Downton Abbey, the incredibly popular BBC period drama, has fans marveling at how different life used to be a hundred years ago. But for my Muslim friends and me? We love the show because of how much we relate to the stories the show tells about the women it centers on… not how it transports us to another time and place. The honest truth is that the stories of the Crawley sisters could easily be our stories. But, since stories about young Muslim women are nearly nonexistent in TV and film, we find ourselves flocking to a relatively tame show that reminds us of our own lives and cultures.
Now that Ramadan is over, Downton Abbey fans like me are desperately trying to spare some time to rematch the show or the first film. But why? To prepare for the upcoming film release of Downton Abbey: A New Era, of course! So, in celebration of the upcoming film release, I present you with: 7 reasons Downton Abbey felt like it was a dramatization of the lives of my Muslim girlfriends.
(Note: Some of the observations are based on lived social realities that young Muslim women like me face and are not indicative of the values and teachings of Islam practiced and implemented in its purest form.)
1. The Idea of the Perfect Suitor
In a society highly stratified by class and wealth, the ideal suitor or rishta is comically familiar in Muslim circles. Wealth, class, education, family background, upbringing, heritage, looks, and charm–these factors are all considered in Downton Abbey and in real-life for Muslims. However, Islam begs us also to consider faith and good character. Although this isn’t much of a concern in the show, Muslims have created their own gold standards: a hafiz of the Quran, someone who gives khutbahs, the president of the MSA, etc. Finding a man who possesses all of these in their most exemplary manifestations makes for an elite class of ideal rishtas. These are the rishtas you would be a fool to walk away from, or so they say. Just look at the differences in how the family treats Matthew Crawley and Tom Branson as prospective spouses for the Crawley sisters. We can all think of a few Matthews and Toms in our own communities.
2. A Woman Who Cannot Get Married is a Failure
Being a failure if you’re an unmarried woman is a judgment against women in Downton Abbey and a sentiment that my friends and I are also up against. Edith is the main character experiencing this problem throughout most of the show. She’s turning into the “spinster aunt” as she stays single from season to season. How many women do we know who are getting “too old” to get married? Besides, who would they marry, with all the “good guys” already taken? And we all know of the escalating panic for this poor, unmarried woman as the months and years slowly drudge on.
Edith is criticized for not being as good of a catch as her sisters for vague reasons. That’s also a label that handfuls of single Muslim women are up against. Nearly anything can be an objection: not skinny enough or too skinny, not educated enough or too educated, not ambitious enough or too ambitious, not religious enough or too religious, etc. The list goes on as people try to assess what’s “wrong” with a specific woman who hasn’t managed to get married yet.
3. The Star-Crossed Couple Without Family Support
As a true “angel” compared to her sisters, Sibyl gives us an oh-so-stereotypical storyline in Muslim circles. Girl falls in love with Boy. Unfortunately, boy is deemed unworthy by the family for marriage, and now Girl has a tough decision to make. How often have we heard or experienced families are not on board with who someone has fallen for and chosen to marry? In our Muslim circles, the fates of these star-crossed couples are a mixed bag, similar to the different mutations of Sibyl and Tom’s romance seen in Downton Abbey.
Luckily for Sibyl and Tom, the family eventually accepts the couple and even grows to value and love Tom more than they would have believed possible. We can only hope that all these star-crossed Muslim couples are actually as good as Tom and Sibyl and that they both grow old happily together.
4. Being “Damaged Goods” on the Marriage Market
Mary and Edith are examples of “damaged goods” in Downton Abbey. The major faults which mark them as pariahs or morally questionable and therefore undesirable for marriage are their mistakes in not staying chaste within the confines of marriage. Of course, as Muslims, we all understand the high stakes that Islam places on chastity and modesty, for women and men, and so this feels so relatable. Likewise, the social blowouts following such behaviors, which is mostly what the show focuses on, are also genuinely relatable for Muslims.
A bad decision or a sin of the past is something Allah forgives Muslim women for if they repent, make amends, and change themselves. However, a previous relationship or a moment of carnal weakness are damning mistakes many Muslim communities won’t overlook or ignore. Thus, many Muslim women with less than a spotless record are marked as “damaged goods” on the marriage market. If you or even someone in your family has had a slip-up that goes public, you’re likely to be red-flagged in the community. Expect labels like “not a good girl,” “with a history,” or “from a bad family” to be attached alongside your name permanently. Yes, just like Lydia eloping with Wickham in Pride and Prejudice or Sybil running off with the chauffeur, for some reason, the socially questionable choices and sins of a Muslim woman’s family members can ruin her chances of being happily settled. Remember Rose and her divorced parents being a huge issue for her fiancé’s family? That’s a death sentence for many potential spouses and proposals out there, even though divorce is entirely permissible in Islam. Again, this lack of grace from people is nothing new to my Muslim girlfriends and me.
The issue of a woman’s sexual and marital history as a barrier to marriage cannot be discussed without tackling the most dumbfounding bias in many Muslim communities: the prejudice against previously married women. It is as if they are sullied or worth less after broken engagements or previous marriages. Maybe the concern comes from problems the previous relationship had and any “faults” in the woman for its failure. But if we’re blunt here, we know that a woman’s virginity is much more critical socially than a man’s. Let’s also throw in the expectation that women should stay and make a marriage work, no matter the problems. How many single women have hidden their divorces from their suitors out of fear of being rejected outright? Fortunately for Mary, she is saved from this predicament once she’s back on the marriage market after Matthew dies. Even though she’s a widow with a child, the suitors keep piling in for her, probably due to her wealth, title, and supposed beauty.
The show does point out the intersectionality of classism and wealth and its impact on a woman’s reputation. The storyline of Ethel, a housemaid, and her unplanned pregnancy exposes an ugly double standard. Mary and Edith get away with behavior of the same magnitude due to their wealth, class, and family protection, whereas Ethel, poor and working-class, suffers to the fullest extent from society’s dismay at her troubled past. Lucky for the Crawley girls, isn’t it? Single Muslim women also know how wealth and notions of class buffer individuals with questionable reputations.
A woman may be considered “damaged goods” due to entering a marriage without a “virgin” status, having a secret pregnancy outside of marriage, or being divorced. Whatever the reason, the show taps into the shame, judgment, and hysteria that some “damaged goods” friends and acquaintances of mine face when looking to get married.
5. The Value of a Woman Based on Her Ability to Have Children
The opinions about a woman’s value and judgments about her simply roll from one thing to another as we move through different stages in our lives. Another issue that many of my Muslim friends and I relate to once we finally get married is that a woman’s value is based on whether or not she is able to have kids. Mary’s struggle with infertility and the heartbreaking story of Anna struggling with repeated miscarriages are important aspects of the show. In the last handful of years, so many friends and I have been on our own roller coasters with fertility struggles and felt the impacts it has had in our lives on multiple levels.
The show exposes the emphasis on childbearing as an essential requirement for a wife and the shame women experience when they have fertility issues–and we find the same is still true today. Both Mary and Anna keep their pregnancies, miscarriages, and fertility treatments private–not even informing their spouses until after successful treatments. After having a pregnancy loss a few years ago, I experienced some of the emotions we see Anna experiencing–self-doubt, frustration, disappointment, shame, guilt, and worthlessness.
After talking to many friends about my pregnancy loss, I realized how secretive women tend to be about this ubiquitous experience. But why are women so furtive and private about something so commonplace? The taboo around the subject is still stifling today, although some progress has been made. For example, Anna becomes so disheartened at disappointing her husband with her infertility–a feeling that so many women experience. Anna feels less worthy of love and being married to a good, kind husband because, as a society, people are so obsessed with a woman’s ability to have children as a keystone of her value.
Lastly, there is so much pressure on Mary to have a son. Yes, this will help her secure the inheritance of Downton Abbey for future generations–but how many of us relate to the absurd, unIslamic pressure of having a son as your first-born child, or at least just one son out of all of your children? The value of a woman is distilled into being a vessel that produces children and specifically male children.
6. Healthcare Access and Fertility
Within the realm of infertility, the show also alludes to access to healthcare–which is a difficulty many of us face today. Mary struggles with her infertility but overcomes it easily due to her access to resources. Coming from so much privilege and wealth, she has access to the best healthcare and can afford costly innovative procedures and even travel for them. Unfortunately, so many women who struggle with fertility have the additional burden of a lack of resources for the treatments they need. Most, if not all, aren’t able to afford expensive treatments due to a lack of healthcare coverage.
If a person doesn’t have the money outright like Mary, they may be lucky to have great healthcare through work–just like Anna. Lady Mary, her boss, swoops in and covers all costs to have the expensive fertility treatment she could have never afforded without her job’s benefits. How many women do we know who would be interested in trying various fertility treatments if only their jobs had better healthcare benefits? How many people do we know are plagued with exorbitant medical bills?
Mary’s life also presents her with the luxury of focusing on herself and her own health needs. For example, she can easily leave her home for a few days without worrying about who will manage the affairs of the home or taking time off from work. However, so many women face burnout from daily life due to lack of support and the rising cost of living. Just having the time, energy, and opportunity to step away to prioritize their health and self-care is becoming harder and harder.
7. The Woman’s Place is in the Home…or is it?
A woman’s place, both inside and outside of the home, is one the show explores in many ways. At the turn of the 20th century, women began venturing into professional lives that expanded beyond their domestic duties and family obligations. At the turn of the 21st century? Same. Women are still torn between working or being homemakers/stay-at-home mothers. Women have made great strides within the workplace, but women are still battling for pay equity.
Edith is in a predicament that many single women find themselves in as they start creeping into their mid-to-late 20s and beyond. Should I just sit around here, brewing in my depression, as I wait to get married? Or should I move on with my life and cultivate independence as a single person? Growing independence generally involves establishing a career for oneself to promote economic self-sufficiency.
There’s a mix of opinions about this in the show, just like in real-life. Lord Grantham, Edith’s father, is highly opposed to Edith having a (professional) life of her own. He’d rather she just be “wife” or “mother.” But, like Edith’s brothers-in-law, others support her in establishing a career and independent life for herself (once it seems as if marriage may not pan out in the short term, that is). She runs into a conundrum that many “older” single Muslim women face: being more independent or established in a career is threatening to some Muslim men and their families. This prejudice makes it even harder for some highly accomplished Muslim women to marry.
It’s not just the single women waiting around while there’s no one to marry who wonder if there’s more to life than being a wife and mother. (No shade on either of those parts of a woman’s life!) Lady Grantham, Mary, and Cousin Isobel are married women finding their footing in roles outside of wife and mother.
There’s an example here for women of all ages. Lady Grantham’s situation mimics many of my friends’ mothers: living comfortable lives where they don’t need to work to make ends meet but are looking for more purpose and meaning in their lives. When Lord Grantham prefers she doesn’t work, this ambition causes friction in Cora in her marriage, as it does for many women. Many younger women are battling Mary’s situation: breaking through the glass ceiling of patriarchy and transitioning into a career traditionally reserved for men. Cousin Isobel, a widow whose only other occupation is keeping tabs on her adult son, exposes the pernicious dislike of industrious women as busybodies or bossy. Their examples show us the struggles of work-life-family balance and the judgments of others.
Downton Abbey: A Modern Muslim Story
So there you have it! Don’t you agree that it wouldn’t be too hard to reimagine Downton Abbey as a Muslim romantic drama? Tell me which one of these 7 points, or another, you relate to the most! Let’s hope the final (?!) movie doesn’t disappoint!
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Source: Muslim Matters
Introducing ShaykhaTalk – a new MM podcast mini-series with female Islamic scholars! This first episode is with Shaykha Umm Jamaal ud-Din, where she explores her journey to scholarship as a convert to Islam, and the unique challenges and experiences she has had to face as a woman in da’wah. She talks about the teachers who guided her way, the importance of female scholarship (and how it does not equate to feminism!), and how online gender wars impact real world dynamics in the Muslim community.
Don’t miss this glimpse into the life of a female scholar!
The Light of Female Islamic Scholarship: Da’wah, Difficulty, And Determination
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Source: Muslim Matters
A Muslim woman (who chooses to remain anonymous) writes about discovering her husband’s porn addiction, and the struggle to rebuild her marriage.
Discovering a Husband’s Porn Addiction
Three years ago, I searched tirelessly online seeking help or, rather, trying to find an article or forum to make me feel like I’m not the only Muslim woman struggling with this issue. I just needed to hear another Muslim wife say that her husband was also addicted to pornography. I found Christian and Jewish sites with articles that were very helpful, but I still wanted to hear advice from a Muslim wife. There are a lot of articles directed to Muslim men struggling with addiction, but there was no trace of Muslim women discussing how a Muslim man’s addiction ruined her marriage. This left me feeling like the only person on a sorrow-filled grey planet.
I felt isolated. So alone. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this because it was so private. There was no way I could expose my husband’s faults to others, even if his sin was driving me into deep depression, self-loathing, rage, and regret. Pornography viewing and addiction does not only affect the soul of the person viewing it, it ruins marriages and families. Wives are the collateral damage. Women blame themselves, when there is absolutely no blame on them. It’s humiliating, degrading, and the most horrible thing to know that your husband is involved in such a horrendous sin. It takes a long time to recover, but indeed you can move forward and have a healthy marriage after so much pain and grief.
I happened upon my husband’s sin shortly after our fourteenth wedding anniversary. We were having a pleasant afternoon and I saw his phone next to me. Something in my head said, “Check the history.” I scrolled past the normal ESPN sports updates and Islamic articles, then I saw a link to an XXX website. My heart sank, but I also gave him the benefit of the doubt. I know that sites like that pop-up without one seeking it. So, with confidence I would hear it was just a pop-up, I turned to my husband and asked him, “Have you watched pornography?” His face dropped.
What Could I Do?
That was the worst day of my life. The conversations after that question went on for months. I remember every single one so clearly that I can compile a detailed book. After I thought about it (and I still do), there were plenty of red flags and I thought, “I should have been more perceptive.” However, this is not something one assumes of someone they think so highly of. My husband is a prominent community member, a daily masjid-goer, someone who acted the part and dressed the part, but he had this ugly dark secret he had been hiding for… ten years! If I went to a community leader who knew us both, it would be humiliating for me as much as it would be for him.
I had no plan of action. I wasn’t sure if I should leave him or stay. I didn’t want to worry my family, who already lived far away. We have children! How would this exposure affect their lives now or their futures if this dark secret got out? I endured it alone, quietly. Of course, there was yelling, screaming, and crying behind closed doors. We live with my in-laws, but they had no idea and never will know why our marriage was so fragile for a year.
There was no one I could confide in. I couldn’t bring myself to expose him even to my closest confidants. So, I suffered alone, and, sometimes, I still do. However, I turned to the only help I could depend on, and I complained to my Lord. I constantly asked for His guidance and help. I had complete reliance in Him that through His guidance whatever I decided, would be best for me and my children.
Sure, I hated him. I hated that he did this to me. My options were clear: divorce him or give it a solid try to work out the marriage. I definitely considered leaving on multiple occasions. Why was it on me to stay and help him when he was the one who lied and betrayed me? Why is his rehabilitation my problem? Will I ever be able to forgive him? At the end of the day, I really didn’t want my children to know that their dad, who they look up to as a hero, messed up so badly. And, ultimately, I love my husband very much.
It sounds kind of messed up, right? How can you still love someone who hasn’t respected you enough to quit viewing sinful, disgusting, degrading content? Sometimes I felt stupid. Yes, this was a great betrayal, but if Allah is forgiving and endlessly merciful, then I could at least try to be as well. This major flaw didn’t erase all his good.
Tackling the Addiction
It was a painfully long road. He signed up for a program called Purify Your Gaze, but it was not as successful as he hoped. Although well designed with the best intentions, the program didn’t offer much accountability, which is what people with addiction need. Then we installed blocking apps on his devices, which gave me parental access and control on his devices and disabled the incognito browser option. We went to couples therapy with a non-Muslim therapist, because neither of us wanted to see someone we knew. Therapy helped a lot; I can’t emphasize that enough. A trick he learned was to put my picture as his lock screen, so anytime he considered looking at something inappropriate he would have to go through me first.
The reality is that pornography addiction can’t be tackled alone. He had tried for years, but fell back into it over and over again. Shaytaan gets the best of us sometimes. He was too ashamed to ask for help. He felt like a failure. My husband needed help from me and needed therapy. Alhamdulillah, he has been clean and pure from this societal cancer for two years, but I am still haunted.
I can’t forget, and some days those thoughts and feelings consume me. When I hear the word porn out loud, I am triggered. I feel nauseated as the memories gush forward. There are other triggers too, like the show Ertugrul. I remember discovering the history on his phone while we were watching that show. I never watched it again. Sometimes when we sit together alone, I suddenly become distant. It’s a strange type of grief. I’m not grieving the loss of a person, I am grieving the loss of trust.
He is a better husband than he was before, and he has been working overtime to win me over everyday. Our marriage, alhamdulillah, is better than ever, perhaps because we both know how fragile a relationship can be. He knows that I am still wary of him and there is a lack of trust. I pray that inshaAllah, the trust will be restored with time and his consistent honesty. Love has not been lost, I think it has grown, by Allah’s grace alone. He guided me to the right decision and placed barakah in it. I can look back and feel outraged or I can be thankful that I caught it and he was able to overcome his addiction. Sure, I wish he never developed the habit, but those thoughts won’t ever help me move forward.
My advice to wives suffering the same situation is, first of all, it is not your fault. You are not the reason he developed this addiction. You are blameless. Yes, this is his sin, but he needs your help to stop. Of course, he must also be open to changing and accepting his problem and accept your help. Your feelings, your grief, your anger, your sadness are all valid. It takes time and it’s a crazy rollercoaster. Get therapy. There is absolutely NO shame in it. Your marriage is always worth trying to fix. Put on all the controls on computers and devices. Relapses happen. Be kind and forgiving and open the waves of communication. Be clear and open about how you feel. Put your trust in Allah and time will tell what is best for you and your family.
May Allah help you, guide you, and give you strength, my dear sister.
Fighting back Against Porn: The Idea & The Industry
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Pornography and Breaking Patterns of Destructive Behavior – #Connection with Belal Khan
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Source: Muslim Matters
Parents are constantly worried about how to raise their children to be good Muslims. Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter recently wrote on this topic in the article “Did The Prophet ﷺ Wear Glasses? – Raising Your Children To Be Resilient Muslims.” He shares his framework for raising resilient Muslim kids, as well as 5 tips that every Muslim parent can start using today. You can now listen to this article read to you on the MuslimMatters‘ podcast.
Tell us what you think about the author’s suggested framework. Does raising resilient Muslim kids seem to be an important parenting goal in your life? Comment below!
Please do also share what topics you’d like to learn about when it comes to parenting and raising your Muslim kids. Leave us feedback in the comments!
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Source: Muslim Matters
Yerusalem Work delivers a speech about faith and mental health and recites an original poem entitled “Love is the Cure” at This Is My Brave in Arlington, VA 2018 at Gunston Theatre One. If you would like to watch the video, click on this link.
Greetings of peace! Assalamu alaikum. Peace be with you. Shalom aleichem. (I think that covers everyone)
Thank you so much! I’m happy to be here. My name is Yerusalem.
In the name of Allah …
A Syrian man named Muhammad walked into the photo processing center where I worked in Somerville, MA. He saw me in hijab and wrote his name in cursive on a sheet of paper on the counter. He added a heart at the end of his name.
I explained that I was not officially Muslim, but I wanted to practice. He brought me a copy of the Qur’an in which the translator wrote in the foreword that one day even hell will cool. This idea appeals to me, because God is merciful. I can’t imagine eternal punishment. Still, I did not want to take my shahadah in light of the five daily prayer commitment. I expected immense guilt if I missed just one Fajr, the early morning prayer. The self-absorbed neurosis of Jewish guilt does not compare to how I feel about the many ways I do not meet up to the noble ideals of Islam. But, I try. I dust off my prayer rug and begin again.
This Syrian man took me to his mosque in Boston where I met with the Imam, who asked me why I wanted to revert to Islam. I confessed that I’m in continual jihad—jihad al-nafs. I want to conquer the self. This jihad is the major one, as the Prophet, peace be upon him, said. My struggle with the self keeps me in constant pursuit of purity, freedom from sin, and it offers me time for personal reflection. I did not take my shahadah in Boston, but I did fast for my first Ramadan.
I wanted to be perfect before I officially entered Islam. I feared not living up to Islamic standards of piety, dress, and I don’t know much Arabic. It was intimidating, yet alluring.
For three weeks, I fasted alone working at the photo lab in Boston. I would break my fast at the Starbucks across the street from work by drinking tea and eating a bagel. I did not hear the recitation of the Qur’an in the evenings, because I take medication at night that makes me drowsy. I can’t stay up late due to health reasons. Although I had no diagnosis at the time, the doctors recommended a mood stabilizer, because I’m extremely emotional. I experience unusually high highs and debilitating low lows in ways that are out of touch with reality. I went to the mosque during Ramadan for a teaching about the purpose of fasting. The teacher said whatever mistakes you make during the beginning of Ramadan don’t matter. All that counts are the last ten days of Ramadan where it will be determined if you go to Jannah (Paradise) or Jahannam (Hell). Those were her words, however accurate or inaccurate.
I stopped fasting the next day, because I thought Islam was too strict. What about three weeks of nothing but bread and water? I feared Allah had not accepted my fast and that it was impossible to please Him. That’s when I became manic and paranoid, so I got diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. My world fell apart, and I sincerely sought a method of redemption, however elusive.
Like Humpty Dumpty, I had a great fall. My life was easy-breezy until my diagnosis, schizoaffective disorder, which makes me a highly effective person. Initially, the discovery was devastating. Why me? Am I so different? But, even if “Things Fall Apart,” faith, family, friends, and community are pieces to the puzzle of life. Medication and therapy are part of recovery. I can only be whole if I allow the pieces to fit together as complicated and intricate as the puzzle—as life—may be. Mental illness doesn’t have to isolate us or leave us fragmented and alienated. Our mission is to stay connected to the people and places that matter most.
One place I return to is the mosque. It’s a community center with lots of opportunities for volunteer work. That’s why I love the saying “the entire earth is a masjid” (Arabic for mosque); it’s a place for prayer and purification.
Despite my battle with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, I am able to share my poetry, my spoken word at the mosque.
Here is a poem for you.
“Love is the cure. Religion became my medicine. Islam is pure. It is contentment. Alhamdulillah. It is gratitude for what Allah has given, including the belief in the Qadr of Allah . It is the prayer that an angel is busy recording our good deeds. It is a period of fasting. It is the moment we say a blessing and hasten to succeed. It is setting the intention to make Hajj. It is listening to Al-Qur’an. It is loving Allah and His Messenger above all. It is strengthening our souls with acts of piety. It is demonstrating our faith in moments of clarity. Reason is the slave of passion according to Rousseau. It is the understanding that we are all philosophers. Each one of us transgress and reestablish our limits. With a merciful, compassionate God, this should not lead to punishment, but discipline. With love, we enter into agreement. With fear, we distance ourselves and set off on separate journeys as the sun sets. Fear Allah . Don’t be afraid of yourself. Don’t trust yourself ‘til death. Trust Allah . Until Allah is all you have left…”
Redoing My Duas – Mental Illness and Worship
The post Love Is The Cure: An Ode To Faith And Mental Health appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.
Source: Muslim Matters
The Israeli assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh is yet another example of Zionist oppression against Palestinians, especially those who speak truth to power and resist their illegal occupation. Muslims and supporters of Palestine around the world can draw inspiration from her incredible work.
A Palestinian Icon
Shireen Abu Akleh was born on May 3, 1971, in Jerusalem. Her family were Catholic Arab Palestinian Christians from the holy city of Bethlehem. In an interview shortly before her death, she described herself as a “product of Jerusalem.”
When Shireen’s mother migrated to New Jersey, Shireen obtained U.S. citizenship during the 70’s and 80’s. She spent time in the US when she was younger and often visited America during the summer months. Shireen herself grew up in Jerusalem where she graduated from the Catholic Rosary Sisters’ High School before moving to Amman, Jordan for university.
She initially studied architecture at the University of Science and Technology before switching to study journalism at Yarmouk University. When she returned to Palestine she worked with a variety of agencies including UNRWA and the Voice of Palestine radio station. She later joined Al Jazeera in 1997 and quickly became a household name as she covered the second Palestinian intifada from 2000-2005. Journalist Muhammad Daraghmeh, a close friend of hers who teaches at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said Abu Akleh was “one of the strongest journalists in the Arab world.”
Early Wednesday morning, according to Al Jazeera, Shireen was reporting on the Israeli military raid of the Jenin refugee camp with three other journalists. Her last correspondence sent to her colleagues at Al Jazeera was “There’s a raid in Jenin. We are heading there now. We will let you know.”
Shatha Hanaysha, one of the four total journalists who went to report on the scene, said, “We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming.”
Abu Akleh was shot in the face. She was rushed to a hospital in Jenin in critical condition, where she was declared dead shortly after, according to the Palestinian health ministry. She was murdered in cold blood, in her press vest, by the Israeli Occupation Forces.
Standing Firm Against Oppression
In the Quran, Allah reveals in Surat al-Nisa:
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allāh, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allāh is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allāh is ever, of what you do, Aware.” [4:135]
Allah commands believers to stand firm in justice — to be grounded in truth, bear witness honestly, and to maintain a position of justness even against ourselves and our loved ones.
To live in Palestine under occupation, with the most powerful countries and entities funding the destruction and colonization of your homeland, is an extremely difficult feat in itself. Shireen survived that unimaginable difficulty, and even risked her life to report the truth to the world. She bore witness to and reported on the horrific and continuous operation of the colonization of Palestine and the Palestinian resistance. Shireen’s purpose as a bearer of truth, even in the face of oppression and injustice, was beautifully manifested in the global success she had as a journalist, and the stellar reputation she had amongst her similarly-aligned colleagues.
An Example to All
I heard the Messenger of Allah say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]
Shireen grew up in occupied Palestine and witnessed evil on a daily basis. In her pursuit of a journalism education and exceptional career, she used her tongue to speak out against the injustices she reported on.
She used her hand to do so as well in the production and execution of those reports with her fellow journalists and Al Jazeera team. And in the words of Israeli Military Spokesperson Ran Kochav, she worked against injustice by being “armed with cameras.”
Shireen left a deep impression on the world with the ways in which she spoke out and actively worked against injustice. Her life story serves as an inspiration to women, men, and children around the world in pursuit of a meaningful life and a purpose around Palestine. Shireen Abu Akleh will always will be remembered as an icon to the Palestinian liberation movement, and her words and actions, grounded in justice and truth, will forever be archived in history.
Palestine in the Islamic Consciousness
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Source: Muslim Matters