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Why Community Work Is Needed for Our Sisters

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 28th March, 2023

Moving to a new place away from home comforts and those familiar faces around you can be a daunting time. Since getting married and moving I really struggled with finding that joy of community and sisterhood. It’s something I became accustomed to living at home in Oxford with plentiful events and classes going on, it was only when these things weren’t accessible to me that I realised what I was missing. 

While it’s been necessary to have an online community, especially during COVID, it cannot replace in person interaction. Having a solid Muslim community brings me comfort and the support that I need because I know I’m not alone in striving to become a better Muslim. Community is about our spiritual growth as Shaykh Mikaeel Ahmed Smith recently said in his ‘know thy enemy series’:

“One of the most critical things that you need in order to grow strong as a believer is community. It’s the brothers and sisters around you that can help support you and push you towards righteousness.”

I have lived in other parts of the UK and travelled around the world and I’ve seen how Muslims thrive when there is a strong presence of community. Where the mosque is the nucleus for the community and houses are always open for beneficial gatherings. 

In 2014, I spent a month studying Qur’anic Arabic in Dallas, Texas. The mosque wasn’t only a place for prayer but for the entire community to get together for regular Islamic classes, events for women and children; they even had a basketball court outside. Almost a decade later, I still think about how that experience in the US shaped my understanding of what a Muslim community can look like. I know for many of us in the UK that still seems like a distant dream with many old school traditional mosque committees that do not always tailor to women or children. 

According to a recent study by the Muslim Census, exploring the experiences of Muslim women in the UK. Out of 1,200 participant responses they found the following: 

  • Almost 1 in 5 Muslim women never visit a mosque.
  • Less than half of Muslim women had a positive experience within the Muslim community and less than 10% of Muslim women have a trusted Islamic scholar for guidance.
  • The spirituality of almost two-thirds of women is detrimentally impacted by a lack of access to a mosque.

The data doesn’t surprise me, but over the years, I’ve realised if your mosque is not providing those services, it must be challenged, and as women we have to strive to carve out those spaces for ourselves. Serious work needs to be done for our sisters to address this systemic issue. However, it shouldn’t deter or demotivate us from doing community work. If we can’t access spaces in the mosque, God willing, it will drive us to do more in the spaces we already have access to from our homes, community centres and cafes. 

We don’t bloom spiritually in isolation, we have to create the community we need. 

We don’t passively believe, we engage and should be proactive. If we are truly honest with ourselves, how often do we seek to know the other sisters in our community outside of our own friendship groups? Do we extend salams to new sisters and introduce ourselves and find out more about them?  

I often find myself having the same conversations with my friends from home about the importance of community and what we can do. One of my close school friends, Saffiyah, who is also an alimah shared some of her thoughts with me: 

The Prophet () said, “A faithful believer to a faithful believer is like the bricks of a wall, enforcing each other.” While (saying that) the Prophet () clasped his hands, by interlacing his fingers. 

A community is exactly like that, she said, “people united in their belief of one God, supporting each other to feel safe, secure, and protected for a united purpose – worshipping Allah. On a personal level, growing up in a non-Muslim community, with all my family in India, I never felt the absence of family because my local Muslim community felt like family. During eids and ramadans there was always a sense of sisterhood and brotherhood, and a sense of belonging. Especially important in my formative years, when school sometimes felt the exact opposite – often being the only visible Muslim in my class or even entire school.” 

Love for the sake of Allah 

There are 7 people who will be under the shade of Allah’s Arsh (throne) on the day of judgement, one of those people are: “two people who love one another for the sake of Allah, meeting and parting on that basis.” [Sahih Hadith

In another narration, Abu Hurairah (ra) reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A man set out to visit a brother (in Faith) in another town and Allah sent an angel on his way. When the man met the angel, the latter asked him, “Where do you intend to go?” He said, “I intend to visit my brother in this town”. The angel said, “Have you done any favour to him?” He said, “No, I have no desire except to visit him because I love him for the sake of Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious.” Thereupon the angel said, “I am a messenger to you from Allah (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you love him (for His sake).” [Muslim]

We have gym buddies or friends we meet up with to go to the latest instagrammable restaurant with, but we need to have people in our lives that we meet up with purely for the sake of Allah (swt). No other motive and not because we want a favour from them either. 

Community is a rizq from Allah 

I recently attended a series of talks by Jinan Yousef hosted at a friend’s house. Jinan was going over Allah’s name, ar-Razzaq (The Provider). She reminded us that rizq (provision) is from Allah and our rizq is multidimensional. We often assume rizq only comes in material form but it is anything that benefits us. 

At the end of the talk, the sisters shared their own reflections and one of them mentioned how she regularly used to travel to the US to visit her sister in California because the Muslim community was very proactive. Since COVID and certain travel restrictions she’s been unable to go back and has found herself appreciating her community at home more. 

The gathering with Jinan was rizq from Allah and the Muslim sisters in Oxford who facilitated the gathering were serving the community in their homes for the sake of Allah. Yet these things did not happen overnight. It takes years of hard work to build the foundations of a strong community. It takes perseverance to facilitate talks, classes with scholars, halaqas for teens and social gatherings for new mothers. Allah sees our effort and rewards us accordingly just like the birds striving for their sustenance. 

Saffiyah helped put the series of talks together with Jinan and it impacted us both. She shared that, “Since Covid, I haven’t really been to any in-person classes or community events. Jinan’s halaqah was the first time in a few years that I was in a community setting. After the session, Jinan opened up the floor for questions or comments – I was surprised at the responses. Many sisters were in tears from the impact it had on them. Up until that point, I didn’t realise just how much the community, especially women, needed this. A safe space for women, led by a female scholar, non-judgemental, talking about Allah. 

Without such gatherings we’ll never know the difficulties our sisters are facing and will never be able to support them. When Umar (ra), was the Caliph, he used to walk around the streets of Madinah at night, making sure things were in order. There was a poor widow and Umar (ra) heard her children crying from hunger, he asked her what was wrong and she explained her situation. He then provided her with financial support that she needed. In order to be able to fulfil our communal obligation of supporting the community, we first need to provide a space where these sort of gatherings can take place.” 

What can we do? 

While I can sit here and list the problems in the community, some parting advice that myself and Saffiyah wanted to end this piece with is what we can do. 

Trust in Allah

Umar (ra) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: ‘If you were to rely upon Allah with the reliance He is due, you would be given provision like the birds: They go out hungry in the morning and come back with full bellies in the evening.” (Darussalam)

We must trust that Allah is ar-Razzaq, He will provide for us but Allah has made us so we have to go out and work for our provision. So if there isn’t one already, start that sisters circle even if only 1 or 2 people come, be consistent and do it for the sake of Allah and nobody else. 

Start Small & be Consistent 

Start in whatever capacity you can but make sure it is consistent. If you don’t have access to female scholars, start a book club, don’t overthink it – just a regular gathering where people can meet and recite a few verses from the Quran or seerah. You could also watch lectures and discuss reflections and lessons learnt from that. 

One of the things Saffiyah and I used to do in secondary school, when we were around 15 years old, was that we had weekly gatherings on Fridays during lunchtime at school. We would meet up after school, research and discuss various topics. Nothing nuanced and complicated – just the basics e.g. backbiting, importance of prayer, and then we would discuss the topic on Fridays. It was a small consistent gathering but its impact was huge. It kept our circle of friends grounded and God-conscious in an environment where it was very easy to be far from God. 

Remember, it Takes Time 

Know that it isn’t easy – everyone has their own things going on in their work, studies and family commitments. But if we don’t invest in our own community, we will suffer undoubtedly but so will the next generation of Muslims. The Prophet spent 13 years in Makkah, building the foundations and laying the groundwork which eventually led to the community in Madinah that we know of.


Muslim Woman’s Faith Experience, Muslim Census,, January 2023

Sara Chaudhry

Sara Chaudhry

Sara Chaudhry is a London-based journalist working in current affairs. You can follow more of her work on: Twitter: @_SaraChaudhry Instagram: @sara_chaudhry