Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Everyone on earth is different, an individual, unique. Some people are determined to express this; others are content in being themselves without having to prove it. At what point in life does one decide that conscious expression of the self is no longer needed, and that they are happy to be one of the crowd?

Does the fact that everyone on earth is a unique individual end up negating the uniqueness of individuality?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

PixelBee.com - Cartoon Dolls, Dressup Games, Myspace Glitters, Graphics.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Exploring Gender Issues in Muslim Communities: Extremes and Balance

For a while now, I've been reading stuff in the news and on various blogs (Muslim and otherwise) regarding gender segregation and homosexuality. Specifically, the link between gender segregation and homosexuality.

Read the following for background info:


http://achelois.wordpress.com/2007/01/22/sexual-promiscuity-amongst-muslims (it's the actual post you should read; ignore the comments... or you could of course read the comments, but just to let you know, I haven't)

Now, for what I have to say:

Even though I live in Canada, my parents have been (and are) pretty strict about gender segregation. It is one of the (many) reasons why I was taken out of public school in grade 5 and have been homeschooling since.
At the Islamic centre my dad used to run, we weren't like some of the other masaajid and Islamic centres - gender segregation was something that was emphasized, along with hijaab and lowering of the gazes (which I guess is pretty much a part of gender segregation). Men and women had separate entrances, and they were never 'friendly' with each other (i.e. no one made small talk or acted overly familiar with each other; if we did have to communicate, we did so in a business-like manner).
All in keeping with the Sunnah... al-Hamdulillaah.

However, this is just one Islamic centre in a non-Muslim country, and outside of it all of us - whether we liked it or not - had some sort of regular contact with the opposite gender, whether it be at school, work, or the supermarket. Somehow or another, we learnt how to deal with members of the opposite gender in an appropriate manner; a manner in which we stuck to the principles of Islam and did not adopt the overly-familiar Western manner of gender interaction, yet we also managed to go about our daily business and do what needed to be done.

In the Muslim world, however, the situation is quite different – in certain countries gender segregation is strictly enforced, and due to it severe issues arise… such as that of homosexuality (as mentioned in the two articles above).

It is this which I wish to discuss: the cases of extremity in regards to gender segregation/interaction, and how to achieve a balance between them.

There are two extremes that are seen with regards to gender segregation:
In the one case, males and females are kept totally apart from each other, unless they are Mahrams. Interaction between the genders is restricted in (almost) all other spheres of life.
In the other case, there are absolutely no barriers between males and females, and they are actually encouraged to pursue any type of relationship with each other that they wish.

The first case is what’s seen in certain areas of the Muslim world (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iran being three such examples), and it is this case which is discussed in the two articles linked to above.

There are those who say that this type of gender segregation - extreme segregation - is bad for us, as individuals and as a society. As individuals, we do not learn how to deal with people of the opposite gender, which can lead to difficulties and complications in relationships, whether they be personal or professional; as a society it can impact us in a very deep way - the results being such as those described in the articles.

A good point that I've seen/read made by many is that this kind of extreme gender segregation ends up reducing men and women as purely sexual objects to each other. In these cases, interaction with the other gender is totally forbidden because it will lead to 'bad things'.
Yet what is not taken into account is that, if properly established and maintained, interaction with someone of the opposite gender can actually be beneficial. Men and women can be peers, can learn together, can share and debate ideas, can work together on a project - *without* it leading to 'bad things'.

All that needs to be done is make sure that there is a proper distance being kept. Islamic rules and guidelines need to be followed. Hijaab needs to be observed - by both parties.

It sounds simple enough... right? But there are far too many people who think that men should be only ones allowed to participate in public activities; that women should stay within the four walls of their home, cooking, cleaning, and raising children. Yet they forget that the Sahaabiyaat, the female companions of the Prophet (SAW) were more than just mothers and wives; they too learnt their Deen from the Prophet (SAW), and in turn they too taught others about the finer points of al-Islam. The Sahaabiyaat were not the only ones - throughout Islamic history there were great women scholars, many of whose students became famous teachers in their own right. And nowadays, the scope of teaching extends beyond religious teaching, and into such fields as literature, medicine, various sciences, and even engineering.

Then we have the second case, the one we see here in the West. Barriers between men and women are extremely discouraged; there is almost no limits put on the contact between men and women, and they are free to – nay, they are encouraged to – become very much involved with each other… in more ways than one.

In both cases mentioned above, the extremes lead to perversions: Rising homosexuality in the Muslim world; and of course we all know about the promiscuity of the West. Enforced deprivation and gross excess can both lead to disgusting perversions – which we are now seeing, quite graphically illustrated.

My question is, then: How do we deal with these extremes?

Wait, scratch that.

I think we’ve all read enough articles and heard enough lectures about how to deal with the fitnah of the West – so let’s discuss what we don’t read and hear about so much: the case of extreme segregation and the issues that appear as a result in the societies where it is enforced.

So then: How do we Muslims find the balance between these two extremes? How do we restrict the relationships between non-Mahram men and women, in keeping with the Sunnah, yet also be able to learn how to develop certain proper relationships between ourselves and members of the opposite gender?

We know that the Sahaabah and Sahaabiyaat did not mix and socialize with each other as men and women do today, yet we also know that they did have regular contact and interaction with each other.

How can we achieve that balance?

Another thing came to my mind regarding this issue:

The extreme gender segregation/lack of segregation is something that is also a rather controversial issue within various Muslim communities. For example, some masaajid/ Islamic centres who consider themselves more ‘modern’ or ‘progressive’ will go for ‘breaking the barriers’ between men and women; whereas other more traditional (aka ‘Wahhabi’ and ‘Salafi’) groups will keep the separation.

Within the congregations of these masaajid and Islamic centres there are quite a few discussions and debates about it – but what I’m thinking about is, what happens when the gender segregation/lack thereof is enforced in Muslim schools?

The two things that I’ve seen are, the schools with no segregation end up becoming little better than public schools (the guys and girls become very comfortable and familiar with each other, and in the older grades boyfriends and girlfriends become common… my dad, who was once an Islamic studies teacher at one of these schools, actually caught a couple making out under the stairwell); and in the schools that are totally segregated (separate classes for the guys and girls), especially from younger grades, they end up not knowing how to properly interact with each other and that in turn leads to some major issues later on.

The question remains: How do we deal with these issues?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We Muslims are so often complaining about how there is a lack of Muslim presence in the media (especially on TV) to counter all the negative stuff that's put up against us. In particular, whenever people like Irshad Manji or Ayaan Hirsi Ali are on TV and giving their usual diatribe against Islam and Muslims, we gnash our teeth and moan about how they never give real Muslims a chance to answer their arguments.

But then we have another problem... whenever 'real Muslims' ARE given a chance to debate the likes of Hirsi Ali and her brethren, they often end up screwing it up. See Ali Eteraz's post here.

The fact is, we Muslims suck at debating. We have no real debating skills. When we're brought on TV or interviewed or whatever, we often end up making big mistakes and sometimes even doing more harm than good - or at least, not doing as much good as we could be doing if we just knew how to deal with all those questions the right way.

We need to deal with this. Letters like Ali's, politely pointing out where and when things could have been answered differently (and better), are great - but it doesn't really help after the fact. What we need is to be able to prevent these types of gaffes.

Here in the West, we Muslims REALLY need to brush up on our language/communication and debating skills. We've seen far too often how the lack of the aforementioned skills has had a negative effect on our PR. We've seen far too often how great opportunities to repair our damaged reputations have been messed up and as a result, the non-Muslims who initially took an interest in the issue at hand end up dismissing us as uneducated, illiterate, etc.

We need to deal with this ASAP. The people who are being given these opportunities to speak for the Muslims on TV, need to realize that it's a serious matter that they need to handle carefully, and that they're going to have a lot demanded of them. To meet those demands, their language, communication, and debating skills are going to have to be up to par.

Two things are required: Islamic knowledge; and good language, communication, and debating skills. To have one without the other, and to be on TV representing the Muslim community(which is exactly what Muslims on TV are doing, whether they like it or not), will cause serious problems... which none of us want or need!

So how do we do it? I think that workshops would be a good idea, wherein attendees could learn how to seize the opportunity provided in an interview (or whatever) and use it to refute the person you're debating, in a way that can get YOUR message across in clearly and concisely.

But what other solutions might there be? Ideas, anyone?

Your little sister in Islam,

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ummah Films - Fee Sabilillaah Discount

Baba Ali does an excellent job reminding Muslims about business ethics and the lack thereof which is unfortunately common in the Muslim communities.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Melancholy Meditations on... Things

What is true patience?

We talk about patience all the time... we know that "Allah is with the patient," and so on... butwhat does it MEAN?

I guess I know some of the lesser aspects of patience... biting one's tongue, not whining and complaining all the time, enduring inconveniences in silence...

But surely that can't be what is truly meant by patience! So...what is true patience? Does it mean to endure in silence, hoping that God will get you out of your situation? Does it mean to simply accept it as God's Will and get on with life as much as possible? Does it meaning banishing all feelings of anger, resentfulness, and misery from one's heart? Or is it all three?

How do we attain such a state of being? Especially those of us who have a tendency to wake up feeling motivated, yet lose that feeling within the space of an hour or two...


What does it mean when someone achieves spiritual heights?

When one achieves such things as true patience and true taqwah, does it mean letting go of human emotions - joy, excitement, sorrow, anger, impatience, disappointment, and the like - and replacing them with an almost otherworldy contentedness, entering a state of serenity and tranquilness almost impossible to disturb? Is it possible to either alternate between or simply balance the two?

In the example of our Prophet Muhammad (sallaallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) we have the best example... yet there is no doubt that we could ever achieve what our noble Nabi achieved.

And so the question remains... how do we do it?

Friday, February 02, 2007

"Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own lives." (Ar-Ra`d: 11)

Umar Lee has just finished writing his series of articles titled “The Rise and Fall of
the Salafi Da’wah”. The slight inaccuracy of the title aside (since, as many people
have pointed out, the Salafi Da’wah hasn’t exactly ‘fallen’ yet, although it has
declined since the ‘glory days’), I think it’s a wonderful series, masha'Allah.

As someone who hasn’t had any experience whatsoever with the Salafi movement
– heck, I didn’t even know what they even were ‘till now! – I found his posts
extremely educational and emotionally moving.

His first few posts were on the beginning and the rise of the Salafi Da’wah – the
time that I’ve nicknamed the glory days, because of how amazing it all sounded to me. Reading about it all, it made my heart swell with pride that the Muslim community managed to do such wonderful things.

Then came the 'falling' part. Not fun. I found it downright painful, the way the community ended up so beaten and broken, the way that Muslims turned on each other so cruelly, denouncing each other and destroying the hard work of the individuals who had struggled so hard to establish the foundations of the movement in the first place. Umar's sorrow and pain is echoed in the comments section, where several people described their own sad experiences.

For me, who has only recently become more aware of the Muslim Ummah around the world, who hasn't really had any experience with the 'real world', Umar's articles were a real eye-opener. I know how badly the state of the Muslim Ummah sucks, in general, but I had no idea that all this stuff happened! It made me realize just how ignorant and naive I am in the ways of the world, how little I really know... and then when I complained to my parents about it, they're just like, "Well, you don't need to know that stuff. Go finish your homework." Hmph.

But, I DO need to know this stuff. If I hope to spend my life helping the Muslim community, then I HAVE to know this stuff! To deal with the problems of the present, one must know the history of those problems, right?

Anyway, after reading Umar's posts and the 100+ comments that swiftly followed, I got pretty depressed. No one likes to hear or read about sad things (when I was younger, I'd often skip the sad parts of whatever book I was reading and instead read the happy ending. Later on, I tried to do pretty much the same thing with reality... until reality hit me hard on the head and I realized that bad experiences are needed just as much as good experiences for us to really learn life lessons).

But after reading brother Amad's post, in which he said that there was hope to be felt as well... and that inspired me to stop being depressed and to start using my brain.

My brain concluded the following:

We, the Muslim Ummah, have problems. I, a member of that Ummah, have a responsibility to do whatever I can to solve those problems. To be effective, I should stop thinking in terms of ideals (which is actually pretty hard. Now I know
why some people prefer to live in their own little bubble worlds/fantasies than
reality!) and start thinking practically. To deal with things practically, there are
some very basic skills that need to kick into play: problem solving! (All right, all right, I admit that school can teach you useful things... sometimes.)

The Basic Steps of Problem-Solving:

Define the problem
I think that Umar and others have done a pretty good job of defining the various problems that exist and which need to be dealt with.

Categorize the problem
The sheer amount of issues that we're suffering from means that in order to deal with them effectively, we need to categorize them. The Ummah being as diverse as it is, with so many sub-groups (e.g. converts and 'born Muslims'; various ethnic origins and the cultural background and issues of people who belong to whichever ethnic group they belong to; issues of class - high class, middle class, working class; etc.), we need to sit down and spend some time just organizing it all, 'cuz if
we try to lump them all together we'll simply get overwhelmed - not to mention that more problems would probably arise due to the fact that it's being incorrectly dealt with.

Look at potential causes of the problem
Another thing that I think Umar and the others have done a good job with.

Identify alternatives for approaches to resolve the problem
Brainstorm, people! With all the brilliant minds that we have in our Ummah - yes, they do exist, I know it! - surely we can come up with something that'll be agreeable to all (or at least most!).

Select an approach to resolve the problem
Very, very important! I've noticed that when it comes to dealing with problems, we Muslims spend a lot of time talking and brainstorming, but that we rarely ever manage to take the first step towards ACTION. Choosing our approach to solving the problem is what we need to (finally) do.

Plan the implementation of the best alternative
Yes! We're getting closer to actually DOING SOMETHING!!

Implement the plan
Lights, cameras... ACTION!!!!!!! This is my favourite part... because we're finally doing something! I cannot stress enough how important this is... I'm personally sick and tired of all the TALK that we Muslims are involved in, yet we always disperse without any course of action decided upon or taken. It's when we take action that we're literally changing the state of our Ummah (in however small a manner it may be)!

Monitor implementation of the plan
Action is important, but we've got to make sure that it's the right kind of action! Are we doing what's needed to be done? Is everything going according to plan?

Verify if the problem has been resolved or not*
Results, people! Are we getting them? And are they the results we want and need? (Insha'Allah they are!)

If not... then it's back to step one! (Which isn't neccessarily a bad thing... practice makes perfect; and try, try again!)


So come on, people! Even if I'm just a 16-year old Muslimah marooned in a tiny city on Canada's West Coast (and therefore isolated from and totally useless to the rest of the Ummah), blogging away because it's the only way I can reach out to y'all... doesn't mean that YOU're in the same situation and can't do anything!

With that, let me conclude with saying, may Allah help us all on our quest to solve the problems of this Ummah, and make us sucessful in this world and in the Hereafter, ameen!

(Credit goes to this website for the refresher on the basic steps of problem solving!)

Note: After reading this post, head on over to brother Amad's blog, where he has
declared: Let the Healing Begin!

Your little sister in Islam,