Hajeh Aziza – A true pioneer

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With tears in our heart, we are saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Hajeh, mother of the community, mentor and founder of Muslim Women Australia, Aziza (Um Muhammad) El Saddik.

She has departed from this world, returning to her Creator. On this occasion of tremendous sadness, we share a bit about her, her contribution and what she means to us all. Please keep her and her family and loved ones in your prayers. May Allah shower her with His mercy and forgiveness and write her amongst the righteous and grant her family and children patience.

MWA: The Beginning

From its humble beginnings in 1983 with a group of women gathered in their homes to discuss how they could improve the situation for Muslim women in Australia to now being a specialist organisation catering to the needs of Australian Muslims everyday, MWA has endured and overcome numerous challenges.

A small group of Muslim women met in their homes for a period of two years, where they conducted religious and educational classes with a view to increasing the Muslim women’s knowledge and access. These meetings were becoming a very effective means of educating women about Islam for application in their daily lives.

It was becoming apparent that the needs of Muslim women were neglected and a decision was made to organise an official women’s group to cater for the needs of Muslim women at all levels; social, religious, educational, welfare and recreational. This group of women operated voluntarily in a rented office from their own contribution. Subsequently, a general meeting was organised in 1983 for the purpose of forming a Muslim Women’s group, and to formulate its aims and objectives.

Hajjah Aziza (Um Muhammad) El Saddik

Hajjah Aziza, a vibrant and forceful woman, first came to Australia sixty years ago though she and her family returned to Lebanon for a period of eight years during that time, returning permanently to Australia in 1972. The Australia she remembers in the 1950s and 60s was different: “no crime, you left the money at the door for the milkman, safe country, sleep with door open”. Aziza was used to being active in community work in Syria, “everyone knew me in the city”, and was always an avid reader. She learnt English “by proxy”, as she put it, from overseas magazines sent by her sister. Aziza, whose Arabic is excellent, joined Douha, another female community member in organising Quran classes for women and in looking after the sick and needy.

Aziza was inspired to go on hajj (pilgrimage) after a dream she had that Sheikh Taj interpreted as a desire for the pilgrimage and, when she returned, she started to attend the mosque every day. The number of girls and women attending the mosque grew larger and Sheikh Taj suggested a separate day for women to attend the mosque on their own. When MWA was established, Sheikh Taj suggested that Aziza be the chairperson because of her work in the community and her knowledge of women’s rights in Islam. She shattered the stereotype of Muslim women as “shy and scared”. Aziza recalls that, in the beginning, her family or community were not enthusiastic about her involvement in the MWA but she was quietly confident of the significance of the organisation.

When the MWA moved to a rented house in Lakemba, Aziza led a group of committed women who taught lessons in English, religion and Arabic to other girls and women. During school holidays, they organised an array of fun activities for the children and lessons at the mosque. This had a cumulative effect as families of children who attended these events developed an interest in and involvement with MWA.

Aziza was also involved in assisting women and children who were experiencing homelessness and domestic violence with accommodation and support. “We’d go and find her a place to sleep and it was very hard because it depended on people opening up their homes”. Aziza, was one of the women involved in forming the first ever Muslim women’s refuge in Australia 

Aziza thinks that one of the main goals of MWA should be education of Muslim women in Australia, so that they are strong enough and equipped to stand up for themselves and represent the best image of their faith and their country.

An excerpt from Paving the Way: The Story of the Muslim Women Association. A 33 Year Long Journey, 1983 – 2016”. Published October 2016.

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