Activism and International Women's Day
Updated: Feb 20
Writer: Sherica Mohammad Cumberbatch
Allah (glory be to Him) states in Ayah 11, Surah 13 of Al Qur'an:
"……..And indeed Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves."
Activism can be defined in many ways, but in essence, it is the taking of action to effect social change. It is not limited to activists as has been defined in the classical sense but extends to all persons who take action in whatever way he or she can. Islam recognises and encourages righteous action in all of its adherents, regardless of gender, and in all spheres of life, including, but not limited to - devotional, moral, spiritual, social, economic. Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (RadhiyaAllahu ‘anhu) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (SallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) say:
“Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Reported by Muslim]
International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. It was initiated some 1400 years or so after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) brought gender equality and women's rights protection in the mid-sixth century. This year, International Women’s Day 2018 echoes the priority theme of the upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and aims to draw attention to the rights and activism of rural women
"who till the lands and plant seeds to feed nations, ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience."
In Barbados, women have been involved in food security from kitchen gardens to fields and hills of cane, root vegetables and ground provision, to roadside stall, market stalls and supermarket shelves, for centuries. All while child bearing, child rearing, schooling, and supporting themselves and their extended families, and reinvesting in social and economic changes, in what was for the earlier part of the 20th century, almost a matrifocal society. In addition, their investments were not limited to plants, but included livestock. These women were activists - agents who actively engaged in efforts to reshape their identities and their communities. Allah (glory be to Him) states in Ayah 54, Surah 20 of Al Qur'an:
'Eat (therefrom) and raise your livestock for these are proofs for those who possess intelligence.’
and in Ayah 71-73 of Surah 35 of Al Qur'an:
‘Have they not seen that we created for them, with our own hands, livestock that they own? And we subdued them for them; some they ride, and some they eat. They derive other benefits for them, as well as drinks. Would they not be appreciative?’
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.” Sahih Bukhari Vol.3 Book 39, No.513
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“If the end of the world approaches and one of you has a seedling (or plant) in his hand, if he can plant it before the end comes let him do it.” (Ahmad)
Plant a seedling? Really? Yes. Even when death approaches, we are encouraged to do something. Therefore, this International Women's Day we encourage all women, not only to recognize and celebrate the contributions of those women before and amongst us, but also to recognize our own potential and ability to make even the smallest action of activism impactful.