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Maryam Jameelah

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Maryam Jameelah (b. May 23, 1934) is an author of over thirty books on Islamic culture and history and a prominent female voice and apologist for conservative Islam. Born, Margret Marcus, in New York to a non-observant Jewish family, she explored Judaism and other faiths during her teens before converting to Islam in 1961 and emigrating to Pakistan. She is married to, and has five children, with Muhammad Yusuf Khan, a leader in the Jamaat-e-Islami political party, and resides in the city of Lahore.[1][2]

Biography

Jameelah was born Margeret Marcus in New Rochelle, New York, to parents of Jewish German descent, and spent her early years in Westchester. As a child, Marcus was psychologically and socially ill at ease with her surroundings, and her mother described her as bright, exceptionally bright, but also "very nervous, sensitive, high-strung, and demanding". Even while in school she was attracted to Asian and particularly Arab culture and history, and counter to the support for Israel among people around her, she generally sympathised with the plight of Arabs and Palestinians.[3]

She entered the University of Rochester after high-school, but had to withdraw before classes began because of psychiatric problems. In Spring, 1953, she entered New York University. There she explored Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, Ethical Culture and Bahá'í Faith, but found them unsatisfactory, especially in their support for Zionism. In the summer of 1953, she suffered another nervous breakdown and fell into despair and exhaustion. It was during this period that returned to her study of Islam and read the Quran. She was also inspired by Muhammad Asad's The Road to Mecca, which recounted his journey and eventual conversion from Judaism to Islam. At NYU took a course on Judaism's influence on Islam taught by Rabii and scholar Abraham Katsch, which ironically strengthened her attraction to Islam. However Marcus's health grew worse and she dropped out of the university in 1956 before graduation; from 1957-59 she was hospitalized for schizophrenia.[4][2]

Returning home to White Plains in 1959, Marcus involved herself with various Islamic organizations, and began corresponding with Muslim leaders outside America, particularly Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Society) in Pakistan. Finally, on May 24, 1961, she converted to Islam and adopted the name Maryam Jameelah. Mawlana Maududi's invitation she emigrated to Pakistan in 1962, where she initially resided with him and his family. In 1963, she married Muhammed Yusuf khan, a member of the Jamaat-e-Islami, becoming his second wife. She had five children: two boys and three girls (the first of whom died in infancy). Jameelah regards these years (1962-64) to be the formative period of her life during which she matured and began her life's work as a Muslim apologist and a defender of conservative Islam.[5][2]

Writings

Jameelah started writing her first novel, Ahmad Khalil: The Story of a Palestinian Refugee and His Family at the age of twelve; she illustrated her book with pencil sketches and color drawings. She also studied drawing in Fall 1952 at Art Students League of New York, and exhibited her work at Bahai Center's Caravan of East and West art gallery. On her emigration to Pakistan she was told that art was un-Islamic by Moudidi, and abandoned it in favor of writing.[2][6] Her writings are supplemented by a number of audio and video tapes.[7]

Jameelah is a prolific author, offering a conservative defense of traditional Islamic values and culture. She is deeply critical of secularism, materialism and modernization, both in Western society, as well as in Islam. She regards traditions such as veiling, polygamy, and gender segregation (purdah) to be ordained by the Quran and words of Prophet Muhammad, and considers movements to change these customs to be a betrayal of Islamic teachings.[8] Jammelah's books and articles have been translated into several languages including Urdu, Persian, Turkish, Bengali and Bahasa Indonesia.[9] Her correspondence, manuscripts, bibliographies, chronologies, speeches, questionnaires, published articles, photographs, videocassettes, and artwork are included in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library collection of the New York Public Library.[2] Some of the books she has written are:

  • Islam and Modernism
  • Westernization and Human Welfare
  • Three Great Islamic Movements in the Arab World of the Recent Past
  • The Generation Gap - Its Causes and Consequences

Notes

References

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