this. This. THIS. THIS!
Mona Eltahawy says in five minutes what I can barely get at in two posts.
January 12, 2012
this. This. THIS. THIS!
Mona Eltahawy says in five minutes what I can barely get at in two posts.
January 12, 2012
I believe completely that the last 1,400 years of scholarship has been dominated by men. It’s indisputable. And while it may sound like some seedy “conspiracy theory,” there is also ample evidence illustrating that pro-female interpretations and male interpretations favouring prophetic and Qur’anic expectations of equity are largely drowned out.
Misogynist interpretations came to the fore not necessarily because they were the most correct, the closest to how Islam was practiced by the Prophet, or what God really wanted to say – but are most likely the result of whoever had the strongest army. There were hundreds of legal schools within the first few centuries of Islam. Hundreds. All died out through lack of popularity or persecution by the Caliph of the day who was usually more concerned with his political aspirations than religious goals.
Finding a variety of scholarly opinions and debates on women and women’s roles in Islam is nothing new. This is why Muslim feminists are needed today to call people out on their misogyny and for believers in “Islamic feminism” to do more than just acknowledge that things have vastly changed from what God and the Prophet intended.
January 12, 2012
Common topics discussed in the Islamosphere tend to appear and reappear cyclically. It’s like a wave that spreads through the many talented voices dedicated to grappling with the more “uncomfortable” discourses in our nuanced communities – where suddenly, Muslim bloggers are all talking about the same thing at the same time: the “beating verse,” hijab, gender segregation at mosques, hijab, women’s rights and roles, hijab, polygamy, hijab, menstruation, hijab, domestic violence, hijab, and on it goes.
This post was supposed to allow me to daydream myself into a faerie-tale discussion of the “perfect” mosque – but a reader sent an e-mail requesting my thoughts on the recent Goatmilk debate: Islam is incompatible with Feminism, and I decided to throw my two cents in.
Two respectable minds entered the debate – only one emerged victorious … though, the jury is still out, and will probably be out for a very long time on this very complex subject.
Debater Mohamad Tabbaa favoured the motion, and argued that Islam and Feminism are two different and irreconcilable ideologies:
Muslim feminists must now make the choice between the Islamic paradigm, which is centred around God, or the secularised modern theology, which is based almost exclusively around (white) men.
In his rebuttal, Tabbaa nuanced his arguments further with the idea that merging Islam into Feminism colonises “Muslim spaces and voices” and that, “Islam already has within its paradigm the language and tools with which to deal with women’s issues.”
Arguing against the motion, Katrina Daly Thompson took the position that there are some Muslims who simply don’t understand Feminism (just as there are Feminists who don’t understand Islam is open to interpretation) – and that Islam and Feminism are fundamentally linked:
Feminism and Islam both need Muslim feminists—Muslim men and women who believe in the full humanity of women—to fight against gender discrimination within Muslim cultures and spaces.
Guess which one I sided with.
December 22, 2011
My favourite calendars were the ones without chocolate — traditional European-styled posters, with small, thin doors that revealed simple pictures. There was something magical about finding the door, and trying to guess if the surprise-of-the-day was a colourful candy cane, a wooden horse or a gingerbread cookie.
Every year I would stare at the picturesque winter scene for hours imagining myself playing with the glistening snow and the sleigh-riding children. I would wipe my hands across the Christmas star and carry the glitter on my hands all day long.
While I know many Lutherans and Christians recognise the Advent as having a religious significance — counting down to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the birth of their Lord — for us it became a way to simply count down the days to Christmas Eve. As a non-practicing, but fiercely loyal Lutheran, celebrating Advent and meeting for tea and lighting a candle every Sunday in December was my mother’s way of making Christmas special for me while hanging on to her German heritage and raising me in Canada.
It was such a lovely and warm childhood memory, and creative way to make the holiday “festive” that I made Eryn an “advent calendar” for Ramadan, counting down to ‘Eid.
It just made sense to retain a part of my culture in order to help make a Muslim celebration extra special — especially being a religious minority competing with the likes of Christmas.
November 29, 2011
The woman poured hot tea from her cup into the saucer, gave it a couple of cooling swirls and gulped it down in one, refreshing slurp. Having never seen someone drink out of a saucer before, Eryn gave the woman the oddest, what-on-earth-are-you-DOING look and drew closer to my leg. The woman laughed heartily and coaxed Eryn with a chocolate. By the end of tea, Eryn was flying through the air to give her kisses.
Hajiya’s hands were covered in traditional Iraqi Bedouin tattoos. As were her feet, chest and, to my surprise, much of her face. From her eyebrows to her toes, this kind elder stuffing my toddler full of chocolates was officially the most tattooed woman I had ever met. And I desperately wanted to hear the story behind each dot and talisman flowing like poetry on her skin.
For almost two years Hajiya and her lovely daughter have taken care of my sister-in-law – sharing food and family support since both extended families live an ocean away. I’ve heard many stories of Hajiya’s desert wisdom and kindness and was very excited to meet her.
Speaking broken English and though translations of a Kuwaiti dialect, we discussed my sister-in-law’s upcoming boxing match and my current pregnancy. Eryn interrupted and put her hand on my belly, saying: “Baby! Mama, womb.” Then, nodding for emphasis, she took the opportunity to mention our nursing arrangement.
November 24, 2011
(inspired after finding Dr. Lang’s book hidden behind a stack of Foucault — and just some musings flying in-between meetings and the commute home)
When I was an impressionable, young convert I wore my Islam on my sleeve. Before hijab, I’d openly play with my “Allah” necklace and pepper my conversations with recognisable “Muslim” catchphrases in the hopes that I’d be questioned about my faith, just so I could tell others about the awesomeness of Islam.
Then when I became a hijabi, I became a quiet activist working with the Muslim Student Association organising events to bring “Muslims on the margins” into the religious fold. I spoke passionately about my conversion at lectures, worked at establishing interfaith dialogue, and helped promote Islam by handing out easily digestible pamphlets on “Women in Islam,” “Science in Islam,” and “Misconceptions in Islam” every Islamic Awareness Week.
Believing that conversion magically imbued me with education in religious matters (something that came much later with years of actual study, and really, is ongoing), people turned to me for religious advice – seeking my knowledge on shaking hands with unrelated men, fasting for repentance, how to date a Muslim the “halal way,” or the permissibility of saying “Merry Christmas” to non-Muslims. I’d do my research online or delve into pamphlet Islam to find quick and easy answers – never once thinking to question sources or actively try to understand the impact that my advice would have on people. Why would I? These sources are sound – from pious, well-meaning Muslims who know better than me.
There was no problem telling people to avert their gaze from the opposite sex, that “hell is hotter” when struggling with the requirements of hijab, and that sex segregation made perfect sense in God’s grand scheme of maintaining chastity and encouraging the sexes to fulfill their “natural” duties and talents. I was more than happy to say that Islam guarantees the rights of women, JUST because the Prophet gave more rights to 7th century women (thousands of years before Western women got the right to vote! Because that comparison means something tangible?). Those who subjugate women today are just not following Islam and aren’t real Muslims. End of story.
November 17, 2011
Cross-posted at Womanist Musings.
The Prophet said:
If a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses, thereby upsetting him, the angels will continue to curse her until the morning.
If it were permissible for a human to prostrate to another, I would have ordered a wife to prostrate to her husband because of the enormity of his rights over her. By God, if there is an ulcer excreting puss from his feet to the top of his head and she licked it for him – she would not fulfill his rights.
After my conversion it didn’t take long for the advice to start rolling in. A lot of it was couched in more cultural expectations, such as: “change your name to a more Muslim (read: Arab) sounding name” or “you can’t be a vegetarian now, God has made meat allowable for you to enjoy.” But sometimes people would give me sincere religious advice based on sayings made by the Prophet. A few were excellent and made sense to me: “Eat and drink moderately,” “please your partner sexually,” and “tie up your camel” — meaning: do everything you can to ensure your safety, protect your property or implement a plan, and then trust in God. But if you just leave everything up to God and hope that everything will turn out okay, instead of taking personal action, your camel will walk away.
But sometimes I was offered advice based on sayings that didn’t sit well with me. Especially the religious advice for women that seemed to come at the price of personal freedom or with the threat of hellfire — and backed with, “well the Prophet said it, so it must be valid and important” and “if it doesn’t sit well with you, you’re not being faithful enough.” True, for many Muslims worldwide, following the Sunnah or the Prophet’s example is just as important as revering the Qur’an as the word of God. The Prophet is untouchable, a model human to be admired and loved. To deny any of the sayings attributed to him could be blasphemous.
September 22, 2011
“And do not befriend the Christians and the Jews.” This is what the Qur’an says. Youth, please remember this while you’re in school: keep Muslim friends. Having Muslim friends is important. We are mirrors unto each other. When I see you doing something wrong, I will remind you. When you fast and pray, I will be encouraged to fast and pray. The Christians and the Jews will only lead you astray. This is why it is important to have Muslim friends in this country of unbelievers. We remind each other to hold true to our Islamic values.”
What. Since when does holding true to Islamic values mean vilifying others?
I looked around at the other women spread out in our private section of the mosque. No one seemed to be listening. No one was engaged or looked up at me as I tisked and shook my head. A couple were propped up against the wall reading Qur’an; another was trying to control her son who really just wanted to run around in the large carpeted area; but most were just sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking down at their laps, clicking prayer beads, picking dry skin off a toe or dreamily gazing at the one-way, mirrored glass that kept us hidden from the men.
Just another consequence of gender segregation. Though, from what I hear, most men are just as disengaged with the Friday sermons. It’s a rare gem to hear a khutbah that gets you fired-up, excited and shouting praises to God.
I looked over at Eryn who was modelling perfect mosque behaviour for the rambunctious boy. She was sneaking glances at him while making her sock monkey touch its forehead to the ground in mock prostration. I was so thankful that she was too young to understand the hate speech coming from the pulpit.
I sat through the rest of the sermon absolutely seething and thinking about how I had to cut short a meeting with an amazing non-Muslim friend (the fabulous Renee!) in order to make it to Friday prayers on time. And here the khateeb, the community volunteer delivering the sermon, was telling me to stop associating with my friends, my parents, my interfaith partners and my colleagues. Because Muslims are somehow better, more righteous people.
September 12, 2011
I wonder as I remember.
Today people unloaded a lot of stress on me. Maybe it’s because I’m friendly, have an open nature or am just that person strangers like to confide in – but I heard a lot of post-memorial stories today.
From a previous resident of New York City unable to grieve until yesterday, I heard how he religiously avoided previous 9/11 coverage – only to break down completely at the first media clip of the memorial falls. From others I heard questions about why no one mentioned the number of people who have died in the War on Terror, or how the global media was decidedly silent about the Horn of Africa crisis for this one 24-hour period. A colleague told me how shocked they were after recognising some names among the victim’s solemn roll-call and felt raw wounds opening again. And even while believing this tenth memorial should bring closure, a close friend said that she still may not visit the site. She’s not sure she has the strength to face it.
The day after the 9/11 terror attacks I became an expert. 10 years ago I was a young convert to Islam. Only one and a half years old. A toddler.
I was an even younger muhajabah, having decided to put on the hijab only a few months prior to the attacks. I had barely even won the support of my parents and friends and was still trying to justify not shaking hands with men or explaining why I averted my eyes to everyone, including myself. I was fresh with enthusiastic Islamic ideals.
August 30, 2011
My forehead sinks into the lush carpet. It’s comforting and enveloping like a dear friend. The imam calls out the final prayer position. In unison the row of women rise from prostration and we bow our heads in concentration waiting for the evening prayer to finish.
I’m reciting the required formulaic Arabic and then take a moment to make a final supplication in English. As I do so, a waft of heavy, oil-based perfume smelling of rose and jasmine floats past me. These refreshing scents found in mosques throughout the world temporarily mask the flint and dust coming from my abaya. The dust seems to get into everything, no matter how many fans and air purifiers are used. Kuwait city is gorgeous with modern architecture and bright lights — but everything is made slightly dull by a thin layer of the desert.
The prayer ends and instead of announcing the intention for additional evening prayers, as is customary during the month of Ramadan, the imam starts reciting a special chant called the takbirat. A collective, “oohhh” runs through the women’s section as we realise the new moon has been sighted. It’s the start of ‘Eid.
My heart explodes with happiness and I catch a glimpse of a woman who obviously feels the same — her face is simply shining with pure light and joy. Suddenly we’re all hugging, crying and wishing happy ‘Eid to complete strangers. In this moment we are all sisters — no one separated by race, ability or status.
I’ve had mixed feelings about spending the last ten days of Ramadan in Kuwait. Like the thin layer of dust detracting from all the glitz, I immediately noticed the indulgences and excessive lifestyle lived by many and often felt uncomfortable staring at my own privilege.