Lady of Light Edition
The Relevance of Emulating Sayyida Fāṭima al-Zahrāʾ (pbuh) in the 21st Century
Sister Nazmina Dhanji (Arabiq Online)
Sayyidat Nisāʾ al-ʿĀlamīn ‘The Leading Lady of all the women of the universe’, the one who spoke to angels, the one for whom the Prophet (pbuh) himself stood up in respect, the veracious and truthful one, the Lady of Light, the one from whom even the angel of death sought permission before he entered, the ultimate woman in her own right, was Fāṭima (pbuh). In addition to that, she was the beloved daughter of Allah’s last messenger and Khadija; she was the wife of ʿAlī, the mother of Ḥasanayn, the pivot around which they all revolved in the event of Kisāʾ that has led scholars – lost for words in trying to encapsulate her essence – to conclude that Fāṭima is Fāṭima.
And yet, for us Muslims in the 21st century post-modern era, far removed from that ancient time and place, it would appear that we can only admire her from afar, immaculate and untouchable to us in her holiness and exceptional virtues. She is set up as a role model for both men and women, but yet how can we even begin to emulate someone who is on such a lofty pedestal and beneath whose feet we would be lucky to be a particle of dust? In addition to that, it does not help that the anecdotal evidence we have from her very short life are mere scraps that we clutch at in a bid to understand her. Her short life of just twenty years did not suffice for the annals of history to be replete with sayings, sermons, and events from her life, and we can catch but glimpses into her actions: consoling her father from verbal and physical abuse, losing her mother at a young age, fervently praying and fasting, giving away her wedding dress, and giving away all the food in the house to people who begged at her door. For the most part, her short life seems to have been filled with toil, suffering, hardship, calamities and grievances, especially after her father’s death. History reports that beyond the suffering that she patiently endured, her daily life was generally spent quite ordinarily, doing the same things that other women did at that time: grinding, kneading, baking, cooking, taking care of her children and doing all the things that were her responsibility as the female head of the household.
So how do we go about emulating her in this diametrically different dimension that we live in where giving away your wedding dress or all the food in the house after having fasted for three consecutive days may be impracticable at best? How do we derive lessons in leadership, self-development, parenting, marriage, activism or the numerous other aspects in which we crave a perfect example from Sayyida Fāṭima’s extremely brief life? The most important thing to remember is that the point of emulating any role model is not to imitate what they did, but rather to delve deeper into the inspiration behind their actions, to discover their personality, to read carefully between the pages of history and ask pertinent questions, interview-style:
What were her priorities in her daily life?
Where did her greatest pleasure and joy lie?
What motivated her and what were her goals?
What was her worst fear?
Whilst there are many narrations from which we may glean these, there are verses in the Qur’an itself in Surah al-Dahr that scholars almost unanimously hold to have been revealed by Allah about her family, and specifically her actions during a particular historical event. The narrations relate that her young sons, Ḥasan and Ḥusayn had been ill for a few days and were not getting better. The adults in the family decided that they would fast for three days as a nadhr or solemn vow for the sake of their speedy recovery. The boys themselves insisted on joining them in fasting, and Sayyida Fāṭima let them do so. On each of the three evenings, just as they were about to open their fast with the bread she had baked, a destitute pauper, orphan and captive of war knocked at the door, begging for food. They gave all of it away and had water and salt for ifṭār. Allah, not only commends this event effusively but He gives us many clues that enable us to answer our questions above and really understand Sayyida Fāṭima (pbuh).
Her Priorities: “They give food, out of love of Him, to the needy, the orphan and the prisoner.” For Fāṭima (pbuh) and her family, feeding others was intrinsically linked to the spiritual nourishment of their own souls, and they grabbed the opportunity to add a good deed onto their fast without any hesitation or reluctance whatsoever. Exegetes have also suggested an alternative translation to the phrase ʿalā ḥubbihi to mean ‘despite love if it’ (i.e. the food), which reinforces the fact that their priority was the nourishment of their spirits as a family, partaking in acts of charity together, and seeing that as a catalyst for their spiritual growth.
Her Motivation: “We feed you only for the sake of Allāh”- they state plainly and clearly without mincing their words that their motivation behind their actions is only God’s divine pleasure. As a family, not only did they never seek people’s approval, appreciation or adulation, but they actively avoided it. The Qur’an quotes them: “We do not want any reward from you nor any thanks”. This kind of example is especially relevant to us today in this age of self-promotion where our self-worth and self-esteem are becoming increasingly dependent on social media ‘likes’ and public approval, and where even good, charitable deeds are meaningless unless they gain traction and go viral. Not only did Fāṭima (pbuh) not revel in it, but she stated that she did not want recompense or gratitude from people, experiencing pure joy in doing it for His approval alone.
Her Greatest Pleasure: Fāṭima (pbuh) was a woman who had feelings, emotions and desires, as other women have. She experienced elation and sadness, energy and exhaustion, pain and pleasure. Her greatness lay in the fact that she developed her feelings within the framework of Allah’s satisfaction and did not let her desires go beyond what Allah permitted; thus her heart, mind and body did not deviate from the right path by even the tiniest measure. Her deepest concern was for people around her, and there are many narrations of instances where she, not only shared with others some of what God had given her, but also favoured them over herself, in spite of being in urgent need. Imam al-Ḥasan (pbuh) narrates, ‘I saw my mother Fāṭima (pbuh) standing up in her prayer niche on the eve of every Friday. She bowed and prostrated herself until dawn, and I heard her praying for the believers, naming them, and she prayed much for them but never for herself. So I said to her, “Mother, why don’t you pray for yourself as you pray for others?” She replied, “My son, first the neighbour, then the household!”’
Her Worst Fear: “Indeed we fear from our Lord a frowning and fateful day”. It is interesting to note how the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) use the adjective ʿabūs ‘frowning’ to describe the Day of Judgment, normally used to describe humans or sentient beings. In personifying that day, we see that to Fāṭima and her family, the afterlife and the accountability that accompanied were very much a living reality, and not a distant intangible notion. The ‘frowning’ encapsulates their worst fear, which was not necessarily hellish punishment or the threat of physical chastisement, but the disappointment of their Lord, just as their greatest pleasure was His approval. Fear of people, or of what others would say or do to them never featured as a consideration.
No sooner do they utter what they dread the most than Allah responds immediately, saying, “So Allah will protect them from the ills of that Day and grant them freshness and joy”. And whether Fāṭima and her family sought reward and thanks or not, Allah does not let their patience and striving go uncelebrated. He proceeds to list in great detail what He has in store for them and those who, like them, bear their trials patiently. The crème de la crème of rewards, to top it all off, Allah reserves for the end, and punctuates his list with it beautifully, saying, “And their Lord will give them to drink a pure drink. This is indeed your reward, and your endeavour has been well-appreciated”.
No wonder then that being quenched by the Lord Himself is the reward for Fāṭima (pbuh) and her family, that He Himself is pleased at what pleases Fāṭima (pbuh) and upset at what upsets her, because for her, throughout her short life, His pleasure and His disappointment were a reality. She had made her motivation wajhillāh ‘God’s Pleasure’ and her fear His frowning and disappointment.
Studying her experience is not a reversion to the past, and consequently, a diminution of ourselves within those limitations, but rather a question of drawing lessons from a pioneering experience which is ever-valid and relevant. Her stances were stances for justice, and her worry was for the future of the Islam that her father had so lovingly nurtured. Faṭima’s characteristics highlighted in these verses of the Qur’an and hadith are a reminder to us that her exemplary characteristics can be emulated; and her God-centric approach to life, her focused priorities, her singular motivation, and her hopes and fears rooted in reality are continually relevant to both men and women in the post-modern era.
Obituary – Marhuma Fatma Bai Amirali Amersi
On Thursday 18th November 2021, with great sorrow, we mourned the loss of Marhuma Fatmabai Amirali Amersi (age 83 years). She was interred at Carpenders Park Cemetery the following day.
She was the daughter of Abdulrasul Merali Dewji and was married to Amirali Husein Amersi for 62 years. She was blessed with 4 children: Mohamed, Salim, Mustafa and Shabnam, 4 children-in-laws, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
She was a warm and sweet natured person who held her family together, always guiding and protecting it and sharing her life experiences.
Marhuma was born in Mombasa on 4th August 1938, and she moved to London with her husband and family in 1976 for their children’s education before returning to Mombasa 10 years later.
Marhuma was well travelled and Masha’Allah performed Hajj, Umrah and Ziyarat.
She was a generous person, and it was only after her funeral that her family learnt of her charitable acts and the other good deeds that she regularly undertook. She practically lived the hadith of the left hand not knowing what the right hand does.
She loved interacting with people, asking them about their welfare, making connections and was known for her enriching stories providing great company to those she was around.
Reza Amersi, shares one of his fondest memory of his grandmother: every time there was an Arsenal game she would without fail recite a Tasbeeh in support of their win, only because he supports them and it would make him happy.
Samina Merali Govani remembers a beautiful piece of advice from her grandmother: always greet people with a smile and ask about their well-being.
Such kindness was not only restricted to her family, the Marhuma is well remembered in her hometown of Mombasa. She hosted programmes for Senior Citizens at her home and provided space for ladies to exercise. Not only was a safe space provided in her house, but every week, the Marhuma would ensure that they all received fruits and refreshments at the end. In her unique way she encouraged healthy living.
She is fondly remembered for her lovely smile, heart – warming voice and kind demeanour. She was also someone who loved to be hospitable and if anyone came to her house even just to drop something off, they would not be allowed to leave empty handed.
Some quotes from Marhuma’s friends:
“A wonderful and kind – hearted person.”
“A lively and jolly person with both young and old.”
“A selfless lady with no pride. She did everything with utmost humility, discreetly helping many in need.”
“She played many roles in my life such as being a neighbour, a close friend, a mosque companion and a confidante.”
She is greatly missed by all she lived amongst. We pray the Marhuma and all our Marhumeen are granted a lofty place in Jannah next to our 14 Ma’sumeen. Al-Fatiha
Q School – Develop learning resources based on the values of the Qur’an in order to build a Qur’anic Community in partnership with parents and teachers. We have lesson plans and activities on all subjects taught along with supporting manuals consisting of notes and activities. Teacher training and Qur’an Appreciation videos are also available on our YouTube channel.
Qur’an City – A brief synopsis of each of the 114 suwer available as a downloadable document along with a short audio clip. Some suwer have additional information in the form of manuals, workbooks and storybooks.
Within each of our other strategies – Q Beliefs, A 99, Q Practices, Q Calendar, Q People, Q Life and Q Pilgrimage – we have a variety of resources in the form of books for both adults and children, downloadable posters, bookmarks and charts as well as a bank of audio files.
Bytes – Daily podcasts, covering different topics, which allows comfortable navigation of the Qur’an and shows how to apply its teachings to our life. They enable one to touch base with their faith every day, giving them a focus for daily prayers as well as an opportunity to incorporate that focus into their life.
QTube (YouTube videos) – Qur’an classes for both adults and children streamed live on our channel as well as the various A’maal that occur during the calendar year.
5) What has the response been like from people thus far about QFatima? The response has surpassed all our expectations and has humbled us. We have had to put brakes on ourselves. Maybe being a bit like a dam. We have had to stop sometimes in order to manage our resources in order to maximise the energy output. We have statistics and metrics to measure each of the strategies enabling us to progress. We have now completed Qur’an City and our focus for this year is Asmaaul Husna (A99)
6) How will you expand QFatima further? What other resources/facilities do you hope to offer Muslims? The exciting thing is that we are evolving and the expansion is driven by the Q Community (Qur’an community) .We constantly review and update material.
MKSI Leicester Youth
“It was hard to practice during lockdown. I got a basketball hoop at home and just played in the garden for hours in the cold”
Sara Rehmatullah, aged 12, from MKSI Leicester discovered her love for basketball in 2019 when living in Montenegro.
“There are outdoor basketball courts everywhere in Montenegro. I really loved watching but didn’t think I could play because everyone was so tall and I didn’t speak the language. My mum found an all-girls team and encouraged me to play. I was really nervous and didn’t understand anyone but when I picked up the ball it felt amazing. I’d go and watch live games every week with my family and I knew basketball would be my forever sport”
Due to Covid, Sara and her family returned to the UK to live in Leicester. Before returning, Sara discovered the Leicester Riders Foundation and focussed on improving her game so she could join the team and play in the league.
‘It was hard to practice during lockdown. I got a basketball hoop at home and just played in the garden for hours in the cold”
During the summer, Sara tried out for the U14’s Leicester Riders girl’s team and was selected to join the academy. She is the youngest player in the team and has been going from strength to strength.
‘I was so proud when we received the letter. I thought I was too young and didn’t have enough experience. The other girls were so fast and had been playing for a long time but I believed in myself and I could just see myself in a Riders jersey and now it’s happened”
The U14’s Leicester Riders Girls team has an outstanding record of winning all of their league games this season and with hard work and dedication, plan to dominate the leader board in the months to come.
Matthew Barwell, U14’s girls coach said “Our team’s success so far this season is the result of three years of hard work for a group who have had their first season cancelled not once but twice. When we set up the girls’ programme in 2019, the dream was to one day be able to compete in the National Basketball League. The results so far in achieving 5 wins from 5 games in our debut NBL season are beyond anything that we could have imagined.
Sara is one of four new players to have joined the group this year and she settled in immediately and has become a valued member of our squad. She has worked extremely hard and is making great progress so I’m certain that she has a bright future with our team.”
Sara’s biggest fans are her parents who are dedicated to supporting her progress in the sport. “We know it is challenging at times with practice after school, aching muscles and constantly being on the road at practice and matches but we admire Sara’s passion and resilience”
Sara is very proud to be part of the Leicester Riders team, not only because they are currently the best team in the league but because everyone is supportive and inclusive.
“I remember in Muharram I was practicing twice a week for the Hussain Day play. This meant that I couldn’t practice on Thursdays so after a few missed sessions Coach Matt asked me why I was absent. I told him about the play and he was interested in knowing more about it. I told him about the battle of Karbala and what it meant to me to be in the play and he was really supportive. That made me feel really valued and proud to be a young Muslim girl playing basketball”
The Council of European Jamaats would like to thank Sara for sharing her story and congratulate her on her achievements so far.
At a time when we commemorate the life and death of ‘The Lady of Light’, we pray that her light shines brightly on young girls like Sara who wish to pursue their passions in life.