Mar 28, 2012

Muslimah And Self Defense

By Abeer S


You might wonder what qualifications I hold to be writing about self defence, to tell you the truth: none. However, I was on the women’s self defence team. I chaired the women’s self defence club for a semester or so at university. A few years ago it proved to be a lot more helpful than expected (a story for another day), so I speak with a little bit more insight.

There is much to be said about this topic, but I shall limit myself to the realistic expectations and achievements that can be fulfilled by our sisters.

To begin with, we must familiarise ourselves with what ‘self defence’ is, especially in reference to our kind.

It is, as the name implies, used for purposes of defence only, it comprises of a combination of different (and easy) martial arts techniques that allows the woman to use her size against what would be a more bigger and powerful aggressor. The idea is not to fight back, but to slow down the potential attacker. Afterwards, RUN AWAY! You should run towards places that have large groups of people such as a store.

There might be legal implications which vary from country to country – which I leave up to you to find out.

What I intend to touch upon is geared towards Muslim women and it highlights what would help you ease into the process of being empowered physically to have a greater control over your own welfare – and that of your family.

1. Fitness:
The first issue that I bring up might be a bit touchy for some, but it is a fact; though it is not a pre-requisite, it is always a great added advantage to have a greater level of stamina, in order to be able to defend yourself better.

For the average Muslimah, the fact that she is always covered up when outdoors, the pressure that this so called society places on women to look a certain way (and be a certain size) is not there. And so she has a lesser motivation to remain fit. Though this should not be the case, but it is. Also, it is more difficult to find a segregated gym in western countries. Exercising outdoors might not be the most feasible option, and so the number of excuses goes up and the level of fitness goes down.
Remember the Hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him): “Your body has a right over you” – Sahih Bukhari (Vol. 7, Book 62, Hadith 127).

If you fail to give rights to whoever (and whatever) deserves them, then they will be a witness against you on the Day of Judgement.

It is clear, that as a Muslimah you have a greater incentive (and perhaps an obligation) to stay healthy, spiritually and physically.

During the span of the women’s self-defence classes that I took, those who lacked physical fitness stood out, not because of their appearance (some were actually quite ‘skinny’). However, it was because they were the ones injuring themselves. They were the ones who kept quitting because they were simply unable to have control over their own bodies in order to practice the techniques that were being taught.

Getting into a fitness regimen does not require any drastic changes to your lifestyle; the one thing that it requires is consistency. Perhaps investing in a short, 20 minute workout video that you can do every day or even going for a half an hour moderate-paced walk with you family. The key is to start today and do it every day.

2. Reflexes:
Something very minute, yet it is of enormous benefit. Simple changes in your routine can enhance your reflexes. Observing your surroundings for starters, we have become enamoured by technology and we find it hard to keep our eyes off the phone, tablet, iGadget, etc. Though I am not going to lecture on the dark side of technology, but this habit must be broken. Technology has been created by human beings: we control it, it cannot control us.

When outdoors, look around. Constantly be aware of the people and the places around you. This habit will not compromise the obligation of lowering the gaze. (Lowering of the gaze is incumbent when there is something forbidden in sight, I’ve seen some people who misunderstand what is intended by this and believe that it is a full-time thing and so they never look up).

Being observant of your surroundings will allow you a better chance at ‘reacting’ to whatever might come your way.

3. Islamic Obligation to protect yourself.
Yes, you have an obligation to protect yourself, your family and your property from any possible harm.

Muslim females tend to have very little to no contact with non-mahrams (especially any physical contact), and reacting to and defending oneself from a non-mahram would be a bit difficult for some to comprehend. Islam gives you the right to defend yourself physically, did you know that? (Education equals empowerment )

In self-defence classes, the weak regions are highlighted that can be easily used to your advantage: the knees, eyes and groin. Target those, simply because as a woman you have very limited options of defending yourself against a powerful male aggressor. (I do not mean to be discouraging nor discriminatory, but the facts must be faced. I also do acknowledge that every person is different).

If you are able to take classes then do so, because that will give you an excellent idea on how to go about defending yourself and it will be a good practice. If you are unable to take classes though, then YouTube is the way to go. No, I am not joking. There are plenty of tutorials up there and they will help you understand how to react, even if theoretically – it is a lot better than being completely unprepared.

But one thing that one can rarely be prepared for and so must be warned against is the actual impact of hitting someone. Most women are not used to hitting anyone (for the obvious moral and ethical values they hold). When a person actually does strikes, the shock of it leaves most people stunned and rooted in place, which is very bad. In self-defence classes, there are dummies and heavy bags to practice on. Though it is nothing like the actual thing, it allows you to practice and become more aware of your own strength and know how it feels to punch something (or someone).

4. Reading up
There is a lot of helpful material on this topic produced by professional organisations, so do your homework.

These materials aim to give you the necessary precautionary information on what to avoid and how to react in different situations.

These professional organisations also give a list of legal ‘weapons’ that can be kept with you at all times, e.g. pepper spray, whistle, etc.

Read it and share it with your loved ones.

5. Travelling without a mahram.
Whatever Islam has made haram (forbidden) it is ONLY for our own benefit, regardless of whether we understand the wisdom behind it or not. It does not intend to complicate our lives, but it only creates ease.

And thus, it is for the woman’s own safety that travelling without a mahram is forbidden for her. As Muslims, we must pay heed to Allah’s precautionary commands BEFORE we apply those suggested by professionals.

In self defence, precaution is given a greater importance than ‘fighting’ off a predator. So, keep this in mind. When we undermine Allah’s commands by not obeying it, we are in fact paving way for harm to get to us more quickly.

Lastly, another ‘self-defence’ technique that Islam has emphasised on is Muslim women protecting their beauty (and themselves) through the hijab. As we know the legal shari’ee definition of hijab is anything that covers the ‘awrah of the woman. It is not transparent, tight or revealing the shape of the body and it is not an adornment and/or used for the purpose of an adornment.

Allah subhaana wa ta’alaa says: “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused.” (Surah Al Ahzab: 59)

The first place we, as Muslims, need to seek advice, solace, protection and empowerment is in the Quran. This is what the Quran tells us as Muslim women. We should cover our beauty and this is our number one source of physical protection.

Lastly, keep making du’a. Scholars have said that when you make dua to Allah subhaana wa ta’alaa, ask Him for something (anything!). He subhaana wa ta’alaa will either give it to you, give you something better – sooner or later, or remove harm from your way. By making du’a for you or your family, you are fulfilling your spiritual needs and you are providing you and your family with protection.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post them below!


As salaamu alaykum,

Thank you sister, for posting this. I concur with you. We as Muslimahs need these tips at all times because the world we live in right now, is in a mess. And it's very obvious that Muslimahs are more targeted than Muslim men simply because of our Islamic dress code.

As a nutritionist who believes in fitness, health and wellness, self defence should never be under estimated. 

We have our hijab as a honor for us. In addition, we need to be physically strong and fit in case of emergency. It's unrealistic that our mahrams will be with us all times every day of our lives. So, we need to stand tall, firm, strong, and feel empowered from inside out.

Thank you sis, for the beautiful reminder.

Mashallah very well written, I totally agree with you on the fitness point :(

Very good points but I think Number 5 should've been #1 on the list! Allah's laws and commandments should come first:) 

Asalam alaikum wa rahmatu Allah!
Jazakum Allah Khair for your lovely feedback =) 

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