Written by ·Yasmin Mogahed·

And yet, in society, there is another prevalent “master” which has defined for women their worth. And that is the so-called standard of beauty. Since the time we were little, we as women, have been taught a very clear message by society. And that message is: “Be thin. Be sexy. Be attractive. Or…be nothing.” So we were told to put on their make-up and wear their short skirts. Instructed to give our lives, our bodies, our dignity for the cause of being pretty.

We came to believe that no matter what we did, we were worthy only to the degree that we could please and be beautiful for men. So we spent our lives on the cover of Cosmo and we gave our bodies for advertisers to sell.

We were slaves, but they taught us we were free. We were their object, but they swore it was success. Because they taught you that the purpose of your life was to be on display, to attract and be beautiful for men. They had you believe that your body was created to market their cars. But they lied. Your body, your soul was created for something higher. Something so much higher.

God says in the Quran: ‘Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the one who is most righteous’ (Quran 49:13).

So you are honored. But it is not by your relationship to men—either being them, or pleasing them. Your value as a woman is not measured by the size of your waist or the number of men who like you. Your worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness and piety. And your purpose in life–despite what the fashion magazines say–is something more sublime than just looking good for men. Our completion comes from God and our relationship with Him.

And yet, from the time we were little, we, as women, have been taught, that we will never reach completion until a man comes to complete us. Like Cinderella we were taught that we are helpless unless a prince comes to save us. Like Sleeping Beauty, we were told that our life doesn’t fully begin, until Prince Charming kisses us. But here’s the thing: no prince can complete you. And no knight can save you. Only God can. Your prince is only a human being. God may send him to be your companion—but not your savior. The coolness of your eyes—not the air in your lungs. Your air is in God. Your salvation and completion are in His nearness—not the nearness to any created thing. Not the nearness to a prince, not the nearness to fashion or beauty or style.

And so I ask you to unlearn.

I ask you to stand up and tell the world that you are a slave to nothing—not to fashion, not to beauty, not to men. You are a slave to God and God alone.
I ask you to tell the world that you’re not here to please men with your body; You’re here to please God.
So to those who mean well and wish to ‘liberate’ you, just smile and say: “Thanks, but no thanks”
Tell them you’re not here to be on display. And your body is not for public consumption.
Make sure the world knows that you will never be reduced to an object, or a pair of legs to sell shoes.
You are a soul, a mind, a servant of God. And your worth is defined by the beauty of that soul, that heart, that moral character.
So, you don’t worship their beauty standards; you don’t submit to their fashion sense.
Your submission is to something higher.

Therefore, in answering the question of where and how a woman can find empowerment, I find myself led back to the statement of our Prophet’s companion. I find myself led back to the realization that true liberation and empowerment lies only in freeing oneself from all other masters, all other definitions. All other standards.

As Muslim women, we have been liberated from this silent bondage. We don’t need society’s standard of beauty or fashion, to define our worth. We don’t need to become just like men to be honored, and we don’t need to wait for a prince to save or complete us. Our worth, our honor, our salvation, and our completion lies not in the slave. But, in the Lord of the slave.


Your worth and succesS

When the topic of successful women in Islaamic history is brought up, names of the wives of the prophets, Aisha bint Abubakar, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Umm Salamah, Maimunah and his daughters Fatimah, Umm kulthum, Ruqayyah and zainab are mentioned. These women were successful and they died leaving a legacy worth remembering and their characters are certainly worth emulating.
It is important however to note that the success of these women had little if not nothing to do with their relationship with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) otherwise, others like Aasiyaah bint Muzahim; the wife of fir’aun (pharoah), Umm Isah Maryam bint Imraan; the mother of Jesus, Sumayya; the first martyr of Islaam, Umm Sulaym the wife of Abu Talha;  she whose Mahr(dowry) is said to be the best and the likes won’t be mentioned anywhere even near this category.

Even in current times, our generation, we have people who have built a career and are successful. You don’t hear people comment on the looks of Huda Khattab or Dr Aisha Hamdan or Yasmin Mogahed or Na’ima Roberts or Sadaf Farooqi or Fatima Barakatullah. Our dearest Layinka Sanni, Maryam Lemu, Subahanallah so many i can’t even put a finger on a few. Rather you here comments to the effect of how amazing it is the things they do, the lives they touch, the inspiration, motivation, the impact they make. May Allah preserve them all ameen.
The things they do for the masses. They might be covered up-oppressed They might say. But this oppression hasnt stopped them from becoming successful now has it? In my words, they are the oppressed that have succeeded.

They, from behind the veil spread knowledge. They, from behind a screen teach, the impact of this has caused both them and their students (the likes of me) to go places, places only hearts can go. Can I not mention again our mother Umm Abdullah-Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her and make us of those who walk in her path, known for her excellence in knowledge?
She was the epitome of female scholarship. So much so that the companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to come to her seeking knowledge and clarification and all of this used to happen from behind a screen (curtain), not just the veil now, a screen to top it!
Allah commanded the wives of the prophet saying;

ِّ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَن تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَن تَنكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا

“…And when you ask of them any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain; this is purer for your hearts and (for) their hearts; and it does not behove you that you should give trouble to the Apostle of Allah, nor that you should marry his wives after him ever; surely this is grievous in the sight of Allah.”{Q33:53}

Never have we heard in the description of the extent of success of these women anything relating to their physical beauty or attractiveness. Even when this is mentioned, it is never the reason behind their success. Because, Islaam teaches that success lies not in the looks of a person but in the perfection of that which makes them invaluable. Their deen and khuluq (character).

In a hadith reported, the messenger of Allah said; “Verily, Allah neither looks at (considers) your suraa (physical nature) nor your amwaal (wealth). Rather, He looks at (considers) your Quluub (hearts) and your a’amaal (deeds).”

If Allah could care less about our looks and possessions, why waste so much time trying to perfect and acquire them, respectively? Would it be fair even to judge or consider a person by that which he/she has no control over?

This in no way means we shouldn’t strive to take care of our bodies, for this would be trangressing limits as our own bodies are an amaanah (trust) and we shall be questioned as to how we exhausted and took care of them.

We’ve lost understanding or perhaps we are ignorant of where success lies and perhaps what it means.  As Yasmin Mogahed mentions, “we need to unlearn.”

We take time out every single day to prepare face masks and cleanse and moisturise and set in foundation. Yet, it is most difficult for us to pray two extra raka’at (unit of salah-prayer) out of gratitude.

It is easy for us to go shopping, which if at all we make the right intentions could be an act of ibaadah, yet it is difficult for us to say ‘Alhamdulillah-all praise is for Allah’ for these blessings we could never number.

We all crave success, to feel that sense of accomplishment and to know “yes, when i die, atleast i’ve left something.” It is only human. But we need to understand where success lies, what the reality of accomplishment is and what legacy we should aim to leave behind.

In the lives of the mothers of the believers, these companions of the prophet whom like us all were either wives, mothers, aunts, teenagers or adults and very much human are alot of lessons to take from as we tread the path to success and build our legacies simultaneously.

If we could take some break from the hustles and bustles that have taken over our individual lives. Take a seat and breathe. Study their lives, we will come to realise that they feel/felt pain, they have/had families, they get/got exhausted at some point(s) in time, they have/had their highs and lows and their ‘dips’ aswell. Then, this realisation will perhaps plant a seed of curiousity in us as to what keeps/kept them going.

But know that; If the goal is worth it, the player doesn’t stop.

“Work on your worth to make yourself invaluable…and real worth lies in your deen and khuluq.” ~DeensisterS