Maria Zafar

Written by

March 8, 2020


As a woman, one of my favourite quotes is: “Here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”

Yep, these 16 words sum up exactly what it’s like to be a woman nowadays.

We’re still facing challenges for equal representation. We’re still grasping for equal (access to) resources. And, we’re still demanding equal respect.

Shocking isn’t it? Well, here at Islamic Relief, we know all too well the impact gender inequality has on not just women and girls, but their families and entire communities.

We see how, women and girls are more likely to struggle against poverty, to be unable to read and write, and to be denied the right to earn their own income.

That’s why it’s critical that we keep raising our voices. This International Women’s Day, we’re doing exactly that!

This year’s theme is #EachforEqual. And we couldn’t agree more!

Yes, we need equal pay, equal representation, equal rights, equal spaces and equal access to resources! We all need to be treated equally – whatever our gender!

So, with that in mind, we’d like to share amazing stories of women who – despite the challenges – have carved out their own spaces. They’ve inspired change, they’ve fought for the rights of other women, and they’ve defied stereotypes.

Quite frankly: they’re just pretty awesome! So, in no particular order, here are our six inspirational Muslim women who you need to know!

1. Khadija bint Khuwaylid (RA)

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Possibly the most famous Muslim women in the era of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is Khadija (RA). Yes, Prophet Muhammad’s first wife.

Born in 555AD in present-day Saudi Arabia, Khadijah was well ahead of her time. Not only was she a successful entrepreneur BUT she also defied some other stereotypes of her own. She declared her interest in marrying Prophet Muhamad (SAW) and once a married couple, she continued to work and to be a great success.

As well as being financially successful, Khadija was also important in Prophet Muhammad’s spiritual journey. She was in fact, the first Muslim (as someone to accept Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood).

Yes, upon receiving the first revelation, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was naturally scared and confused. Yet Khadija believed her husband, encouraging him and supporting him right until her death in Makkah in 619AD.

2. Fahma Mohammed

 

Born in the Netherlands, Fahma is most-well known for leading a popular campaign against FGM. Whilst volunteering for anti-FGM charity Integrate in Bristol back in 2011, she was shocked by the horrors of this violent practice.

So, Fahma decided to do something about it. She launched her own campaign in 2014 with The Guardian, calling on then Education Secretary Michael Gove to promote awareness of FGM in schools to help tackle the issue.

Her petition was a great success – reaching 230,000 signatures – and Fahma later met with Mr Gove and inspired compulsory FGM-awareness training for public sector workers to raise doctors’, teachers’ and social workers’ understanding of the risk posed to girls.

If that wasn’t enough, Fahma also met former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and has also been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bristol!

3. Fatima al-Fihri

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Image: LLUCO / Shutterstock.com

Originally from Kairouan (Tunisia), Fatima is an inspiration to women and educators alike. Why? Well, she founded the first and oldest-surviving madrasah and university in the world!

Yes, Al-Qarawiyyn mosque and university in Fez (Morocco) was founded and built (under supervision) by Fatima with the inheritance she received from her father. The mosque took a whopping 18 years to be completed. The university then followed.

This beautiful site – which is named after her hometown – can still be visited today. In fact, it’s also near Al-Andalus, the mosque that her sister Maryam built!

Wow, what a family masha’Allah!

4. Aina Khan OBE

Managing Director of Aina Khan Law Solicitors, Aina is a family law specialist and member of the International Bar Association with almost 30 years’ experience.

As well as running her own legal firm, Aina also founded a growing women’s rights campaign “Register Our Marriage”, which is calling for the establishment of legal civil marriages alongside religious ceremonies.

The movement’s aims are designed to protect women’s financial, emotional and spiritual wellbeing with full legal protections under UK law. This includes predominantly Muslim women.

The campaign has featured on BBC Asian Network, and Aina also recently met the UK’s Special Advisor on Faith to the Prime Minister and the government’s Senior Policy Advisor on Faith at 10 Downing Street.

Yep, Aina is certainly top of her field!

5. Poetic Pilgrimage

As a Muslim woman, I know all about the stereotypes out there… Quiet. Shy. Haven’t got much to say…

Uh, I don’t think so! We have plenty to say!

So, that’s why it’s so great when we see Muslim women being proud, strong and unapologetically themselves! And that’s definitely true for this duo (yes that means two people not one – you’ve caught me out!).

Ladies and gents, say hello to: Poetic Pilgrimage. This is where Islam meets poetry, beats, music and spirituality.

Yes, Poetic Pilgrimage is a British Muslim music duo founded by Sukina Douglas and Muneera Rashid in 2002. The declared “Hip Hop Hijabis”, they are THE female faces of “Muslim hip hop”.

Mixing hip hop, reggae and spoken word, they’re not only performers. Nope! They’re educators and role models for many Muslims alike. They particularly raise the profile of Black British Muslims.

If you’re not familiar with them, I’d definitely check them out!

6. Nadiya Hussain

After bursting onto our television screens in 2015 for the “Great British Bake Off”, Nadiya has now become a national sensation. Since her win, she famously baked a cake for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday and was featured on the BBC News’ 100 Women List.

Sharing her delicious recipes through her books and variety of BBC TV series, she’s also become a mental health advocate. If that wasn’t enough, she’s also raising the profile of Muslim women across the UK.

Nadiya has shown the world that it’s ok to struggle with our mental health, that Muslim women need representation on TV and that of course, we’re just like everyone else! Great job Nadiya!

 

Of course, these are just a few of the many inspiring Muslim women throughout history and across the globe today. Like them, we need to continue challenging stereotypes, breaking down barriers and demanding that women and girls have equal access to opportunities.

With so many women disproportionality battling poverty, inequality and violence, we must take action today. Millions of women and girls across the globe deserve so much better.

So, find out how you can call for #EachForEqual by clicking on the link below. Stand up for women and take action today!

TAKE ACTION

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