In a front room of the Masjid at Taqwa, a Sugar Land mosque, Sarah Alikhan watched M.J. Khan film a Facebook video endorsing her.
Khan, 68, isn’t super-fluent with Facebook, but as a former member of Houston City Council and the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, he’s arguably the most powerful political figure in Houston’s Muslim community. It was Khan who recruited Alikhan, who’s in her early 40s, to become the first woman ever to run for the shura, or governing board, of ISGH, one of the largest Muslim organizations in the U.S.
If elected director of Southwest Zone on Sunday,Dec. 9 she’d be the first woman to have a vote on the 50-year-old organization’s board — and thus, a direct say in the big-picture strategic decisions that can involve millions of dollars. Amid the fierce campaign, Alikhan’s headscarfed presence is a very visible sign of change.
“Here,” she said, after Khan joined her at a table. She took his cell phone and, smiling — she always seems to be smiling — handled a Facebook friend request for him.
Across the U.S., women have been moving into spots with actual power in Muslim organizations such as ISGH, not just working behind the scenes. In 2006, Ingrid Mattson became the first woman to serve as president — the very top leader — of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group that includes ISGH.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Although women’s rights and religious freedom are not commonly associated with one another in the world of the 1.6 billion Muslims, there is a correlation that must be uncovered.
According to Women and Religious Freedom by Nazila Ghanea, inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear.
Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly. For the Muslim world, the Quran reads in Sura 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”
Individuals must not be forced to follow a literal interpretation of religious teachings and traditions. Faith under force is invalid and ingenuine. Therefore, it is never in the public’s interest to force belief on individuals, regardless of gender, and restrict their right to question, explore and fulfill their purpose.
In fact, the research shows that women can contribute to greater peace and prosperity of a society when they are free to choose to exercise their own free will and belief (see here).
FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY
Islam empowered women in the Arabian Peninsula in a way that could never be imagined before the arrival of the Quran. The stories of the many female scholars who graced the Islamic world need to be remembered
When Imam Zuhri, a famous scholar of the Sunna (the Prophet Muhammad’s prescriptions), indicated to Qasim ibn Muhammad, a scholar of the Quran, a desire to seek knowledge, Qasim advised him to join the assembly of a well-known woman jurist of the day, Amara bin Al-Rahman. Imam Zuhri attended her assembly and later described her as “a boundless ocean of knowledge.” In fact, Amra tutored a number of famous scholars, such as Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Hazama and Yahya Ibn Said. Amra was not an anomaly in Islamic history, it actually abounds with famous female narrators of jurisprudence, starting with Ai’sha, Muhammad’s wife. A conservative count would reveal at least 2,500 extraordinary women jurists, narrators of Muhammad’s sayings (hadith), and poets. Yet, their stories are not always well-known or widely acknowledged.
FULL ARTICLE FROM DAILY SABAH
CAIRO (RNS) – Four years ago, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called on state-supported Muslim clerics “to improve the image of Islam in front of the world.”
In response, Islamic religious authorities are allowing Muslim women to be heard. Over the past three months, the clerics have announced that women can now serve as preachers in mosques and schools, serve on governing boards and sing in choirs dedicated to liturgical music.
“These measures show that Islam can grow in an open encounter with other faiths,” said Wafaa Abdelsalam, a 38-year-old female physician appointed by the government’s Ministry of Religious Endowments to give two sermons a week at a pair of influential mosques in the Cairo suburbs. “The audience for my Ramadan talks has been mostly upper-middle-class women who until recently have felt they have had nobody to talk to about how Islam fits into their lives.”
About 70 percent of mosques in Egypt have separate prayer areas for women, according to the Endowments Ministry. But the move to introduce women preachers – wa’ezzat in Arabic – marks the first time females have formally addressed worshippers in these spaces as officially sanctioned clergy.
“Religious education here is a chance for women to ask me questions about personal matters, including marriage problems, and to debate the merits and drawbacks of the choice to wear or not wear the (hijab) headscarf,” said Abdelsalam.
The wa’ezzat are following sermon guidelines set by the Endowments Ministry, she added.
FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS NEWS SERVICE
Women’s History Month focuses on honoring the sacrifice, bravery and leadership of the many women who have impacted the world as we know it. In Islam, the role of a woman can become controversial. Many times the practice of social customs gets confused for religious obligations. This can be detrimental not only for the overall view of Islam, especially in the Western world, but also for Muslims themselves, who may be receiving a skewed and ultimately incorrect practice of Islam.
When considering the role of women, we should always look to our most perfect example, our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the relationship he had with his wives. More often than not, we think only of men when considering important figures in Islam and their role in securing Islam in this world. However, there were many Muslim women who also heavily contributed to the success, spread and overall beauty of this religion. The Prophet’s (SAW) wives were the beginning, but certainly not the end of this long strain of empowering and inspirational role models.
These historical women of Islam serve as guidance to us in strength, empowerment and leadership:
Amongst all the Prophet’s (SAW) wives, Khadija is one of the most well-known, even in the Western world. Khadija bint Khuwaylid was the first wife of the Prophet (SAW) and was the only one to gift him with children. Beyond carrying his lineage, Khadija helped the Prophet (SAW) become known through her established business. She was respected and well known amongst the people of her time, however, her biggest contribution to Islam was reassuring the Prophet (SAW) and pushing him to accept the message he received from the Angel Jibreel to read to the people. Khadija was the first woman to ever convert to Islam and her confidence and reassurance in his message allowed the Prophet to gain courage and carry out the difficulty that was establishing the religion of Islam.
FULL ARTICLE FROM MY SALAAM
It is a common misconception that Muslim women are oppressed under Islamic laws.
While this may be true in certain cases, the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s sayings prove otherwise.
On this year’s International Women’s Day, Pulse Religion seeks to change this narrative by revealing the truth and honoring Muslim women in the process.
The world sees a veiled woman as someone that is oppressed meanwhile Muslim women wear the hijab proudly
Here is what the Quran and the religion have to say about women’s rights:
Women and men have similar rights
The Holy Book says: “…and women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner,…” (Holy Qur’an, 2:228).
Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, We shall certainly make him live a good life, and We shall certainly give them their reward for the best of what they did.” (Holy Qur’an, 16:97).
FULL ARTICLE FROM PULSE
In an average week, I deliver presentations to hundreds of people on various topics related to Islam and Muslims. Oftentimes, such presentations yield real changes in public perception of Muslims, but almost as often, I’m confronted with antiquated, negative stereotypes.
I recently spoke to a group of 80 college-educated, mostly liberal women in Silicon Valley, certainly one of the most progressive regions of the United States. I was astonished to find that, despite revelations of widespread sexual harassment of women in Hollywood, the tech industry and other professions in the United States that have spawned the #MeToo movement, what concerned these women most was “saving” American Muslim women — from Islam.
Given that most American Muslims are immigrants or first-generation Americans, the attitudes displayed bore a disquieting resemblance to the xenophobic and anti-immigrant attitudes that are poisoning our body politic today.
FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS