Contemporary Challenges of Muslim Women

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Al-Hamdulillah Rabb Al-Alameen. Wa as-Salatu wa as-Salamu 'ala ashraf al-anbiya'i wal mursaleen, Habib ilahi al-'alameen Abil Qasim al Mustafa Muhammad wa 'ala ahli baytihi, at-tayibeen, at-tahireen alladheena adh-haba Allahu 'anhumur rijsa wa tahharahum tatheera.

Qaala Allahu Ta'ala fi kitaabihi al-karim: Bismillah, Al-Rahim and Al-Rahim. "Wa al-mu'minuna wa al-mu'minati ba'dhuhum awliya'u ba'adh. Ya'muroona bil ma'roofi wa yanhawna 'anil munkari. Wa yuqimoona as-salaata wa yu'toona az-zakaata wa yuti'oona Allah wa Rasuluh. Ulaaika sayarhamahum Allah, inna Allaha Azizun, Hakeem." (9:71)

Respected Brothers and sisters as-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. I would like to congratulate you all on this auspicious occasion on the birth of Sayyidatu an-Nisa' al 'aalameen, the birth of Fatima Zahra alayha as-salam. And we ask Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala to grant us her Ziyarah and her shafa'ah in this life and in the next life. InshaAllah, tonight, we will be discussing the life of this honourable lady, the life of this great lady, Fatima Zahra Alayha as-salam, and we will also look at some of the challenges that Muslim women face today, and discuss and try to see ways to learn and benefit from the life of Fatimatu Zahra alayha as-salam.

According to our narrations, Fatimata Zahra Alayha as-salam, was born on the 20th of Jamadi Thani. In the five years after the bi'tha of the Rasul Allah SallAllahu 'alayhi wa aalih, meaning five years into the prophethood of Rasul Allah SallAllahu 'alayhi wa aalih, and we have traditions that state that Fatimatu Zahra was conceived after Rasul Allah, went to the heavens, went to the paradise and the heavens, and he ate a fruit from paradise and Fatimatu Zahra alayha as-salam was conceived after that.

This is why Rasul Allah SallAllahu 'alayhi wa aalih he says about her, he says, Fatima Hawraun insiyya. She is a heavenly, she's from paradise, but she's a human. And we have numerous traditions that Rasul Allah SallAllahu 'alayhi wa aalih used to smell the neck of Fatima and he would be reminded of the smell of paradise, the smell that he smelt when he went to paradise.

Of course, there is no doubt that the closest lady to Rasul Allah SallAllahu 'alayhi wa aalih was his daughter, Fatima. He says, Fatima qurratu 'ayni, wa abnaha thamarata fu'aadi. Fatima is the joy of my eyes and her sons, they are the fruits of my heart. And several instances the Qur'an shows us how Rasul Allah SallAllahu 'alayhi wa aalih was so close to Fatima alayha as salam in the event of Hadith, the verse of tatheer, the Hadithal Kisa and Ayat Tatheer it was Fatima alayha as-salam who was purified in the Qur'an. None of the other wives of the Prophet, no other lady in the life of the Prophet was purified the way Fatima Zahra Alayha as-salam was. Where Allah says in the Qur'an "Innama yureedu Allahu liyudhhiba 'ankum ar-rijsa ahlal bayti wa yutahhirakum tatheera" (33:33) [Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying].

In the verse of Mubahala, the only lady that came out with Rasul Allah SallAllahu 'alayhi wa aalih was his daughter, Fatima Alayha as-salam, and the Qur'an says "faman haajjaka fiihi min ba'di ma jaa'aka min al 'ilm, faqul ta'alaw nad'u abnaa'ana wa abnaa'akum wa nisa'ana wa nisa'akum wa anfusana wa anfusakum, thumma nabtahil fa naj'al la'nat Ullahi 'ala al-kaadhibeen"(3:61) [But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our near people and your near people, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars].

It was Fatima Alayha as-salam, who was with Rasul Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa aalih. So my dear brothers and sisters, Fatima Zahra was the closest to Rasul Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa aalih. And Rasul Allah was not shy to display that love to his daughter Fatima. You know, in a society in a time fourteen hundred years ago, it wasn't only the Arabs that were against women. All societies at that time, any display of affection to a daughter, to a wife, to a lady was seen as a sign of weakness, especially amongst the Arabs at that time. At that time, if someone had a daughter, they would feel shame. Allah describes in the Qur'an "wa idha bushshira ahaduhum bil untha, dhalla wajhuhu muswaddan wa huwa kadheem" (16:58) [And when a daughter is announced to one of them his face becomes black and he is full of wrath].

Rasul Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa aalih, he would go out in public and he would be very proud that he has a daughter, Fatima Zahra alayha as-salam. He would be very proud. He would go out in front of everyone and he would say, Fatima qurratu 'ayni, Fatima is the joy of my eyes. Inna Allah yarda li rida Fatima, wa yaghdhubu li ghadhabiha. There are some cultures they say don't even mention the name of your daughter, don't even mention the name of such individual.

Rasul Allah would go out and he would say Fatima qurratu 'ayni Fatima ruhi allati bayna janbayy, Fatima is my soul. Fatima bad'atun minni. Rasul Allah was not shy, he did not hesitate to show his affection to his daughter Fatima, alayha as-salam. This is why they say that when he would travel, when he would leave Madina, if he was leaving behind his daughter Fatima, she would be the last person he says goodbye to, because that's the last memory he wants to leave and have of Madina.

And when he comes back, there were many who were saying, let Rasul Allah come to our house, let Rasul Allah come to me. He would go and visit Fatimatu Zahra, alayha as-salam. When she would enter into a room Rasul Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa aalih, he would stand up - qaama ilayha - he would stand up. He would take a few steps, he would go to her. Then he would kiss her hand and then he would bring her to sit in his own place. This is how close Fatima Zahra was, to Rasul Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa aalih.

Now, Fatima was not great just because she's the daughter of the Prophet, or the wife of Imam Ali, or the mother of Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn, even though those are things that make her very great, being the daughter of a prophet is something very great, being the wife of an imam, being the mother of imams, the mother of all of the imams. But Fatima Zahra, alayha as-salam, she was great in her own way.

This is not to undermine the role of daughters and mothers and wives. Being a daughter is a gift. If someone has a daughter, this is a gift that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has given you. Being a wife, this is also a role, a very important role. We need husbands and wives. It's a very important role. If those fulfil their roles, then they will be doing something that satisfies Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and they will be able to satisfy themselves as well and satisfy their own needs.

Being a mother today, unfortunately, the role of the mother has been undermined and looked down upon. It's disrespected - motherhood. Being a mother is looked down upon. This is why a lot of people, they want to delay being a mother. A lot of people, they look down upon, oh, am I just going to be a mother? Being a mother is one of the greatest honours and Fatimatu Zahra alayha as-salam she was a mother.

But Fatima was great for other reasons as well. She was great because she did not allow society to limit her. She did not allow the society or societal norms to limit her and limit what she could do and what she could say. Her identity was not confined by the society that she was living in. Today, one of the greatest struggles everyone has, many people have, is that their identity and the way that they socialise, the things that they do for fun, the things that they do for entertainment, all of these things, they are defined by the society that they're living in. Society says this is accepted and this is not accepted.

This is why there are some things in our mind that are immoral, that are wrong, but today society says, no, no, no, this is something that has to be accepted. Fatimatu Zahra, alayha as salam, she teaches us to not allow society to confine you. This is why in a society that look down upon women, in a society that confined the roles of women Fatimatu Zahra, alayha as-salam, she spoke out.

Fatimatu Zahra was an educator. She was a scholar. She would educate people about the Qur'an, about the religion of Islam, about the values and principles that Islam stands for. She was a philanthropist, someone who helps out others, someone who gives. She was an activist, a seeker of social justice, and she was a worshipper, a 'abida. Imam al-Hassan, alayhi as-salam, he says, "Lam ara a'bad min ummi Fatima". I have not seen anyone worship more than my mother, Fatima alayha as-salam.

And she did all of that. She fulfilled all of these roles where Rasul Allah says she becomes Sayyidatu an-nisa'al 'aalameen she did all of that while preserving her modesty in her hijab, in her chastity. And this is something very important. Today, many they come and they say, yes, I can be free, but I'm limited by my religion, but I'm limited by my hijab, but I'm limited by my prayers, by my obligations. My dear brothers and sisters, religion does not limit you. Religion helps you reach your highest potential.

It's societal norms, it's cultures that limit individuals. Today, some say Islam takes away the rights of women and this is something we always hear. I always get messages. Oh, Islam is patriarchal religion. Islam is against women. Islam doesn't give women their rights. Yes, to an extent. Probably in some areas there are many Muslim women, many societies, many areas where predominantly Muslim, they don't give rights. But that's not Islam my dear brothers and sisters. That's cultural norms. That's societal norms.

Otherwise, if you want to look at Islam as a religion, go and look at Fatimatu Zahra. Go and look at Sayyida Khadija. Go on, look at, Sayyida Zaynab. These individuals, these ladies, who if it were not for them, Islam would have been lost today. These ladies saved Islam. These ladies, they fulfilled their roles and their duties and they reached their highest potential. Yes. I'm not going to disagree. Cultures limit women, societies limit women. Even until now, there are some cultural norms that go against Islam and go against Islamic values and teachings. And not only Arab culture or the culture of Muslims. No, Western culture, as well, limits women under the guise that we are giving freedom, freedom of expression or freedom to do whatever you want, they are in a way limiting the roles of women, and this is something that many cultures share.

Now, today, my dear brothers and sisters, since we are commemorating and we are talking about the life of Fatimatu Zahra, alayha as-salam, and the birth of Fatimatu Zahra, alayha as-salam, let's discuss some of the contemporary challenges women face today.

Someone might come and say, we're talking about a lady that came fourteen hundred years ago. How does that help me today? No, my dear brothers and sisters, the Ahlul Bayt are relevant in our life today, the Qur'an is relevant in our lives today. The true Islamic teachings can change our lives to the better. They can free us from the shackles of the societal norms. This is why my dear brothers and sisters let us go to the Ahlul Bayt. Allah says in the Qur'an, "Laqad kaana lakum fi Rasul Allah uswatun Hasana" (33:21). "In Rasul Allah you find the best role model". Is the Qur'an only talking about people that lived fourteen hundred years ago? No. The Ahlul Bayt, they are role models when it comes to philanthropy, when it comes to giving, when it comes to standing for social justice, amr bil Ma'ruf, Nahi 'anil Munkar, when it comes to life, living life as a whole, you see that the Ahlul Bayt, alayhimu as-salam, are excellent role models.

Now some of the challenges women face today, and especially Muslim women, Muslim women that want to abide by the laws of Islam, that want to abide by the laws of the Qur'an and the laws of the religion. They live and they have a very difficult time right now, you know, because the responsibilities right now are much greater on a Muslim woman living in contemporary times. How so? Before probably the age of our grandparents, our parents, before that, society would expect from women to be at home, take care of the children, become a wife, become a mother, cook the food, prepare everything, and do her role inside her house.

Now yes, this doesn't mean that some women did not go and do other things. And even from an Islamic perspective, Islam has no issue with a lady working, with a lady doing other things. But before, it was predominantly and commonly accepted and it was the norm for women to be in the house not working. And many of them would probably not even pursue higher education. And then they would take care of the kids, become a wife and do the the house job.

Today, the expectations of a lady are different. Today, it is expected of a lady to have a job, to have a degree, to provide for the family, to also be one of those who, you know, provides and gives and contributes to the family. She is expected to make sure her house is in order and also outside there are expectations of her to have a degree and work and be successful outside. Today, ask many, many even men today, some men when they're looking for a wife, they say, I don't want just a wife that's just sitting at home and not doing anything. I want her to contribute. I want this and that.

So the expectations are different. So here, many women, they find it difficult. They find it that the responsibilities on their shoulders are a lot more, and a lot more difficult because now you have duties in the house. You have to make sure you're fulfilling your duties. You have to make sure you're fulfilling your modesty and your chastity and your hijab and all of that. And also you have to make sure you're competing with people in the workplace. So this makes it very difficult for women today, especially the Muslim women who are practising hijab and modesty and fulfilling all of their responsibilities.

So one of the greatest challenges today many face is the balances. Balancing between responsibilities in life and duties in life. And when there are problems in a marriage, a lot of it, they go back to the issue of balance. One comes and says, oh, she was doing too much of this and she wasn't fulfilling her duty towards the family, for example, or another says she's not contributing towards the house and these type of things. It goes back to balancing between responsibilities, what God expects from you, what society expects from you and what you want to achieve yourself. It's really difficult. And it could, you know, it could create some stress and anxiety for many people.

Today, one of the challenges that we see, especially a lot of people that we have to counsel when they're going through problems and difficulties in their marriage, is counselling between people having to balance between their career and their family. Today, one of the main issues of divorce and problems within a marriage is that some can't balance between career and family. And this isn't only something that women are struggling with. Men struggle with this as well. Today, some men they're workaholics. They go and they work and then they go and they want to have fun. They want to do whatever they want to do. How much time do they spend with the family?

And this is something that's also starting to happen with women as well. Before, the expectation, it wasn't expected of a lady to go out and work. So now it's expected. So now you find there are some marriages that are having trouble balancing between these responsibilities and these duties. So what's the solution?

First of all, is a lady obliged to work? The answer? Islamically, no. From an Islamic perspective, the lady is not obliged to provide for the family. Now, this doesn't mean that she doesn't have to work, or she's not supposed to work or Islam is against her work. No, as long as there's an agreement within the family and it is accepted, then there's nothing wrong with that. But she does not have to provide for the family. This is one. Now if she wants to provide for the family, this is another issue and she can do so, there's nothing wrong with that.

The other issue is that today when people are getting married. When a guy and a girl they want to get married, in society today it's commonly accepted that a lady, she wants to work and she wants to have a career. So if he knows that, going into the marriage, he knows that this is her passion, and he married her agreeing upon that, and knowing that, then he can't come and stop that after the marriage has taken place. Because he went and he married her knowing that she has a career, knowing that she's studying and she wants to have a job and she wants to also have a career.

So today, some people, they come and they say, whenever we're going through these counselling issues, a lot of the guys they come in, they say, yeah, but a lady is not supposed to work. Yes. Maybe a lady that's living in a different culture. But in this culture, when you went and you got married, and when you were getting to know her, you knew, even if it wasn't said, but you knew that she had the passion of education and she wants to work. So you didn't say anything at that time. You went into the marriage knowing that. Therefore, today, scholars say if you knew that, then this is the agreement that this is the the basis that the marriage was founded on. So this is a very important issue.

Another very important point is that at the time of marriage, at the time of the engagement, when doing the katb kitaab, here you could solve a lot of issues, solve a lot of issues. And here in the Western culture or here, they call it prenuptial agreement. The prenuptial agreement, it mainly has to do with finances.

In Islam, we could do an agreement in the katb kitaab when you're doing the marriage, the nikah, you could stipulate - the husband could stipulate things or the wife could stipulate things - stipulate certain things that they want in the relationship. Now, some things are not accepted if they go against the marriage, but in general, many things are accepted. And if they agree upon it, then that will be a part of the marriage contract, and therefore the rights will be preserved. Because today a lot of people, they come and they say Islam is against women's rights, especially when it comes to marriage or, for example, when it comes to divorce.

No, there is a way there is a solution, but it has to be taken place before the contract to stipulate that, for example, a lady, she has the right, she has wikalah, she has power of attorney from her husband to carry out the divorce. This is something that all scholars allow. It just needs to be done at the time of doing the marriage and the the katb kitab. This is a very important issue.

But today, a lot of people, when it comes to marriage, when it comes to getting to know one another, they're living in la la land. They're not even thinking about these things. And then five years later, one year later, ten years later, oh, he was this. And he's this. And she's this. And she's that. They start making up problems. People invest, people invest hours, hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars and getting married on the wedding and all these things.

But they're not willing to spend an hour or two or three hours learning about that relationship, and knowing what to stipulate and what to expect when you're getting married, and how to protect yourself and protect your, you know, protect yourself and your interest going into the relationship.

So this is why marriage counselling before the marriage is also something very important to go and see, what are your rights, what are your duties, what are your responsibilities getting into the relationship?

If that's not done, then later on you're going to see struggles in balancing the relationship. And this is a very important point. But my dear brothers and sisters, Islam is not against women working as long as she's fulfilling her duty, her responsibilities and duties towards the family.

But my dear brothers and sisters, the family is not something that is secondary. Today, a lot of people, they come and they say, oh, yeah, I can't work. I have to sacrifice. Because of, because of the family, I had to sacrifice my career. You know what? Your most important investment in this life is your family. It's not your career. Your career is the money that you make, your rizq, your sustenance, as promised for you by Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. Don't worry about that. Your most important investment in this life are your children, your family, the happiness, the functionality of the family.

Today, some people there's no happiness, there's no talk, there's no quality marriage, quality love, because they're focussed on quantity. They're focused on how much money I could add into my bank account, what kind of a car I'm driving, what kind of furniture I have, what kind of a house I have. These things don't bring happiness, my dear brothers and sisters. Focus on the essence of the family. And this is what Fatimatu Zahra did. Fatimatu Zahra, alayha as-salam, she made sure that the family was a happy place. She invested in her children and her family and being a mother my dear brothers and sisters, being a wife, being a daughter, these are not things that... These don't bring down a lady.

Today some they come and they think or they look down upon someone. But that doesn't bring you down. Similarly with the husband as well, by spending time, quality time with the family, showing love, showing attachment, that doesn't bring you down, that raises you in the eyes of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

Fatimatu Zahra alayha as-salam, she had that perfect household. She would invest in her children. She would teach her children, she would spend time with them. She would teach them how to do du'a how to speak to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.

Another very important challenge, is the challenge of hijab today, my dear brothers and sisters, a contemporary challenge. And for a guy, it's not the same. For a guy to come and say, hijab is Wajib upon woman. It doesn't... You know, it's - some women, they say, no matter how many times someone says it there is a burden, it hinders us. It hinders our success and we see that we can't reach our highest potential. And yes, my dear brothers and sisters, I'm not going... My dear sisters, I'm not going to, you know, deny that it is a burden and it is difficult, and even Rasul Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wa aalih, did not deny that. Rasul Allah, he acknowledged that the hijab is a difficult challenge for women. Now yes, hijab is for men and women, but for women it's more difficult. And Rasul Allah acknowledged that. When was that?

When the Muslims were going out for jihad, they were going out for war. Rasul Allah called all of the men. You have to come out for war. You have to come out to defend. So some of the women at that time, they came and they told Rasul Allah "Ya Rasul Allah. We also want to go out. We want to defend we want to carry the swords and defend Islam and the Muslim community." Rasul Allah tells them no, your jihad, your struggle, is the hijab. Your struggle is the modesty and the chastity. What does Rasul Allah say? Rasul Allah acknowledges that it's a struggle. The struggle of the men is in the battle. That's how difficult it is. And equally difficult is the struggle of the women by practising modesty and wearing the hijab.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean that men don't have hijab. Men also have hijab, but the hijab of the woman is much more difficult. And now in contemporary times, it's become even more difficult. Why? Because before a lady was in her home, society accepted that a lady should be dressed modestly. She wouldn't go out or there was, you didn't have social media at that time. You didn't have Hollywood movies. You didn't have all of this makeup and all of this, these issues out there.

So here, women they feel that they are pressured to reveal their body in order to be accepted. There's a pressure on them. Some women, they come and they say, if I don't, you know, if I am wearing hijab, I'm not going to get this job. If I'm not wearing makeup, I have so much perfume on, I have all of these things, if I don't post on social media, I'm never going to get married. So, today, there are pressures on women when it comes to hijab, contemporary pressures that did not exist before.

So here we have to, first of all, we don't deny that it's a difficult challenge. But my dear brothers and sisters, and my dear sisters, hijab should not... Hijab is not intended to stop a lady from reaching her highest potential. In fact, hijab is made, it is a system that allows and sheds light on the personality and who the lady is. Because society now, cultures, they come and they just want to focus on the body of a lady, they want to focus on the clothes that she was wearing. They want to focus on her looks. This is what everyone focuses on.

Even sometimes there are women that are very accomplished. They come, the first thing they talk about the most. She was wearing this dress and she was wearing that. And she has this and that. She's classy. The way she walks in, the way she talks, that's what they focus on right now.

Islam says, no, let a lady be known for who she is, for her individual contributions, for her knowledge, for her virtues.

And today, for those who say that hijab limits, no hijab does not limit, because right now we have Muslim women practising good hijab. They are lawyers and doctors and engineers and teachers and politicians and any career you could think of.