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Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Traveling Muslimah: Western Muslim Women Chasing Their Dreams #MuslimGirlsRead Exclusive

Have you ever thought about quitting your job so that you can travel the world chasing your dreams? Many of people do, but so few ever reach out and grab up enough nerves, opportunities, cash, and faith in their dreams to make those types of moves. For some it can be that traveling the world sounds too far-fetched and unstable. Others think it is too costly. While some even see it is as frivolous and thus unIslamic! Moving away from your families, communities, and even our cultures can be very scary and pose many new challenges. Yet, migration or hijrah* is indeed embedded into Islam. Allah says in the Qur'an  about hijrah (what means):

 “The ones who have believed, emigrated and striven in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah . And it is those who are the attainers [of success].” Surat At Tawbah: 20

“And whoever emigrates for the cause of Allah will find on the earth many [alternative] locations and abundance. And whoever leaves his home as an emigrant to Allah and His Messenger and then death overtakes him – his reward has already become incumbent upon Allah . And Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.” Surah An Nisaa: 100

Since the time of Rasululllah (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) Muslims have been traveling the world for safety, dawah but also for their dreams as well. 

These days though if you live in the West there are a lot of reasons to have a tag sale, quit your job and get out of dodge! From Donald Trump's quackish politics to Hilary Clinton's big business schemes to the escalating conflict between Russia and the Ukraine to the terror attacks in Paris to Southwest kicking off Muslims for just invoking Allah's name to hijabs being pulled off Muslim women - to - well, the list of discriminatory behaviors against Muslims is expanding quickly. That said these are interesting times that have inspired Muslim Baby Boomers, Generation X & Y, and the Millennials to travel the earth and go find and catch their dream. 

These four Muslim women have done just that - picked up and moved away  for safety, Islam, and to chase their dreams.

1) Susanne Rechlin, a German native, is a mother, ​and a preschool principal who runs her very own puppet theatre in Kuwait.

Susanne works as a preschool principal in Kuwait. But something especially creative and interesting about her life in Kuwait is that she is also puppeteer and TV host. Ms. Susanne has been running her very own puppet theatre for the last eight years. She tells us at #MuslimGirlsRead, “I was part of a children’s TV show in the role of puppeteer, in addition to hosting a 30­ episode Islamic talk show which was aired during Ramadan. I am currently recording season 2 of this program.”

Susanne moved to Kuwait at the age of 15 with her family. At 18 she married and moved to America with her husband and embarked on her college education. However, she was unable to complete it. Back during those times, furthering her education as non-Kuwaiti, was not possible. Susanne had her daughter in 1988 and then when she was two Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. So she and her family escaped to Lebanon. She explained, "... I decided to take up sewing and knitting and make some pocket money doing [just] that. During my first two years in a Lebanese village, I opened a tiny sewing supplies store.”

After her son was born, she moved back to Kuwait and opened a daycare. Though it was small and her start-up funds were little, she gave it her best and took great care of the little ones she entrusted with. Moreover, Susanne made friends with Western Muslimat from all over and they formed their own small but supportive group. It wasn’t long before a teaching position opened up for Sister Susanne at a top preschool in Kuwait that provided her with more opportunities and stability.In regards to the blessings of hijrah, Susanne states, "When traveling [back] overseas to non-Muslim countries, including Germany, I realize the blessing of being able to live in Muslim land. Wearing hijab is not an exception but the norm, places of prayer are available everywhere, the atmosphere in Ramadan is special, among many other pluses."However, she cautions that there are trials for Muslims to ponder and prepare for as well.  She told us that, "Being single or a divorcee means that Kuwait or any other Arab country will not be home forever.

2) Taeah Rashim,​ ​a seventeen year old from Philadelphia, PA, who has completed the memorization of the entire noble Quran while living in Egypt.

“​To memorize the Quran you need to work hard. Nothing worth having in life comes easy. Just like nothing that is valuable can be bought at a cheap price.​”

Taeah completed memorizing the Quran in December of 2015 and has received her Ijaazah (authority certificate). She studies Arabic, Nahu (Arabic grammar), Tajweed and Fiqh and hopes to complete all ten qira'aat (modes of recitation) one.
Taeah is the first hafithath in her family and talked to #MuslimGirlsRead about how she accomplished this great goal. She told us, “When I first began my Islamic studies, I wasn't really applying myself as much as I was capable of. I was studying and I was learning, but I wasn't putting forth my absolute best. Then, one day I ran into a sister whose daughter I had known. She told me that she had finished her memorization of the Quran at the age of eighteen. This made me ponder on my own progress. It made me think to myself, ‘Well, what have I accomplished?’ At the time I was about fourteen and it made me say to myself, 'I could do that if I tried. If I put my mind to it I might be able to finish as young as she did". By Allah's mercy I was able to finish even younger.”
Taeah inshallah would like to be a lawyer and is currently taking business law courses while in her last years of high school. She would like to continue law when she gets into college. But with all of her studies and obligations I asked her how does she balance everything and what sacrifices does she have to make to keep her grip on her memorization on the noble Quran. Her response was,“My main challenge [is] juggling school as well as Quran. To memorize and review the Quran properly you need several hours a day. It did help that I was home schooled, so I could do my school work on my own schedule, but it was still very difficult.”
But Mashallah she said that she stays on top of her studies so that the Qur'an does not slip away from. And for those looking to memorize the Quran or really reach any goals she suggest that, “[p]eople may feel discouraged when they first start memorizing because of the difficulties they may face. You must keep going. In the end you feel so proud of yourself for having come so far, by the permission of Allah.”

3) Andrea Wallace (Umm Halimah), representing East Orange, New Jersey, is a mother of 3, holds a Master's degree in Special Education and works as college professor in Boroma, Somaliland

Umm Halimah talked to #MuslimGirlsRead about her migration. She told us, "for me I always wanted to make hijrah because I fell in love with idea of being like the sahaba..I was looking for the Madina I would read about." She went on to explain that after leaving the United States the reality of her experiences were a lot different than the stories from the ahadeeth that inspired her to pick up her family and board a plane out of the States. Umm Halimah furthered told us, "It was difficult not so much being away from home or family but because you are in the Muslim lands surrounded by the Muslims and you are expecting that everyone is going to be like the had it you read about. It is a test to be patient with your brothers and sisters and adjust to how cultural differences sometimes interfere with the unity of Islam."

Learning to have patience through your experiences and the people that you meet and recognizing that common sense isn't always so common once you leave your own soceity, is key. Also important while traveling throughout the world as a Muslim is to remember Allah's favor on you and how much of a blessing it is to be able to see the world, work with the Muslims, and be apart of a society that worships Allah. Umm Halimah offered us this final reflection: "Now as I will be approaching my third year and have experienced the beauty of Islam in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, I can truly say I am appreciative of the opportunity to experience the beauty and hardship of hijrah. To [be able] to see and hear the adhan, [to be able to see] the different masjid and people has given me a greater love for the Muslims and our differences because even through our differences I still hear salaams - the duaa of peace. I feel the unity of praying five times a day with an entire country. I am grateful for the blessing and pray Allah continues to bestow His mercy on me and all the Muslims that they can experience the same that I have or better.

4) Khadijah Abdus Sabur, hails from Philadelphia, PA, is a homeschooling mother of five, and entrepreneur residing in Egypt. Khadijah is also the mother of Hafithah Taeah Rashim.

Khadijah spends her time in Egypt teaching her children and helping them pursue the memorization of the Qur'an. Khadijah told #MuslimsGirlsRead that: "
there are opportunities to memorize Quran back home (in the United States) if you are motivated, I think the environment here (in Egypt) does greatly aid in the pursuit of learning the Quran. Having access to qualified teachers, Masaajid and Quran schools in most neighborhoods, as well as the association with other youth who are pursuing the same goal, has been very beneficial." When asked about what advice she had for other Muslim parents in regards to hijra and teaching their children the book of Allah, Khadijah assured us that she believed that "there ARE opportunities in the West (increasing with every generation) to learn Quran on a consistent basis, as well as many Arab and African Quran teachers, who conduct classes via skype.  It's really about setting the intention, and seeking the means however Allah decrees it. I had learning the Quran as a goal for my children before we ever moved abroad, and I believe that Allah would have still facilitated it if we remained in the States, Wa Allahu 'Ailem."

May Allah continue to bless all of these sisters to keep reaching their dreams, solidify their hijrah with ease and provisions and allow others to benefit from their stories.

* Hijrah: (migration) for the sake of Allaah means moving from the land of shirk to the land of Islam, as the Muslims moved from Makkah – before its people became Muslim – to Madeenah, because it had become the city of Islam after its people had pledged their allegiance (bay’ah) to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and asked him to make hijrah to them. So Hijrah means migrating to join other Muslims. Hijrah may also take the form of moving from one land of shirk to another land of shirk where evil is less prevalent and there is less danger to the Muslims, as when some of the Muslims migrated from Makkah, at the command of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), to Abyssinia (Ethiopia). And Allaah is the Source of Strength. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions, and grant them peace. Fataawaa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 12/50

Written by Juwayriyah Ayed for #MuslimGirlsRead