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The Social Image of the Druze Woman

Women in the Druze Cannon

Druze Women in History

The Druze Women and the Arab Women's Liberation Movement

The Druze Women and the Ultra - Modern Liberation Movement

The Druze Women during the last Lebanese war and After

Druze Women's Expected Virtues and some Light on the Future

Madam President , Julie Makarem , Meessers the Board of Directors , Mr. Chairman ,  Dear Brothers and Sisters :
I am very happy to be with you , and I thank you for giving me this chance .

 Women in the Druze Canon

Epistle 8 (Mithak Al Nissa')

Epistle 18 (Risalat Al Nissa' Al Kabira)
Both are intended to instruct Women's behavior .

The cover for the head and part of the face (Al Hijab) is a requirement, and a decent dress that covers the entire body, as well .

From the beginning,  women were brought into full participation in adherence to and the propagation of the Da ' wa . The Epistles,  as they were sent from Hamza and Baha' Al Din,  were read to congregations of women as they were read to men ; the 'da' is'  were instructed to teach women, as well as men   One da'i was told to give special care that young maidens learn the Hikma (Epistle 47), and in religious families, young maidens spend a number of hours learning the Hikma and memorizing it . Many of them  memorize all the 5 books at an early age when their memory is still fresh . Women are instructed to avoid lust , questionable behavior, and that which is prohibited .

The Epistles are not to be read except to women who are believers ; who are abiding by instructions ; not violating any of them, and who refrain from sex except with their husbands .

Women , as they listen to the da'i,  should do so with the intent to understand . Hamza bids them to listen to the reading in silence ; accept it with their heart , and their mind comprehend its meaning . They may ask the da'i to explain obscure passages. The da'i explains when he can  if unable to do so, he shall refer the matter to his superior , and if need be,  to the Imam himself or his deputy . He shall then transmit the    explanation to the woman who asked for it if she is worthy of the   knowledge .

Both men and women are supposed to abide by the following dogmas and Moral precepts of the Unitarian faith :

Mutual aid
3&4Renunciation of beliefs inconsistent with Tawhid
Belief that the doctrine of Unity was preached in every age
Resignation with satisfaction (rida) to whatever God does
Submission to His will

Epistles 83 - 84 named Risalat Al Banat Al Saghira and Al Kabira were intended for women living in palaces  who were not on the right track asking them once and twice to avoid the atmosphere they were in  and stressing that God would forgive them if they ask Him truly and honestly for forgiveness .

Epistle 25 by Hamza named Shart Al Imam says,  "When a Unitarian takes to himself a Unitarian sister,  he shall treat her as his equal and share with her all that he possesses .  "If separation becomes necessary,  and it is the wife who wishes to leave her husband   although it is known to trustworthy people that he is fulfilling his obligations towards her , then he is entitled to half of what she owns .  If he fails in his obligations,  and she chooses to leave him, he has no right to anything that belongs to her.  Should the husband decide on the dissolution of the marriage through no fault of the wife ,  she is entitled to half of all his possessions.
Equality and justice are established best in this Covenant . It is obligatory."

Sayyid Abdullah elaborates "Men and women should decide upon marriage free from coercion;  with full agreement by both parties;  with sincere intent to live in harmony and amity . It is forbidden to marry a woman against her will."  (Al Shari'a al Ruhaniyya)

On the principle of equality,  the husband shall treat his wife as his equal sharing with her not only material possessions,  but more importantly , spiritual benefits . He shall guide her to the good ; he shall teach her to read if she is illiterate , and if she already reads, he shall encourage and help her to advance in knowledge . If he is not able to do this himself , he shall accompany her to a shyakh to teach them both . It is not permissible that he shall seek learning and leave her in the house occupied with advancing his material welfare . Husband and wife shall go together to acquire knowledge when both are equally capable of this pursuit . If either of them is more able and more eager to learn than the other , the wife,  as well as,  the husband shall go to the shaykh for more instruction ; the difference being that the man goes alone ; the woman accompanied by a mahram , or in the company of other women .

Unlike other Moslem sects where only on a previous condition,  the Druze woman can have the right to dissolve marriage . A Druze woman has equal rights with men to dissolve the marriage . Druze marriages are in general successful and lasting .

Divorce is final ! It is not allowed that a divorced couple go back to the marriage again; where as,  this is allowed in other Moslem sects .

Marriage is monogamous . Polygamy , concubinage (Altassari) , and temporary marriage (mut'a) are forbidden .

In case of the breakdown of the marriage , the mother has the priority for nursing the child. Guardianship of the children and estate is entrusted to the wife if she does not remarry after the husband's death , but preference is given to the grandfather .

Druze Women in History      
Sitt Sarah
With the beginning of the da'wa , Sitt Sarah came into prominence as a peace maker . Sitt Sarah was Baha'eddin's niece,  and she was sent by him at the head of a mission to Wadi al- Taym after the disturbances that were created there by da'is who had gone astray . The mission , composed of venerable men , saw no cause for dissatisfaction at being lead by a woman.  Again Baha'eddin places his niece at the head of a delegation to the Qarmatian leaders in Bahrayn with a letter reminding them of their ancestors' services in the cause of the da'wa,  and he calls on them to walk in her footsteps . After he wrote the letter , in Safar 430 - 1038 A.D., obstacles arose which hindered the lady from making the journey ;  the delegation proceeded without her . We are not told what the obstacles were;  perhaps it was insecurity on the road . It was a bold decision to have thought of sending a woman on an important mission across the great distance that separates Cairo from Bahrayn .

The teachings of religion , combined with the status of the Druze community itself as the dominant element in the Mountain , have given women the self - assurance and self - reliance enjoyed by their people as a whole . This explains why the most remarkable women in Lebanese societies have been
Druzes .

Sitt Nasab
In view of scarcity of information on early Druze history , it is not surprising that the famous women we next know about after Sitt Sarah is Sitt Nasab , mother of the celebrated Fakhr al - Din Ma'nII . Her husband , Emir Qorqmaz,  died when Fakr al- Din and his brother, Yunus,  were minors . With the help of her brother , the Tanukhid Emir Sayf al - Din , Sitt Nasab brought up her children and preserved their patrimony until Fakhr al - Din came of age . Fakhr al - Din held his mother in high honor . He was known never to decide of anything of moment without consulting with her.

Sitt Hbous Arslan
Sitt Hbous Arslan was a woman of exceptional intelligence and powerful personality . She ruled, during the first quarter of the 19th century,  the Gharb district including the plain of Beirut to the exclusion of several Arslan emirs qualified to occupy the position . Notables of the Mountain came to her residence in Shuwayfat to discuss the weal and woe of the community . Here, also came suitors for justice . Sitt Hbous herself adjudicated their cases ; her decisions , pronounced with authority , were obeyed .

Junblat women discharged ably the responsibilities of the mistress in a seigniorial family . At times , after the death of the head of the family,  the mother assumed responsibility for the family's affairs : the management of their extensive estate and the public functions of a chief.
In this capacity she received the respect and obedience due to the chief.

Sitt Nayfeh
 Shaykh Bashir's wife and daughter were pious and able women .Shaykh Bashir's daughter , Sitt Nayfeh , married into the prominent Shams family of Hasbaya in Wadi al - Taym . She was widowed at the age of 30 and refused all men who proposed marriage to her . She took a vow to bring up her three daughters and to keep her husband's house open and prosperous.
Being endowed with the qualities of mind and character that qualified her for leadership,  Sitt Nayfeh assumed it successfully . During the troubles of 1860 when Druzes besieged the fortress of Hasbaya , Sitt Nayfeh went to the castle, under battle fire , brought out Christian women and children who had been gathered there , and gave them protection in her home . Her piety was translated in charity , and her generosity reached the Hawran mountain . In times of scarcity, she opened a food center for the poor and needy of all sects . Sitt Nayfeh was highly respected by rulers as she was by the people , both Christians , and Moslems alike . A testimony to her piety is Khalwat al - Bayyada . She often went out masqueraded at night helping needy people . She excelled in horse riding . Amir Shakib Arslan said that he was most affected when meeting her than any of the rulers and Princes he had met before .

Sitt Nazira
Sitt Nazira was in the tradition of the women of her family when upon her husband's death in 1921 , she assumed the responsibility of chiefmanship . She was young herself , and her son Kamal , the heir to the distinguished house of Junblat, was a child . Her leadership coincided with a time of troubles . The French mandate over Syria and Lebanon had recently come into effect , and French rule in Lebanon , as in Syria , was resented by Druzes . In her dealings with the French authorities , Sitt Nazira was wise and tactful . She exerted her efforts to avoid a major clash between the Druzes and the mandatory power . In her district , The Chouf Mountains , she was in a real sense the ruler . She adjudicated disputes , settled controversies , and adjusted conflicting interests amicably . Using her good  influence with the authorities, she used to promote public good and redress grievances . The daily stream of people to Mukhtara testified to the people's confidence in her leadership . In 1943, when Kamal Junblat took on the responsibilities of the house , he received from his mother a prestigious leadership . She used to discuss matters with him , but she never criticized him in public for fear that this may be humiliating to the house .

Wise and able Druze women were not rare . Neither was it unusual for men to seek their aid and their advice and judgement on important issues. Also, many Druze women were reputed for piety . Pious women had been deeply respected by both the great in their society and by the common folk . Their blessings were sought by all of them.

Sitt Fakhreh Beainy, Sitt Zahr and Sitt Sa'da Takieddine
Sitt Fakhreh Beainy in Mazr'a Al - Chouf and Sitt Zahr and Sitt Sa'da Takieddine in Baakline  were among the pious Druze women, and their burial places are Makams .

Sitt Sha'wane and Rabia' Adaweyeh
Another, among the most pious Druze, is Sitt Sha'wane . Sitt Sha'wane's story , whose burial place is a Makam in Beka', and the story of Rabia' Adaweyeh are taught to children , inspiring them, and especially girls and women,  to stick to their beliefs and refrain from wrong behavior and seek real happiness in the love oh God . In each of the reputed families, there are stories of pious women told to generations by word of mouth . Effort should be made to collect them before they are lost .

The Druze Woman and The Arab - Moslem Women's Liberation Movement
The Druze women , like all Arab and Moslem women , were suffering by the end of the 18th century from the backwardness of the situation in their countries.  After 500 years of Ottoman rule , they were longing for freedom . Independence and prosperity, and they were eager to catch up with the technical improvement in the west .

Authors of the Arab Renaissance , like Kassem Amine, who wrote a courageous book named Women's Liberation asked for the emancipation of women, as well as, their rights in education and work . Kassem Amine described society at the time as a divided unit (Munfasal) and not a mujtama' because women and men did not have chance to meet together; they were separated. He said that such a society could not progress . His writings , as well as, those of Salameh Moussa , and others, gave a push for Muslem women to revolt, and hand in hand with Christian Arab women who were not in a much better position, Muslem women struggled for independence and freedom . Druze women were pioneers in this respect .

Najla Saab
Najla Saab, who lived between 1908 and 1971, was pregnant when she led a dangerous demonstration to European Embassies in Beirut  protesting against putting the men Leaders of Independence in Rashaya . She was the first president of the Lebanese Women's Organization, and later, the first president for the Union of the Arab Women. She remained for 3 years .

Women, at that time, struggled for the right to vote and got it . A large list of leading Druze women struggled and made their way through with difficulty , and to them, we are indebted  because they opened highways for the coming generations . Mrs. Nadia Jurdi Nowayhed , in her book Women From My Country describes beautifully the social background, personality and achievements of each of those pioneers . Following, I shall enumerate the Druzes among them according to their  fields of activity :

Mrs. Khaula Arslan
In politics, along with the Junblat and Arslan women , whom I mentioned before, Mrs. Khaula Arslan, throughout the 5 years of Emir Majeed Arslan's illness,  was his assistant. She executed his policy in coordination with Walid Junblat, along with the late Sheikh Mohamad Abu Shakra, in keeping unity and solidarity among the Druze during the war .  She remained in this position until the time when her son, Prince Talal,  took over .

Leila Najjar Sharaf
Leila Najjar Sharaf is another recognized Druze figure in politics.  She was married to the late Al - Shareef Abdal - Hameed Sharaf, a member of the royal family in Jordan, Minister of Information , Jordan's Ambassador in U.S.A and later Jordan's Prime Minister; he died in 1980 . Leila Najjar Sharaf was a successful journalist, and she later became the President of the Moslem Women's Association.  After her husband's death, she became Minister of Information. After she resigned about one year later, she proved that it was not the position that mattered to her, but what she did in that position .

 Nagibah Hamdan
The first Moslem woman judge in Lebanon was Nagibah Hamdan . In 1968, she was assigned in DiWan al Muhassaba , and she chosen in the year 1983 as one of the most famous women in the world and her name was mentioned in the International Book of Honor

Mrs. Afifi Saab,
In Education, in the private sector, Mrs. Afifi Saab founded the prosperous  al - Sirat School in Aley. 

Ms. May Said Hamade
In the Chouf Mountains, May Said Hamade kept prosperous the Chouf National School of Baakline after her late father, Said Hamade, who had founded it .

 Mrs Nazek Abed,
Among us, as you can see,is  Mrs Nazek Abed, a third renowned woman in the field of education.  Mrs. Nazek Abed founded the prestigious West Hill College in Baakline, and she is presently the Director.


In Education in the Government Sector,   
Souad Abu Shakra was a bright face and author, as well . 
Najla Hamzeh Najar was one of the first consultants in N.G.O affairs and many others .

In University Education :
Mrs. Julie Makarem and Mrs. Adal Hamdan Takeiddine

Mrs. Julie Makarem was a well-known educator at the American University of Beirut, and now, she is on the faculty  at Baker College in the United States in Michigan . She was President of the American University of Beirut's Women's  Association, as well as, she is the present National President of the American Druze Society of North America  where, as her guest, I am delivering this lecture., Mrs. Julie Makarem is renowned in Lebanon for her achievements in education.

In Dar - Al - Mouallimat : Bahia Joudieh Beainy was awarded 2 Golden Medals for Education and Knowledge   

In Medicine :
Dr. Najla Naaman was the first Druze woman physician and  gynecologist. She helped Druze ladies tremendously when they were not accustomed to going to men doctors,  or they were not allowed to .

In Alternative Medicine :
Dr. Samia Hamzeh Azzam is the author of a number of books in this field, and its practice .

In Nursing and in Public Health :
Aida Abu Hassan Talhouk ranks among the greatest to be mentioned  . She was working on her Ph.D when she was at the age of 50 .

   In Art :
Music : The famous Diana Takeiddine
Paint and Sculpture : Salwa Rawda - a highly recognized artist , Saniyah and Mona Salman and others .

Poetry : Adelle al - Khishen , Nadia Hamade Twainy and Jamal Sleem Nowayhed

Literature : Almaz  Salman Doweik , Rima Alameddine , Umaya Hamdan , Nadia Nowayhed , Insaf Al - Awar Mu'dad , Mona , Nour and Saniyah Salman Iman Humeidan and others .

Theatre: Souad Alameddine Najar since 1959 - 1969 Secretary General of Baalbek International Festival and later member of the National Council for Tourist development founder of Baalbek Theatre in Beirut and a school for theatre actors . She is a pioneer in theatre development in Lebanon.

In Social Affairs :
In improving jails and orphanages: Adlayd Richani

In care for childhood: Zahia Maksad Salman who in 1974 considered one of the first 1000 women . Holder of a number of medals .

In the Lebanese Red Cross : Soumaya Junblat

In charity N.G.O.'s : Ms. Anissa Assaf,  A medal Holder bestowed upon 
Ms. Anissa Assaf by the Lebanese President of the Republic,  Yusr  Khudr Saab, Khanoum Khadaj , Salwa Safi and many others .

Most of the above mentioned recognized women participated in
charity organizations and especially in the Druze Orphanage in Obey .

Historian : Dr. Najla abu Ezzedhine
 author of many historical books in English . I recommend that each American Druze keeps her book named "The Druzes" in his or her library whenever it is available because it is currently out of print . It is translated and available in Arabic . She is also author of two important books , the Arab World and Abdel Nasser .

Artisana :  Mrs. Jamal Takkeidine founder of the Chouf  Artisana which is one of the most reputable handcraft centers in the world . By doing this Mrs. Takkeidine has helped preserve the beautiful handcraft of the Druze women that would have otherwise been lost and helped many Druze women make a decent living .
She is working on a book on this subject and being active and strong in many fields . She is named the Steel Woman .

Mrs. May Junblat has done lots of effort in this field.

American Administration : Mrs. Salwa Shoukair Roosevelt from Arsoun -Al Matn . A recognized journalist , became head of the protocol Department in Washington DC. during the administration of President Regan .  

 Bustan Shalghine, Tourfa Shahine Mkithawi, Sheikha Al Azzam
Syrian Druze women have been holding a prestigious situation in many ways .
During 1925 (the Revolution of Jabal Al Druze in Syria) against the French Mandate, a number of women participated in an active role :

A lady named Bustan Shalghine from a village named Ismit (Makran Gharbi) used to distribute food and water to armed revolutionaries in the battlefront.
Tourfa Shahine Mkithawi , who, when her father was injured beside a rock  took his gun and protected him and her brother .

On the social Level :  Sheikha Al Azzam in Jabal al Druze  used to have a leading position in many important affairs where men leaders and Sheikhs used to wait for her presence to start discussing the important issues they were handling

Um Fardayn Hassan
Another well known example is that of a lady in Debeen of my family, Hassan.  At  the time of the French mandate of Jabal al - Druze where many of the Druze men at the time of Sultan Basha Al - Atrash were wanted by the French because of the Revolution, Um Fardayn Hassan  went to Azrak at the Syrian - Jordanian borders to be away from the French authorities .That lady used to hold 2 pistols at a time and provided security for those men in Azrak . She was named Um Fardayn .

There were many cases of divorce that took place because the wife had failed to be up to standard in receiving guests in the absence of the husband , generosity and hospitality being sort of a sacred tradition .

 In Palestine the Druze women, under the Israeli occupation , had no way to keep their identity except in sticking to their faith and tradition . In this respect, women were asked to dress up traditionally (head cover , long skirts and sleeves) . They refrained from all sorts of modern behavior for this purpose, but nowadays they are going to universities and holding jobs .

The Druze Women and the Ultra - Modern Woman's Liberation Movement

In the 50's and 60's Lebanon ,  a place where all political views were interacting , educated Druze women in Beirut were entering into political parties more than before.  The Druze Have always been very well known for their patriotism and Arabism . It is expected they would be affected by the leftist ideas about family and religion as being a hindrance towards progress of the Arab countries , but their reserved and traditional up - bringing has helped them a lot in being aware of the limits .

Many of the Druze men and some women were sent on scholarship basis to the communist countries . There, they had  encounters with an opposite life style  to that of  their home values . A large number of the Druze men came back with Russian , Roman , Slavian, Bulgarian wives and their children . The Druze women were less liberated ;  they came back alone . Such men were the intelligent and educated (physicians , dentists , engineers , etc) who had not had the chance of University education in the Lebanese Universities, nor did they have the chance to go to the high standard expensive American and French universities in Beirut . On the other hand, young men and women who came to the west had  similar encounters .

Young   educated Druze women have  had to be more conservative, so they were continuously losing chances of marriage to the educated Druze men . A disequilibrium took place, and some Druze women were wise to accept marriages to less educated men,  and still,  some refrained from marriage, at all.  Very few took liberal steps towards marriages outside their religion . As a
result of that,  there are many single Druze ladies, and many families are denied  enjoying the marriages of their children .  However, when the  mother is a foreign woman, she does not have   much to give to the children as far as the Arabic language, as well as, the Druze faith and ethics .

Arab authors , such as Nawal Sa'dawi an Egyptian liberated gynecologist who revolted against the Egyptian woman's bad situation (where al khitan was in wide practice) and the whole world situation of the Egyptian and Arab women .

Nawal Sa'daw's books , as well as American books such as My Mother - Myself by Nancy Friday and 'Our Bodies - Our selves" (a book by and for women) and similar French books were popular books among the educated and the leftist in particular , where values regarding religion and the family were considered a handicap towards progress .

Moreover, at that time in 1975 , the year of women as declared by the United Nations and later on the decade for women ending in the Beijing World Conference in 1985 was an atmosphere for lots of discussions , writings , publications on the subject . The Druze women were not far from this movement .  Though reserved because of their ethics and values and being oppressed by the war at that time , they were suffering and struggling for survival and keeping the land under their feet in Al - Jabal War (War of the Montains)  more than other Lebanese women .

Druze Women During the Lebanese 1975 War and After
Druze women lost dear persons from their families in the war , but most
of them were up to it in patience and surrender . They participated in some defense in certain cases , to be mentioned with honor .

Ibtissam Harb from Gharifeh - Al Chouf,  a 24 years old lady member of the Syrian National Social Party, committed a 'suicide bombing,  exploding herself in a pre - planned operation against the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon in June 1985 .

Amal Nassif Beainy, wife of Yasser Beainy  , when her son and her sister were killed in the war,  immediately after their burial,  went back to her fighting place in the front .

The daughter of Sheikh Abu Shakib Kontar, with her father,  had a very effective role in not allowing the Kataeb from entering Mtein .

Many Druze women learned how to use weapons for self defense after
 the massacres in  Salima and Shahhar and other places . Druze women suffered from lack of food and electricity and continuous shelling moving with their families from one insecure place to another .

Now that the war is over , Druze women are participating in re - building , Professionals in Medicine , Pharmacy , Nursing , Engineering , Architecture,  Education , Commerce , Law and all sorts of businesses working hard , hand in hand with men .

Recently a number of them participated in being nominated to the municipality cabinets in many places ;  they were encouraged by their communities and a number of them won , namely :

Noha Ghousainy (Ph.D. in Architecture) in Ba'kline .
Aida Abdul Samad (journalist)  and Hala Abu Shakra (interior designer) in Amatour .
Nahida Kais (Architect) in Batloun .
 Feryal Abu Hamdan  ( Architect) in Gharifeh .
Mrs. Jaber  in Benay .

Of the losers were :

Amal Rayes (Lawyer) in Aley .
Nada Saab (Pharmasist) in Shwayfat .
Hiam Mushrrafieh (Sociologist) in Shwayfat .
Wafia Sariedine (Sociologist) in Kfarnabrakh

We have one physician and a few nurses who are Sheikhat practicing their professions;  one of them is the owner of a jewelry shop . She keeps a pistol in her shop for security purposes. 

Druze Women Expected Virtues and some Light on the Future

Suggestions for women may be the following :

Let Druze women be aware,  more than any time before,  that they are supposed to keep the outstanding female virtues of their mothers and grand mothers :

Chastity is an outstanding female virtue .  Men's concern for women's honor is such that in time of war no Druze was known to molest the enemy's women . God has sent to human beings the AIDS disease to teach them the hard lesson of chastity that modern contraceptives have made them  forget .

Modesty .  Women are subject to all sorts of irrational spending on clothing , make up , and luxury items that spoil their modesty .

Sobriety , Gravity and Decorum are qualities expected and admired in women . In joy or in sorrow,  Druze women  keep a dignified reserve , composure and self restraint , imposed by social standards , These qualities are achieved by strict self discipline and watchfulness (modern dancing and behavior is the complete opposite) but the substitute could be in meditation , contemplation , fine art and classical music , love of nature , religious chanting and fasting and a practice of sports and yoga where happiness is more and more lasting and more rewarding .  You have to experience it , understand it , and to appreciate it , but first you have to look for it and find it in a crazy material world .

Taquwa - the fear of God must always be present , a guide to the right and a guardian against error (material pleasure should be restricted to its legitimate and accept limit) .

Patience ranks high among women's qualities . The most excellent of Unitarian women are those richest in mind and of an abundant patience
(Al Chari'a al Ruhaniyah)

Courage is a virtue to be enjoyed by both Druze men and women . In Kitab al-Hikma, Hamza Ibn Ali,  addressing women in Epistle 18 says : "Let no one of you fear anything but her sin and let her place her hope in no one but God"

Let women be aware that they are the real educators of their children, so they should be educated themselves and should give the necessary time for the children and the family.
Let women be aware that if they are disappointed by their husband's unfaithfulness,  they should not go the same way because each is responsible for his or her behavior in front of God. Let them remain as expected of them . Patience and time will solve many problems that seem at a certain moment without a solution.

We must all remember, men and women alike,  that our value as Druze lies mainly in finding spiritual happiness , in being closer to God than in material happiness . Whenever we understand this value,  many of the complexing and controversial issues would be simplified.

Moreover, when we understand that we are living in a dark age,  inspite of the high technology and bright lights around us , the age of enlightenment will come when darkness is at its most, and then, the Hudud will re - appear and life on earth will become different . So let's keep ourselves and keeping waiting happily , hopefully , preparing ourselves by good deeds cycle after cycle till that Happy Day comes .   

By Pharmacist Insaf Hassn