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The Black Muslims You Need to Know About Pt. V

UK Black History Month is coming to a close. As ever, the past four weeks have allowed us to reflect on the vital role black Britons have played in shaping the history and culture of this country.

Ummahsonic has explored this important truth by highlighting some influential and inspiring black Muslims who have left—and are leaving—their mark on Britain and beyond. We’ve looked at artists and academics, politicians and poets, athletes and icons, and even a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an basketball hall of famer.

For our fifth and final instalment of this series, we’re looking at a political activist and an Islamic feminist icon.

Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim

In 1965, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim became Sudan’s first ever female member of parliament following a democratic movement that removed military rule in the country.

From a young age, Ibrahim was politically active. As a teenager, she set up a women’s association that fought for women’s rights in Sudan. In 1952, aged 23, she founded the Sudanese Women’s Union (SWU), which would ultimately secure the right of women to vote, receive maternity pay and a pension.

When the government of Ibrahim Abboud was brought down in a revolution, Sudan’s constitutional government was reinstated. It allowed women to run in elections, a shift that saw Ibrahim elected to parliament. In 1968, most of the rights she had campaigned on were passed, changing the lives of women across Sudan.

Sadly, a succession of military coups would not only relinquish these rights, but lead to the execution of her husband. Following a decade-long house arrest, Ibrahim sought asylum in the UK in 1990.

While here, Ibrahim continued the work of the SWU, championing women’s rights and democratic freedom. In 1993, the UN recognised her efforts by giving her an award for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights.

Ibrahim died in 2017 aged 84, but her legacy is ardently remembered by many in Sudan.

Nana Asma’u

Throughout northern Nigeria, Islamic women’s organisations and schools are often named for Nana Asma’u. This is a reflection of someone who dispelled many misconceptions about Muslim and African women during her lifetime.

Asma’u was born 1793 in the Sokoto Caliphate, a former Sunni Caliphate that covered a larger portion of what is now northern Nigeria. She was the daughter of the Caliphate’s founder, an Islamic leader who instilled the importance of education in Asma’u.

She would go on to become a scholar, teacher, poet, multilinguist and champion of women’s equality. Asma’u focused many of her efforts on providing women with an education, a move that has seen the Sokoto held up as an example of equality in Islam and Africa.

As such, her own intellect, literary talent and independence has led Asma’u to be viewed as a forerunner of feminism in Africa, and an example of its entrenched legacy in the continent and in her faith.

Translations of Asma’u’s work are still available today, a reminder of an all too forgotten aspect of Islamic history.

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