going Secular?

Is Islam the source of our problems, or their long-lost solution?

To go secular or not to go secular?  North Africans fight for the soul of their revolutions.  “Western” Muslims are struggling to forge an identity.  Turkey continues its decades old constitutional struggles.  In all of these and more, the question of secularism vs. Islam-“ism” (defined here) is central.  To be or not to be, Shakespeare wrote…

Secularism, if only for this discussion, is the ideological, legal, political and social abandonment of religion as a basis for legal, political and social action.  Its totality varies as does the rapidity of its adoption.  A secularist defines it as a “… new value system [that] also regarded religion and faith as one’s personal matter… It also advocated that matters of this world be handled rationally in accordance with the spirit of the times.”

Its most famous test case was and is western Europe, which it awakened from a millenium of human darkness.  Many other countries have followed suit in an effort to “modernize” and catch up to the “West”.

Many Muslims, whether they are in Muslim majority countries, the diasporas thereof, or reverts, are routing their degrees towards this effort, and not without reason.  Muslim-majority nations have been dominated for centuries, and still are, and many suffer from a variety of sub-standard conditions.

Secularism is the answer many Muslims turn to because of these and similar questions:

Why do we, who invented hospitals in Baghdad, suffer from high infant mortality and diseases that have been eradicated in the “West”?

Why are we so disorganized after implementing bureaucracy to unprecedented detail and precision in the Uthmani Khilafah (Ottoman Caliphate)?

Why, with all the ayat and ahadith stressing cleanliness and hygiene, are our lands so filthy?

How can we, when we innovated weapon-making for centuries, be so easily dominated?

Why, when we are united by a book, and the first revelation was the command to read, do many of us suffer from illiteracy?

 How can Muslim-majority countries trail the world in math in our lands when one of us founded algebra?

Why are we unable to implement solutions to our social problems when one of us founded the social sciences?

Why do we leave so many of our women to suffer after all the rights and protections accorded to them in the Qur’an and ahadith?

Why, when moderation, collaboration, negotiation and communication are integral to our deen and its history, are we unable to unite and counter the assaults against us?

Brother, Sister, Shaykh, ‘Alima, do you know the answer?

For many, secularism seems to be it.  The problems we face were largely tackled ages ago by secularism in other countries, so by logic, the same will work for us.  An even more encouraging sign is that countries we used to dominate in turn came to dominate us after secularizing.  There’s no need for an opinion here, there’s not a historian who’ll dispute secularism as a factor, as a cause for the shift in global paradigms.

Why shouldn’t it work for Muslims if it worked for non-Muslims?  The pre-secular non-Islamic world was rife with superstition.  Unfounded, irrational and counter-scientific beliefs were the foundation for political, legal and social interaction.  Science, what little of it there was, and medicine were also subjugated and contradicted by these foul-conceived notions.  Royal/political scandals continued to emerge and chip away at the concept of the divine basis and status of rule.  Scientific recoveries of ancient knowledge in western Europe, threw long-held beliefs and practices into mockery, from which they could never emerge.  This and other factors turned people away from religion, and, predictably, especially considering the circumstances, it worked.

Why shouldn’t it have?  Science is better in direction and potential than fairytale.  A person, or people, will walk more successfully towards the future by seeing with their own eyes, rather than blindly, with misconceived notions of what surrounds them.

Islam- my Sisters, Brothers and Elders- is not like the religions other nations have left behind.  Islam is not based on superstition.  Science is consistent with it and we use scientific principles to learn and apply it.  Anyone with a Qur-an can read over the scientific signs that it points to and explains, and afterwards go personally and objectively observe them.  If they are not filled with faith, they’ll at least be impressed or amazed.  The social and legal code of Islam, not to mention it’s hygienic and dietary stipulations, upgrade the way of life of yesterday and today.  Through its code, people are enabled to update their cultures and avoid their pitfalls, while keeping their identity and pride intact.  The diplomacy, international and inter-religious code of conduct has the potential to soothe the world’s growing rage.  In Islam is provided a framework of inquiry, deduction, and conclusion that enables- and encourages- Muslims to benefit from the world, while safeguarding themselves from its evils.

Reason, logic and science and human advancement are integral to Islam.  At the same time, it is not bound by them.  It surpasses them by incorporating them into a holistic worldview and lifestyle.  Science, logic and reason are made use of in the Qur-an to appeal to people’s higher instincts, and the message is just as real and relevant now, over a thousand years after its revelation.  Secularism freed many parts of the world to their senses, but it also bound them to their senses.  Without the anchor of guidance, we can reason ourselves in and out of anything.  If you look around, you will see how secular societies and governments are using rational arguments, logic and science to lead ourselves into social, economic and environmental destruction.

What do Muslims really stand to benefit from that?

If you think and read deeply, you will recognize that it isn’t Islam that Muslims are seeking to abandon.  Many Muslims wake up every day to a stagnant, backward, shackled reality.  Culture, superstition, and tyranny have taken root and grown dominant in the Muslim-world.  People have ignorantly or cunningly instituted practices and agendas that contradict or even negate Islam.  For all the lofty ideals implied by our title- Muslim- we are living with too few of Islam’s benefits.

Secularism is the abandonment of ignorance, unquestioned tradition, and thoughtless action.  It is the effort to replace them with information, rational principles, and science-verified processes.  Islam goes even further than that by adding knowledge and wisdom, exceptional morals and values, and a complete, coherent lifestyle.

The “West” revived their societies through Renaissance, or ‘rebirth’ of old knowledge and sciences (much of which was transmitted to them by Muslims, by the way).  Muslim populations did that a long time ago, but have admittedly come full circle.  So we don’t need to try something different that we already see not working in societies around us.  We need to repeat the process of self-purification and dedication to revelation that is a proven success.

If you’re still not ready to consider the Islam side of the coin, take a look at what secularism has already “achieved”:

Consider the monstrosities of depleted uranium and other chemical warfare, weapons of mass destruction, pollution, and global warming, all examples of the imbalance of pure science that lacks a stable moral basis.

Look at and ponder the suicide, rape, murder and drug addiction figures of the “First World”

As the seat of the Khilafah (“Caliphate”/“Ottoman Empire), Turkey once brought Europe to its knees.  Now secular Turkey is on its knees begging to join the European Union.

The huge secular Arab regimes surrounding Israel all failed in their attempts to protect the rights and lands of their Christian and Muslim brethren.

What prosperity and upliftment have the secular governments of North Africa brought to their people? They are actually in worse condition than they were during the Khilafah. In the Khilafah, Syria had gold in its treasury.  Now it has paper currency.

Muslims have the same standard of living as the people they live around, if not other places in the world.

Now ask yourself, are you comparing Muslim-majority Senegal to secular France, for example, or are you comparing West Africa to Western Europe?  If you look at the world by region, you will find that Muslim-majority nations are basically at the same standard as the countries that they are around.  The issues are not Islamic, they are regional.  To take the West Africa example again, Muslim-majority Senegal is not much better or worse off than its non-Muslim neighbors.  The same goes wherever you look.  No Asian or African country can be compared to the “West” regardless of the religion of its inhabitants, with very few exceptions.  Different parts of the world are at different standards of living.  Islam is not to blame.  It isn’t even a factor.

Well there is one exception.  Muslims living in “Western” countries often enjoy higher rates of income and education.  It would seem then, that Islam is an advantage.

The calculus behind the call for secularism goes like this:

Given:  We are Muslims.

Given:  We are facing problems.

Conclusion:  We are facing problems because we are Muslims.

This line of thinking- and I admit to have oversimplified it- is an affront to the same logic that we claim to want to implement.  We are not only Muslims.  We are a lot of things.  We are also Africans, Americans, Australians, and Eurasians.  How come we don’t look to that as a cause?  How come we don’t look at our traditions and culture and see if the cause is there?  Why are our own personal and collective shortcomings held beyond suspicion?

Mustafa Kemal joined European colonialists in banning Muslims from using Arabic-based scripts.

Speaking of suspicion, don’t you find it suspicious that with all the identities we carry, we only isolate Islam as the cause of our problems?  On the one hand, many of use admit to ourselves that we are Muslim in name only, but on the other hand, we blame the same Islam we admit is absent from our lives as the cause of the problems in our lives?  Where does this come from?

Final thought:  secularists within Muslim-majority countries often have the same agenda as kaafir colonialists.  Russia banned the Arabic-based script in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, etc.) and forced them to use their Cyrillic script.  England banned the Arabic-based script used in East Africa (Swahili), Malaysia, and Indonesia (along with the Dutch) at least.  What did Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” do?  Ban the Arabic-based Ottoman script in favor of the Roman alphabet.  Coincidence?  England, via Lawrence of Arabia, stoked feelings of Arab ethnocentrism and Arab nationalism to weaken the Ottoman Empire which united much of the Muslim world.  Later, what was the sentiment common to the countries that were carved out of the Ottoman Empire?  Secular nationalism.  Coincidence?  And to this day, liberal secular regimes get anything they want, from weapons to NATO invasions to media cover, from the same countries that used to colonize them.  Coincidence?

Let’s re-evaluate, re-educate and re-dedicate ourselves to living by guidance.  Let us define ourselves, and look at ourselves through our own eyes (See this year’s State of the Ummah address here.)  Despite the challenges we face, one indisputable, indubitable truth remains: we have established Allaah’s word as uppermost in every sphere of life. We ARE the best nation.



State of the Ummah Address

is Democracy Islam-“ist”?

Behind the Veil lives a thriving Muslim Sexuality

Leading feminist Naomi Wolf’s personal experiences challenge Western perceptions of veiling, sexuality and freedom.

Ideological battles are often waged with women’s bodies as their emblems, and Western Islamophobia is no exception.  But are we in the West radically misinterpreting Muslim sexual mores, particularly the meaning to many Muslim women of being veiled or wearing the chador?  Read the full article at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Surprise Fact:  Muslim women experience more sensual joy in their marriages than Westerners!

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Full Article Here

See also:  Hidden Spirituality– Discussions about hijab are almost always political or sexual.  But what about its spirituality?  After all, it is part of a religion…

Related Articles:

Sociology of the Hijab

Sex in Islam

Hijab Success Stories

Islamic Marriage Articles

Women in Islam

Women in Islam: baby factories? Sex machines? Punching bags? Nameless, faceless walking inferiority complexes?

Try judges, doctors, businesswomen, scholars, poetesses, warriors and philanthropists…

This is adapted from the introduction of:

Ghadanfar, Mahmood. Great Women of Islam. Translated by Jamila Qawi. Darussalam: Riyadh. 2001

Exploits and Achievements of the Sahaabiyaat (Women Companions)
The Sahaabiyaat (Women Companions) were the noble women who were the contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad (sAá&s). They were the pure, virtuous crusaders of Islaam, and were honored during the very lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad with the prediction that they would live forever in Pardise in the Afterlife. Their achievements and influence are found in every sphere of that momentous period in the history of the world, when the whole of humanity would be transfigured forever. They were as active in religion as in politics, as courageous in war as in the peaceful and persuasive propagation of the teaching of Islaam. These noble selfless women could be found in the battlefields among the foremost ranks of those taking part in Jihaad. They were to be found in the political arena, in the field of education, in the courts of Islaamic jurisprudence, in the interpretation orf Sharee’a, in trade and commerce, in agriculture, in medicine and in nursing. In short there was no sphere that did not benefit from their intellect, their wisdom and their gentle yet firm strength of character.

Religious Achievements
Among the many services that one can render to Islaam is to fight in the battlefields. Few, if any, examples of such zeal, determination, perseverance and courage can be found in history. When the disbelievers attacked the Muslims during the Battle of Úhud, only a few, devoted followers were left to fight with the Prophet Muhammad. At this critical stage the Women Companion Umm Ámmaarah shielded him with her body and warded off the enemy with her sword as well as her bow and arrows. When Qaniah got within striking distance of the Prophet Muhammad, it was she who bore the brunt of his attack. She had a deep wound on her shoulder, yet she continued to attack him with her sword. But he was well protected and she could not make a dent in his armor. Against Musailama al-Kath-thaab she fought so courageously that she suffered a dozen wounds and lost an arm.

In the Battle of Ahzaab (a/k/a the Battle of the Trench), the Companion Safiyya displayed brilliant military strategy in handling the Jewish attack and slew one of the attackers. In the Battle of Hunain Umm Salim set out to attack the enemy with her sword.

In the Battle of Yattle of Yarmuuk, Asmaa’ bint Abu Bakr, Umm Abbaan, Umm Hakeem, Khawla, Hind and the Mother of the Believers Juwairiah displayed extraordinary valor. Asmaa bint Yazeed killed nine enemy soldiers. In the year 28 Hijri, Umm Haraam took part in the attack on Cyprus.

The Mother of the Believers Áa-isha, Umm Salim and Umm Salit were among those who were very proficient at nursing the wounded.

The Sahaabiyaat usually accompanied the Prophet Muhammad on his military expeditions and took part in battles both on land and at sea. Besides taking an active part in the war, there were many other services that the Sahaabiyaat performed, like giving medical aid to the soldiers, nursing the wounded on the battlefields and providing food and water to the wounded and thirsty. Standing side by side with the soldiers they would hand them arrows, nurse the wounded and generally help to kep up the morale of the army. They also helped to carry the martyred and the wounded back to al-Madeena. Umm ‘Atiya, for example, took part in seven battles and fought during the rule of Khaleefa Úmar al-Faruuq. The women and even the children also used to help bury the dead.

They spread the message of the new revelation and through example converted many of the disbelievers to Islaam. It was Faatima bint Khattaab who converted her brother Úmar bin Khattaab; he was to become one of the bravest and most faithful of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, and his second Khaleefa. It was Umm Saalim who influenced Abu Talha, and it was Umm Hakeem who convinced her husband, Íkrima to accept Islam. Umm Shareek Dosia very discreetly worked amond the women of the tribe of Quraish to spread Islaam.

Another aspect of missionary work is to preserve the religion in its pristine form, and protect it from any modifications, impurities and innovations that may creep in because of cultural or traditional practices already prevalent in society, or in other societies believers encounter. This very important work of preserving the purity of Islaam was performed by many of the Sahaabiyaat; most prominent amongst them was Áa-isha.

In the year 35 Hijri, when Khaleefa Úthmaan was martyred and there was chaos and confusion over who was next in line of succession, it was she who brought unity into the ranks by influencing the Muslims of Basra (Íraaq), and Makka.

Leading the prayers and sounding the Athaan (the call to Salaa (“prayer”)), is another important aspect of religious life. Although women cannot lead men in Salaa, they can lead assemblies of women. Many women contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad performed this task. Áa-isha, Umm Saalim, Umm Waraqa and Sa’da bint Qamaamah were some of the most prominent among these. In fact, Umm Waraqa turned her house into a place of Salaa for women; the athaan was given there by a female mu-ath-than for the women’s congregation, and Umm Waraqa performed the duties of the Imaam in leading the Salaa.

Political Achievements
The Sahaabiyaat (Women Companions played a prominent role in politics as well. Khaleefa (Caliph) ‘Umar (rAa) so valued Shifaa’ bint ‘Abdullaah (rAa) for her political intelligence an insight that he very often consulted with her. He ofter gave her the responsibility of running the affairs of state relating to trade and commerce. Before the Hijra (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad (sAaws) to al-Madeena, the disbelievers wanted to lay siege to his house. It was Ruqayya bint Saifee (rAa) who warned him. The Prophet then secretly left for al-Madeena, leaving ‘Ali (rAa) asleep in his place.

Vast political rights are granted to women in Islaam. A woman even has the right to grant shelter to an enemy, if she so wishes. A historian, Abuu Daawuud, relates that Umm Haani (rAa) the sister of ‘Ali, had given refuge to an enemy disbeliever and the Prophet Muhammad said,

“If you have guaranteed sanctuary and safety to a person, then we stand by you.”

This is the law of Islaam, that the Imaam or leader has to stand by the guarantee offered by a woman.

Education, Knowledge and the Fine Arts
There are various subjects, an understanding of which are essential for a thorough knowledge of Islaam and its principles. Qiraa-a (the correct way of reading the Qur-aan- elocution and enunciation), interpretation and commentary, Sharee’a, Fiqh, and study of Hadeeth, are all important aspects of Islaamic studies. Many of the women Companions were experts in these fields. ‘Aa-isha memorized the Qur-aan, as did Hafsa, Umm Salma, and Umm Waraqa. Hind bint Aseed, Umm Hishaam bint Haritha, Zaida bint Hayyaan and Umm Sa’d bint Sa’d all knew portions of the Qur-aan by heart. The latter used to regularly lecture on the Qur-aan. In the sensitive interpretation of Hadeeth, all were expert, but ‘Aa-isha and Umm Salma were exceptional masters of interpretation and commentary. With the former, 2,210 Ahaadeeth are associated and 378 with the latter.

Umm Salma used to recite the Qur-aan with Tajweed, which was a difficult skill and much appreciated.

‘Aa-isha was an expert on interpretation and commentary due to her close association with the Prophet Muhammad. Much of the Book of Tafseer (Interpretation0 in Saheeh Muslim contains narrations from her.

Asmaa bint Abuu Bakr (Sister of ‘Aa-isha, Umm ‘Atiya, Umm Haani and Faatima bint Qays also had extensive knowledge of Ahaadeeth.

In Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) ‘Aa-isha’s verdicts could fill several volumes. The same could be said of Umm Salma’s recorded verdicts.

The invaluable verdicts of Safiyya, Hafsa, Umm Habeeba, Juwayria, Faatima bint Muhammad, Umm Shareek, Umm ‘Atiya, Asmaa bint Abuu Bakr, Layla bint Qaa-if, Khawla bint Tuyayt, Umm Dardaa, ‘Athika bint Zayd, Sahla bint Suhayl, Faatima bint Qays, Zaynab bint Jahsh, Umm Salma, Umm Ayman and Umm Yuusuf could fill several volumes.

‘Aa-isha was also well versed in the law of inheritance and many renowned and respected Companions consulted her on the finer points of the law.

Besides being masters of Islaamic law and of the finer points of Fiqh, the women Companions had skill and ability in other branches of knowledge. Asmaa bint Yazeed bin Sakan was an expert in making speech. Asmaa bint ‘Umays was famous for her interpretation of dreams. Several female Companions were noted for their skill in medicine an dsurgery. Aslamia Umm Mattaa’a, Umm Kabsha, Hamna bint Jahsh, Mu’aatha, Ammayma, Umm Ziad, Rabee’a bint Mu’awath, Umm ‘Atiya and Umm Saalim were some of them, well known for their skills. Rufayda Aslamia’s tent, set up as a surgery with all the necessary instruments, was situated close to the Prophet’s Masjid in Madeena.

The era before the advent of the Prophet was known as the age of illiteracy, but some of these wordly women were highly educated and skilled in the arts of penmanship an dcalligraphy. Shifaa bint ‘Abdullaah learned to read and write even during these dark ages and was celebrated for her skill at this art. Hafsa, Umm Kulthuum bint ‘Uqba and Kareema bint Miqdaad were all literate. ‘Aa-isha and Umm Salma could not write but they could read. Both of them were blessed with remarkable memories and inquiring minds; and because of their close association with the Prophet many of the authentic Ahaadeeth originated from them.

The arts were not neglected by any means. Some of the most noted poetesses were Sa’di, Safiya, ‘Atika, bint Zaid, Hind bint Athaatha, Umm Ayman, Kabasha bint Raafee’a, Ummaama Maridia, Hind bint Haarith, Zaynab bint ‘Awaam Azdi, Maymuuna and Ruqayya. A book of verses by Khansaa, the best known among them has been published.

The daughters of the Ansaar would compose verses and poems for festive occasions and sing. According to the Hadeeth narrated by Fre’a bint Ma’auth, they recited their poems in the presence of the Prophet, who had appreciated their literary skills.

Industry, Trade and Commerce
The women Companions also practiced the practical or survival skills as we know them today. Agriculture, business, trade and commerce, writing, editing, cottage industries like weaving, manufacture and designing of clothes- all these are mentioned in the Musnad (collection of Ahaadeeth) of Imaam Ahmad.

Agriculture was not so common, but was mainly practiced in the rural fertile areas around al-Madeena, especially by the women of the Ansaar. Among the immigrants, or Muhaajireen as they were known, Asmaa also practiced farming.

Some of the Sahaabiyaat also ran businesses. Khadeeja was a very successful businesswoman and used to send trading caravans to different countries. Khaula, Maleeka, Thaqafiya and bint Fakhariya used to trade in the oriental oil-based perfumes known as ‘Itar. Sauda operated a leather tanning industry.

Thus there was no sphere of activity- social or cultural- that was not influenced and assisted by the presence of these great ladies. Was this not the best generation of women on the planet? This level was not even approached until centuries later by any other society. Let us all strive after this example.May Allaah have mercy on their souls!

Allaah Will Be Pleased with them and they with Him.

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‘Aa-isha’s age at Marriage

How old was ‘Aa-isha, Mother of the Believers, beloved wife of Prophet Muhammad (sAaws), daughter of the first Khaleefa, renowned scholar, and military general, at the time of her marriage? 6? 9? 17? 20?

Photo of a traditional Yemeni wedding (NOT a picture of ‘Aa-isha)

This issue is the focus of attacks against the character of Prophet Muhammad, the status of the Sharee’a, and the morality of the Sahaaba (Companions of Prophet Muhmammad). The usual story is that she was contractually married at 6, and consummated her marriage at 9. This version of the story is used to launch slanders of pedophilia at the Prophet and the Muslims.

However, it’s much deeper than that. Here are 3 articles- one Sunni, one Shee’i, and one Lahori Ahmadiyya- exploring the issue, and revealing the depth and breadth of Islamic thought:

Our Mother A’isha’s Age At The Time Of Her Marriage to The Prophet
This is a scholarly, and thus convoluted, article. It discusses the marriage and child-bearing age at the time of revelation (1400 years ago). Then it discusses certain narrators, revealing the sciences of evaluating hadeeth (narration) narrators, and of evaluating the validity and strength of chains of narration. It then goes into actual ahadeeth (narrations) that discuss the likely year of ‘Aa-isha’s birth and marriage in relation to other events (birth records were not kept at the time and the calendar counted months, not years). NOTE: It is written scholar-to-scholar, not scholar-to-public, so it requires a high reading level and some patience.

Was Hazrath Aisha 9 years old when she got married?
This article represents Shi’a scholarship. They have a different approach to ahadeeth, so their sources, and evaluation of sources, varies. This article explores the issue mainly by using ahadeeth to establish dates, clarifying, again, her birth and marriage date and age.

Age of Aisha (ra) at time of marriage
This is a Lahori Ahmadiyya article. It is the easiest to read. It focuses on the work of a scholar named Muhammad Ali, and more or less summarizes his research. It concludes with a discussion of marriage and childbirth age amongst Christian populations. While many Muslim scholars consider Ahmadiyya beliefs to be heretical, I have included this article because it references sources (see the footnotes) that Muslims generally consider valid. Therefore, it is a good point for further research.

The views here represent the research and views of their respective authors, websites, and presenters. They are not necessarily mine. I am not endorsing any particular group or point of view. As a Muslim, I accept what I find to be true whatever its source. I do endorse the view that whoever claims ‘Aa-isha was a child bride or victim of pedophilia needs to consider this in their research, and in their discussion of the matter.

Victim-blaming: Was she “asking for it”?

Who gets the blame when a woman is sexually harassed or assaulted?”


Qur-an 33.59:

“O Prophet, say to your wives and your daughters, and the women of the believers to draw part of their outer garments over themselves.  It is likelier that they will be recognized and not molested.”



“Hasn’t he been informed of what is in the scrolls of Moses

And of Abraham, the one who fulfilled (his covenant)?:

That no bearer of a burden shall bear the burden of another…”

Qur-an 53.36-38


No one can bear the blame for someone else’s actions.  That’s clear.  If someone does wrong, he or she alone is to blame.  It should be pointed out that Muslims believe this concept to also be in the lost books of Moses and Abraham, so we don’t believe that Allah has ever allowed a person to be blamed for another’s actions.


Qur-an 24.30

“Say to the believing men to lower their gazes and to guard their private parts…”

Islaam has a practical approach to sexual harassment and assault.


The same directive is addressed to the believing women, followed by instructions about modest dress.  In the explanation given by scholars, this refers to lowering their gaze from women, other people’s private parts (i.e. those which are supposed to be covered) and at obscene objects.  The term “lower the gaze” is explained in narrations reported from the Prophet as not following the first (unintentional) look with a second (intentional) look or stares.

So regardless of how a woman is dressed (and she is allowed to dress in a way considered “immodest” in Islamic values) a man is not supposed to look at her.  If he’s not supposed to be ‘ogling’ her, or ‘checking her out’, then of course he is not allowed to go further than that.



“And do not approach zinaa…”  Qur-an 17.32


The word zinaa means sexual intercourse with someone to whom you are not legally married.  So it includes fornication (sex outside of wedlock) and adultery (sex with someone married to someone else), among others.

Now, look carefully at the wording.  In the original Arabic, the wording is not “wa laa taznuu”, which would mean ‘and do not commit fornication, etc.’.  It is “wa laa taqrabu az-zinaa”, which means “and do not APPROACH fornication, etc.”  So, regarding your question, regardless of how a man feels about a woman (or about how she is “making” him feel) he is already not supposed to be looking at her, as discussed above.  Further, he is not to, in any way, do anything that brings him close to sex with her.  No catcalls.  No advances.  No smiles.  No come-ons.  No touching.  No introductions.  NOTHING.  If he does any of these things, never mind surpassing all of them to grope or sexually assault her, he is clearly in the wrong.



“The believers have surely succeeded…

those who turn away from laghw,…”

Qur-an 23.1,3


I think this relates more to the issue of sexual harassment than sexual assault.  Laghw is translated as, among other things “futile and/or indecent speech”, depending on the translator and context.  So the kinds of things that men harass women with are forbidden, regardless of the context.  In fact, there is no context in which futile, indecent speech is allowed.  Therefore, considering that such speech is wrong, and considering that, as above, no one can be blamed for what another person does, if a man harasses a woman, it is his fault, not hers.

That’s a brief review of what I think the Qur-an contains on the subject.  Now, turning to the secondary source of Islamic law and morals, the guided lifestyle of the Prophet, these are things that the Prophet either:

(1)   did,

(2)   said,

(3)   commanded, or

(4)   allowed (by staying silent about in its presence)

This, the sunna, is not in the Qur-an, but has been compiled in books of narrations or ahadeeth (singular:  hadeeth).  Every hadeeth goes through a scientific process of scrutiny where the reputation of every individual narrator is graded, and the entire chain of narration is also graded for authenticity.


Here is an example:

Narrated Wa’il ibn Hujr:

When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet for prayer, a man attacked her and overpowered [raped] her.

She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: “That [man] did such and such to me”. And when a company of the Emigrants came by, she said: “That man did such and such to me”. They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her.

She said: “Yes, this is he”.

Then they brought him to the Apostle of Allah.

When he [the Prophet] was about to pass sentence, the man who [actually] had assaulted her stood up and said: “Apostle of Allah, I am the man who did it to her”.

He [the Prophet] said to her: “Go away, for Allah has forgiven you”.

But he told the man some good words [Abu Dawud said: “meaning the man who was seized”],

and of the man who had had intercourse with her, he said: “Stone him to death.”

Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4366

So it is clear that the victim was not to blame.

Now, do people always judge by the book of Allah and the example of His Prophet?  No.  Of course, the majority of the people in the world are not Muslim, so they are unaware.  As for the Muslims, not all of them are knowledgeable, and not all of them are sincere.  If a person is insincere, his or her knowledge does not benefit, and much less their ignorance.  If a person is ignorant, her or his sincerity does not benefit them, and much less so their insincerity.  Somewhere in the fray, among other things, women may not get their rights.  If that is so, it is not Islam, but those individual Muslims- or hypocrites posing as Muslims- who are to blame.

Now, in what way can a woman be to blame?  If she dresses immodestly, she is wrong for doing so, but the matter is between her and Allah.  To my knowledge there is no legal penalty for immodest dress, so it is not a matter between her and the authorities.  (A general goal of the sharee’ah is to stop the spread of indecency, so I imagine there are measures that can be taken in extreme cases, though.)  In any case, as we have shown, it does not in any way excuse sexual harassment or assault.  We must recognize, though, that while it cannot be said that she has encouraged harassment or assault, neither can it be said that she has discouraged it.  This is one of the benefits and purposes of modesty, to discourage the men who are not fearful of Allah.  It is a pre-cautionary measure mandated by Allah long ago, whose relevancy is still being proven today (see here).

(Everything I’ve written here is subject to the limits of my knowledge and understanding.  The truth of it is from Allah, and any inaccuracies are only from my self.)

Hijab Success Stories

Contrary to popular images, the hijab is not a hurdle to the Muslim woman’s progress.  In fact, it probably helps.  Don’t believe me?  Well what would you say to a 15-year-old Harvard freshman, a Division 1 basketball star, a fencing champion, an Olympic sprinter, a newsanchor, a sportswear designer, and successful active women all over the world who choose to wear the Islamic veil?  These are their stories…

Saheela Ibrahim

Saheela Ibraheem, 15-year-old Harvard Freshman


Bilqiis abdul-Qaadir

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Division 1 Basketball Star


Ruqayya al-Ghasara

Ruqaya al-Ghasara, Olympic Sprinter


‘Ulaa al-Barqi

Ola al-Barqi, Awtan TV Newsanchor


ahiida swimwear

Aheda Zanetti, Owner and designer of ahiida Islamic sportswear


Anonymous Robot Designer

HijabisDoingThings.tumblr.com- a site showcasing successful, active and happy hijabis


Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad, Fencing Champion


Kulsoom Abdullah, Weightlifter


Hijab Success Story: 15-year-old Harvard Fresh(wo)man

Piscataway girl, 15, decides to go to Harvard after being accepted to 13 colleges

By Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger

Saheela Ibraheem wasn’t sure any college would want to admit a 15-year-old. So the Piscataway teen hedged her bets and filled out applications to 14 schools from New Jersey to California.

“It’s the age thing. I wanted to make sure I had options,” said Saheela, a senior at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison.

In the end, 13 colleges accepted her — including six of the eight Ivy League schools.

After weeks of debate, Saheela settled on Harvard. She will be among the youngest members of the school’s freshman class.

“I’ll be one of the youngest. But I won’t be the youngest,” the soon-to-be 16-year-old said.

Saheela is among the millions of high school seniors who had to finalize their college decisions by Monday, the deadline for incoming freshman to send deposits to the school of their choice. Nationwide, this year’s college selection process was among the most competitive in history as most top colleges received a record number of applications.

Saheela joins a growing number of New Jersey students going to college before they are old enough to drive. Last year, Kyle Loh of Mendham graduated from Rutgers at 16. In previous years, a 14-year-old from Cranbury and two of his 15-year-old cousins also graduated from Rutgers.

For Saheela, her unusual path to college began when she was a sixth-grader at the Conackamack Middle School in Piscataway. Eager to learn more about her favorite subject, math, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants asked to move to a higher-level class. The school let her skip sixth grade entirely.

By high school, Saheela said, she was no longer feeling challenged by her public school classes. So, she moved to the Wardlaw-Hartridge School, a 420-student private school, where she skipped her freshman year and enrolled as a 10th-grader. Her three younger brothers, twins now in the ninth grade and a younger brother in second grade, all eventually joined her at the school.

School officials were impressed Saheela, one of their top students, didn’t spend all her time studying.

“She’s learned and she’s very smart. But she keeps pushing herself,” said William Jenkins, the Wardlaw-Hartridge School’s director of development.

ibraheem-2.JPGAaron Houston/For The Star-LedgerSaheela Ibraheem, a 15-year-old senior at Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, has been admitted to 13 colleges, and chose to attend Harvard this fall. Photo taken during a Wardlaw-Hartridge softball game in Piscataway.

Saheela also excels outside the classroom. She is a three-sport athlete, playing outfield for the school’s softball team, defender on the soccer team, and swimming relays and 50-meter races for the swim team. She also sings alto in the school choir, plays trombone in the school band and serves as president of the school’s investment club, which teaches students about the stock market by investing in virtual stocks.

Saheela began applying to colleges last fall. Her applications included her grade point average (between a 96 and 97 on a 100-point scale) and her 2,340 SAT score (a perfect 800 on the math section, a 790 in writing and a 750 in reading).

She was delighted when she got her first acceptance in December from California Institute of Technology. “I was so excited. I got into college!,” Saheela said.

More acceptances followed from Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Williams College, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington University in St. Louis.

On March 30, she got her sole rejection letter — from Yale. Saheela isn’t sure why the Ivy League school didn’t want her.

“My parents were thinking it was the age thing,” she said.

Saheela was torn between going to MIT and Harvard. A visit to both campuses last month made the choice easy. “She went to Harvard and she fell in love with the place,” said Shakirat Ibraheem, her mother.

Saheela said she wants to major in either neurobiology or neuroscience and plans to become a research scientist who studies how the brain works. As for her own brain, Saheela insists she is nothing special.

She credits her parents with teaching her to love learning and work hard. Her father, Sarafa, an analyst and vice president at a New York financial firm, would often study with her at night and home school her in subjects not taught at school.

“I try my best in everything I do,” Saheela said. “Anyone who’s motivated can work wonders.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported the number of Ivy League colleges. There are eight. Saheela Ibraheem did not apply to Dartmouth College.