Saturday, September 10, 2011

Umm Salihah

Hello and Happy Saturday!

First up I wish to thank Musa Talib for sharing his very interesting faith journey with us last week.
Thanks so much for sharing Musa!

This week we have a new interview so please welcome Umm Salihah. Umm Salihah is a Muslim and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Umm Salihah's Introduction:

Hi, I’m Umm Salihah and I am mum to three dirty-faced angels (Little Lady - 8, Little Man - 6, Gorgeous – now 4 years). I write for which I began in order to share my experiences as a Muslimah working mother and to learn from other women about how they manage the different aspects of their lives without compromising their faith. I also blog at because I believe we need to share more of our positive stories.

I read Psychology at university and then went on to work for the public sector for the next 10 years, first in central government and now in local government because I wanted to contribute to the community I had grown up in. My passions include crafts (cards and jewellery), books, bargain-hunting, writing, blogging, Islam, and did I mention books?

1) What religion do you practice?

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was raised by religious Muslim parents, but I believe that being born into Islam doesn’t necessarily make you a Muslim, it’s a conscious decision that requires living in a very conscientious, measured way. I think every Muslim, whether born or not has their moment when they decide this is the faith for them and this is their “conversion” in a way.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
I think people like to label Muslims as moderate, traditional, extreme and this goes against the grain of what Islam is about. To call one a moderate Muslim is to assume the others are intolerant, to say one is mainstream, is to say the views of another are “fringe” or not as relevant in some way. I believe that it is a characteristic of Islam to have balance in all things and to follow what we call the “middle way”

I am also not keen on the labels of “practising” or “not practising”. By definition, to be a Muslim is to practice the faith. I don’t feel that my faith is abstract or something that is put aside and then brought out to philosophise about sometimes. It is a practical guide to living – from the time we wake in the morning and get dressed to the time we sleep, we infuse every act with thoughtfulness and aim to make it an act of worship, even something like putting on our shoes! The same with the milestones in our life – birth, marriage, death, business, for each of them we have guidance from our faith about the best way. So for me, to be a Muslim, you have to be practising. You may not be able to include every element in your life – hijab, diet etc, but you will still aspire to.

4) Within your religion what degree of observance are you (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
Considering the above, I would call myself a traditional, practising Muslim. I feel that I find a sense of balance with this. There is a hadith, or tradition from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that says:

"My Community shall never agree upon misguidance, therefore, if you see divergences, you must follow the greater mass or larger group." (source: Ibn Majah)

I take this as meaning that majority, mainstream, traditional Islam is the middle way and the way of consensus that the largest number of Muslims can follow.

5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
Muslims believe that for everything we do as sane adults we will be held to account – every word we say, every penny we spend, every morsel that passes our lips, the clothes we wear, for our health, our youth and our free time – we will be asked by Allah “How did you use all of these?”

The way we spent our time in this life will determine the answer to this question and the outcome will be a good place of reward – heaven or a painful place of punishment – the fire of hell. I love the description in the Quran of those who remember Allah often, walking into paradise smiling and being greeted with the greeting of paradise: “Salaam!” Peace!

We believe that this life is a like a station on a journey. We stop here for a while, do the best we can with the best of intentions and then earn a place in a final destination that lasts forever.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
No my faith and my natural inclination towards a desire for justice as a human being tell me not. I don’t believe that the person who makes an effort to spend a life in the service of others and remembering their creator at every turn will have the same fate as the one who hurts every person in his or her path and is ungrateful for every single good thing he or she comes across. I believe that Allah is just and that each of us earn what we work towards.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
I love the idea that every single act I do can be an act of worship. They are things I have to do anyway – bathing, eating, raising my children, being my husbands soulmate, but done in the way my faith guides me, with the right intention and with a level of thought and care they become acts of worship. In this way no action in life has to be wasteful. You might be making dinner, but making it with care and attention, within the prescribed requirements of my faith and with a thought for the needs and preferences for my family, cooking becomes worship.

The other thing I love about Islam is the way that it gives every person their rights – in particular the vulnerable. Women have the right to an education, to work and own property or run a business. We have the right to choose who we marry and the right to divorce. Children have the right to be cared for and protected, the right to be educated and also to be loved and nurtured. Parents have the right to be respected and cared for in their old age. Neighbours have rights over each other as do the poor and orphaned in a community. At the same time we are encouraged to put the rights of others over our own and to fulfil our responsibilities towards all those around us.

Finally I love the closeness to my Creator. We are told in the Quran that “We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” (Quran 5:16). We have no church, no hierarchy, no clergy, it is simply me and my Lord.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
We celebrate the two Eids, or celebration days. Eid-ul-Fitr comes after a month of fasting and Eid-ul-Adha comes during the days of Haj or pilgrimage. I absolutely love Eid, it is a big deal in my house and a great part of my childhood. We tend to go for short Eid prayers in the morning and then dressed in our best we spend the day feasting, visiting, sharing gifts and generally feeling rather blissed out.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Yes. I have friends of all faiths and none. Islam tells us to serve our communities – it doesn’t say just Muslim communities. I think regardless of faith there are some people with the most amazing good hearts and wonderful nature, I am lucky enough to have some of these beautiful souls as friends. Saying this, there is a Prophetic tradition that says “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” (Tirmidhi).

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Much as I have wanted to at times, I would refrain. There is a Prophetic tradition that says: “Whoever imitates a people is from them.” I take this to mean that we should not copy the religious festivals and customs of a different religion.

I grew up wanting to take part in Christmas but not being allowed to by my Dad, it all seemed so wonderful. As an adult and parent, I see his perspective, although I don’t necessarily share his method. My rule with my children is that if I take something away I must replace it with something equivalent or better. So we are not allowed to celebrate Christmas, we must make a big deal of Eid and make it a really special day for our children

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I believe that it should be a matter of choice. I wear the hijab and follow Islamic law where possible in my private Life (i.e. I don’t take interest on money, I eat halal food,

I think both things have been much maligned through lack of understanding. Shariah has been taken as a threat to existing law in both the US and the UK, when in actual fact it is mostly consistent with the law and practised voluntary. Shariah courts in the UK work in much the same as arbitration does and adherence to their rulings is voluntary and not enforceable by law. Shariah means a clear straight path, basically the easiest path to the resolution for a problem. Often a Shariah court is the only avenue for a woman to get a divorce or try to get some of the other rights she is due under Islam (i.e. alimony and child maintenance) when the man cannot be made to provide these under a countries law.

Similarly hijab is often misunderstood. It is not just a piece of material, but a concept – the idea of being modest and undertaking your public duties from a position of purity – dealing with people on the basis of your intelligence and character and not the way you look. I don’t think it should be forced on any women, similarly I don’t believe it should be banned – both positions take the choice away from the woman and disempower her.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Women can lead other women in prayer, but not men. There is a tradition of female imam’s in places like China in particular. I know a number of female scholars and their role is less to lead prayers and more to teach children and women. Many of our role models are female scholars and this is something I aspire to for me and my daughter. I think having knowledge of your faith is incredibly empowering within the Muslim community. We have a saying that a man brings faith to the door, the woman brings it inside the house. When women have knowledge of the faith, they pass it to their families and communities and particularly their children.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
Yes, and I am not happy about the way this is done. I don’t have a problem with segregation itself. I value the space Muslim women have without men, where we bond and share as sisters. However, I have seen too many mosques not providing adequate space for women or where the women’s section is not as nice as the main part of the mosque. This is something that needs to be addressed as mosques are built in the West and Muslim women become more engaged with their places of worship.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
My religion shapes my daily life and decision making entirely. There are five daily prayers which are obligatory for Muslims and I basically organise my day around them. I wake for the dawn one, so get an early start to the day and at work, I have to make arrangements for the midday one at work, I have to get home for the afternoon one, I have to get dinner before or after the evening one and I need to fit the night prayer in before I sleep. Many Muslims will run their lives along the same pattern. In some places the day is the same all year round, but here the length of day and night varies greatly in summer and winter and so therefore do our prayer times. This means our routine has to adapt accordingly. It is a nice rhythm and I feel it keeps me in touch with the seasons and the changing in daylight hours through the years. I also feel like it is a nice, gentle routine for my family to be guided by. It also affects us in other ways. If I want to go shopping, I factor in the time till the next prayer and whether I can get home to pray in time. If I want to travel for a few hours, I will factor in whether there will be somewhere to pray on the way or when we get there, will there be halal food there?

In terms of decisions, my faith is a massive influence, perhaps moreso over the years. There are many things I may have questioned in the past, that have become clearer to me over time. For instance, I believe that a women’s body is her own and previously thought that abortion was a private matter despite my faith saying it was wrong. Now as a mother of three and having miscarriaged twice as well as having shared the journey of a number of friends who have struggled to conceive, I am vehemently against abortion. In other matters too my faith guides me – decisions regarding raising my children, running my household, my relationships with extended family and career decisions.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I would be disappointed. I wouldn’t mind my children marrying outside of their race or culture, but in marrying outside of their faith, I would fear that it means that they would miss out on some of the sweetest aspects of an Islamic marriage: marriage as worship, a spouse as a comfort and protection and a partner in raising a Muslim family.

Also, Muslim’s raise their children as Muslims and I feel it would be tougher if one of the parents is not Muslim. Saying that having two religious Muslim parents is no guarantee of a strong Muslim or even of a good person. Also, Islam allows Muslim men to marry Christian and Jewish women, so if my sons insisted, I would support them. Most of all I would hope they find spouses who have good character and kind hearts – no religion guarantees this.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
My general understanding is that all of those people who followed the message and teachings of Abraham, Moses and Jesus and spent their lives doing good will go to heaven. Muslims believe that with the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the message originally brought by Abaraham, Moses and Jesus and countless other Prophets (peace be upon all of them) was completed. So from the time of Prophet Muhammad only those who believe that “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” will go to heaven.

Islam is strictly against any form of polytheism. To deny the omnipotence of your Creator is considered tyranny in Islam and the height of ungratefulness. So yes, those not on pure Islamic monotheism would be considered as heading towards hell.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
I don’t think any person has the right to judge another as practising or not. I have met women who wear the headscarf because it is part of their culture, but then not to practise any aspect of Islam. I have met people who don’t wear hijab but are very conscientious of the way they practise their faith. I think that it is Allah’s job to know what is in a person’s heart, their intentions and sincerity and their “takwah” or God-consciousness. These things are not outwardly visible.

I don’t feel that anyone speaks for me in the public domain. Every now and again, someone will come along and profess to speak for the Muslim community. Too often I have cringed when in the next breath they have expounded some extreme, barely logical philosophy. Even worse are the apologists who will deny almost every part of the faith to appear what they consider “normal” or just the same as everyone else. These people make me the most cross.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
Thankfully no. London is a very cosmopolitan city and I love the fact that you can be a white Rastafarian or a Muslim punk (or Muslim teenage goth at one point in my case) and no-one bats an eye-lid. I live close to Essex also however, and there I often find a different story – not so much physical abuse, but the way people talk to you. I had a lady shout out to someone the other day “Go back to your c***ting country and see what you get there”. I was not pleased!! I spoke to her nicely, but made her realise I had understood what she had said to the other person, she soon looked very shame-faced. I had one or two people spit at me or swear after 9/11, but generally I have not had any problems.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
No, I feel it empowers me as a woman, a mother, a daughter and a wife. It places massive responsibility on me and has great expectations of me. It pushes to be better and try harder all of the time.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Definitely, I am currently facing redundancy, but I feel a lot calmer than I probably should. It is my belief as a Muslim that everything happens for a reason, that Allah tests those he loves and that every tests raises our rank in the next life if we hold fast to our faith. Muslims also believe that all sustenance comes from Allah and we will get what is due to us. Just this thought – that my managers or my company will not decide my fate but that Allah will, puts me at ease. Islam promises that Allah never burdens a person with more than they can bear and that after every difficulty comes ease. The knowledge that every good thing in my life is a bounty from Allah and that every hardship is a source of forgiveness for my mistakes and a source of reward for my patience is a great comfort to me.


  1. I was really enjoying your review until I got to this part:

    Islam is strictly against any form of polytheism. To deny the omnipotence of your Creator is considered tyranny in Islam and the height of ungratefulness. So yes, those not on pure Islamic monotheism would be considered as heading towards hell.

    I am amazed that you expressed such a hateful statement toward another religion when earlier you said: I think regardless of faith there are some people with the most amazing good hearts and wonderful nature... and later I don’t believe that the person who makes an effort to spend a life in the service of others and remembering their creator at every turn will have the same fate as the one who hurts every person in his or her path and is ungrateful for every single good thing he or she comes across. and yet still feel that it's okay to target Polytheists with this "going to hell" nonsense.

    Polytheists are just as faithful, humble, in service of our Deity(Deities) as you are.

    Cicero (a Polytheist Roman) once said The Gods will be satisified if one lives a pure and devote life.

    So, why should I continue to show compassion, understanding, and open mindness toward a religion that condemns my own without knowing a darn thing about it?

    This kind of ignorance and arrogance against my faith is so offensive it makes me angry.

    Just a few things for you to read that I wrote and to think about before you start condeming me and my faith.

    In the Light,

    Cora: The Iconoclastic Domina

  2. Cora seriously, calm yourself down! Everyone is entitled to believe in their faith as they so wish so long as they don't encourage hatred or enforce it on anyone else. I think what Umm Salihah seemed to say was that although she respects and understands other faiths, Islam is clear on saying that polytheism is unacceptable, she didnt say anything about stopping those who do believe it in or who have a different faith. so for you to go on about how 'ignorant and arrogant' she is is is just making you a hypocrite. Also for you to post something about ONE individual who does something dumb like closing their shop for a 'martyr' and say we are fighting a 'religious war' can also be considered ignorant. One person does not represent the views of thousands of muslms who most likely do NOT agree with his views and have probably even been affected by the tragic incident itself in more ways than one. its odd that someone who is going off on one about people and their religious views are hatred towards others, that the way you write and seem to come across says that itself.

  3. Re: Sister Cora
    The word polytheism isn’t used to offend or belittle other religions or their followers. To be a follower of any religion, be it Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and so on you have to adhere to certain criteria’s. One of the main criteria of being a Muslim is to believe that no one is worthy of worship except Allah (God), he has no partners. There are other criteria’s one must also fulfil, for example, belief in the Angels: belief in God’s revealed Books (Torah, Bible, Quran), belief in the Prophets and Messengers of God (starting with Adam, including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them) & the final messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); Belief in Al-Qadar (Divine Predestination- Muslims believe that God has given human beings freewill. This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices. The belief in Divine Predestination includes belief in four things: 1) God knows everything. He knows what has happened and what will happen. 2) God has recorded all that has happened and all that will happen. 3) Whatever God wills to happen happens, and whatever He wills not to happen does not happen. 4) God is the Creator of everything). Denying any one of the above criteria’s or casting doubts over them takes you out of the fold of Islam.

    Like Islam, every religion has its own criteria’s which must be fulfilled in order for a person to be follower of that religion; and there are certain outcomes for those who chose not to follow that religion (i.e. heaven and hell; reincarnation and so on).

    Sister Cora: Islam forbids its followers from insulting other religions and their belief. Instead it teaches its followers “…not abuse those they appeal to instead of God" (Al-Quran chapter6: verse108) and “…not argue with the people of the Book unless it is in the politest manner" (Al-Quran chapter29: verse46). I am certain that Umm Salihah was not trying to offend you. She was merely trying to answer the question that according to her religion what is destined outcome for people who choose to follow other faiths. Unfortunately this is an interview so the answer has to be kept limited in order to keep the reader interested; therefore Umm Salihah could only say so much. Also polytheism is not a label used by Islam to insult other religions in arrogance or out of ignorance. If anything Islam itself is the most labelled religion out there.

  4. Cora i really appreciate your reply cause it raises a very important question (about Polythesim) that can we all follow different God’s (religions) and yet still all have the same outcome. People may argue by saying that the existence of more than one God is not illogical. But If there were more than one God, they would dispute with one another, each god trying to fulfil his will against the will of the other gods. If a ‘God’ is defeated or unable to defeat the others, he is surely not the one true God. Also in some religions there are multiple Gods, each having different responsibilities. Each one is responsible for a part of man’s existence e.g. a Sun-God, a Rain-God, etc. This indicates that one ‘God’ is incompetent of certain acts and moreover he is also ignorant of the other Gods’ powers, duties, functions and responsibilities. There cannot be an ignorant and incapable God. If there were more than one God it would surely lead to confusion, disorder, chaos and destruction in the universe. But the universe is in complete harmony. The Glorious Qur’an says: "If there were, in the heavens and the earth, other gods besides Allah, there would have been confusion in both! but glory to Allah, The Lord of the Throne: (High is He) above what they attribute to Him!" [Al-Qur’an 21:22]. If there were more than one God, they would have taken away what they created. The Qur’an says: "No son did Allah (God) beget, Nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have Lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) From the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!" [Al-Qur’an 23:91]. Thus the existence of one True, Unique, Supreme, Almighty God, is the only logical concept of God.

    I hope that you will not view the above as an attempt to condemn the beliefs other religions or its followers, but rather a polite argument.

  5. Brilliant interview! Islam is the true religion which can be proved by the miraculous Quran. Please all read the Chapter Iron. Remember this was written over 1400 years ago and science has only discovered the properties and qualities of iron. Also the Chapter number is the same atomic weight of iron. This is no coincidence but proof of Allah's existence.

  6. Allahuakbar. May Allah reward this sister. May we meet in Jannah. Allahuma sali ala Muhammadwa ala ali Muhammad. Thank u for the advice of saying that if you take something away from your children you replace it with something better. I just had a baby Alhamdulilah and this gives me advice.

    to Cora and all polytheists. the deities that you worship are man made. thats why people say the greek god of fire, the african god of fertility etc because these "gos" are made uo by the greeks and africans etc. Why worship something that you created with your own hands/minds it should be worshipping you.
    Im inviting you to worship the ONE who created you and created all of us and everything in existence. look around at other human beings, at nature etc dont you see the unity of it all. how everythng works together in one system, how could this becreated by more than one? remember back to when you were a pure believed in one not a bunch of deities. What the sister i saying is true...