The Haflah (Party)

As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh

From time to time, if you will allow me, I’d just like to share an “clip” from my experiences as a Muslim. Often, we become affected by a person by some little thing they did or said. I want to tell you about Dr. Fatimah Naseef, the daughter of Siddiqah Sharafuddeen, [see Deen Clips 3] who, like her mother, is dedicated to the education of women at all levels and stages. The entire Naseef family is dedicated to education, the males as well as the females. As I stated in the clip about “aunt” Siddiqah, she and her family opened the first private school for girls in the Kingdom in Jeddah some 50 years ago and she opened the first Qur’an center for women about 31 years ago, also in Jeddah. Dr. Fatimah Naseef was the President of the Women’s King Abdu-Aziz University in Jeddah and held that post for many years. When I met her, she had stepped down from her post yet still remained a teaching professor there.

The Haflah (Party)

I had finished the Mahad, or Language Institute at Umm Al Qura University in Makkah and had entered the University itself in the College of Dawa, Department of Aqeedah. I was in my last year when a teacher I had had in the Mahad invited some of her former students and me to attend an end-course haflah at Dr. Fatimah Naseef’s house. I took my daughter Falaqi with me; she was about 16 at the time. This particular course was on the subject of giving dawa; it had run for about 2-3 months and they were having a get-together at the end of the course. We entered the home and was directed through the office to an open courtyard that led to a large room.

The room had pink carpeting and beautiful drapes. There were tables with food and sufra’s (table cloths) spread out for the guests to eat on. The meal finished, we were told form a large circle and be seated on beautiful French period chairs.

There must have been about 40 women there of all ages, possibly more. The circle was huge, but the room (a small hall)easily accommodated all of us. We were all asked to introduce ourselves. I was especially nervous as I watched each sister get up and give her name and explain her occupation and interests. There were not too many sisters before me as we started from Dr. Fatimah’s right. My turn came and went as I mentioned that I was American, studied at the univ. in Makkah and was also the mother of 6 children, masha Allah. Falaqi stood, introduced herself, then my friends, and soon on to the other women.

We sat and listened to each others’ brief stories. I was amazed at the caliber of these women. Some had other professions but most were teachers so they told where they taught (many grammar school teachers and secondary, some university teachers) but the thing that really impressed me was that they would say “I have 5 children” or “I’m the mother of 10″ and so on. Some of them even spoke of how they taught school in the mornings and then attended Qur’an classes at Asr, or taught Qur’an at Asr, etc. These were very busy women. I thought to myself, “Well the average American woman who advocates having 1.5 children should be here to witness these family women and their accomplishments; they were career women with a difference — all dedicated to Islam”. More than one sister stood to talk about herself and then introduced the woman next to her who was her daughter. Then the daughter would get up and tell about herself, where she taught, the subjects she taught, married or not, how many children, etc. One woman introduced herself and when she was finished pointed out her daughters (3) and told about how many grandchildren she had. They were very modest but enthusiastic. The common bond was that they were devoted to deen.

There was a woman who sat to Dr. Fatimah’s right who had yet to introduce herself. When Dr. Fatimah finished her own introduction she introduced this woman who was her best friend, Khadijah. She was a woman in her late 40′s to early 50′s. She told us that she had been quite a shy person and that when she was a child there were no schools for girls to attend. She knew how to read and recite Qur’an but that was the extent of her education. She married at the age of 13. When she was about 15 or 16 and pregnant with her second child, the Naseefs opened the Naseefiyyah school for girls. Dr. Fatimah advised her to attend, but she felt to timid to attend because of her age and condition. Fatimah kept after her until she agreed to study at home and take the tests at school. She took the 1st grade books and finished them quickly and moved on to the second grade level. Fatimah kept inviting her friend to actually attend the school but she resisted. She finally finished 6th grade and was ready to call it quits, however, Fatimah kept encouraging her so she began jr. high. By the time she reached high school, the public school system was functioning so she was actually able to attend school [she smiled broadly]. She was happy and continued the first 2 years attending school, but then the edict was given that married women could not attend public schools with the other girls. So she was out of school once again.

Eventually one or two teachers offered their help and tutored her for the last year of high school. She said alhamdulillah, khalas (finished), but Fatimah would not let her rest.

At that time the only university accepting women was in Riyadh. They could study as distance learners. Fatimah again encouraged her friend to register and complete her college education which she did. She was finished. That was it! Her friend repeatedly told her to continue and enter the Master’s program which now being offered in Jeddah. She did and went on to complete her Ph.d. in Islamic History. Dr. Khadijah rushed through that part – the part about the MA and Ph.d. which is considered to be the most difficult, but she explained that the hardest part was getting through those first years and the first degree.

But Dr. Fatimah wasn’t finished with her. By the time Khadijah had finished her highest level, Fatimah was deeply involved with the Univ. in Jeddah. She was finally able to convince her friend to join the faculty. Everyone smiled, so pleased with Dr. Khadijah’s journey. The woman was very sweet saying that she had protested at every step of the way saying, “I can’t”, but her friend, Dr. Naseef, knew that she had the potential and kept after her for years. She mentioned the number of children she had and I think about 12 grandchildren. She was still teaching at the KAAU at the time of this haflah. I was so happy to be a Muslim and a part of that gathering. One marveling fact was that many of these women were quite wealthy and did not need to work, but only did so to keep active and be useful — teaching other sisters of all ages.

After that, Dr. Naseef gave a talk and then some of the other sisters gave little talks as well. The course on dawa had been given there at Dr. Fatimah’s house. I also found out that tafseer was taught there twice a week as well as daily Qur’an classes. In fact, the Qur’an students were coming in as we were waiting for our bus to bring us back to Makkah. I thought, “I would love to spend my money like that, to
open my house to all sorts of women for various courses and Qur’an, to give talks there as Dr. Fatimah did. It was wonderful and inspiring. I thought that if Allah ever made me wealthy like that, that’s just what I would like to do. Dr. Fatimah Naseef also helps many people on all levels, even to the extent of getting personally involved. You could go to her and tell her about someone with a problem and she would arrange help. She even gave shelter in her home to a young girl from the west until her problems could be solved. Her office was a testament to the degree of her involvement. She was like a private social worker.

Please make dua for all of these sisters. They were really devoted to Islam and to the teaching and spreading of this knowledge. They were teachers of geography, chemistry, history, mathematics — every subject taught in the educational system — but oh, how they loved Islam.

Taariq Al-Ashja’ee, may Allah be pleased with him, said: When someone would embrace Islam, the Prophet, peace be upon him, would teach him how to perform prayer and then tell him to supplicate with the following words:

Allahumma, agfirli, warhamni, wahdini, wa’afini, warzuqni

O Allah, forgive me, have mercy upon me, guide me, give me health and grand me sustenance.

[At-Tirmithee 5/462; Muslim 2/1249 and Al-Haakim 1/503 and he also authenticated it and Ath-Thahabee agreed; see: Saheeh Al-Jaami’1/362.]

Omm Rafiq
Makkah
Written: December 09, 1998
Today’s date: October 5, 2011

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