There have been so many notable Muslim women in history that have inspired me greatly. Growing up in a Muslim household that upheld the standard that female empowerment was incredibly important, I always gravitated to looking outwards for inspiration; looking for women who represented what it meant to be a trailblazer.
I’d like to say this inspiration has enabled me to grow and flourish as a young Muslim, aspiring journalist, and entrepreneur. Ever since I started outwardly expressing my faith through the hijab six years ago, I searched even further for inspiration to keep me going in my business, career, and in life.
In honour of this search that has brought such validation, and in honour of International Women’s Day, I have created a list of four Muslim women that have inspired me deeply:
1. Dina Torkia a.k.a Dina Tokio
Image Courtesy of Dina Tokio
Dina was one of the first, if not the very first, Muslim blogger I ever followed while she was very early on in her YouTube career. I was hooked from the beginning. I completely resonated with her because even though I wasn’t a hijabi at the time, her ethnic background is very similar to mine (both our dads are Egyptian, while her mom is English and my mother is of Irish and Scottish descent).
As the introverted person that I am, I have always looked outwards to find completely unapologetic and authentic Muslim women that were outspoken. Growing up, I was very hesitant to proclaim my faith. I have the privilege of not “looking” Muslim when I don’t wear the hijab. That being said, I found solace in Dina’s videos. As I delved deep into her videos and her narratives, I finally felt that it was okay to be quirky and unapologetically outspoken. While she does not wear the hijab anymore, I still admire the courage it must have taken to take that step. Knowing that her fame would probably bring a wave of hate and judgement, Dina still took a step that she felt represented her in a more authentic way. As someone who has removed the hijab for about eight months around 2014 to 2015, I know how difficult that choice can be.
2. Ginella Massa
Image Courtesy of Ginella Massa
As an aspiring journalist, I have always searched for someone that looked like me in media. I have been a keen news follower, whether it was radio or print. Even though I studied engineering for a long time, I always knew that when it came to my degree, I wanted to do something within the realms of journalism. Ginella is an Afro-Latina Muslim, and works as a reporter for CityNews, a local news channel in Toronto.
She was born to a non-Muslim family in Panama City, and became a Muslim early on as her mother converted to Islam. In 2015, she became the very first hijabi reporter on television in Canada. What inspires me about Ginella is her obvious talent and skill in reporting, whilst never allowing her identity as a Black Muslim woman to take a backseat. I have always been hesitant in pursuing a journalism-related career due to the mere fact I am Muslim, and visibly so. However, in the past couple of years, watching Ginella on the news has made me confident that I can pursue my dreams, and ensure that my identity lends itself in a unique way to my reporting.
3. Khadija (RA)
Khadija (radi Allahu anha) was the incredible first wife of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (SAW). Khadija (RA) was known, not only for being the first follower of Islam, but first as a successful businesswoman. As an entrepreneur myself, there is nothing I love more than looking for inspiration for my brands with an Islamic perspective. Known as Khadija Al-Kubra (or “The Great”), she was a successful merchant. Her caravans typically rivaled the caravans being sent by the Quraish. What inspires me about her the most is that she never let her business be held back by her faith; in fact, she incorporated the beautiful teachings of Islam into her work.
While I have been working on my main company for almost 3 years now, I still find it difficult at times to maintain the Muslim identity that I try to portray in my items (mainly my shirts). However, with inspiration like Khadija (RA), I have kept going, and I hope to expand my product line within the next year, or so.
4. Ella Collins
Ella Collins was a civil rights activist, teacher, religious leader, and half-sister of Malcolm X. She was very supportive of her brother as he left the Nation of Islam to follow Islam in another way. Through that, she gave him one of the most precious gifts of all; a ticket to Hajj, among other things. What inspires me about Ella was her commitment to justice for Black folks, especially in the United States, and her commitment to her faith and family.
As someone who is attuned to social justice movements, I am inspired by her courage to be unapologetically Black and Muslim. After Malcolm X was assassinated (may Allah grant him Jannah), she took it upon herself to lead the Organization of Afro-American Unity, the organization her brother founded and spear-headed. This organization was responsible for giving scholarships to students for academic institutions such as Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and the University of Ghana. May her legacy live on, and may the Almighty have mercy and grant her the highest place in Jannah, alongside her brother.