ordinary volunteer group. Thakaat is innovative and constantly tackling real-hard-issues yet are determined to find silver linings. At Thakaat the issue of domestic violence is headed by executive director Uzma Banwany. Uzma’s energy and support really helped move this project forward. Thakaat has two campaigns to promote awareness, the first of which is known as their Break The Silence campaign. Break The Silence is their year round project. This project aims to shed light on the increasing instances of violence against women in order to create a world where women and girls are safe from violence. This initiative is not just a local effort but has hopes that raising awareness at home can honor the plight of women worldwide. Proceeds from the Break The Silence campaign assist women in Ghana, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

Thakaat also does a L.O.V.E campaign every February. L.O.V.E or Love Over Violence Everywhere encourages others to SPEAK UP to for their raise awareness. The love campaign allows you to send a Valentine’s day card with to someone you love with a donation made in their name. You can unite with Thakaat in SPEAKING UP by contributing a donation on the L.O.V.E. Campaign webpage, www.tinyurl.com/lovethywoman.

This initiative was inspired by a sister who reached out to me, we hope you find this insightful and join us on this journey. Speak up, for her.

  1. Abdullah, Keilani. “A peaceful ideal, violent realities: A study on Muslim female domestic violence survivors.” In: Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri (Eds.) Change from within: Diverse perspectives on domestic violence in Muslim communities. Great Falls, VA: Peaceful Families Project, 2007. 69-89.
  2. Abugideiri, Salma Elkadi. “Domestic violence among Muslims seeking mental health counseling.” Change from within: Diverse perspectives on domestic violence in Muslim communities. Eds. Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri. Great Falls, VA: Peaceful Families Project, 2007. 91-115.

#‎ChapelHillShooting‬

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Keep the victims and their families in your continuous prayers.

Keep the victims and their families in your continuous prayers.

Last night I was shaken to my core.

Because last night… Hate you won.

Ignorance, you dominated.

Propaganda, you laughed.

Fear, you persevered.

Media, you ignored.

Victims of ‪#‎ChapelHill‬ looked like my friends. They looked like me.

But they were not like me, they were better.

They helped others. They strove to make the world a better place. They helped the poor and needy, children and refugees. This is how they embodied their faith, but because of the twisted lens of the media, they died for it.

Please make a dua’a for their families. Remember them in your prayers.

If you don’t understand what an American Muslim is or what they believe. Then talk to one, study, learn, observe, question, dialogue. Allow yourself to understand that the way you see the world (or the way the world has been shown to you) could be missing pieces.

But haters don’t talk. They don’t look, listen, hear. They are blind to that. They don’t have a race, religion, or culture. They simply are. And last night, Hate, you won.

Indeed to God we belong, and to Him we return.
And in Him do we never lose our trust. ‪#‎InGodWeTrust

Protectors of Qur’an-A Student’s Observational Reflection

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Little girl on the sisters balcony listening intently to Ashara Qi'rat (the 10 different styles of recitation)

Little girl on the sisters balcony listening intently to Ashara Qi’rat (the 10 different styles of Quranic recitation)

Simply said we’re the generation that gets the majority of all our knowledge from the internet. Including our Islamic knowledge. As someone who cherishes the wealth of knowledge that can be found the internet; the best way I can describe the difference in experience from an online class verses being in a Masjid is the difference between the stars and the sun. You can appreciate the beauty of the stars but there’s a distant feeling to it. Whereas the sun stares you in the face, it impacts you in a greater way, it forces you to respond it to. Both are brilliant sources of knowledge but there is a difference that we so easily forget. While everything is available to us at our fingertips, its empowering but at the same time, there is the understanding that we can’t Hulu-ify our ilm or Netflix binge it. It’s the subtle difference of understanding how to use and maximize our online resources without becoming solely dependent on them.

With that being said, Alhumdulilah I was able to attend the Protectors of Quran program this past Saturday and I wanted to share some of my experience and observations while there in hopes that it might be of benefit to us: the Netflix/Hulu Binge-ilm-seeking generation. These are simple observations, and not “lecture gems” ie: this is what I saw and observed outside of the topic being discussed by the Shayuk that I would not have noticed or observed in an online setting.

1. My teacher sat on the floor. Which is not unusual in the slightest bit. However, what was-or at least appeared to be-was that there was two couches in the masjid. One for Ustadh and one for his Shaykh. His Shaykh sat in the chair and Ustadh sat on the floor. I was sort of blown away, because in an online setting we lose that adab. Not completely-but when you’re behind a computer screen it’s easy to become complacent, easy to want to lay down, grab something to eat, change browsers, be on your phone while listening to an Islamic lecture. I know many of us do not do these things, but this observation was a reminder to myself to respect the ilm being passed along and never to become complacent when sitting in front of the Quran and a teacher, even if it is behind a screen.

2. My teacher hugged people for a long time. After the program my sister and I noticed that Ustadh hugged people that he met with and he hugged them for a long time. We all go to jummah and Eid prayer so you know how it works, you say salam, smile and hug people for five seconds and move on, sometimes the hug is like a pat on the back. From the sisters’ balcony I noticed the elderly “uncles” seemed surprised by it, they even seemed to be stiff at first before hugging back. I was shocked at how the simple gesture had lost it’s meaning. How as a community we claim to love each other and the ummah but doing simple things like offering one another a smile or even a real hug is so rare that it is noticeable and strange to us at the same time. Later I learned that Ustadh was actually giving each person a dua’a.

3. Being in a masjid-as your center of learning vs online (I would go even further to say a masjid vs even a regular classroom)is a totally different ball game. Alhumdulilah, over the past two years I’ve had many transformative experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but omA, I truly wish we could have our classes in a masjid or that each one of us could experience that. Because when Ustadh says, “Might be a good idea to pray two nawafl…” during a lecture and you’re at home and your bed is two feet away, nawafl prayer seems like a pleasant, distant idea. But when you’re in the masjid-there is literally nothing stopping you from making those nawafil prayers, or picking up a Quran and practicing your recitation, but there is something even more difficult to do when you’re at home surround by your “stuff” and that is to sit down, breath deeply, quietly cutting yourself off from everyone and connecting directly to Allah SWT saying “la ilaha illallah illallah.”

Finding Home #SeerahClass Reflection 2

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558906_439372286127052_298472334_nIt has been a year since the last Seerah reflection. A year of the careful following and learning in one of the most in depth encounters of the life of Muhammad (S). I pray that you take a minute to send salaam on our Nabi (S) before reading this.

After going back week after week, despite exams, illness, and life in general, I finally gained the courage to ask myself the big question: what brought me back? Why was it that every tuesday I left friends, study groups, or even dinners to find optimal wifi and connect to Qalam’s seerah class live? What brought me back-besides the mercy of Allah SWT-what were my reasons?

I couldn’t answer it right away.

And, then I found a connection. I found something so powerful that I couldn’t ever put in words for the longest time. Learning seerah was empowering to me, as a young woman.

Yes.

It’s true.

We live in an age, where as an ummah of strong young women, we are struggling with our identity. Where as a society the push of feminism is sometimes undefinable and very confusing. Where we-young muslim women-think we’re suppose to do “something more, that has never done before” to show that Muslim women are active society members, educated and outgoing. That we are suppose to be fashion forward and covered, strong and yet bashful, opinionated yet agreeable, peaceful yet active. What’s the problem with that? The problem is that all those words are opposites of each other. How many opposites must I be? Where does the balance lie? Why do so many of my wonderful peers feel compelled to be one or other? Then they vehemently crush others who are unlike them, and then inadevertenly crush themselves on the inside.

And it is among this jungle of lost and confused identities that I find myself comforted by the seerah. Comforted by the life that our Nabi (S) chose to live; where men and women are given their due, there is no need for a movement, a fight and assertion of rights. In learning seerah, I find myself, my identity, my home.

I am empowered by the fact that my Nabi (S) married a women that was older than him, Khadijah (R). This helps me deal with the plight that many women face today of becoming “too old” for a vicious marriage market.

I am empowered by the fact Rasoolullah (S) married a successful business women, whom he worked for as a merchant. This helps me deal with the societal assertion that “successful” women are a threat and that their success always comes through some sort of underhanded fluke. That a good man might see a successful woman as threatening rather than a good companion.

I am empowered the fact that the first person to accept Islam was a woman. The first person to encourage our prophet (S) and support him, was his beloved wife. This helps me understand that my role as a female supporter and igniter of deen is vital.

I am empowered by the fact that the Prophet (S) had four daughters. That they were a source of pride, love and comfort for him. This helps me value my role as a daughter is to be a source of comfort and pride.

I am strengthened by Fatima (R), the littlest daughter of the Prophet (S), who stood beside her father when he was persecuted in Mecca. This helps me understand that strength and bravery is not age limited.

I am in awe by Asma (R) who bravely assisted in the hijrah of Rasoolullah (S) and her father Abu Bakr (R). Whose cleverness and alertness averted the blame of her Grandfather on Abu Bakr (R). This helps me value cleverness and tactical thinking during a time when our exchanges have been abbreviated to: LOL, OMG like watevs.

I am inspired by the Prophet (S)’s young wife Aisha(R) because she was a beacon of scholarship and knowledge. I am inspired by her ability to express her thoughts, ideas and feelings to Rasoolullah(S) without fear of reproach.

I am in love with the playfulness of Rasoolullah (S) and his wife Aisha(R). That a simple exchange between them quite simply out does any of the “love” stories that Hollywood and Bollywood spends millions to sell to us.

I am empowered that women who lived in Islam during the time of Rasoolullah (S) held importance in their homes as well as in society simply because it was-and is-a truth. That he (S) lived justice and equality so there was never a need to fight for it. That the women around him (S) were marvelous in action because he inspired the best in all people. That where Rasoolullah (S) saw potential, men and women rose to the occasion.

And when I need strength, when I feel overwhelmed by circumstances, I need just a reminder of what I’m doing with my life and why, I need only listen to a small part of the life story of a man who inspirited others-whomever they might-simply by believing in them and giving them faith. This allows me to identify myself, and though there is a distance of one thousand plus years, this brings me home. May Allah SWT bless our Nabi (S), his (S) family, his (S) companions and his (S) ummah. What a treasure.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sharing this reflection on the far-reaching efforts of Maulana Abdul Nasir Jangda and Qalam Institute and the seerah podcast series! Only a great teacher inspires students. While nothing matches sitting in a masjid and at the feet of a scholar, who can be opposed to learning small gems from the life of the Rasoolullah by any means possible? Links are in the Library of Gems to tune into live seerah class and access podscasts! Thanks for reading!

“I’m just going to call you ‘Lord’ because I don’t know what else to call you” How I came To Islam

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"the day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible or yours.”

“The day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible for yours.”

Guest post by: Jessenia Ortiz. She works as an editorial manager for a electronic publishing company. When she is not working she likes to spend time with her family, her 3yr old and her husband. Sister Jessie is pursuing hifdhs and spends most of her time memorizing the Quran. She enjoys traveling, and her last big trip was umrah. 

I read a novel entitled “If I should speak” by Umm Zakiyah. This book contains some ayahs of the Quran and Hadiths woven into the story. That novel led me to read the English translation of the Quran, which eventually led to me taking my shahada.

The author included the hadith that says:

“O evil soul, come out to the wrath and anger of Allaah.’ Then his soul disperses in his body and is dragged out like a skewer being pulled out of wet wool…”

This shook me to my core. For 3 days it was all I kept thinking about. I couldn’t believe my God could do something like that (although I did feel inside myself that it was true). After that, I told myself I have to find out what else is in that book, so started reading the Quran.

My journey towards “finding” Allah (the Arabic word for God) really started early around age 5. That was when my grandmother taught me how to pray.  I did include intermediaries in my prayers but I always wondered why I couldn’t pray to Allah directly. I never understood the 3 in 1 God. (Alhamdulillah).

I grew up going to Catholic school and attending church with my grandmother. I learned about the Prophets, perhaps because we were children we were not taught all the negative things that the Bible says about them. I still remember that when I was little, going to Catholic school, I wanted to grow up and be a nun. They seemed so close to Allah. I use to sit in church asking (God) Allah to help me love that religion, if it was the right one. I always wondered why do we say “Thank you God for your son our lord”; why not worship the one that created the “son”?

The first time I was exposed to Islam was actually in my global studies class in high school. Ironically, it was a Jewish teacher who told us about Islam. Alhamdulilah, he presented it clearly, he said Muslims face the Kabah 5 times a day and pray. He even told us how they prostrated on the floor to pray. I thought to myself, if there is anyway to pray to God that is the best way. Unbeknownst to me, while my teacher was telling us about Islam in school, my older sister was also learning about Islam. She would become Muslim that year; it would take me 13 more years to enter into Islam.

My sister did her best to explain Islam to me and in my mind I couldn’t see the difference from what I believed and what she believed. At that point, I had started praying to Allah directly. I still remember that I would say to Allah “I’m just going to call you ‘Lord’ because I don’t know what else to call you”.

As the years passed my sister and her husband would always try to give me dawah (invitation to Islam) but it always seemed that I would have to stop believing in all the prophets (peace be upon them) and believe in a new prophet–Muhammad (peace be upon him). I just couldn’t give them up. Yet, they tried their best but guidance is in the hands of Allah alone.

After some years my sister and her husband moved to MD and put their children in a school called Al Huda. When I asked them what the name of the school meant they said “guidance to the straight path.” After learning that, I always use to pray “Lord, guide me to the straight path“. It was during one of those visits to MD that I my oldest niece just gave me the new novel written by a sister from their community. She gave me the novel, and a copy of the Quran in English. She didn’t say much except “maybe you’ll find it interesting.” I read the novel and didn’t really feel connected, but when I got to hadith quoted within the story (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) it all changed. While the story was from the imagination of the author, the Hadith and the Quranic ayat were real. In my heart felt “this is the truth” so it led me to read the Quran.

I, then, started reading the English translation of the Quran. It was amazing. I couldn’t put it down. I had tried to read the Bible but every time I tried, I kept falling asleep (literally on the book). As I read the meaning of the Quran it just confirmed what I already believed. The Quran told the stories for all the prophets and told the stories of the most upright men in history including Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them).

When I use to read ayat that refer to the disbelievers I use to wonder who those people where. My sister broke the news to me that I was the disbeliever. Finally, I was getting ready to say the shahada but I was still weary. It was a couple years after 9/11 and I just didn’t want to be associated with people who could do something like that. My sister gave me the best advice. She said “the day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible for yours.”

 I took my shahada on October 3, 2004. It was the same night that Muhammad Alshareef (founder of Al Maghrib Institute) gave his farewell speech at Al Huda school. I still remember him saying “There is only one way towards God. Sometimes you stumble upon the truth. You have a choice you can take it or you can dust yourself off and walk away”. I called my sister after the lecture was over and I took my shahada over the phone with the whole family.

When I look back I think, Subhannallah, Allah is the best of planners. He planned out my path so perfectly. There were and are so many tiny details along the way from before Islam up until now. I always make dua that Allah let keeps me on the straight path and never lets me go astray. Ameen.

Quranic Reflections: Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

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Quranic Reflections: Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

Guest Post by Salitah Qureshi. She has completed her master’s in bioethics. She currently working with research centers to help study and provide better health care to the south asian community of NYC. Her interests include traveling, playing sports including badminton and volleyball and creating artwork and calligraphy.

Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

حَتّٰٓى اِذَاۤ اَتَوۡا عَلٰى وَادِ النَّمۡلِۙ قَالَتۡ نَمۡلَةٌ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ ادۡخُلُوۡا مَسٰكِنَكُمۡۚ لَا يَحۡطِمَنَّكُمۡ سُلَيۡمٰنُ وَجُنُوۡدُهٗۙ وَهُمۡ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ.

Until, when they (Prophet Suleiman and his army of men, jinn, and birds) came to the valley of the ants, an ant said, “O ants! Enter your dwellings so that Suleiman and his hosts may not crush you while they do not perceive.”

We studied Surah Naml today, and this ayah was so amazing to understand. In this ayah, an ant is warning its fellow ants about Suleiman (A) and his army approaching, so that they may move out of the way and not get crushed. But the way Allah has said these ayahs is truly amazing. So much depth!

First, Quran is talking about how animals talk! There are so many people, companies, even scientists studying animal behavior, trying to figure out their language even teaching animals to talk. There was an article about how an ape was able to understand 450 words. For instance for the word pizza he would point at cheese, tomato and bread. I believe his name was Kanzi. There are talking dog collars, etc. So much time and money has been spent on these studies, experiments and devices just so we can ‘understand animals’. And here Allah has so simply shown us at least one animal/insect talking! This was 1300-1400 years ago! I found it amazing…it reminded me of when I was little and would feed the pigeons and pretend to talk to them and use my imagination on how they would reply. I can only imagine how this ant would have sounded!

Secondly, in this one ayah the ant was able to portray many emotions! The ant Felt, Called, Warned, Advised, Emphasized, Commanded, Clarified and Forbade! In the ayah instead of ‘ya naml’ the word ‘ya-ayuhanaml’ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ is used…the first one would have been fine to call the ants, but why use the longer word, instead? Because in Arabic increasing the letters in a word increases the meaning of the word, therefore by using this specific word it bring attention…like a flood warning on tv…ALERT! Big and Bold, so you don’t miss it…in this case so it grabs the attention of the ants and they don’t miss it.

Then there is the use of the word ادۡخُلُوۡا which is a masculine word. Masculine is used for things that are animate (not inanimate). Here it shows that animals are intelligent creatures. The ant is commanding the other ants to get into their own homes. You have seen an ant farm, with all its tunnels beneath the ground. Do you think 1300 years ago people knew how ants homes are like? From the top all you see is a hole. But each ant has its own home and knows where its home is! So the ant is advising the ants to go to their individual homes!

Then the ant says ‘they won’t perceive it‘ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ …if you were to step on an ant do you feel it? You don’t, unlike if you were to step on a cat or dog or mouse (please don’t step on animals). So the ant knows they would not be noticed and get stepped on. But that is not the only thing it knows….it is also aware of who is coming: Prophet Suleiman. And the ant just doesn’t say Suleiman (A) and an army are coming, it attributes the entire army to Suleiman (A) and says, Suleiman (A) and HIS army is coming. It shows the respect a tiny ant had for him.

The ayah was so amazing, so much brain leakage by just one ayah and that too about an ant! I remember when i was younger someone told me that the Prophet (saw) would watch where he was going and not step on any ants…I don’t know how true this is, but when I heard it I always tried my best to not step on a single ant. And now to read and understand even a little of this ayah about the ant made all the side stepping worth it.

Ants are very small and I would say humble creatures. In the big world they get trampled upon by people even if they don’t mean any harm. However, this ayah shows the ant to be wise. It is able to carry on its own (ants can carry 10-100- some even say 1000 times their body weight) and they even make a big impact on the ecosystem. So even in this big complicated world, there is always space for the small, humble people.

Quranic Reflection Series

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Ya Allah Make My Best day the day that I meet You. AmeenAs-salaamuailkum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuhu,

Ramadan Mubarak! Excited to start a new series this Ramadan with some pretty amazing people inshaAllah. The Quranic Reflection series will include posts that reflect on ayat from the Quran or one of the 99 Names of Allah (SWT) in hopes to get closer to ALLAH the Creator and Maker of the Universe.

We pray that He accepts our efforts. The only way to know Allah SWT is to reflect on his words (Quran) and learn his attributes (99 Names). In this way we hope to foster our relationship with Him, he is after all, Al-Wali-the Greatest of friends.

We hope you join us on this journey!

Xx

H&H