Woman's Story #1
"No," I replied.
He asked, "Why?"
"Because I want to follow Lady Fatma [Prophet Muhammad's daughter]," I declared.
He said, "Bless you."
I have been told that he said about me, "She is an angel. Take good care of her." It was the most wonderful prayer I have ever received. It was on my wedding day. In Islam when a woman gets married, her husband should give her a gift of money, clothes, a book, anything the woman might ask to show his respect. It needn't be expensive. The gift has a special name, muhr. In my community there is a specific amount of money assigned that a man should pay as muhr, but I wanted to lessen that amount and only accept the religious recommendation. That is what I told the religious man when he came to get my approval on the marriage and the muhr. It was a big surprise to him; I was the first one in my community to do such a thing.
This is an account of a Muslim woman, fifteen years of age, who was aiming to change some aspects in her social life even though it was not encouraged by her religion. What motivated her to change a value and practice long-held by her community? What provoked her to step away from her cultural traditions and establish a new pattern of behavior?
Woman's Story #2
She looked to me and demanded, "What is your excuse of being absent yesterday?"
Calmly, I replied, "I went to take the driving test, and here is a note from my father."
She did not like my father's handwriting, and she may have assumed that I was the one who wrote the note. She looked at me suspiciously and asked, "Is this your father's writing?"
I told her, "Do you want to call him and ask?" She did not reply.
After a while I said, "It does not create a very suitable atmosphere if the principal cannot trust the students." She smiled, and after that we become very good friends!
Days passed and I heard her say to me once, "You are like a star in the school. You are the most exceptional student I have ever known."
I smiled and said, "Thank you."
The young Muslim woman in this story has used her mawhibah (her giftedness) to provide insight to the principal. However, something more than insight was at work. In many educational settings, acting this way toward an authority figure would not be considered as acting in one's own best interest. What motivated this student to respond in this way?
Woman's Story #3
It was seven years ago when I met a professor in the Ministry of Education from an Arab nation. She had graduated from a university in the United States, in the seventies probably. She is now considered one of the pioneers in the Arab world who has been working on early childhood programs. After she looked at my answers on a questionnaire designed to get our opinions on several subjects related to early childhood education, she said, "Have you ever been told that you are gifted?"
I looked at her and smiled. One of my colleagues said, "She is always well known for her exceptional work."
I always appreciate a compliment, but I also recall the Arabic saying my father would often quote to me, which in essence, says, "Don't look to your past, you are defined by what you are doing now and for the future."
Islam is one of the fastest growing religious populations in the United States. According to estimates of the U.S. Department of State (2001), by the year 2010, Islam will become the second largest religious group in the United States, following Christianity. As a result, adherents to Islam in the United States are experiencing greater opportunities to use their gifts and talents to influence the American communities in which they live, as well as communities in the larger Islamic world. The influence exerted by gifted Muslims is particularly interesting when considering contributions made by Islamic women, given that traditional Islamic culture is often viewed as oppressive to women and the development of their gifts.
In this article, we explore the motivations for the development of the gifts and talents of Islamic women in the United States who have identified needs within their domestic and foreign communities and have used their gifts to address those needs. From the western perspective, giftedness could be defined as "consistently superior performance in any socially useful endeavor" (Witty, as cited in Torrance, 1975, pp. 48-49). This is consistent with the Islamic educational principle that requires learners to actively use their knowledge (Akhtar, n.d.; Imani, 1998).
A better understanding of how Muslim women function in their communities would enable us to construct our view regarding the kinds of social change that Muslim gifted women …