Zaynab Al-Ghazali

ZAYNAB AL-GHAZALI
1917-2005 

“Islam has provided everything for both men and women. It gave women everything —freedom, economic rights, political rights, social rights, public and private rights. Islam gave women rights in the family granted by no other society. Women may talk of liberation in Christian society, Jewish society, or pagan society, but in Islamic society it is a grave error to speak of the liberation of women. The Muslim woman must study Islam so she will know that it is Islam that has given her all her rights.”

EARLY LIFE

Influences and Historical Context
Zaynab al-Ghazali’s father, a local religious leader, encouraged her to be both a strong woman and integrate religion in every aspect of her life. Inspired by her father, her piety, and the milieu of Egyptian nationalism, al-Ghazali began her career as an Islamic feminist at the age of 16 by joining the Egyptian Feminist Union followed by her establishment of the Muslim Women’s association at the age of 18.

al-Ghazali’s activism emerged within the context of Egyptian women’s expanding agency and was influenced by three decades of the Egyptian nationalist movement. In response to the post-colonialism and the forming of Egyptian national identity, women expanded and asserted their social agency, especially in relation to women’s involvement in charitable associations. These forms of social activism marked women’s entry into public and political life. The emergence of a variety of women’s associations can generally be divided into two fields: secular feminism and Islamic feminism.

ACTIVISM

Muslim Women’s Association
Secular groups, such as the Egyptian Feminist Union, focused their discourse on gender issues and equal rights. In contrast, al-Ghazali asserted that Islam had provided women all the rights that secular feminists were concern with. She charged that the focus on the “woman question” was a reflection of a colonized mentality and Western values. In forming the Muslim Women’s Association, al-Ghazali oriented her activism within traditional Islamic contexts and broadened the goals of her movement to improve society from within. The Association’s concern with providing charitable services and educating women, especially in the field of Qur’anic exegesis, is meant to empower women to be active within the home as well as strengthen the community at large. In keeping with Islamic tradition, al-Ghazali insists that women should play an active role in the public, intellectual and political spheres, as long as such activities do not interfere with a women’s responsibilities to her immediate family. Although al-Ghazali’s discourse reflects similar language as the liberal feminists, the great success of her movement owes to her affirmation of Muslim women’s equality within Islamic tradition.

Cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood
In addition to her involvement as a writer and editor for the al-Da’wah mazagine, al-Ghazali spoke at Ibn Tulun Mosque weekly and established a following of thousands of Egyptian women. As she attained prominence as a female figure in the Islamic opposition to the government, al-Ghazali and the Muslim Women’s Association became affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Although the two organizations worked closely together, al-Ghazali’s declined Qutb’s invitation to merge the two groups, effectively maintaining autonomy for her organization. al-Ghazali did swear her loyalty to Qutb, but the separation of the organizations later proved beneficial in temporarily shielding the Muslim Women’s Association during the government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

IMPRISONMENT

After the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1964, al-Ghazali continued her opposition to the Egyptian government. In 1965, she was arrested and imprisoned on charges of conspiring to assassinate Sadat. During the first year, she was held at al-Qanatir, a men’s prison, along with other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Her memoir, Return of the Pharaoh, recounts the brutal torture inflicted upon her, as well as her mystical experiences that sustained her faith during her imprisonment. Return of the Pharaoh reinforces al-Ghazali’s stature as equivalent, if not stronger, than her male counterparts, as well as an ideal model of female piety and activism.

ISLAMIC FEMINISM

Gender Paradox
Academic criticism surrounds al-Ghazali’s paradoxical discourse in reference to the role of women. Although al-Ghazali asserted that women’s role within Islam was rooted within the family structure and responsibilities of the home, al-Ghazali’s activism and involvement in the public sphere challenged the very gender roles she urged other women to abide. Despite these apparent contradictions, al-Ghazali’s success lies in her framing of women’s role as related to the moral and physical responsibilities to the family instead of equal rights. Given her personal situation, as a child-less wife who is first and foremost devoted to God and fulfillment of da’wa, al-Ghazali is not burdened with the same responsibilities of other women, therefore allowing for her active participation in public life. In this way, al-Ghazali shifted her moral responsibility towards the community at large, effectively becoming the mother of the Egyptian Islamist movement.

Legacy and Contemporary Islamic Feminism 
al-Ghazali’s influence pervades Islamic feminist discourse and institutional structures. In transforming women’s family obligations to encompass the entire community and grounding women’s equality within the Islamic tradition, al-Ghazali dramatically increased women’s social agency within Egypt. Using Muslim charitable organizations as a public structure within which women could establish their place in the heart of Islamic society, al-Ghazali and the Muslim Women’s Association acted as models within which women affirmed their equality and expanded their influence. As a pioneer of Islamic Feminism, al-Ghazali’s “blend of conservatism, nationalism, feminism and spirituality” continue as the guiding principles of Islamic women today.

Return of the Pharoah relates how, falsely accused of conspiring to kill Jamal ‘Abd an-Nasr, the author was arrested and imprisoned. While awaiting trial she was subjected to the most terrible and inhumane torture. This book describes in a captivating manner the ordeal which this Muslim activist went through in the notorious Egyptian prisons. Instead of dampening her enthusiasm for Islaam and the Islamic movement, the afflictions and savageries in Nasir’s prisons increased her commitment and dedication to the cause of Islaam. This autobiographical work can be considered a historic document in that its author was an active witness to one of the most volatile periods of Egypt’s contemporary history.

The full PDF of this book can be accessed and downloaded from here (please be patient as the book loads).

Some excerpts from “Return of The Pharaoh” (“Ayyaam min Hayatee”):

The condition that she made to her husband prior to their marital bond is as follows:

“However, I believe one day I will take this step that I wish and dream of. If that day comes, and because of it, a clash is apparent between your personal interests and economic activities on the one hand, and my Islamic work on the other, and that I find my married life is standing in the way of Da’wah and the establishment of an Islamic state, then, each of us should go our own way.”

“I cannot ask you today to share with me this struggle, but it is my right on you not to stop me from jihad in the way of Allah. Moreover, you should not ask me about my activities with other Mujahideen, and let trust be full between us. A full trust between a man and a woman, a woman who, at the age of 18, gave her full life to Allah and Da’wah. In the event of any clash between the marriage contract’s interest and that of Da’wah, our marriage will end, but Da’wah will always remain rooted in me.”

“I accept that ordering me to listen to you is amongst your rights, but Allah is greater than ourselves. Besides, we are living in a dangerous phase of Da’wah.”

The response of her husband was: “Forgive me. Carry on your work with Allah’s blessing. If only I could live to see the establishment of an Islamic state and the Ikhwan’s goal achieved! If only I was still in my youth to work with you!”

Description of the persecution on her in prison:

“The next moment the door was locked and a bright light switched on. Now their purpose was revealed; the room was full of dogs! I could not count how many!

Scared, I closed my eyes and put my hands to my chest. Within second the snarling dogs were all over me and I could feel their teeth tearing into every part of my body. Clenching my hands tight into my armpits, I began to recount the Names of Allah, beginning with ‘O Allah! O Allah!’…. I expected that my clothes would be thoroughly stained with blood, for I was sure the dogs had bitten every part of my body. But, incredulously, there was not a single bloodstain on my clothes, as if the dogs had been in my imagination only.”

“I do not know how but I fell asleep while invoking Allah, and it was then that I experienced the first of four visions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that I was to see during my stay in prison. There in front of me, praise be to Allah, was a vast desert and camels with hawdahs as if made of light. On each hawdah were four men, all with luminous faces. I found myself behind this huge train of camels in that vast, endless desert, and standing behind a great, reverent man. This man was holding a halter, which passed through the neck of each camel. I wondered silently: ‘Could this man be the Prophet (peace be upon him)?'”

“Silence has no safeguard with the Prophet, who replied: ‘Zaynab! You are following in the footsteps of Muhammad, Allah’s Servant and Messenger.'”`

“I remained in my cell for six consecutive days: from Friday 20th August to Thursday 26th August 1965. My cell door, during these six days was never opened. I was given neither food, drink, allowed to go to the toilet nor any contact with the outside world, except my warder who, now and then, peeped through the small hole in my cell door. You can imagine, dear reader, how a person can live in such circumstances.”

“Write down the names of all your acquaintances on the face of this earth. If you don’t, we will shoot you where you stand. Write down the names of all your Ikhwan acquaintances and everything about your relationship with them.

They then left the cell, closing the door behind them. I wrote: ‘I have many friends, in many countries, who have known me through Islamic da’wah. Our movements on this earth are for Allah, and He leads those who choose His path. This path is the same as that which the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions followed before us. Our aim is to spread Allah’s message and to call for the implementation of His rule. I call you, in the Name of Allah, to leave your Jahiliyyah, renew your Islam, pronounce the Shahadah and submit and repent to Allah from this darkness that has swathed your hearts, and which prevents you from doing any good deed. If you do so, perhaps Allah will take you out of this abyss of Jahiliyyah and bring you to the light of Islam.”

“Then, at the Adhan of Fajr, I prayed, raising my hands and invoking Allah: “O Allah! If You are not angry with me I don’t care, but Your grace is more befitting to me. I seek refuge in the light of Your Face, That which has enlightened darkness and on Whom the matters of this life and the Hereafter have settled, that Your Curse does not befall me. To You is our obedience until You are pleased and there is no might or strength except with You.”

“His whips found every part of my body, the cruelest thing that Jahiliyyah had known both in terms of cruelty and bestiality. As the torture and pain intensified, I could not suppress my screams any longer; I raised my voice to Allah. I repeated His great Name: ‘O Allah! O Allah!’ Whilst the whips tore into my body, my heart found contentment and affinity with Allah. I lost consciousness but they tried to arouse me to take more punishment. Blood poured from my feet, and unable to pull myself up, I tried to lean on the wall. Safwat persisted with his whip. I begged to be allowed to sit on the floor but Shams Badran shouted: “No! No! Where is your God now? Call Him to save you from my hands! Answer me, where is your God?”

 

The Black Prince of Islam – X

http://www.biography.com/people/malcolm-x-9396195#synopsis

Early Life

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm was the fourth of eight children born to Louise, a homemaker, and Earl Little, a preacher who was also an active member of the local chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and avid supporter of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Due to Earl Little’s civil rights activism, the family faced frequent harassment from white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and one of its splinter factions, the Black Legion. In fact, Malcolm X had his first encounter with racism before he was even born.

“When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, ‘a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home,'” Malcolm later remembered. “Brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out.” The harassment continued; when Malcolm X was four years old, local Klan members smashed all of the family’s windows, causing Earl Little to decide to move the family from Omaha to East Lansing, Michigan.

However, the racism the family encountered in East Lansing proved even greater than in Omaha. Shortly after the Littles moved in, in 1929, a racist mob set their house on fire, and the town’s all-white emergency responders refused to do anything. “The white police and firemen came and stood around watching as the house burned to the ground,” Malcolm X later remembered.

Two years later, in 1931, things got much, much worse. Earl Little’s dead body was discovered laid out on the municipal streetcar tracks. Although Malcolm X’s father was very likely murdered by white supremacists, from whom he had received frequent death threats, the police officially ruled his death a suicide, thereby voiding the large life insurance policy he had purchased in order to provide for his family in the event of his death. Malcolm X’s mother never recovered from the shock and grief of her husband’s death. In 1937, she was committed to a mental institution and Malcolm X left home to live with family friends.

 

Troubled Youth
Malcolm X attended West Junior High School, where he was the school’s only black student. He excelled academically and was well liked by his classmates, who elected him class president. However, he later said that he felt that his classmates treated him more like the class pet than a human being. The turning point in Malcolm X’s childhood came in 1939, when his English teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he answered that he wanted to be a lawyer. His teacher responded, “One of life’s first needs is for us to be realistic … you need to think of something you can be … why don’t you plan on carpentry?” Having thus been told in no uncertain terms that there was no point in a black child pursuing education, Malcolm X dropped out of school the following year, at the age of 15.After quitting school, Malcolm X moved to Boston to live with his older half-sister, Ella, about whom he later recalled, “She was the first really proud black woman I had ever seen in my life. She was plainly proud of her very dark skin. This was unheard of among Negroes in those days.” Ella landed Malcolm a job shining shoes at the Roseland Ballroom. However, out on his own on the streets of Boston, Malcolm X became acquainted with the city’s criminal underground, soon turning to selling drugs. He got another job as kitchen help on the Yankee Clipper train between New York and Boston and fell further into a life of drugs and crime. Sporting flamboyant pinstriped zoot suits, he frequented nightclubs and dance halls and turned more fully to crime to finance his lavish lifestyle. This phase of Malcolm X’s life came to a screeching halt in 1946, when he was arrested on charges of larceny and sentenced to ten years in jail.To pass the time during his incarceration, Malcolm X read constantly, devouring books from the prison library in an attempt make up for the years of education he had missed by dropping out of high school. Also while in prison, he was visited by several siblings who had joined to the Nation of Islam, a small sect of black Muslims who embraced the ideology of black nationalism—the idea that in order to secure freedom, justice and equality, black Americans needed to establish their own state entirely separate from white Americans. Malcolm X converted to the Nation of Islam while in prison, and upon his release in 1952 he abandoned his surname “Little,” which he considered a relic of slavery, in favor of the surname “X”—a tribute to the unknown name of his African ancestors.
Nation of Islam

Now a free man, Malcolm X traveled to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked with the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, to expand the movement’s following among black Americans nationwide. Malcolm X became the minister of Temple No. 7 in Harlem and Temple No. 11 in Boston, while also founding new temples in Harford and Philadelphia. In 1960, he established a national newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, in order to further promote the message of the Nation of Islam.

Articulate, passionate and a naturally gifted and inspirational orator, Malcolm X exhorted blacks to cast off the shackles of racism “by any means necessary,” including violence. “You don’t have a peaceful revolution,” he said. “You don’t have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution.” Such militant proposals—a violent revolution to establish an independent black nation—won Malcolm X large numbers of followers as well as many fierce critics. Due primarily to the efforts of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam grew from a mere 400 members at the time he was released from prison in 1952, to 40,000 members by 1960.

By the early 1960s, Malcolm X had emerged as a leading voice of a radicalized wing of the Civil Rights Movement, presenting an alternative to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a racially integrated society achieved by peaceful means. Dr. King was highly critical of what he viewed as Malcolm X’s destructive demagoguery. “I feel that Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice,” King once said.

 

Break with Elijah Muhammad
Philosophical differences with King were one thing; a rupture with Elijah Muhammad proved much more traumatic. In 1963, Malcolm X became deeply disillusioned when he learned that his hero and mentor had violated many of his own teachings, most flagrantly by carrying on many extramarital affairs; Muhammad had, in fact, fathered several children out of wedlock. Malcolm’s feelings of betrayal, combined with Muhammad’s anger over Malcolm’s insensitive comments regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, led Malcolm X to leave the Nation of Islam in 1964.That same year, Malcolm X embarked on an extended trip through North Africa and the Middle East. The journey proved to be both a political and spiritual turning point in his life. He learned to place the American Civil Rights Movement within the context of a global anti-colonial struggle, embracing socialism and pan-Africanism. Malcolm X also made the Hajj, the traditional Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during which he converted to traditional Islam and again changed his name, this time to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.After his epiphany at Mecca, Malcolm X returned to the United States less angry and more optimistic about the prospects for peaceful resolution to America’s race problems. “The true brotherhood I had seen had influenced me to recognize that anger can blind human vision,” he said. “America is the first country … that can actually have a bloodless revolution.” Tragically, just as Malcolm X appeared to be embarking on an ideological transformation with the potential to dramatically alter the course of the Civil Rights Movement, he was assassinated. 
Death and Legacy
On the evening of February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, where Malcolm X was about to deliver a speech, three gunmen rushed the stage and shot him 15 times at point blank range. Malcolm X was pronounced dead on arrival at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital shortly thereafter. He was 39 years old. The three men convicted of the assassination of Malcolm X were all members of the Nation of Islam: Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson.In the immediate aftermath of Malcolm X’s death, commentators largely ignored his recent spiritual and political transformation and criticized him as a violent rabble-rouser. However, Malcolm X’s legacy as a civil rights hero was cemented by the posthumous publication in 1965 of The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley. At once a harrowing chronicle of American racism, an unsparing self-criticism and an inspiring spiritual journey, the book, transcribed by the acclaimed author of Roots, instantly recast Malcolm X as one of the great political and spiritual leaders of modern times. Named byTIME magazine one of 10 “required reading” non-fiction books of all-time,The Autobiography of Malcolm X has truly enshrined Malcolm X as a hero to subsequent generations of radicals and activists.Perhaps Malcolm X’s greatest contribution to society was underscoring the value of a truly free populace by demonstrating the great lengths to which human beings will go to secure their freedom. “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression,” he stated. “Because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”
Personal Life

In 1958, Malcolm X married Betty Sanders, a fellow member of the Nation of Islam. The couple had six children together, all daughters: Attallah (b. 1958), Qubilah (b. 1960), Ilyasah (b. 1963), Gamilah (b. 1964) and twins Malaak and Malikah (b. 1965). Sanders later became known as Betty Shabazz, and she became a prominent civil rights and human rights activist in her own right in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

In May 2013, Malcolm X’s grandson, Malcolm Shabazz—son of the civil rights leader’s second daughter with wife Betty Shabazz, Qubilah Shabazz—was beaten to death in Mexico City, near the Plaza Garibaldi. He was 28 years old. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, police believe Malcolm Shabazz’s death was the result of a “robbery gone wrong.”

QUOTES:
“Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
“America is the first country … that can actually have a bloodless revolution.”
“You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution.”
“You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution.”
“If you are not willing to pay the price for freedom, you don’t deserve freedom.”
“While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had the great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem.”