Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Soulful Sort of Chastity

When it comes to discussions on women's access to masaajid, bringing down barriers, and so on, it's obvious that I'm a huge proponent of following the Sunnah of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and the Sahabah.

One of the things which has pushed me towards this stance so strongly (anti-barrier despite being a niqaabi), is observing how well this sunnah is followed in Malaysia. MashaAllah, so far wherever I've gone in one-space masaajid, I've seen exemplary behavior - respect, dignity, appropriate dressing and behavior - from the men and women alike. After reading about what Masjid an-Nabawi was like during the time of RasulAllah, seeing this has really resonated with me.

However, let's be realistic now.

Growing up in Vancouver and Victoria, Canada, every single masjid I went to was segregated, with clearly designated spaces for men and women. And yet... and yet the behavior exemplified was simply not appropriate. Inappropriate dressing is only one minor issue that I witnessed; more concering was the sheer level of inappropriate behavior between the genders.

I'm not just talking about a few people being 'friendly' - I'm talking about straightforward flirting, men feeling free to walk into the womens' space without a second thought or a little warning beforehand (because whether or not you agree with segregation, I should hope that you DO respect the idea of a 'safe space' for each gender; as a niqaabi, having a dude walk into a room where you felt 'safe' to remove your niqaab is a *huge* sign of disrespect).

At the risk of sounding more Salafi than feminist, I was (and am) reminded of the saying of A'ishah (radhiAllahu 'anha), during her own discussion on the subject of women attending masaajid:

"If RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) had lived today, he would have forbidden women to go to the masjid, as Bani Isra'eel did." (Tafseer al-Qurtubi)

Why the stark contrast between A'ishah narrating a hadeeth that unequivocally forbade the prohibition of allowing women to masaajid, and her own statement?

The truth is, Muslim women have also forgotten the adab and akhlaaq of mixed gender interaction. Just as Muslim men have the obligation to lower their gazes and treat all women with respect, honour, and dignity - so are Muslim women enjoined to lower their gazes and treat men with respect, honour, and dignity.

Whether respect, honour, and dignity is simply an alien concept these days, or Muslims have merely forgotten what exactly what kind of behavior those qualities dictate, the reality is that a mere headscarf doesn't automatically mean that we're behaving appropriately.

 Unfortunately, the concept of spiritual chastity (especially with regards to mixed-gender interaction) has been mocked, criticized, and rejected by many who consider themselves 'progressive' and yet fail to recognize that the loss of spiritual chastity has resulted in the detriment of society as a whole. Respect and dignity can only exist when these values are encouraged, and the current environment of hypersexualization does nothing to foster pure, honourable relationships between men and women that are independent of sexual intentions.

Looking back at the interactions between the Sahabah and Sahabiyaat, we see that - whether they were discussing religious matters, arguing a difference of opinion, or even just visiting each other - every instance of contact was marked by a striving for chastity, for spiritual strength and purity.

They understood that every individual is held accountable before Allah, questioned as to whether they played a role in improving society... or making it worse. Was the purpose of their communication a positive one, a beneficial one, one that would add to their book of good deeds? Or was it merely to indulge their baser human desires, the desire to be admired by the other gender, to be flattered, to attract attention, to coax interest not in a subject of import, but of a more personal type?

Whether in the masjid or the mall, school or on the sidewalk, men and women alike are enjoined to be keenly aware of themselves and their roles in creating, encouraging, and maintaining a society that values spiritual purity and chastity.

Are we doing our part?

{Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so - for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.}
(Surah al-Ahzaab, verse 35)

 #ForgottenHeroines

2 comments:

Aliyah Hassani said...

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

I am not quite sure why I am commenting on this particular blog as I have just spent the last two hours plus reading through your (and your mother's) blogs, and I could have written long comments on every one of them. Maybe I am responding now because at the masjid here (Asyut in Egypt) last Friday I got 'picked up' or, more accurately, two so-called brothers tried to pick me up as I came out of the Ladies entrance, regardless of the fact I was covered up from head to toe.

One of them was about to put his arm round my waist when they saw another muntaqabah coming out of the same entrance. They realised, apparently, they had got the wrong girl, and walked off to join her, moving off laughing at their mistake with her, one of the boys with an arm round her waist. No apology, of course. But Egyptian men don't do apologies.

So your words had a very immediate meaning for me when you wrote:

"The truth is, Muslim women have also forgotten the adab and akhlaaq of mixed gender interaction. Just as Muslim men have the obligation to lower their gazes and treat all women with respect, honour, and dignity - so are Muslim women enjoined to lower their gazes and treat men with respect, honour, and dignity.

Whether respect, honour, and dignity is simply an alien concept these days, or Muslim women have merely forgotten what exactly what kind of behavior those qualities dictate, the reality is that a mere headscarf doesn't automatically mean that we're behaving appropriately."

When I had gone home and told my friend what had happened, she just laughed and said "Well, what do you expect nowadays?"

I suppose I expect other sisters to act as I try to do which is lowering my gaze and not interacting with na-mahram. Okay, so I am not perfect but at least I try, unlike the girl at the masjid - who I actually know vaguely and who I had thought to be a decent muslimah - probably because she wears niqaab and, if her parents are around, acts like someone I could learn from. Fooled again, I suppose.

This blog made me feel sad as the malaise seems to be universal. BUT your other blogs (and your mother's) were inspiring. I greatly admire your passion and drive although I lack your outspoken (GOOD outspoken-ness!) and courage. But we have a lot in common. I am 25, near 26 and a widow. But sadly no children to remind me of Ahmed (may he find peace in Jannah) who I lost when he was called by Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) nearly three years ago.

I really should be more fierce with you as I had intended to use this afternoon to write my own, very neglected, blog. But reading yours was far more rewarding.
Mine, if you have time to get there is:
http://AliyahHassani.Blogspot.com

I wish I had found your blog earlier but it came via Twitter and today was the first time I have tweeted for a loooong time.

Aliyah

Cindy Mohammed said...
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