My Dear Beloved Daughter,
I am writing to you because I have observed your struggle to ascertain your identity. I see you fight to assert yourself as a young Black Muslim girl in a world that doesn’t acknowledge your beauty, hear your thoughts, value your principles. I want you to know I am trying and have tried to teach you all that it takes to be an assertive Muslim woman. I want to take this moment, my dear daughter, to tell you what it has meant to me to have you as my daughter. I knew from conception that my Lord has favoured me and bless me. I know that you are yet to apprehend the blessing you have been. You, my dear daughter, have been here with me during my self-discovery, triumphs, and downfalls. Loving you has inspired me to thrive for a better me. My struggle in life since your birth has been a quest to teach and pass on the legacy of strength that has been part of my legacy and now yours, a legacy that involves nothing else but the simple and pure wisdom of self-belief. I hope you will learn that being a woman, especially a Muslim woman, involves nothing of what societies expect a Muslim woman’s role to be. You my daughter, come from a lineage of women who possessed freedom of thought, action, and above all, choice.
You and I are products of women who believed in themselves. The generations of women we are part of still exists and will continue to exist, each passing on the valuable wisdom of self-belief, each teaching others through words or actions of what it is to be a woman of strength. What have I learned from these women in my life, these women whom have influenced my being?
I start with your great grandmother – they say class is something you’re born with and it’s not something you acquire through status. Your great-grandmother is a queen, in her own right. She has taught me to aim high, believing in myself and mostly about self-preservations, and that one must always be a lady. There is a Somali saying that goes like this: Even if you’re dying, you should wipe the drool off your face. This comes to mind whenever I think of my grandmother. Her motto in life: Even if you’re facing hardship, one must tighten that belt and walk with pride. I, your mother, have learned from your great-grandmother that determination and dedication to better one’s life happens by making better choices that enables one to walk through life knowing it’s all done by choice!
I must tell you about your grandmother, she has been nicknamed Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, etc. Names of women that have made a mark in the world either by their compassion for the less fortunate, endurance, fight for equality, political change and so on. A humanist is how I had come to understand your grandmother. As a child I didn’t understand her dedication to others. I never understood what she was preparing me for in my later life when she sent me to help neighbours or relatives. I am only coming to understand the impact of that now as an adult. I was being taught humility – a valuable lesson, and one of the most cherished of my childhood lessons – and for this I love her dearly. Your grandmother lives her life with much humility, humbleness and devotion. May Allah (SWT) continue showering her his mercy and blessing. Ameen. Your grandmother is a woman of much strength that when she speaks, she commands attention not through harshness but wisdom. And your aunties, your other grandmothers, cousins and all the other women that are in our lives – we learn from them. We learn that at times we will question the state of being a Muslim Woman and other times life experiences would have us be beaten, moulded and shaped, but knowing we possess the legacy of strength carries us through. I pray my daughter that you shall continue to strive to find yourself and continue the legacy.
Your Beloved Mother
Zeinab Sulemani is a mother of one daughter. She comes from a lineage of single mothers, women who did it for themselves. She teaches English as a second language at a secondary school, and volunteers working with young people. She is currently training to be a counsellor and coach for young people and lives in Milton Keynes.