SHAFAQNA – “Now I make Hijab part of my personality, to carry it with decorum and that agrees with my ethics, my values, my way of being social and that it is seen that the veil does not prevent you from intellect and your abilities instead it gives you respect. It goes without saying that using it is a mechanism of indirect dawa (diffusion of the Islamic message)”.
Habibah Ifan García is a Muslim in Latin America and a member of the Shia community of Mexico.
In an exclusive interview with Shafaqna, Habibah Ifan García explains about Islam in Latin America.
Shafaqna: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Habibah Ifan García: In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful … Greetings to all the prophets, particularly the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his purified Family.
I am a Muslim woman, wife and mother. Mother of two girls and a boy. My husband is a Mexican and he is Muslim too. My profession is psychology and I am an artist by decision and inspiration. Due to the conditions of Muslims in non-Muslim countries, I have had to create my own business with the support of my family and my sisters in the religion, Islam.
Shafaqna: What was the reason of your conversion to Islam?
Habibah Ifan García: I decided to convert to Islam 11 years ago after reading the Holy Quran, which was provided to me by the Muslim community in my city. After some times, by reading the Quran frequently, I decided to give my testimony of faith (shahada) and now I am here. The personality of the brother who served as Sheikh seemed to me to be that of a person who correctly exemplified what Islam was. From that moment, I began to study more about the religion, the Prophet (P) and the most important details of the practice. However, the most surprising thing was the reading of the Holy Quran, a book with so many details and so much wisdom that everyone who read it was born again, trying to understand the universe and my place in it.
Shafaqna: What motivates you to embrace Islam? And what changes occurred in your life after accepting Islam?
Habibah Ifan García: Blessings and trials happened both. First came along with the great tests of changing my way of being, living, dressing and thinking. I used to be a girl of my time, with the tastes and social attitudes of a person of my age, knowing the personality of the Muslim woman and her role models, I realized that in many cases something was wrong and, gradually, I was changing friends and habits. Later, the blessings came: I had the opportunity to be hired in a job with my hijab (Islamic dress). I must emphasize that in my country, due to the lack of information, the theme of the veil is very badly seen and associated with an image of oppression instead of modesty and moral freedom. After a year I had a trip to the city of Cairo, Egypt, with which I had an experiential learning of how an Islamic society as a whole operates (although not necessarily an Islamic government), people behaved quite differently to my country: you could breathe the meaning of each religious action on a social level.
Shafaqna: What was your point of view regarding women in Islam?
Habibah Ifan García: When I saw Muslim women, before converting to Islam, I had a negative image of them and believed, as all the media tell us, that they were oppressed and violated by men, particularly their husbands. Also, women seemed mystical and enigmatic to me.
Shafaqna: What do you think about the Islamic veil (the Hijab)?
Habibah Ifan García: Before Islam I didn’t like it, I couldn’t imagine wearing it or why women wore it. When I received the guidance of God, the Mighty and Majestic, I understood it’s personal, spiritual and social use. Now I consider that the hijab is not only the veil that covers your ornaments, but it is a whole Islamic dress and a woman’s attitude: with herself, with people and, particularly, with God. Now I make it part of my personality, to carry it with decorum and that agrees with my ethics, my values, my way of being socially and that it is seen that the veil does not prevent you from intellect and your abilities and does give you respect and dignity. It goes without saying that using it is a mechanism of indirect dawa (diffusion of the Islamic message).
Shafaqna: What have you learned from the life of the great women of Islam, especially Lady Khadijeh (S.A), Lady Fatimah Al-Zahra (S.A) and Lady Zaynab (S.A), and how have their lifestyles influenced your personal life?
Habibah Ifan García: Without a doubt, these women have been examples of the life and practice of Islam. I am surprised how they have achieved a high degree of faith, purity and righteousness. If all women followed these models of life, many of the injustices observed today in both non-Muslim countries and in Muslim-majority societies would be avoided.
In my personal life, I consider Lady Khadija (S.A), the wife of the Prophet (PBUH), to be an great inspiration: a woman who is skilled in business and an excellent merchant, if she could do it in an excessively patriarchal world of pre-Islamic Arab society, why can’t we succeed today? She was a merchant but not usurer, she was noble and trustworthy not despot and frivolous. I knew her place and her way of acting, that’s how I feel.
From Lady Fatima Zahra (S.A), the Lady of the Ladies of Paradise, you can learn a lot, mainly, her obedience and dedication to God through her prayer (Salaat) with absolute dedication to our Creator. Descendant of the Prophet (PBUH) and heiress of his lineage stands out in a tribal and patriarchal society that did not know the right of women. Live example of the condition that Islam gives to human beings in general and to women.
The honorable Lady Zaynab (S.A) is a symbol of courage and Islamic diffusion. She was the one who after the martyrdom of her brother, Imam Hussein (A.S), the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH), made sure that the truth of the events of Karbala was known and, through which, the message of Islam have not been dead.
Shafaqna: In your opinion, what is the difference between the point of view of Islam and the West about women?
Habibah Ifan García: In the all non-Muslim countries, there is a deep ignorance of Islam and the rights and position of women in Islam. In Mexico, this ignorance is mixed with bombardment of misrepresented, partial, biased information, sometimes with intent, with all the intention of showing the worst image of Muslim women: movies with sad women, drowned in misery, unhappy, in need of a release. The reality is another thing. Women in Muslim countries are respected in the society, cared for and not mistreated. In the so-called “west” one has the idea that women’s freedom means loss of values, sexual debauchery.
What feminist discourses do is detrimental to women’s intellectual, moral and physical quality of life because it is no longer about defending women in the public space and endowing them with their rights (something necessary and defensible that, in addition, Islam has always granted), but now it is about making women less women and men less men, they are given responsibilities that are now taken away from men and they lose their ability to protect woman.
The reason for a strong social breakdown in non-Muslim societies is because there is no one who provides education, family solidarity, ethical principles and, above all, love. Women neglect their families and their places are not occupied by anyone, nor by men. The equality they have given women was deformed to the degree of affecting other social actors: children, adults, people with disabilities, etc.
Islam gives a great and important position to women in relation to their personal and social life, establishes guidelines, priorities, rights, responsibilities and ethics. Just look at the examples of the women mentioned above to know how much exemplar they are. In Islamic societies there are not the same problems as in “Western societies”, each one must deal with their affairs but ours are far from being spaces for women.
Shafaqna: What resources and issues do Shia Muslim women need in your country to get more knowledge of Islam?
Habibah Ifan García: We need specialists in each subject, books of Islamic knowledge specialized in women and Islam in general. We are lacking tools to help other women – Muslims or not – from domestic violence here, from harassment against them, to help single mothers and abandoned mothers. Of the problems that afflict the women of my community. I’m sure that each one of us can be ambassadors of Islam but, above all, instruments to support the society in which we live.
Shafaqna: In your opinion, how can Islam help girls, women and mothers in Western countries to achieve a better quality of life?
Habibah Ifan García: If we can train ourselves, access reliable sources of knowledge, Islam will open the eyes of many people living in ignorance. If we study the biographies of Islam’s great people and if we follow their methods, it could be a good beginning. Encourage women to reading and research could be another face of Islam and women.
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