Thursday, July 25, 2013

Motherhood and Ramadan

"When she has her first baby, she must manage for another life even more dependent on her personal sacrifices. By the second, third, or fourth child, her days and nights belong almost entirely to others. Whether she has a spiritual path or not, such a mother can seldom resist a glance at the past, when there were more prayers, more meanings, more spiritual company, and more serenity. 

When Allah opens her understanding, she will see that she is engaged in one of the highest forms of worship, that of producing new believers who love and worship Allah. She is effectively worshipping Allah for as many lifetimes she has children, for the reward of every spiritual work her children do will be hers, without this diminishing anything of their own rewards: every ablution, every prayer, every Ramadan, every hajj, and even the works her children will in turn pass on to their offspring, and, so on till the end of time. 

Even if her children do not turn out as she wishes, she shall be requited in paradise forever according to her intention in raising them, which was that they should be godly. Aside from the tremendous reward, within the path itself it is noticeable that many of those who benefit most from khalwa or 'solitary retreat of dhikr' are women who have raised children. With only a little daily dhikr and worship over the years, but much toil and sacrifice for others, they surpass many a younger person who has had more free time, effort, and 'spiritual works.' What they find is greater because their state with Allah is greater; namely, the awe, hope, and love of the Divine they have realized by years of sincerity to Him." 

- Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 30: Asma' Bint Abu Bakr

30 days of Ramadan and 30 amazing women - I took up this challenge not knowing what would unfold for me. A range of women from across Muslim history that I had never heard or known of before. Blame media? At the end of the month, I blame all of us for not trying harder to record our histories, to learn from Qur'an, hadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet pbuh) and the lives of early Muslims, or to try harder ourselves to find out about the women who were stronger, more enlightened, braver, and more sacrificing than many women I hear of today. 
The final story of Ramadan, I thought, would be best if covered one of the most amazing women Islam has produced. The daughter of Hazrat Abu Bakar (the first caliph of Islam and the first "man" after Muhammad pbuh to enter Islam) and the older sister of Hazrat Ayesha (wife of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) - her name is Asma bint Abu Bakar. There are lessons in her life which cover every aspect that has been talked about throughout this Ramadan series - ranging from sacrifice, support and bravery. At the same time, her story includes lessons in being an exceptional daughter, wife and mother. 
A brave daughter: 
Asma bint Abu Bakar was the seventeenth person to accept Islam. When the persecutions towards the Muslims of Mecca reached their zenith, Allah swt ordered the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to migrate to Medina with the early Muslims for their safety. After his followers had safely migrated to Medina, the Holy Prophet migrated alone with Abu Bakar Siddiq as the enemies were plotting against his life. On their way to Medina, they hid in the cave of Thawr for three nights. 

Her faith in Allah was enough for her sustenance. Abu Bakar had taken all of the property of the house with him when migrating with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). When Abu Quhafa, her grandfather came to her and said, "this man put you in adversity. He deprived you of himself and property." Asma told him that their father had left a lot for them and covered some stones and brought them to the old man who could not see either due to age. Her grand father said, "There is no blame if left that" hence satisfying him in his old age.  

It was during this time that Asma endangered her life for the Prophet of Islam and her father as well as for her faith. She was called the possessor of the two scarves as she split her scarf into two parts in order to deliver food and water to the Prophet (pbuh) and her father. Abu Jahl was furious and tried to force Asma to disclose where they were hiding but she faced him bravely and kept silent. Having given up, he left Asma who safely joined the Muslims in Medina which is where she gave birth to the first new born of Islam Abdullah.

A caring wife:
At the beginning of her marital life, her husband Az-Zubair had little money and no property except a camel and a horse. She helped her husband by taking care of the cooking of the house, its cleaning and feeding of the horse.

She is quoted to have said that she would carry the date stones on her head a distance of two miles from her house. One day, during this chore, she came across Prophet Muhammad with some Ansari men. Seeing her carrying weight on her head alone, he called out to her and offered to ride with her to her home on a camel. She was shy to travel alone as there were other men with him too and she felt it would hurt her husband's pride or honour and therefore refused the offer politely. 
When she shared the story with her husband, he said  "By Allah, your carrying the date-stones (and you being seen by the Prophet (pbuh) in such a state) is more shameful to me than your riding with him.'"

A courageous and strong mother:
She was the mother of 'Abdullah ibn az-Zubair, the first new born of Islam. A courageous woman, she too fought extremely brave in the time of battle of Yarmuk and kept a dagger to defend herself when thieves appeared in Madina. 

Her courage is also demonstrated in this story when her son Abdullah consulted his mother at the time of Al-Hajjaj seige of Mecca (a battle in which Abdullah fought bravely until he was killed). 

The enemy had offered him wordly benefits to which Asma advised her son:
"You know yourself best. If you realized that you are right and calling for the truth, you would better go on. It is the issue for which your fellows passed away. Do not surrender your neck to Banu Umayyah to play it. But if you just wanted a worldly benefit you would be the worst man who demolished himself and his fellows.'  
Abdullah said, "By Allah, this is also my opinion,mother. But I fear to suffer crucifixion after death." 
She replied, "Skinning a slaughtered goat does not bring it pain. Off you go and seek Allah's help."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 29 - Sumayyah, the first martyr of Islam

Ramadan 2012 is coming to an end sadly. I thought I will try and instead of losing focus with the Eid preparations, I would try and go back to the spirit of Ramadan and what I should have taken away from this Challenge for myself. In a recent article on MuslimMatters, I read about some of the famous incidents that had occurred in world history where the author showed Muslims as actively coming together and it reminded of the sacrificing nature that we are meant to take away from Ramadan. 

With keeping ourselves hungry and thirsty throughout the day and abstaining from all horrible actions that we should be staying away from any way i.e swearing, cursing, lying, smoking etc Allah ta'ala is preparing us to be resilient, focussed people when in times of need. These attributes of sacrifice in the face of gratitude were what exemplified early Muslims and today's story is about the first martyr of Islam, who sacrificed her life to stand by what she believed to be the Truth. Her name was Sumayyah bint Khabbab and she was the first martyr (shaheed) of Islam.

Sumayya bint Khabbab was the mother of Hazrat Ammar ibn Yasir and the seventh person to enter Islam. Hazrat Yasir bin Amir, was her husband, and was killed right after her becoming the second martyr in Islam.  

Yasir bin 'Amir Al- 'Ansiy came from Yemen to Mecca where he allied with Abu Hudhaifa who offered him to marry his slave, after freeing her, Sumayya, a revered person in the society. They had two sons, Ammar and Abdullah who were brought up with a lot of love and care with the highest moral grounds established in pre-Islamic Arabia in the Quraish tribe. When the Holy Prophet (pbuh) brought Islam to Mecca, Yasir and Sumayyah converted to Islam immediately and brought its teachings to their son who too followed suit.

At the time Makhzum tribe showed utmost hatred towards Islam and the Holy Prophet, their chief being Abu Jahl. Early Islam suffered immense persecution in Mecca and although early Muslims met in secret, there were a group of Muslims who insisted that they declare their adoption of Islam. Sumayyah's family were amongst this group, obviously enraging Abu Jahl's clan.

When they approached Yasir and his family, their confirmed their allegiance to the One Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). On hearing this, they inflicted the most horrendous form of torture on Yasir, Sumayyah and their family dragging them across the desert, chaining and whipping them even at their old age. Although the Muslim community was too weak at the time, they had solace in hearing the Prophet (pbuh) tell them that they will be the dwellers of Paradise. 

Paradise was the only thing the Yasir family strove for and were prepared to sacrifice any thing for it. Their resistance and faith only grew with their sacrifices. Abu Jahl seeing Sumayyah's strength, tried to win her over, but she was not convinced. He threatened her with his spear and spat on her face. At this moment, he stabbed her in her lower abdomen in front of her family and killed her. Thus, Sumayyah became the first martyr of Islam.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed for the Yasir family saying, "Oh Allah, do not admit any one of the family of Yasir to Hellfire."


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 28 - The mother of Imam Abu Hanifa

They are not too cliched when they say that "behind every great man is a woman." In Islam, this should not even be a point of doubt as Islam lays immense credit on the mother. There is the popular saying of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) that Paradise lies at the feet of the mother" and then there is my favorite story of when a Companion of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) asked him who he should respect of the most in order to attain Paradise, the Holy Prophet responded "Mother." The Companion repeated this question twice more and the Holy Prophet responded each time "Your mother."

Like yesterday though, this time too I am beginning with  the reference of a man but will actually aim to show here too that behind him was the role of a most exceptional woman, this time his mother. Today's story is about one of the greatest scholars of Islam - Imam Abu Hanifa. With him is attributed the name of one of the main four Sunni schools of thoughts in Islam - the Hanafi school of thought. Each school of thought's imams are to be equally revered and regarded as they were men of great knowledge and close to Allah.

About Abu Hanifa's mother (a story from our hajj scholar):
At hajj last year, the scholar accompanying our group told us a really wonderful story. Unfortunately, i am forgetting the names of the main characters of the story but it went something along the lines of a young man for whatever reason feeling like he had not been committed to Allah the way he had (I can't seem to recall as up until this point hadn't been concentrating on whether he had made a mistake or why he felt this way) asked his very learned teacher how he could overcome this. His teacher, I believe someone the young man wanted to stay affiliated with for his Islamic growth, advised him and followed this up with a clause saying that if you marry my daughter then. The young man instantly agreed without seeing who the daughter was. The teacher said "my daughter is blind, deaf and dumb" and the young man thought to himself and still agreed as his motive was to please Allah.

The marriage was solemnized and the young man approached his new bride's room. As per Islamic ettiquettes, learn from the sunnah (life) of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) he knocked thrice and heard a feminine voice allowing him to enter the room. He was a bit surprised and wondered how it was that she spoke when he had been told that his bride was dumb. When he entered he found a beautiful, young woman awaiting him who could both see, hear and speak, he asked her why he had been told that she was deaf, dumb and blind. To this she replied "I am blind because I have never seen any thing that Allah does not like, I am deaf because I do not hear any thing Allah does not want us to hear and I am dumb because I do not say any thing that is not nice to say." According to our scholar, this young woman was the mother of Imam Abu Hanifa. 

Introduction to Islamic jurisprudence
Abu Hanifa's interest in Islamic jurisprudence was sparked perhaps by chance. While running an errand for his mother, he happened to pass the home of Sha'bi, one of Kufa's most well-known scholars. Sha'bi, mistaking him for a student, asked him whose classes he attended. When Abu Hanifa responded that he did not attend any classes, Sha'bi said, "I see signs of intelligence in you. You should sit in the company of learned men."

Respect for mother
One of my favorite stories about Imam Abu Hanifa's respect for his mother is that even when her son had turned out to be the leading scholar of fiqh, her curiosity in religious matters led her to ask her son to visit scholars she highly respected for answers to her questions. One such scholar was Amr bin Dharr, a well-known preacher of Kufah, who would feel embarassed answering these questions in front of Imam Abu Hanifa, who himself was so learned.

Abu Hanifa, however, always silently went to Amr bin Dharr and said it was his mother's wish to hear the response from him. Once, Amr bin Dharr did not know the answer to a question so he asked Abu Hanifa what the response would be if someone else posed him the same question. Abu Hanifa shared the response and Amr bin Dharr repeated this saying "Please tell your mother that this is Amr bin Dharr's answer." The Imam was able to return home and satisfy his mother's command.


Unable to see his mother in pain
The ‘Amir of Kufa, Ibn Hubayra offered the Imam the post of judge which he did not accept and Yazid punished him by flogging him 110 times. When asked why he would go through this suffering, Abu Hanifa said that it was not the lashes that caused him pain but the suffering it caused his mother that pained him more.

He was undoubtedly a man of great knowledge, God-consciousness, and righteousness and there are plenty of books and accounts recording this. Imam Abu Hanifa was the first to compile and classify the Fiqh science. Amongst his famous books are Fara'id and Shurut (Obligations and Conditions). The Hanafi approach of Islam spread most actively during the Ottoman period, so that today more than half of the Muslim world follows this approach.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 27 - Teachers of Hazm Adh-Dhahiree

I have learnt much to my excitement how throughout Islamic history, extremely famous scholars of hadith and fiqh have been under the training of female teachers or have greatly revered a female teacher. This again brings me back to the emphasis on education and how as I learnt from Nana Asma'u's story that education unless passed on is barren.

Today I am going to talk about a famous male scholar and personality Ibn Hazm Adh-Dhahiree. Why a man in my Ramadan Challenge series? Well one of the most famous aspects of this man's history is that he was trained in the harem by female teachers.

Ibn Hazm who lived between November 7, 994 – August 15, 1064 was born in Cordoba, in Spain and sometimes even known as the Andulusia al-Zahiri. A prominent 11th century philosopher, litterateur, psychologist, historian, jurist and theologian of his time he produced 400 works of which 40 have survived. These range from topics such as Islamic jurisprudence, logic, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology, as well as The Ring of the Dove, on the art of love.
His student, Sa'ed al-Tulaituli, described him as "the most knowledgeable man in al-Andalus" (Spain).1 Al-Dhahabi says about him that he was the "end of intelligence, the sharpest mind, and recipient of abundant knowledge."2 Abuzahra describes the varieties of Ibn Hazm's knowledge saying: "In the history before Ibn Hazm there had not been a scholar who had such knowledge as he did." (Quoted from KSU website)
Ibn Hazm had a very wealthy upbrining in his father's palace in Cordoba. Here he spent his childhood years secluded in the "harem" (female quarters) where he was surrounded by and given his training by educated female slaves (al-jawari). He was surrounded by highly educated and intellectual female slaves (al-jawari) who were responsible for bringing him up. Here he was taught the Qur'an, poetry, and penmanship. This was a time when all of Andulusia had highly educated women teachers and poets. It was only once he was older and had crossed childhood, that his father passed him on to other educators.

The most important views of Ibn Hazm on education and with very important issues, such as the role of freedom of the mind when acquiring knowledge; the importance of impartiality when examining intellectual problems; the call for people to abandon racism, fanaticism, and blind adoption; and what is entailed in imitation of other's ideas. (Quoted from KSU website)

Andulusi chronicles often talk about these slave women which the rulers of the time married and highly regarded. These were women who attended literary gatherings, were intellectuals and even accompanied in times of adversity the kings who had married them. Between the 8th and 14th centuries specifically, there are records of extremely well-educated, intellectual women who were designated as "scholars." They ranged from being grammarians, lexicographers, jurists had medical knowledge, had scholarly command over hadith and were learned in Qur'an and Arabic.

Parker, Margaret: The story of a story across cultures (book)
Jayush, Salma: The legacy of Muslim Spain (book)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 26 - Bilquis Bano Edhi

65 years ago, Pakistan was created on the 27th of Ramadan, the Gregorian calendar date being 14th August 1947. Today too, 14th August has fallen on the 27th of Ramadan (well at least in many parts of the world). I wanted to include a woman from Pakistan in this series but seeing feedback from a previous post, wanted to make sure that the reader understands why I would include someone who might not have contributed to "Islamic studies" in the traditional sense of the word, but could be included in the list of one of the most exceptional Muslim women in terms of their contribution to society. Hence, I choose to write about someone not give as much recognition as she deserves - Bilquis Edhi!

In the Qur'an, Allahs states:
 “Verily those who give sadaqah, men and women, and lend Allah a goodly loan, it shall be increased manifold, and theirs shall be an honourable good reward (Paradise)” [57:18].

Bilquis Edhi manages "jhoola" service of the Foundation
Bilquis Bano Edhi, wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, is one of the leading if not the most active philanthropists of Pakistan. Interestingly enough, she too was born on 14th August 1947, the very day Pakistan was celebrating its independence. From very humble beginnings, themselves, Bilquis and her husband have managed to successfully run the largest charity in Pakistan. Her support for her husband has been phenomenal and very few women would stand next to their husbands to serve the poor and the needy with such a positive attitude and such gratitude. She truly is an example of a person who would certainly be close to Allah.
Largest ambulance service
 The Edhi foundation includes hospital, emergency service in Karachi, an adoption service, soup kitchen, shelter for women and children, old age home, rehabs and mental asylums etc. Edhi Foundation runs the world’s largest radio-linked ambulance service all over the country Pakistan with over eighteen hundred ambulances, twenty eight rescue boats and two airplanes. Additionally, they also run twenty-four hour medical dispensaries, a missing persons hot line and own the largest morgue in Pakistan. Their charity has also responded to international calamities around the world including donating to victims of Hurricane Katrina, cyclone relief in Bangladesh, aid to tsunami-impacted regions in 2003 and ambulance services in Afghanistan.

A cardinal support to her husband, Abdul Sattar Edhi:
Bilquis Edhi has been providing cardinal support to her husband ever since she married him 1952, running every aspect of his charity together with him and their children. In fact, Edhi proposed for her hand in marriage seeing her passion for charity and health-care.

Bilquis Edhi vividly remembers her first major experience at Edhi Foundation, when during the war; the bombings resulted in a number of brutally mutilated bodies which she had to wash for burial. At times only an arm, leg or head was recovered. She, along with about 60-70 workers including voluntary workers, collected and then washed these bodies.

"Jhoolas", girls and women:
A professionally trained health-service nurse, Bilquis Edhi took over her husband's charity project of "jhoolas" in 1952. Literally translated into swings, these are swing bassinets placed outside each Edhi centre with the message in both English and Urdu saying "Do not kill, leave the baby in the cradle."

For varying extremely unfortunate reasons, poverty and lack of education topping them, people leave behind their disabled or unwanted children in rubbish heaps and isolated places. Edhi transformed that vision by introducing these swings where thousands of babies have been saved. Due to lack of Islamic awareness, I would say, it is really sad to note that over 90% of the babies left in the cradle are female. These children are nourished and looked after until they are taken up for adoption or grown up and choose to get married. 

It can definitely be said that this alternative introduced by the Edhi foundation has reduced the number of babies left to die and the cradle concept is now a much-accepted and widely acknowledged alternative all over Pakistan.

No discrimnation:
When Abdul Sattar Edhi started his first free dispensary for the poor with the money he collected from begging and sitting on street corners or asking people himself, he hired Christian and Hindu nurses here to begin with. In fact his wife was the first Muslim nurse he hired and impressed by her enthusiasm then asked to marry her.

In their women and children centres too, or shelters for abandoned adults, Bilquis Edhi and her husband never refuse any one in. In acountry which has lost its respect for women, leave mothers of children for mistakes they make and kick them out of the house, patriarchy, not even providing for their children. If someone asks to leave, they do not refuse that either as this they consider is a right to decision and freedom to live of any adult independent person.

Humble in face of fame:
Abdul Sattar Edhi has dedicated his life for the needy
Bilquis and her husband have received numerous local and international awards and honors. In a recent show on Geo TV, when the host was telling the audience how small her room was, she kept repeating with a content smile on her face "it is very big, very comfortable, I love my room." Edhi has never owned more than two pairs of clothes, and despite being one of the largest income generating charities in Pakistan, him and his wife Bilquis Edhi have never taken salary from their charity. They live in a small rented two-bedroom apartment which is part of the building of their orphanage. Bilquis Edhi shared how Abdul Sattar Edhi himself has never driven any other car besides an ambulance in his life.

But as for you, O believers,] never shall you attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish yourselves; and whatever you spend – verily, God has full knowledge thereof.
(Surah Al-e-Imran, ayah 92)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 25 - Umm Darda as Sughraa

Like Amra whom I talked about yesterday, Umm Darda as-Sughraa was also a prominent jurist and yet again an example of a woman revered for her knowledge and intellect. From the seventh-century Damascus, she was the wife of the famous Companion of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) Abu Darda, She was someone with great knowledge of fiqh and in fact very young (around 18-20 perhaps) when Abu Darda passed away.

Extremely learned in fiqh and a scholar of hadith, like the women we have read about in this Ramadan Challenge series. In fact her authority in hadith was regarded more highly than many of the very renowned names of the time including Al-Hasan al-Basri and Ibn Sirin. The respected Imam Bukhari referred to her as an authority in Sahih al-Bukhari. He said, "Umm darda used to sit in tashahhud in her prayers like a man ( in worship) and she was an expert theologian." 

Umayyad mosque in Damascus, Syria
Umm Darda was also a much revered teacher, educating both male and female students sections separately on hadith, fiqh and law which she taught in Jerusalem and in the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. One of the blogs records her sitting with male scholars in the mosque to discuss fiqh and hadith, hence showing that in the pursuit and disparting of knowledge there were no differences. I quote from this blog: ' “I’ve tried to worship Allah in every way,” she wrote, “but I’ve never found a better one than sitting around, debating other scholars.” '

One of her students was the powerful Caliph Abdul Malik b. Marwan of Spain. His rule extended from India to Span and he admitted openly that he would never feel ashamed of learning from her. Umm Darda was old by then and Abdul Malik would help her walk from the mosque to her own home, as she would lean against her shoulder.

Once Umm Darda heard Abdul Malik curse at his servant and she prohibited him from doing so by reminding him that: "I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The invoker of curse would neither be witness nor intercessor on the Day of Resurrection."
(1- Suyuti, Tadrib, 215.
2 al-Musnad 7/448. Imam Muslim related something in his Sahih. See Sahih Muslim, the Book of Duty, Relationships and Etiquette, [Chapter] The Prohibition of Cursing Pulling Animals etc.. No. 85 (2598), 4/2006.)