Not to play on any stereotypes here, but if you tell a bunch of sisters that there’s going to be hijab-friendly bazaar vendors, halal food and awesome opportunities to gain some Islamic knowledge under one roof — all in a sisters-only environment — you needn’t say much before everyone’s talking about it. Why, you ask? Well, for one, sisters need other sisters. We need our bonding time. Our relaxation time. Our home-away-from-home time. In a place where we can learn from each other and grow (and maybe shop a little, too).
Events like Muslimahs United held on the weekend of November 1st, was just that.
In its second annual expo, the Muslimahs United theme was “My Sister’s Keeper: Embrace, Engage, Elevate.” Though I was only there for a few hours on the first day, the lectures I attended, food I ate (Nutella crepes are always a win) and clothes I bought were fantastic. In the intimate setting of Swaghat Banquet Hall, one room had round tables and chairs for the lecture hall. When seated in the hall by a volunteer, we were considerately offered warm biryani or a kebab roll. There was also the option of organic coffee and crepes. The other slightly larger room held the bazaar. Hosting a variety of items from teas and cakes, to hijabs and abayas, to books and jewelry — the bazaar felt lively, welcoming and entertaining.
The event attracted women of all ages and the selection of speakers was chosen well too. Before leaving to the event, I checked the program and saw that a lecture focusing on the multiple “hats” of women would be given by a man – a topic I thought would be much better suited for a woman. However, the Sheikh did an exceptional job of explaining the rewards and benefits of being a daughter, sister, wife, mother, career-woman and how to manage each role.
Towards the end of the day, I caught the sisters-only fashion show, something I found to be quite interesting. In a more comfortable setting, sisters modeled new hijab- friendly garments and rocked dazzling pieces of jewelry from event sponsors. The fashion show was also a great way to introduce the day’s guests: YouTube stars The Hijabi Bengali Sisters gave a talk about the importance of modesty and hijab.
The popularity and buzz around the event amongst sisters indicates a need in our community for such gatherings. Sisters need more safe spaces where they can open up, help each other and just be. Personally, the most significant part of the event was when the female speakers, who were just like everyone else in the audience, spoke. As women, they spoke to us rather than for us. They spoke about their stories and their struggles. The only thing I would suggest as an improvement is to address the rights of women in Islam. We hear much about our responsibilities — and we should — but few can truly list their rights as a Muslim woman.
Finally, Muslimahs United mentioned that their event was organized with a special focus on converts. This, I feel, is a great initiative that many overlook in most Muslim events (especially gender-specific ones). Perhaps Muslimahs United can set a trend to focus on converts, and build true bonds of sisterhood that are not exclusionary.
All in all, after a day full of learning, crying, laughing and shopping — I am looking forward to the third annual Muslimahs United!