Becoming Agents of Change

As I sit through the long bus ride heading back home from spending a week out in the wilderness, I’ve had time not only to catch up on a whole week’s worth of missed social media posts, but also to reflect on the lessons and friendships I’ve made at this year’s summer camp.

This year’s theme was “The Queens of Our Hearts,” which, before coming to camp, indicated to me that we would be discussing the sahabiyyat of the Prophet (PBUH).

What I didn’t know is that I’d be leaving MYNA having done so much more than just that. What I didn’t know is I’d be leaving feeling empowered as a Muslim woman, being able to visualize the beauty of Islam and its importance in society, and understanding the parallels that can be drawn from the Prophet (PBUH)’s life and his involvement with social justice causes and our own abilities to impact today’s political and social climates within this country as well as in Muslim majority countries in which injustice still occurs.

We had many lectures, the first of which were by Imam Yama, the next few by Imam Jihad, and the last one by Sister Sundus.

Imam Yama touched upon the status of women in Islam and how they are regarded. Although most of his effect on us was made through his lecture about the different madhabs and fiqh, what I found to be the most beautiful piece of knowledge he shared with us was a story about his own life. He explained that once during an interview his interviewer bluntly asked him, “What is the role of women in Islam?” immediately followed by a recording camera in his face.

The names of Khadijah (RA), Aisha (RA), and Zainab (RA) popped into his mind and, without thinking he responded right away with something along the lines of: “There is no one role of women in Islam. When it is needed, a woman’s role is a businesswoman who contributes to the economy and wellbeing of her family, when needed her role is to be a narrator and relayer of important words from the Prophet (PBUH), and when needed her role is devoting her life to helping the poor and needy.”

His answer helped really put things into perspective for me, as I was able to see the contradiction of the stereotype that muslim women are often reduced to one specific role within families and society.

What Imam Jihad and Sister Sundus really drove in for us was the point that it doesn’t necessarily take more than one person to transform an entire culture. The society that the Prophet (PBUH) transformed was one in which misogyny and abuse ran rampant, publically and openly. The key to him reversing that societal norm, from my understanding, was not only with teaching against it but also by modeling. He modeled the behavior that he wanted others to follow. For example, Sister Sundus explained to us how he would stand whenever Fatimah (RA) entered into a room out of respect for her, no matter what, even if he was in the middle of a council meeting. People would be shocked at his gesture of respect, especially to a girl, who had been thought to be inferior and undeserving of that kind of respect. His embodiment of the ideals he lived by was enough to send ripple effects across an entire society, and change its culture. In other words, it’s the little things we do that set examples for the rest of the world.

It doesn’t take a crowd of people believing in something to change a culture, it takes one person who is strong enough to make the little choices that send big messages. It takes someone like me or you deleting all music from our playlists that has misogynistic lyrics. It takes a brother who asks his friends to be more respectful when they’re using demeaning language to refer to someone. It takes a sister who wears her hijab proudly and refuses to let society’s beauty standards be imposed on herResisting against social injustice doesn’t necessarily mean marching, protesting, and fighting. While those things are absolutely important, being an agent of change like the Prophet (PBUH) takes a lot more than speaking up every once in a while and then going silent in between. Resistance requires embodiment of the values you hold.