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Ramadan Reflection Day 8: The Women Who Shape Us

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Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author e-mail alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

There seems to be a lot of conversation these days on Muslim athletes at this year's Olympics and the tough choice they face in fasting during Ramadan or not. Growing up, I played football and ran track since I was around 12 and the decision to fast while I was practicing or playing never really came up. This wasn't because I was particularly devout or committed to my faith per se. Mostly it was because I saw my sister fasting while she played basketball, so I just did what she did.

Aside from being quick, agile and having an amazing jump shot (she used to have a couple of three-point records for high school basketball in N.J.), my big sister Aliya has a lot of unique qualities that makes her someone that I have always looked up to and have learned a lot from. We have home videos of us playing together in the front yard of our house from when we were younger and my father would call us into the house, speaking to us in Urdu. My sister would respond, using the feminine case since she's a girl, "Main aa rahi hoon," meaning "I am coming," and I would be waddling behind her speaking in the same feminine case saying "Main aa rahi hoon," not knowing that I was talking as a girl would, but not really caring because I just wanted to be like her.

For those who don't know her, here is a sample of Aliya Unplugged

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, grew up under the care and attention of many different women, and I would argue that played a huge role in his being the person that he was. His father Abdullah passed away before he was born and his primary caregiver was his mother Aminah. Aminah says that during the birth of Muhammad, she felt no pain at all and it was an extremely light experience for her. This carries deep meaning to it, as Muhammad was meant to cause hardship to no one. As such, a process that is so strenuous that it can only be called labor brings no pain to his mother Amina, because he's not meant to cause people pain. Amina is one woman who raises him.

A second woman by the name of Thuwaiybah, who was emancipated by the Prophet's uncle and sent to nurse him upon his birth, along with a third by the name of Halima Saadiyah, also played a role in his growth during his infant and early childhood years. It was custom of the people of Mecca that they would send their children to live with the bedouin tribes, and Halima became entrusted with the task of looking after Muhammad in this manner. A last woman was Um Ayman Barakah. At 16 years of age she became a servant in the household of Abdullah, the Prophet's father, and is arguably the only companion of the Prophet who was with him from time he was born until the time he passed away. All in all, these four women are raising the Prophet at a time when most children are learning about love, trust and other important values. The foundation of his character is influenced by them and plays a role on his being the person who he is when he gets older.

How we treat our women is important because it really is they who will play a direct role in the shaping of those who come after us. We unfortunately don't always take advantage of the impact the women in ours lives can have on us and in the instance where we do, we quite often fail to acknowledge that impact. The positive impact my sister has had on me is something that I can't even begin to describe. She is one of the most passionate, dedicated and caring people I know and I pray that I can one day embody an iota of who she is.

Al, you the best. Thank you for looking after me all of these years and making sure I stayed out of trouble. One of my favorite years in my life was when I started high school because I got to spend so much time with you and get even closer to you. Thank you for coming to watch all of my track meets and for yelling at me every time I talked to a girl you didn't like, which ended up being most every girl. Thank you for introducing me to baked ziti and cherry-flavored italian ice. Thank you for driving my friends around and dropping them off to their houses when none of us could drive. Thank you for being the glue that holds our family together. Thank you for waking up early every morning, going home late every night, and for every hour in between that you have put in to helping those around you and for the work that you have done and continue to do. Thank you for teaching me to not fear my potential. You are not just a model Muslim woman to me, but a model Muslim and a model person. I am so grateful that my child will have an aunt like you. Thank you, my dear sister, for just being you. You really are so special, and I truly do love you.

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