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Leaving Christianity, Women in Mosques, Make Prayer a Must
Channel: Fatima Barkatulla
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Conversation with Shaykha Tamara Gray
Episode Transcript ©
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Billahi min ash shaytani r rajim Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem Alhamdulillah wa Salatu was Salam ala rasulillah dear brothers and sisters Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh and welcome to another lm feed podcast episode. I'm your host, Fatima Baraka Tila. And I've got guests all the way from America today with me.
She is the founder of an organization robata, an organization dedicated to promoting positive cultural change through creative educational experiences.
She recently completed her doctorate in leadership, and she has a master's in curriculum theory and instruction. She spent 20 years in Syria, studying the traditional and classical Islamic sciences. And I'm pleased to have her here today. It's shefa Tamra gray. salaam aleikum. shefa, Polycom, Sarah, I'm always happy to be here. I love the UK. Do you? Oh, that's great. Because I was actually gonna start by asking you, how do you because you know, it's nice sometimes to to get the view of somebody from the outside.
How do you? How does the UK feel to you? And when you come to London? What How do you feel about us London is what do you notice about us?
Well, I mean, I really love the UK. I love London. I love the feeling in the streets. I'm very much a city person. So I lived in Damascus for 20 years. Very busy city people, you know, it's just teeming with people. And London reminds me of Damascus. You know, so hon Allah I used to say all the time that London has more hijabi women than among nothing Damascus, but then I'm not. And so there is this sense, I think, for me, when I get off the plane, and I start, whatever I happen to be doing that at that particular period of time in the UK, this sense of really entering into a country where there are a lot more visible Muslim women. And the United States is a large country. So you don't
see all the Muslim that we don't have the concentrations. I think that's really what it is. Even in places like Chicago, New York,
London is really, London is where it's at. If you are a Muslim woman, and you want to just really feel part of the part of the ethos of the city and just feel like this is normal to be a Muslim woman, London. I really, I love it for that. But I also love the real English. I love tea, and I love English. scolding the cream tea. Yeah, I love this little town on the border of Wales and, and UK called Hey, NY, that's a booktown. I adore it. So I have a lot of sort of personal things I like about the UK as well. You don't have a personal connection with the UK family or I do I do actually went. So you mentioned that I lived for Syria in 20 years, I left Syria in 2012, one year after the
war started. And when I left, I left with my, my husband and my son and my daughters had already left. And at that point in our lives, my husband didn't have a job, I didn't have a job. It was quite and you can imagine it was we were leaving because of the war. And actually, I was in my head, I thought I was taking a five month break from the war. I thought oh, it's gonna be I was very naive.
And so my husband and I decided that I would go back to my family in Minnesota where I'm originally from, I had been away from them for so long, it just made sense. And we would sort of figure things out from there. As he looked for a job he did, he had that moment, he had found a two month appointment as a postdoctoral fellow at St. Andrews University. When you're the mother of a teenager, you know, you can't put your high schooler in school for two months. It's just not healthy. So we made this mutual decision that I would go back and put them in high school near my family that would be stable. And then the only change we would make is if we could get back to
Syria. Obviously, that part didn't happen. So what happened is after his two month appointment, they really liked him. They appointed him. But then that was only for a year. So then again, we said, Oh,
can we uproot my high school aged son. You know, we're always thinking about our children. And so basically year after year, that's been what's been happening. And so he come He graduated from high school, he just graduated from the University handed law. And so my husband, we've had a very long distance relationship. He's here in the UK. I'm in Minnesota. So I come back and forth a lot. So maybe that's why I like the UK so much because I get to visit my husband here. Oh, wow.
So, I mean, it's really interesting that you said you were in Syria, at that time at that crucial time.
Somehow, like, I can't even imagine what it must have been like, Can you give us some sort of idea of what it was like to go from, I guess, normality
Like, what was normal life like? And then how did things slowly change?
Oh, you mean daily living, just as opposed to living that?
I don't know. I mean, it was I my life and Damascus, I was in Damascus and Damascus is the capital. So throughout, it has been very protected. And it is, has remained much more protected than any other part of the of the country. And so I don't think I experienced the same kinds of things that someone from another city could really share. I certainly there were some scary moments, and all of this, but really, ultimately, I don't have the kinds of those kinds of stories, my life stayed really quite normal until I left, I was working full time at a school. I loved the school, I was at a great job. You know, what, what changed for me was the move. So when I moved, and all of a sudden,
even in America, going to the grocery store became overwhelming. American grocery stores are enormous. And in Syria, I had my meat guy and my vegetable guy and my juice guy, you know, and
It was, it was my country. I was going back to my country, the United States. But it had changed in 20 years. And of course, I have grown and changed. And so that was the that was really hard. And being away from Syria, I think was almost harder for me than when I was in Syria, because now I was subject to watching everything unfold on television, and on television or wherever, instead of in real life, which it was there was some sort of ease in actually being there where you could sort of sort through what was reality and what wasn't, but hamdulillah Allah's plan is the best of plans. And so I saw
shefa Tamra that you had your hand on a mouse on your Facebook page, ready to click the Send button. And that was I believe you sending your thesis off. So congratulations. about that. How did that feel? getting to the end of that process? Oh,
it felt many different. I had so many different emotions. On one hand, I felt the feeling of euphoria and accomplishment. And the other hand, I had this feeling of exhaustion. And I think there's a letdown I think there's this place where you keep your adrenaline going. Because you know, you have to finish. Yeah. And so when you push that button, you sort of say, now what, wait, what's next. But it was it was really, mostly the positive feelings. And I really learned myself in the process of writing that dissertation, I learned about myself. And so one of the feelings I had in pushing the button is okay, I'm ready for for the next stage of my life. I'm ready now to take on
my life's work and really focus on that and make it happen. Salma. Yeah, can you tell us a bit about your thesis like your
doctorate in leadership? So, so that was a department that I was in at the University of St. Thomas. And the thesis was a dissertation, I looked at Muslim woman's religious leadership in digital religion. And so I did it was a qualitative research, meaning that I was really looking at the phenomena of phenomenology, what is happening here with Muslim women and leadership today, what are they? What's their narrative? What's their life experience. And so I dug deeply into the lives and writings and online presence of seven different women who are in digital religion today. And I also looked at a thread of 70 Muslim women who were talking to one another, about their lives. And so
that was more of a sort of a triangulation of the data. So I'm looking at the seven women do these others? Is it kind of sound like it's similar with the 70 women as well, which it did. And I, in looking at that, I really,
I might in theories that were in my mind, I was thinking about things like chaos theory and the concept of digital religion. What is that today? And as Muslim women, how do we need to be?
I shouldn't say the word meat, but how are we embracing it or not embracing it? How are we interacting with it? And then as a researcher, what does that look like in the big picture and then a very personal level, I noted the real difference of where we are compared to like evangelical Christian women who are doing a really good job of embracing digital religion and using it for their personal goals, and I'm unavailable
personal level, then again, this isn't about my research, but my own personal learning was that we need to do better we need to, I believe, you know, this is my personal opinion that we need to do better. And we need to recognize the reality of digital religion, and then take it on and, and use the tools in ways that are going to really help us to achieve our goals of my self positive cultural change, uplifting the Muslim Ummah, and really helping us towards our positive life changes. So when you say digital religion, do you mean? The I'm just thinking, from my understanding, do you mean
using the online space, or using the current technology? So what I learned in my research is that digital religion is really what we have today.
The definition of digital religion, the sort of formal academic definition is that is, well let me back up from a formal definition. First, when we're talking about religion, we're talking about an experience of people with faith and practice, okay. And that includes ritual, and belief and knowledge and community, and leadership. Now, the reality is that the world has become a digital space. And so the question then is, is religion also part of that digital space? And those who researched digital religion, that's not me, I was looking at it as something that someone else had research as a Muslim woman's or religious leadership within it. Those who research digital religion
are saying that all religions today is in a digital space, even if the actual teachers or the congregation whatever their religion is not, because your congregants are online. And so we, we need to begin looking at, or I propose that we begin to understand that places like Facebook and Twitter and podcasts and such things, our neighborhoods, if we think about them as neighborhoods, new neighborhoods, where the online is real, and we have that, even in the 90s, research was telling us that online experiences affect us physically. And so that means they're real. It's not a virtual reality. It's a reality for us. Yeah, I believe that especially religious Muslim women have pushed
back against that I, I hear a lot of rhetoric around, oh, no, online, it's just not as effective. Oh, no, I can't teach online. But the reality is, if we're not going to be teaching online, if we're not going to realize the reality of online learning is truly affecting people, we're losing out, we're losing out on a on an experience of our students. They're all online, very few of them are not online. And so they're experiencing that as well. So either we are part of their neighborhoods, or not. And so I don't know, maybe that's, uh, yeah, I guess I guess it's basically that, you know, if you're not online, then you're, you're not reaching the people who you want to reach in terms of
influencing. And that's true. But also, if you're not online, don't think you're not online. That's the other point I'm making here. So one of the women that I wanted to include in my study, but I wasn't able to reach her, she is so not online, that she doesn't even have an email address. And that's on purpose. She does not want to be part of the online world.
But her students are online. And so they're quoting her online. But teachings are online, therefore, she's online in one way or another, whether she likes it, whether she likes it or not. That's my point that digital religion, we are part of the digital world, it's no can't really separate it, we can say, oh, over there is digital world. And over here is non digital world. Even if you are on an island somewhere, someone is talking about you on that island, on Twitter. And so you are connected. We are one world and so once we recognize that, now my research was all about what is Muslim woman's religious leadership look like in that space? Right. And one of my findings is that we are not
really taking control of it, that others have control of our message. And it's really important that we take control of our message that we know the message we are delivering. Yeah, and we are able to have control of it in one way or another. You know, I completely understand that. Because
I remember a few years ago when I used to be invited quite a lot onto the BBC, different channels, you know, to discuss and it was always something that they wanted me to discuss, right. So things like the veil and, you know, topics that, frankly, were not big things in my mind, you know, yes, I had other things that I wanted to talk to them about, but because they were setting the agenda, I would be invited and of course they would edit it and they would present it the way
They wanted to present it. And I think one of the reasons why I actually did decide to go online and have my own pages and my own is in a way to take back that power, you know, to take back that salutely the narrative and to be able to say no,
you know, if somebody had framed something that I said in the incorrect way, for example, to be able to clarify, you know, to, to put the
what I really meant forward, not only that, messaging is long term. And so when we control our own channels, you know, we get to decide what goes on our channel, when, when other people are recording us and putting our talk on their channels. They're, they're deciding what that message is. And that doesn't mean by the way, the message is bad, it could you could be contributing to a very positive message, you know, they are teaching, but it's still not yours. Right? I guess, for a lot of Muslim women, one of the factors is also, and I must say, it's not easy. It's like something you have to get used to being able to being willing to be that visible, you know, and be that. And I think, I
mean, I do respect, you know, sisters who they have their reasons, you know, that maybe it's because of privacy because of family reasons, maybe their family doesn't like that kind of exposure, or they personally don't, you know, so I guess even the sisters who aren't in that public space,
I mean, don't choose to be,
they're still being able to influence, you know, like, what I'm trying to get at is that, sometimes I feel that when we have conversations amongst sisters, especially sisters, who are scholars or, you know, teachers, we often kind of compare ourselves to the, to the male speakers, right? So we will say things like, how come, you know, the most famous speakers are men? or How come this or that, and I think sometimes we do a disservice to our own
sex, you know, because I think I see 1000s of sisters, they might not want to be very public, you know, but it doesn't mean they're having no impact. They're having a huge impact, sometimes that sometimes even a more significant impact, because it's so local and so real, you know, rather than absolute, I mean, so moving away from my research, because my research was all about digital religion, and the particular possibilities of impact. And, you know, really, moving away from that real impact, real impact has to do with light has to do with connection to Allah subhanaw taala has to do with your grounding in not only IOM, but that'd be and how much have we been abroad ourselves?
Really? How much are we in control of our own neffs aware of our own ship on aware of the influences around us, that may pull us one way or the other that is not positive. So 100% in the world of Dalloway, certainly, the effects that one person can have is much more connected to their connection to Allah spawn, tada, than it is to any any particular tool, whether it's an online tool, a digital tool, or a, a, an old fashioned, you know, Blackboard or old fashioned tools, I don't really believe it's connected to tools. I really think it's connected much more to our own personal connection to our own faith and who we are. And that's a point that I think, for the dots, the women who are
working, we always have to go back to reconnect ourselves, because it's really easy to be drawn along this path of, I'm the teacher, right. As opposed to I'm also I remain a student. I remain a struggler on the road. Oh, yeah.
So yeah, so I, you know, I'm just reflecting on sisters that I know who nobody has heard of, like, people have heard of in their communities, but they're not not in the global round. No. And probably they're not even talked about in online and stuff, you know, but
sometimes, I think, wow, you know, the impact they're making because of their patient, diligent, local work, and I would say difficult.
Right? That doesn't always get recognition. But that's okay. Because they've chosen that they want doing it for low. Absolutely. Oh, I don't want to be misunderstood to say that I think everyone needs to be in the public eye. Yeah, I do think we all need to recognize the import of digital religion in the digital world. We need to understand how it's affecting even our students and what their interaction is with it. And the more we understand that, even if we are choosing to be very private and very much away from it,
We will be more effective having an understanding of it with our students. Yeah, sure. I'm the law.
I wanted to ask you also about your childhood and like, I've never been to America
to come, inshallah. inshallah I intend to, you know,
I know I mean, everything I know about America is from books,
movies, movies and TV that I might have watched it, you know, as a young person, etc. And the news, I guess,
not the greatest place.
But, you know,
I want you to tell me like, what was it like growing up in that tell us about the part of America you grew up at? You grew up in, because I'm aware that all of America is not like, this is huge. Yeah, I grew up in,
in a suburb of a St. Paul, which is the capital of a state called Minnesota, which is right at the north, on the border of Canada, fairly close to Chicago, that sort of a central point people know about Minnesota is known to be very cold, lots of snow in the winter. And that's, that's a stereotype that holds it used to hold true when I was young. with climate change. There are some differences in that. But for example, when I was young, the dress would get much taller than me and my brother and I would dig tunnels through the snow and little houses in the snow and really play outside for hours in the snow. I had a very sort of typical suburban childhood where I went to
public school, and I was a Christian. I was raised in the Christian church. My parents were divorced, and I was something around sixth grade or something. My mother was a was part of the feminist movement, and that was that had really big influence on me. I was a member of the church by myself as in my mother went to church, but I was very much committed on my own. It was a Lutheran Protestant church. My father was Catholic. I did go to Catholic Church a couple of times in my life, but I wasn't part of the Catholic Church. I was baptized Lutheran, I was raised in a Lutheran Church, and became quite a bit of an evangelical in my high school years, I,
I participated in a number of different activities with evangelicals, including summer camp and things like that.
In the summer of you haven't asked this question, you just asked what my childhood but you asked about America. So let me amend the part of America that I grew up in was very sort of typical, I suppose.
I don't know. I didn't know we fit the stereotypes, because I don't know what they are. But it was definitely white suburban America, you know, I didn't have I had two black friends in high school. And those are the only black kids in high school in my grade. So I mean, it was very much a white community that I grew up in. I didn't know people from other countries, I didn't know immigrant people. And that when I went to the University, when I went to university, I chose the University that I applied to, partially because of its very liberal and global reach. It had a lot of international students, I was really interested in the rest of the world. I was hoping to travel and
meet different people, I really wanted to sort of get out of this suburban life that I that I lived. So did you want to preach? It's not ideal, you went to high school? I, that's a good question. Did I want to get out so I could No, because the summer before I went to university, I had what I call the crisis of faith and the influence of feminism in my life by that time had made me feel that the worship of a man Jesus or God the Father, because again, that's a very masculine representation of divinity. Yeah, I was, I just, I just didn't want to do it. I wasn't interested in worshipping him. Why am I worshipping a man? I couldn't I just couldn't swallow that idea. So no, I was I was, in
fact, not, I didn't, I wasn't interested in preaching. And I was in a real space of crisis internally, because I really worried about my afterlife, since I wasn't really believing in the male hood of God or Jesus as God.
Upon love is really
thought provoking thing. I mean,
so so you're there, your, your mom is a feminist. So you're obviously you care a lot about, you know, women's rights and you care about fairness and justice. And at the same time, you're being told to worship
a male right? Can I ask you, what is the distinction between Lutheran Did you say Lutheran and Catholic? The Lutheran Church is one of the many Protestant churches it's the one that was set up by Martin Luther.
Protestantism is different than Catholicism in a number of ways. Probably most significantly, the pope is not a leader of the Protestant church.
Protestants are very much simpler and their theology, there are not a lot of saints.
It's a little bit looser and how it talks about theological principles and also a little bit looser, I think as far as how it
talks about rules and things as well, though the evangelical turns will be different than that. So there are lots of different groupings in Protestantism. So I know that like when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, you know, he painted God as a man, right, an old man with a long beard and flowing robes. But
do Christians actually consider God to be male? Because I thought that that was just a
representation. Part, one of the results of the feminist movement is that Christian women of faith began to really examine this and writes about is God male? Or is that just metaphorical? Right. And so there are a number of different writers who sort of shook the church, especially the Catholic Church a bit about that, of not being Catholic, and I'm not at all a specialist in Christian theology. So let me just begin with that. My own research in the area showed me that these different women really challenged the church and challenge this concept. Now, if you're talking about lay people, instead of the regular person, I don't think that there's a common understanding that people
would say, Yes, God is male. But the second you say Jesus is the Son of God. That's male, because it's a it's a personification of God. And it's a male personification. And in church, you pray to Jesus, you actually prayed to Jesus. So that's male that you can't get beyond. Now, there are plenty of Christians that go to Christian church and will say, Well, Jesus is the Son of God. Like, we're all children of God, which is a completely different, very personal interpretation that doesn't really fit with traditional Christian theology. Right. Okay, so you're going through this turmoil?
You know, you're at a pivotal point in your life, I guess, as a teenager. I was 17. Yeah. All right. Well,
what happens next?
Well, I that whole summer, I was a camp counselor, I remained doing my thing, which is sort of evangelical work. But I made a promise to myself that I would talk about God only. And I would only say God, not Jesus,
which I was happy with in the beginning of the summer, but by the end of this summer, I was really nervous about my, like I said, my own,
So I, I remember, actually, that summer at that camp, praying a lot about this, like, to God guide me, because I really believed in God, that was real, it's real. But I was struggling with the Jesus part, I was struggling with the male part.
So when I went to university, I was already accepted university, I was ready to go. And I, when I was choosing my classes, I decided I was kind of an academic type.
And I thought, well, you know, I'm going to fix this by taking a class, something in Christianity. And I knew that in academia, there was a lot of criticism about religion. And so I wanted to be careful to take a class with someone who was a practitioner, as I did all that homework, and I found someone who was a practicing Christian, giving a class on the history of the Old Testament. And I thought, you know what, this, this might fix me, I am, I don't know much about the Old Testament, I knew a lot about the New Testament. And if I learned this, maybe I'll maybe I'll be fixed. And my goal was to be fixed. That was my goal. So I took the class. It was eight o'clock in the morning.
That was like starting, you know, you're starting off at new university, eight in the morning, your first class, however, many days a week that was as very serious. I was a serious student, and I went to that class with the intention of getting better Three weeks later.
I could no longer be Christian. Wow. Yeah. So the learning process had not brought me to the place I wanted it to take me and it taken me further away.
And the reason for that isn't a lot but the two major points of
change. Were, first of all the stories of the prophets in the Old Testament. So really shocking to me. They were not set up as examples to humanity, the kinds of sins and things that they had committed was shocking.
And also, and most importantly, I learned that the time that the Trinity In other words, the worship of Jesus as the Son of God, became part of church doctrine was because of the Council of Nicea. I don't exactly remember the year but something
We're on 365. And what that was, it was a whole bunch, basically. And in Psalm a bunch of men who got together to talk about, will we be a Unitarian Church or a Trinitarian church. And in the end, they couldn't agree. So they voted. So in my 17 year old mind, I could imagine a bunch of men sitting around a table voting on what I'm going to believe. Like, what is that? No, no, thank you. And so I really decided I'm not Christian anymore. And that was, that was a really sort of strange and difficult time for me because I did still believe in God. I wasn't denying God, I just did not believe that Christianity was the path to God at that moment. And was your,
I guess, change in faith? Was it presenting itself? Did your parents notice? I was living on campus. So in the United States, very often we move out and we live on campus, and I was living on campus. So they did not have any idea. Right? Yeah. And you didn't confide in them? or want to know, no, it was very personal, sort of journey. Yeah. So what was the process from that? I guess, confused, would you say or
That you were at that point? What was the process that got you from that to Islam? So it seems like such a big, such a big jump? Well, I wouldn't describe myself at doubt, as doubtful because I've been cursed and blessed, both, from very early age with always too much confidence, I always have way more confidence than I should have. And all things, including at 17 years old, when I decide decided I'm leaving Christianity, I believed very confidently that God exists. And I believe very confidently that there was a religion out there that he wouldn't create us and leave us alone, that there was a religion out there, I just needed to find it. Enough study means I'll find it. So that
was my very overconfident attitude. And hamdulillah handler for that, you know, sometimes too much confidence is doesn't work. But in that case, it worked. It was a blessing for me, but in a way that it was confidence in God. Because yes, it's knowing direct, he created me correct. He's not going to lead me astray, you know, you wouldn't have left human beings astray. So
that's great. That was a gift. It was your right. Yes, that's what it was. Right. And so I embarked on what I called my search, and I started reading and studying all these different religions. I thought, I'm going to leave no religion on studied, except for one, which I was certain was not worth reading. There's, of course, I'm sure you've guessed.
Really well, what I want to read about Islam for that religion, well, they cover women in blankets and put them in closets. That's what I used to say. So I did study, and I actually almost became a Buddhist, I was very enthralled with Buddhism, I read a book called Zen and the Art of motorcycle maintenance. It's actually wonderful book. And I thought, this is a beautiful religion. And the reason I loved it, what I loved about it was that doesn't get enough. So the real work that seemed to be taking place on the self. And again, I went to a professor like that was, was really a sort of an academic road for me to a degree. I found a professor who had a Buddhist club at the university,
I attended one meeting with them. And
I just, I left the meeting with a realization that while the delegates and nefs was very real, it wasn't for God. It was for the neffs. And in my view, if I'm going to do something for my next, why am I going to like didn't make sense? Why am I going to purify myself for myself? I should, if I'm not going to purify myself, for God, I'll just give myself whatever it wants. Right? You know, so I didn't become a Buddhist in that moment. I'm the law and continued on my path. But I, by December, I was kind of, in my impatient seven, I was 18. By now in my impatient, 18 year old self, I was like, why haven't I found a religion yet? And of course, other people spend a lifetime in these things.
But to me, I'm like two and a half months. That's ridiculous, what's going on? And so I was really
I was, I don't even know the word I was in this sort of state of frustration. That's good with frustration. And there were different international people on campus. And remember, I said that I was really interested in other worlds and other countries and other cultures. And so as a young man who was from another country, obviously, he wasn't a Muslim country. Not that I knew that. We were talking about some intellectual thing actually, we're arguing and I wasn't even like thinking about it. I kept I was thinking about my own religious struggle, so I paused the conversation I asked him what religion are you anyway? And he said, in a really funny American accent Oh, I moslem I'll never
forget that funny American accent because it sounded to me like he was really trying to be you know,
American about this and cool. And I laughed at him. I said, Oh, you're one of those people who put women in closets and cover them in blankets. He was really offended. And so the blessing of him being offended was that he now wanted to tell me how he wasn't that kind of person. And that was my first exposure to Islam. Actually, this really funny conversation where I was telling someone, you don't know anything. And if you don't mind me asking, when is this? Like? I'm just trying to December
in the 80s, December 1984. Okay. And that conversation, then, I mean, there are more details to the story. But does it turned into me really finding, it turned into a conversation about hate out, because I accused them of being people who have people who put women in closets and cover them with a scar blanket. And it turned into a conversation about his job. And I left that conversation, knowing nothing about Islam, but thinking that his job was a really cool idea. And I thought, Oh, you know, I should go to the national organization of women, which was a very powerful film. Well, it wasn't powerful in the 80s. But it was a very, it was an important sort of leftover feminist
organization, from the 70s that I was a member of, and I thought, Oh, I should go there and talk to them about this job. It's, it's a good idea. The really, the real issue that was in the 80s, was sexual harassment in the workplace. And I thought we can look at this hedgehog idea. And really consider how can we implement it? I mean, it was very naive, 18 year old idea.
But because I thought that I because my perspective about job changed, I thought maybe I need to give this religion a chance. And so I went and bought an English was tough. And from there, that's a translation of the translation of the Koran. Yeah. And that was the beginning of, and the rest is history, and the rest is history. Mashallah, oh, that's really lovely to hear, you know, because I think universities are such an amazing space. Because I know my own husband, he tells me how it was basically University where he discovered, even though he comes from a Muslim family, it was university where people were having those discussions and you're, you're away from home,
you're distant enough from your parents to have a little bit of space, I guess, to you know, do your own thinking. And you're in this environment full of people who, who want to think and, and share ideas and critically think, right.
And people are almost like, willing to try new things. And I think a lot of people would say that they actually changed direction in life, or discovered, you know, their path. Yeah, unfortunately, sometimes for many young Muslim people today, that direction, that change of direction is going in a direction that is not good for them in this life was just, but yes, I agree that university is definitely that sort of place where people begin to make their first adult decisions. Maybe actually, what I mean is that
a few decades ago, it was probably more likely that people would discover Islam. Now you're right. It's possibly the case that, you know, there's so much misinformation and pressure, I think, on young people that, you know, in some ways,
a lot of parents are afraid. When they wave goodbye to their son or daughter, you're not going to university course.
What would you say? Like, I'm just thinking, like, since you brought that up,
if there is a parent out there, who's, who's about to send their child, I'm actually one of them. My son is about to go to university, maybe in a year. And I'm thinking of sending him away from home, you know, just for him to like, grow up, to be honest, and just have that, you know, space, and then he did his own dishes. Yeah, exactly. I'll teach him you know, how to clean the bathroom for the first time properly. And, you know, let him
get out there and become independent in that sense.
But I guess at the back of your mind, you know, you do think, hmm, hopefully he'll be he'll meet the right people. Hopefully, he'll make the right friends. Hopefully, you know, nothing will happen that will,
you know, push him away, right off the path. So, do you have any, like insights or advice that you would show it's, it's a tough world, you know, and
just you have to keep praying for them. Really, I think as a mother, our daughter is really critical, and we have to continue to make to offer them on daily basis and really intense thought. Yeah.
It's hard. It's tough. I don't have the answers for that. Hola, Dion. All
Have them and it's a bit on how to set off on stopping because it's really, it's a tough world. I mean, yeah, it is. And you're right about that, because I remember when I was a student in Egypt,
my mom, it was the first time I was away from home. And it was like, so far away living by myself as well. 16 I don't know how my parents did it. But my mom says to me, like, the one thing she did was make so much stuff for me. And sometimes I think about that, and I think, wow, you know, I met certain people at certain times, and just the right time to push push me away or pull me away from something quite negative that could have happened, you know,
and just amazing things that happened. And people I suddenly met out of the blue, and I was thinking, that's probably my mom's die. Sure, absolutely. Did that Sinaloa? So never underestimate the power of Yeah. tendency to do we have a tendency to underestimate it. I think. Yeah, it's important that we don't underestimate it. And especially as a parent, they just keep it up. Yeah. So when you moved away from the Christian God, or the Christian idea of God, what did you find in Islam when it came to a lifespan, Diana? That? Well, I didn't know that. Hmm. That's an interesting question. I think that coming to Islam, meant that I came to
the religion that I believe that the god I already believed in, had given to us as its as his final religion for us. So I don't think necessarily my interpretation who God was changed a lot, at least in the beginning, it was actually in all honesty is really tough entering the Muslim community was not easy. I struggled quite a bit, it was 1985, there was lots of rhetoric that was quite anti woman, I came to some with much of my feminist beliefs in tact. And I know the word feminism in our community is quite
negative. But for me, feminism at the time meant just that, you know, I am going to be treated with a measure of dignity. And Muslims have a tendency to talk a lot about the dignity of women. But the reality is, we don't really treat them with dignity, not in our mosque spaces very often not in their homes.
The the cultures that we've built around Muslim women and femininity and what it means to be Muslim women are far more connected to sort of ancient Christian ideas about womanhood, instead of put onic and prophetic principles around what it means to be a woman and community and family and society and things like that. So in 1985, it was really tough. My concept of God, however, remained steady and strong. And Islam
helped me to build that in beautiful ways. As far as especially with prayer, and just the the connection to knowing how does God want to be worshipped. Like that was really important. I know God, and now and I now know how God wants to be worshipped. And I was able to have the law because of my evangelical background, I think I was able to differentiate between the community of Muslims and Islam is, as an evangelical, the whole idea isn't evangelical is there's a whole bunch of Christians that are not practicing correctly, and you need to sort of reach out to them and make them better Christians. So coming to Islam, and seeing this sort of the stresses that I saw in the
community, what didn't challenge my faith it does to many converts, many converts. In fact, the statistics that I last saw was 70% of Congress leave Islam, not because of issues of law, but because of issues of community. And so we definitely have work to do to take care of those issues, so that we can help to support our converts. But for me, hamdulillah I was really blessed because of my ability to sort of separate that out. Yeah, I shall not that was. Because I guess
that that is a crucial thing that often like when in doubt organizations here.
We do try to sort of emphasize that to new Muslims, you know, that Muslims are not perfect. Muslims are flawed, often as we should be. I mean, yeah, being as flawed, but I guess what I'm talking more about is not the individual that you might run into that is a jerk because you know, there are jerks in all groups, but rather a systemic
issues that we're dealing with, even the community, it's the systemic issues that have the most painful because those are the ones that you feel like there's approval out there sort of general approval and you wonder, is this from the Quran? Is this from the Sunnah? Because it's systemic. And so it takes quite a bit of reflection and learning to understand that it isn't. So can you like pinpoint one or two, like Stark things that, that you experience that?
I think really the one real basic issue that all Muslim women deal with is the whole issue of the mosque.
There are mosques that were built with beautiful architectural
intentions. And the study of Islamic architecture is the study of a study of how to raise people's hearts, how to help people focus on Allah in this in this space of spirituality. And then we architecturally teach women that they don't matter. raketech actually teach women that they're marginalized, we give them little rooms on the side, we build ugly walls between them or put dirty curtains between them and the main space, we teach women that they don't have to listen to the hotspot or the main speaker, because anyway, the speaker can't see them. And so they sit in a space where they can just sit and chat with each other, then we blame women for their bad behavior. But
we've never really taught them in a in a communal way, how to live in a larger space, the process items mosque was one space, the women, the women were in the back, the men were in the front end, children were generally in the middle. And so the children felt in between the parents and they were watched our children run like wild animals. God, I hate to say that, but it's really sad. Not because there's something wrong with our children or our parenting, because we haven't taught them. We haven't given them a space of sacredness, we don't teach this as a sacred space, Come here and sit down with us. Let's sit and learn together, let's worship together. They're running around women
are separated. In fact, one of the really dangerous things that's happening today is after 20 years of this separation and women praying behind a screen often is that women have begun to believe that it's alright to pray behind a screen. So you'll find them in at home following a screen from the Gobbo or some other person, which is fun lasers. Like that's not even okay, but we've taught them in the mosques. Oh, it's okay, stand behind the screen and follow the Imam. But you can't see you're not behind the lines. Like there really is some serious questions around here. The but that's not the question. The question is really the the architectural message we're giving women and, and worse
than that is a woman who is many women I've known who they need to pray. They're not they're not allowed into an empty male sections, because no pray on the street instead. Which is it's that's an utterly ridiculous, that's just ridiculous. It's so far from the prophetic son, that it's not even. It's just really frightening, actually. So maybe, I mean, though, there was, there was literally no barrier between the men and women in the Prophet's mosque in Medina sallallahu sallam, except to the barrier of taqwa, I guess, you know, the, the barrier that a person has, you know, that's how you learn to have a protocol to interact with people, too. Right? So we have this other liberal
hypocrisy going on our community, which is that at the mosque, you know, women can't even be in the sacred prayer area, they've got to be shunted off somewhere else. But the same community at the coffee shop, at work, yeah, at school, in whatever is quite free, in fact,
more so than they should be more than one. Yeah. And so we're really we have a lot of issues. But the, the issue as far as like the messaging to women, the systemic issue of the mosque is what's I'm really concerned about, because we're teaching young girls, you don't matter here.
And I think, like you said, people have fifth hand started to think that, you know, these barriers, etc. I think people have even started to think that is kind of like, impermissible for a woman to be to set foot in that space, you know, like it's, it's gone to that extent,
which has meant for many women in personal stories that they have, instead of being able to pray inside of a mosque on a day that they needed to pray, let's say, they had to pray in the street. How about this happening?
And so how does this make any prophetic sense? I just think about the brother, who had the, who has the audacity to say to his sister in Islam, yes, the mosque is empty, but we don't have a woman space. So you have to pray outside, pray outside exposing her to God knows what I mean, even just the words of the Prophet sallallahu Sallam saying, Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from the houses of Allah that should ring in brothers, his corner, and that should scare them. Absolutely. So that's a direct disobedience to the process I love if you tell a woman you cannot come in here to pray. You are in direct disobedience of the prophets I send them so long to sell
them and yeah, it's it's one of those things that annoys me as well. And it doesn't it but the more concerning to the annoyance is the systemic issue because it's it's become something we've all we all accept. Well, I think there was an excuse maybe in the early days when mosques were first being set up, you know, maybe brothers might have people might have an excuse that okay, we we've only got a limited amount of money. We need to make this in the UK. Yeah, like when immigrants first came and maybe they are coming from a background where women do
not go to the mosque, right? And I will say, actually from Asian. And I will say, Yes, I will say that geograph across geographies. And across the world, women lead very private lives before they let's say 19th or 18th century.
Before that, I don't know what century but there is a lot from for 1000s of years, women led private lives not only Muslim woman, women, we lead Private Lives between raising children and in families. And generally speaking, like even in Western culture, we had this thing called the coming out party. Why is their coming out party because the women loves it lead such private lives, she needed to, quote unquote, come out so she could be seen by other men so she could be chosen for marriage. And so the private lives of women.
Even and, sorry, if I just make me make a footnote, it just astounds me at the beauty of the prophets, I send them that in this large world where women really lead private lives, that still he would say, let them now do not prevent him as a woman, massage it Allah don't prevent these the female the women from from the mosques, even though most women, they lead a private life. So but today, the issue is women living public lives. Yeah, everywhere we are in the coffee shop, we are in the grocery store, we are at work, even we are in the public schools with our children, even a woman who is a homeschooling mom, focus 100% on a number of children at home, maybe caring for her parents
or in laws as well. She's also in the public life, she's because that's how we have to live our life, we have to go buy things, we have to go places. And so that we are now in the public life, but our mosques are not accepting us or embracing us. That's where the real modern issue is, I think that we've got to face the eyes of the time, we have to face what's happening today. And the immigrants that came they came in they built mosques that were like the mosques that they had at home. But they have to recognize that those mosques were built often or lived in often because of colonial peer, colonial or post colonial dictatorship rules. And Tomas that close between prayer
times, that's not a Muslim thing. That's a colonial or post colonial dictatorship thing, in order to prevent Muslims to gather so they don't create groups that will go against the colonial or post colonial dictatorship government. And so we need to do some real self reflection and thinking about why are our mosques the way they are, and then we need to just get brave, and have some courage and commit ourselves to the way of the process and them and change them. Absolutely. I think one of the things my teacher chef Akram nadwi, he highlighted, he's written a book about this, you know, the women in the mosques. And one of the things he highlighted was, especially in the Indian
often there was like, there were times of fear and danger, where scholars would give fatawa that the women should not go to the mosque, okay. Because of, you know, colonial violence issues, and also between between, you know, different factions and things like that. And so they would give a fatwa and then those fatawa would end up becoming enshrined. That's it and then the next generation would think that's the norm rather than a fatwa for a specific, you know, Thailand situation. So, so yeah, I mean, I think
I do feel that I am seeing changes, you know, we've got this beautiful new mosque in Cambridge, that's just been built other mosques as well, like I know a lot of sisters who are involved in their local mosque who have a say, who, I know that it's not widespread, and it's not everywhere. Yeah. But I do believe that the the generations coming up, they are becoming more open. I think I agree with you. And I know that I in the United States as well, more and more mosques are being built with a Prophet's mosque in mind, right. And really considering this, in fact, the newest mosque in Minnesota was built like that's beautiful. And I like it because those big windows do I'm a Windows.
So, yeah, I think you're right. I think one of the things I loved about Egypt was how passionate the ladies were to go to the mosque, you know, like in Cairo, they will be carrying their babies, they have their everything, you know, and they just want it to be there, like, obviously, especially in Ramadan, but even outside of Ramadan. For Juma, they felt as passionately, you know, to go, and obviously, the mosques are very big and spacious. So in Malaysia too, I loved Malaysia because of the mosques they were in they were open spaces. And yeah, like a square isn't it? You could see the whole thing you know, I mean, this thing about going to see a beautiful mosque and then not being
able to actually see it is really sad. So yeah, I really I appreciated that Malaysian experience for myself as well. Yeah.
chef, Chef, music rhymes with camera.
Can you say on camera that is the correct Yeah.
I don't want people
saying, Oh, she can't even pronounce my name it right. My name is Tamra. It's my birth name. My mother named me, Tamra. Actually my grandmother named me Tamra rhymes with camera. All around the world. Muslims are calling me things like tomorrow and tomorrow on things like this, but I'm working on helping them pronounce my name correctly. It's Yeah, so I am pronouncing your name correctly. I appreciate it so much. Thank you. Tamra. Yes. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
I love the way from the videos and content that I've seen
that you've produced online. I love the way you call sisters not just to talk about their rights and you know, but also to take responsibility. I find that really refreshing. Because we are in a time where rights are talked about a lot.
I'll give you an example. And maybe you can you elaborate on it.
Recently, you I think it was last Ramadan. There was a video you did with a sister who had made up all her fast. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about that situation? And, well, the fasting whole fasting issue is really important one because
a few years back, I put a post up on Facebook, about the fasting. And one of the was it was a very general sort of boring post. But it became something very exciting for, for
many, some people. And my point is one of the points I made in this, which is a very valid point is that a pregnant or nursing woman is not automatically. It's an automatic, so I'm pregnant, so I don't fast. I'm nursing, so I don't fast. And that became a very sort of touchy subject for many people. And I don't know why. Because what I'm actually saying is, you as a woman, are going to make this decision. And you're going to make this decision based on a number of different factors, keeping in mind the spiritual benefits of fasting for your unborn child. Anyway, so Leslie, who I did the video with before, she's in Minnesota with me. So she I, the first time I had said that to
her, she was surprised, because she had been told the second you're pregnant or nursing. There's no fasting automatic automatic. And so she had three young boys and she had not fasted for their pregnancy or their nursing. And she had a lot of loss. It was she has something like 200 and something days of fasting, his opponent, yes. And she determined Mashallah to go ahead and make them up. And I was so proud of her. And she, it was hard work, what she would do is in the wintertime, she would do a lot of fasting. And then in the summer do, I don't know if she did any or she just did much less. And over a period, I think of three years, she finished all those years of fasting
that she had accumulated. And so we did that. But we had a party for her as well. We got our cake, Muslims love cake, you know, and we got her deserve the party deserved a party and also I think was important for me to let women know that you can make these up, and you can make this decision about fasting. It is not an automatic as much as Yeah, that's a rumor going around. Yeah, absolutely. I like you said like, everyone's different. They might be different. Yeah, right. Right. I mean, there are pregnancies where you might be just fine. And it also depends on the time of year when when is when is Ramadan? Yeah, it depends. And how your age if there's so many factors, but that's the way
you look at the fact that you work with your doctor, you work with your doctor you consider and preferably a doctor, what I like to say preferably Muslim doctor, but I think what I want to say is a doctor understands the importance of the fast and the spiritual benefits of the fast for the unborn child as well. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I've been through four pregnancies and four bouts of breastfeeding. And I just so happened that I found it Okay, you know, and
found no excuse not to, and I even checked out with my doctor just to make sure. And my doctor, non Muslim doctor, she said to me,
You know what, your baby will adjust, you know, they'll fit, they'll eat when you eat, and they'll get the nutrition no matter what, you know. And she said to me, you know, you'll be fine. Because in every other way, I was fine. And, and so I never actually missed any.
And in fact, it was better than normal. Because obviously normally women have their menstrual cycle. And
for me, it was like, specially Yeah, I don't have to bring anything up. Right. Right. Right. Absolutely. I agree. Yeah, yeah. And what a blessing.
Yeah, so And like you said that we can't underestimate the spiritual benefit of these things because I think I don't know what you think about this, but sometimes sisters complain about you know, like, feeling low or feeling lack of imminent
Things like that. And sometimes we don't make that connection. But
these things that Allah has given us these acts of Eva.
They are the cure to that they help us with that. Absolutely. So when that sister so she made up will have fosse Yes. Mashallah, congratulations sister, Leslie Leslie,
from here from London. From all of us, we see you as a role model. Mashallah, that was excellent.
But also, I heard you in another talk, talking about the epidemic of missing prayers.
You see, for me, I find that refreshing because sometimes people want us to talk like, as public speakers and stuff, they want us to talk about side issues and other kind of popular topics.
But sometimes it's those fundamentals in there that need to be revisited. So
yes, oh, we have an epidemic. And, and we are a community that expects a lot. We want to be in a better place, and our families and our communities, and we want to change our stereotypes. But we aren't putting in the effort. There's an epidemic of missed prayers. Amongst those Miss prayers are two types. There are the Mr. prayers that are made up.
And then there are those that are not made up in person, I often ask in the audience, what do you think the percentage of people in the world are that pray all five prayers a day on time? Let me ask you, what do you think in all of your interactions with people,
of all the Muslims in the world, all Muslims in the world? Unfortunately, I think it is, because I've lived in certain countries, and I've seen the mosques empty. You know, Yvonne is going but nobody's turning up. And
I hate to say it 20%, I would, I would think it's even lower. I don't have a reality statistics about that. I think it's actually a research would be really important for people to do. But
in my personal experience with people. Now, of course, it depends. If you're thinking about people that don't pray at all, maybe it is around 20%. But if we're talking about people that pray, sometimes, whatever. So we're talking about a Muslim community, one of the likin of our of our life, the pillar of our life of faith, includes Salah, this ritual prayer. And as a community, we are missing now until about women, it gets even more intense, because for women, once a month, we're menstruating as you earlier referred to, with our prayer, we don't have to make that up. But we're struggling for the habit. Especially if we come to this attitude of, I'm on vacation. I'm this is a
week of offline, we can eat business. And this is somehow message that has been passed back and forth amongst Muslim women, and we have to learn how to have different language, I think we should start to talk about this time that is an advocacy, malice Allah, I don't have prayer. I think the translation of that is dangerous psychologically. And maybe an Arabic is not such a big deal because Salah is separate from dot advocate. But in English, we have one word for all three. And so instead of saying I don't have prayer, we can say I'm in my week of the kit. Wow, I'm in my week of dot and thicket. And I'm really focusing this week on my on my, the beating of my heart. And if we can start
think thinking like that, because if we add it up, if just do a little bit of math, and we think that from the beginning of a woman's menstrual life, until the end, really I know everyone is different, but just sort of typical average woman 13 to 52, let's say
I figured it out once I think they're 55 or 30 to 50 I don't remember, it adds up to 10 years of our life, not in menstruating 10 years that so those 10 years, we consider them vacation, God forbid from Allah, or I'm not praying. So it's a week of heedlessness, that means that we have 10 years of our life without any connection to Allah. What is that? That's scary. And that's not from Islam. That's from our own culture that we've built. That's not it's not telling us that, that we have to do this. And yes, you could respond to me by saying, well, isn't it such that if you if you pray regularly, and then you're not praying because you went straight, you get the same reward? salutely.
But if we are coming to that with an attitude of vacation, I'm coming to this with an attitude of I did not connect into Allah this week. That's really a spiritual question. So what happens is when we come back after this week, we're reestablishing the habit again and again, instead of saying, well, even during this week, even if I sit down,
at least, at least the one that people are struggling with. At least I'm waking up anyway. I'm holding my Mr. Ha, I'm reading my dog book. I'm just saying stuff out for even if it's three minutes, just having a moment where you say I am still
Yeah, Muslim believing person and I was still a worshipper of Allah. Allah. Yeah.
So holla that's,
that's so true. I mean, and I think what happens also is sometimes you can, in a way, get out of practice, you know, and then kind of have to struggle to re establish your habits of purity, and you know, all of those things. And then you have this sort of waiting, so a woman who has finished her period, how many days after that, to wait till she gets back to the reality, you have a lot of a lot of conversations to have with one another and a lot of work to do by taking seriously the most important relationship in our life, which is a relationship between us and Allah, before the one with our husband before the one with our children, before the one with our friends or even our
parents is the relationship with a less hands on and we can't neglect it, we just cannot neglect it. I think the great thing about you highlighting that the whole topic of salah and that epidemic of missing prayers is that, you know as like you said as an Omar we want a law to make us the greatest people we want a law to take away this oppression to take away you know the difficult situations Muslims find themselves in around the world. And yet the first and most important act of worship and come on of our lives which is worship me. And you know, pray those five prayers when neglecting and we're expecting
you know, miracles to come down from the sky to help us I I like to remind people of is that when alesse pantalla refers to the hedgehog, which is the night prayer, I was the most important. So I would say in that as your time and refers to this in the Koran he speaks to the process as prayed to has used so that you can reach my common Moodle, a praiseworthy
station station. And so as a community, if we want to reach a praise worthy station, we need to not only be praying our fuddled prayers, we pray into history. And I really, I think desert is a keystone habit. So I would recommend to people that even if you're struggling with your five daily prayers, go ahead and set intending for it is going to just pull everything into shape. And you'll really find yourself doing much better in those five prayers as well. Yeah, and I think it's about holding ourselves to a minimum standard. Certainly most of us wouldn't feel disgusted by not brushing our teeth twice a day, right? Like, we would be disgusted, we would probably not sleep well
if we just went to sleep. Right? Because it's so ingrained in us that this is a must for me. And I've seen people who didn't used to pray, become, you know, devout, devout worshippers of Allah praying with their five prayers and even more.
And I think the main switch that took place in their mind was that, you know, this is a must. This is like, my basic hygiene, my basic everyday like, it's gonna keep me alive in my spirit. Right? Absolutely. And I think when that
switch takes place, you know, it becomes easier
for people to kind of
commit commit. Yeah.
Because we're committing to things all the time. I'll certainly it's not like people who are not committed to Salah are not committed to anything of course, right? Of course, it is. Is it an important enough thing in your mind that you've made your relationship with Allah? Number one?
Yes, it does. Allah Theron, for that.
You touched on the top topic of harassment. And you mentioned it in another context.
But I was thinking about this topic recently. And
you know, just the whole fact that, like you said, in the public space, now, there's a lot more mixing of men and women and even in Muslim Muslim organizations. You know, there's a lot of brothers and sisters working together.
Recently in seminary that I was studying in, they had a policy that they brought out, and they, which I thought was great, you know, they kind of, I don't know what they called it gender interaction policy or something like this, where they kind of highlighted to the brothers and to the sisters, what the kind of Code of Conduct was going to be for the organization. But also what I thought was great was how sisters or brothers, you know, could report any kind of fraction, right, that took place. And they made it really clear, and I'm guessing that this isn't normal for all Muslim organizations, which is why it's it stands out. And they made it really clear that we are
here to listen, you know, if if there are any complaints from females, especially they said to female students, you know,
because most of the teachers are male, right?
And they do have a barrier
But not really full barriers, just a barrier between the male and female students, but not the teachers there. Yeah. And obviously, you have to work with teachers to do different things like work on dissertations. And so they made it very clear that we are going to listen, you know, and and you should never be afraid to approach us. And I thought that was great, you know? Yeah, I saw, um, what are your observations about Muslim organizations and what they can do to prevent kind of spiritual abuse? Yeah. Spiritual abuse? Well, I think it's really important to think that listening piece Ravani on Yeah, because really, the what's really happening with Muslim women is that they're afraid
to report, they're afraid to not be believed. They're afraid to be ostracized, they're afraid to lose their place in the community that they've worked so hard in, in establishing that either as a student or what have you think that's critical. And I'm really impressed and happy with that policy. And I hope that it's successful for them. And hopefully, they won't have any problems at all. But if they if they do, I really am happy with the listening. I think that's really important.
I think as a community, we need to just be able to be aware that spiritual abuse is real. And in the United States, Dr. Ingrid Mattson is doing a really wonderful job. She has something called the heart of my project. And she's, in fact, there's a conference coming up in January around it, where she's really looking for real solid research in this area, how we can learn from other
groups and and how then we can apply that in our own community. I think it's difficult because when we're talking about spiritual abuse, we have a lot of complicated pieces here around
how do we discipline? People are asking me, is there repentance? So if there is a person who spiritually abused women, or sexually abused them or harass them? Is there repentance? Can he come back to take that position? Again? It's an interesting question.
And, you know, I don't, I don't certainly don't claim to have all the answers. For me, what's important is that we protect women. And most of that we protect their faith, because I think that spiritual abuse or sexual abuse within the spiritual community or spiritual relationship is more dangerous than any other kind, because it can affect your data, it can affect your ability to hold on to your religion, and so it's not just a threat to your dunya, it's a threat to your demand your athleta. And so in that space, I'm very concerned with protecting women. And
I think we need to have ways to, we want to make sure that men who are predators are not moving from one community to the next as they're kicked out. So I think that's Yeah, outside of listening, probably the second thing is to have a way to communicate between organizations so that if you fire someone, they're not just going to the next organization working there, and you as your organization, not being honest with them about why he was fired, I think that we do have to be professionally responsible, right. And other than that, you know, we have to, I certainly hope for redemption for for anyone, but we have to be really responsible and be concerned about the victims
and take care of them. In general, though, also, like, sometimes I get complaints from or not really complaints, but I get contacted by sisters asking for advice. And this isn't related to abuse, but this is about gender interactions in general. Right. I get contacted, unfortunately, it's becoming more common sisters calling me and asked and really distraught about the fact that their husband works in a Muslim organization, where there are a lot of sisters. Okay. And they feel that it's negatively impacted their marriage. It's a completely different thing. You know, and when I'm thinking about process, certainly because the, you know, the, we have so much to work on. And I
think for a practicing Muslim man, to be fair, he probably has more, I'd say barriers up for himself internally between him in the non Muslim world, because he doesn't consider them an option. But with a Muslim practicing woman, she becomes very attractive to him. And at the Muslim that I kind of flirtatious and bringing tea and you know, sweet and nice. He's only seeing them at work. He goes home and he sees a woman who is tired and exhausted and needs a break from the kids. And he's like, why are you not, you know, cute with me, like so and so's cute with me at work? That's not an excuse. That's not at all. No way. I don't want to be misunderstood here. I'm not saying that.
That's okay. I'm saying that's what's happening. Yeah. I don't know that for the woman at home, that there's an actual solution for that. She has to
Just really be the
chance to just really,
she needs to get strong with Allah, so that she can have her life and be pleased with her life and,
and create a beautiful family as much as she can. For the women. I mean, I'm a predator man and a predator woman are both in sin. So if you are a woman who is flirting with your boss, or with men at work, thinking I might become their second wife, you are a predator. And if you're breaking up the First Family, they're sending that I mean, it we're not. In the UK, as far as I know, in the United States, at least, I do know that it's not legal to have a second marriage. And so if you're entering into that marriage, you're entering into it without legal papers. And so you're denying yourself rights, legal rights of the marriage and divorce and all the other things. And you're also possibly
breaking up that first family. So if you're capable of standing for Alice pantalla.
With that, I broke up a family.
So my desire, I mean, that's pretty scary stuff. Sure, Tamra. You know, we're talking about what I like about our conversation is we're talking not just about, you know, men, and where they need to pull their socks up. But also, you know, we can talk about women and when they need to, they need to polish their socks off. Should it be there. Right.
What I want to like one of the things that I'm noticing is, sometimes it's not even about somebody wanting to become a second wife.
I think sometimes unfortunately, it's just the culture of over, you know, any interaction, too much interaction too much chitchat?
At the end of the day men and women enjoy flirting, you know, there's there's a, there's a certain aspect of that, even that Chase, you know, you don't necessarily have to, it doesn't have to it doesn't have to achieve anything at the end. Just that interaction, there's fitness in it, there's a spark in it. Right. There's danger in it, I would say. And I think it's,
I wonder what you think about this, I think it's up to sisters and brothers to have their own internal checklist, I guess, of,
you know, what the barriers are, what the lines are, you know, and how to keep themselves. Like, for example, one organization that I was in,
we we had this policy, I'm not saying that it's a must, but it certainly helped that when we would, you know, like, send emails to one another. And especially because it was so often, you know, and these are people that you're going to meet regularly, we would have somebody else in that email interaction.
And although that might not be obligatory, right? There's lots of things are not obligatory, right? Sure. But that but we impose on ourselves. Because we know that Siobhan is there.
And I certainly noticed that the emails where somebody else is present,
are way more formal and way more
sensible than, than the ones where and you become a bit lazy, become a bit lacks so and Chopin doesn't get to us. overnight. These these relationships, inappropriate relationships that I develop overnight,
is what we do is step by step. So yeah, I wonder what your thoughts are on that? Well, I have a couple Generally, the advice I give people, women or men, but women are the ones are usually talking to me is that when you're in a workplace, whatever that workplace is, or at school, as a student, and you have workgroups, when many girls and boys, many women, the word to carry with you is professional, I'm a professional. And because when you're when we think of the word professional, we really understand what that means. We understand that there is a certain way of sitting a certain decorum, certain way of talking, that we are not becoming lazy in that. And I think that word helps
us to hold on to the the Islamic precepts of interaction between any human being. And I think really add up and good behavior and manners is something that is always best done in the public space. So even. And also, to be honest with you, I think work gets done better when we're all talking in front of each other. So I run an international global organization.
We have people volunteers from all over the world. And we I use WhatsApp actually, for much of our communication. And we are all women. Okay, so I'm not concerned about some of the things that I'm talking about. But still, I'm always pushing people to talk in the public thread. So we'll have a thread for let's say, robots are online, our robot team. And if someone from that team talks to him privately and asks me something, I'll say, Why are you asking me privately, go back to the team.
Ask in front of the team. It's a learning for everyone else, and helps us create policy. It helps us to know what's going on in the organization and said something about that, because you're talking about the emails that have a third person on them. I think that's very healthy, not just for the personal professional interaction to remember that we're professionals. But also, it's helpful for the organization to have the more people involved in a conversation.
Once we learn to speak in front of people, we begin to remember that even when we're private, we're always in front of Allah. And in this day, and age where everything is saved, everything can be screenshot, and everything can be sent anywhere, we need to know really well that nothing is private, I never say anything, without realizing that what I'm saying can be screenshotted. I hope, I hope that my thought law is more than that, that I know that the screenshot is going to allow first, I really hope that I'm human like everyone else. And I include in my Alissa's, my screenshot with human beings could see it as well. And I need to make sure that everything I say is within my
My own definition of what it means to be professional, a woman of a woman of a man and faith. Hopefully, I found working on all of these things that we need to talk about this in our Muslim workplaces, we need to talk about Islam, Imam Hassan, Allah sees us allies watching the screenshot idea. And I certainly would encourage all Muslim organizations to discourage private conversations, and really include the work and public discourse so that we can all learn and grow together and understand what the culture and ethos is of that organization. Yeah, I think really important to remember that none of us is immune. Because I think sometimes when we're working in a Muslim
organization, we think we're we're doing less work. Right. Yeah. Good point. So we start thinking we're immune to a lot of things, you know, yeah, that's right. And that that's a door for sure. Yeah, absolutely. It is Akela. Heron. And so Scheffer Tamra, I'm going to ask you, I'm gonna graduate, like in a few weeks, allegedly graduation. And it's been a long time, like, study and because I did it with kids, and all that kind of thing, or
I'm gonna be giving a speech, I'm gonna be giving advice to fellow students of knowledge. So this is people who've studied, you know, advanced Islamic Studies, the Sharia etc.
Can you give me some ideas?
What advice would you give, especially the female students, but somebody who wants to be in it for the long haul? You know,
I think that the advice I generally give people want to be in it for the long haul, I'd like that I need
to do speed Fast Forward isn't
i three things. One is that. So the advice I often give to women on this path, especially that are further along the path, that we need three things, all of us and I include myself in this, we need a solid, solid, I bought the schedule.
And that is critical, I can't emphasize it enough. And those need to be it needs to be number of hours in the day and it has to be include must include the hazard. and preferably it will include the kit and things that you will hold, even when you're menstruating, obviously put it on. And that needs to be solid and needs to be we need to be committed to it. And it needs to be always and if there's a day or two because of our schedule, that it becomes less, we make it up. And so that's really, that's a critical point. And without that solid basis of Iboga, what's going to happen is that as we speak about Islam, people will begin to eat our religion. And because we're not
refilling, people are eating like we're basically we're feeding people, right, we can think about this in a spiritual way. We're feeding people of our knowledge are feeding people of hopefully the light that we are pulling from our own relationship, as we feed people that are giving. So we need to, we need to replenish. And if we're not replenishing, we'll find ourselves one day empty. And there's a Nevada there's a principle of law, which says, if you have I know, you know, but I'll say it for the podcast, which is if you have only enough water to make hold with
you, it's not good charity or good. It's not good to give that you don't give it away. You hold it for yourself because you need to make holdall and so in the same way with religion, we don't want to give it all away, we have to continue to fill, otherwise we're gonna end up God forbid in a space where we ourselves, are dealing with all the diseases of the people we're working with. Because when you're working with people, you're soaking up their issues, is soaking up their problems as you're going home with them. And you need to get rid of them and the only way to do that and come back to yourself or I shouldn't say the only one
The critical ways to do that and come back to yourself is through a solid, I bought the schedule. That's number one. Number two, it's sahabah.
You must choose your choose your people, choose your people. And you need to have someone who is older than you who can continue to help you along the way, let's say older than you on the path a little bit doesn't have to be cannabis can be a few years or, and then also a system along the path, someone who's walking with you on this path. Both of those are really important one or two or three or four or more even better, depending if you're extroverted introvert, I suppose. But that song was critical, because we need to have a person who's going to tell us No, not like that. No, that's not No, no, hang on a minute. That's not that's not a good idea. Yeah. And we also need people who are
going to say, what you're about to do is scary, but be brave. That's important. And we need people are going to say to us, just, you know, hey, you need a cup of tea, or coffee, or whatever it is you like to drink. Or maybe just, I'll come over and watch the kids for a minute while you go back to that solid Ibiza schedule that you need to have some time with. So I knew that cyber people can be honest and real with because there's a level of vulnerability that I know that all leaders struggle with how vulnerable will we be I tend to over share, be a little bit overly vulnerable. And people look at me and think, Wait, are you actually a teacher in this world, because you're just way too,
people will say that, like literally say that to me, like I don't know, someone told me you're, you're a religious teacher, but you're just a little bit too, down to earth for
me to be more serious, I'm just not quite serious enough. I do have jokes and things like this. But anyway, but we need people to be vulnerable with and to be ourselves.
And the third thing I'll say is that I Love never ends.
We want to continue to learn and make sure that as we are continuing to learn, we are following sort of a systemic process. And I think actually,
I want to say something else. So that's Ford, I have to I might have to find five, then because I have, I have to have an odd number, you know, but it's very important to become a planner. So even if you're not a planner, become a planner, so that you can fit in all things into your life. Otherwise, you may get overwhelmed. And there's a lot of demand. And women in this world in this field, a lot of demand. And to sort of pick out of my fifth is going to be getting assistant.
So get an assistant, be a planner, pick out what's important, where you're going to speak and when know that things will change, that your life will change, you're and make sure that you are controlling your message whenever wherever that is whether it's in the digital world, or in the sort of face to face world or both. Make sure your purpose you're reaching a goal you're reaching towards something. And, you know, make your own mission statement. You know, positive cultural change through creative educational experiences is mine. And it's part of who it is this whole organization. But everywhere I go, I want to talk about positive cultural change. Everywhere I go, I
want to create a new educational experience to me, be on your podcast today is an educational experience for others and of course for me as well. But it's also an educational experience. It's something that people will be able to hopefully experience with us and live with us. And so when you are focused on your goal, make a plan. And be clear. Hopefully you won't burn out you have to fight burnout, fight burnout get help in the house. If you don't have someone coming in to clean your house, get someone to come and clean your house at least once a month. So all the deep stuff somebody else can do. If you say you can't afford it, start charging more for your lectures. It's
really important or this won't be time to do everything that we need to do seek Baraka and our time of course through our labs and through all the things that we're doing, but at the same time recognize that it's okay to get help. Sometimes women don't want to help. It's okay to have help.
I have a cleaning lady. I'm very happy to have she's my she's part of my team. I consider absolutely my team because I don't think I could do a lot of things 100% help. Absolutely. my early days when I was working full time studying full time and then working part time and giving classes there is no way no way I could have done that without a regular woman who absolutely is part of my life now and may God bless her and Mashallah, she she has been blessed in many ways already. Just like an affair and she for Tamara. It's been so wonderful. I mean, I'm going to be using those tips in my graduation speech, inshallah. It's been wonderful to meet you and I look forward to one day coming
to America to visit you come for our literary conference. You are a writer. I would love to have you there. And if I may tell people where to find me.
Find me on Twitter.
At Tamra al gray, also on Facebook, Dr. Tamra gray, I think is what it is there. I'm also on Instagram at Tamra al gray, and my organization is called the robots are a BA ta.org. Registration is open now for our online academic
Institute, where we teach a full curriculum of Islamic Studies put on an Arabic Wow. And we have two certificate programs one Islamic teachers also an Islamic teachers, studies certificate, Islamic Studies teacher certificate, also a religious leadership certificate. And the goal is to to create a tide a rising tide of Muslim women leaders in all of our communities that have a good grasp on lm therapy, and can help everyone live in the shelter of one another. I've also written a book called joy jobs, it's in a second edition, we have an online book club on telegram that you can join. It's called joy jobs book club, broadcast. And if you're not familiar with telegram, it's really easy,
you can just go there, then click the discuss button at the bottom and be part of that weekly discussion. I mentioned the literary conference and Mashallah your book just recently won
in best cover, so congratulations. And I really do hope you can come and present about what it means to be writer for you here in the UK. And that's in Minnesota in November. We also have an eye badger retreat in October, every summer, we have a robot retreat, we have a lot going on all around educational experiences to help us create positive cultural change within our personal selves and our families and our communities. And hopefully, really uplift bring us all to Mohamed Mahmoud to this lofty station. And actually talking about that we have 200 threads as well. And WhatsApp for those who would like to be encouraged to wake up and they're in different time zones. For any of our
worship programs, you can email circles of [email protected] and get information about 200 threads, information about the jobs book club, information on our a badger retreat all of those things. Otherwise, it's only bot.roberta.org for our online academic program daybreak.robata.org for our online bookstore, and all of our publications are there as well, as well as our new contest winners, those are all at level two.org you'll be able to see those and you can ask your audience to go and check it out so they can see your award winning cover best cover masala beautiful cover, I haven't read it. I haven't read your book, because
I i because I didn't I apologize, but I will now I gave it to me as a gift. I really appreciate that. And I'm looking forward to reading it. I am sure my family. As we all know, my publisher, he he really put a lot of work into the front cover. So credit really goes to him. And you know, I do hope that he I'm going to be phoning him up afterwards. So let him know, I want to say that even though that's true, and I'm a publisher, so I always appreciate those kudos. But the cover comes from the story, the book, so you're writing in inspired that cover. So congratulations to you too. And I hope that I hope this reward is something that will help your book sell. And I hope that more
and more people will read it and will benefit from it and we'll get in libraries and schools around the world. I hope so too. And I really appreciate that.
Scheffer. Tamra, I'm gonna say Salaam to you now and thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. So dear brothers and sisters hamdulillah we've we've had a wonderful conversation with Shaka Tamra and I hope you really you know, enjoyed that and I hope you're taking notes sometimes. You know, I know that podcasts are kind of seen as something to listen to. But you know, Mashallah for me when I listen to podcasts if there's something amazing something interesting some gems I was note them down and have my little book of inspiration. So I hope you're doing that too.
Please do share this podcast episode with your family and friends help them feed YouTube channel to get 200,000 subscribers that's what we would love to do. And remember that you can listen to us on all the different podcasts platform so when you're going for a walk when you're doing the dishes I personally listen to podcast when I'm ironing
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