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Podcast: Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World, Episode 1

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

Published

Join Ustadha Zainab Bint Younus as she discusses the impact of social media marketing and hijab fashion with Shaykha Shazia Ahmad, Shaykha Umm Jamaal Ud Din, and Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi.

Today’s episode will be the first in a mini-series titled “Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World: Evaluating the Spiritual Ethics and Social Consequences of Hijabi Fashion Trends.”

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

About the Speakers:

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women’s issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da’wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

Shaykhah Umm Jamaal ud-Din is a teacher of both Quran and various Shariah Sciences at the Islamic College of Australia, Sydney. Umm Jamaal ud-Din has an Ijazah in Tajweed from her teacher Shaykha Kareema Czerepinski; a BA Languages degree with a major in Arabic from the University of Western Sydney; and is completing her BA in Fiqh and Usul al Fiqh at Al-Madina International University. She has also completed her memorization of the Qur’an, alHamdulillah.

Shaykha Shazia Ahmad grew up in upstate New York and studied with local scholar and teacher Dr. Mokhtar Maghraoui before beginning her studies overseas. In Syria, she studied briefly at the University of Damascus and then at Abu Nour University where she completed an Arabic Studies program (Ad-Dawraat) and a program in Islamic Studies (Ma’had at-Taheeli). She also studied in a number of private classes and attained her ijaza in Qur’anic recitation from the late Sh. Muhiyudin al-Kurdi (rahimahullah). She then spent the following six years in Cairo, Egypt furthering her education through private lessons and study. She has ijazaat in a number of introductory texts in various Islamic subjects and has written on Islam for Jannah.Org, VirtualMosque.com, and various other blogs and publications.​ She also holds a BA in psychology and history from the State University of New York.

Shaykha Hosai Mojaddidi has been serving the Muslim community for over 25 years as a teacher, public speaker, author/writer, spiritual counselor and mental health advocate. She began her Islamic studies over 20 years ago at Zaytuna Institute in the Bay Area California where for several years she served as the lead female organizer and studied aqeeda, seerah, Hanafi fiqh, tazkiyah an-nafs, tajweed, hadith, Arabic, and other sacred subjects with several resident and visiting scholars including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Umar Faruq abd-Allah, Shaykh Abdullah al-Kadi, Qari Amr Bellaha, and others. She currently teaches self development and spiritual development classes for adults and youth through MCC East Bay & Rahmah Foundation. She is actively involved with her local community and offers talks throughout the year on a range of topics including spirituality, self-development, seerah, women’s issues, family/marriage, youth issues, social media literacy/safety, and mental health advocacy.

From the Show

“As we look to the example of the Prophet ﷺ, we find that there was an approach to teaching people where they were at, and that’s because people are at different levels and we have to appreciate that. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play.  You learn to ‘read the room’ as they say and look at the demographic you are speaking to whether it’s on social media or in your community or family; and you learn to assess where people are in terms of their faith. Also, in my opinion, it’s far more important that one learns aqeedah and is strongly rooted in their belief; that they have a strong identity of what it means to be a Muslim and they understand fiqh, Shariah, the fard `ayn, etc.  Once this identity is firmly rooted, then it’s a natural continuation of faith to wear hijab as it is defined by our tradition, as it is pleasing to Allah. We have to remember that there is an order and structure to these things. Sadly, however, we often bypass these things and focus only on hijab.” -Ustadha Hosai  

 

“Social media has brought out the most base human desires, normalized them, and made them accessible to all, and so now everyone operates from a place of “feeling.”  We are no longer critically thinking, analyzing, or thinking about the long term effects of our actions. And this of course has contributed to a type of erosion, where the ability to distinguish between what is true scholarship and what is not is lost on many.  In other words, the lines have been blurred to such an extent that people give authority to those who they like; it’s all based on popularity–I like someone because I see myself reflected in them, I like their style, I like how they speak, I like their home, etc. So they become authoritative because I like them not because they tell me what is in my best interest spiritually. This is the great danger of our current world: that actions are based on desires and social media very much feeds into that.” -Ustadha Hosai

 

“We have to go back to the drawing board and help women develop a strong identity.  Many people have a very fractured idea of what it means to be a Muslim woman. They are taking cues from their cultures or cherry picking verses or hadith or whatever they were taught growing up, but they haven’t really come into their own in terms of figuring out- ‘Who am I and why did Allah create me?  Why am I here?’  We have to help women realize there is something unique about them and help them so they don’t get lost; we have to help them realize they are special to Allah. This is the type of discourse we need to encourage in our community as a whole and to push back against the status quo where the individual is lost and a group identity is adopted.  When we lose a true sense or meaning of who we are, it is very easy to just follow the group or whatever sounds appealing instead of critically thinking and forging our own unique path.” – Ustadha Hosai

 

“We need requisite knowledge and proper understanding (when discussing hijab), and coupled with that we need people who are sensitive to the best approach to take- who have emotional intelligence and are not tone deaf in these matters. Unfortunately having wisdom, especially on social media, has been given a bad rap.  If you are thoughtful in your approach, strategic, or seek to have a way that is not hasty, that is immediately labeled as ‘watering down the deen’, or ‘not being firm on the haqq.’  We should have a balanced position, that is firmly grounded in Islamic teachings, and coupled with that an approach of strategy and wisdom.  This is so sorely and direly needed particularly on hijab and womens’ issues.” – Sha. Shazia

“It’s very important we come back to our original ‘why’ in wearing hijab.  As we have seen in the changes of hijab, a lot of people have moved away from it being out of submission and love of Allah and ‘ubudiyyah, and made it more of an act of self-expression.  When you lose its purpose, it’s very easy to come to discarding it.” -Sha. Umm Jamaal

 

“(There is a) crisis of authoritativeness in the community and it goes back to a disconnect from knowledge and scholarship.  Instead, anyone who has a strong opinion – whether they have the requisite knowledge or not – promotes their views as if they are an authority.  This makes it really difficult for the average person, the average young Muslimah, to navigate through, when everyone is speaking as if they are the experts.  As a community it is very important to push forward the people who have proper knowledge to speak on these topics- to really give them the spotlight, and to give people a connection to scholarship.” -Sha. Shazia

“Hijab is often understood and talked about as a type of personal expression, and I would say that this is the wrong cognitive frame to use.  If it’s simply just another form of self expression- like choosing to wear a certain color, or wearing a certain brand or style- it is then completely based on a person’s whims.  This is a very different sort of frame than seeing it as a religious act, an act of ‘ubudiyya, an act that is a beautiful engagement with what Allah has asked of us.  And just like so many other religious acts, it has a body as well as a spirit.  This way of perceiving hijab has to change – this cognitive frame and outlook… to appreciate that it has a beautiful form that needs to be followed as well, and also to center it as an act of worship that connects us to Allah.” – Sha. Shazia

“A lot of women don’t realize that this (knowledge) is the legacy of the sahabiyaat (female companions of the Prophet ﷺ.)  Who is the one who tells us about [hijab] and explains the ruling?  It is ‘Aisha.  It is Umm Salamah who describes how the sahabiyat came to the masjid the next day after the verse of hijab was revealed.  Women have to realize that this is the legacy of the sahabiyaat you are following.  And “the person will be on yawm al qiyama (the Day of Judgment) with whom they love.”  As a Muslimah the ones I want to be raised up with are the righteous female companions and the Prophet ﷺ .  Yes we have the verse, but who are the ones who have explained it to you?  It is your own sisters in faith.” – Sha. Umm Jamaal

“Hijabi fashion is largely just putting a headscarf on mainstream fashion and the fashion industry, with all of its failings and negatives and issues it brings to women. The issues of objectifying women, of a woman’s value being in how sexually appealing she is to men, a very narrow definition of beauty, and even the unethical practices of many of these companies…  these are all just kind of packaged with a scarf on it, and labeled as hijabi fashion or modest fashion and geared to a certain demographic.  This is very troubling and problematic.  This is an issue for us as women, and now it is a greater issue for us as it is specifically targeting Muslim women.  This is something we need to address seriously.  It is very important to have good female role models in the limelight (who work against these trends to counter this.)” – Sha. Shazia 

 

“Being famous is a test that many people fail.  There are many spiritual dangers in it for a person.  One of the ways to make fame spiritually healthy for yourself and your audience is to think about what message you are sending and what you are calling to.  Are you calling to a more meaningful, larger message, or are you just calling to your face?  There is a need to put people forward and give a platform to people who are grounded in deen, and who call people to what is spiritually sound and beautiful.” – Sha. Shazia

 

“We can criticize the influencers but who are the ones following the influencers?  It is us, our daughters, our sisters.  The onus is also on us – to not make such people our teachers and instead to find spiritually beautiful, positive role models.” – Sha. Shazia

“What we are seeing online is merely a symptom.  As spiritual teachers we have to be like doctors and go back to the root (of the illness.)  We talk about how the female companions ran and put on their hijab (when its obligation was revealed) but how many years were they being developed in their faith by the Prophet  ﷺ ? (There was) first a strengthening of tawheed in the heart and then (a focus on) ahkaam (rulings).  When you have built the person up internally then you will find they flow into (practicing it naturally.)” – Sha. Umm Jamaal  

 

“For parents, you can’t force them without doing the ground work.  Teach them to love Allah, love Islam, and love being Muslim.  Make them feel good about themselves as women and make them feel valued in their families, and that they are not treated differently or deprived in favor of their brothers.  There is a lot of trauma that women go through and (in some cases what we see) is acting out of all of that.” – Sha. Umm Jamaal

 

“We need to teach people to have a level of spiritual openness in their learning.  If you come to learning Islam with pre-constructed ideas… then it is going to be hard to be receptive to what the deen teaches.  If you come with your conclusion already formed, then you will not be able to have an honest engagement with the tradition and its teachings.  That’s when we see this dismantling and deconstruction process happening.  The conclusion is already formed and if someone comes against something that contradicts that, they will seek to dismantle or dismiss it.  Instead there needs to be a spiritual openness and a willingness to submit to the truth when we come to it.  This has a lot to do with spiritual development and mentorship and  having a teacher.   You can learn a lot from the books or websites, but this attitude and orientation is very critical to learning and our Islamic practice.” – Sha. Shazia

 

“We have to realize that once you go naming people (in correcting) there are a number of negative effects.  The named person feels shamed, and the more shamed they feel the more likely they are to cling to their wrong.  You will not get them to change their behavior like that. Your aim is to help the person get away from that behavior.  You have to address the act that they have fallen into, so that when people hear about this their minds go to the wrong action they have done rather than the personality.  Once you speak about the personality you further polarize the issue. What happens – and we see it happen over and over again – is someone does something (wrong) in public, and people publicly attack that person, and then you have two camps.  One camp defends that person and feels sorry for them because they are being openly attacked, and the other camp is slandering them.  It gets really nasty, and they feel they can speak about that person however they like and they (take from) their honor.  Your Muslim brother or sister has rights and (even if wrong) their honor still needs to be protected.  The other thing you have to also consider are the onlookers to this debate, and that is a large proportion of our ummah.  They are sitting on the side, watching this ping-pong ball debate, and it gets toxic and they are vulnerable.  And they see this toxicity in the Muslim community and want to move away from the community altogether.  So it doesn’t bring good results. We have to be addressing these issues but there will never be a better way than the way of the Prophet ﷺ in dealing with these issues.” – Sha. Umm Jamaal

 

“It doesn’t need to be only women talking about these issues but it is critically important that we center female scholars when addressing them and they need to be handled well.  We also must make sure this work is done with a level of genuine concern for the one you are addressing.  We have to refresh our intentions, reorient ourselves that this dawah should be done out of a genuine desire for that person to be brought to khayr (good.)  Isn’t that what dawah is about? To bring people to Allah.  This is not anti-men, this is a call… a call for all of us as a community to amplify women’s scholarship.” – Sha. Shazia

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    A.S. Ilott

    October 4, 2020 at 7:46 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum, Jazakum Allah Khaira. Keep up the great work! My only comment is that the intro was too long, so maybe shorten it and provide a longer version on the website (as you have done above).

  2. Avatar

    Spirituality

    October 4, 2020 at 12:36 PM

    Jazak Allahu khayran for the great podcast! I am excited to listen to future episodes.

    Actually, I hope future episodes will discuss issues other than hijaab – as this podcast itself mentioned, we as a Muslim community are hyperfocused on hijaab while neglecting other critical issues.

    Here are some ideas I hope can be explored in future episodes (many dovetail from issues arising from this podcast):

    1. How do Muslimas navigate through religious texts that seem problematic from our current cultural lens? I am talking about Quran verse 4:34, and hadiths stating that women’s natures are ‘crooked’ and women are deficient in intelligence and religion. I am also referring to great scholars whose works today seem to have passages that are misogynist and maybe racist.

    Actually, it would be very helpful to have multiple episodes on this topic, which would allow the Shaykhas to explain specific contentious passage in detail.

    2. Abuse, physical and sexual. How does Islam really view these issues? What about consent? What is the deal with sexual slavery? What about the whole issue of predator teachers/shaykhs? Shaykha Umm Jamaal made a comment that we are not to ‘call out’ those who did wrong – which generally is great advice – but does not calling out these predators allow them violate more and more Muslimas unchecked?

    3. Issues regarding marriage. What exactly is expected of a Muslim woman in marriage? How does a wife navigate issues such as obedience to her husband while a part of a larger culture that holds diametrically opposing values (ie, freedom, equality, self-expression/actualization, etc). Is she expected to be a doormat if that is what he wants? What about financial maintenance by the husband and resulting dependence of the wife, especially living in a culture that so links one’s very dignity with work and earning money?

    4. How to navigate motherhood successfully? Ustadha Zaynab had a very thought provoking article on motherhood and its inherent difficulties in MuslimMatters that should be fully explored – especially as we live in a culture that does not value motherhood at all.

    5. How does one raise strong children who love Allah and are strong in their faith (ie, as mentioned in this podcast, will naturally want to do things like wear hijab?)

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#Islam

Podcast: Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World: The Halima Aden Edition

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

Published

Panel discussion with Zainab b. Younus, Hena Zuberi, her daughter, and Fousia from the Naptime is Sacred podcast to talk about Halima Aden’s Instagram posts about hijab and her modeling career.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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Books

Podcast: David’s Dollar | Tariq Touré and Khaled Nurhssien

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Published

We often preach about our children learning the importance of money, group economics, and developing healthy spending habits. How awesome would it be to have a fully illustrated picture book that explores how a dollar travels from hand-to-hand?

Join Khaled Nurhssien and award winning poet and author Tariq Touré as they discuss Tariq’s new children’s book David’s Dollar. In this Interview they touch on art, Islam’s approach to community and Tariq’s creative process.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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#Society

Beyond 2020: Grounding Our Politics in Community

Kyle Ismail, Guest Contributor

Published

As tense and agonizing as these unending election days have been, it pales in comparison to the last four years.  I plainly remember how it all began on the night of November 07, 2016. I watched as the political map of the US became increasingly red late into the night. All the social media banter, conspiracy theories and left-wing critiques of candidate Hillary Clinton, formed an amorphous blob of white noise as I heard Trump announced as the next president. Now that Trump has run for re-election, half the country was hoping for a repudiation but will have to settle for the fact that despite a small margin, Donald J. Trump will not have a second chance to erode our democratic institutions and divide us. But we can’t move forward until each of us acknowledges our own pathological role in what we’ve become as a deeply divided country. 

We need to grapple with how we can gradually improve the circus-like reality that has become our ordinary, daily politics. We’ll relive more and perhaps improved “Trumps” if we don’t accept our own responsibility in creating a divided America. This starts with being better members of local communities. Here are a few of Trump-induced realizations that I’ve come to accept:

  1. Caring about our immediate neighbors and listening to their challenges and concerns is the part of political engagement that we all have to embrace above and beyond actually voting if we hope to be more than a 50/50 nation.
  2. Social media and its profit-driven algorithms are actually eroding how we see each other but could also be altered to help better educate us about our local social/political landscape.
  3. Local Politics has direct impact on our lives and is also at the heart our religious obligations to our neighbors. It also sets the tone for where the federal level derives policies that prove to be best practices (some examples are included below).
  4. Agitation and protest are not the same as being politically organized on a local level. Protest is sometimes needed, but it will never replace consistent and patient work. We learned this lesson with the Arab Spring as that movement failed to transform into a movement that was able to govern effectively. And the same appears to be true about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The voting is over for now. But voting is really the smallest part of being committed to bettering our communities. It was Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who gave the most specific definition of community/neighbor and encouraged his followers to guard the rights of the neighbor:

“Your neighbor is 40 houses ahead of you and 40 houses at your back, 40 houses to your left and 40 houses to your right” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Why does this relate to being politically organized?? The need for political organizing comes when any group of people want to create change in accordance with their values. We’ve all watched protest after protest that change little to nothing at the neighborhood level. This will continue to happen without organization, which span school boards, block clubs, nonprofits, and religious community outreach.  How can Muslims enjoin right and discourage wrong in any meaningful way? It comes through having authentic relationships with neighbors and turning that into organized and engaged communities.

Rosa Parks

Nothing illuminates the value of such relationships better than the story of Rosa Parks in her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People often think that she was the first brave soul to defy the custom of allowing whites to sit before African-Americans could be seated on her city’s buses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difference was that her sets of relationships were so interwoven into her local community that it forced a massive response. Park’s connections spanned socioeconomic circles as she had close friendships from professors to field hands. She held memberships in a dozen local organizations including her church and the local NAACP. She was a volunteer seamstress in poor communities and provided the same for profit in wealthy white circles. When someone with her relational positioning was able to leverage the political organizing ability of MLK and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was sparked.

When something happens to Muslims, who can we mobilize to respond? Who becomes angry? Who do we work with in our communities to create policies that reflect our values And what are our internal barriers to such cooperation?

“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Our Predecessors Organized Locally

At some point in time voting became the sum total of political engagement in the minds of many and is now deemed by some as worthless. We quickly forget that the organizations that battled for voting rights were first locally organized to improve communities. SNCC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and the Urban League all formed to create change in various ways and the fight for voting rights was a component of these local agendas. So when we’re tempted to believe that voting doesn’t matter, it’s likely due to our lack of engagement in local issues that form the contours of our community life. If you’ve ever heard of Ella Baker or Fannie Lou Hamer (worth researching!), you probably never bought into this type of logic.

One of the many lessons we can pull from this rich history is that we cannot pursue policies, seek alliances, or negotiate a position with political parties (see Ice Cube’s debacle in negotiating with Trump) without first being organized from within. No set of friendships or outside philanthropic support can supplant the need for internal organization. This lack of organized political engagement has weakened Muslims in general but has fatally weakened African-American Muslims as voices within the larger Black community – a voice that gave Islam its first fully accepted and influential place in American society.

Immigrant-based Muslim communities could also benefit from a local approach because despite being several generations in America, their American bonafides are still not set in stone. Concerns about Islamophobia will not change outside of developing authentic relationships with non-Muslims.

This also pushes back against a culture shaped disproportionately by social media algorithms that promote isolation and division for the sake of profit. Our attention to the national news cycle also takes our attention away from local communities where our power is formed. In this type of political malaise, re-engagement in local politics and community relationships can bring us back to important principles that resonate with the values of Islam.

Local politics help shape federal policy

The final word on any law or policy rests with the federal government, but much of what becomes orthodoxy begins with a few concerned citizens in local communities. As with community policing, criminal justice reform, climate sustainability, or any issues that has not caught on, the federal government will often step back to see how a new law plays out at state and local levels. Illinois didn’t wait for Obamacare but has a well-established program to ensure that anyone 18 and younger in Illinois has health insurance through a program called All Kids . Colorado has, in the midst of protests against police brutality, altered their law of Qualified Immunity to make police more accountable. And California has advanced the conversation on reparations  by sanctioning a study to understand how the state could benefit by redressing the descendants of American slavery.

By advancing issues and electing representatives who support the causes we believe in, we insert ourselves into a narrative that would’ve otherwise been forged without us. There’s no shortcut in this process short of rolling up our sleeves to understand our local systems and existing organizations. Moneyed interests are prepare to control the narrative regardless of who the president is and we have to remake this system from the ground up. Our history provides us with a roadmap to do this and it goes far beyond being citizens who only argue over national issues while standing on the sidelines. Remembering our 40 neighbors as advised by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best place to start.

Some helpful links:

Local Elections

State Legislatures

School Boards

County Prosecutors

Mayors

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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