I couldn’t let Women’s History Month go by without chiming in. In this blog, I focused on Muslim women. I have a reason for this. In 2019, we still have a pervasive narrative. We are oppressed, veiled victims who have no agency. Yes, that does exist. At the same time, that is not our entire story. I believe in what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls “The Danger of a Single Story.” Taking one story of a few members of a group and using that to define all members of that group minimizes them. The veiled victim story of Muslim women robs us of our humanity and denies our contribution to history. The women I talk about today made undeniable contributions to the world. They harnessed their own power to make an impact. No single story here. Today, I offer you a few. Here are 7 badly behaved Muslim women who made history:
1. Razia Sultana
Razia Sultana was the first woman sultan in the Delhi Sultanate. She was trained in battle and administration. Her skill in these areas impressed her father so much that he wound up favoring her over her brothers when it came to succession. She refused to wear the veil but still had the support of the people. Although she was an able ruler who worked for her subjects, the nobles refused to be ruled by a woman. She was assassinated with her husband only four years into her reign.
2. Nur Jahan
In her day, she was the real power behind the throne as the emperor of India at the time, Jahangir was an opium addict and heavy drinker. She issued official royal proclamations and even had coins made with her name. As an Iranian immigrant with no regal heritage, her rise to power was near impossible. Still, this talented artist and politician became an empress. She had the strength of a warrior, leading troops to free her imprisoned husband. Both disdained and admired, she is a standout among royal women.
3. Fatema Mernissi
Although she grew up in a domestic harem where women were not expected to leave the house, she sought education, eventually earning a PhD. She became a professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco. From there, she went on to become one of the founders of Islamic feminism. She argued that Islam did not favor the oppression of women and could support her assertions with scholarly research. Not only did she question the status quo when it came to gender roles and gender equality, she encouraged women in rural areas to become educated. She expanded her activism when she organized a writer’s workshop for political prisoners.
4. Aisha bint Abu Bakr
A wife of Prophet Muhammad, Aisha was not a woman relegated to the sidelines. In her time and beyond, she caught her fair share of criticism for her outspoken ways. She was a scholar and an intellectual. She assisted the early followers of Islam in interpreting the Quran. After the death of the third caliph, she even led an army in the Battle of the Camel. She lost, but she never lost the respect of the community. She still taught Islam and is known as the “Mother of the Believers.”
5. Noor Inayat Khan
This unlikely World War II hero was a secret agent for the British. After escaping Nazi occupied France, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, eventually becoming a radio operator in France. After betrayal by a Frenchwoman, she was arrested, tortured, and executed by the Nazis. Despite her confinement and torture, she never revealed any information. In 1949, the British government awarded her the George Cross for courage.
6. Tawakkol Karman
In 2011, she became the first Arab woman and second Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She is known as “The Mother of the Revolution” in her home country of Yemen. As a journalist, she reported human rights abuses and mobilized the community. She founded Women Journalists Without Chains, an organization that reports on social injustice and violations of human rights. Even after being arrested on several occasions, she continues her fight for human rights.
7. Malala Yousafzai
In 2012, she was shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting to go to school. Not only did she survive the attack, she thrived. She continued to advocate for human rights and the education of girls. In 2014, she became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, she does what the extremists don’t want her to do and studies at Oxford University, all while continuing her activism.
These are just some of our stories. I honor these women, their stories, and all our stories.
Until next time, look behind and beyond the veil...
SHORT STORY SHARE
Welcome to the March Short Story Share.
This month's story is a bit of flash fiction with some history thrown in. Happy reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Death by Kahve
As soon as the peasant, Aristotle walked into the largest kahvehane, coffee house in Peloponnesus, his senses were immediately assaulted with the robust flavor. The aroma sailed through his nostrils, and the clamor of all the lively conversations pounded in his ears. He furtively glanced all around him looking for his party.
He sat down cautiously at one of the few empty tables. His hands were sticky, and he wiped them on his shirt. Then, he cupped the curb of his sabre. For what reason, he wasn’t even sure.
He wasn’t sure of much these days. He barely knew how he was keeping himself and his family alive. A sense of urgency bit into him like the Hydra, and when he tried to shake it off him, more urgency took its place. Underneath it all was a lingering anxiety about an uncertain future.
He wasn’t alone. Whenever he entered the kahvehane, the raucous conversations ricocheted between collective anxiety and unified, righteous indignation. Nobleman, peasant, and merchant alike anticipated the winds of change. They hoped the gods they no longer prayed to would harness those winds to the point that they became a typhoon.
Aristotle had no interest in anyone’s gods. Not the gods of the Greeks or the god of the Ottoman Turks. He believed in what he could touch with his hands, feel with his heart, and work through with his own brain. The illiterate peasant had a knack for astounding the illustrious noblemen with what he could concoct in his naturally adept mind.
Konstantinos, his unlikely ally, valued Aristotle’s facility with strategy, although he would never tell him so. The educated son of a merchant could recite the words of enlightened Frenchmen and speak eloquently of their overthrow of tyranny but had no real skill to navigate devious political minds. He needed Aristotle but would never admit to needing a peasant.
Their unexpected collaboration started when Aristotle sipped his kahve. He marveled at how richness, bitterness, and sweetness could exist in one place but still be enjoyable. In the middle of his musings, he heard Konstantinos spew discontent over the state of the Greeks. Another spoiled, educated brat who has no understanding of real suffering. He thought to himself.
At the same time, his intoxicating idealism drew in everyone near him. In spite of himself, it drew in Aristotle. Since a peasant has no choice but to be practical, he had to inject some realism into the conversation.
“And what would you have us do, boy?” he said.
Aristotle had no idea how his off-handed, irreverent challenge would alter the rest of his life and the lives of the other Greeks in the kavehane.
Here he was a year and a half later helping that same boy figure out what to do. Konstantinos never liked Aristotle calling him boy considering Aristotle wasn’t much older. He chuckled at the thought taking his sweaty hand off his sabre.
Konstantinos barreled through with a group of men that included 2 teachers, 4 priests, and 2 doctors. One of the priests went with Aristotle to the mountains to enlist the aid of the self-professed militia who some saw as common brigrands. He hugged him warmly. He gave a quick handshake to the others, including Konstantinos.
“Are you well Aristotle?” he said as he sat down.
“As well as these times will allow,” he replied as he waved a server to their table.
He flashed his rogue smile and asked for ten cups of kahve. He watched the server walk away and took in the whole kahvehane in one fell swoop.
“Did you secure the agreement of the Russians?” Aristotle whispered, unconsciously putting his hand back on his sabre.
“We did. I told you we would,” Konstantinos said.
“I never had a doubt.” The rogue smile made another appearance.
“Oh, but you did,” Konstantinos laughed, shaking his head.
“What word from Istanbul?” Aristotle asked one of the priests.
“Ready and waiting for word from us,” he said.
Aristotle paused as the server placed kahve in front of everyone.
“Do you think the Russians can be trusted, Aristotle?” one of the teachers asked nervously.
“Can we really trust anyone at this time? Why should the Russians be any different?”
“We can trust each other,” Konstantinos said.
Aristotle nodded and took a slow sip of kahve.
With flourish, Konstantinos gulped down most of his kahve.
“Is it time, Aristotle?” he blurted.
“It is time,” Aristotle said, as he took another slow sip of kahve.
Aristotle’s words rang true with their success in Kalamata. The spirit of Aries overtook the peninsula, and the Turks could not match it. Aristotle and Konstantinos shook off their titles of peasant and merchant’s son and embodied the title of warrior. When the battle was over, the two men parted ways after Konstantinos was appointed as one of the first senators of the Messenian Senate, and Aristotle joined the pursuit of the Turks to Tripolitsa.
He saw the young senator again when he came to Tripolitsa to congratulate Theodoros Kolokotronis on his victory. They saw it as only fitting to meet in a kahvehane since that’s where it all started.
This time, when Aristotle entered the establishment, the conversation that buzzed in his ears was filled with collective exhilaration at the possibilities of independence and the restoration of former glory. No one noticed him.
When Konstantinos arrived, cheers greeted him. He shook hands warmly and received the adulation, already playing the role of a politician. Aristotle shook his head.
“I hope the politicos don’t eat you alive,” he said, as he drank his kahve.
“You don’t think I can handle the snakes?” Konstantinos asked.
“Of course not. I never doubt you.”
“Oh, but you do.”
He laughed and took a deliberate sip of kahve.
Revolutions are born with kahve... And empires die with kahve.
Until next time... look behind and beyond the veil...
"Am I too much for the world, or is the world too much for me?" Kelli Jae Baeli, Too Much World“
I think we’ve all asked ourselves that question. Especially when we’ve been told not to be so sensitive. I’ve often thought how little sense it makes to say that to someone. When someone’s feelings are already hurt, are they automatically going to stop being sensitive? Many times, we’re made to feel like sensitivity is a bad thing. I happen to think that sensitivity is a wonderful thing that you can use to your advantage.
When you’re sensitive, you’re paying attention to details that matter. How someone feels matters. When you pick up on another’s feelings, you can, at least, understand them better. At best, you can help them. You can do the same with yourself. Being in tune with your emotions can help you navigate any situation.
Like with anything else in life, there just has to be balance. You don’t let something bother you to the point where you’re on the floor. At the same time, you can be sensitive to and have empathy for the feelings of others. You can be sensitive to your own feelings, too.
Once, I had a student who looked sad and put on a lot of weight in a short amount of time. I asked her a simple question about her grades, and she burst into tears. I took her aside and made sure I talked to her one on one. The next time I saw her family, I told them what I observed of her. They were taken aback. I know they got involved because I noticed a change in her. She seemed happier. I saw her smiling again. Her grades got better. I’m glad I paid attention.
For myself, I pay attention to how I feel. I don’t just cast my feelings aside, anymore. Before I would talk myself out of what I was feeling. It was more important to keep getting things done than to pay attention to how I felt. That didn’t serve me because it just became a vicious cycle, and I would end up being in the uncomfortable place I started. Now, I’ve realized I have to allow myself to feel what I feel without judgment so I can move forward.
Non-judgment leading to elevation
Non-judgment is key. Too often, we judge ourselves about how we feel. Others judge us. That breeds negativity that doesn’t serve us. Our positive emotions can serve us well, especially our joy. Think about all the great achievements that have come from times where you just felt good. Has anything good come from when you’ve judged and come to an unfavorable conclusion?
Being aware and allowing whatever comes to come makes the journey easier for yourself and others. Being sensitive to others makes interactions go smoothly. Being sensitive to yourself can help you get through whatever you have going on or keep yourself in a great place. When your sensitive to others, you can elevate them and maybe, yourself in the process. Using your emotions for elevation is the best advantage to sensitivity that I can think of.
Until next time… look behind and beyond the veil...
Starting a new chapter in life is a daunting proposition. You go into the “what if” scenarios and everything that could possibly go wrong. The nerve-wracking questions come in. How will this play out? Will it work? Then, the make-or-break one: What if I fail? Questions like these make a challenging task even more difficult. To get you off to a promising start rather than a shaky one, I offer you 10 inspirational quotes to ease you into a new chapter.
1. “Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” - Prince.
2. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” - Seneca
3. “Every moment is a fresh beginning,” - T.S. Eliot
4. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” - Lao Tzu
5. “Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.” - Germany Kent
6. “It all begins when the soul would have its way with you.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
7. “No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” - Buddha
8. “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” - Louis L’Amour
9. “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” Steve Jobs
10. “One day you will wake up, and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” - Paulo Coelho
Until next time… look behind and beyond the veil...
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer