Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jason Kenney: New Grand Mufti of Canada

Dear Mr. Jason Kenney,

Thank you for informing the entire nation that you have nominated yourself Grand Mufti (Islamic scholar) of Canada, and have already dispensed your first fatwah (religious ruling)!

Your arrogance and your ignorance in assuming that you know Islamic law well enough to state that "Muslim women don't wear veils during Hajj" and therefore are allowed to remove them for the citizenship ceremony (without realizing that Islamic law states that there is a very special exception for removing the veils during the pilgrimage), is both laughable and insulting beyond belief.
Oh, and let's not forget that you also feel that you have the right to publicly call my belief and practice of wearing the veil as "bizarre." Can I expect you to say the same about the kirpan, turban, and Jewish skull cap next?

Similarly, the attitudes assumed by many journalists - ranging from "we are liberating Muslim women from their own oppressive beliefs!" to "how dare Muslim women have beliefs different from ours! We must stop this outrage immediately!" (accompanied by broadly generalizing statements such as "Muslim women who wear the veil keep themselves aloof and don't believe in gender equality) - are patronizing, offensive, and display a deliberate lack of knowledge regarding why some Muslim women wear the veil.

I wonder what Mr. Kenney's real reasons are for banning the veil - is it really about gender equality, fundamental Canadian principles, and "an open society"? Or is it just a public expression of our government's increasing xenophobia against all that is not white and Judeo-Christian?

Many years ago, my mother took the oath of citizenship while wearing her veil. So did my mother-in-law. It's a good thing that I was born a Canadian citizen, because otherwise I suppose that Mr. Kenney would like to stop me from being an equal member of Canadian society as well (no matter that I have lived in Canada all my life and consider it my true home). Then again, who knows - with the freedom-loving Mr. Kenney at the helm, he may one day decide that I am too much of a threat to Canada's "open society" and that I should be stripped of my citizenship due to my outrageous decision to wear the veil.

Thankfully, there remain some conscientious, courageous journalists who have rightly criticized Mr. Kenney's creation of and solution for a nonexistent problem. If Mr. Kenney is so concerned about actually hearing veiled Muslim women reciting the oath of citizenship, why not simply have them speak into a microphone? Ah, but that's too simple, and gosh darn it, we have to get those veils OFF somehow!

Reading the comments on the veil-related news articles online breaks my heart. Canadians, my fellow citizens, the people I grew up with, live next to, and smile at everyday (yes, you can tell I'm smiling even though I'm wearing a veil), are vilifying me and telling me in no uncertain terms (and with quite a few racist Islamophobic epithets thrown in) that they do not care about who I really am, how I contribute to society, or how much I love Canada. Instead, they have turned me into a stereotype - a threat, a victim, to be obliterated or liberated depending on how they view me. They are also telling me that I am not welcome, not unless I sacrifice my spiritual beliefs and conform to what THEY believe is "right." So much for welcoming diversity, for celebrating multiculturalism, for freedom of religion.

No, this is the new Canada. This new Canada tells us that any expression of "difference" is bad; that if you publicly display your faith, you are a threat; that there is only one way to be Canadian, and that is to behave exactly as the government demands.

This new Canada scares me.

RELATED:

A letter I sent to reporter Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen, reproduced here on his website:
http://www.dangardner.ca/index.php/notes/item/232-on-faces-and-veils

Full text below:

Hi Dan,

While reading your column "The Canvas of Emotion," I felt the annoyance that usually comes over me whenever people start talking about how the niqab (veil) is this, that, or the other.

That annoyance has not faded. Though I appreciate your honesty about how you really feel about the veil, and what you think it really is, I remain frustrated that you have not taken the time to research more deeply why some Muslim women wear the veil, and the reasons given for its practice within Islamic Law. At the very least, could you not have contacted a Muslim woman who wears the veil? After all, you do live in Ottawa, where the veil isn't entirely uncommon.

In any case, since you didn't take the time to learn more about the veil from someone who wears one, I have taken the time to come to you.

First of all, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Zainab. I'm 21 years old, and although I currently live overseas, I was born a Canadian citizen and spent every year of my life there (except for the last two). I am a passionate believer in social justice and a fierce feminist. I've been writing since I was 14 - fiction, poetry, and articles for newspapers, blogs, and magazines. I am both independent and outspoken.

I am a Muslim woman, and I started wearing the veil when I turned 17, after years of begging my mom (who also wears it) to let me (shocking, huh? A teenage girl being forbidden from wearing the veil, not being forced into it!).

I do not wear the veil to segregate myself from society; I do not wear it to "smother my identity"; I do not wear it to remain aloof from others or assume that I'm better than them, or any of the other theories that so many journalists have been sharing within the last two days.

No. I wear it because first of all, I believe that God commanded it. In the Qur'an, the veil has three purposes: to test just how far you'll go to obey God; to identify yourself as a Muslim woman; and for the sake of modesty. (Specific Qur'anic verse: http://quran.com/33/59)

To expand a little upon the last point, it has nothing to do with Islam considering all women to be wicked seductresses bent on luring innocent men into frenzies of lust. Instead, it has to do with Islam's concern for societal welfare.
Men and women are allowed to interact in any number of settings, whether it be for business, education, or otherwise, but there are certain limits placed on those interactions.
By restricting men's ability to physically assess a woman's face or body and treat her according to how attractive he considers her (a human-nature practice studied and proven extensively in psychology), they are forced to deal with the woman on purely intellectual terms: her ideas and her actions.

In this kind of setting, no man can ever make judgments about a woman based on her physical features (like, oh, I don't know... how about promoting a woman just because she's got bigger boobs than the competition? Don't tell me this doesn't happen in the corporate world.)

Now, with regards to the claims you make about the veil - that it cuts off one's identity; that communication is hindered and restricted; that the ability to emotionally connect disappears - I can say with full confidence that while it might make sense theoretically, in reality none of those things take place.

I went to school, to the mall, to the park, to every place imaginable while wearing the veil. I hiked, I debated, I studied, I smiled and said "good morning" to passers-by... and they were all able to recognize that I was interacting with them and reaching out emotionally. My teachers, classmates, and neighbours never saw my face, but that didn't mean that they didn't trust me less; that they felt cut off from me or separated from me.

I built both short-term and long-term relationships - whether with the librarian or the grocery store clerk; my favourite teacher or the mailman.

Identity, emotions, and expressions of the two are not limited to facial features. In a society which is no longer tribal but cyber-connected, this is evidenced in the popularity of web forums, text messaging and more, we have effectively proven that there are practically no more barriers that hinder communication. When walking around veiled, people could easily tell if I was happy or sad, smiling or frowning. That's because body language involves more than just facial expressions (which, by the way, you can detect on a veiled woman because you can still see her eyes).

Muslim women may cover their faces; but that doesn't stop us from talking or taking action. And as I was taught in kindergarten, we deal with people based on how they act, not how they look.

You may be interested in taking a look at thiese webpage (video, article, and comments) to get a better idea of the issue of veiling amongst Muslims (and especially how it does not stop us from being normal, functional, friendly human beings!):

and
(Yes, I wrote this one.)
I sincerely hope that you are able to consider the reality of veiled Muslim women over psychological hypotheses (which might sound fancy and all, but don't actually translate into real life), and realize that there's more going on behind the veil (as though this pun isn't overused already... *sigh*) than what you think.
-Zainab bint Younus (aka AnonyMouse)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Heather Mallick - Speaking Up for Shy Young Girls, or Talking Down to Bright Young Women?

Heather Mallick (of the Toronto Star) attempts to champion young Muslim girls (especially menstruating ones) but completely misses the mark - here.

I wrote this letter to her in response:

Hi Heather,
I just read your piece in the Star, titled “Someone has to speak up for young girls.”
In it, you used the current brouhaha about young Muslims offering Friday prayers at school to focus your criticism on Islam’s alleged “stigmatization” of menstruating girls. Unfortunately, you made many ignorant statements that will only fuel the continued anger against Islam and Muslims, and which frustrate people like myself who work hard daily to educate others about the truth about Islam.
First of all, I am a young Canadian Muslim woman. I am proud of my religion, and I’m proud of being a woman. Let me explain just how and where you went wrong in your indignant article, for the claims you make hurt me both as a Muslim and as a woman.
To start with, the Islamic Friday prayers are a special event: a gathering of brothers and sisters in faith, a special taking-time-away from our chaotic lives for spiritual reminders and uplifting. It is a weekly occasion that we look forward to, purifying ourselves physically and dressing up in our best to worship God communally.
These Friday prayers, called “Jumu’ah” in Arabic, are obligatory upon men but not upon women, although it is highly encouraged for us. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is the first example of “sexism” in Islam, let me explain why this is. Men are forcibly enjoined to attend because their daily responsibility is usually of a financial turn, something which they can leave easily enough. However, it is understood that most women have children to look after, a duty that cannot be put aside as easily as men can leave work. (Before you also try to point out the “backwards gender stereotyping” this may imply, please look at statistics in the West that prove that women continue to be the main guardians and caregivers for children.) Menstruating women have the option of attending the Friday prayers or not, to listen to the sermon and feel the spiritual connection of brotherhood and sisterhood. They are not forbidden from sitting with everyone else at all, but rather are welcomed in the midst. Rather, it is only the formal prayers that they are exempted from (reasons will be explained below).
Secondly, as for men and women praying separately, this is not in any way a suggestion that Islam denigrates women or relegates them to second-class status. Rather, the arrangement of group prayer takes into consideration the positions that are observed during Islamic prayer, and consideration for human nature itself. For example, there is a period of time during prayer where one will be bowing down, and then go into prostration on the ground. Basically, this means that you’ll be on the ground with your butt in the air. And really, are you going to tell me that when you’re trying to communicate with God, but in a somewhat awkward position, you wouldn’t be more comfortable knowing that you’re surrounded by other women than by men? I know for a fact that women’s yoga classes are usually filled up because of the fact that it’s so much less embarrassing to twist yourself into a pretzel when there isn’t a guy checking out your butt.
Also, as a Muslim woman, I savour this precious time during which I feel a deep connection with my fellow women. I love sitting with my sisters in faith, listening to the same words, performing the same actions (without any distracting thoughts of “does my butt look big in this abayah?”), and knowing that in the Sight of God, all of us present – men and women – are equal before Him.
Thirdly, menstruating women are not “singled out” or “stigmatized” because of their menses. Islam places great emphasis on physical purity; before any Muslim may offer formal prayers, they must offer the ablutions called “wudhu.” In some cases, such as the one who has just had sex, they must take a full shower (the “ghusl”) before they may pray. This doesn’t mean that they are considered “dirty” or “unclean,” but is rather of the etiquettes that Islam calls for when one is engaging in direct communication and worship of God.
Menstruating women and women experiencing post-partum bleeding are exempted from formal prayers for the duration of their bleeding. Again, this is not a way of putting us down, but rather is a mercy and blessing from God. Rather than feeling excluded from prayer, it is actually both an opportunity and a challenge. When one is jerked out of a regular cycle of praying five times a day at appointed times to worship God, you strive to look deeper into ways of connecting with Him. Indeed, menstruation is neither “mysterious” nor “shameful”; in Islam, it is accepted as a part of life, a blessing from God, a sign of health and fertility.
Finally, in your article you’re portraying yourself as some kind of spokeswoman for Muslim girls. Please don’t. To be honest, there were so many offensive and insulting statements in your piece that I don’t know where to start. Suffice it to say that as a young Muslim woman, who has spent my entire life – including those tough teen years – in Canada, almost everything you said that was aimed at the Muslim girls you’re trying to champion, was in fact humiliating.
From implying that we don’t know how to use tampons (really? Do you actually think we live in the Middle Ages or something?), to insinuating that Muslim girls are just a bunch of shy helpless damsels in distress, you are displaying your own ignorance and qualities of a misogynist, not a feminist.
If you really want to hear the voices of Muslim girls, if you want to know what we really think and what we have to say, then why don’t you actually ask us instead? By assuming that only you can speak up for us, you are in fact guilty of what you accuse our fellow Muslims of doing: silencing us, dumbing us down, and rejecting our intellect.
We are Muslim women, and we have a voice. Let it be heard!
Sincerely,
Zainab bint Younus Kathrada
Victoria, B.C., Canada

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm A Student of Knowledge, So Please Pay for My $20, 000 Course!


I’m A Student of Knowledge, So Please Pay for My $20, 000 Course!
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to belittle or insult any Islamic institutions or organizations, nor is it meant to cause offence to any particular individual. It is merely a sincere, heart-felt, advisory rant. Please do not flame the author!
AlHamdulillaah, the Western Muslim community has made great advancements in the last several decades. We now have several institutions for Islamic education, countless intensive programs, and various annual spiritual and educational retreats. Unfortunately, with these benefits have come certain somewhat unsavoury phenomena – a celebrity culture surrounding our respected Islamic teachers, an “elite” group of those who can regularly afford these admittedly high-priced courses, and writing off or undermining those Islamic educators who happen to not be a part of some institution or another.
Yet another one of those emerging trends is that of youth (and even some not-so-youthly folks) suddenly considering themselves “serious students of knowledge,” simply because they have attended (or are planning on attending) Course X, Seminar Y, or Intensive Retreat Z. While it’s all well and good that they are expressing a zeal for pursuing knowledge, it rankles my nerves sorely when I am being spammed with emails requesting that I “donate to a worthy cause” by contributing a hundred or a thousand dollars to help them pay for their next course, seminar, or retreat. Logging onto my Facebook finds some individuals’ status updates constantly “reminding” me that they have X thousand dollars left to raise, so why am I not contributing?!
Dear brothers and sisters, just because you are a regular student at al-Maghrib or al-Kauthar or al-Bayyinah or (insert institution’s name here), please don’t think that you’re the next Ibn Taymiyyah and thus deserving of several hundred or thousand dollars’ worth of charity to attend “the awesomest ilm-ifying intensive program ever!” Quite frankly, if you can’t afford it on your own, please don’t go begging for other people’s hard-earned money. There are far worthier causes for us to donate to – though I may sound like a broken record, I will continue to point to orphans and widows in Palestine, Sudan, Iraq, and elsewhere. In fact, forget about overseas – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of needy brothers and sisters here in our Western communities. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that donating to a Muslim women’s shelter is more practical and spiritually rewarding than paying for a naive, already well-off (comparatively speaking) young man or woman who is already attending a decent university and living comfortably at home, to attend the latest hip Islamic course.
Seriously, brothers and sisters, I don’t want to undermine your efforts. I understand that you want to seek knowledge. I understand that you feel you really need to attend the next course. But I would like YOU to stop for a moment and realize that a $20, 000 intensive retreat program is not going to turn you into a sheikh or sheikh, nor is it the only avenue available to you for seeking knowledge. When was the last time you went to your local masjid’s free weekly Arabic course? Or your local sheikh’s weekly duroos? Oh wait, I’m sorry – those are all free and thus not worth your attention, because if it’s free and at the Masjid, it just doesn’t have that whole glamorous intellectual feel to it. Too many of us forget that the true student of knowledge avails him or herself of what knowledge is right in front of them and readily available. Today, we are so caught up in the hype of what’s cool to go to, that we would rather pursue something that we can’t quite afford, yet which is not completely and utterly necessary either. Truly, what’s the point of attending an intensive program for Arabic language, that costs more than your university tuition, when you don’t even know the obligatory fiqh of tahaarah or salaah (which you could easily learn by attending your Imam’s weekly lesson, for free)? It’s time for a major assessment of our own self-worth.
My dear brother and sister, if you really think that you are a true student of knowledge worthy of being supported by public funds, then I advise you to go to your local Masjid and humbly apply for zakaah. After all, the student of knowledge is considered by most of the scholars to be eligible for zakaah. (See here for Sheikh Ibn Al-‘Uthaymeen’s view)
For the most part, however, I am sure that we are all agreed that there are far more deserving recipients of zakaah than we who live in comfort and ease. Underprivileged Muslim children; struggling single mothers or fathers; abused spouses; widows and orphans... they all exist in our communities, and surely their situations are far worse than ours! Our greatest concern is being able to afford the next seminar; their greatest concerns are about being able to afford the next meal or this month’s rent. Are we truly so crass as to ignore their needs for our paltry ones?
If you are really so desperate to attend course X, Y, or Z then I humbly suggest that rather than seeking hand-outs from your family, friends, and total strangers, you work for it yourself. You will not suffer a terrible fate if you don’t happen to attend the intensive course this year or the next. If you die, Allah will not ask you about why you weren’t able to raise enough money to go to such-and-such spiritual retreat for a month. What you may well be asked about, however, is why you did not bother to learn and re-learn the correct execution of salaah, or support your suffering Muslim neighbour, when the opportunities to seek knowledge and do good were right in front of you and cost far less than what you were asking from others.
May Allah increase us in emaan and ‘ilm, and grant us the ability to recognize the jewels of teachers that we have right under our noses, and to benefit from their sincere and dedicated efforts. May Allah grant us a true understanding of beneficial knowledge and the ability to seek it, learn it, and understand it fully. May Allah forgive us all for our shortcomings, ameen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Open Letter to Mona el-Tahawy

This letter is in response to Mona el-Tahawy and her stance on the niqaab ban (http://muslimmatters.org/2011/04/12/cnn-hebah-ahmed-muslimmatters-blogger-debates-mona-eltahawy-over-french-niqab-burka-ban/).

If you support this letter, please sign it with your name in the comments and share it with others, whether through FaceBook, email, blogs, or websites. We would like to have this letter reach Mona directly, if possible.

This article has been cross-posted at IslamicAwakening and MuslimMatters.

Disclaimer: Though the message is sincere and heartfelt, the details are not meant to identify one specific individual (i.e. the author) but rather to represent real niqaabis around the world.

From A Very Visible Niqaabi to Her Self-Appointed Champion

Dear Mona,

As much as you no doubt think that you are doing great good by appointing yourself as a champion for (or against? You’re a bit confusing on that point) Muslim women who wear niqaab, I’d appreciate if you stopped and listened to me first.

I am a Muslim woman who wears niqaab, and I neither believe that I am the paragon of virtue nor live in fear of Hell should an inch of my skin be seen in public. I am neither oppressed nor invisible. I do not consider myself so beautiful that I must cover myself to save men from temptation; nor do I believe that men are sex machines who will be turned on by the tip of my nose or the curve of my ear. I am not ignorant or brainwashed. I am not Salafi or Wahhabi.

I am a Muslim woman.

You say that niqaab has been made into the pinnacle of piety. There may be some people out there who say that, but I don’t believe God says that. In fact, God says that none of us are safe from Hell just by doing one specific action or another. Earning Paradise and protecting ourselves from Hell is an ongoing process, a constant struggle 24/7. I don’t feel that wearing niqaab has earned me a ticket to Eden... but I do believe that it’ll help me get that little bit closer.

You say that Muslim women are forced to wear the niqaab in Saudi Arabia. While I don’t agree with anyone being forced to wear niqaab against their will, I don’t see how that has anything to do with me. I don’t live in Saudi Arabia, and never have. I live in America and I chose to wear the niqaab despite my parents’ opposition to it and my husband’s unease with it. He was worried that I’d be considered “extreme” and targeted for my beliefs. Turns out he’s right, but just because people like you want to take away my freedom of belief, it doesn’t mean I’m just going to roll over and let you dictate what I should and shouldn’t do or believe.

You say that niqaab makes Muslim women invisible. I have no idea where you got that from, although invisibility has always been the one superpower I’d love to have. As it happens, people can see me pretty well. It’s just that they can’t see every single bit of my skin or physical features. If you mean that I’m “invisible” in that niqaab reduces my role in society and the public sphere, you’re wrong.

I’m a successful businesswoman, who left a thriving career to become an entrepreneur. The company I founded has blossomed and we’re becoming quite well-known in our field. My best friend, who started wearing niqaab after me, is a high school teacher. She’s been recognized by the school as one of the best teachers they’ve had for several years running. The local Imam’s wife is getting her PhD and volunteers at the women’s shelter – and gets a kick out of going horseback riding on the beach where people’s eyes bug out when they see a veiled Muslim women galloping across the sand.

We Muslim women who wear the niqaab come in all shapes and sizes, of every ethnic, religious, social, and educational background. We are businesswomen and artists; writers and community activists; teachers and stay-at-home mothers; philosophers, intellectuals, and housewives. You have no right to gloss over our places in society, the roles that we have and will continue to fulfill. You have no right to tell me or others that I am invisible when I very much know that I am not.

You say that niqaab objectifies women as sex objects. So does the mini-skirt and tube top. Are we going to ban those too? I don’t deny that some men obsess over women’s bodies – but those men are non-Muslim as well as Muslim. Just as there are men who would prefer that I covered my body completely, there are men who wish I’d walk around half-naked. I don’t wear the niqaab for, or because of, either of them. I wear it for myself. I am not repressing my sexuality nor exacerbating it. I am demanding that you mind your own business about my sexuality, and deal with my ideas, my words, and my actions instead.

You say that niqaab has been the reason that Muslim women have been oppressed in countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. It’s not. Poverty, illiteracy, government corruption, backwards misogynistic mentalities that have nothing to do with Islam... THEY are the reason that Muslim women have been oppressed. Hijaab, niqaab, and whatever else is used only as a tool to enforce Islamically incorrect ideologies. It is not the root of the problem.

Furthermore, what of countries like South Africa, Mexico, and Britain where the daily statistics of rape, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, peer pressure, and so much more are all forms of crime and oppression against women? Oppression of women isn’t limited to race or religion. Unfortunately, it extends throughout the entire world, across every racial, social and economic spectrum.

You imply that it is only “extremist Salafis and Wahhabis” who wear niqaab or demand it of their women. That’s kinda funny, because I have a Sufi aunt who wears niqaab; and the nice Indian aunty at the mosque is a Deobandi, and she wears it too. The Nigerian convert who campaigns for women’s space at the mosque and demands that Muslim men stop acting like caveman and behave like gentlemen has been wearing niqaab for several years.

I’m sorry that you have had bad experiences with the niqaab. I’m sorry that you’ve had bad experiences with Muslims who call you a she-devil, a whore, and a scourge against Islam.

Sister Heba Ahmad – the one you debated on CNN – said something really beautiful that I agree with completely: “Mona is my sister in Islam and even though I must disagree when she misrepresents Islam and Muslims, she still should be protected from the tongue of her fellow Muslims.”

That’s how I feel about you. I strongly disagree with what you say about the niqaab and much about what you say about Islam and Muslims in general. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to threaten to kill you, or swear at you, or condemn you to Hell. What I will do is invite you over for coffee at my place, with open arms and a warm smile that you can detect even beneath my niqaab.

Your sister in Islam,

A Muslim Woman Who Wears Niqaab

(Author: Zainab bint Younus aka AnonyMouse al-Majnoonah)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Al-Walaa' wa'l Baraa': From Boastful Claims to Sincere Heart-ache for the Sake of Allah

Originally written for IslamicAwakening.com

Today’s impassioned world of catchphrases – Jihad of the sword and the soul; terrorism and freedom fighting; the War on Terror and the War on Islam; sincere scholars of the religion and White-House sell-outs – throw us into a whirlwind of politics, social affairs, religious dictums, and most of all, raging emotions.


There is perhaps no one phrase that encompasses so many of today’s issues, and is so hotly thrown around, than that of Al-Walaa’ and al-Baraa’: Loving and hating for the sake of Allah; or, loyalty and disassociation for the sake of Allah.


Though classical Islamic texts explain in minute detail the nuances of this concept, and thousands of Internet users debate each other on forums and chat rooms, few of us have bothered to study the topic in depth from the correct sources. Fewer yet are those who have both grasped an understanding of the subject, and perhaps more importantly, internalized it.


So many of us make loud claims of loyalty to Allah, His Prophet, His religion, and His sincere slaves... but how many of us look to what really lies in our hearts, and make a conscious effort to dig through the shadowy recesses of our egos, sorting out our false boasting from our true desires?


Al-Walaa’ and al-Baraa’ for the Sake of Allah is not merely dependant upon political or social circumstances. It is not an intellectual exercise or a show of “manliness” as, alas, it has become in the dodgy corners of the cyberworld. In its truest, purest form, al-Walaa’ and al-Baraa’ is an act of emotional sacrifice and spiritual cleansing. The most utter expression of al-walaa’ and al-baraa’ is that which Islam is based upon entirely: the submission of one’s desires, one’s faith, one’s actions, to Allah alone.


Al-Walaa’:


In brief, it is true love and loyalty. Specifically, in the Shar’i context, to Allah and all that which He has commanded us to have love for, loyalty for, and obedience to. Examples are the love for the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), for Islam in its whole and its entirety, and love for fellow Muslims over non-Muslims, purely due to their superiority of faith.


Al-Haafidh al-Hakamee, rahimahullaah, said:


"The signs that a person loves his Lord is: [i] that he gives precedence to what He loves, even if it opposes the person's own desires; [ii] to hate what his Lord hates, even if his own desires incline towards it; [iii] to show sincere love and help (walaa') to those who ally themselves with Allaah and His Messenger; [iv] to show enmity to those who show enmity to Allaah and His Messenger; [v] to follow His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam; and [vi] to accept his guidance."


Al-Baraa’:


It is the disassociation from, and rejection of, and turning away completely from that which Allah has declared incorrect, wrong, forbidden, and evil. The first thing which each and every Muslim must have al-Baraa’ from, is shirk, in all its aspects and expression.


"Indeed there is for you an excellent example in the Prophet Ibraaheem and those with him, when they said to their people: Indeed we are free from you and whatever you worship besides Allaah; we have rejected you, and there has arisen between us and you enmity and hatred, until you believe and worship Allaah alone." [Soorah al-Mumtahanah 60:4].


A more detailed definition and explanation of al-walaa’ and al-baraa’ can be found here: The Islaamic Concept of al-Walaa’ and al-Baraa’.


In summary, it can be said that al-Walaa’ and al-Baraa’ is love and hate for the sake of Allah, based upon that which Allah has guided us to and away from in the Qur’an and in the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).


Well and good. How now does that have to do with what we said before? How does one attain the status of one who truly loves what Allah has commanded him to love, and to hate that which Allah has commanded him to hate? And what on earth does that have to do with boasting and heartache?


Internalizing al-Walaa’ and al-Baraa’ doesn’t start from watching the news or surfing the Internet and feeling rage at what is happening to Muslims across the world. Certainly, it is a part of it which no one can deny – indeed, we should feel anger and fury at what is being done to our brothers and sisters in Islam. Not to feel such emotions would imply something seriously wrong in your psyche, never mind your faith.


However, if one spends hours online raving against the American government while neglecting to pray his salawaat on time and in Jamaa’ah; if you screech that Britain is a filthy land of disbelievers while having absolutely no intention to ever make hijrah to a Muslim land; if you attempt to expose the “sell-out scholars” when you don’t bother to seek out the true students of knowledge and learn from them... well, you need to get your priorities straightened out, and realize that you’re not expressing al-Walaa’ and al-Baraa’ – you’re just being immature, lazy, and ignorant.


True Walaa’ is to love your fellow Muslim, even the homeless guy who sleeps out at the Masjid, because he believes in Allah, and to treat him the way you treat your non-Muslim boss at work – with respect.


True Baraa’ is to see your dying non-Muslim grandfather, shedding tears for him and praying for his guidance to Islam, then accepting that his death as a non-Muslim means that he will be in the company of the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib, in Hell.

"Indeed your helper and protecter is none other than Allaah, His Messenger, and the Believers." [Soorah al-Maa'idah 5:55].


True Walaa’ is to see the images of the mangled limbs of children in Chechnya, and to feel as though it is your child lying amidst that corpse-ridden carnage.


True Baraa’ is to see your non-Muslim neighbour, wave to him every morning and mow his lawn when he’s feeling sick, and feel sorrow and anger at his disbelief in Allah.


"If Allaah afflicts you with some harm, there is no one who can remove it except Allaah. And if He desires good for you, there is no one who can repel His favour." [Soorah Yoonus 10:107].


True Walaa’ is when your heart longs for a Muslim society where Islam is the norm, and you sincerely intend to make hijrah, even though you know that Muslim countries are riddled with all sorts of problems.


True Baraa’ is when you love America as the home you were born and brought up in, where you have memories of golden summers and apple pie, yet you cannot stand the kufr it represents and perpetuates.


"So whoever hopes to see his Lord and be rewarded by Him, then let him make his worship correct and make it purely and exclusively for Him; and let him not give any share of it to other than Him." [Soorah al-Kahf 18:110].


True Walaa’ is to support your Muslim brother who has been accused of terrorism by the government, vilified by the media, and slandered by other Muslims... because you place greater faith in the word of a believer than in the vows of the enemies of Islam, even if you may be targeted next.


True Baraa’ is to speak against the corruption, oppression and injustice of a government that is deliberately targeting your faith, while fellow Muslims look on in fear, trusting in Allah even at the risk of being arrested.

"So do not fear them, but fear Me and beware of disobeying Me, if you are true believers." [Soorah Aal-'Imraan 3:175].


True Walaa’ is to give your time and effort for the sake of Allah, attending the weekly dars at the masjid, memorizing the Qur’an daily, mentoring a Muslim youth, and volunteering at the soup kitchen... not trying to assemble home-made explosives in your basement.


True Baraa’ is to shun even your child if he makes statements of kufr, in public or in private, because your love for Allah overcomes the love of your son. That son who kept you up at night as a baby, whose first steps were taken into your arms, whose adolescence you helped guide him through – love for that son cannot compete with the clear commands of Allah, though your heart breaks when you tell him “No.”


"But those who believe are stronger in their love of Allaah." [Soorah al-Baqarah 2:165].


The true Muslim, the one with true loyalty and allegiance to Allah and His Command, the one with complete and utter disassociation and enmity for shirk and kufr in all its forms, is the Muslim who knows and understands the orders and the limits that his religion has placed upon him.


The true Muslim is a firm believer and a good citizen; gentle yet strong; a voice for truth, justice, reason, and above all, Islam.


The true Muslim’s heart aches, breaks, and is sacrificed for the Sake of Allah.

Can you both talk the talk and walk the walk? Will you be that Muslim?


"This day have I perfected your Religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen Islaam as your Religion." [Soorah al-Maa'idah 5:3].


(Copyright Zainab bint Younus aka AnonyMouse al-Majnoonah)
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Monday, March 28, 2011

In Defence of Muslim Husbands

For all those Muslim men getting an unfairly bad rap...

Disclaimer: This is a fictional work, but no less true or relevant.
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My husband is patient. When he does get upset, he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and seeks refuge in God from Satan before opening his eyes and smiling at me to show that all is forgiven. Tom across the street screams at his wife Dora until she cries.
My husband is romantic. When he’s late coming home from work, I know he’s not cheating on me with the secretary... he’s stopping by the halal Chinese restaurant to pick up the chicken dumplings he knows I love, with a bouquet of roses to apologize for not answering my phone call. Angela’s getting a divorce because Richard was caught making out with his partner at the office – twice.
My husband is honourable. When he’s out with his friends for the weekend, I know he’s not out at the pub flirting with the waitress... he’s at the mosque mentoring teenage boys and plays basketball with the guys. Lana hates that her boyfriend spends his weekend nights at the local seedy strip club, enjoying women who aren’t her.
My husband is supportive. When I got my new job, he helped me balance my schedule and helped pick up with the chores around the house. When I got my promotion, he took me out to dinner and we celebrated all night. When my paycheque exceeded his, he never asked me for a penny and would insist on paying for the milk I picked up on my way home. Julia confided that her husband resents her success, and demands that she pay half the rent.
My husband is chivalrous. Even when we had the worst argument in the history of our marriage, when he slept at his mom’s house for a week, he never laid an angry hand on me. Brad across the street hits his wife whenever they have a fight, and we can all see the bruises under the sleeves of her shirt.
My husband is an involved father. He takes the girls to karate every Wednesday and then buys them ice cream on the way back. He gives them piggy back rides and changes their baby brother’s diapers when I’m busy. Jack down the road yells at his kids to stay out of his way, while he spends his days on the couch with the TV and a bottle of whiskey.
My husband is chaste. I’m the only woman he looks at with that look of adoration and thorough appreciation. I love it when he undresses me with his eyes, because his eyes don’t look to any other feminine figure except mine. Cindy found her husband’s inbox full of pornography subscriptions.
My husband is honest. When he makes a mistake, he admits and tries to do better. When he is proven wrong, he humbly accepts it and seeks to rectify his error. George blames Brenda for anything that goes wrong, and refuses to take responsibility.
My husband is respectful. He treats me as a complete equal, an individual in my own right. He listens to what I have to say and never belittles my opinions. He empathizes with my feelings even if he doesn’t agree. He places me on a pedestal and never demeans my efforts at home with the kids or at work with my colleagues. Tom criticizes Susan about her education at a small-town college, about her part-time job, and about her size-14 figure.
My husband is playful. He’ll tickle me until I cry with laughter. He’ll play Twister with me until we fall on the floor in a heap of tangled limbs. He’ll dress up as a clown for the kids’ ‘Eid party, even though his boss is there. Michael the C.E.O. is rarely seen cracking a smile, even at his son’s baseball game.
My husband is generous and soft-hearted. He can never walk by a panhandler without dropping at least a dollar into the beggar’s hand. When the teenage prostitute sashays up to him, her eyes blank and staring, he gives her the business card for the women’s shelter and gives her ten dollars to buy herself a decent meal. The guy behind him pulls her over for a grope and an appointment at the motel down the street.
My husband is spiritual and religious. His big beard doesn’t conceal his ever-present gentle smile. His Arab accent doesn’t hide the wisdom of his words, or the humour of his jokes. The mark on his forehead is from when he goes out to pray in the woods, to commune with nature and communicate with God – not a sign of his terrorist tendencies. His heart encompasses the love of God, the love of the Prophet, the love of his parents, his wife, his children, his community, and humanity.
My husband is a Muslim husband!
(Copyright Zainab bint Younus aka AnonyMouse al-Majnoonah)