As a woman, my relationships with women outside of my family haven't always been positive. Ironically, I was raised only by women and surrounded by positive life examples in the women around me, Alhamdulillah (all praise and thanks is due to Allah).
This isn't to say I had a hectic life full of fights and traumas involving other women, what I'm talking about here is my subconscious opinion of women growing up and how that impacted the opinion of myself. Or was it vice-versa?
I was in two committed relationships since the age of sixteen until a couple of years ago when the toxic relationship I was in finally ended for good. Alhamdulillah. For my whole adult life to that point, for ten years, I was with men who didn't respect themselves or love themselves enough to extend their love and respect to anyone else, not truly.
But this isn’t about these men and their mistakes or the qualities I’ve come to know through much better men since. This is about the women I didn’t know and the sisterhood I hadn’t yet learnt.
My underlining view of women wasn’t a positive one, influenced by our patriarchal society, yes, and also the negativity that was projected on to me by my partners as well as the experiences of perceived betrayal by other women within my relationships.
I don’t think I loved myself yet and I really didn’t value other women like I do now.
It was only after embracing my life as an individual and not within the context of a relationship that I could allow myself to trust and rely on other women and build real friendships. Meeting like-minded people is an amazing experience but meeting like-minded women who you can connect with on that deeper level is so essential to getting through this life.
That deeper level exists because of our shared experiences and similar responsibilities that are shaped by Allah and by society. We understand and support each other better because of the compassion inherent in our existence.
Allah tells us in the Quran in Surah at-Tawbah, ayah 71: 'The believers, both men and women, support each other; they order what is right and forbid what is wrong; they keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; they obey God and His Messenger. God will give His mercy to such people: God is almighty and wise.'
Sisterhood is so essential to our lives, without it and without the women who surround me, my life could be a much darker place. And all praise and thank is due to Allah.
I used the Abdel Haleem Quran translation, get yours here. (affiliate link)
How To Build Sisterhood
As we can see in the ayah above, building sisterhood in Islam is important. As Muslim women, having Muslim women surround us keeps us on track. We support each other.
The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon us, said: "A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other." The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, then clasped his hands with the fingers interlaced (while saying that). Sahih Bukhari, narrated by Abu Musa.
We don't need to go through this dunya (world) alone. Of course, we rely only on Allah for everything, He is the All-Providing, and all provision comes from Him. He is all we need.
Allah told us in the ayah above that we have support in our believing brothers and sisters, too. Even if you don't have a supporting spouse or family, you can find support in sisterhood.
"Where can I find Muslim sisters to be friends with?" Is a question often asked, particularly by new Muslims and converts. Many search online and in local masajid with some success, but sometimes only find acquaintances.
I'm going to tell you some ways we can all build better sisterhood.
Centre your life around Islam
When you make pleasing Allah a priority, everything else is more likely to fall into place. We can't want and seek sisterhood with the intention of filling a void that can only be filled with closeness to Allah.
Make an effort to learn your religion, particularly what Islam teaches us about how we should and shouldn't behave. When you try to become a better Muslim, better Muslims will be in your life.
Build on what you already have
Perhaps you do have friendships with some Muslims already but they're not what you expect them to be. You can work on that. Reach out, even if it's just a message or a phone call to check up on them. Make plans, even if they're infrequent- is there an event you could attend together, or classes you can go to?
Recognise opportunities and make the most of them
If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere other Muslims are, then consider attending events or classes to meet like-minded sisters. An opportunity for building sisterhood might even come to you where you don't expect it- like in a restaurant or at a bus stop.
TALK to people! You really wont sound strange if you say "Assalamu alaykum, how are you? I'm trying to find some sisters to do things with in - (where you live), are there any groups or events that you go to?" See where the conversation goes from there. Lots of the time, Muslims are involved in or know about various groups or events where you can get connected. Even if they're not- you've started a conversation that could grow into something more.
Talk less, listen more
This is important. Any lasting friendship involves give and take. Think of it like an emotional bank account: we make deposits and we withdraw. If one person is doing all the withdrawals, by venting all their troubles and gaining all the advice; and the other person is only ever depositing, by giving their time and support; the relationship wont last long.
Make sure your conversations and encounters are mindful of Allah. How can we build sisterhood if the relationships we have create opportunities to do things that displease our Lord?
'...God does not like arrogant, boastful people, who are miserly and order other people to be the same, hiding the bounty God has given them. We have prepared a humiliating torment for such ungrateful people.' Quran, surah an-Nisa 4:36-37
So don't act arrogantly, or boastfully, or be forever miserable and ungrateful for the good you have. And don't gossip or talk about people behind their backs:
'Believers, avoid making too many assumptions- some assumptions are sinful- and do not spy on one another or speak ill of people behind their back...' Quran, surah al-Hujurat 49:12
I hope these words have given you things to think about and will help you build positive friendships with supportive sisters that remind you of Allah and that you help keep each other in check!
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The 'emotional bank account' concept is written in Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habit's of Highly Effective People, which you can get here. (affiliate link)
Updated 22 Sept 2018