As a Muslim woman, Ustazah Marhamah is no stranger to facing discrimination. Societal biases, misogyny, stereotypes - she's seen it all. Yet she makes it her mission to stand and fight against these obstacles, so that other women can learn to do so as well.
In the Muslim community, much of the discrimination and misogyny against women is justified with cherry-picked verses from the Quran and Ahadeeth, on top of societal biases, tradition, and the undeniable biological differences between the sexes. Against all of these obstacles, and our own internalized mentality that we are indeed the weaker gender, how can we become strong women?
Firstly, we should understand that many of the verses used to justify misogynistic behaviour are in fact misinterpreted or taken out of context. Ustazah Marhamah explains that the Quran must be studied as a whole and with the accompaniment of tafseer, not just translated or taken literally. In fact, the Quran has many mentions of how men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah, and that Allah will judge humanity by their iman, taqwa, and amal regardless of gender. We should find strength in Islam's core values; that our worth is determined by our character, not our gender.
Secondly, Ustazah Marhamah implores us to fight against the internalized negativity within us that has been implanted by societal biases and prejudice. We should remind ourselves constantly that we are not weak, or less than, or only worthy if we conform to society's expectations. There are many powerful women in Islam that we can take inspiration from. Among them are :
Sumaiyyah binti Khayyat, who stood her ground against her torturers and refused to give up Islam, knowing that the cost would be her own life.
Khadijah binti Khuwaylid, who was a very successful businesswoman, and whose wealth was vital in helping her husband Prophet Muhammad in his mission to spread Islam.
Aisha binti Abu Bakr, who narrated more than 2000 Ahadeeth, taught many of the Sahabah in subjects such as fiqh, and went on to become a politician and war commander after Prophet Muhammad's death.
And many many more.
Ustazah Marhamah reminds us that each of these women defied societal norms at the time, and are now revered as some of the most influential women in Islam; so we too should not be afraid to challenge the status quo. It's okay to want financial freedom, an independant life, or to continue work even after marriage. It's okay for us to have ambition, and to pursue our goals. We should never limit ourselves solely to what society expects of us.
Women have accomplished great things, and will continue to accomplish great things. Each time we are faced with prejudice, Ustazah Marhamah teaches us to remember these women's stories, and take strength from the fact that Allah does not see us as weaker or lesser than men. Our roles are complimentary, not competitive, thus we should all focus on helping one another become better Muslims instead of putting each other down. With this mindset, she perseveres in speaking up, being strong, and teaching other women to rise above adversity.
May this generation of women be the ones to break down the walls of oppression and misogyny, and allow all women to flourish as Allah would want them to.
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