Do Muslim women have a role in shaping our Ummah? Are there issues affecting women in the Muslim community that we need to take more seriously?
Mercy Mission clearly think so and that is why on Saturday 16th July at a five star hotel in London, they organised the first ever Annual Sister’s conference, featuring a host of wonderful guests such as Lauren Booth (recent high profile convert to Islam), Naima B. Robert (editor of Sisters magazine), Fatima Barkatullah (journalist /lecturer for IERA) and Saiyyidah Zaidi (founder of Working Muslim).
Although somewhat sceptical at the notion of bathing in Oestrogen for a whole day and fearing this conference might yet be another exercise in rebutting Western stereotypes forced upon us, I was pleasantly surprised.
Sisters were articulate, passionate and reflective. Talks ranged from Solace’s work in supporting New Muslims in difficulty, to attaining work-life balance and getting the most from Ramadan. Lauren Booth’s keynote speech astonished us – as though this sister had converted many years ago it was informed, relevant and subtle. Lauren reminded us of our roles as ambassadors of Islam and the Sunnah of smiling when we are out and about. She highlighted the need to support all converts, black and white, and the importance of women as active participants in all spheres, from motherhood to mosque events.
Sheikh Alaa El Syed entertained and informed us on Ramadan before raising well over £75,000 in one sitting for a Mercy Mission refuge for homeless converts in India.
Yet the most exciting part seemed to come at the end, when the speakers sat for a brief panel discussion on what the role of the conference could represent to the future. How can we facilitate each other in calling our husbands, sons and fathers closer to the Deen? Can we become confident educators of our children such that they owe as much to us as Imam Al-Bukhari did to his mother? Are there real community issues, even if unpleasant that we can explore in next year’s forum?
This appeal to the community to engage themselves fully with the process I believe marks a new phase in British Islam. Gone are the days of elders who close their mind to change, even if it brings us closer to the Sunnah. If it is Qur’an and Sunnah, Mercy Mission are ready to go there. Brothers, you had better up your game - the sisters want to race you to Jannah!