There’s just so much hate and injustice going on in the world today. Being a Muslim is one thing for Islamophobes to hate on, and for sexists, being a woman is another thing.
Not a lot of men out there, even among Muslims themselves, are ready to accept the idea of gender equality, especially when they use Quranic verses and hadith to their advantage to degrade the status of being women.
The question is, how do we, as Muslim women, respond to these sexists and Islamophobes? How do we encounter such situations with patience and perseverance, based on the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, Peace and Blessings be upon him?
Here are just a few ways on how you can respond appropriately so that you win in every argument you face.
1. Stay silent
If someone ever spits out such hateful comments towards you and knows how to trigger your switches, you might think the best response is to do the same and see them go down.
However, in this particular situation, it is worth noting that such a response will either elicit a worse and chaotic response or prove a point on their end.
Many scholars who have encountered arguments or debates in religion either stay silent or ask thought-provoking questions to make them think.
The latter is specifically for scholars who have devoted their whole lives to seeking Islamic knowledge and are fully equipped with the “Sacred Knowledge” that qualifies them to debate.
If you are a learned, certified scholar, you may choose the latter. However, if you don’t think you have enough knowledge to counter the argument, stay silent, for it is better than spreading misinformation.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.” [Sahih Muslim]
2. Ask questions
If you learn psychology, most of the time questions are asked to the patients or clients not only to understand their perspective, but to help them to understand themselves a bit better.
Do they come from a place of sadness? Perhaps one of their family members was a victim of a terrorist attack. Do they come from a place of anger? Perhaps they have been brainwashed by the media for the longest time and have only heard of Islam as a religion of terrorism ever since? There must be a reason why they think the way that they think.
If you do have the courage to ask, you can ask these questions to understand where they are coming from. Make it a ‘you’ question instead of an ‘us’ question:
- What makes you say that?
- Is there any reason why you had to say what you said?
- I understand your anger and sadness. Did anything happen to you that makes you hate us?
If they are willing to share with you how and why they feel that way, be empathetic and come to a middle ground between the both of you. If they are not willing to cooperate with you, the next best thing is to always stay silent and walk away from the situation.
The idea here is to engage with haters from the lens of love, mercy, and compassion as taught by our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. At least you did your best to try to understand them.
3. Learn coping mechanisms
Some people may be absolutely ruthless to you and have no mercy whatsoever. People will go to great lengths to traumatise Muslim women by pulling off their hijabs, bullying them at schools and so much more beyond our imagination.
It’s not great to be walking on eggshells if you’re constantly looking to your left and right, afraid of the trauma that could happen to you just because you’re a Muslim woman. If you feel you are on the verge of depression, learning coping strategies would help you feel calmer and at ease.
Practice deep breathing
According to the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), there are a few breathing exercises you can opt for when you are afflicted with stress or anxiety.
Some of the breathing exercises involve belly breathing, box breathing, and breathing with an exhale longer than the inhale.
Acceptance that healing takes time
Another way you can learn how to cope with the stress or anxiety that sexists and Islamophobes can cause to you is by dealing with it gradually.
According to Shaykh Ahmed Elazhary, in his Islamic course conducted by SimplyIslam Academy, he mentioned that healing takes time and the first step towards better mental wellness is accepting that things take time and that it is Sunnatullah that we cannot deny.
Just like a seed that takes time to germinate and grow, mental health doesn’t get better overnight. It is a continuous journey for us to learn and replace bad deeds with good virtues.
Reach out to someone you trust
Another way you can learn how to cope is by reaching out to someone you trust. Reach out to any of your family members or close friends whom you can seek comfort and security from, and let it all out! There is no harm in being vulnerable when you’ve experienced something so traumatic and unforgettable.
4. Show them through actions
As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” Another way you can really win in an argument is to prove them wrong through actions, because words don’t really mean anything until you prove it with your actions.
If someone says Islam is a religion of terrorism, you can counter it by smiling and performing an act of kindness. If someone says a Muslim woman can never be leaders, you prove them wrong by utilising your skills, intellectual faculty, and making your way to the top in becoming a Muslimah leader.
One of the prime examples to show our haters through actions is depicted from the story of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. He helped an old, blind woman carrying her provisions back to her home. Throughout the entire journey, the woman cried;
“Be careful of the man named Muhammad! He is a magician, he’s a soothsayer, he’s an evil person, he’s spreading lies, he’s a poet… He speaks very eloquently, he’s tricking people… Be careful of him.”
Did the Prophet get angry and reprimand the blind lady for insulting him? Did he suddenly drop all her provisions and decide to stop helping her? He didn’t. What he did was, he remained silent.
Upon reaching her home, he puts the provisions down for her; and then as he’s about to leave, she asks, “What’s your name? I didn’t even ask your name!”
And he responded: I’m Muhammad.
She realised she insulted him the entire time and said, “Is that you?”
At that exact moment did the blind lady accept Islam and swore allegiance:
“Ash-hadu an la illaha illa Allah wahdahu la sharika lahu wa ash hadu anaka Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluh.”
5. Reach out to authorities (if necessary)
If push comes to shove, and you feel that your rights have been violated, do not hide and underestimate the situation you’re in. If you are experiencing any of these traumatic experiences, reach out to your local authorities and lodge a report:
- Physical abuse: terrorist attacks, hijab pulled off in public or private, physically bullied, assaulted, or raped.
- Mental and emotional abuse: Cyberbullied, bullied by authorities (school teachers, police officers, etc.).
If you feel that your experience is not as serious, but still, you would like to reach out to authorities about it, you can communicate your concerns with a certified counsellor or therapist and ask what you can do to cope with that experience.
At the end of the day, it is absolutely useless to argue and reciprocate sexists and Islamophobes with the same negative energy they are radiating. It will only worsen the situation and will only let them win over us just because we lose patience.
The key takeaway here is that you should always remain calm, patient, and positive when someone throws hate your way.
If it is truly necessary and when you’ve reached your limit, reach out to authorities or someone you trust to get the empowerment you need for you to move forward, InshaAllah. May Allah grant you the strength to endure the hate, aggression, and oppression of the world, ameen.