A question by a mother:
My daughter is coming from a very confused and painful place, and she has reached out to your religion for peace and understanding. I want her to research and understand the ways of how a woman is treated and expectations that will be required as she converts to Islam. Thank you.
It takes great courage and a deep sense of trust and open-mindedness to assist your daughter in her choice to find peace and solace in Islam. I believe it is important for anyone considering converting to Islam that they spend some time considering its requirements and pillars.
In Islam, there is no compulsion in religion; therefore no one can force another person to accept Islam. Furthermore, the decision to convert should not be based upon a personal relationship. Instead, Islam must be a choice made of a person’s free will.
Aboutislam.net provides a wealth of resources that will explain to your daughter the basic tenets of Islam. I believe that it is also important that you, as her mother, understand the faith that your daughter is thinking of embracing, so I encourage you to continue reading and learning as well.
At the very core, Islam represents the individual relationship of a person, male or female, with their Creator. There is no distinction in Islam based on gender. Instead, the Qur’an mentions that the best person in the sight of God is the one who is most conscious of God.
This relationship represents the freedom of the person from being imprisoned by the desires for temporary distractions of this world. As one of the Companions of the Prophet put it, “It [Islam] seeks to take humanity out of the servitude of men to the service of God alone and out of the narrowness of this life into the spaciousness of the Hereafter.”
The focus is to improve the state of the spirit through understanding and knowledge which translates into action. This transforms families, communities, and the world around a person. Islam represents a unique balance of knowledge that is converted into action in our daily lives. Islam cares for the well-being of humanity and so the spirit of humanism exists at all levels of its discourse, laws, and traditions.
As a young Muslim woman, your daughter would be required to practice the following:
- The commitment to the belief that there is only One God, and that He is the God of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon them all), and that Muhammad is the final prophet.
- The establishment of prayer. This is a requirement for all Muslims above the age of puberty. Muslims must pray five times a day. However, because this is all new, your daughter should take her time to learn. If it is overwhelming for her to begin performing all five prayers, then she should slowly ease into the practice. The prayers are in Arabic, but until she is able to learn the prayers in Arabic, she can pray in whatever language she is comfortable with.
- The payment of zakah (an obligatory alms that requires Muslims to pay 2.5 percent of their wealth in excess of their needs). At this point, she does not have to concern herself with this tenet.
- The fast during Ramadan (the month of fasting).
- The performance of Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) at least once in her lifetime, if she is financially and physically able.
Regarding the status of women in Islam, there are some specific things that concern women, such as wearing the hijab (head covering) and loose clothing that follows the Islamic dress code for women.This is something that may take some time for her to get used to and she is encouraged to take her time as she gets to learn about and implement it in her daily life.
Although I suspect that if she is choosing Islam independently, she has already considered this issue. Following the Islamic dress code is not something that she must do right away, so if she needs time to think about it in order practice it, let her take her time.
Islam also recognizes that men and women have equal but distinct roles. This means that motherhood is considered to be the best profession in humanity. So when a woman gets married and has children, her first duty is towards her children. In this regard, women are considered to be the spiritual anchors of society. However, this will not prevent your daughter from pursuing her education and working, as long as she makes an agreement with her husband.
I could go on elaborating about the role of women here, but it would take pages upon pages. There are many books that discuss the rights and roles of women in Islam, and one that I would highly recommend is Gender Equity in Islam. The book, published by American Trust Publications, is written by Dr. Jamal Badawi, who is a professor based in Nova Scotia, Canada.
It is quite good and deals with numerous issues pertaining to women in Islam, including marriage, economics, their roles as leaders and agents of change in society.
Islam has a very fair approach in treating women as equals and set a precedent 1,400 years ago, by giving women an equal say in matters, treating them as individuals with souls in terms of being equal in the sight of God as men, giving them the right to have a marriage contract to stipulate conditions before they get married, and even elevating them over men in some issues.
In fact, in the Qur’an God commands us to revere “the womb that bore you.” According to Islamic texts, there is nothing that encourages the mistreatment of women or the treatment of them as second-class citizens, contrary to popular media images. However, your daughter should note that, in some places in the world, she will encounter cultural misinterpretations and she may see women excluded from places of worship or places where women are not given the rights that are due to them.
Your daughter should treat this as she would any other situation here in Canada when she sees someone doing something wrong. Just as we don’t take murder as the norm for Canadian culture, she should not take those actions as representative of Islam.
There are some people who try to treat women as second-class citizens, but this is NOT the norm and should never be accepted as such. Many Muslims are now trying to return to authentic practices of Islam as it was meant to be practiced and are challenging these issues.
In the same way, we also need to challenge other issues here in Canada and the world. What I would encourage her to do is to try and learn the truth about these issues by being open-minded, consulting different people of knowledge, and by always praying for guidance when dealing with such issues.
Islam as a religion is based on the noble work of great women. In fact, the first person to accept Islam was Khadijah, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad.
The first nurse in recorded history is Rufaidah, and the list of notable women goes on and on. There is nothing that prevents women from being involved as active citizens, role models, and leaders in society and the world. Islam protects and guarantees a woman’s spiritual, personal, emotional, economic, and political interests.
I am sure that as a mother you are concerned that your daughter is entering a faith that could take away her rights or in which she could be mistreated. However, the very fact that you contacted us shows that you are open-minded and willing to support your daughter in her search for peace.
You will find that as she develops her relationship with God, especially through prayer, she will begin to find the inner peace that she is striving for. It is this type of peace that will last and resonate throughout her daily life. Islam will build on her strengths and conscience and can give her the necessary tools to build resilience to face all types of challenges that life may throw at her.
As she begins this journey, continue to support her in the way that you are. As questions arise, help her to seek the solutions. As she develops some independence and strengthens her relationship with the Divine, you will see a boost in her happiness and self-confidence, as well as in her awareness of the fact that she is a beautiful creation of the Most Perfect Creator and that she must never tolerate anyone who tries to violate her in any way, shape, or form. Regardless of all of this, please do not forget that she will always want to keep a strong connection with her mother, and with the supportive approach you have taken, it will only strengthen that bond.
If we can be of any assistance to either of you, please do not hesitate to write us back, and please do keep us informed as things move along. Thank you for seeking us out and for doing what mothers do best—caring for the well-being of their children!