On March 15 2019, dozens of women hovered in the female section of Christchurch’s Al-Noor Mosque, as their time of worship became a time of terror which shocked the nation to its core.
Widows of Shuhada is an 8-part podcast with accompanying photography documentary series featuring four of the women left widowed by the attacks on worshippers at the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques, which claimed 51 lives.
We first meet the diverse group of women – Farah Talal, Sanjida Jaman Neha, Muhubo Ali Jama and Hamimah Tuyan — six months after the deaths of their husbands. We follow the women as they move houses, try to explain to their children what happened, return to the place of their husbands’ deaths and come together as widows to share their burden of collective loss.
Their personal journeys take us to the streets of Singapore, a refugee camp in Kenya, a mosque in Jordan and a new gun store in Christchurch.
They show how their beliefs have shaped their personal responses to the violence of that day and the person accused of carrying out the attacks. And they remind us that at the centre of their sorrow is their belief that every person who died as a result of the attacks are martyrs – or shuhada – who are where Allah had planned for them to be; their husbands, they believe, are the lucky ones.
There are tears. But there is laughter too. As well as a few Arabic lessons and Somali tea.
The women share their intimate thoughts on forgiveness, gender and Islam, and their lives in the aftermath of the massacre – some of which may be surprising. They also discuss the New Zealand Government and wider public’s response to the attacks.
This project was funded as the final initiatives from the RNZ/NZ On Air Joint Innovation Fund and Created with Plains FM 96.9 Lana Hart, RNZ, Plains FM, Nicki Reece, Jumayah Jones, Asma Azhar, Asha Abdi, Janneth Gil , the four wonderful women who generously shared their stories with us and their community that adopted us as one of their own.
I hope their stories inspire all of us to create a better and more inclusive society.
Walking beside four widows of the Christchurch mosque attacks as they journey towards a new life has absorbed most of my attention lately.
Along the way, I learned a lot about forgiveness, Islam, and the power of a good story...