#WomenInIslam Farheen Rizvi

Sr. Farheen Rizvi spent many evenings under the clear night sky outside her mosque in Shah-e-Mardan Kerbala in New Delhi, India, listening to the Maulana’s speeches about the Ahlulbayt (A.S.). It was during these moments that her bond with science, spacecraft exploration and the Ahlulbayt (A.S.) was deepened. Her budding interest in this field enticed her to pursue her studies in aerospace engineering with a focus on spacecraft dynamics and control, paving the way to a career at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Inspiration from the Ahlulbayt (A.S.) and the Holy Qur’an
Farheen’s fascination with the universe grew as the years went by and she often found herself turning more and more to the Ahlulbayt (A.S.) and the Holy Qur’an for inspiration. One of Farheen’s inspirations is Imam Jaffar as-Sadiq (A.S.) who encouraged others to be curious and work hard to unravel the secrets of the universe. He maintained a laboratory and had students undertake scientific experiments that led to various discoveries, including the discovery of oxygen. Some of Imam Jaffar as-Sadiq’s (A.S.) theories include the theory of many worlds (there are so many worlds that we cannot count them) and the theory of living beings in other worlds. Farheen’s appreciation for God as al-Khaliq increases as more discoveries are made in the universe. In fact, her favourite ayaat from the Holy Qur’an is in Surah Ar-Rahman, “The Sun and the moon [move] by precise calculation,” [55:5] and this is something she does in her work through modeling the motion of Sun and planets and their impact on the spacecraft trajectory.

Finding your calling
Farheen’s passion about space exploration and humanitarian work coupled with her experience in the spacecraft guidance, navigation and control field drives her to reach greater heights. God willing, she plans to design an entire control system for a spacecraft that detects an exoplanet (planet outside our solar system) that is harboring life apart from our Earth. She also hopes to use her engineering background to make the lives of others on planet Earth more comfortable. Next year, she plans on traveling to Gaza, Palestine, to work on fun and interesting space projects with local school children as an encouragement for their education. She was inspired to do this by Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani and Sayyid Ali Khameini’s guidance for youth:

“I want you youth to lay the foundations for a correct and honorable interaction with the Islamic world based on correct understanding, deep insight and lessons learned…” [Sayyid Ali Khameini, 2015]

Young girls and women around the world may feel intimidated to get into the maths and sciences fields but Farheen reminds us to turn to Surah Al-‘Alaq for guidance: “Read in the Name of your Lord who created;” [96:1]. If you are passionate about studying math and science, then say bismillah and continue. You must remember that this is your God given right. God eases the way for you.

Making a difference in your community
Farheen’s love for volunteering fuels her involvement in the community. She’s helping organize the TEDxManhattan Beach event involving inspirational speakers. She’s working with the United States Forest Service on collecting water samples from the San Gabriel Mountain Streams to determine stream contamination. She’s also part of a Crisis Text Line counseling service. In her spare time, she tries to visit places of faith like churches, synagogues and temples to learn about them and share Islam.

Farheen believes that preparing for the akhirah is as important as making a livelihood in this life. In fact, attending programs at the mosque is an investment into having a successful akhirah so you can be proactive about reducing your workload (if need be) to make room for faith-based activities. Farheen finds hijab a beautiful concept, which represents her personal choice. Farheen makes it clear to those around her, including her colleagues that her faith is an important element of her individuality and it ought to be respected. She remains grateful to work and belong in a community that reciprocates respect.

Farheen is interested in connecting and interacting with the community members so please feel free to reach out via email: [email protected]