Respond with RAHMA

Respond with RAHMA

We believe you. It's not your fault. You are not alone. 

These are phrases that we at ZUDO want to encourage every day - but especially this month! Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in full swing and the importance of compassion inspired our new RAHMA cuffs, which we hope you have been enjoying!

In light of the theme for this month, the wonderful Nadiah who is the co-founder and Executive Director for HEART Women & Girls shares her powerful sentiments below:

Respond with RAHMA : Learning from the example of Khadijah (R)

Many, many years ago, a man by the name of Muhammad, enjoyed solitude and deep contemplation. He was married and he belonged to a large tribe of people, but we know that he often retreated alone to a cave called Hira during the month of Ramadan. One day, an angel appeared before him and hugged him tight. So tight that he felt he could barely breathe. And the angel said to him, an illiterate man, “Read. Read in the name of your Lord.”

This was the first revelation that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received from God. And even though we glorify this story – it was truly a miraculous and divine moment in our history – we often forget that the Prophet was shaken to his core.

And so, he ran home to seek comfort in his wife. Khadijah, may God be pleased with her, received her shaken husband with compassion and warmth. She held him close and covered him up as his body was shaking. She did not know what was happening, nor had she experienced what he had, but she listened.

This is what we in the movement call – holding space.

She modeled a rahma that not only embodied empathy, but a sincere belief in his agency and ability to do great things. SHE BELIEVED HIM even though what he was saying was completely unbelievable. He had no evidence. He had no pictures. He had no witnesses. Yet SHE BELIEVED HIM and she believed IN him. And later, when he was calm, she took him to someone she believed to be a resource*. 

These timeless religious narratives serve as inspirations for many of us. Eight years ago I submitted our first grant application for HEART. That same morning, I rushed to the hospital with my 18 month old baby. She had a high fever and could no longer walk. I sat in the hospital room, machines whirring and beeping, feeling completely helpless as I gazed upon my little daughter in the hospital crib. Every moment, we had specialists name dropping terrible diagnosis after terrible diagnosis. She was sedated multiple times, and underwent numerous invasive medical exams.

Even though I was surrounded by family and friends, I felt completely alone and afraid. I questioned every decision I had to make. Thankfully, my aunt stepped in. She is a gifted pediatrician and equipped me and my husband with the proper medical language we needed to advocate for our daughter, and most of all, she taught me to believe in myself and listen to my gut and trust God’s plan. Thankfully, we did. We discharged our daughter after a five day stay and took her home to recover. By the grace of God, our daughter is now 10 years old.

It is no coincidence that HEART’s work began that same year and its greatest strength lies not in its programming, but what it offers to people: to be a non-judgmental community space that provides people with the resources, knowledge, and self-efficacy they need to navigate the complexities of reproductive health and sexual assault. We quickly developed our RAHMA principles, a very simple but fundamental framework for those who seek help from us.

RAHMA is holding space with the woman who struggles silently with pregnancy loss, while fielding questions from community about when she and her husband will be starting a family. RAHMA is listening, and offering resources and support to the woman who struggles being intimate with her partner because she experiences debilitating pelvic pain. RAHMA is believing the person that comes to you with her story of teenage sexual assault, at a party; and feels she needs to come forward now and expose her perpetrator as he attempts to be a Justice of the highest court in our country.

It is something we all have practiced with our loved ones, as they shared with us their stories that are far too common yet remain to be spoken. It is about replacing judgment and disbelief with compassion, support, and healing. It is that simple.

There’s no denying this work is controversial and uncomfortable because it challenges people to reconsider how we think about gender, sexuality, and sexual violence. Trust me, we have *a lot* of critics. There are many days we have wanted to give up, exhausted and emotionally spent. But there are also days when we are reminded of why we do this work when those who are most impacted share their stories of healing.

And so, we will not stop. We are the daughters of Khadija, may God be pleased with her. She taught us this path, and we honor her by following in her footsteps.

I invite you to join us and practice responding with rahma. We all can respond by listening and affirm those who come to us in crisis. We all can honor their context and maintain their privacy. And we all can assist with providing resources.

*credit to Zawar Jafri for sharing this reflection with us.


A huge thank you to Nadiah for sharing her inspiring story! Check out HEART's movement here.

If you'd like to take a closer look at our RAHMA cuffs, click here and inspire your friends and family to #RespondWithRahma today!


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