A young girl comes home to her family, her hand resting over her stomach, while others’ faces turn red in shame and anger. A young woman stands in the streets, cradling her infant and silently bearing the acrid judgment of the public.
Whether victims of rape, financial difficulty or their own unfortunate sins, young women who find themselves unexpectedly with a child are immediately judged, shunned and written off as burdens to society. The attitude towards them is that they not only are unwelcome, but also are useless and have nothing of benefit to contribute to the world around them. As a result, this turns into the cycle of a self-fulfilling prophecy – by condemning them for their mistakes and withdrawing meaningful support, these young girls and women find themselves adrift, worn down and often unable to believe in their ability to provide a better life for themselves and their children. Furthermore, they may find it difficult to believe that their children will be able to become a force for positive change in the future.
Maryam bint ‘Imran (AS) was a very young girl when she was visited by the angel Jibreel and given the news of her miraculous pregnancy. The priests and masses of Bani Isra’eel reacted with anger and disgust and she was forced to leave her sanctuary and find an isolated area wherein to give birth to her son, Prophet ‘Isa (AS). When the priests of Bani Isra’eel kicked her out of her sanctuary due to her pregnancy, she was effectively rendered homeless. Maryam became one of the most famous women in Islamic history. She defied the odds and the animosity of her society and was able to raise a Prophet who changed the course of history.
Although Maryam was falsely accused and was honoured in the Qur’an for her great status, a core lesson remains: it is all too easy to judge someone by their mistakes, whether their mistakes are real or wrongly perceived by the society around them. It is a high level of good character and wisdom to recognise the blessing in every individual’s situation.
One of the reasons that Maryam was able to remain strong and raise her son with firm belief in Allah was that she had support: the support of her family, including her mother whose unique supplication to Allah ensured that, out of all of mankind, only Maryam and ‘Isa would not be touched by Shaytan. Maryam was not supported only by the women of her family, however, but also by a man: Prophet Zakariyya (AS), who had been her guardian and knew first-hand of her character and who was well aware that the birth of ‘Isa was a divine miracle. Without the support of those who believed in her, Maryam could have allowed herself to surrender to despair and live a quiet, ignominious life without making an effort to raise her son to become the man who was one of the greatest messengers to walk the earth.
Often, young girls and women are stigmatised and given little, if any, chance to strive for a better life. Their children, too, are labeled and ostracised, marked indelibly as being unfit or unsuitable to be a part of the greater Ummah.
Just imagine young ‘Isa (AS) being raised in a society where everyone knew the gossip related to his mother. Even today, there are distasteful words used to describe children who are considered illegitimate and it is known that the Jews considered ‘Isa (AS) as such, wa al’iyathu billah (we seek protection and refuge in Allah from that). Although the miracles of his infancy were known and it was obvious that he was no ordinary child, he and his mother were still human and thus subject to the cruelties of slander – just as the children of young women in unfortunate circumstances today are treated.
Despite their outer circumstances, despite the accusations against Maryam’s honour, despite the stigma that ‘Isa grew up with due to the circumstances of his birth, Maryam and ‘Isa were both chosen by Allah above all of mankind:
“O Maryam, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.”
“O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve…”
It is all too easy for us to pass judgement on others simply because of what we see from them, but it is those same people who could be our Ummah’s greatest hope.
As Muslims, our duty is not to shun and condemn, to withdraw hope and assistance from fellow Muslims, no matter how severe we see their sins as being. Rather, our duty is to help these individuals – to help them overcome their errors, to seek Allah’s forgiveness, to repent and to strive to become greater Muslims. The very people whom we may look down on may be the ones who have the potential to become leaders for this Ummah. Never give up on the hundreds and thousands of young, pregnant girls and single mothers. Never write them off as “hopeless” and their children as “burdens” to this Ummah. Instead, think of them as one of the most powerful sources of hope for this Ummah: those who, with strong iman and the right tools, could raise a generation of heroic Muslims who have overcome the odds with a strength that will help change this world for the better.
Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young woman who finds constant inspiration in the lives of the Sahabiyaat and other great women in Islamic history. She hopes that every Muslimah is able to identify with the struggles of these inspirational women and follow in their footsteps to become a part of a new generation of powerful Muslim women. She blogs at http://www.thesalafifeminist.blogspot.com