This Feels Like Home: Muslim Women Talk About Genuine Friendships and Red Flags
The Feature

This Feels Like Home: Muslim Women Talk About Genuine Female Friendships and Red Flags

Genuine female friendships are like therapy, only better because you’re not paying for it!

Umaymah Abdullahi

Of the many things that become more complicated as women grow older, female friendships seem like the one life ingredient without which many cannot thrive. It gets so complicated with time, leaving many people feeling conflicted and lonely. Sometimes, after many years of doing everything and growing together, the heartbreak that comes with an abrupt end of a friendship becomes so difficult to recover from. Against the widespread narrative that women are women’s worst enemies, the conversation around what makes genuine friendships amongst women has become a never-ending one. Every human is a social being and because we are invested in the sociology and dynamics of platonic female friendships, we spoke with a number of Muslim women on what deep meaningful female friendships mean to them, and here’s what they said:

Umaymah Abdullahi, Abuja Nigeria

TMWT: What is your definition of genuine female friendship? Have you experienced it? and how has it made you feel?

Umaymah Abdullahi: For me, friendship is a place where I can find honesty, trust and support. Six years ago, when my life turned around and some of my friends were going through a lot of personal upheavals, I was able to sift the chaff from the grain. As women in our forties, our kids were teenagers, our husbands were getting antsy with midlife crisis and some of our parents were becoming sick and dying, we bonded in a way only known in dreams and now I realise it’s the mercy of Allah that He gave us something to hold on to. Our friendship was forged from tahajjud prayers, shared du’as, joint fasting and charity projects. We advise each other, comfort each other and when necessary, we stage interventions for each other. It made me feel like even when I was in the depths of despair, I had someone to call or message anytime who will tell me ‘it’s going to be ok, Allah has got you’.

TMWT: What are some friendship red flags you would advise women to beware of?

Umaymah Abdullahi: The number one Red flag in any friendship is dishonesty. A friend should be able to tell you painful facts when need be. A friend will help you see what you do not see in yourself and encourage you to reach for greater heights. A friend is someone who should bring out the “you” in you, never making you uncomfortable or putting up a show around you.

TMWT: How do you think genuine friendships can help to improve our lives as women?

Umaymah Abdullahi: Genuine friendships are like therapy for women, only better because you’re not paying for it!

Face with tears of joy

On a serious note, you can call your friend in the worst state of your paranoia and ask if you’re being silly and your friend(s) will talk you through your feelings and help sift what’s valid and what’s not. A chat with your friends ALWAYS makes you feel better, It’s a balm to your heart when you know you’re accepted, loved and respected by a friend and you extend the same to her or them. I think female friendships are one of the greatest blessings of Allah for women and I advise us all to continue to make friends and connect with them. There’s something to learn from everyone, young or old, educated or not. And you’d be surprised who becomes your friend and helps you when you need it most and also who you’re able to help.


Envy and jealousy are things that we all naturally feel but it’s also a sign that the person feeling this way has some inner work to do.

– Salma Begum

Salma Begum, Manchester, UK

TMWT: What is your definition of genuine female friendship? What does it look like?

Salma Begum: Female friendship, by my definition, is a place where you establish a deep connection and bond with another woman. It’s a place where you find mutual appreciation and love for one another, where you can feel like you’ve got a sister even though you are not related by blood. It’s the feeling of finding comfort in another. A good friend is someone you can share your sorrows and joys with, someone you can share your success and losses with, someone who will offer support in whatever ways they can just because they love and care for you.

TMWT: Have you experienced it? and How has it made you feel?

Salma Begum: I am blessed with genuine friendships; friends I can cry to when I’ve got problems and who make me feel validated and seen in my struggles. We do brunch together to catch up on life and laugh till our bellies hurt, drop off a dish we cooked and get something else in return in that butter tub. I can give them constructive criticism and advice with good intentions. I’m there to catch them or pull them up whenever they are about to fall. I feel loved whenever they gift me well-thought-out presents to celebrate my wins. My friends and I have deep life conversations on night drives and contemplate our existence. It’s the feeling of being appreciated and valued for simply existing as myself. It’s feeling like my eid plans will be great and I will have an amazing day to look forward to. It’s knowing I can borrow an outfit for a wedding I didn’t have time to prepare for. It’s a “give and take” relationship; a mutually beneficial one we can all cherish, knowing it’s safe for us to retreat from it and thrive in it.

TMWT: What are some friendship red flags you would advise women to beware of?

Salma Begum: Some red flags I would advise women to be aware of in friendships are quite a few. Beware of women who constantly look at others and gossip, who constantly look for faults in others and judge negatively. If they gossip with you, they can gossip about you. Another one to look out for is constantly wanting to vent and have a rant with no consideration of your feelings or your particular situation, for instance, calling or texting late at night just to vent, irrespective of whether you are going through a tough time. We all need healthy outlets, counselling or a conversation at an appropriate time when we can be present and available. But being a friend doesn’t make you an emotional vortex for a negativity dump. This will really drain you since you’re going to be absorbing a lot of negative energy. Another red flag is when a friend isn’t supportive of your wins and successes and isn’t positive when you share news or plans or things you have achieved. It can be rooted in envy. Envy and jealousy are things that we all naturally feel but it’s also a sign that the person feeling this way has some inner work to do. Oftentimes, you find strangers more supportive of you than your own friends and family, which is something to look out for in order to recognise who is rooting for you and who isn’t.

TMWT: How do you think genuine friendships can help to improve our lives as women?

Salma Begum: Bell hooks once said that “friendship is the place in which a great majority of us have our first glimpse of redemptive love and caring community. Learning to love in friendships empowers us in ways that enable us to bring this love to other interactions with family or with romantic bonds.” Genuine friendships help us, women, in our overall well being, in our emotional and mental health and to have a safe space to get things off our chest. It’s a relief to be comforted and everyone has this need. It will give you an active social life where you can do things you enjoy and have someone to share with. It will increase your confidence and boost your self-esteem when you have friends who cheer for you and support you.


Queen Raffy

TMWT: What is your definition of genuine female friendship? What does it look like?

Queen Raffy: Genuine female friendships are spaces where we are able to talk, laugh and be honest with each other about the things that matter to us. It is a relationship where we celebrate our wins and are also comfortable enough to cry together about a loss that one person suffers. It is a friendship where I am not afraid to tell the other person exactly what I think and how I feel, even though they may not agree. It is a space where they are open to hearing me out and also letting me understand where I got it wrong and how I can make it better. It is a place where even though there are no spoken rules, we know that loyalty is the number 1 rule.

TMWT: Have you experienced it? and how has it made you feel?

Queen Raffy: I have been fortunate to experience true friendship and it has made me feel seen, heard, loved and alive.

TMWT: What are some friendship red flags you would advise women to beware of?

Queen Raffy: One red flag I would say is to beware of someone who only reaches out when they need something. Another one is to beware of someone who wants to know all that is happening with you while they never disclose anything about what is happening with them. Finally, someone who only talks about other people in a negative way is clearly displaying a friendship red flag.

TMWT: How do you think genuine friendships can help to improve our lives as women?

Queen Raffy: A genuine female friendship improves your life in a lot of ways. Firstly, it helps to know that your fellow woman isn’t always out to compete or outdo you. It also helps you to be open-minded as you are able to see issues from angles that aren’t just from your own experience. True friendship also helps to improve your mental health as you are able to unburden yourself to someone and know that they would give you sound advice like you will do for them as opposed to just keeping it all in.


People that make everything seem like a competition clearly display a friendship red flag

– Neemah Musa

Neemah Musa

TMWT: What is your definition of genuine female friendship? What does it look like?

Neemah Musa: My definition of genuine female friendships would be a small group of women committed to helping and seeing each other grow.

TMWT: Have you experienced it? and how has it made you feel?

Neemah Musa: True female friendships are absolute bliss. Just knowing that these people always have my back and are genuinely wanting to see me become the best version of myself leaves me with this warm fuzzy feeling.

TMWT: What are some friendship red flags you would advise women to beware of?

Neemah Musa: People that make everything seem like a competition, people that you can’t have decent conversations with on topics y’all don’t agree on and lastly people that you don’t feel safe with or around.

TMWT: How do you think genuine friendships can help to improve our lives as women?

Neemah Musa: I believe that genuine female friendships are of utmost importance in every woman’s life as just having people you can rely upon in your downtime brings a lot of relief. The life of a woman would be a lot easier when you have a strong community where you can share life experiences without the fear of being ridiculed or judged. Women already go through so much, so a group of friends/ community would provide her with a sense of belonging and always remind her that she’s never alone.


Socio-culturally, we have been made to believe that female friendship comes with envy, jealousy and betrayal but I don’t agree. If you find the right people and they help you grow, stick with them. It’s not all toxic female aura all the time.

– Zahra Simpa

Zahra Simpa

TMWT: What is your definition of genuine female friendship? What does it look like?

Zahra: True female friendship is love and it looks like love. It is the purest and most genuine form of love I have ever experienced.

TMWT: Have you experienced it? and how has it made you feel?

Zahra: Growing up, I never saw myself having the powerful group of friends I have right now, but as I grew older, I understood the significance of friendship. Sometimes it feels like I stole a leprechaun’s pot of gold. Whenever I am surrounded by my friends, I am at my best. We have been friends for a very long time and honestly, I wouldn’t change them for the world. Socio-culturally, we have been made to believe that female friendship comes with envy, jealousy and betrayal but I don’t agree. If you find the right people and they help you grow, stick with them. It’s not all toxic female aura all the time. I thank the almighty every day for the kind of friends He has given me. Though we have different faiths, I like that we fit like a jigsaw puzzle. This is to my women, Abigail Maikano, Precious Bawa and Aisha Buba. I love you guys immensely. Thank you for being a part of me.


Juwairiyya, UK

TMWT: What is your definition of genuine female friendship? What does it look like?

Juwairiyya: For me, true female friendships are first and foremost a “No-Judgement” zone. Being able to laugh and call each other out on their nonsense is also important but more importantly, is acceptance of who a person really is…True female friendship is loving each other in all situations. It’s being supportive, being a good listener and celebrating one another Your friends are a reflection of your character so having good friends who remind you of God, who you can learn from and who are good, kind-hearted, respectful and well-mannered is a huge blessing.

TMWT: Have you experienced it? and how has it made you feel?

Juwairiyya: As a child, I didn’t have any friends and it wasn’t until I got into secondary school between the age of 11 and 16 that I made such amazing friends. Most of them are Muslims from different backgrounds. Although they are all British born, some of them are from Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritius and Pakistan. We have maintained and nurtured our friendships especially since I moved 6th forms. Even as adults, we make time for one another and arrange dinner dates. I am so grateful and blessed to have such incredible Muslim women as my friends and to have seen us all grow and blossom into the women we are


TMWT

TMWT is an online media platform spotlighting the stories of Muslim women of the past and present. We aim to be one of the most authoritative and informative guides to what is happening in the world of Muslim women. We hope to cover key issues, spark debates, progressive ideas and provocative topics to get the Muslim world talking. We want to set agendas and explore ideas to improve the lives and wellbeing of Muslim Women.

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