Hajjah Aziza El Saddik, a pioneer amongst Sydney’s Muslim community passed away early in March and her Aza to pay respect to her family was organised on Thursday 11 March 2021 at Lakemba mosque for men and at MWA headquarters in Lakemba for women.
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.
She 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. Fluent in Arabic, she 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 Lakemba 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 proposed 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 recalled 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 recalled who was one of the women involved in forming the first ever Muslim women’s refuge in Australia
Aziza thought 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.