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The Muslim Woman Experience

When I think about being a woman in this world, I find myself with a multitude of emotions ranging from honor, anger, shame, horror, and so much more. Being a woman in a world where our value of existence is given to our male counterparts, based on their standards, makes me want to just keep slamming my head against the wall until I can forget this nightmare. Why does someone else get to decide what happens to my body? Why does that someone feel that it is what's best for me? Why do they not understand my perspective?

This nightmare does not overlook any setting or situation. It especially does not overlook religion. This is what I want to uncover in my thoughts as being a muslim woman.

With the story of Mahsa Amini unfolding, so many woman across the world have come together to highlight the injustice of our inability to choose. Whether it's how we would like to dress, what careers we can sustain, how we can communicate, women are always peered under magnifying glasses. This is even suggested on the other side of the spectrum with women fighting to wear their hijabs. With countries such as France and India, who connect the hijab to oppression, weak, and "unwestern".

I propose that within the center of these nauseating control mechanisms are those that wish to minimize the diverse views of muslim women. I have noticed that as groups of muslim communities have decided to taper away from understanding the range of womanhood in Islam, we may find situations such as Iran where women are killed for not "being Muslim enough" because of not wearing the hijab "properly".

Again, no one has the right to kill anyone for making their choice on how they want or don't want to observe their hijab. Even if the hijab is solely prescribed to women in Islam. Prior to going into my opinions about this event I do want to highlight the symbolism and spiritual connection that women feel when wearing the hijab.

Now as a non-hijab wearing muslim woman my experience with being told to wear the hijab as a child was to prevent rape and sexual assault because apparently men can’t control sexual advances unless you’ve covered your neck, head, and wrists.

As you can sense, this actually pushed me away from wearing the hijab, because I felt there was a double-standard of telling women to act one way, but not teaching men to act in a certain way as well. Now that I am an adult, I realize how certain cultural practices may have led to this ideology and completely minimized the empowerment within the journey of the hijab.

If you're unfamiliar with the practice of hijab wearing it is a choice that every woman of Islam gets to make. It symbolizes so many things to various people, but from a psycho-spiritual perspective, it embodies the connection you feel to your lord. Also, in some Islamic contexts, it grants women the ability to control the narrative because it empowers us to feel that our beauty is not solely defined by physical attributes defined by society.

This role is only given to women, whether you take that as positive or negative is based on your ideology. However, the important part is being able to choose. When not given a choice, it subliminally gives the message that there is only one form of piety that embodies the Muslim woman experience.

I would like to challenge this notion. Whether you wear hijab or you don’t shouldn’t be the sole aspect to being connected to your higher power as a woman.

I think coming into who I am as a Muslim woman has been a rollercoaster of a journey as I find that the range of womanhood in Islam is so diverse. I take this perspective by highlighting that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was married to multiple woman that embodied various personality traits.

Now, before we get into the debate of having multiple wives, let’s look at historical context during the time of the Prophet (SAW) and the reason for polygamous-relationships ranging from political alliances to supporting war-inflicted widows. Rather, if we focus on the different personality characteristics that are presented with each woman, you will find that they were not the same.

What this means is there is no right or wrong way, there's just the way that speaks to you. We as a community have not done a good job honoring all the diverse woman that embody the essence of Islam.

Discussions about the strong-female community that guided our Prophet's (SAW) were quickly pushed aside to discuss other aspects of life. Again, context, all aspects of the Prophet's (SAW) lives are important to highlight the standard of being Muslim, but what has minimizing the voices of the women in our practice done?

We didn't process actions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that were supported, guided, and honored towards the woman of Islam. Or discussed things like the fact that our beloved Khadijah (RA) was one of the strongest business women of her time and proposed marriage to the Prophet, I mean can we say breaking gendered-norms?

Now, I propose that this process of pushing aside the muslim-woman experience is because majority of current Islamic scholarship is male-dominated. Again, not right or wrong, just being mindful of how this could impact the voices of woman that have also contributed to the spread and practice of Islam.

What I feel would be better appreciated within my muslim woman experience would be to highlight and draw from the stories of leading women of Islam. Honoring this will help us better bring forth diverse-views of Islamic womanhood with tolerance and respect.


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