“I made this call to my mom and I was like, I’m coming back….no, I don’t have a job but maybe I need to be back home for the job to find me”

160825114255-cnn-hero-umra-omar-profile-pkg-00000520-super-169Umra Omar, a native of Lamu, Kenya, works to provide access to healthcare to some of the most marginalized communities in Kenya. Her group, Safari Doctors, offers life-saving medical services to people that would have otherwise have had none.  It is also often targetted by the terrorist group, Al Shabaab.

Does she have any regrets leaving her comfortable life in the USA to do this?

“I have absolutely zero regrets for taking the leap of faith. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Watch more…

http://edition.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/world/2016/08/25/cnn-hero-umra-omar-profile-pkg.cnn

(photo credits: CNN)

Fadumo Dayib: The Legitimacy of Muslim Female Leaders

Fadumo Dayib is making rounds in international news for all the right reasons. She is the first female presidential candidate for Somalia, a country known for its long civil war and patriarchy. Her daring ambition has earned her both widespread admiration and hate. She has even received death threats, but the accomplished mother of four says that she is not deterred.  When I read about her in a Marie Claire article about a year ago, I was immediately inspired by her bravery and vision. She was a modern-day role model that I could look up to.

Last year, I was honoured to co-interview her in a Facebook Q&A session hosted by Mombasa-Toa Donge Lako group. We fielded many questions ranging from feminism to Somali culture to East African geo-politics.  All the questions were fascinating and her responses were always direct, concise, and educated.

fadumo

One question, in particular, stands out in my memory as it had been one that I had been wondering about myself for quite a while. It is in regards to the legitimacy of Muslim female leaders:

Question: We often hear that Islam forbids women from assuming leadership positions, how have you overcome that?

Answer:  Islam does not forbid women from assuming leadership positions. If that were the case, all mothers would go to hell as childbearing and rearing is the most difficult leadership position ever assigned to any human being.

To make it short, the Hadith cited was interpreted by the scholars to refer to the position of ruling over all Muslims under a single ruler. This is what was previously called a “caliphate”. Even then, there’s actually a lengthy discussion and debate about whether this Hadith is giving a general ruling or was specific to the Persian Empire at the time, which is when the Prophet PBUH said, “A people will no succeed if they surrender their affairs to a woman.” As for ruling a country, it’s not really an issue because I would be governing a specific location for a segment of the Muslim population. In this case Somalia. An example that can be cited here is when Umar ibn al-Khattab RA put a woman to be responsible for the market in Madina, which meant she’d ruling over men in that capacity.
One issue with Muslims today is the attachment to terms without understanding the concepts underlying them. This has caused a great deal of confusion, especially with regards to politics. A president of a country is not technically supposed to rule in the same capacity as medieval ruler did. In a functioning democracy, there’s a parliament or a senate or a congress as bodies which are supposed to counterbalance the executive branch of government. Technically speaking, the president is not really the “ruler”. They’re the head of a group of people that form a party which is in power, who are in turn checked by other branches of government. This is a simplification, but I say it to illustrate a point: the governmental systems in place today are not the same as those the scholars were living under and interpreting the Quran and Hadith in light of. Hence, it is a mistake to quote a single verse or Hadith and cite what past scholars have said about them without taking into account other plausible interpretations that could run contrary to what they said. This is not to mention Balqees, the Queen of Sheba, mentioned in Surah An’Naml in the Quran who Prophet Suleiman called to Islam. Balqees was mentioned in a way of praise in the Quran for having led her people to success with her wisdom and consultation with them. Stories like hers are what the Quran calls “lessons for those with intellect” and “lessons for those who ponder and reflect”. The Prophet PBUH Sunnah is supposed to be an explanation of the Quran, not a contradiction against it. Unfortunately, we live in a time where many Muslims have rejected traditional scholarship and methodology and have resorted to nihilistic approaches where they think quoting a single verse or Hadith can be authoritative to make something permissible or impermissible. May Allah guide us all.

I overcome this challenge by highlighting that our religion gave us rights long before others caught on. Islam is peace, it brings mercy and enlightenment. Anyone distorting its beautiful teachings and tarnishing its image needs to be checked. It is our obligation to do so. We need to learn our religion instead of parroting what certain sheikhs have said. The first verse was Iqra. And read we must. We also need to understand what we read in order to apply in our daily lives.

 

A full recording of the interview can be found on Donge’s Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/168336429956770/search/?query=fadumo%20dayib

Ms. Dayib’s official website is https://fqdayib.com/

(Photo from Ms. Dayib’s Facebook page)
 

The Muslim next door

“Why can’t we all coexist?!? I am tried of the hate and the judgments! It makes me feel so torn…I am a Muslim and I am an American and I am Egyptian, but in the end I am a HUMAN and Allah (God) made us all to COEXIST!”  This was a recent status  update on my friend’s Facebook profile and it grabbed my attention .  Hanan, this post is especially dedicated to you.

Unwelcome: Muslims Next Door

The above video featured by CNN highlights the reality of post-911 America. These days Muslims Americans have had to constantly have to defend their religious practices.  It is very unfortunate that throughout history, there has to be a group of people that are targeted specifically for their religion, color, or ethnicity. It used to be the Japanese, then African-Americans, now it is Muslims (imagine being African-American AND Muslim!). 

Perhaps we (Muslims) should think of taking a page out of the advertisers handbook…..we should take the responsibility of rebranding our image so to speak. How can you, (the Muslim) engineer, doctor, writer, artist, teacher, housewife, etc, contribute your skills and talents to enhance the Muslim image in the West?  My friend had expressed the need to learn more about Islam before taking up the responsibility of educating the public about Islam.  I agree..to a certain degree.  I happen to think that the best way to learn is to engage.  In other words, go out there and mingle with the public.  Volunteer in your local community, diversify your group of friends.  Talking about the virtues of Islam is great, but how about modelling the virtues of Islam?

The terrible events of 911 instilled a great sense of fear in the hearts and minds of Americans. The media feeds us fear.  And we have become very scared of the unknown, a reminder of our own mortality. Unfortunately the fear of the unknown has further fueled the xenophobia that has become so pervasive in our great country.  

As an American, nothing gives me greather pride than my right to practise my faith the way I see fit.  Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers said “among the inestimable of our blessings, also, is that …of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will”. 

I believe firmly that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. Just as Muslims are under fire in America, people of other faiths are also harrased for practising their faiths in other parts of the world. To my Muslim brothers and sisters, will we stand by those persecuted people the same way our fellow Americans have stood up for us in our time of need?

Mother of the Believers

I want to introduce you to an author that I am enjoying reading, Kamran Pasha. He is an established script writer, producer and author. He has worked on projects such as NBC’s “Kings” and ShowTime’s “Sleeper Cell.”

Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam

A stunning debut novel illustrating the birth of Islam from the perspective of the prophet Muhammad’s young wife Aisha.

Deep in the desert of seventh century Arabia, a new prophet named Muhammad has arisen. After he beholds a beautiful woman in a vision and resolves to marry her, the girl’s father quickly arranges the wedding. Aisha becomes the youngest of Muhammad’s twelve wives and her feisty nature and fierce intelligence establishes her as his favorite. But when Aisha is accused of adultery by her rivals, she loses the Prophet’s favor—and must fight to prove her innocence.

Pardoned by her husband after a divine revelation clears her name, Aisha earns the reluctant respect of Muslim men when their settlement in Medina is attacked and she becomes a pivotal player on the battlefield. Muhammad’s religious movement sweeps through Arabia and unifies the warring tribes, transforming him from prophet to statesman. But soon after the height of her husband’s triumph—the conquest of the holy city of Mecca—Muhammad falls ill and dies in Aisha’s arms.

A widow at age nineteen, Aisha fights to create a role for herself in the new Muslim empire—becoming an advisor to the Caliph of Islam, a legislator advocating for the rights of women and minorities, a teacher, and ultimately a warrior and military commander. She soon becomes one of the most powerful women in the Middle East, but her passionate nature leads to tragedy when her opposition to the Caliph plunges the Islamic world into civil war. The women of Islam view her as a hero, but Aisha is filled with uncertainty and regret whenever she considers her legacy.

Written in beautiful prose and meticulously researched, Mother of the Believersis a compelling work of historical fiction that portrays an empowered Muslim woman who helped usher Islam into the world.

Courtesy of Kamran Pasha