Read in the Name of Your Lord – Editorial

Read in the Name of Your Lord“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” (Ray Bradbury)

After running a publication for nearly nine years, I cannot agree more. Most Pakistanis have erratic spending patterns, I notice. For many, buying a mere magazine comes as blatant wastage of money. But when it comes to eating out or shopping for clothes, it appears no budgets exist.

If we cannot read a magazine, how can we appreciate the beauty and depths of books along with the spell-binding impact they create? Consequently, those who read nothing or only to achieve academic milestones can almost immediately be identified. And I don’t just mean they have less than eloquent speech or a poor vocabulary bank. They generally have restricted thoughts and trivial conversations; they do very little to enrich their own or others’ lives. Their poor observation, lack of patience and prejudiced actions indicate obvious under-usage of their minds and abilities bestowed to them by Allah (swt).

“Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists).” (Al-Alaq, 96:1) Why did our Creator instruct the Holy Prophet (sa) to begin his journey of prophethood with the sublime task of reading, reflecting and acting upon the Quran? Why didn’t Allah (swt) command him to watch, listen, experience or learn by another means? For a nation, whose first revelation was to read in the name of the Lord, how well are we faring today?

Reading is not just an intellectual activity. It serves as a power supply for insight and happiness. Revealed knowledge connects us to our Creator and self. Acquired knowledge further facilitates this process and humbles us to serve the creation. Try asking a surgeon how he recognizes the wondrous miracles of Allah (swt), when he opens up the human body and finds the intricate workings of the organs therein. The books he reads on human anatomy spring to life and help him understand the verses of the Quran with higher meaning.

“Books, like friends, should be few and well-chosen.” (Joineriana) It is almost an appalling tragedy to see some extremely learned and gifted individuals unremorsefully treading the misguided path. One is better off an illiterate than reading rubbish or material that destructs his/her Fitrah.

As rude as it may sound, Georg Christoph Lichetenberg stated that “a book is a mirror: If an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out”. Developing love and appreciation for books is part of Tarbiyah and growing up. Those, who have not experienced this, will always consider reading as a chore or a duty meant to be put off. This is similar to the way the diets for over-weight people always begin tomorrow.

Reading and books are also deeply associated with today’s educational system. The education sector of a country determines its overall progress and participation in global events. Some of the countries with the highest number of literacy rates are: Vatican City (population: 826 people; literacy rate: 100%) and Andorra, the sixth smallest European country (population: 83,888; literacy rate: 100%). Finland is ranked as the third most educated country in the world with some of the best universities. Besides their rightly set priorities, size of the population being scarce is an advantage they commonly enjoy. For Pakistan, this may not be the case.

Describing education as the single, most important factor for alleviating poverty, the Pakistan Economic Survey 2009-2010 confirms that public expenditure in this sector has declined to a paltry 2 per cent of the gross domestic product. The survey puts the average literacy rate at 57 per cent – 69 per cent for males and 45 per cent for females.

Literacy is the acquisition of basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy. In other words, literacy is the meaningful acquisition, development and use of the written language. In Pakistan, the definition of literate is structured at the time of Population Census. In the 1998 Population Census, a literate person has been defined as “one who can read newspaper and write a simple letter in any language.”

NGOs and the private sector have a critical role to play in helping to achieve whatever success we have in the education sector. Though we have an uphill task at hand, with capable leadership and a sincere vision, our human resources can be developed to meet their potential. Great responsibility and accountability rests with those who are privileged enough to be called the upscale literates. Reading with understanding should be promoted at every level by every individual and not just by those who are directly involved in the business of education and journalism. Also, reading must be accompanied with an inbuilt filtering process that can separate chaff from the wheat. To attain this goal, our extremely brilliant predecessors learnt the Quran and Ahadeeth, before they took up any other discipline for exploration and specialization. It guided them to stay on track and side step the orbits that led them off the Shariah.

The House of Wisdom library was destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1258, along with all the other libraries in Baghdad. It was said that the waters of the Tigris ran black for six months with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river. But today, we refuse to own up our own heritage and pass it on to our next generations. And purposeful reading and writing is one such task. Joseph Brodsky said: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

Beginning to Read

beginning to read

By Ruhaifa Samir – Freelance journalist and staff blogger at and

Reading is a habit many people set out to cultivate and no wonder! Books can be extremely satisfying companions; they make you laugh, cry and, most importantly, they open up your minds to ideas and information you had never heard of before. Books are indeed our best friends!

Reading is a great habit to develop. If you’d like to cultivate a lifetime habit of reading, try some of these tips!

1 Set reading goals. An initial burst of enthusiasm for reading will not sustain the habit. You need to set goals for yourself, defining how long you will read every day. You can start with ten minutes a day and gradually increase the time. Or you can decide how many pages you will read every day. Find a quiet place where you can read uninterrupted for the time you have specified.

2 Find a book you love. Reading is highly enjoyable, but not if you are reading a book that is boring or one you can’t understand. Explore topics and genres that interest you and those to which you can relate. Make a list of books you would like to read – then, slowly and gradually go through them.

3 Have reading triggers. Every habit has a trigger – a regularly occurring event that immediately precedes the habit. Every time those triggers come up, read. Common reading triggers have been identified as eating, going to bed, travelling in the car, waiting somewhere (outside the school or in a doctor’s clinic), etc. Choose your triggers and read without fail. Also, always remember to carry a book with you whenever you leave the house. Chances are you might not need the book for nine trips out of the ten you make, but the tenth time you’ll be glad you brought the book along.

4 Have a library/bookshop day. Make a weekly trip to a library or a bookshop (second-hand bookstores are always great!). Browsing through different books is a useful way to spend some time and open up your mind to the variety of literature available for your reading pleasure. More often that not, you will end up buying amazing books that you can’t wait to read!

5 Make it pleasurable. Make your reading pleasurable and fun. Settle with a hot cup of tea/coffee or any other treat. But remember – don’t put too much pressure on yourself to read. Reading is for pleasure, and if you get stressed and push yourself too hard, you might give it up altogether. It might be a great idea to discuss books with your friends or join a book club to help you enjoy the reading experience even more.

Is anyone reading out there?

Read in the Name of Your Lord

Hiba Magazine got in touch with AFAQ Publishers to get their input. Muhammad Pervez, Teacher-Educator, AFAQ (Karachi) gave us the following response:

Assessment of readers’ demographics along with what they are reading is a very important topic to explore the tastes of the reader in this modern era.

In the digital age, we think the readers want to peruse material on pertinent issues with an innovative approach. It will be up to the writers and market researchers to find out which topics the audience wants to read along with its segmentation in term of taste, social requirements and age groups.

If we make an analogy with a fantasy novel, Harry Potter, and consider the reason it sold 450 millions copies and has been translated in 67 languages, the answer is very simple. A reader will buy and read if the writer has developed his/her thirst of knowledge and taken into consideration the basic structure of the literature (thrill, adventure, character, romance, etc).

It is an old debate that readers don’t want to read anymore. I think the importance of books and print media is not going to minimize. However, the dimensions and terminologies have changed. We are living in an age of competitive and challenging environments. Globally, we are facing too many issues and social problems. We are searching to get rid of their affects. A reader is keen to know and update oneself along with one’s community and next generation. At the same time, one also seeks escapism and relaxation in fictional literature.

The fact is a reader of today is the leader of the tomorrow.

Read in the Name of Your Lord

Read in the Name of Your Lord

By Dr. Muhammad Abid Ali – Master Mariner, PhD in Education, and founding member of two educational research institutes

Why should our children read? What are the effects of reading on children? How do we choose the books for our children? These are some of the important questions to answer, before giving any book to kids. I believe reading may be one of the most significant activities in the personality and character development not only of our children but any educated human being.

With Destination in Mind

We have around seventy to eighty years of earthly sojourn before our eternal afterlife, which is determined by our performance in this life. Our performance depends on how we are prepared to perform by both the external interventions and self development. Talking of external interventions, the priority falls on the parents’ nurturing of their children. Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Every child is born on Al-Fitrah but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian.” (Sahih Muslim, Sahih Bukhari, Al-Bayhaqi and Al-Tabarani – each with slight differences in wording)

Reading and the Process of Learning

If I am a Chinese, will anyone expect me to write like a Pakistani? Isn’t it an unreasonable expectation? Why does a Chinese write like a Chinese and a Pakistani like a Pakistani? This is because of the cultural overtone which is impossible to avoid. A western writing will depict western culture, underlying beliefs and core concepts of life. It is unavoidable, for we are very structured, thinking beings, who make statements around our thinking, or what we call paradigms. No human being can be separated from that. Reading is a strong learning intervention; as such, reading will definitely expose the reader to the culture, underlying beliefs and core concepts of the writer’s life. For a grown-up it may not be as influential as for a child, who is at a very active mode of learning.

Green and Brock have shown through experiments that children exposed to egalitarian reading material show more egalitarian responses and in spite of time passage, despite some reduction, the effect persists. They further elaborate that the narratives are persuasive and the morals rooted in them affect children’s worldview. Mar and Oatley observe that reading influences the process of learning. They claim that reading fiction has more effect, as the reader un-intentionally emulates the characters of the fiction. Hakemulder researched fifty-four reliable and valid experimental studies, in which fictional narratives indicated substantial effect on moral development, norms, values, and self-concepts. Mar and Oatley observe that change in personality is mediated by the emotions experienced while reading. Any intellectual exercise will affect a child’s learning, and reading is considered to be one of the powerful learning tools.

Reading affects the learning process and, consequently, the personality of a child. Perception, or our worldview, is utterly affected by learning processes. Any event or knowledge that casts an impression on the human mind affects this worldview; as such, it is susceptible to modification. For the first few years of life, the changes are major, and as the mental maps become defined, the modifications become more subtle and selective. Muslim scholar Acigenc claims that all human conduct is ultimately traceable to a worldview; worldview is the “framework within which our mind operates”. Ibn Khaldun often compares it to a dye that lasts until the cloth, to which it has been applied, is destroyed. Whereas Stephen Covey claims that we see the world not as it is, but as we are – or as we are conditioned to see it. He further emphasizes that the lens, through which we see the world, shapes our interpretation of the world. And one of the major factors, which shape this lens, is an individual’s learning processes.

Furthermore, most Muslim and western intellectuals, such as Miskawyah, Al-Farabi, Ghazali, Ibn Khaldun, Frued, Adler, Millard, Dollard, Montessori, and John Holt, agree that the initial years of an individual are crucial for active personality development; which is the period of active worldview development. The learning interventions, which disrupt Islamic identity and values, will accordingly affect this personality development. Covey calls it the farmhouse rule: you always reap what you sow.

With the logic constructed above, if we take reading as a learning process, which significantly influences a child’s worldview and shapes the personality, it is imperative to keep the above farmhouse rule in mind. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out”. Any harmful or useless concepts from the Islamic perspective are garbage for us; for example, the concept of world without a creator or the denial of the afterlife. Concepts, which are the main features of the western sciences, reflect in their literature as well. The dependency on western literature is a self-inflicted tragedy in the Muslim societies. The learning interventions develop a mental map or perception, which is based on western thoughts, quite contrary to the Islamic worldview. As a result, we try to find our way through to the destination through the wrong map.

Effects of Learning on Beliefs and Actions

How does the learning and the worldview affect our beliefs and actions? Let’s look at a few examples.

My five-year-old daughter came with her mathematics book, covering a picture with her palm, and insisted that it was something, which couldn’t be shown to me. Upon my repeated requests, she exposed the picture of a lone lady in a bikini lying on a beach, depicting the solitary for the numeral one. She had not yet polluted her perception with the western concept of shame. For her, shame was still the map that we had created in theory. My son was taught from a British published history book in his O’Levels that Tipu Sultan was a rebel. Should we blame the British for this statement? From their perspective, he was; from our perspective – he was a hero.

A sister narrates: “I have noticed that my 9-year-old son is somewhat conditioned to happy endings, which once again can be the influence of children’s subculture and ‘happily ever after’ trends in cartoons. Just recently he read in his reading-aloud time a story in which the main character (11 years old boy) died at the end of the story, and felt very emotionally crushed by such an ending. He even said to me not to give to him such stories anymore, because he felt so very sad reading it. It gave us the chance to talk about the real life scenarios of sad events and how they differ from happy endings of most cartoons/fiction stories/fairytales.”

Another example is from a revert sister, who narrates how effectively the former Soviet Union could condition the students to the Soviet requirements:

“I was growing up in the communist system of the Soviet Union. The focus of government at the time was very much on the schoolchildren – to develop them into loyal citizens of the state. This was achieved by a heavy dose of ideology being pushed into young minds (which I was not aware of as a child, of course) through purposefully written school books infused with ideology and the requirement of Russian language and Russian literature courses in all schools, starting from the very first grade.”

Further, she elaborates about the results of this programming:

“Believe it or not, the system was extremely good and successfully produced the required results. I realized this, when after the break-up of the Soviet Union I went for studies to the US as part of a group of students from the former Soviet Union. We, the students, ourselves were amazed at how similar all of us were. Even though we came from different Soviet states, spoke different languages, had different local cultures, we still had the feeling like we’ve grown up in the same neighbourhood – we laughed about the same jokes, admired the same heroes and had the same sets of moral values.”

Other than the conditioning, the above examples indicate the effect of literature on a child’s mind. Every written matter has a message, and a child reader absorbs it more readily and completely than a grown-up, as the worldview of a young child is still raw and in a state of formation. The effects in childhood are long-lasting and more permanent, as compared to those of adults, who have already developed filters due to a more established worldview. For Maulana Maudoodi, exposing youth to an alien culture certainly results in the loosening of Islamic morals and loss of Islamic identity.

A revert sister, reflecting on the effects of reading English books by children, cautions: “…the foreign language and cultural baggage that comes along with it will leave lasting marks on the personality of the child and the way he/she views the world. This aspect is especially important for us, as parents of Muslims, to understand.”

Eighty years ago, another famous revert, Allama Muhammad Asad, sternly warned the Islamic world: “Islam and Western civilisation, being built on diametrically opposed conceptions of life, are not compatible in spirit. This being so, how could we expect that the education of Muslim youth on Western lines, an education based entirely on Western cultural experiences and values, could remain free from anti-Islamic influences?”

The tragedy the contemporary Muslim societies are inflicted with is the uncritical embracing of the Western educational interventions and learning processes. Long ago, Sayyid Qutb also cautioned us that when we indiscriminately use Western educational interventions, we undoubtedly borrow also a general scheme of philosophy and a mode of thought that underlies these interventions, “whether we like it or not”.

As I write this article, I observe my 14-months-old granddaughter and am so awed at the intelligence, which Allah (swt) has bestowed every child with. She has a different approach in behaving with each member of her close and extended family. Before me, she will avoid putting anything in her mouth, she will behave with more tenderness with my mother and has an entirely different behavior with my sister, whom she is extremely fond of. She cannot speak yet but understands our verbal conversation with her and follows our instructions. To think that at another two or three years, she will be less intelligent to absorb the message of any literature that we read to her seems to me extremely absurd.

We have to be very careful in exposing our children to any concepts alien to Islam. For certainly these will leave their impressions, no matter how much we try to control it. It is equal to developing an intimacy with the culture and approach of the presenters. The Quran warns us: “O you who believe! Take not as (your) Bitanah (advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers, friends, etc.) those outside your religion (pagans, Jews, Christians, and hypocrites) since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you.” (Al-Imran, 3:118)

When we develop deep intimacy with alien thoughts and philosophy, we develop a cognitive structure based on their logic pedestal. As a result, we become alien to the Quran and Islam itself. “They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.” (Al-A’raf, 7:179)

Iqbal quite vehemently advises us that from an educational perspective to use the literature that helps in creating higher ideals and motivates the nation towards acquiring those ideals. On the other hand, Iqbal also warns that this desirous nature of man can be dampened by wrong interventions, literature being an important factor.

I will conclude this article with a reflective insight and prudent advice from a revert sister:

“English was introduced to me at grade four level; however, it has not prevented me or any of my friends from achieving proficiency in it, if that’s what we wanted. No European non-English speaking country uses English as the medium in their classrooms – elementary level children are taught in their native languages. The fear of not becoming good enough in English, unless you start it at the age of 2.5 years and have it as your language of instruction at school, is totally baseless. If you learn how to express yourself well in your native language, you can later do the same in any foreign language you pick up. The foreign language (English in this case) does not magically give the child the skills of self-expression – it’s the child’s overall grooming and intellectual capabilities, which will make him/her good at using the foreign language.

Allah (swt) knows best.

From Paper to Pixels

From Paper to Pixels

By Tooba Asim – Freelance journalist

Don’t have the time to go and buy the original text of Shakespeare’s Othello for the school project? Or would you rather spend that money on something else? Fret not, for now you can get that and millions of other books free of cost in the ‘land of unlimited possibilities’ – the Internet.

E-mail has changed the face of the entire mailing system. E-banking, e-commerce, e-shopping and other such electronic equivalents of conventional means have revamped the way things worked. And now, e-books are making inroads in the world of paper and ink.

Electronic books, better known as e-books, are defined as the ‘electronic equivalents of conventional books’. Technically speaking, an e-book can take quite a lot of forms: image files, rich text format, hyper text mark-up language, CHM format, etc. To put it simply, it’s text on screen or text read aloud.

So what is it about them that makes them so interesting or rather advantageous?

Imagine a library full of books – the kind which has hundreds and thousands of books stacked in neat and orderly piles in old wooden shelves with a librarian behind the desk. How about having those heavy volumes of books in a couple of CDs? Or better yet, how about having a digital library? This is where e-books are set to bring the book industry to.

Gone are the days when one spent money on ridiculously expensive volumes, which were also very difficult to manage. Not only are e-books a cheaper alternative, they are also extremely convenient to keep. A stack of CDs might just be equal to a big library!

The Internet is one of the major sources of e-books, both free and paid for. They can be downloaded and read on screen, or they can be printed and transferred on paper. Here enters the e-book reader.

This amazing little hand-held device is all set to repaint the book reading scenario. Be it the Amazon’s Kindle or the Barnes and Noble’s Nook or any other brand, e-book readers are fast gaining popularity amongst the tech savvy book lovers. These dedicated book readers are especially designed to enhance the onscreen reading experience by having the right hardware to providing all the necessary software without additional hassle. They come with wi-fi as well to enable easy access to books online.

The trend of digital libraries is also growing fast all over the world, especially in schools and universities. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan also has a National Digital Library Programme for universities. The idea is to provide the students with access to international research journals, articles and a collection of hundreds of e-books. Apart from providing easy access to material, the digital library also ensures that latest and up-to-date collection of journals is available.

With the trend of e-books fast catching up, it’s no more a worry to find an old beloved classic online and that too at no cost at all. Most e-book websites on the Internet provide old classics, but the Pandora’s Box that the Internet is, you can find almost all titles ranging from classic novels to latest popular fiction for free!

Millions of people daily acquire electronic books by paying for them and buying them in the form of audio books or by downloading them on their book readers. Considering the time an average Karachiite spends in the car stuck in traffic jams, audio books or e-books are actually quite a good idea!

Like all other technological advances, e-books are only very slowly making themselves known locally. It’s still very difficult to get hold of a decent collection of e-books in a bookstore. Most don’t even know what they are.

However, the big question is, are book lovers really ready to switch over to the electronic medium to pursue their hobby? What about curling up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and your favourite book on a Saturday night or a lazy Sunday? And that smell of new books and the yellowing pages of your grandparents’ cherished collections? Oh and what about discovering dried up flowers and bits of paper in an old book?

Also, computers, being machines, may snub you at the end of the day if they break down, catch a virus or your internet service provider stands you up. It also involves more complexity as opposed to grabbing a book anywhere and any time for instant pleasure.

Hopefully, the e-books will just compliment the use of traditional books and not replace them.

Some popular e-book sources: [The HEC’s National Digital Library Program] [a meta index of e-books available online]

Making the Most of Book Fairs

Making the Most of Book Fairs

By Hafsa Ahsan – Senior Assistant Editor, “Hiba” Magazine

Book fairs and book expos are definitely the events to look out for – not only do they offer a variety of books on all subjects under one roof, one can also avail much-needed discounts and special offers. However, like any other event, this one also needs to be thoroughly planned out. Here are a few tips to make the most of the book fairs.

Make a List

Entering a book fair without a list has the potential to turn your entire trip into a disaster, especially if it is crowded with no room for browsing. It is best to find out well in advance which publishers will be exhibiting; you can then look up their website to browse and read the reviews of the new and upcoming titles. Of course, this does not mean you cannot pick and choose titles on the go; however, if you have limited time (and space), a list is most handy.

Sort the List

Which books are really necessary to purchase at a book fair where there are original, hard-cover editions? Are there any books which can be borrowed from friends or purchased second-hand? You can do some research in order to sort the list.

Make a Budget

Once you have finalized your list, make your budget. It is best to save beforehand or make sure you receive your committee money in the months preceding the book fair. How much you decide to put aside depends entirely upon your list.

On the Day Itself

Make sure you reach as early as possible on a weekday to avoid massive crowds. Try to arrange baby-sitting for babies and pre-schoolers. Arrange a special, separate trip for children on the weekend, so they can have some fun with the activities organized especially for them.

Did you know?

In the very first Karachi International Book Fair in 2005, there were 50 participants in one hall. In 2011, there were three halls and 290 exhibitors.

Deutshe Welle’s Urdu service (Germany) covered the 2011 book fair in Karachi. Updates were sent from Karachi to their Bonn headquarter from where they were relayed across the European Union.

Lahore International Book Fair is the largest annual international book fair; the 2011 event was held in Johar Town, Lahore, where 165 local and foreign publishers and education-related organisations set up stalls.

Eight hundred Arabic and international exhibitors from more than 60 countries set up stalls at the 21st Abu Dhabi International Book Fair held in 2011.

In 2011, the first Arabic Book Fair was held at the Dubai Women’s College as part of the Library Week event under the patronage of Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al-Nahyan, then Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

MV Logos Hope, the world’s largest floating book fair, arrived in Dubai in 2011. It offered a selection of over 7,000 books and had the capacity to entertain 800 visitors on board at any one time. Its International Café hosted many interactive displays and activities, including an opportunity to meet any one of 400 crew members.

Tracing the Forgotten Women Scholars of Islam

Tracing the Forgotten Women Scholars of Islam

By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

Muslim societies debate on a plethora of issues, but when the conversations drift to the role of women in Islam, there are fireworks you would never see before. Opinions are sharply divided. As Eileen Collins became the first woman to command the space shuttle, some Muslims were still debating the right of women to drive a car on the road.

Sheikh Nadwi, a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, after a decade-long research wrote a book titled: “Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam.” The motivation behind this project was to seek out the real historical record on women’s place in the Islamic tradition. Comprehending the just nature of Islam, what he discovered hardly comes as a surprise.

The Era of Female Scholarship

Sheikh Nadwi unearths: “Since women today participate so little in the teaching of Ahadeeth and the issuing of Fatwas, there is a wide misconception that historically they have never played this role.”

Some 8,000 biographical accounts of female scholars have been unravelled in his study. Furthermore, Imam Dhahabi’s findings confirm that there have been no fabricators among the female narrators of Ahadeeth. Muslim women carried out the responsibility of preservation and development of Islamic learning since the time of Muhammad (sa).

These women were of high calibre in their intellectual achievements. Some even excelled far beyond their male contemporaries. They were exceptional women, who not only actively participated in the society but essentially reformed it. They were narrators of Hadeeth, teachers of theology, logic, philosophy, calligraphy and many other Islamic crafts.

One might assume that this allowed free-mixing and opened doors to Fitnah. These scholars not only had towering intellectual reputations but also immaculate social statuses. By observing the veil and Islamic mannerisms, they were able to seek and impart knowledge to men with dignity.

Just a Few Noteworthy Names

A prominent name is Aisha Siddiqa (rta), who was directly groomed and guided by our beloved Prophet (sa). Her role and contributions as a scholar of Islam continued long after her husband’s death.

It was Hafsah (rta) to whom the original record of the Quran, as it was revealed, was entrusted on parchments and animal bones. It was due to this preserved record that Caliph Usman (rta) was able to disseminate six standardised versions of the Quran to the major political and cultural centres of his times.

In the eigth century, Fatima Al-Batayahi taught Sahih Al-Bukhari to students in Damascus. During the Hajj, male scholars from far flocked to hear her speak in person.

In the twelfth century, Zainab Binte Kamal is known to have taught more than four hundred books of Hadeeth. She was a natural teacher, exhibiting exceptional patience with her students.

Fatimah Bint Muhammad As-Samarqandi was a jurist, who advised her husband (who happened to be more popular than her) on how to issue Fatwas.

Umm Ad-Darda was a scholar who used to attend discourses in the same Masjid as her male counterparts. She assumed the role of a teacher of Fiqh and Hadeeth and taught men. One of her students was a caliph of Damascus.

How Did They Disappear?

The contributing factors towards gross violations of women today and the disappearance of their intellectual contributions are many. Today, some of us are in complete awe of the Western world and eager to follow their footsteps. But how many of us comprehend that women have always had a problematic position in the Judeo-Christian tradition? The most obvious example is the fall of Adam (as) and Hawa (as) from the Garden of Paradise, for which they bitterly accuse Hawa (as). They squarely place the blame on her and consider the pains of childbirth that every woman bears as atonement for the original sin committed by her.

Until the sixteenth century, Western Europe was debating whether or not women have souls. Should they be given rights equal to men? Finally, women’s equality was established (at least on documents) by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When Western authorities began to colonize Muslim societies, the first step taken was to exclude women from teaching in Masajid and assuming political roles. Thus, the trend began to be implanted by the Western colonizers among Muslim men, who by now were a frail picture of cultural baggage, unaware of their own rich Islamic history.

The gradual retraction of women from the public and scholarship circles eventually happened.

The Reactive Measures

When we began to lose balance between genders in the Muslim world, two extreme corrective measures emerged on the horizon. Muslim feminists threw women forward as a model of gender-less Islam, free from the shackles of male scholarship. They propelled women to become Imams and state leaders, in desperation to find a voice for them.

On the other extreme, countless religious clerics began to perceive women’s rights as an import from the Western culture. Hence, they put up their best defence and locked their women inside, keeping them away from education, work and self-awareness. Thus, there is little that separates some misogynistic Mullahs from progressive feminists. Both are reactions to a crisis of confidence in their own faith.

Throughout Muslim history, women who assumed the roles of leadership in scholarship are the same women who followed male Imams in a Masjid and observed the veil. They were nurturing mothers, comforting companions, inspiring teachers and contributing citizens.

Need of the Hour

We need to understand that the Quran lays down the fundamental equality of men and women. Our Prophet (sa) propagated that there is no difference of worth between the believers on account of their gender.

Relegating women only to the role of a mother and a housewife is a phenomenon that has emerged in the recent years. Consequently, women who have little education and plentiful time indulge in fanning home rifts and viewing substandard TV shows. Others, who have a decent education and privileges, prefer to engage in frivolous pastimes. Learning and dispensing Islamic education is not a prerogative.

Aisha (rta) was the beloved companion of our Prophet (sa) yet, didn’t she lead an army? Umm Salamah (rta) was known for her piety and as an exemplary wife. Didn’t she counsel our Prophet (sa) at the crisis of Hudaibiyah?

I can’t but sadly agree with Sheikh Nadwi’s conclusion that “the irony of our forgotten women scholars is that they spent their lives in the pursuit of historical facts, whereas Muslims have long forgotten the fact of their contribution”.