International Women’s Day has always given me all the feels, I don’t know what it is but I get a fire in my belly, a surge of energy and passion that gets me wanting to raise the roof and fly the flag for women. So often we forget our incredible qualities, our potential, our worth and many times we accept far less than we deserve. The feminist movement frequently shakes us by storm, reminds us of our rights, our collective and individual power, our ability to thrive as whole people not dependent on men to ‘complete us’ or propel us forward in our lives. Whilst there are many benefits in speaking out against inequality and whilst we should absolutely stand up in the face of adversity or discrimination based on gender, modern feminism has the potential to stand us in direct opposition with our menfolk and this, I believe, can have catastrophic consequences.
Three years ago International Women’s Day held an entirely new meaning for me, a raw, fierce, broken yet courageous moment in my life, one which I will never forget. It was a day that I had decided ‘enough was enough’ that I was going to use my rights and also my voice to stand up and to speak for all the injustices that were smothering my existence as a woman. I felt a duty as a mother to ‘practise what I preach’ to my daughters and with the messages of independence, of honouring one’s self, of believing we can and will do anything, circulating, I did what I felt at the time was my only choice, I asked my husband for a divorce. This is the day that we should celebrate all the great women who have gone before us, the contributions that women have made, the immeasurable impact that women can have, this is a day for liberation and believe me, as the words left my mouth, within the walls of my fractured home, I did feel liberated.
But of course, the story isn’t quite so simple and just as there were many factors that led me to that moment, there were also many painful and bitter moments that unfolded in the days following. Standing up and speaking out is rarely as glamorous as it first appears and whilst externally it can seem that a person is courageous, internally there is a myriad of complex truths that can manifest as disease in the heart. The intimate details of our marriage are not necessary to share but I will say, that for a period of time, we were broken beyond measure, and it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we were able to find our way back. Alhumdulilah, All Praise be to Him, the owner of our hearts and the One who guides us to what is best.
So this year, my sentiments to this day feel different and perhaps that is due to the throws of motherhood and the extreme pressure that it can put on the relationship with your spouse. Perhaps it is because I’ve had time to reflect, to grow and to learn from the many obstacles that present when two people are trying to be the garments to one another, rather than the dirty laundry strewn across the bedroom floor. Whilst I still feel that female fire, and that drive to do great things in the name of women, this year I am more drawn to call out the change that you can inspire within your own home. I am always motivated by women who are out there doing their thing and I love to see sisters unite and fly their flags, but there is an undeniable force when this power is used as a pillar of strength to steady a family home. A home that should be and can be, a place of sanctuary. A negative environment and even ‘toxic’ attitudes can be transformed by an individual who chooses not to reflect that back. Who instead becomes determined to bring the energy they want to see and actively generates that energy for the sake of God. When a woman does this, and her divine love becomes a source of comfort for those around her, it can be monumental in building the kind of home we need as the foundation for strengthening communities and society at large.
I was reminded in a beautiful lecture on marriage by Ali Hammuda (you can watch it here) of Khadijah (RadiAllahu Anhum) and the deep and sincere solace that she provided for the Prophet (SAW) as she immersed their home and marriage with love and affection. We know that she was a successful businesswoman, that she was wealthy and that it was, in fact, her, that asked the Prophet for his hand in marriage but there is more to her than all of this. The way that she supported and cared for her husband, allowed him to go out and face all that he had to in his prophethood with strength. To bring this sense of tranquility and mercy, wholeheartedly into your home, you have to remove your ego and allow yourself to thrive, this is the true secret behind a powerful woman. This kind of spirit is what will help you here and now, but most importantly it’s the spirit that will help to build your home in paradise.
We carry many burdens as women, as wives, and as mothers and we may often feel that those burdens go unnoticed, that they are not seen, that we are not seen. But rest assured that what lies on your shoulders and what you give from the depth of your heart, does not go unnoticed by Him. So rather than standing in opposition with the men in your lives and shouting so that the voice of our collective womanhood can be heard, perhaps this can be an opportunity, to re-evaluate the power that we have when we stand shoulder to shoulder. The status of women in Islam is such that an entire chapter of the Quran is dedicated to us, we’ve been raised from the earth so high, that paradise is under our feet and we must not forget that we were created from man’s rib, from his side, not above nor below but from that which protects and guards the heart. International Women’s Day is many things, but today, let it be a reason to remember the bonds we can bring to the sanctity of marriage, allow us to remember not just the impact that we can have on this life but what awaits us on the side if that impact is most pleasing to our Lord.