It’s always encouraging to see magazines for Muslims, especially for Muslim women, in parts of the world in which Muslims are the minority. Currently in North America, we have magazines like Azizah Magazine and Muslim Girl, both catering to the female, Muslim population of the region. Now the U.K. has Sisters Magazine, with the tagline “The Magazine for Fabulous Muslim Women.” So how fabulous is the magazine itself? I decided to take a look see at the free sample they provide.
Initially the magazine started in digital form in 2007, but has recently started publishing a print copy, the summer 2008 condensed version of which I scanned.
First, what I liked. It’s appears quite holistic, covering many aspects of life including spirituality, inspiration, family issues, world issues, fashion, and food among others. It aims to inspire Muslim women, mainly by providing religious dictates as well as personal stories of various Muslim women. Additionally, there is no doubt that Sisters Magazine approaches their writing from a religious standpoint. All their work is based on Islam and Islam is present in all their work, either explicitly or implicitly. They state:
SISTERS covers a range of subjects in the areas of Inspiration, Self, Family, Community, World, Homes, Looks, Tastes and a range of reader offers and competitions.
Our magazine’s ethos is rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah, according to the understanding of the Pious Predecessors, and our inspiration is Islam as a beautiful and richly rewarding way of life. (Read the rest of the description here.)
If the reader is one for whom Islam is central, then this may be the magazine for them. MAY be. The reason why it just may be for them will be explained in the “What I don’t like” section. Let’s just stick to the positive for now.
In this particular issue there was a section I particularly liked (because it hit close to home) – the section entitled Blessed solitude: Make the most of being single. The advice seemed to encourage women to think positive and come to peace with being single. To accept it as Allah’s will and use that knowledge to comfort themselves, if being single did indeed bother them. This piece was just one example of how Islam was used to try to help the reader and guide the reader. In my view, positive points for the intended audience.
However, who is the intended audience? Who is Sisters targeting? Reflecting on these questions leads to the what I don’t like about the magazine.
As I said earlier, if the reader is one for whom Islam is central then this MAY be the magazine for them. This depends on what interpretation of Islam one follows. The Islam that Sisters bases their work on is a traditional and conservative one. Not to mention, it also seems very Sunni oriented. (I don’t think I need to mention it but it was also for the heterosexual Muslim woman). Therefore, if the reader is a traditional, conservative and Sunni, then this could be the magazine for you. If not, then this magazine may end up leaving you feeling like an inadequate and inaccurate Muslim woman. In fact, it may end up leaving you feeling like a bad Muslim woman. For instance, a strong self-righteousness seems to seep through when they talk about how Muslim weddings are not always Islamic. In a sarcastic, condescending, and “humorous” they condemn Muslims who have, what they term as “un-Islamic” weddings.
Just imagine, you arrive at the entrance of a large hall and notice a mass of people, both men and women, gathered outside. You whip out your invitation card to verify whether you have reached the correct venue and it turns out that you have. You look around and almost hit yourself for not bringing shades – why hadn’t anyone warned you about the amount of bling-bling that would be on display by man, woman and child? It’s so bad that there should be some kind of health warning on the invite! You shade your eyes as best as you can and proceed into the glamorous, latest designer-decorated hall, but wait, your heart’s pounding. You soon realise that it’s not your heart beating like a drum, rather, it’s the bass of the latest wedding track – boom, boom, boom. Yes, wedding nasheed. Fatima never mentioned that the hall would be used for a disco too! As your heartbeat manages to ease and settle down, you push your way through a set of heavy double doors to be greeted, not only by the aroma of the enticing menu the catering team had slaved over, but by a group of ‘brothers’. Hold on a sec, let’s put this tape on pause. Wasn’t this supposed to be a Muslim marriage? (Read the rest of the piece here)
So as you can see, there is a certain interpretation of Islam being used as the backdrop to this magazine. Even if you are a religious and devout Muslim woman, if you do not follow Sisters’ interpretation of Islam, approach this magazine with caution, knowing that there will be sections that will make you scratch your head and feel left out. Not to mention like a non-practicing Muslimah. Sometimes with little or no morals.
Additionally, if you are one who does not necessarily feel comfortable with religion being brought up ALL the time and inserted into everything little thing you do, then be warned that this magazine may seem like religion overload to you.
Now, I agree that there is nothing wrong with this type of magazine existing. And it is wonderful that a certain segment of the Muslim female population will see themselves reflected in the magazine. However, by stating that this magazine is for the “fabulous Muslim woman” the makers of the magazine are implying that either only those Muslim women who follow their interpretation are fabulous, or more likely, that this is for all Muslim women, because all Muslim women should follow their interpretation. If you don’t, then you’re not a good Muslim. Either way, it is false advertising. This magazine is generally for a more traditional, conservative, Sunni Muslim woman. It would be best that they advertise that way and not claim to be for Muslim women in general.
In the end, the magazine is worth checking out; however, be aware that it is not bias-free.