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"My Faith has been Empowering Women since 610 ce !" - Reflections on International Women's Day

 International Women’s Day for me is an opportunity to pause, reflect and celebrate the great strides and achievements by women - past and present.

In so many ways, across cultures and time periods, women have been categorically forgotten that there couldn’t be a better day than this to revive remarkable chronicles of inspirational women. With the overplayed rhetoric of Muslim women in the media as oppressed and undervalued, I believe a little reflection on some contributions of Muslim women is a good counter to ignorance.

I am particularly inspired by two women from the early days of Islam. Both were wives of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) at different times - Khadijah bint Khuwaylid and Aisha’h bint Abu Bakr (May God be pleased with them).

One cannot even begin to write on the accomplishments of Muslim women without mentioning Khadijah. In many ways, she remains a noteworthy example of a strong woman to this day: self-employed, privileged and educated – a loving wife, mother and a successful business woman at a time when female infanticide was common. It is noteworthy that in an era long long ago, Khadijah embodied the contemporary woman, personifying ideals and passions much ahead of that time.

I’d love to be a Khadijah; but I’m not particularly business-savvy. Nevertheless, anyone who is close to me knows that the one thing that binds me to my faith identity is the name I share with two remarkable women of two different time periods - my great grandmother and the youngest wife of the Prophet - Aisha’h. This beautiful name means “Alive – She who lives”.

For almost 50 years after the demise of the Prophet, Aisha’h was extremely instrumental in the disseminating knowledge, educating more than 200 women, children and men in educational gatherings. In addition to memorizing and having her own script of the Quran, she is responsible for contributing around 2000 ahadith (Sayings of the Prophet) which helps Muslims align their lives to Islam even today.

Not only was she proficient in religious matters, but also medicine, poetry as well as the subject of inheritance which required a highly skilled mathematical mind. She is looked upon as a social reformer, political advisor to the Caliphs and a teacher whose oratory power is described in superlative terms in the pages of Islamic history.

 I should add here that all these characteristics have led to the attribution of the trait of incredible passion for knowledge to her name – something which never fails to personally encourage and instigate.

 The inspiration I derive from these remarkable women of faith remains a cherished enigma of sorts, a valued driving force in everyday life.

Originally posted on Faiths Act, Tony Blair Faith Foundation

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Comment by Dr. E. Mohamed Rafique on March 9, 2012 at 7:14am

Good to see a blog that appreciates the merits of women's high status in Islam especially in times when we are swamped by numerous ones that make mountains of the untruthful or out of context molehills!

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