I am a Muslim. I am a female. I am a mother. I am a wife, and I am an entrepreneur. I was once told that I was a feminist Muslim, but the truth is, I am just Muslim. Islam values and elevates women and I understand that.
Years back, when I was in university, I took an elective course called Women and Human Rights. A big portion of this course focused on religion and women and the professor focused on all the things about religion that she felt oppressed women, didn't value women, positioned women as inferior, and the list goes on. Keep in mind, I live in Canada and the professor was an Atheist born to a Mormon Christian mother and a Jewish father. She was confident that she was unbiased and simply "telling it like it is" from all the information she had acquired over the years.
As a Muslim female, born and raised in Canada, I simply never saw my religion (Islam) as a hindrance. It was never taught to me as something that should hold me back as a female, make me miserable or make me wish I was a man instead. I simply never got that feeling learning Islam growing up.
She pointed out all the things she viewed as negative for women in religion and in one lecture she explained that culture and religion are the same. When I heard that, I had to raise my hand and say:
"Ms. that is simply not true. My parents are from Egypt, and there are many things about Egyptian culture that are not acceptable in Islam and many Islamic teachings that were not widely accepted by the people when my mother was growing up, so they cannot be the same."
This was just the beginning...I'd soon find myself clearing up many more misconceptions, especially regarding my faith.
During one class, among other things, she said, "In Islam, women aren't even allowed to go to the mosque." I couldn't sit there quietly and listen while my peers (the majority of whom were not Muslim) were misinformed. I mean, I attend any mosque in my city I want, freely! I raised my hand and said, "Ms., that is not true! I am a Muslim female and I go to the mosque all the time"
She knew I was not oppressed. She knew I was confident. She knew I wasn't ever too shy or afraid to speak up if I didn't agree with something.
She replied by saying,"Well, I had some students from Pakistan who said they were not allowed to go to the mosque".
I explained further "You see Ms., that could be part of their culture or something that their parents taught them, but I assure you, I am a Muslim, and I can go to the mosque, and I do not go against Islamic teachings when I do so."
She responded with a smile and said:
"That is because you are a feminist Muslim."
I couldn't resist, the words flew out of my mouth, "I am Muslim".
You see, I am a Muslim woman that understands her rights in Islam. I understand both women and men have restrictions put in place as guidance to keep them on the straight path, not to oppress them or to make them miserable. I am aware that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that the key to heaven lies beneath our mother's feet, and he narrated that the best of men, are the best in character and the best of character are the best to their women.
I was taught that I was special and that I was to be proud to be a Muslim. I was taught that the first person to accept Islam was a woman and that the first person to die for Islam was a woman. In Islam, women are smart, women are strong, women are courageous, women are great entrepreneurs like Khadijah (the wife of the prophet p.b.u.h.), may Allah swt be pleased with her. These are the women I look up to and they represent the Islam I know.