Interview with Scholar and Female Mentor Ammarah Bholat

Interview with Scholar and Female Mentor Ammarah Bholat

Ustadha Ammarah was born and raised in Los Angeles CA. At a young age she travelled to England to pursue an Alimiyyah degree in Islamic Sciences. Over the next 6 years she studied Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh, Aqeedah, Usul (foundations of jurisprudence), Arabic Grammar and gained guidance from many esteemed scholars of England. During this time she received ijazaat from scholars in the Islamic Sciences with isnād (a linked chain of the prophetic traditions from herself to the Prophet) in numerous books of hadith. Since then she has been involved in teaching Islamic Studies and lecturing in various mosques across the Bay Area.

Danish: Your seerah classes are really popular  masha’Allah. What are some points you emphasize in your classes?

Ustadha Ammarah: Many times the approach to Seerah is to learn facts about the Prophet’s life, however I focus more on the lessons and morals that we can learn from the Prophet’s life and how to apply them to our life.  Studying the Seerah naturally instills love for the Prophet in us, and that is one of the most important reasons to learn it.  When I teach young mothers, in addition to the lessons we have discussions on how to instill love for the Prophet in our children. Teaching children is different than teaching adults, and when I teach young mothers we often discuss methods of instilling the love of the Prophet SAW in our children.  This is critical because you can’t teach children advanced texts or fiqh, so you must teach them love of Allah, His Prophets, and about our beliefs. Teaching love at a young age will last longer than making Islam seem like a list of do’s and don’ts.

Danish: What are some main needs you see in the Muslim community?

Ustadha Ammarah: There are many needs, and certainly one of the most pressing needs is to have young female mentors for our younger girls and teenagers. I feel like we are heading in the right direction in many communities but there are still many that need young energetic male and female scholars that can relate with the youth and help them navigate through the challenges they face. We need older leaders the youth can look up to, but also young leaders they can relate to.

As a female teacher my main goal was to benefit the women in our community as Alhamdulillah we do have many male teachers. I’m often approached by women who have questions and are not comfortable approaching or speaking to male scholars about it.

I’m aware of many cases of divorce in which the women hesitated in speaking to the male scholars openly and it resulted in their husbands manipulating or changing the story while speaking to the scholar. In just this past year there was a case in which a women was either already divorced from her husband as he had said words of talaq but he would tell her that he explained the situation to a scholar and that the scholar said a divorce did not take place when in reality it had. Another woman had been stuck in a situation like this for three years without anyone she could turn to or feel comfortable speaking with.

It’s not enough to just say the women shouldn’t be shy and tell stories of Ansari women who were bold in asking questions. We have to understand the reality of our society and that many women just won’t initiate questions or that they will be trusting even with a man who is divorcing them. Thus communities need to take steps to make female resources available to women and point them in the right direction as well as encourage women to be proactive in learning.

Danish: What are some challenges you face?

Ustadha Ammarah: Overall my experience has been positive. I feel very fortunate to be respected and to be included in programming. However there are some challenges.

One challenge is balancing between family obligations and the responsibility we have to our community. I am very lucky to have an amazing example in my mother who, along with raising her children and handling all her family obligations, was still able to dedicate her time to her community. In addition to conducting classes throughout the week, she also had to dedicate so much of her personal time from marriage counseling, to answering fiqh questions throughout the day. There are times where she would receive phone calls at Suhoor time in Ramadan if a sister is unsure about her fast, or calls at night when women are in Hajj and need clarification on certain rulings. This work is often unnoticed especially if we as female scholars choose not to publish our lectures on YouTube or speak in conferences with both genders. Also, during Hajj women are often in need of support from female scholars. However, there still has not been much awareness of this need.

I have received calls from women who are in panic and call late at night from Makkah during the days of Hajj. If a woman’s menstruation starts before she has completed her Umrah or her Tawaaf Ziyarah the rules can get quite complicated. They are usually not comfortable speaking to the male scholars in their group and then struggle to find a female scholar to whom they can explain their situation.

Danish: What are some important lessons you learned about being a teacher and a leader?

Ustadha Ammarah: The importance of continuing to study and realizing this is a life’s journey. Additionally, acknowledging that the responsibility I have in the community is an amanah and trust for which I will be answerable to Allah.

Our teachers always emphasized the importance of dedicating time to the community. When completing our Aalimiyyah program, at our graduation ceremony our teachers place a white hijab over our heads. I remember one of our teachers explaining that this is a reminder for us that the responsibility of our Ummah lies in our hands. That made a profound impact on my life, and I always try to keep this in mind and strive to fulfill the sacred trust in a way that is most pleasing to Allah.

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