TO FAST OR NOT TO FAST

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… 🙂 Alhamdulillah. The beautiful month of Ramadan has arrived. Alhamdulillah that Allah allowed us to reach this beloved month again this year…Ramadan, the blessed month in which Muslims all over the planet fast from sunrise to sunset. A month in which we all will abstain from drinking and eating, as well as many other temptations and desires all day long, all month long. For some parts of the world, this means 8-9 hours, in other parts 16 hours and for places like Iceland, an astounding 21 hours! Hard to imagine not eating and drinking for 21 hours, right? But this very virtuous act of worship is mandatory on all of us Muslims and we enter this month wholeheartedly with great enthusiasm. We fast for Him, and Him only. And while it can be difficult, fasting allows us to empty our stomachs, while we feed and nourish our souls.

Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the spirit reveal itself.” – Rumi

Aside from being a special commandment from Allah, we can reap numerous spiritual benefits of fasting. Discipline, humility, appreciation, gratefulness, compassion to name a few. Most importantly, self-restraint.

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may observe self-restraint (al-Taqwa).”

[Quran Al-Baqarah:183]

And while it’s quite clear and obvious how beneficial fasting is for us spiritually, only recently has modern medicine caught up to realize how beneficial fasting is for us medically.

“Fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within.”– Philippus Paracelsus

There are some physicians who name fasting as being; “the medicine for the 21st century.” Dr. Otto Buchinger; Germany’s great fasting therapist after more than 100,000 fasting cures says: “Fasting is, without doubt, the most effective biological method of treatment.. it is the operation without surgery… it is a cure involving exudation, redirection, loosening up and purified relaxation. He goes on to say that: therapeutically; fasting cures many of our modern illnesses, including the following: allergies, cardiovascular disease, chronic diseases of the digestive system, degenerative and painfully inflammatory illnesses of the joints, myriad disturbances in one’s eating behavior, glaucoma, initial malfunction of the kidneys, tension and migraine headaches, as well as skin diseases. Preventively, it’s designed to cleanse and to regenerate, rejuvenate and restore a person’s sense of well-being, in body, mind, and soul.

Michael Rosenbaum, M.D., Director of the California-based Orthomolecular Health Medicine Medical Society, notes on the significance of fasting as a detoxification program: “The hidden cause of many chronic pains, diseases, and illnesses may be invisible toxins, chemicals, heavy metals and parasites that invade our bodies…Chances are slim that your doctor will tell you that toxins may be the root cause of your health problems. He or she may not even know how these toxins are affecting your body. As your cells go, so goes your health. If your cells have been invaded by toxins and dangerous chemicals, your resistance to disease is diminished. Clean and nourish your cells, and you’re on the road to better health.”

Studies are ongoing and more and more evident with benefits of fasting is being established. Here I would like to point out some of these amazing benefits. But first, let’s start out by mentioning what exactly is happening when our bodies go into fasting mode.

What is going on inside?

Physiologically the body enters the fasting state 8 hours after the last meal has been fully digested and absorbed. In normal conditions, the body glucose that results from the digestion of the carbohydrates we eat is stored in mainly the liver and muscles. Glucose, (a.k.a blood sugar) is the body’s main source of energy. When we fast, that source of energy has been taken away, and so our body looks to the liver and muscles for its source of glucose for energy. While the body is converting this stored glucose ( a.k.a glycogen) to use for energy, the body’s metabolic rate (BMR) becomes more efficient to conserve energy. Blood pressure and heart rate decrease as well. When this stored glucose runs out, the body then starts using fats for energy. By using fats the muscle protein is preserved and protected from breaking down. In cases of a prolonged fast of many days or weeks, the body starts to break down and use protein for energy. This is when the body enters “starvation.” But because we break our fast every day and have the pre-dawn mean, we are very unlikely to reach a state of starvation in Ramadan.

So as you can see a lot is going on in the body as we deprive it of food. It’s actually quite amazing if you think about the system that Allah has placed inside of us. It automatically does what it needs to do without us even uttering a word to it. Ok, I’m going off on a tangent here. So now we know how the body reacts and compensates for the lack of food.

Now for the benefits:

1. First off we know that glucose (blood sugar along with Insulin levels) is reduced. If you think about it, fasting is then ideal for mild, moderate stable non-insulin dependent Diabetics (Type 2 Diabetes).

2. Studies have shown that when we fast our body releases a surge of Growth Hormone which then speeds up our metabolism and can burn off fat. Beneficial for both Diabetics and those with heart disease.

3. When the body starts to use fats for energy, this results in weight loss, another benefit for those suffering from being overweight or obesity. This too helps those with heart disease.

4. A lot of the processed food that we normally eat contain a lot of additives which transformed into toxins which are then stored in fat. As the body uses up fat, toxins too are dissolved and removed from the body, therefore leading to a cleansing or “detox” effect.

5. More studies and evidence show that fasting reduces inflammatory diseases and allergies. Illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, and even Ulcerative colitis.

6. Fasting can help overcome addictions and promotes a healthier diet. Helps you drop bad habits like smoking.

7. Research in neuroscience suggests that when fat is being used by the body for energy, it is converted to ketones bodies which are then used by the neurons (brain cells) for energy. Ketones promote positive changes in the structure of synapses important for learning, memory, and overall brain health.

8. According to Neuroscientist Mark Mattson when the brain is challenged by physical exertion, cognitive tasks, or caloric restriction, the body produces a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which not only strengthens neural connections and increases the production of new neurons but can also have an anti-depressive effect. His research suggests that fasting every can boost BDNF by anywhere from 50 to 400 percent.

9. The shock of fasting leads the brain to create new brain cells, neurons are forced to grow and the brain becomes more resistant to protein plaques that are seen in cases of Alzheimer’s, or the damage created by Parkinson’s.

10. Mattson also claims that cutting your energy intake by fasting several days a week might help your brain ward off neurodegenerative diseases. The shock of fasting leads the brain to create new brain cells, neurons are forced to grow and the brain becomes more resistant to protein plaques that are seen in cases of Alzheimer’s, or the damage created by Parkinson’s. While at the same time improving memory and mood.

11. Fasting reduces the amount of the hormone Cortisol (a.k.a. stress hormone), produced by the adrenal gland, which means that stress levels are greatly reduced both during and after Ramadan.

12. A team of cardiologists in the UAE found that people fasting in Ramadan show a positive effect on their lipid profile, which means there is a reduction of Cholesterol in the blood. Low cholesterol increases cardiovascular health, greatly reducing the risk of suffering from heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke. If you follow a healthy diet after Ramadan, this newly lowered cholesterol level should be easy to maintain.

13. Fasting causes your metabolism to become more efficient, meaning the amount of nutrients you absorb from food improves. Various studies on a hormone called Adiponectin, (a.k.a. fat cell hormone) have been done on people who are fasting in Ramadan. Adiponectin secretion is increased during fasting state. It improves fat oxidation and improves glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity One study shows that the level of Adiponectin dropped in those who were fasting, which also correlates with drop in weight in those same people. Another study shows that Adiponectin levels were increased along with weight loss. Various factors might contribute to varying levels of Adiponectin in the studies, but the common findings seem to be; better glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity along with weight loss.

14. When you fast, just like when you sleep, the body is focused on the removal of toxins and the regeneration of damaged tissue.

15. One study found that fasting can actually cause a reduction in white blood cells. This means that fasting kills off old and damaged immune cells, and when the body rebounds it uses stem cells to create brand new, completely healthy cells. “During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. The research shows that cycles of prolonged fasting protect against immune system damage and induce immune system regeneration. They concluded that fasting shifts stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.

16. Prolonged fasting also lowered levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone that has been linked to aging, tumor progression and cancer risk.

17. Another study placed children who suffer from epileptic seizures on calorie restriction or were told to fast. The result was fewer epileptic seizures. It is believed that fasting helps start protective measures that help counteract the overexcited signals that epileptic brains often exhibit. Normal brains, when overfed, can experience another kind of uncontrolled excitation, impairing the brain’s function.

18. Fasting effectively treats cancer in human cells: A study from the scientific Journal of Aging found that cancer patients who included fasting into their therapy perceived fewer side effects from chemotherapy. All tests conducted so far show that fasting improves survival, slow tumor growth and limit the spread of tumors. The National Institute on Aging has also studied one type of breast cancer in detail to further understand the effects of fasting on cancer. As a result of fasting, the cancer cells tried to make new proteins and took other steps to keep growing and dividing. As a result of these steps, which in turn led to a number of other steps, damaging free radical molecules were created which broke down the cancer cells own DNA and caused their destruction! It’s cellular suicide, the cancer cell is trying to replace all of the stuff missing in the bloodstream that it needs to survive after a period of fasting, but can’t. In turn, it tries to create them and this leads to its own destruction!

19. One researcher stated: Fasting marvelously decomposes and burns all the cells and tissue that are aged, damaged, diseased, weakened or dead, a process called in medicine autolyze or self-digest or detoxification. When by fasting you stop the input of nutrition for a while, then a flurry of cleansing starts up, the rugs are lifted and the dirty dishes are brought out of the cabinet where they were stashed.

There you have it! So many benefits and so many studies are still ongoing. The more we research the more we are realizing the amazing benefits fasting has on our bodies. Rightly so, this day in age, when so many foods we eat on a regular basis contain so many questionable ingredients including additives, preservatives, and pesticides. Fasting provides our systems with a much-needed rest and cleanse. If you think about it, we are constantly filling our bodies with food. As soon as we feel a little pang of hunger, we throw food down our stomachs to relieve that hunger. This leaves no time for our systems to focus on other important matters in the body. If we deprive our bodies of food for certain periods at a time, like we do in Ramadan or can do throughout the year, this will give our bodies a chance to go into “spring cleaning” mode, where it can now focus on removing toxins and damaged cells that have been hiding in our bodies.

Take home message here is that even though we know fasting is hard on us physically, it is quite amazing for our bodies medically. Fasting can come with headaches, fatigue and a growling stomach. But it also comes with a growing list of wonderful benefits. Benefits that we are only now discovering. So take fasting as a blessing from Allah (SWT), which truly, truly is!

*By the way, I didn’t even touch the studies and research that is being conducted regarding the 5/2 intermittent fasting method. This method means you eat regularly on 5 days and fast on 2 days out of the week. Sound familiar? This is almost exactly the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ from 1400 years ago and modern medicine is only now realizing that this method is quite beneficial for us. Maybe I’ll save this topic for another day 🙂


Sources:

1. NHS – Fasting and your health

2.StatPearls Knowledge Base – Fasting

3. Fasting – A Body/Mind/Spirit Healing

4. Ramadan Health guide

5. Are There Any Proven Benefits to Fasting?

6. The Scientific Benefits Of Fasting

7. The spiritual and health benefits of Ramadan fasting

8. 7 SURPRISING HEALTH BENEFITS OF RAMADAN

9. FASCINATING EVIDENCE SHOWS WHY WATER FASTING COULD BE ONE OF THE HEALTHIEST THINGS YOU CAN DO

10. SCIENTISTS EXPLAIN HOW FASTING FIGHTS CANCER, TRIGGERS STEM CELL REGENERATION & CHANGES YOUR BRAIN (IN A GOOD WAY)

11. Effects of Ramadan fasting on glucose homeostasis and adiponectin levels in healthy adult males

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10 WISDOMS OF RAMADAN

Al-Huda, The Quran Club

 1. Taqwaa – this is explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an as one of the purposes of fasting.  For 30 days we lesson our desires and by abstaining from them and show Allah that we are able to live without our most essential items for a period of time.

Gem: if you can live without your most essential things (food) for a time, then how about the sins which we do not need?

2. The Poor – we are reminded of those who abstain from these essentials throughout most of the year.  Through this we come to appreciate the blessings of things like water.

Gem: We also come to realize the even the smallest blessings that we take for granted.  Like being able to fall sleep, to urinate.

3. Lessens our physical desires and increases our spiritual ones – During this month there is less emphasis on the body and more…

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10 Tips to Child-Proof your Taraweeh this Ramadan

Ramadan is a time when family and friends gather at the masjid to feast on delicious meals and stand shoulder to shoulder in nighttime prayers filled with blessings and rewards.  It’s a pleasurable time at the masjid that both parents and children look forward to.  But suppose you are the mother of a rambunctious child, what might normally be an enjoyable time to connect with friends and get closer to Allah SWT can become an experience filled with frustration.  Here are 10 tips to encourage your child to stay on his best behavior in the masjid, so you can have a more pleasant and rewarding Taraweeh prayer during Ramadan insha’Allah.

Tip 1

Select a masjid that caters to children.  Many masjids offer childcare services for worshippers, making it easy for parents to enjoy meals and give their undivided attention during long standing periods of Taraweeh prayer.  Of course, not all masjids have this luxury.  Even so, some are certainly more kid-friendly than others.  Look for a masjid that you and your child both feel comfortable in.

Tip 2

Encourage your child to fast during Ramadan.  The pious predecessors of the Prophet SAWS encouraged their children to fast.  There are differences in opinion as to what age children should be encouraged to fast.  Nevertheless, you can still make gentle attempts at getting your child to give up eating by distracting him with toys, as did our pious predecessors.  You can even offer a special reward if he fasts all or most of the day. Use affectionate persuasion but don’t force fasting upon him.  How can fasting help control your child during visits to the masjid?  Think about it . . . how do you feel after fasting all day and then finally sitting down to savor a scrumptious meal?  Your blood sugar plummets and you’re ready to doze off to sleep.  Your children are no different.  Having your child fall asleep during Taraweeh prayer can be the relief you need to focus on your prayers and avoid having to correct him to be quiet or sit still.

Tip 3

Endear your child to stand for the Taraweeh prayer along with you.  It’s not uncommon for children as young as eight-years-old to stand for the entire Taraweeh prayer! However, don’t force it upon your child.  All children are different.  Offer him a special treat if he stands throughout much of the prayer with you.  You’ll find him trying his best to stay on his feet, fighting the urge to rock back and forth and nod off.

Tip 4

Talk to your child prior to leaving home.  Explain to him that you understand how difficult it can be sitting still for such a long period of time.  Explain specifically what type of behavior you expect from him, within reason.  Tell him that you want him to sit down while you’re praying.  Let him know if he wishes to talk, he should use a hushed tone.  If he sits quietly throughout most of the prayer, you’ll give him a gift from your “Ramadan Gift Bag” on the way home.  Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive.  It could even be a special dessert such as an ice cream cone or donut on the way home from the masjid, or even a special sweet treat you cook up at home.

Tip 5

Carry along a “Taraweeh Activity Bag” with an assortment of toys such as coloring books and crayons, pencil and paper, puzzles, sticker books, hand held toys  and whatever other entertaining toys (without images) you think will keep your child’s hands busy and mind occupied while you’re praying.  Why not visit the local dollar store and have your child pick out toys he might enjoy playing with.  After you get home, stuff everything into a back pack for your child to carry with him to the masjid.

Tip 6

Bring a bag of snacks. What better way to keep your child’s mouth closed and hands busy than with baggies filled with savory snacks.   Treats with mini pieces such as bags of nuts, popcorn or fruit snacks are ideal.  They make it practical for your child to share with his friends and they don’t leave crumbs behind.  Be sure to remind him to pick up any bags or wrappers he may have used.

Tip 7

Take an outside break.  Sometimes, being inside for an extensive period of time can be too much for your child. When your child gets cranky and disruptive to others, give him a break.  Allow him (and yourself) to take a breather outside and take in some fresh night air. After calming down your child and gathering your resolve, return inside and continue your prayer.

Tip 8

Remember that you are training your child.  Don’t expect a perfect soldier.  He will falter at times with your instructions. That can be expected.  Your child is not an adult.  And besides, even adults have limitations on their attention spans.  Your child is just that—a child.

Tip 9

Lower your expectations of attaining a perfect Taraweeh prayer.  Times are not the same as when you had no children.  Your child will inevitably take time away from your devotion.  And that’s okay.  You are now in charge of a child you have been given as a trust. Your responsibility is to teach him his purpose in life—to worship his Lord.  Through your patience, guidance and example, he will learn an important facet of Ramadan—standing earnestly at night and enduring the fortitude of praying to His Lord.

Tip 10

For some children, the structured environment of a masjid for such an extended period of time is just too demanding.  In such situations, it’s reassuring to know that for sisters, praying in the home gains more rewards than praying in the masjid–talk about convenience.  So, you can still receive bountiful rewards from your Lord right in your home while praying Taraweeh and at the same time, allow your child to experience the many blessing of this holy month of Ramadan.

What tips do you use to manage children during Taraweeh prayers? Please share with us in the comments section below. 🙂


Originally posted on IOU Blog by Grandma Jeddah

Ramadan Like Never Before – Have a Solid Plan

Verse By Verse Qur'an Study Circle


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

We are going to set five major goals for Ramadan.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Here are some examples for you to create your own Ramadan plan

Now, for example (you live in the West), you are at work and it is prayer time, where are you going to pray? Conference room, outside or can you go to the masjid? Make arrangements right now. 

You can also plan on which Surah you are going to recite in which prayer. 

Setting Our Ramadan Goals

GOAL NUMBER ONE – Fasting at the Best Level
Levels of Fasting 

LEVEL ONE (Ordinary level/Bare minimum) – Not drinking or eating and refraining from fulfilling sexual desires

LEVEL TWO (Special level/Better than previous level) – Controlling one’s gaze, tongue, hands, feet, hearing, and other parts of the body from committing sinful…

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Role of Muslim women in the development of the Islamic sciences

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful”

An African proverb says, “Educate a boy and we educate one person. Educate a girl and we educate a family, a whole nation.”

Islam stresses education more than any other religion and considers it an essential right of every human without discriminating on the basis of gender. Women’s education is as important as men’s for the sustainability and progress of a society. The world is surprised to find that there are many Muslim women scholars who played an active role in the intellectual and social development of Muslim communities. Although the role of women scholars in Hadith Sciences is highlighted, studies show that women also contributed significantly to fields like theology, jurisprudence, literature, technology, calligraphy, medicine and many crafts that we recognize and admire as Islamic. Below is an overview of the contributions made by female Muslim scholars over the Islamic period.

Early Islamic Era: From the earliest days of Islam, women played a vital role in preservation and cultivation of Hadith. They attended prayers and sermons in Prophet’s ﷺ mosque and learnt from him in public gatherings. After his death, Sahabah used to approach Ummhat-ul-Momineen who never felt shy to guide them with their knowledge. In this regard, names of A’ishah , Hafsah, Umm Habibah, Maymunah, Umm Salamah, and Safiyah bint Huyay are renowned (May Allah be pleased with all of them, Ameen). A’ishah R.A has an eminent place in the Islamic history as a major narrator of ahadith. She praised Ansari women for being open to asking issues related to women that keep benefiting the Ummah. Other female companions of Prophet ﷺ also left their mark in history. Among the successors, women remained dynamic contributors to the Muslim civilization. Umm-ud-Darda Sughrah (Death: 81/700 CE) was a taba’iyyah (who was Muslim follower and contemporary of sahaba and born after Prophet’s ﷺ death) and a prominent jurist from Damascus of the 7th century who is considered to be superior to prominent hadith scholars like Ibn Sireen and Hasan al-Basari. She was fiqh teacher of caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. Hafsah bint-Sireen [1] learned many ahadith from sahabi Anas ibn Maalik and was very proficient in Tafseer and Quran recitation. A’bida Al-Madaniyah (8th-century scholar) was a freed slave and wife of the Spanish hadith scholar Habib Duhan. She had a prominent place by memorizing traditions from great hadith scholars of Madina and related more than 10,000 ahadith on the authority of her teachers [2]. Fatima Al-Batayahiyyah [3] was a well-known scholar of the 8th century and taught Sahih Bukhari in Damascus. Leading male scholars of the time came from afar to attend her lectures. A’ishah bint Sa’d bin Abi Waqas, daughter of the famous Sahabi, was so learned that Imam Malik, Hakim ibn Utaybah, and Ayyub as Sakhtiyani were among her students.Read More »

The Lost Female Scholars of Islam

At the time Eileen Collins became the first woman to command the space shuttle, some Muslims were debating the right of women to drive a car on the road. This disparity in the level of public discourse on the rights of women and role of women confront Muslim societies. New findings by a scholar at Oxford on the historical role of women may help Muslims forge a new perspective but still remain true to the Prophetic traditions. Mehrunisha Suleman and Afaaf Rajbee report.

If you call a man a thief long enough, he will start to think he really is a thief. Likewise, if you call a child stupid all the time, she will grow up thinking s/he really is stupid. This swindle of self-perception describes the deep seated anxiety surrounding women in Islam. The sustained media and academic portrayal of Islam has been that of a sexist, patriarchal religion that subjugates women through implicit assumptions of their inferiority. The corrective efforts to this perceived sexism have been shaped by conservatism and radicalism alike. Muslim feminists throw women forward as the bastion of a new, gender-less Islam, free from the shackles of male scholarship and propelling them forth to become imams and state leaders. At the same time, one can find countless imams from the Asian subcontinent who will readily declare women’s rights as a pernicious Western import, against which the best defence is to keep them inside the home and away from places of work and education. In this way, there may be little that separates misogynistic mullahs from progressive feminists: both are reactions to a crisis of confidence in their own faith. The social and political upheavals of the past c e n t u r y h a v e shaken the ummah to the very core – to the point that commentators cannot seem to defend the most basic social relationship between men and women. Amidst these celebrations and condemnations of Islam’s supposed misogynism, Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi’s study of Al Muhaddithat: the women scholars of hadith is a timely reminder that the gender issue need not be a problem in Islam. The portrayal in the media of Islam as the cause of the subordination of women was a key inspiration for the Shaykh to embark on his decade long study. Currently a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, he found himself confronted with disagreements amongst Muslims about their own history. There was a gaping need to seek out the real historical record on women’s place in the Islamic tradition.

There are widely cited arguments that the male gender bias in Islamic scholarship has affected the interpretations of the Qur’an and hadith. But the historical records show examples of fatwas issued by male jurists that were materially adverse to men and in favour of women. Furthermore, many of the testaments of excellent female scholarships have been recounted by their male students. Imam Dhahabi noted that amongst female narrators of hadith, there were none found to be fabricators. Women’s scholarly integrity and independence were unimpeachable. Naturally, any sexist male would have a problem admitting to these facts. Since women today participate so little in the teaching of Hadith and the issuing of fatwas, there is a wide misconception that historically they have never played this role. As Shaykh Akram describes, “when I started, I thought there may be thirty to forty women,” but as the study progressed, the accounts of female scholars kept growing and growing, until eventually there were no less than 8,000 biographical accounts to be found. Such vast numbers truly testify to the huge role that women have played in the preservation and development of Islamic learning since the time of the blessed Prophet Muhammad. The women encountered by Shaykh Akram were far from mediocre when compared to men, indeed, some excelled far beyond their male contemporaries. There were exceptional women who not only actively participated in society but also actively reformed it. Most striking was the high calibre of their intellectual achievements and the respect that they received for this.

Apart from well-known figures, including Ayesha Siddiqa, the daughter of Abu Bakr, the grandeur of forgotten scholars is rekindled in the work. Fatima Al Batayahiyyah, an 8th century scholar taught the celebrated work of Sahih al Bukhari in Damascus. She was known as one of the greatest scholars of that period, demonstrated especially during the Hajj when leading male scholars of the day flocked from afar to hear her speak in person. A beautiful picture is painted of her in an Islam that has been long forgotten – a distinguished, elderly woman teaching her students for days on end in the Prophet’s mosque itself. Whenever she tired, she would rest her head on the Prophet’s grave and continue to teach her students as the hours wore on. A n y w o m a n visiting the Prophet’s mosque now will know the frustration of not even being able to see the blessed Prophet’s grave, let alone rest their head on its side wall.

Another, Zainab bint Kamal, taught more than 400 books of Hadith in the 12th century. Her “camel loads” of texts attracted camel loads of students. She was a natural teacher, exhibiting exceptional patience which won the hearts of those she taught. With such a towering intellectual reputation, her gender was no obstacle to her teaching in some of the most prestigious academic institutes in Damascus.

Then there was Fatimah bint Muhammad al Samarqandi, a jurist who advised her more famous husband on how to issue his fatwas. And Umm al-Darda, who as a young woman, used to sit with male scholars in the mosque. “I’ve tried to worship Allah in every way,” she wrote, “but I’ve never found a better one than sitting around debating with other scholars.” She became a teacher of hadith and fiqh and lectured in the men’s section. One of her students was the caliph of Damascus. The sheer hard work and dedication to Islam by these women is unfathomable by standards today – but they also had some biological advantages against men. Female muhaddi that were often sought after by students to learn hadith because of their longer lifespan – which shortened the links in the chains of narration. Although Shaykh Akram’s study focuses on the narrators of Hadith, he found that women s c h o l a r s had also contributed significantly in teaching “theology, logic, philosophy, calligraphy and many of the crafts that we recognise and admire as Islamic.”

The presence of female teachers alone does not do justice to the importance of women in Islamic history. The Qur’an, as originally recorded on parchments and animal bones, was entrusted to Hafsah, daughter of Umar. It was with the help of these preserved records that Caliph Uthman disseminated six standardised versions of the Qur’an to the major political and cultural centres in the Islamic realm. He ordered all non-standardised editions to be burned, an act that indicates the immense trust in Hafsah’s competence and character. The validity of women’s teachings was never doubted by the Companions on account of their gender, or by any respected scholar since.

Considering Islam’s teachings on the fundamental equality of men and women, Shaykh Akram’s work should really be no surprise. The Prophet taught that there is no difference in worth between believers on account of their gender. Both have the same rights and duties to learn and teach – from memorising and transmitting the words of the Qur’an and Hadith to the interpretation of these sources and giving counsel to fellow Muslims through fatwas (legal opinions). Women have the same duty as men to encourage the good and restrain the evil. It follows quite logically from this that if they cannot become scholars and be capable of understanding, interpreting and teaching, they cannot fulfil their duty as Muslims. If the subjugation of women is not the result of Islamic teachings, then why are there such gross violations of women’s rights in the Muslim world today? Relegating the Muslim woman only to the role of a mother and housewife is a relatively modern phenomenon (didn’t Ayesha lead an army and didn’t Umm Salama avert a crisis at Hudaybiyyah?). The definitive cause to this complex and multi-faceted problem is heavily debated, but a few contributing factors are worth tracing here. The hegemony of Western civilisation in the modern world brings with it an inevitability that the Muslim world will fall victim to its own weaknesses. Women have always had a problematic position in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the most obvious example being the Biblical account of Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden. The source of mankind’s original sin is placed squarely on Eve, who represents the weaker sex in the parable (the pains of childbirth have traditionally been regarded as atonement for this original sin in the Christian faith).

Theological precedents aside, the equality of men and women has come late in the day to Western Europe, with the status of women as “human” being debated in the 16th century and equal legal rights to men only being established by the 19th and 20th centuries. Misogynism was internationalised, as Aisha Bewley, writer and translator of the Qur’an describes, by western colonial authorities who excluded women from teaching in mosques and assuming political roles in the Muslim societies they colonised. “The lens through which the West viewed Muslim women was already a distorted one – and o n c e imposed or implanted among the Muslims, this viewpoint gradually became an established norm.” As the technologically and scientifically superior western culture impressed Muslim intellectuals, they grew more open to the values that these cultures brought with them.

Finger-pointing at “the West” is a comfortable answer for everyone, but it is all the more important to realise that the fate of the Muslim woman cannot be divorced from the fate of the Muslim community as a whole. The retraction of women from the public sphere is also the result of fear. “Islam’s current cultural insecurity has been bad for both its scholarship and its women,” says Shaykh Akram. “Our traditions have grown weak, and w h e n people are weak, they grow cautious. When they are cautious, they don’t give their women freedoms.” Man’s desire to protect women has gone into overdrive, to the point that it has actually undermined the quality of Muslim communities. When the few women that do break free begin to propagate extreme brands of feminism, the result is a vicious circle of suspicion, fear and oppression.
The revelation of the 8,000 strong history of Muslim women scholars will prompt a variety of reactions from various parties. Misogynists are likely to deny it and attempt to undermine its authenticity. Feminists will be pleased that someone has done the hard work for them. Yet the best lesson is most likely to be found in the motivation behind its writing. Shaykh Akram seeks to bring people back to traditional Islam with the purpose of demonstrating that Islam is not misogynistic and nor were early male scholars biased against women. Accusations that his study encourages free-mixing and the relaxing of modesty are unfounded. It is clear in the introduction to the 40 volumes that the hijab is also the sunnah of the Prophet and “enables women to be present and visible in the public space in a way that is safe and dignified.” Here Shaykh Akram’s status as a learned alim from a prestigious institution (Nadwat al Ulama in Lucknow, India) who has studied Islam in the traditional way stands him in good stead; scholars including Shaykh Yusuf al Qaradawi have been more than willing to acknowledge his research and findings.

The irony of our forgotten women scholars is that they spent their lives in the pursuit of historical facts, whereas Muslims have long forgotten the fact of their contribution. Historical criticism is a fundamental principle in Islam. The Qur’an requires “O believers! If any iniquitous person comes to you with a slanderous tale, verify it, lest you hurt people unwittingly…” (49:6) Questioning the media frenzy on Islam is not just a good idea, but a religious obligation for Muslims to seek out the truth.

Once we have acknowledged the true historical record, that women are not subjugated by Islam and have played a part since the very beginning, we must also move on. Islam was not revealed as a bundle of doctrines delineating women’s rights, human rights or animal rights. Islam confers all of these rights and duties on us when we sincerely accept Allah’s rights. Faith, and not bare-knuckled rationality, permits us to create a society where everyone can have their rights upheld t h r o u g h submission to His Word and His messengers. Centuries of accusations of misogynism have been internalised and turned into reality, making Muslims themselves believe that Islam is fl awed. In a world where some women are kept locked in their homes while others are vying to become presidents, Shaykh Akram’s research should present us with some confidence in the justice of Islam. Not because it proves that Islam has had many women scholars – but that there were many great scholars that happened to be women.


Originally posted on emel.comMehrunisha Suleman and Afaaf Rajbee report.

Polygamy in Islam – The Marriages of Prophet Muhammad — Verse By Verse Qur’an Study Circle

Our beloved Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is often criticized for having more than one wife. A man having excellent virtues as himself was not sent to the world for any other purpose than spreading Islam, purifying the people and teaching the Qur’an. He, by his word and deed, made the teachings of Islam radiate all over […]

via Polygamy in Islam – The Marriages of Prophet Muhammad — Verse By Verse Qur’an Study Circle

Looking Through My Window

Looking Through My Window

Many a long hour I sit in my chair
The window open to let in God’s good
It’s a picturesque view for all to see
Especially the lovely,

Tall ash tree
In the spring it was late starting to sprout
But at last the buds just opened out
Now it is standing majestic and tall
Covered in green leaves,

From which the birds call
I watch it each day in the breeze blowing
Without human aid it simply keeps growing
Telling us God’s help is always there
For everyone who really cares
So look out of your window,

All day long
Then you will feel like singing a song
Of thanks and praise for the one above
Giving us everything,

Especially His love

Source: Looking Through My Window