Muslim women have been at the center of political, social and religious debates for decades. We're often painted as oppressed, uneducated, and weak. We're seen through the eyes of orientalists.
But Muslim Jordanian-Palestinian feminist Amani El-Khatahtbeh is having none of that. She wants to celebrate Muslim women and has teamed up with media and web partners in a campaign seeking to designate March 27 as Muslim Women's Day.
El-Khatahtbeh is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl, a website targeting Muslim women in the United States. She has partnered up with media giants including MTV, Huffington Post, Tumblr and Twitter to set March 27 as Muslim Women’s Day.
The campaign is all about passing the mic to Muslim women and enabling them to speak up and tell their own stories. Under the hashtag #MuslimWomensDay, people are tweeting about what this day means to them and why it matters.
"With the hype around the Women’s March and the national conversation taking place around the Muslim Ban both in the United States and around the world, it’s time to hear from a community that’s often talked about but rarely given the chance to speak," MuslimGirl writes.
In the first-ever Muslim Women's Day, we pay tribute to some incredible women in Islamic history.
1. Nusaybah bint Ka'ab, a warrior who sacrificed her life for Prophet Muhammad
As one of the first female warriors in Islamic history, Nusaybah bint Ka'ab, also known as Umm ‘Ammara, fought alongside Prophet Muhammad and was credited with saving his life.
Umm ‘Ammara guarded the prophet during the Battle of Uhud and shielded him from a line of arrows with her own body. She was greatly injured and fell unconscious.
It is said that after she woke up, her first question was: "Did the prophet survive?".
2. Khadija Bint Khuwaylid, the epitome of a strong independent woman
Khadija was an elite figure in Mecca long before her marriage to the prophet, who was 15 years her junior.
Khadija conquered the male-dominated society and asserted herself as a successful and esteemed business woman. According to the Huffington Post, her business, which revolved around trading goods from Mecca to Syria and Yemen, was larger than all of the Quraysh trades combined.
The prophet's first wife put her wealth to good use, donating to the poor, orphans, widows and the sick.
Khadija is said to have ditched the traditional gender norms and proposed to Muhammad herself, disregarding his poor financial status.
She was the first person to accept Muhammad as the final prophet of God and played a major role in propagating the new faith of Islam.
3. Fatima al-Fihri, founder of the world's oldest-standing university and library
In 859, Fatima al-Fihri established the University of Al-Qarawiyyin in Morocco, which is not only the longest-standing university, but also the oldest existing educational institution in the world.
Al-Qarawiyyin is the "oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world," according to Guinness World Records.
The university's library is also the world's oldest library.
Fatima al-Fihri, a well-educated and devoted Muslim, spent her entire inheritance on building the institution, which grew to become one of the leading spiritual and educational centers in the Muslim world.
4. Sultan Raziyya, a leader who slammed misogynists
Sultan Raziyya, who ruled the Delhi Sultanate from 1236 to 1240, was the sultanate's only female ruler.
Sultan Raziyya refused to be discriminated against for being female. She is known for only answering to the masculine title "Sultan" and refusing to be addressed as Sultana because it meant "wife or mistress of a sultan".
Sultan Raziyya opposed all norms related to a woman's appearance by dressing in masculine attire and refusing to wear a veil.
She was also known for her belief that "The spirit of religion is more important than its parts," according to Huffington Post.
5. Nawal El Moutawakel, first female Muslim Olympic gold medalist
Al-Moutawakel won the women's 400-meter hurdles event in the 1984 Olympic Games, becoming the first Moroccan athlete and the first Arab, Muslim and African woman to ever win a gold Olympic medal.
In honor of Morocco’s first Olympic champion, King Hassan II declared that all girls born on the day of her victory would be named Nawal.
Al-Moutawakel has taken up several positions in the field of sports, serving as Morocco's minister of Youth and Sport and the vice president of the International Olympic Committee.
6. Shirin Ebadi, first Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize
The Iranian activist, human rights lawyer and former judge won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, becoming the first Muslim woman to ever be awarded. She was recognized for her efforts to improve human rights in Iran, especially those of women, children and prisoners.
Ebadi is one of the first female judges in Iran and the first Iranian woman to achieve Chief Justice status.
She has founded several non-profit organizations in the country, including the Defender of Human Rights Center. She has also launched the Million Signatures Campaign, which seeks to end legal discrimination against women in Iranian law.
In 2004, Ebadi was named among the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes Magazine.
7. Anousheh Ansari, first Muslim woman in space
As an Iranian immigrant in the U.S., Ansari is one of many accomplished American Muslims who put Donald Trump's "Muslim ban" to shame.
Ansari was not only the first Muslim and the first Iranian to travel to space, but also the world's first-ever self-funded woman in space.
Apart from being a trailblazing astronaut, Ansari is an engineer and an entrepreneur who is the co-founder and chairman of Prodea Systems, a company that specializes in in-home technology.