Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem, I will be giving a lecture at the end of this month in CT in’sha’Allaah. If your in the area please do come out! Title is “How the Qur’aan saved my Life and My Children’s Life!”
by: Yasmina Blackburn
I often get into debates with people about women in Islam. How we dress. How we don’t dress. What we think or don’t think or should-be-thinking. I get into debates about feminism. What it is and what it isn’t. I think I’ve spawned permanent foes because I don’t care to apply the label, feminist, to describe myself. (I’m not one for labels, sorry. But if it’s even required of me, “Muslim woman” suits me just fine.) But if we could agree for a moment that there exists a pure definition of the word feminist to mean: awesomely fierce to the millionth degree, then I’d like to introduce you to Islam’s first feminist.
Her name is Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. She was the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him.) And she is one of the people that I think about when I face or debate issues surrounding women today. Khadija’s existence precedes mine by more than 1,400 years; and, if I can at the very least, continuously strive to emulate her character, I will consider myself a success in life.
7 things you might not know about the awesomely fierce, Khadija (may God be pleased with her):
1. She was a successful and esteemed business woman.
I would give anything to do an on-the-job, ride-along with Khadija. Gladly swipe my car for a camel- my laptop for a government-issued glass weight to measure goods in trade. What could I learn in one day of shadowing this highly-respected business leader, trading furniture, pottery and silks? Khadija was born to a father who was a successful merchant in their Quraysh tribe of Mecca. She inherited her father’s skills in a time in history where society was male-dominated and dangerous. Upon her father’s death, she took over the business and traded goods through the primary commerce centers at that time, from Mecca to Syria and to Yemen, hiring the most trustworthy men of character to brave the dangerous trade routes. Her business was larger than all of the Quraysh trades combined and the most acclaimed with a reputation of fair-dealing and high-quality goods. She had a keen eye and was highly intuitive, earning the monikers, Ameerat-Quraysh (“Princess of Quraysh”) and al-Tahira (“The Pure One”) due to her stellar reputation. Khadija knew what she was doing business-wise, never compromising her modesty or integrity to succeed in the male-dominated trades- hiring only those that could meet these standards. Glass ceiling? Hah! 1,400 years ago, yes, Khadija shattered it.
2. She turned down many marriage proposals.
Being the most successful woman around, rich in worldly attainment as well as character, it seems Khadija faced a consistent campaign of men seeking her hand in marriage. She was married twice before her wedlock to the Prophet; both of these marriages produced children and both left her widowed. Her keen sense of character left her picky; and, she was less than eager to suffer another painful loss of a husband. She resigned herself to being a widowed woman taking care of herself and her family. Until …
3. She asked the Prophet to marry her.
Love comes when you aren’t looking, or so I have heard. (And experienced.) Khadija learned of the stellar character of Muhammad as well as his experience managing caravans on the trade routes accompanying his uncle, Abu Talib. She hired him into her conglomerate. Marriages at this time were typically necessary for survival and not always about love as we know it in today’s world. Khadija didn’t need a husband to take care of her financially. And Muhammad did not have the means to seek a wife. She fell in love with him, and through a friend, asked him to marry her. (He said yes.)
4. She was 15 years older than Muhammad.
If Khadija’s story hasn’t broken stereotypes about Islam yet, it might intrigue you to know that she was 40 years old when she married Muhammad. He was 25.
5. She was an ideal wife; theirs was a true love story.
“Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (Qur’an 2:187)
Taking multiple wives was a common practice, yet Khadija and Muhammad’s marriage was monogamous until her death 25 years later. Muhammad’s prophethood began during his marriage to Khadija, when he received the first of God’s revelations through the Angel Gabriel that left him frightened, strained and feeling alone when no one believed in him. Khadija comforted her husband and encouraged him during the most difficult days of his life. She bore him 6 children. He loved no one more than Khadija during his lifetime.
6. She was the first Muslim.
Khadija, the mother of Islam, was the first person on earth to accept Muhammad as the final prophet of God and accept the revelations that culminated into the Holy Qur’an. She was greeted with “Salam” (peace) by God himself as well as the Angel Gabriel. She bequeathed her worldly goods and put herself in the face of danger to stand by the Prophet Muhammad as Islam became established in the land.
7. She spent her worldly riches on the poor.
In Islam, whether rich or poor, one’s financial condition is a test. Khadija gave her earnings to the poor and to the orphans, to the widows and the sick. She helped poor girls get married and provided their dowry.
Khadija was one of history’s most remarkable women. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said that the four greatest women of mankind were: Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Fatima bint Muhammad (his youngest daughter,) Mary bint Emran (the Virgin Mary) and Asiya bint Muzahim (the wife of Pharaoh.) Khadija continues to inspire people to this day who revere her for taking great care of the Prophet of Islam and for showing the world, through her behavior, what a pious, modest and courageous woman can accomplish. The example she left for mankind remains timeless.
I was 21 and living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a bad time to be a Muslim. But after four years of studying, poking and prodding at world religions and their adherents, I decided to take the plunge.
Questions and answers
I am the product of a Creole Catholic and an Irish atheist. I grew up Catholic, then was agnostic, now I’m Muslim.
My journey to Islam began when I was about 15 years old in Mass and had questions about my faith. The answers from teachers and clergymen — don’t worry your pretty little head about it — didn’t satisfy me.
So I did what any red-blooded American would do: the opposite. I worried about it. For many years. I questioned the nature of religion, man and the universe.
After questioning everything I was taught to be true and digging through rhetoric, history and dogma, I found out about this strange thing called Islam. I learned that Islam is neither a culture nor a cult, nor could it be represented by one part of the world. I came to realize Islam is a world religion that teaches tolerance, justice and honor and promotes patience, modesty and balance.
As I studied the faith, I was surprised many of the tenants resonated with me. I was pleased to find that Islam teaches its adherents to honor all prophets, from Moses to Jesus to Mohammed, all of whom taught mankind to worship one God and to conduct ourselves with higher purpose.
I was drawn to Islam’s appeal to intellect and heartened by the prophet Mohammed’s quote, “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female.”
I was astounded that science and rationality were embraced by Muslim thinkers such as Al-Khawarizmi, who invented algebra; Ibn Firnas, who developed the mechanics of flight before Leonardo DaVinci; and Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, who is the father of modern surgery.
Here was a religion telling me to seek out answers and use my intellect to question the world around me.
Taking the plunge
It was 2001, and I had been putting off converting for a while. I feared what people would think but was utterly miserable. When 9/11 happened, the actions of the hijackers horrified me. But in its aftermath, I spent most of my time defending Muslims and their religion to people who were all too eager to paint a group of 1.6 billion people with one brush because of the actions of a few.
I was done being held hostage by the opinions of others. In defending Islam, I got over my fear and decided to join my brothers and sisters in the faith I believed in.
My family did not understand, but it wasn’t a surprise to them since I had been studying religion. Most were very concerned for my safety. Luckily, most of my friends were cool about it, and even curious to learn more.
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Haleh Banani is the first female to host a program for Al-Fajr TV called “With Haleh” which combines the principles of psychology and Islam to help people reach their full potential and overcome their challenges. She has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from University of Houston, graduating Magma Cum Laude. She has over 10 years experience in diagnosing mental and emotional disorders and administrating programs of treatment.
HalehBanani.com was established in order to address the needs of the Ummah from a psychological perspective. She conducts webinars and teaches tools that empower her audience emotionally and helps improve their relationships. This website will allow people internationally to seek professional help from her through phone & Skype therapy. Her focus is counseling individuals and couples to build stronger relationships, improve their lives and through her therapy helps people suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-esteem issues. She empowers her clients with unequivocal amount of enthusiasm, compassion and support. Read the rest of this entry →