A few weeks ago, ProductiveMuslimah caught up with Sister Maryam Amirebrahimi, a regular author on suhaibwebb.com, a Tae Kwon Do second degree black belt, student of knowledge and hafidha of the Qur’an! In the first part, Sr Maryam told us about how she came to study Arabic, and how she manages her time between so many different activities. This week, she gives us invaluable advice for memorising Qur’an, and how sisters can take an active role within the community.
1) Alhamdulillah you have completed memorisation of the Qur’an, whilst undertaking other academic endeavours. What tools, tips and advice can you give our sisters who may struggle to embark on this monumental journey?
Taking the first step
Recognize that you can definitely do it, In sha Allah, regardless of your life situation! Whether you’re a single, full time student who also works, or a mom who has to take care of your family (and studies or work if you’re also studying or working), or a divorced grandma who is wondering how to spend the next few mature years; the Qur’an is ready for you in every single situation!
Sometimes we are daunted by the opportunity to connect with the Qur’an; we don’t think we can ever approach it because we “aren’t there” in our deen; we aren’t ‘good’ enough, ‘religious’ enough, ‘committed’ enough, and therefore, we don’t think we’re worthy of attempting to memorize the Qur’an.
Others of us sincerely want to begin, but don’t know where to start. We expect to finish in 6 months or a year, and when it takes longer than that, we begin questioning why it’s taking us so long and whether or not we can actually fulfill this commitment.
Some of us are afraid of the responsibility. Does memorizing the Qur’an now mean I can’t watch movies? Does it mean I have to be super Muslim? What if I forget? Won’t Allah punish me? Isn’t it better that I know nothing and therefore have no reason to be held accountable, than memorize and die having forgotten what I’ve learned?
The reality is that these situations and others reflect a general desire to honor the Qur’an; to only approach it if we’re in the best of states and to only attempt to memorize it if we plan to be completely committed. But the best way of honoring the Qur’an is to interact with it; to hold it, to hug it, to long for it, to take walks with it on the beach, to call it your best friend, to read it when you’re crying, to rush to it with great news, to open it and try to connect with it when you’re the midst of the greatest shortcomings or sins you feel you’ve ever committed, to make a plan of action for both memorizing and reviewing it and transforming through being with it.
Being ‘ready’ for the Qur’an
Don’t think you aren’t ready for the Qur’an or that you can’t fulfill the responsibility to it. You, in whatever state you are in and in whatever life situation you’re experiencing, CAN become a memorizer of the Qur’an, with God’s will! And as you connect – either through understanding, reading, contemplating or memorising, you will begin to notice, In sha Allah, that you are slowly leaving some of the things you shouldn’t be involved with, and slowly becoming more committed to everything that will help you live the best life in both worlds! That connection to Allah comes in the sweetest way when you connect to the Qur’an. One of the most incredible experiences is just sitting for hours and memorising the Qur’an in-between schoolwork or work or family responsibilities.
If you are a student of knowledge or an activist and you aren’t actively connecting with the Qur’an, you should check your priorities. If you aren’t yet committed to the cornerstone of knowledge and activism, then to what are you committed? What is helping ground you?
The Qur’an is ready for you – wherever you are and whoever you are and whatever stage of life you’re in! It may take 7 years, like it took me, or it may take 50 years. But what better than saying, “I spent my entire life memorizing the Qur’an. And now, at the age of 95, I am about to complete my memorization.” Subhan Allah. What an honor.
I have authored The Qur’an Series which covers specific tips and tricks for those interested in memorizing, reviewing and understanding, as well as teaching it to kids or simply finding Qur’anic motivation. Follow the steps in the articles and I hope that In sha Allah I’ll soon be reading about your personal Qur’anic transformation story!
2) That is great advice for any sister who wills to memorise Qur’an – it really shows us that it is possible for everyone! So, what practical tips can you give to sisters to encourage them to take an active role within their society?
Figure out what you’re passionate about or what skills you have that you know you can contribute. Whether it’s public speaking or cooking, sports or writing, raising children or medicine, beauty and fashion or therapy, education or physics, politics, law and film making, or a combination of all of those and much more, our community needs women who have skills they are willing to channel towards community activism.
Now I completely understand that there are some communities that do not provide space for women to take any type of role and others that only provide her the space to fill one specific role (ie: cooking community meals) and do not welcome her presence beyond that.
Regardless of the type of community you reside in, figure out how you could create your own narrative and carve space for the narratives of other women and even men who are frustrated with the status quo in the community and are looking for something which truly mirrors the inclusive Prophetic society.
Let’s look at a mundane, typical and sometimes overused but unfortunately real example: Let’s say your community has a women’s prayer area, but you hate praying in it because you cannot hear the Imam, because it smells, because other women who attend do not always listen to the recitation and instead talk through the prayer or khutbah. You do not feel you are gaining knowledge nor spiritual upliftment. You aren’t meeting people who have similar interests to you because they left the masjid a long time ago, refusing to feel like second class citizens in what is supposed to be the most spiritually enlightening house of worship. You are frustrated. You have spoken to the masjid board (comprised only of men or perhaps includes one woman) and they have done nothing about it. You have nicely, calmly, and then finally angrily, tried to change the women who make it difficult for others to worship in serenity and nothing has changed.
So what do you do? My tips for becoming active in the community:
1. Organize women who support the cause and try to create order and change in the women’s section. Lobby and petition the board. Have women volunteer as monitors, other women who give reminders of the behavior of the masjid. Create a babysitting system so some women pray while others focus on kids and then take turns the following prayers. The goal should be to unify the women towards the general, hopefully attainable goal of creating an electrifyingly organized and peaceful space.
[Although, I will be honest- I have seen years and years of efforts in one particular masjid, and until now, nothing has changed. So this is not always going to work in every masjid and sometimes drastic times call for more drastic measures.]
2. Create something new. Find a new space (your home, that of a friend’s, a coffee shop, a library, a park) and invite local women and men of knowledge to give classes. Get a group of committed individuals together who will teach different skills (a teacher who explains how best to provide affecting learning for different types of learners, a therapist who discusses therapy in the light of the Qur’an, a doctor who provides health tips and suggestions, a journalist who explains how best to write articles or conduct interviews, a mom who talks about how to deal with children through sibling rivalry, a grandma who discusses how to move through life’s stages dealing with change or loss……etc.) and create a support group where you learn and others learn from your new exchanges. .Create a babysitting system with the involvement of the fathers of the children, or other sisters, so women can pray while others focus on training kids and then take turns the following prayers. The goal should be to unify the women towards the general, hopefully attainable goal of creating an electrifyingly organised and peaceful space.
Then, for you, through this new endeavor, the masjid should become a space of prayer and worship without the expectation that it’ll also be where you’ll find your sole venue for spiritual solace or only source for Islamic literacy or valuable life information. Channel your anger and frustration into action that will not only benefit you, but will also become a niche for all the women like you who are so eager for a space of growth and security, but who have realized the masjid will not provide that very space. Change begins with YOU!
3) We wholly agree that Muslimahs can actively begin to change their environment! So, to end, what are your favourite books that you would recommend for a Productive Muslimah?
- The first would be “Roots” by Alex Haley. Just read it.
- The first would be “Tahrirul Mar’ah fi ‘Asr alRisalah”, which means “The Liberation of Women During the Time of the Message“. It is published in Arabic only, so if you can read Arabic, try to get your hands on this. (Abd alHalim Muhammad Abu Shuqah)
- “Al Muhadithaat“, which is a book written in English and is an introduction to the female scholars of Hadith (Dr Mohammed Akram Nadwi)
- Reading Seerah is always enjoyable and productive. One of my favourites is “Muhammad , Man and Messenger” (Adil Salahi)
- This book, “The Power of Habit“, is great for those seeking to increase their productivity by breaking bad habits. (Charles Duhigg)
It was an honor being interviewed by your esteemed site. Always remember, your legacy begins with the small actions you do persistently, all regular good actions and strategies are simply habits that just need to be built, and In sha Allah your sincere efforts for the sake of God will be remembered long after you are gone. So work on finding yourself and figuring out how best to contribute to the community; we need your unique perspective and voice now, and it’ll still be needed even when you yourself are no longer present physically, but your good intentions and honest, persistent work are still impacting generations to come, In sha Allah.
Jazakillah khayr Sister Maryam for the wonderful advice and practical tips. There you have it sisters! Let us know your thoughts and comment below, and don’t forget to look out for our next instalment of ‘Secrets of a Productive Muslimah’!
Read Part 1 of this interview.
About the Author:
Maryam Amirebrahimi received her master’s in Social Justice Education from UCLA, where her research focused on the effects of mentorship rooted in Critical Race Theory for urban high school students of color. She holds a bachelor’s in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University, where she served as the President of the Muslim Student Association for two consecutive years. Currently, she is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies through Al Azhar University’s distance learning program. Maryam spent a year studying the Arabic language and Qur’an in Cairo, Egypt, and has memorized the Qur’an. She has been presented the Student of the Year award by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Maryam frequently travels to speak and work with different communities to address a variety of spiritual topics and social issues. She writes about topics related to social realities, women’s studies and spiritual connections on the popular online blog, www.suhaibwebb.com. Maryam is a dynamic and outspoken proponent for social justice and women’s rights.