Secrets Of A Muslim Woman

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Fatima Barkatulla

Channel: Fatima Barkatulla

Episode Notes

Secrets Of A Muslim Woman By Sister Fatima Barkatulla

Episode Transcript

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Secrets of a Muslim woman by Fatima barkatullah.

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When people see a Muslim woman in the local High Street, covered from head to toe, exposing nothing but her eyes or her face and hands, all sorts of thoughts can enter into their minds. Why would anyone dress like that? It can't be her choice. Surely, some man is definitely forcing her to wear that.

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feelings can range from curiosity and pity to sometimes complete horror at what looks like a religion that oppresses women. And maybe you too, have felt some of those things in the past. What doesn't really seem to add up is that even though Islam seems to be the least appealing way of life for women, more and more intelligent, educated, independent women in the West, are actually choosing to live as Muslims. Now, why would they want to do that?

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Everyone seems to have an opinion on women in Islam. The French president has his opinion, jack straw had his opinion, and probably even your local cabbie has something to say. everyone's asking everyone else except the women themselves.

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Well, this is a chance for you to hear from me and Muslim woman, in my own words, why I choose Islam.

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My name is Fatima, and I'm the mother of three young boys. I'm a journalist and I'm a Londoner, I drive a Honda Jazz, and I do the school run and shopping tescos and do all the things that a busy mom would do. And I'd like to share with you what it is to be a Muslim woman.

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The phrase women in Islam conjures up certain images in people's minds. Some may think of Islamic practices such as wearing the hijab or the worker, and how oppressive hiding away your whole body must feel. Others may think of stories they've heard of in the papers, forced marriages, honor killings, things that Islam actually totally condemns. But some crazy Muslims are guilty of doing. And to be honest, if you thought of any of those sorts of things, I would completely understand. Because most of the time when Islam is mentioned in the popular media, it's mentioned along with those sorts of things with little explanation from a Muslim perspective. And on top of that, there

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are some Muslims out there who are doing terrible things that are either twisted interpretations or cultural practices that have nothing to do with the religion of Islam. In fact, they're things that Islam forbids.

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Wouldn't it be unfair to judge all Muslims and to judge Islam by the actions of just a few people, if we want to look at any religion in a fair, rational way, using our common sense, we should surely take a look at what the teachings of that religion are, and not judge it by what we've heard in the media or by looking at what we've seen just some of its followers do. It would be totally unfair of anyone to judge say, Christianity by the actions of the IRA, or what happened in the Spanish Inquisition, or what Adolphe Hitler did, or anyone else who claims directly or indirectly to be a Christian. If we want to know about Christianity, we should go to its sources, its founding fathers

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and see what they said. Likewise, it would be unfair to judge Islam by the actions of some Muslims who are not being true to its teachings. If we want to look at Islam in a fair way, we have to look at what the teachings of Islam are from its sources.

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To understand why I do the things I do as a Muslim woman, we really got to look at what the essential teachings of Islam are. And I'd like to share that worldview with you in the hope that we might understand each other better. Because the reason why I live as a Muslim is very much to do with my whole worldview. And the fact that I believe in an all wise creator, we set guidance for us to follow and messengers to teach us that guidance is inextricably linked to everything I do, even the way I dress.

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Now, this is going to take a bit of explaining so I hope you'll bear with me.

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So what are the basic beliefs and teachings that for my worldview,

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I'm inviting you on a journey. I hope you'll accompany me. It's the journey that I took.

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Have you ever laid in bed at night and gazed up at the stars and wondered where this vast universe came from?

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That's where the journey began for me.

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And you know, when I thought about the huge planets, the distant stars, the millions of species of animals, insects, birds and plants that there are on this earth, the blossom on the trees, the colorful flowers and sweet luscious

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Fruits, the blue sky and the gentle spring breeze.

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And by thinking about all those things, and reflecting on them, I could see the evidence and the signs, the signs for what the signs I mean, are the signs that show us that there is a creator, a maker and a sustainer. These things couldn't just have come from nothing. In my human experience, I've never found something coming from nothing. My human experience tells me that when I see something working according to precise laws and patterns, then someone will something has definitely made it work that way, and put the order there.

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That's why if an archaeologist finds even the simplest piece of pottery in the desert, he can examine that piece of pottery, and tell us about the civilization that made it he can tell us that in order for people to have been able to make that piece of pottery, they needed to have clay. And in order to set the pottery, they needed to bake the clay. And he might say that in order to be able to shape the clay and bake the clay, they must have had such and such technology and come from such and such time period.

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And he could say that there is no clay found in this area, the clay is 50 miles away, so they must have transported it.

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And in order to transport the clay, they must have had these means of transportation, and such and such tools, he could tell us this from just looking at that simple piece of pottery. And then the archaeologist could read the writing on the pottery and tell us even more about the civilization that made it.

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So for the archaeologist, the existence of this simple piece of pottery is conclusive proof of the existence of the people who made it. He doesn't need to have met them, or seen them or their towns or their ovens to know that they existed. Because the piece of poetry itself, which is the evidence he has proves to him their existence and their level of advancement. And if what those people created is not only sophisticated or functional, but is beautiful and intricate and looks good, then we have an even higher level of appreciation for that society. Because it shows that not only do they have technological abilities, but they have the sophistication to appreciate beauty. All these

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things would prove to us that the people who made the object or the technology existed and were intelligent. Why? Because we don't find something coming from nothing. If someone told me that this drinking glass that I'm holding in my hand came from nothing, I would never believe them. If they claim that a volcano erupted and 1000s of particles flew through the air and landed and hit some other materials and cause reactions, and then the rain fell and the particles called and that caused this perfectly formed glass to appear, I'd say Are you out of your mind? Has anyone seen a glass perfectly formed through a process of coincidences?

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No, of course they haven't. We don't find order spontaneously coming from chaos and disorder.

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locker and the book that is the source of Islamic teachings encourages us to look at the universe to reflect upon ourselves. And we will find clear science. It tells us to look at the order in the world around us, the vast universe with its billions of stars and galaxies and closer to home at the impressive human body.

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Look at the order that exists in every system of the human body. Everything ticking along nicely like a precise mechanism. our lungs helped us to take over 10,000 breaths a day, and our kidneys have their essential purifying functions. And our hearts have been beating nonstop since we were in our mother's wombs and still beat 100,000 times a day, pumping oxygen and nutrients around our bodies nonstop. And we don't even have to think about it.

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Our eyes are more advanced than the most advanced camera, our brain more competent than the latest computer. All this sophistication and ordering that we see in every part of the universe demonstrated to me the wisdom and knowledge and power of the one who ordered it.

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Now I hope I'm not sounding too preachy. I'm just trying to share with you the thought processes I went through that shaped the way I live my life. When I think about how the universe

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began and how it's expanding every moment. And I think about our blue planet floating in orbit around the sun, which is just one star out of 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone. And our Milky Way galaxy is just one of billions and billions of all the galaxies in the universe, thinking about these things, and thinking about how our Earth is just the right distance from the Sun for life to exist on it. If it was any closer, we would burn up. And if it was any farther, we would all freeze to death and life would cease to exist.

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Thinking about how the earth is just the right distance from the Sun for life to be able to exist on it, I just can't accept that it's just a coincidence.

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I find it amazing how the Earth is spinning on its axis at exactly the right rate 24 hours for one rotation,

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I wonder what would happen if the earth suddenly slowed down. So that one day and night took one year, or 30 years, or 50 years, the sun would continuously be beating down on one part of the earth and would dry out the plants and the surface of the Earth would overheat. And on the other side of the earth, it would be dark and cold for so long, that plants couldn't photosynthesize and grow, life would cease to exist. Yet we see that because the earth is a finely tuned mechanism. It is teeming with life. And every year new species of life are discovered.

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When I think about that, and the perfect composition of the gases in the atmosphere, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide and other trace gases. All these are needed in just the right proportion for life to be able to exist on earth.

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And when I think about the ozone layer,

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the Earth is the only planet that has one that protects it sufficiently from the sun, and stops us being harmed by it.

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So when I asked myself, did these things just happen accidentally? Is it all mere chance? I just can't accept that.

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The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear that the earth is a perfectly and precisely balanced mechanism, more sophisticated and intricate, and the most sophisticated mechanical watches.

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Even the most basic building block of life, the cell is incredibly complex. Just one cell of the human body is like a mega city, containing complex processes and systems allowing waste products out and beneficial nutrients in each cell contains factories that produce substances and break down chemicals. They contain the machinery to be able to reproduce themselves. Each cell has special tasks and characteristics. The nerve cells are different to the skin cells and the blood cells are not the same as the brain cells. So the simplest building block of life is so complex.

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Is it all just chance, no chance.

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You know, I can't see anything in our entire human experience to allow me to believe that these things could be the product of random events, as some people claim,

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asking me to believe that is not reasonable or rational. In actual fact, it's rational and reasonable to me to believe that there is an intelligence, there is a force, there is a power behind all of this.

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The universe around us couldn't have created itself because a collection of stars, galaxies, atoms and cells don't have the ability to create and design.

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And we know that we certainly didn't create it because we ourselves are in need of a creator.

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The Qur'an was the book that was telling me to use my intellect, and it contained reasonable rational arguments for the existence of a creator. It told me that it's not just about blind faith, it has to make sense, there has to be proof. And the proof is all around us.

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Just taking a fair and honest look at the universe around me made me realize that it didn't create itself and it didn't come from nothing. So there must be one who brought it into existence.

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So if it makes sense that there is a creator, what about the nature of the Creator? What is the creator like?

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The creator of the universe cannot be of the same nature.

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This universe, because if the creator was of the same nature as the universe, then the creator would also need a creator. And that creator would need a creator and it would go on forever and ever. And so nothing would be created. So the Creator is not like the creation.

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And since the universe is temporary, the creator is eternal, since the universe is in need of someone to create it, and make the laws that make it work. The Creator is self sufficient, he needs no one.

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And the fact that the universe works in harmony without conflict, points to the unity of the Creator, because if there was more than one creator, the laws would conflict with each other, and there wouldn't be the harmony, we see. This is what the Quran teaches us about God. And I'd like to share with you some of the Quranic teachings about God because I found it very refreshing.

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The Quran teaches us that he is one God is eternal, not limited by time because he created time. He's self sufficient, he doesn't need anyone. And he brought this universe into existence and maintains it continuously. God is not part of the universe, nor does God become something that is a part of this universe, because that would mean he would take on the characteristics of creation.

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He's not like human beings. He's not just some father in the sky. He's neither male nor female. I'm referring to him as he because it's the most appropriate word in the language and because God refers to himself as he in the grand

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In fact, the word that we use in Arabic for God, Allah is a very unique word. It can't have different genders like the word God can, gods and goddesses. And it has no plurals like the word God can have. And the word Allah is not a new word at all. It means the one who deserves to be worshipped. The Quran talks about the nature of God and says that God does not take the form of human beings. And it speaks to those who believe that Jesus is God. In reasonable and rational terms. It informs us that Jesus was a great messenger of God, who never told people to worship himself or his mother.

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It asks us that if God wanted to destroy Jesus, and Mary, and all that isn't the heavens and the earth, who could stop him. It reminds us that they add food and walked on the streets like other human beings, not characteristics of God. If you ever read the Quran, you'll find that it moves us away from worshipping creation.

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It tells us don't worship the sun and stars and other human beings and idols. It tells us they cannot benefit nor harm us. The things that people worship and call upon, can't even help themselves. So why do human beings worship other human beings? Why do we allow other human beings to tell us how to live?

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The Quran tells me that the one who made me is the only one who is worthy of my worship.

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I can call on him directly. I don't need any intermediaries. And that in reality was the message of all the prophets. The men sent as messengers by God, prophets like Noah, and Moses, and Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all.

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Sometimes the messages of the past prophets were changed by people, but they were all from the same God. They all came with the same essential message with just some of the laws, they came with being different. They told us to worship the Creator, and that means to obey Him and to live our lives as he tells us to, because he knows us best.

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I didn't find anything unreasonable or irrational, in the teachings I've just mentioned to you. When we look at the creation around us. Everything seems to have a place and purpose and be working in harmony and at peace with the natural world. Except for human beings, that is

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even the things we do every day, we do for a reason and the purpose. And if I asked anyone, why do you go to work? They'd say something like I do it to use my talents for something worthwhile or to earn some money. And if I asked, What's the purpose of this pen, you might say to write words with a we could ask about anything, and people would be able to tell us what the purpose of those things was.

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So what about us? What about him?

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beings? What's the purpose of our lives?

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a creator that created such a vast and remarkable universe and created within us the faculties to question and ask, why am I here? Surely he would answer the question and tell us what our purpose is.

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And yet, if you ask most people, why are you here? What's the purpose of your existence? They wouldn't be able to tell us.

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The one who made us knows us and would surely tell us why we're here.

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If I bought a new laptop computer, a Sony VAIO, let's say, and they were features in it that I wanted to know how to use, and I wanted some help troubleshooting, what would I look for in the box, the instructions. Now if I picked up the instruction book, and it said Dell on it, I'd say, I don't want instructions from Dell. I want instructions from the manufacturers and makers of the Sony veyo.

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And yet for our lives, we allow other people to write the instructions to tell us how to live to tell us how to dress to tell us what's right and wrong. We allow the government to tell us what is moral and what isn't. When in fact, every year every month, they have to revise and improve the laws they Institute, and they realize some laws are not working and other laws need improving. In fact, they themselves are in need of guidance.

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It makes sense to me that the creator would tell us what the purpose of our lives is. He would tell us how to best live our lives and how to worship Him. He would tell us what pleases Him and what displeases him, and how to live a good life. He would give us an instruction manual.

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And I believe that that instruction manual is the Quran.

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The Quran is the only book that tells us about the Creator, in reasonable rational terms that satisfy our intellects. It's a fully comprehensive instruction manual, revealed through an extraordinary individual, Muhammad, peace be upon him.

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And it's the only book from God that still exists in its original form, word for word, letter for letter, unchanged from the time it was revealed 1400 years ago, till today.

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Of course, God sent other books, the Torah, the gospel, but these books no longer exists in their original forms. In the Quran, God tells us that he will preserve his word for all times. And that's why you'll find that the Quran is the only book on earth that's been memorized word for word by millions of people. You know, if all the copies of the Quran were taken and thrown into the ocean today, we could produce a copy of the Quran probably by tomorrow, we just get a few people who've memorized the Quran to recite, and we'd write it down and we would have it again, totally as it was revealed 1400 years ago.

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That's the miraculous nature of the Quran.

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The Quran is a book that is internally consistent.

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I haven't found any contradictions in the Quran. And there's nothing in the Quran that contradicts events that have been established in history or facts of science. In fact, the Quran tells us a lot about history and the natural world. And it told us those things before scientists even found out about those things. Just as an example, the Quran tells us in detail about how the embryo develops in the womb of its mother. The different stages are described perfectly accurately to the point that a number of scientists like Dr. Morris bouquet and Dr. Keith Moore, for instance, have said that these statements must have come to Mohammed from God. Because most of this knowledge was not

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discovered until many centuries later.

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Professor Keith Moore, who was a leading professor of anatomy at the University of Toronto even said, This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God.

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Now, let me tell you a little bit about Mohammed.

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Mohammed was an illiterate man. He didn't know how to read and write. And there were no microscopes at his time. He wasn't a biologist. He was a simple Shepherd, who didn't know about the universe and time and space and who had never left the Arabian Peninsula.

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So how could he tell us about the microscopic world of the embryo? And yet, the Quran talks with authority on the subject of these things and more. It talks about the planets and the moon, saying that they each have their own orbits, something that scientists

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I only found out relatively recently, the Quran speaks of the mountains being like pegs hammered into the ground keeping the earth stable. The Quran accurately says that the sun is a source of light, and that the moon is a body that reflects light or that is lit up.

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The Quran tells us that if a person were to rise up into the atmosphere, he would find it hard to breathe. These are all things that scientists found out relatively recently, within the last century or last few centuries.

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So in other words, the Quran contains exactly what I'd expect the creator of the universe to tell me, about the universe, about myself about my purpose in life.

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It tells me that the purpose of my existence is to find my Creator, and to serve and worship Him and submit to Him, and tells me the laws that I must live by, in order to achieve true peace of mind in this life. And it also tells me about my death. Yes, it tells me that every soul shall taste death. You know, it was in our DNA before we were even born.

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the surest thing in this life is that we will die.

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And this life is over in the blink of an eye. But the Quran tells me that this life is not the end, there will be life after this life, there will be a day of pure justice.

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And you know, there's something deep within human beings that desires and craves justice. And we look at the world. And we see that justice is not done, we see that the powerful and rich often gets away with many evil crimes, and the poor and weak and defenseless, seem to suffer. There are people who steal and murder, and yet they live a life of luxury. And there are people who live an honest, righteous life, and yet they get nothing at the end of it. So it's something deeply acceptable and appealing to our human mind and our nature, to know that those who committed crimes will not get away with it. And those who lead righteous, good lives will be rewarded. So the belief in the Day of

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Judgment, a day of pure justice is deeply satisfying to my mind, and my instinct.

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And it makes total sense to me, that the creator of such a balanced and finely tuned universe would be just and cause justice to prevail. And that's what the bran told me, that will be brought to account for everything we do, that God is merciful, but he is also severe in his punishment. And he is just, if I acknowledge God and worship God, as he commanded me to, then I will be rewarded with paradise, a wonderful place that no human being can imagine. And I'll even be rewarded by seeing God. But if I reject God, if I disobey Him, when I know the truth, and I know all that God has done for me, then there is a Hellfire, and it is real, and I will be punished in it on

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the ground didn't just come down from the sky, it was revealed to an extraordinary man, Mohammed.

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And when I researched into his life, I found that he was a man of the most impeccable character, his morals and conduct and integrity was so outstanding that people would become Muslim just by observing his character.

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And the prophets of God were like that. They were people chosen by God, who had such outstanding character that it was a type of proof for us that they were messengers from God. Let me tell you a little story about the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. There was a lady who used to wait for the Prophet Mohammed to walk past her house. And she saw him as a troublemaker. So she would throw rubbish on him every time he passed by her house, because she hated him so much. But one day, she didn't throw any rubbish over him.

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And I most of us, if we were in that situation, would have been happy would have been glad. But the prophet went and knocked on her door, and inquired after her asking, Is everything okay? Are you well? Is there anything I can do for you?

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She immediately declared her faith.

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I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship except the one God and I testify that you Muhammad, are the Messenger of God. She understood that only a person of God could have such character. I found that Muhammad

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It was the first man in history to stand up in front of a whole nation of people and speak about the rights of women. Really. A lot of people don't know this. But he was the first world leader to tell men treat women kindly. The best of you is the one who's the best towards his wife. respect women, respect the wombs that bore you.

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Once when a man came and asked him, who has the most rights over me? Who should I serve the most and take care of the most? He said, your mother.

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And the man asked again, then who?

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And he said, Your mother again. And a third time the man asked the Prophet, and then who? And he replied again, your mother. And then when the man asked him the fourth time, he said, and then your father.

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So you see, he elevated the status of women, as mothers and as builders of society. So let's go back in time for a moment, 1400 years back to be precise, there's so much we take for granted as women living in the 21st century. We have rights that women years ago never dreamed of.

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in Arabia, for example, before the coming of the Prophet Muhammad, women essentially belonged to men. If a man died, his wife was part of the wealth that his heirs would inherit.

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Female babies used to be buried alive because families thought having boys was better. And girls were just a burden.

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The message that the Prophet Mohammed came with, changed all of that. And it upset the men who wanted to keep things the way they were.

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But this wasn't a message that he invented himself. This was a message from God.

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The Prophet Muhammad told women that they were equal to men, just as important as men spiritually, socially, as individuals and as members of society. Now, there was no religion on earth that was telling women that at the time,

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the Qur'an gave women rights of inheritance. And it gave them the right to keep their family names after they got married, because it's their identity. in European countries, women would change their names when they got married, and it signified that they now belonged to their husbands. But in Islam, a woman keeps her identity and her name. The Prophet Muhammad told men that women were to be respected and not to use the sexual objects are abused.

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And he told them that they must take full financial responsibility to provide and nurture their marriage partners, and any children they father, even if the marriage breaks up, he condemned the killing of baby girls. And he encouraged raising daughters with as much pride as sons. He said that women should never be forced to marry against their will, and should be able to choose and refuse. These were all extraordinary things for a man to be saying at the time, he encouraged women to study and learn. And in fact, his wife, Arusha was one of the greatest and most knowledgeable jurists and teachers in Islamic history. So if there are men in the world who are stopping women from being

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educated, they're going against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. These were all revolutionary ideas that are even relatively new to Europe and the Western world. Yet Mohammed was saying these things 1400 years ago, women would come to the Prophet Mohammed from far and wide to learn from him. And they were always welcome to come and ask him any questions they wanted. The women never felt shy to come to him for justice. For example, I read about a young lady who was forced by her father to marry a man. She went straight to the Prophet Mohammed and told him what her father had done. The Prophet Mohammed told her, she could have her marriage and old, but she said that she came to him so

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that fathers would know that they're not allowed to force their daughters into marriage. Look at how confident the women were, that if they came to Muhammad, they would get justice, he would stand up for them.

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The Prophet Muhammad was known for his truthfulness and trustworthiness. Even people who didn't believe in Him, would ask him to look after their property because they knew how trustworthy he was. And everything I've read and found about the Prophet Mohammed has led me to believe that he is one of the wonders of Islam.

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God sent us a man who excelled in every sphere of life. You know, many of us may have achieved excellence in one area of life, in our private life, or as a businesswoman or a businessman or a teacher, or as a general or a leader or judge. So how about a person who's able to be an excellent example in everything

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single field of activity as a husband, the Prophet Muhammad would race playfully with his wife when no one was around. He would sew and mend his own clothes and help in the housework. When his first wife died, he would constantly send gifts to her family, and would remember her as his supporter.

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And he would even discuss political matters with his wives and take their advice. And as a leader, the Prophet Muhammad was amazing. He was loved by everyone, he led the women and the men, they were willing to lay down their lives for him. And he taught them the highest morals, concepts that were only established in the modern world relatively recently. He spoke clearly, for example, against racism, when one of the men around him insulted a black man. He told him that this was totally unacceptable and was pure ignorance. He said, no white man has superiority over a black man and no black man has superiority over white man, except in piety. These were things that no one said at the

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time. And as a teacher, the Prophet Muhammad was like no other. He was gentle and his teachings were full of wisdom. Once when a Bedouin man, a man from the desert came and urinated in the mosque, Muhammad's companions were going to jump him, they were so angry. But he said to them, let him finish. When the man had finished what he was doing, the prophet spoke to him gently and said, this is not the place for that. And he said, pour water on it, and that will clean it. When the Bedouin saw this, he said, may Allah have mercy on me and Muhammad, and nobody else. And the Prophet replied, smiling, and explained to him that God's mercy is much more vast than that. So God not only

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sent us books, but also messengers who would teach us those books and begin example for us. I think here I should explain to you what the word Islam actually means. Islam literally means to submit to the will of God.

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So anyone who's submitting to the will of God, on his terms, is a Muslim. And Muslim just means one who is in submission to the will of God. And that's what I as a Muslim strive to do. Sometimes I don't get it 100%, right. But it's a journey like any other journey. I think each and every human being submits to someone or some thing. Sometimes it's subconscious. Sometimes we're so used to conforming to external expectations, that we don't even realize that we are conforming, to for example, we submit to peer pressure, or pressure from our friends or from the media. And this is usually very subtle. people submit to societal pressures, or to the fashion industry or to the music

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industry, or at the very least, to their base desires. That feeling of I want this and I want that. And it's really easy for a human being to allow their desires to lead them in life. But unfortunately, it often ends in destruction, or a lack of fulfillment. And I know how that feels from personal experience. What Islam did for me, was to give me a chance to break away from those pressures.

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I realized that my creator is the one I must submit to, because he knows what's good for me and what's bad for me, I realized that my creator is the one I must submit to because he knows me inside out. He knows what's good for me and what's bad for me. Before that I had many things trying to control me affecting my behavior, sometimes really subtly. by submitting to God, I became free. And I strive to continue to submit to Him. I mean, it's an ongoing struggle and a journey. But the Quran gives me a clear roadmap to follow. God tells me in the Quran, that in order to be successful, and in order for me to find peace of mind and to purify my heart, I must submit and surrender to His

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will.

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That's the only way I'll attain peace.

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Islam showed me that men and women are different. We are physiologically and emotionally different. We have different strengths. Men, for example, are on the whole, physically stronger than women. That's why you'll never find Roger Federer playing tennis against Serena Williams, nor will you find men racing against women at the Olympics. Our bodies are designed differently as I'm sure you're aware. That's why it's still not acceptable on the streets of London for a woman to walk around topless, but it is for a man too. So it made me realize that because we are different. Our roles in society are different to

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we as women

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give birth to children and nurture them with the milk of humanity. Men can never do that. God teaches men that their role is to take leadership and to nurture their families spiritually and financially, to provide for their families, and to take full financial responsibility for their wives and children. And he teaches us that women are the nurturers of society. Our role as mothers, as the first school is honored and supported in Islam. We don't have to contribute one penny to the upkeep of the family, it's not our responsibility. We may work and earn money, and that money is ours to do as we wish with, if we want to contribute to the family, it's our choice. But we don't

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have to work because God deems us irreplaceable as the homemaker and nurturer of the next generation. So if we go back to the question I started with, why I, as a Muslim woman cover myself, I don't do it because a man told me to, or because my mom told me to No, I do it because God commanded me to cover myself in a certain way, when I'm in the presence of men who are not closely related to me. So when I'm at home or with my close male relatives, or in the company of women and children, I dress as I please, yes, I even go to the hairdresser's and wear beautiful clothes and jewelry. But I just cover it up when I'm going to be in the presence of men. That's because I accept

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and know that God knows the nature of men and women and he knows what's good for us. So it's totally understandable to me, when God says in the Quran to the men that they must lower their gazes to divert their glances away from looking at women who are not closely related to them. And God tells me in the Quran to cover myself when I go outside with outer garments and head coverings, so that I might be recognized and respected and not molested in any way or looked on in the wrong way. Now, I've never walked around with my PIN number on display would I? How about my cache, or my most precious jewels, precious things are kept carefully. And that's what women are in Islam. We are

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precious, not to be flaunted cheaply, but preserved under our robes for people whom we choose to share our beauty with.

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And we all know that when we're dressed in a more covering way, a more modest way, men do show us more respect, and behave in a more courteous way around us. I've never seen a man whistling a nun or a Muslim woman who's covering herself. Essentially, they're both wearing the same thing. Even images of Mary when you see them, she's covered in a very similar way to a Muslim woman. And yet society seems to demonize the way Muslim women dress and respect the way that nuns dress. When I dress as the Quran tells me to people appreciate what I have to say and what my talents are, instead of judging me for the way I look. Now, I've mentioned some of the reasons why I think that covering

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myself is a good thing. But that's not the essential reason why I cover myself when I go out. I do it in obedience to the command of God. And it's as simple as that. As a Muslim, I believe that all human beings came from one father and one mother, Adam and his wife Eve, and that it was not due to Eve's temptation that Adam and Eve were taken out of Paradise and put onto the earth. Both of them were led astray by Satan. So unlike in Christianity, childbirth and menstruation are not punishment from God. They're just part of our experience of womanhood, and have wisdoms behind them. Islam taught to me that women are precious, that we're much more than just our image and our vital

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statistics. Our purpose in life is much more than just to be a plaything for men or a commodity for market forces to exploit. We're spiritual beings. Our actions and our intentions will be acknowledged by God when he judges us, and will be rewarded equally to men.

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Islam made me realize that to use a woman's body as a commodity is wrong, to exploit her and tell her to convert in public for the pleasure of men might be some men, but it's wrong, it degrades her and lowers her status. Unfortunately, today, although people claim and say that we as women are liberated, what doesn't make sense is that women are used more now sex objects than they ever have been in history. Islam taught me that my sexuality is a beautiful and sacred gift from God, that I should share with a man who has committed to me through marriage, who won't use and abuse me or love and leave me. Islam raised my status.

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As a woman, and freed me from the pressures of society to conform to a particular image or body shape, or to be a super woman who works from nine to five, and then comes home and does the housework to,

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I found that it allows me to be true to my nature and that peace with it. by submitting to God, I cease to feel pressure to go against my true nature. And that's truly liberating.

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I invite you to read the Quran to look into the life of Muhammad, to look into Islam further, and take a fresh look at womanhood. And I hope that you to one day experience the sweetness of submitting to our Creator.