Sisterhood?

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A needed reminder to reassess our behavior with our fellow Muslim sisters.

Sometimes it occurs at a high school or college campus; other times it happens at the Masjid or some MSA event.  The segregation between sisters and brothers may or may not be enforced, but you are bound to see similar heads grouped together like small islands separated at a distance—the desi cliques, the Arab sisters, the pre-med students, the education majors, the hijabis, the non-hijabis, the conservative girls, the liberal girls, etc.  I can keep going, but you get the point.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches.” [Muslim]

Now imagine for an instant that the Ummah is a body, an entity you are a part of.  You cannot go by one day without thinking that your limbs are disconnected from your torso—it just does not make sense.  So why is that when a sister of ours, standing just a foot away, is showing signs of struggle, our feet are glued to the floor and our eyes turn away?  Is it because she does not share the same culture as you, or that she does not belong to the same school of thought, or she does not wear the hijab?  Or because you think, “She’s not my friend, why should I care?”  Are our assumptions and judgments so overbearing that we cannot approach a sister of our own faith?

I am not even discussing geographic distance here, though I am sure you have heard your parents and elders tell you at the dinner table when you distastefully push away your plate —“Think of all your Muslim brothers and sisters in Africa starving and without water.”  While praying and taking every effort to help our suffering Muslim brothers and sisters abroad, the topic I am discussing here is sisterhood within our communities.

Alhamdulillah, many of us are so fortunate to live where there are many Muslims; it’s uncommon to go by one day without seeing one.  But why do all the desi Muslims have to go to one Masjid or halaqah and the Arab Muslims to another?  Why do we gossip about the one sister who is doing something haram and quarrel with another sister that the McDonald’s chicken nuggets she is eating are not ‘zabihah’?  Why is it that the person who prays Salah a little differently or wears hijab unlike most is singled out or have to form their own clique to fit in?  Are we so proud of our culture that we are blind to the fact that we share a universal belief in one God and final Messenger?  Are we turning our religious practices into traditions that should define how glorious we are compared to those who don’t?

The reality is that we are losing connection with our Muslim sisters.  The cultural clashes and even sectors of various beliefs within one faith all combine to create a psychological separation from the ones we are supposed to feel as our own.  It may not be the case for everyone, but it is a problem evident in our community.  And it is perhaps normal—as humans, we gather around those whom we are most comfortable with, those who share the most similarities.  But, as Allah says, “We have made you nations and tribes so that you may know one another (49:13)” Just as Hajj is a moment when status and background play no role in the worship of our Creator, so should our daily lives be filled with the purpose of seeking and enhancing friendship and sisterhood with those who share our faith.

Islam and being Muslim is not supposed to be all dull and toil 24-7.  We are not commanded that we must pray all the time and can have no fun; instead, our beautiful faith considers the daily and most minor of actions as acts of worship.  So every time you smile and say salaam to a sister, or you show kindness and affection to your fellow sister, or even when you plan an all-girls game night, there is ultimate reward while still having a splendid time.

So, what are you waiting for, dear sister?  Find a Muslim sister, maybe not just your childhood bestie but also the sister you occasionally say salaam to in passing, spread the word and invite your non-Muslim friends too, and go have some halal fun!  Discover the beautiful things about one another, be there for them when they need you the most, and strengthen the sisterhood!

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