During Women’s History Month, we honor trailblazers who have cracked the glass ceiling. Sometimes confusing fame and notoriety with empowerment, success, and worth, we forget to express our collective gratitude to the mothers, daughters, friends, sisters, aunts, colleagues, and mentors who help us shine a bit brighter each day as we strive to be our most empowered selves. These are the women (and, girls!) Muslim Girl writer’s honor here. Read our stories, join in our collective duas for these Muslim gems, and share with us your unsung heroes of March.
Saniya Ali and her mom, Uzma Ali
“My mom, Uzma Ali, is [the] epitome of what an empowered woman looks like. Born and raised in a conservative family, my mom never enforced Islamic beliefs on her children but made us capable of making our own choices.
She doesn’t ask me if I’ve prayed five times a day, but reminds me to be thankful of Allah everyday. She doesn’t stop me from wearing the clothes of my choice, but if she catches me speaking ill of someone, that’s it for me.
Like most women in my family, my mom has never asked me to set marriage as a goal for self, rather, she has supported my education to pursue my path. She has raised me to be an independent woman who doesn’t need to bow down to any societal norms that I am uncomfortable with. She has used the teachings of Islam to make sure that I turn out to be a good human being, one that cares for the society. She has made me believe everything happens for a reason, that Allah is always looking over me, even when things don’t seem to be working out. This philosophy has made me stronger when I felt like giving up.
I continue to be inspired by the woman who never lets go of her faith in Allah, despite the challenges she is faced with. She continues to live, laugh and love with the belief that everything’s meant to work out the way it is intended to. She is an empowered Muslim woman.”
Mariam Tanvir and Her Sister, Aisha Husain Ahmad
“This is a picture of me with my older sister, Aisha Husain Ahmad. She’s one of my best friends, my mentor and a huge inspiration to me. She keeps me going when I feel like I can do no more, she encourages me to do my absolute best and she has protected me from so much.
Typically with siblings, there’s a lot of rivalry. But with my sister and I, she was more maternal. Being five and a half years older, she protected me from the harsh realities of life, and she will still try to do that. She is an amazing wife and a wonderful mother to three children. She advocates strongly for mental health, has the most intellectual opinions on all political issues, and is someone that I heavily rely on.”
Sarah Mohr and Her Friend, Dr. Farha Abbasi (Muslim Mental Health Pioneer, Human Rights Champion)
“Why, you ask, do I say that Dr. Farha has inspired me in my faith? I mean, yes, she’s a fantastic psychiatrist, a wonderful person, a great friend, a warm and compassionate human being (mashallah), but why would I say she is an inspiration in my faith? The reason when I was asked this question that I immediately thought of Dr. Farha is that she embodies the idea that the diin happens in the real world, off the prayer mat, and that it is a diin of love.
The saying, the ummah is like a person, when one part of the body hurts the whole body hurts, this saying is really important to me. I work in social work, and I am dedicated to social justice as a part of my everyday life. The cares and concerns of each person in the community matter to me. No one role models to me better what responding to this looks like than Dr. Farha. She works in the world to care for the hurting, in the face of injustice, and suffering, with compassion and integrity. She organized the Muslim Mental Health conference, which is now in its 13th year, and has worked tirelessly to network mental health professionals around the world, including taking the Muslim mental health conference globally. Another reason is that she embodies the idea that excellence is the standard for Muslims. To excel in medicine, to excel in health care, she takes it to a different level, organizing, coordinating networks, and she does it with a genuine love that you can sense when you talk with her.
Excellence, compassion, concern for the well being of others, striving to challenge the limits of the possible. The idea that we need to believe, that’s true, and we need to do good deeds. Faith is only real when it is lived in love for other people. Faith can’t be an idle theological idea of God. The love for God manifests in the world by loving people. It was the sunnah of our Prophet (PBUH) to care deeply about his companions, and the people around him (PBUH). He was moved with concern for everyone, that’s why trees wept when he separated himself from him, and animals spoke to him and asked him to intervene for him, why wild animals clung to the hem of his cloak, and he treated every living thing with regards for their rights before Allah. I’m not trying to put anyone on a pedestal, and give people emotional vertigo, but I care when people care, about me, and about other people. We all need to inspire each other to strive to make the world a more merciful place. Islam can be summed up in one word: love. We can think a lot of lofty thoughts and ideas about fiqh, shariah, aqeedah, seerah, learn the whole Quran, memorize books, get doctorates in history, theology, and politics, but it all comes down to love. Dr. Farha embodies the love of Islam, mashallah la haula wa la quwatta illah billah al Ali al Azim.“
Rokia Hassanein and Her Sister-In-Law, Wareesha
“As someone with only brothers as siblings, I always wanted a sister. I got that when my brother fell in love with my now-sister in law, Wareesha.
She empowers me to be see the best in people and her zen presence brings a warmth in my life as she always listens to me when I need a trusting shoulder to lean (or cry) on. She truly embodies what sisterhood should mean between Muslim women: kindness, patience, and guidance.”
Jessica Daqamsseh and Her Daughter, Nora
“They say motherhood changes you. An old cliché that I am now blessed to fully comprehend and experience daily. Nora means light in Arabic, and my daughter truly embodies the word. Each time I falter, each time I drift from faith–her light seems to shine brighter, a gift that reminds me of Al-Khaliq.
For years, I prayed for friendship to accompany me on this journey of deen. This dua must have been answered in the form of a child–the most precious gift entrusted to me by Allah, The Most Exalted, The Most High, a forever friend and companion, insha Allah, in dunya and in akhirah.“