MARRIED at GUNPOINT

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Earlier today, I read an article online published by the Telegraph about an Indian groom who was forced by gunpoint into a marriage. Sadly, this did not shock me. In many cultures, both historically (even in the Western world) and in the modern era, parents decide to force their children, boys and girls, into marriages.

 

Some Muslims typically use the Prophet’s example to rationalise this vile, dehumanising practice. They believe Aisha was married to him when she was six years old and the marriage consummated when she was nine.

 

Some Muslims try to avoid discussing this issue, others feel they must be apologetic. The clergy try to explain it by stating girls matured at different ages 1400 years ago.

 

However, Islam transcends all restrictions of time or culture. For surely, if we restrict any religion to the time in which it was revealed, it means it must be forever transforming to reflect society and hence, over time, become unrecognisable from its original form. In fact, it is society and so, us as Muslims who must reflect the religion. Our understanding and practices based upon actual evidence as opposed to culture and the opinions of the clergy.

 

In fact, the aggregate evidence reveals that it is not possible for Aisha to have been this young when she married the Prophet. I cared enough to check the history. She had already been engaged to someone previously and looking at the ages of her siblings and the age gaps between her and her sister alongside the migration from Makkah to Medina, I came to realise that she was at least around 19 years of age.

 

I understand that many, both Muslims and non Muslims alike, will argue there is a statement from Aisha herself included in the books of Ahadith stating she was only six when she married the Prophet and that the marriage was consummated at nine years of age. However, analyzing ALL the evidence clearly indicates the recorded statement is in fact either completely inaccurate (ie. It was never actually said by Aisha) or the wrong numbers were passed down.

 

Going beyond this, the practice of forcing anyone, and often they are just children, has no place whatsoever in Islam. Islam, as a religion, requires no vindication. The evidence for this is in the Quran.

 

In Surah An Nisa’, verse 19, Allah states,

 

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَرِثُواْ النِّسَآءَ كَرْهاً وَلاَ تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ لِتَذْهَبُواْ بِبَعْضِ مَآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ إِلاَّ أَن يَأْتِينَ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُّبَيِّنَةٍ وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِن كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئاً وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْراً كَثِيراً

 

O you who believe! You are not permitted to inherit women against their will, nor to prevent them from marriage in order to get part of (the mahr/payment) what you have given them, unless they commit open Fahishah (adultery). And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.

 

The verse is clear. Women cannot be married against their will.

 

Subsequently, there is evidence the Prophet annulled such ‘marriages’. For instance, in the collection of Bukhari,

 

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي مَالِكٌ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ الْقَاسِمِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، وَمُجَمِّعٍ، ابْنَىْ يَزِيدَ بْنِ جَارِيَةَ عَنْ خَنْسَاءَ بِنْتِ خِذَامٍ الأَنْصَارِيَّةِ، أَنَّ أَبَاهَا، زَوَّجَهَا وَهْىَ ثَيِّبٌ، فَكَرِهَتْ ذَلِكَ فَأَتَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَرَدَّ نِكَاحَهُ.

 

Narrated Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya: that her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and he declared that marriage invalid.

 

So, despite the oft-portrayed connection between forced marriages and Islam, this crime is actually based upon cultural practices. This is evident as those from the Indian sub continent, regardless of religion (Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims) have reports of forced marriages. There are stories of forced marriages in Africa (in Christian communities), the Middle East and in many other parts of the globe which never make it to the media.

 

In 2014, BBC news reported around 14 million girls around the world are forced to marry every year before their 18th birthday. I have met Muslim girls in such situations, often trying to convince themselves that they are doing ‘okay’ as they see no other alternative. Broken spirits, ashamed of a reality they had no choice in. Human rights ripped away from them. A form of modern day slavery.

 

In fact, the shame belongs to the coercers, those without honour, lacking in integrity. Muslims who go against the very essence of Islam.

 

While it is clear forced marriages are NOT a part of Islam and transcend religion, Muslims are both perpetrators and victims of this serious problem. A problem caused by a plethora of deeply entrenched patriarchy, culture, religious misunderstandings of the clerics and the masses, ignorance, oppression and often misogyny.

 

It is time for us, as Muslims, to own the problem. Each and everyone of us needs to go back to the grass roots of the religion and away from biased, culture influenced interpretations. Knowledge is empowerment and thus, liberation.

 

It is time for us to join the victims to say ‘NO’. ‘No, we will not give up our God-given rights. No, we refuse to be a part of backward cultural practices which go against Islam and no, we will not turn our backs on those Muslims who need our voices for their silent suffering.’

 

 

 

CAN THE QURAN HEAL ALL?

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I think we all know someone who either seems to be afflicted by jinn, black magic, marital discord, a chronic physical ailment or mental health issues. The common Muslim response to all these issues is reciting Quran (usually referred to as ‘ruqya’, meaning ‘incantation’) over these struggling souls.

 

Often, a ‘Raqi’ is called upon to carry out the ruqya. Raqis offer many different approaches, including coming up with a ‘diagnosis’, reciting Quran, writing down prayers/invocations put into water as a drink for the ‘patient’ and one can even buy ruqya oil or water! These ‘Raqis’ are not paid for their services but interestingly, do accept ‘gifts’ (usually of money).

 

For a long time now, many of the ‘scholars’ claim the words of the Quran are a cure for all ailments – incorrectly, according to the Quran and going against the example of the Prophet when they claim the whole Quran can be used in this way. This practice has now become widespread but, like many other elements of Muslim lives, is not actually based upon Islam.

 

If like me, you have ever wondered, despite these claims, HOW exactly the words of the Holy Book can cure people, then, read on.

 

Many years ago, I decided to have a look at what the Quran itself contains about this concept.

 

In Surah Al Isra’, there is the following:

 

وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْءَانِ مَا هُوَ شِفَآءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلاَ يَزِيدُ الظَّـلِمِينَ إَلاَّ خَسَارًا

 

17:82. And We send down of the Qur’an that which is a cure and a mercy to the believers, and it increases the wrongdoers in nothing but loss.

 

And, in Surah Fussilat,

 

قُلْ هُوَ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ هُدًى وَشِفَآءٌ وَالَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ فِى ءَاذَانِهِمْ وَقْرٌ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِمْ عَمًى أُوْلَـئِكَ يُنَادَوْنَ مِن مَّكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ

 

41:44. Say: “It is for those who believe, a guide and a cure. And as for those who disbelieve, there is heaviness in their ears, and it is blindness for them. They are those who are called from a place far away (so they neither listen nor understand).

 

So, here, in both verses, Allāh states the Quran is ‘a cure’ alongside it being a guide and a mercy for those who believe. Just as in modern medicine, a cure in itself is wonderful but one needs to know which ailments it will relieve so as to administer it correctly.

 

If you keep looking, you find the answer in the words of our Lord in Surah Yunus, verse 57.

 

يَأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَآءَتْكُمْ مَّوْعِظَةٌ مَّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَآءٌ لِّمَا فِى الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

 

O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (Qur’an), and a healing for that which is in your breasts, a guidance and a mercy for the believers.

 

A true epiphany! The Quran is a cure for what is in the breast/chest. In other words, the words of the Quran, its message is the cure for every spiritual disease of the HEART (e.g. disbelief, doubt, polytheism, hypocrisy etc). There is no mention, however, of the word ‘Ruqya’ in these verses and it is definitely NOT a cure for all physical and mental/emotional issues.

 

So, armed with this knowledge, an examination of the example of our Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) to explore what ‘ruqya’ actually is (as it clearly isn’t reciting any words of the Quran as if they were some ‘spell’ which can eradicate any harm!), if we can indeed use any part of the Quran in this way and when it should be done, is absolutely necessary.

 

Firstly, it is clear ‘ruqya’ implies ‘dua’ or invoking Allah.

 

In Sahih Muslim, Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

 

Jibril (Gabriel) came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: “O Muhammad (ﷺ)! Do you feel sick?” He (ﷺ) said, “Yes.” Jibril supplicated thus (i.e., he performed Ruqyah): “Bismillahi arqika, min kulli shay’in yu’dhika, min sharri kulli nafsin aw ‘ayni hasidi, Allahu yashfika, bismillahi arqika. [With the Name of Allah. I do ruqya for you, from all that troubles you, and from every harmful mischief and from the evil of the eyes of an envier. Allah will cure you; and with the Name of Allah, I do ruqya over you].”

 

 

Secondly, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “There is no ruqyah except in the case of the evil eye or fever.” (al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood)

 

As well as,

 

The Prophet (pbuh) instructed the use of ruqya to anyone who was under the influence of the evil eye as Aisha (RA) narrated: “The Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) commanded me, or he commanded (the people) to use ruqya to deal with the evil eye.” (Bukhari)

 

The wording of the hadith above makes the matter crystal clear. Ruqya is only for EVIL EYE or FEVER.

 

In terms of WHAT can be recited from the Quran,

 

Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) said, “When someone fell ill from the Prophet’s family he did ‘nafath’ on them (to blow three times over them reciting the two chapters of seeking refuge -Soorah al-Falaq and Soorah An-Naas). When he himself fell ill, the illness which lead to his death & I would (similarly) do ‘nafath’ on him and would wipe him with his own hands for it was more blessed than my hands.” (Muslim)

 

And in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Abu Said Al Khudri narrated,

 

Some of the companions of the Prophet (saws) came across a tribe amongst the tribes of the Arabs, and that tribe refused to take them in as guests. While they were in that state, the chief of that tribe was bitten by a snake (or stung by a scorpion). They said, (to the companions of the Prophet), “Have you got any medicine with you or anybody who can treat with Ruqya?” The Prophet’s (saws) companions said, “You refuse to entertain us, so we will not treat (your chief) unless you pay us for it.” So they agreed to pay them a flock of sheep. One of them (the Prophet’s (saws) companions) started reciting Surat-al-Fatiha and gathering his saliva and spitting it (at the snake-bite). The patient got cured and his people presented the sheep to them, but they said, “We will not take it unless we ask the Prophet (saws) (whether it is lawful).” When they asked him, he (saws) smiled and said, “How do you know that Surat-al-Fatiha is a Ruqya? Take it (flock of sheep) and assign a share for me.”

 

These ahadith clearly show the religion highlights Surahs An Naas, Al Falaq and Al Fatiha as the parts of the Quran used for ‘Ruqya’. Hence, it is clearly not correct to use other parts of the Quran as an attempt to cure someone (Religion must be based upon evidence as opposed to mere opinions).

 

Furthermore, if you take just a few minutes to look at these, you recognize that they are ‘duas’ – you are asking Allah for protection (An Naas and Al Falaq) or help and guidance (Al Fatiha).

 

This will be difficult for some of us to process. For so long, so many have stated the Quran heals all and it is understandably somewhat comforting to feel that you can do something productive to help one you love and care about.

 

However, sometimes immediate relief provides not a solution but further torment. Most importantly, one is adding something to the religion which we have all been warned against. Sadly, it can also mean that we, as a Muslim community, don’t give people the support they desperately need (e.g. counselling, medical intervention and so on).

 

From now on, let us not allow desperation to cure our loved ones blind us from the truth. If we open our minds and look at the actual evidence instead of listening to the voices of the clergy for a quick fix, we understand this issue and in the long term, the beauty of Islam.

 

In conclusion then,

  • The Quran is a cure for the diseases of the heart (e.g. doubt, hypocrisy, disbelief, polytheism).
  • ‘Ruqya’ is a type of ‘dua’.
  • There are certain parts of the Quran (ie. An Naas and Al Falaq as well as Al Fatiha) which, due to their nature of being invocations or duas, may be recited in cases of evil eye or fever. There is no basis to use other parts of the Quran.
  • Any cure or healing then, comes from the Lord only. For surely, the claim that the cure is in the actual words of the Quran is to contradict the fundamental belief that only the Lord has that power.

‘Ask the people of knowledge!’

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This is a very popular quote amongst Muslims. It is indeed from the Quran. So, let’s take a look at what the Quran actually states but I have to warn you first. It’s most likely going to be a shock to the system so brace yourself.

 

 

 

It comes up twice in 16:43 and 21:7.

 

 وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ إِلاَّ رِجَالاً نُّوحِى إِلَيْهِمْ فَاسْأَلُواْ أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنْتُم لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ – بِالْبَيِّنَـتِ وَالزُّبُرِ وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

 

16:43 ‘And We sent not before you (O Muhammad) any but men, whom We sent revelation. So ask (plural form) Ahl Adh-Dhikr,(i.e. ‘people of the Reminder’) if you know not. (44). With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers). And We have also revealed the Dhikr (reminder/revelation) to you so that you may clearly explain to people what was revealed to them, and that perhaps they may reflect.’

 

وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ إِلاَّ رِجَالاً نُّوحِى إِلَيْهِمْ فَاسْئَلُواْ أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ – وَمَا جَعَلْنَـهُمْ جَسَداً لاَّ يَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَمَا كَانُواْ خَـلِدِينَ

 

21:7 And We sent not before you but men to whom We revealed. So ask (plural form) the people of the Reminder if you do not know. (8). And We did not place them in bodies that did not eat food, nor were they immortals.

It is obvious from the translation, even if one doesn’t understand Quranic Arabic that both the verses start off addressed to the Prophet, affirming that the messengers before him were all from mankind (as opposed to angels or any other kind of being). Then, the people are ordered to ask ‘the people of the reminder’ or ‘Ahl Adh dhikr’ if they do not know. It is worth noting that this is very specific. It is about asking these people on this specific issue.

So who are these people who will confirm all the messengers before Muhammad’s time were humans? These people are the Jews and Christians. They believe in the same Prophets as the Quran tells us about. If you read the rest of the Quran, this will appear to you as clear as day.

Where is the command to follow scholars, to delegate our morality, our religious principles? It is nowhere to be found. In fact the Quran states the opposite!

In 9:31, we are told

 

اتَّخَذُواْ أَحْبَـرَهُمْ وَرُهْبَـنَهُمْ أَرْبَاباً مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَالْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَمَآ أُمِرُواْ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُواْ إِلَـهاً وَحِداً لاَّ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ سُبْحَـنَهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

 

‘They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and (they also took as their Lord) the Messiah, son of Maryam, while they were commanded to worship none but One God, none has the right to be worshipped but He. Praise and hallowed be He above what they associate (with Him).’

A well known hadith explains this verse.

Adi ibn Hatim (he was not a Muslim at this point) reported: I heard the Prophet reciting the verse in Surah At-Tawbah, “They have taken their priests and rabbis as Lords besides Allah.” (9:31) I asked: O Messenger of Allah, we don’t worship them and [The Prophet] replied: “but do they not make impermissible what Allah has made permissible and do they not make permissible what Allah has made impermissible and you do that?” I replied: ‘yes’ and he said: “then that it is [a form] worshipping them.” (Tirmidhi)

For over a millennium, the Muslim clergy have changed and twisted the religion so much that it is almost unrecognisable. The list is endless. From claiming that interest is permitted (when it is a major sin and that which is tantamount to Allah waging war against you), taking away women’s God given rights, making sex slavery acceptable, terrorism presented as jihad, propagating domestic violence and abuse, and so on and so forth.

Our principal enemy is, in reality, within us. It is us. We are leading ourselves astray. Following opinions instead of scripture, the creation instead of the Creator.

Furthermore, the Quran states

 

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَندَادًا يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ يَرَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ إِذْ يَرَوْنَ الْعَذَابَ أَنَّ الْقُوَّةَ لِلَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعَذَابِ – إِذْ تَبَرَّأَ الَّذِينَ اتُّبِعُواْ مِنَ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُواْ وَرَأَوُاْ الْعَذَابَ وَتَقَطَّعَتْ بِهِمُ الاٌّسْبَابُ – وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُواْ لَوْ أَنَّ لَنَا كَرَّةً فَنَتَبَرَّأَ مِنْهُمْ كَمَا تَبَرَّءُواْ مِنَّا كَذَلِكَ يُرِيهِمُ اللَّهُ أَعْمَـلَهُمْ حَسَرَتٍ عَلَيْهِمْ وَمَا هُم بِخَـرِجِينَ مِنَ النَّارِ

 

2:65. ‘And of mankind are some who take (for worship) others besides Allah as rivals (to Allah). They love them as they love Allah. But those who believe, love Allah more (than anything else). If only, those who do wrong could see, when they will see the torment, that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is severe in punishment.) (166. When those who were followed disown (declare themselves innocent of) those who followed (them), and they see the torment, then all their relations will be cut off from them). (167. And those who followed will say: “If only we had one more chance to return (to the worldly life), we would disown (declare ourselves as innocent from) them as they have disowned (declared themselves as innocent from) us. Thus Allah will show them their deeds as regrets for them. And they will never get out of the Fire.’

There are other verses on this issue. Go ahead and have a look.

It’s ironic because the very foundation, the cornerstone of Islam is to worship one God (‘Allah’ in Arabic) and the term ‘Muslim’ (contrary to popular belief) means ‘one who submits to Allah’. Letting the Muslim clergy define the religion completely contradicts this and leads the global Muslim community astray.

It’s time to find our way back.

Beat her lightly

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Islam is not the rod with which men beat women. I have just watched yet another so-called ‘Sheikh’ on YouTube state the Quran allows men to beat their wives. Enough is enough. For generations, Muslim women around the world have suffered and continue to suffer from domestic violence and abuse because of such opinions.

Those in a position of power or authority will always present dogma so that they are not undermined. It has served the Muslim clergy well historically and to this day, feeds into a patriarchal culture whereby the husband is somehow responsible or a moral guide for the wife. Thus, she is deemed spiritually lesser, requiring discipline.

The whole argument pivots on the translation of one word – the Arabic verb ‘Dharaba’ (in Surah An Nisa’, verse 34). It is a word which has a huge array of meanings in the Quran including ‘to bring forth’, ‘to strike the ground with a stick’, ‘to deal with’ and so on. Context is all important in helping us to understand what it means in each case in the Quran.

The common misconception that Islam allows and even encourages wife beating is down to a sexist and cultural context within which, this word ‘Dharaba’ is wrongly translated as ‘beat/hit’. This translation works for those cultures where women are seen as lesser citizens, beings to be subjugated and ruled over. In other words, it is not Islam but men who legalize and normalize wife beating. Worse, they use the banner of Islam to hide what is blatantly oppression and wrongdoing.

If you study all the instances of ‘dharaba’ in the Quran and the example of the Prophet, it is clear it means ‘to go away/separate’.

The verse is very clear. If a husband sees ‘nushuz’(ie. an uprising – unreasonable demands) from his wife;

1). He admonishes/speaks to her about it
2). Forsakes her in the bed
3). Separates/goes away

This process is exactly what the Prophet did with his wives when they wanted more financially than he had to give. So my question now is, do the Fuqaha (jurists) know the religion better than the Prophet did?

What allows the same patterns to be perpetuated is that many Muslim women often do not feel able to come forward and seek help. They are afraid that they will be blamed instead of being comforted, reminded that, wife beating is a right of the husband. Terrified of what taking a stand will cost them. In unity comes strength so as Muslim women, we must stand with these women, with our hearts and minds, the correct knowledge of the religion in our hands.

I believe any change in society starts from within us. We, as Muslims, need to change our views so women can come forward and break the chains of silent suffering. We must offer comfort rather than judgement. Most important of all, our understanding and advice must be based upon actual knowledge and Scripture as opposed to deeply entrenched cultural and patriarchal injustices.

Like I said, enough is enough.

For detailed evidence, click this link.

MUSLIM WOMEN are more than ‘Hijab’.

8890505903_abd85199da_bTell a lie long enough, it becomes the ‘truth’.

The word ‘hijab’ appears in the Quran 7 times. Not one of these is in reference to women covering. Nevertheless, Muslims all around the world, whether they speak Arabic or not, talk about ‘hijab’.

‘Hijab’ is Quranic Arabic for ‘barrier’ although it is commonly used for the veil/scarf and translated as ‘covering’,  ‘concealing’ or a ‘curtain’. This is an idea which has been propagated, most likely for centuries, by the predominately Arab male Muslim clergy. A clergy, which has objectified women as much as the Western world has sexualised them. Two sides of the same coin.

After spending years of my life researching women’s issues in Islam, a journey which has taken me places both physically and psychologically, I realised that out of the Quran’s 6235 verses, only 2 are about how women in general should dress in public. That’s around 0.03% of the Holy Book. An indication of how much of a Muslim woman’s faith is about her dress.

One (33:59) tells us to cover ourselves so we are known as Muslims. The other (24:31) that the chest and legs should be covered – the legs covered in a way as not to reveal what is beneath the covering. That’s it.

God tells Muslim women to cover their bodies so that they are known as Muslim women (The culture at the time of revelation was one where people often exposed themselves). Sadly, the majority of Muslim women are unaware of this and wear a headscarf and often a cloak and a face covering (they believe) to safeguard their beauty. That is because they are basing their opinion on the commonly accepted term ‘hijab’ for how they should dress.

I chose the path of Islam, learnt Classical Arabic and am memorising and studying the Quran. I have worn a scarf, a jilbaab (cloak/robe) and even a niqaab (face veil). Based upon God’s word, I now wear modest clothing. My religion is founded upon my own research and studies. I ask all other Muslim women to do the same.

Language and thought are strongly connected. When we use the word ‘hijab’, there are obvious connotations. We are making the whole issue about sexuality. Women become a temptation needing to be tempered, with the potential to lead men astray. It is a term founded in culture. A term that serves the needs of men as it then leads to further arguments that women need to cover their bodies with cloaks (jilabib), their faces (niqaab), and even infringes on their civil liberties (e.g. working, sports, going out/travelling without a male relative). Frankly, it reduces women so that they end up not having a voice or in extreme situations, even a presence.

I believe that we need to stop using the word ‘hijab’. It is a baseless concept. Women regardless of their religion are not defined by men and the word ‘hijab’ is doing exactly that. It leads to Muslim girls as young as 5 years being ‘sexualised’ when they are shrouded in a scarf and sometimes even a cloak. It is a term intertwined with cultural expectations involving shame, honour, and purity. A means by which a woman’s piety can be judged.

Many a Muslim will argue for ‘hijab’ claiming it is not just for a woman’s body but for her character and the way she interacts with the world. I argue the exact opposite. Dressing modestly, based upon evidence, brings religion to the forefront while kicking sexualisation firmly into the background.

We are more than our bodies. It’s time to move forward and it’s up to us as Muslim women to lead the way.