Way too hard

By: Yasmin Mogahed

Throughout my travels, I’ve spoken to a lot of women over the years. And I’ve realized there is a persistent trend among us.

We are too hard on ourselves. Way too hard.

We carry the burdens of everyone and everything. We feel responsible for everyone and everything. Anything that goes wrong is our fault and upon us alone to fix. If we are anything short of perfect, we beat ourselves up mercilessly. Any mistake–big or small–goes unforgiven. And it must be punished with brutal self talk.
One slip and the internal whip comes out.

We are *full* of mercy and compassion for others. But have none for ourselves. Why? Because no matter how hard we are trying, no matter how much we are juggling, no matter how many roles we are balancing, somehow it is still never good enough. To us. We feel unworthy.

I ask women to do this exercise to illustrate the immensity of this gap. Imagine your sister or your best friend makes a mistake. Now imagine talking to her as you talk to yourself when *you* make a mistake. Imagine using the same words against her.

You probably cringed. Why? Because the truth is we would *never* treat others as horribly as we treat ourselves. And if we did, our relationships would fall apart.

Now think of what you’re doing to your relationship with yourself. To your own self esteem and self worth. Why can you have compassion for others, but none for yourself? Why do you have so much mercy for the flaws of others, but are merciless towards yourself?

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Have mercy with those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy with you.”

Remember that this Hadith includes having mercy *on ourselves*. Having compassion *for ourselves*. And what is often the most difficult of all: Forgiving ourselves.

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Before you ask her

By: Maryam Amir

Before you flippantly ask a woman, “when she’s going to get married” consider; perhaps yesterday the person she and her family joyfully thought she was going to marry decided to break it off and she’s still reeling.

Perhaps she’s the survivor of abuse and trauma and she’s still struggling to consider the possibility of marriage as a healing relationship.

Perhaps she’s oppressively been denied over and over because of the racism, colorism and abelism in our community.

Perhaps she’s eager to consider marriage, but constantly dealing with the stigma of being a divorcee or single mother.

Perhaps she’s the sole care taker of her elderly parents and no potential suitor has been open to having her parents live with them.

Perhaps she’s terrified because she has only seen angry, hurtful, abusive, painful relationships and she’d rather be single because she’s never seen marriage bring tranquility.

Perhaps she has her own private reasons to focus on school and work and community that go beyond the assumptions others make of her and labels others place on her.

Perhaps she desperately wants to get married, cries about it in the privacy of her room, while forcing a smile when you’ve awkwardly asked her this question, reminding her she’s getting older when she is very, very well aware of that reality.

Unless you’re in a trusted position to support her, before you ask a woman “why she isn’t married yet,” perhaps consider not asking her at all.

Marriage Alphabet

The ABC’s of a Happy Marriage
(Muslim Edition)
by: Hosai Mojaddidi

A) Allah: Make the pleasure of Allah ﷻ the central focus as well as purpose of your marriage.

B) Blame: Be fair and honest when assigning blame and always start with yourself first.

C) Compromise: If you’re not willing to compromise then you’re being selfish. Selfish people don’t have happy marriages.

D) Divorce: Divorce is the death of a marriage. Don’t be careless with the word and never threaten with it unless you’re actually considering it for good reason.

E) Ego: The success of your marriage depends entirely on your ability to control your ego. Work on it constantly.

F) Fitnah: Be vigilant and pay attention to your heart. If you ever feel distance, resentment, distrust, anger, or any such negative feeling for your partner then Fitnah is on the horizon. Purge it. Do NOT avoid it or bury it. It will surface and spread.

G) Gratitude: Express gratitude daily for your partner. You are not entitled to anything in this life so don’t act like you are. Be an appreciative person and vocalize your gratitude through loving words, gifts, reciprocity, etc.

H) Hug: Make it a point to hug each other frequently. A warm embrace can expunge the heart of negative feelings and restore love and intimacy.

I) Intention: Make the intention to please your spouse every day in one way or another. Think about their needs and wants and find a way to make them happy.

J) Jugular: Allah ﷻis closer to us than our jugular vein. Remember this always so that you feel connected to Him when you embrace one another.

K) Kiss: Kisses are acts that relay different messages. They can be healing, loving, and stimulating. Don’t limit them to one intention but use them to communicate a variety of feelings.

L) Listen: Learn to listen actively, which requires humility, patience, and a true desire to understand your partner. Nodding along while planning your response is NOT listening actively.

M) Miserliness: Being a miser is one of the most detestable things. Don’t be miserly in your love, in your compliments, with your wealth, with your time, etc. A marriage of misers is doomed to be miserable.

N) Nurture: Treat your marriage like a living thing that needs constant sustenance and nurturing. It cannot grow without attention from both you and your partner. If either of you neglect it, growth will be stunted or completely destroyed!

O) Offer: Remember to offer your help regularly and sincerely. Ask your partner if they need something from you or if you can somehow lighten their load, and do not take advantage of their generosity so that you are not taken advantage of either.

P) Prioritize: Your marriage should come before every other relationship. Make sure to never neglect it to take care of someone or something else. Remember, only a foolish person lets his/her own crops die while planting seeds for someone else.

Q) Qur’an: Read, recite, and listen to Qur’an together. Share your reflections and learn from one another.

R) Respect: People who command respect are not the same as those who demand it. If you speak and act respectfully, then you are deserving of respect, but if you speak rudely and crudely then you deserve the same.

S) Salat: Pray together as often as possible. It will help you stay mindful that before anything and anyone else, God is the sole purpose of your marriage.

T) Talk: Check in with each other daily whether through text, email, phone or face-to-face conversation. Don’t get accustomed to too much silence or else that is all you will ever experience.

U) Ultimatums: If you rely on ultimatums to get your way then you’re a bully. Fair people negotiate and compromise until a mutual benefit is reached. They don’t threaten no matter how noble their intentions may be.

V) Vessel: According to the Hadith, people are like vessels and they only pour out what they contain. Hold yourself accountable every day by asking yourself, “What kind of vessel was I today? What did I pour out into my marriage and into the world? Was it pure or toxic?”

W) Weekends: Cherish your time off from work, school, and other obligations and make sure to save some ALONE time with one other. Weekends are opportunities to reconnect, so don’t squander them on petty things, fruitless events, or negative people.

X) Xenial: Be gracious and xenial with one another’s family and loved ones for it will automatically increase the love in your heart for one another.

Y) Yardstick: Measure one another fairly and only by the standards set forth by God, and NOT the standards of any particular culture, family, group, or individual.

Z) Zeal: It’s good to be passionate in life but when you’re married your decisions are no longer just your own. Zeal unchecked can send you too far into murky waters so tether it and temper it through your partner.

Motherhood

Dear Mothers,

When the days and nights pass too quickly; and the daily routines mount one after the other; and the calls for your help from hallways and stairways, bathrooms and kitchens, and driveways and backyards echo throughout the house; and the cracked egg shells and spotted banana peels mound your garbage bins; and the stacks of unopened mail line your counters; and the dishes take up permanent residence in the sink; and the baskets of laundry that remain unwashed or unfolded continue to grow; and the notifications from WhatsApp and Messenger flood your phone like sirens calling you in the distance; and the silent taunts from frames of wedding memories and family portraits hanging on the walls throughout the house fill you with deep sadness; and the mirror in the bathroom reveals lines in your face you’ve never seen before and can’t bear to accept; and your bones begin to creak and crack in a familiar and oddly satisfying pattern with every bow and prostration in your prayer; and no matter how many appointments you make, how many to-do lists you successfully cross out, and how many reminders you set, that nagging whisper that relentlessly fills you with inadequacy, failure, and loss for all that was and all that you were (or could have been) persists to ring inside your ears…know right then and there that everything you are, everything you’ve done, every fear you’ve ever had but pushed through because you had to, every dream you’ve had to put aside or forget, every thankless task you’ve ever done for someone else, every tear you’ve ever shed with others or in private, and every sacrifice big or small you’ve ever made is absolutely, unequivocally accounted for by your Lord and He forgets NOTHING!

The self-doubt that fills you is a reflection not of your worth as you may think, but of your sincerity, humility, and desire to always be better and do better, and a proof of the immeasurable force and strength of your will, and a confirmation of the honor your Lord has bestowed upon your body, your mind, your spirit and your soul by giving you the high and formidable station of MOTHERHOOD.

So my dear sister, do NOT pay any attention to the baseless whispers, for they are small because they emanate from the smallest of places. Think, who stands to benefit from infiltrating the heart of every family and destroying it from within? Who stands to benefit from toppling down the GIANT soul that every selfless devoted mother possesses? Only the greatest coward in pursuit of someone POWERFUL & STRONG that intimidates him and he sees as a threat!

So, do NOT fall to despair! You are ENOUGH, you are WORTHY, and even when you think you’re failing, you are SUCCEEDING in ways you will never know. Can you imagine where the world would be without the unconditional and unwavering love of every mother like you?!

Motherhood is the radiant crown of this world and you are one among many other jewels banded together and raised up high by your Lord! Hold your head up, count your every blessing, and know with certainty that as long as you remain devoted and dutiful to your Lord, He is with you and will reward you for your every single effort AND your every intention to do more even if you can’t!

HOSAI MOJADDIDI

Spiritually-elevated women

By: Maryam Amir

Virgin Mary عليها السَّلام miraculously bore Christ ﷺ, one of the most incredible men to walk the planet, but she was never married.

Aishah رضي الله عنها had an incredible marriage, but she was never a mother. She was also a widow.

Asiyah عليها السَّلام was an adoptive mother to Mosesﷺ, but was married to a tyrannical husband.

The blessed Prophetic father ﷺ of Hajar’s رضي الله عنها son Ismail ﷺ was alive but physically separated from them and so she essentially raised her son as a single mother.

Eve عليها السلام had one child who was committed to morality, and she another who must have torn her heart out when he murdered his own brother.

Zaynab bint Jahsh رضي الله عنها was divorced, but then remarried the best man on earth ﷺ.

Fatimah رضي الله عنها was repeatedly described as the most devoted daughter in addition to her roles as wife and mother.

Khadijah رضي الله عنها had the most amazing husband ﷺ with the most amazing children and the most compassionate, passionate marriage.

The Queen of Sheba عليها السَّلام is described in the Qur’an in connection with her position, but not explicitly in connection to marriage or motherhood.

God gave us examples in history of some of the most spiritually elevated women in different types of single/married or motherhood/less situations.

It is unjust for our community to portray a woman’s piety being connected solely to her marriage or motherhood status when even some of the most important figures of our history did not fulfill some of our community’s contemporary expectations. Yes, marriage and motherhood are so important. But not every woman will experience them, nor find happiness in them. That is not commentary on her worth or the level of her connection to Allah.

Sisters: God knows your life circumstances, even when everyone looking in from the outside have no idea of your pain, of your frustration or your confusion or your burning Dua. And I know many of you deal with pressure constantly. But instead of feeling crippled when you’re overwhelmed, focus on these women. God gave us their myriad of examples for a reason. Let’s draw our strength from them and renew our commitment to Him and to working for His sake regardless of our status.

A Woman’s Love

By: Sister Asma Hussein (author of “A Temporary Gift”)

A woman’s love is one of the most beautiful things a man can ever possess. It’s a warm blanket over a shivering body, a word of comfort and support in the midst of lies, a sip of water and morsel of food in the belly of a starving wanderer.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “…The most blessed joy in life is a good, righteous wife.” The purity of a good woman’s love can’t be matched by any other worldly thing. Getting to a point where you can receive that love is a wholly different story.

Many of us put walls up around our hearts. We’ve been taunted by people who don’t understand our faith, called by the worst names just for existing in our religious garb.

And sadly, we’ve also been hurt by people in our own community. Imams of mosques throw around jokes about women as though we can’t hear them – as though it doesn’t affect us to be lumped together and stereotypically thought of as too emotional, too complicated, too female.

From the sneering comments about having four wives that send the men into fits of roaring laughter to the dank dungeons of mosques to which we are relegated – women struggle with it all. Some of us are even exposed to abuse within our own families. We’re told that we can’t. That’s the word that’s most often used: “can’t.” Can’t follow your dreams because you’re a woman. Can’t ever be in the public eye because you’re a woman. Can’t speak for yourself because you’re a woman. Can’t. Can’t. Can’t.

But we can, and we know it, because we are some of the most intelligent, articulate human beings on the planet. And so we struggle every day to be faithful believers, to follow our dreams even though we’re being told not to, to work diligently to better our community because we love it despite its flaws.

Every day we live in that struggle. And so we unknowingly build walls around our hearts. Not to keep love out, but to keep pain out. To keep out the voices of people who tell us to not speak or do or think. To keep out the comments of passersby on the train saying go back to your own country. The walls are there so that the disrespectful jokes roll off our shoulders, so that we can still enter the mosque and pray even when the space is subpar.

We need those walls around our hearts to survive. We’ve pieced together those exterior shells so that we are not devastated at every turn, heartbroken at every negative word, unable to lift our heads above water every time someone says we “can’t.”

A woman’s love is within those walls, within that shell that has been growing and hardening for years. The unsuccessful man tries to forcefully break down those walls and reach what is within, angrily giving up when he realizes those fortresses aren’t suddenly going to come crashing down. He wants what he doesn’t yet deserve.

The successful man stands and waits until he notices one single loose brick in that wall, and he nudges it and coaxes it out of its place. That’s the beginning of love – the systematic dismantling of every barrier that she has put up because she has had to survive all these years. He commits to her. He offers her his heart, even if it’s also bruised and battered, so that she can know it’s safe to finally just be. That is when true love is born.

Those who have known a good woman’s love will know that there is nothing like it. Nothing sweeter. Nothing truer. Nothing else that can be a perpetual place of warmth in the midst of winter, a private running stream in the midst of drought, and a place to put your heart when your heart was once homeless. It takes a good man’s love to really know the potential of a good woman’s love. May God grant it to all those who seek it.

“Good women are for good men, and good men are for good women.” [An-Nur 24:26]

وَالطَّيِّبَاتُ لِلطَّيِّبِينَ وَالطَّيِّبُونَ لِلطَّيِّبَاتِ

Single?

If the woman does not marry in this life, Allah will marry her off in Paradise to the one she finds delight in. – Ibn Uthaymin

It is better for a woman to be married than to remain single, but it is better for her to be single than to be married to an oppressive, abusive man who makes her life an intolerable misery. – Mufti Ismail Menk