Tuesday, September 18, 2018

To Marry Conservative Muslim Men or Not to Marry Conservative Muslim Men, That is the Question...

To continue with the marital spiels:
I never discourage marrying conservative Muslim men.
(You may never have guessed it, but I am in fact married to a spectacularly conservative Muslim man. *gasp*shock*horror*. He posits himself as pro-women's-rights-but-anti-feminist-paradigm.)
Here's the thing. A conservative Muslim man is not automatically misogynistic, though he may very well represent the patriarchy in its somewhat more annoying forms.
There are conservative Muslim men who do *not* accept or make excuses for abuse; there are conservative Muslim men who care deeply about being #TrueQawwam, responsible leaders and loving, respectful, considerate husbands and partners who genuinely take their wives seriously.
There are conservative Muslim men who are kind, intelligent, willing to listen to other views, and even change their opinions for the better.
There are conservative Muslim men who are funny, charming, make excellent friends-who-are-awesome-husbands, and are genuinely concerned with improving themselves as individuals.
There are conservative Muslim men who will stand up for women in their families, in their masaajid, and in society at large.
They may abhor the idea of feminism as it is spoken about and debated and discussed, but they are the very first allies and advocates for women.
As a woman whose previous marriage involved the nightmare idea of "conservative Muslim man," I can tell you that there is a world of difference between the type that uses religion to hold you back and hurt you, and the type that believes in religion as a means for *everyone* to flourish and improve.
Having had that previous experience, I appreciate more than ever that the husband I have now is someone who sincerely tries his best to do right by me, and by the others whom he is responsible for.
It also puts into perspective what one's marital priorities should be - certainly, one should never marry a misogynist (get the hell out ASAP if you are), but neither do we need to pull out certain specifically "feminist" checklists to compare every man against.
Rather, focus on the deeply important things: whether he is someone who will respect you as a human being, as a woman, as a partner, as a wife, as possibly a mother; how he conducts himself in times of anger as well as times of peace; whether he despises abuse in all its forms.
Is he someone who will support you, encourage you, and be at your side when you need him to be? Will he be able to handle differences of opinion, no matter how heated they might get? Will he put his family as a priority above the bro's club and social norms and expectations?
There will never be someone who is 100% perfect. All people suck, including ourselves.
Sometimes the greatest growth in a marriage is learning how to identify the things that really matter, vs things which are far more surface level but which we've given too much importance to.
Again, differences of opinion are not always bad - in fiqh or in marriage. Rather, it is how one handles those differences, and giving each other the space to learn and grow and respect one another, is the greatest priority.
(Unless, of course, they're abusive jerkfaces.)
Obviously, no one is perfect - neither men nor women. There will always be growing pains in marriage, conflicts of both the personal kind as well as the ideological. There will be times when you simply won't agree, when there is no resolution to the matter, and when you just have to agree to disagree and/or troll them for eternity.
Debate is healthy. It's totally okay to have robust, hours-long (sometimes days-longs) arguments about SJW buzzwords and feminist ideas and bro's club triggers. Just don't let it affect the rest of your marital life for the worse.

Muslim Adulting 101

Since I am in aunty mode about marriage - I got thoroughly crabby seeing young Muslim men and women on Twitter complaining about how there's no one out there responsible enough for marriage and whatnot.
So here is a very basic list of some adulting skills that everyone should know at least *some* of in preparation for marriage.
(Disclaimer: I learned roughly half these things in the year before marriage, and the rest during first year of marriage. I do not claim to be an expert. I got married at 18, had a kid at 19, and was adulting at a semi proficient level by 20... although yes, I still frantically text my mother even now.)
I learned most of this while living in Egypt (with occasional stints in the village) and in Kuwait (as a broke non-Kuwaiti, not as a spoiled khaleeji). You learn a lot of things the hard way, like how to toast bread on the stove when you can't afford a toaster. Husband, your commentary is unnecessary here.)
Whether male or female, you should know how to make at least 3 breakfast items (toast and frozen items don't count) - depends on your culture, but it should be basic and easy, e.g. scrambled eggs, oatmeal, fool, za3tar and laban, etc.
Same applies for lunch and dinner. Doesn't have to be fancy, but you need to know the basics. Get up and go learn from your mom or dad or Pinterest or whatever. Just learn it instead of daydreaming about your spouse cooking for you. IT'S CALLED SURVIVAL SKILLS. (I learned from Canadian Living, before Pinterest was a thing. My mother still hasn't forgiven me.)
Do your own damn laundry. Know the difference between hot water wash (and what items to use it for), and cold water/ delicates. DON'T MIX A RED ITEM WITH WHITE. (Yes, I ruined my own delicates and the Mouseling's brand new baby onesies. Ugh.)
Know how to make a budget, and how to stick to it. Learn how to avoid debt under all circumstances. Yes, this means being frugal. Yes, this means couponing. Yes, this means not spending $5 every day at Starbucks if you can't afford it. Yes, this means buying things on clearance.
If you weren't raised by cheap desi parents who taught you every budgeting trick there is, then go read a book or look up online how best to budget.
And don't just budget for your immediate needs - anticipate future expenses, create a savings account (for school, Hajj, wedding).
Learn how to be a good host/hostess. That means knowing the adab/ etiquette of having guests over - offering them water or drinks when they come in and are seated, knowing how to turn half a package of Oreos and some cheese sticks into a presentable snack tray, etc.
Growing up, I always saw my parents being extremely generous hosts, even when completely unprepared, and they trained my brothers and I without even realizing it. Kudos to Arabs especially for really knowing how to provide a beautiful experience for their guests.
Learn how to iron. I hate ironing, I avoid doing it as much as possible, I still don't always have the hang of ironing men's shirts (but I can starch a ghutrah like no one's business), but LEARN THE BASICS OF IRONING and how not to burn your brand-new abayah.
Men: this still applies to you. Learn to iron your own clothes. Also learn to iron women's clothing. (Especially hijabs and abayas.)
My grandfather ironed my grandmother's clothes every day, and she always looked like she'd just stepped out of a desi granny fashion mag.
Bonus points if you know how to light bukhoor/ agar bhatti/ Yankee candles.
Good scents are from the Sunnah, and it is a habit that one should make regular for the household. There's nothing quite like walking in through the door and inhaling beautiful incense.
(Unless you or others in your home are allergic to perfumes and strong scents, in which case, never mind.)
Know how to clean a bathroom. That means scrubbing the toilet at least once a week, the bathtub a few times a month, and generally sanitizing all surfaces.
There is nothing nastier than leaving a mess in your bathroom and doing nothing to clean it.
Know how to operate a vacuum, and how to sweep and mop as well.
If you're not doing this in your/ your parents' home, you don't deserve to have a marital home.
Learn how to sew a basic stitch in case of emergencies. I'm not asking you to embroider a tapestry or tailor make a suit, but knowing how to thread a needle and mend a tear or rip is super duper handy. (I failed every sewing class my mother put me in, and my current pile of torn clothing is at her house, but yes, I can technically mend a tear.)
For more Muslim-specific adulting: be the person who wakes everyone up for Fajr (or sets enough alarms that eventually, *someone* will wake up).
In Ramadan, be the person who helps with suhoor and iftaar.
Be the person who reminds the rest of the household to fulfill sunan of Jumu'ah - doing ghusl, wearing best clothes, surah Kahf etc.
Call the adhaan for every salah and encourage everyone at home to pray together.
Remember the hadith of Aishah, describe RasulAllah doing chores.
Ensure that the rizq entering your home is scrupulously halal.
Try to ensure that the food consumed in your home is both halal and tayyib.
Standard sunnah foods to keep on hand: honey, dates, black seed and black seed oil, olive oil. Make it a habit to ruqya-fy honey & oils.
(I.e. recite ayaat used for ruqya over your water, honey, olive and black seed oils. It is a means of protection and benefit, regardless of whether you have ayn or sihr issues; it's beneficial even for physical ailments.
Pro tip: buy big jars/bottles and recite over them.)
Recite Qur'an often in the home. Have it playing regularly on audio.
Say the adhkaar for entering and leaving home, for morning and evening etc.
And that, folks, is a 101 to Basic Muslim-y Adulting. I don't want to hear any whining on the TL about how Muslim boys/ girls aren't responsible enough for marriage. Fulfill this checklist, and you'll be decently prepared for the adulting part. This all applies to men and women equally.
P.S. never underestimate the importance of Tupperwares, and by Tupperware I don't mean the brand name, I mean washing out and using every yogurt tub, jam jar, and pasta bottle you use.

Rape Culture in the Muslim Community

How does rape culture manifest within the Muslim community? What are things you have heard said (by leaders or otherwise) to dismiss or justify rape and sexual crimes, or blame victims?
Personally, the line "If she just wore hijab/niqab" enrages me beyond belief.
Hijab is NOT a force field.
Yes, it is an obligation. Yes, there is a wisdom behind it. Yes, in some cases it does deter a certain type of attention. It does NOT physically prevent a rapist from raping his victim.
Also: "Women should always have a mahram with them."
No, you idiot, we only need a mahram for traveling, not for going to the grocery store.
Also, newsflash, a large number of sexual assault victims are attacked BY mahrams.
"She was too seductive."
Many victims of sexual assault are CHILDREN. And boys, not just girls.
"This is what happens when our kids are exposed to Western kaafir culture."
Rape and sexual assault are just as much of an issue in the Muslim world. It is NOT "a Western problem."
"This is why women are supposed to stay indoors."
We are not prisoners. It is not haraam for us to leave our homes. We are ALLOWED to exist in the public sphere. It is halaal for us to go to school, to work, to go to a park, to walk the streets for perfectly normal reasons.
"A woman's honour is in her virginity."
No. It does not. Her honour lies in her mere existence as a human being, a believing woman. Her 'izzah is not stripped away just because someone violated the sanctity of her body. (Nor does a boy or another man who has been raped or sexually attacked lose their "honour.")
Dishonour belongs solely to the abusers and predators.
"Rape only happens to bad girls who are in bad places."
There have been boys who are raped in masaajid. Girls raped by family members in their own homes. Men and women sexually assaulted by strangers in public places such as the store, the bus, the park.
Indeed, women experience sexual assault IN the Haram itself, during Hajj and Umrah!
"There's no such thing as marital rape."
Okay, don't call it that then.
But if you are physically forcing an unwilling individual into a sexual encounter, such that you are causing them physical, emotional, and psychological harm...
Then it is wrong. Full stop. And no, the "angels cursing" hadith is not a defense or justification - rather, it is evidence against such behaviour to begin with.
It is prohibited to harm a fellow Muslim, in word or in deed, whether or not you are married to them.
"Someone who was raped is the same as someone who committed zina."
Absolutely hell no.
Zina is consensual. Rape is not. The one who has been raped is the victim of a crime; they are not considered equal to the one who willingly engaged in zina.
The Hadd punishment does NOT apply to the victim of rape. The ONLY person to be punished is the rapist themselves.
Anyone who claims otherwise is horrifically, disgustingly ignorant - or flat out evil if they do know the truth but insist otherwise.
"Boys and men cannot be raped or sexually assaulted."
They can be, and sadly, they are. Sometimes by other boys and men, and sometimes even by women. Girls and women can also sexually assaulted by other women.
It is NEVER okay and the victim is never to blame, regardless of gender.
There is, unfortunately, a great deal of ignorance and even wilfull denial over the reality of rape and sexual assault - how it is perceived within the Shar'iah, how common it is in our communities, and how we should deal with it.
As Muslims, we *must* be concerned with justice. We MUST be dedicated to upholding the rights of the vulnerable, eradicating these types of crimes, and dealing with the perpetrators severely. We cannot afford to enable or protect these criminals - our Aakhirah is at stake.
Allah has commanded us to enjoin the good and forbid the evil; we are an Ummah sent to uphold His laws, to hold transgressors accountable, and to fight against oppression wherever it may be - whether it is political or social.
{Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining the good and forbidding evil. And it is they who are the successful.} (Qur'an 3:104)
{You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.} (Qur'an 3:110)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Traditional Islamic Gender Roles"... or Not.

I am still in aunty marriage mode, but today's post will feature some Salafi feminist ranting, so buckle in.
Dear bros, especially the good ones: when your rishta bio data includes the phrase "traditional Islamic gender roles," "pious housewife," or any variation thereof, know that you aren't just filtering out "those secular liberal independent career women" types. You're also pushing away Muslim women who are religious, conservative, and in fact far more inclined to being what may - be your idea of a good Muslim wife.
Let me explain.
The phrase "traditional Islamic gender roles" & its variations carries a certain type of connotation.
While bros might think it's just an innocent way of saying they want something specific in marriage, the truth is that it has a far more negative meaning for many Muslim women.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of lingering 90s da'wah "the ideal Muslim woman" talks and lectures, the insistence on the Muslim community to fixate on "the role of women," and cultural standards conflated with religion, the message that Muslim women have been taught is that "traditional Islamic gender roles" means a situation where, as women, we are expected to remain at home and solely devote ourselves to husband, home and children - with no other interests or pursuits whatsoever.
Some people might scoff at this & say this doesn't happen anymore.
I am here to tell you that it most certainly does - been there, done that (probably should have gotten the t-shirt). This idea has *not* been stamped out, especially not from the minds of many young Muslim men, who do feel entitled to a marital situation where the wife is indeed wholly focused on his comfort and demands.
As Muslim women, we rightly feel wary when brothers trot out "traditional Islamic gender roles" - not because we are opposed to being wives who don't have a problem with cooking and cleaning, or because we want to dump any children we have in daycare - but because for so long, the phrase has been an euphemism for patriarchy to rule supreme.
The truth is that the culturally absorbed idea of "traditional Islamic gender roles" is not only incredibly narrow and restricted, but doesn't even represent the reality of the first Muslims.
The female Companions of RasulAllah (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam) *did* often work outside the home - whether in the fields, the marketplace, or even as servants in other people's homes.
Nor was every mother housebound with her children; most women had a larger family network, young sons would often accompany their fathers and male relatives outside as apprentices learning passed-down skills; slavery was common enough that not every woman was obliged to be "domestic."
Our conception of stay at home mothers is really quite recent and new, & does not have any particular special bearing in our Islamic history.
Unfortunately, the binary that was created for women - either being a SAHM or a secular/liberal "career woman" - doesn't reflect reality either.
There are women who work from home in addition to having children and fulfilling the (Western idea of) housewife role. There are women who work part time outside the home yet are dedicated to their families. There are women who are employed in specifically Islamic fields or contexts; there are women who do have "careers" but who do not belittle or dismiss the idea of being a loving wife and mother. There are women who love the idea of being SAHMs but also have other passions and pursuits, whether those be writing, volunteering, entrepreneurship.
When a Muslim bro says something like "traditional Islamic gender roles," it's a pretty good indication that he isn't aware of or interested in all the nuances mentioned above.
Someone could argue that maybe we women are making too many assumptions about these bros, but the truth is that so many of us have already been burned because we naively thought that *of course* a future husband will be reasonable about these things and be flexible... only to find ourselves in situations where that is absolutely not the case.
Once burned, twice shy - whether we experienced it the hard way or witnessed others around us in that situation, none of us are interested in putting ourselves in that particular line of fire, and we will most definitely be very cautious to avoid such a scenario.
If, as a bro looking to get married, you *do* want to talk about your preferences with regards to marital set up, work, children and so on... then have those discussions, by all means. Ask those questions. Ask the person you're talking to what *their* view of a happy and healthy family arrangement is. Ask about having kids, about work, about what the word "traditional" even means to them.
But for the sake of establishing truly healthy, happy, Islamic marriages and homes... just don't use the phrase "traditional Islamic gender roles."

Teaching madrasah tells you a lot about the families of the children themselves, and it's really quite touching.
There's the 6 year old Syrian girl, the daughter of refugees, who still struggles with English but eagerly tells me how she prays four of the daily salawaat but "I am sleep for sub'h so I cannot sallee then!"
There are two young brothers, one aged 9 and the other 11, who are also Syrian but born and raised in Canada; their family isn't really practicing but has recently made a commitment to having their kids taught better.
They stumble over the words of the new surah they are learning, and grin happily when I tell them that they're improving and learning fast.
There's the South African mom who just moved to the city two days ago but whose priority is to sign her son up for Islamic classes immediately.
Every family is different, with its own culture and personal history, its own unique struggles, but it is heartwarming to know that they all have made a conscious commitment and dedication to ensure that their children have a connection to their Deen.

Standing against the murder of anyone, for any reason, regardless of what sin they are committing, is NOT equivalent to condoning those sins or making it "safe" for them to commit those sins.
Indeed, as Muslims who worship a Just Lord, and a Merciful Lord, who forbade us from ever taking the lives of any individual outside of very specific situations, we should *never* be okay with a certain group of people being targeted for violence or death. We cannot and should not be "neutral" about it.
It doesn't matter how much we despise a sin, or a type of behaviour that offends our Islamic sensibilities. We, as Muslims, before anyone else, are bound by certain moral and legal restrictions that we are required to uphold - including the obligation to *not* act on our emotions against any individual or group whom we consider "too sinful."
Indeed, what many of us do not even consider is that even if certain groups of people are committing types of sins that we may consider nearly unforgivable - even those individuals may find themselves accepting Tawheed, become Muslim, and become people whose taqwa and good deeds far outdo our own. To think otherwise is nothing short of sheer arrogance.
If you think that we as Muslims should be "neutral" about LGBTQ people being murdered, or that we should oppose single stall gender neutral bathrooms just because it's safer for them (those bathrooms are convenient for everyone btw), then honestly... the only thought that occurs to me is that you have a sick, diseased heart that has perverted Islamic morals and values far beyond recognition.
It is perfectly possible to consider homosexual acts to be haraam, and to oppose the normalization of such relationships as halal, while also believing that LGBTQ individuals - like any human being - have the basic right to human safety and protection from murder and violence.
{And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly - We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law].} (17:33)
{Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.} (Qur'an 5:32)

The other day, my 8yo daughter rushed into my room, sobbing hysterically. Bewildered, I asked her what was wrong, and she broke down even more, finally confessing that she had remembered that she had done something really, really bad a few weeks ago and she now felt bad about it.
I coaxed her into telling me what it was, and she admitted all the gory details - what was, in essence, nothing very terrible at all, but mildly wrong at worst and really just a childish kind of thing to do to begin with.
Yet she sat on my lap, wracked with remorse, tears streaming down her face. "I feel so bad," she sobbed, "I know it was such a wrong thing to do! I'm so sorry!"
I hugged her, stroked her hair, and told her that it was okay, that I - and most importantly, Allah - still loved her. "You know," I told her, "Allah actually loves it when you say sorry to Him for anything bad that you did. It's good that you feel guilty, because it shows that you know the difference between right & wrong. The important thing to remember now is that Allah is the Most Merciful."
She remained quite emotional for a while, but eventually, as I reminded her that Allah is also the Most Loving and Most Forgiving, she slowly calmed down. "You won't tell anyone what I did, will you?" she asked anxiously.
"When you make mistakes like this, it's between you and Allah," I reassured her. "All you need to remember is to turn to Him and talk to Him in du'a. Shaytan wants you to feel so bad that you don't talk to Allah anymore, but Allah always love to see you asking for forgiveness."
In the end, she calmed down and resumed her day normally. I, on the other hand, have been mulling over the incident ever since it happened.
The whole scenario was a real-life playing out of the process of tawbah. How many of us commit sins and mistakes that we never even think about after they happen? Do we ever stop and remember what we did to someone else, or a sin that we committed secretly, and then feel overwhelmed with remorse? Do we channel that pain in the appropriate way, by remembering our Most Merciful, Loving, and Forgiving Creator?
Do we allow our guilt to push us away from Allah, or draw closer to Him? Do we remember to ask for His Forgiveness and sincerely resolve to refrain from that sin in the future? Do we remember how important it is for us to constantly talk to Allah?
It was certainly one of the more thought-provoking teachable parenting moments that I've had, less so for my daughter than for me.
It is in moments like these when the ayaat, ahadith, and scholarly reminders about the importance of spiritual repentance all become real and lived.
{Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.} (Qur'an 2:37)
{Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.} (2:128)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Patriarchy in the Qur'an and Sunnah, Female Scholarship and Self-Love: In Conversation with the Salafi Feminist

By Ashiya Mendheria for Amalia.com

If there is anyone on social media that makes me think about my presence as a Muslim woman in this world, it is Zainab bint Younus – the fabled, unapologetic and witty, Salafi Feminist. Family planning, abortion, polygamy, Islamic sexual education, fatherhood, masculinity, gender roles, and the history of female scholarship are just some of the topics that Zainab regularly discusses. When I admitted I was fangirling and feeling nervous about this interview, she responded, “don’t worry, I’m sitting here in my pyjamas!”

An introduction…

My name is Zainab bint Younus. I go by the name The Salafi Feminist online; it’s not quite a pseudonym, but it’s become my pen name, in a way. I am a wife and mother, living a rather unconventional lifestyle.

1. How do you define feminism?
Many people have the misconception that taking on the label of, or identifying with feminism in any way, is rejecting Islam. It’s because I believe Islam is the perfect, most just and wholesome solution that I chose the name I did – the Salafi Feminist.

I am a feminist because I believe that women deserve better, that our ummah is plagued with numerous spiritual diseases that manifest in terrible ways, particularly with regards to how Muslim women are viewed and treated, both by religious teachers and the masses. Islam is perfect, Muslims aren’t. Feminism is what I use to describe my personal focus on a cause of advocating for women’s rights, and bringing about positive change for both men and women.

2. Is feminism based on secularism?
While popular feminism is quite secular, and there is a particular brand of White, secular liberal feminism that is most commonly referenced in the west, the fight for women’s rights is not in and of itself grounded in secularism. Rather women all around the world for generations upon generations, have called out the injustice that is perpetuated against women by society at large. One of my favourite quotes is ‘feminism is the radical idea that women are human beings’. We have so many incredible women in our global history, not just Islamic history, who’ve stepped out of the mould that was set for women; they never described themselves as feminists but they stood up for themselves and pursued their rights.

We have a basis in Islam itself to pursue justice and stop oppression. That doesn’t come from secularism: that comes just from being humans with brains, who are able to look around society and say, ‘this is wrong, the things that are happening to us, being done to us, the things that we do – that’s all wrong’. We don’t need to necessarily turn to an outside group or identity or society to recognise this and to address it wholeheartedly.

3. Why do some Muslim men feel agitated by the word feminism? 
For most Muslim men, they feel threatened. They don’t like the idea that we are stepping outside the very narrow role that we’ve been given. They don’t want women to challenge the status quo which benefits them in so many ways. However, there are those who sincerely believe that there are problematic issues associated with secular feminism in particular and that we should be more careful of using such terminology. I can respect that difference, even if I don’t necessarily agree. For the most part, people just don’t like it when women refuse to do whatever we’re told to do without questioning.

4. What led you towards feminism?
I have always been aware of and critical of the hypocrisy, double standards and the messed up ways that Islam has been taught to women, and taught to men about women. But it was definitely a series of life events and realisations that pushed me to where I am today. There are certain attitudes so deeply ingrained, and many  Muslims choose to act in ways that harm or negatively impact women. Muslim women bare so many burdens, spiritually and emotionally. An example of this that is very personal to me is divorce. The concept of khula exists in the Shari’ah, whereby a woman can choose to divorce her husband and end the marriage by returning the mahr. It happened at the time of the Prophet (saw), and it is acknowledged in fiqh. Today, it is almost impossible for many women to get khula, even if they’re being abused, have been beaten black and blue, or are left starving. Why? Because in many communities, khula has been labelled as something bad.

Women who seek divorce are hit with this hadith: ‘a woman who seeks divorce for no reason will never smell the scent of paradise’. This hadith has its place in the Shari’ah, and it’s an appropriate warning just as divorce, in general, is disliked, but khula is also permissible; it exists in the Shari’ah for a reason.

Many women don’t even know that khula exists as an option for us. If we do know what it is and try to pursue it, we would be rebuffed and told, “sister, have patience”, “sister, it’s better for you to stay”, “oh sister, think of the children”, “sister, you’re just being selfish, you’re just being immature”.

As a result, women are trapped in horrific marriages, unhappy, unhealthy, toxic, abusive marriages. If we then try to get a divorce through the secular course, well now we’ve “rejected Islam”, now we’re “following our whims and desires”, we’re “going against the Shari’ah”. But we weren’t given our rights to begin with. And that has such a deep and lasting spiritual, emotional and psychological impact.

Long before I took on the label of feminist for myself, any time that I, or any other woman, would bring up the issues that we have in the Muslim community with regards to women, the knee-jerk reaction is ‘you’re just a feminist!’, ‘you’re just falling for secular feminism and you’re just trying to corrupt this ummah!’. So it doesn’t matter whether you take on the label of feminism or not, you’re always going to be attacked for trying to change things.   

5. Does patriarchy exist in Islam?
I don’t deny that Islam in and of itself, does uphold a model of patriarchy, meaning that men are described in the Qur’an as qawwamun. The ameer of a community is a man, the imam of a community is meant to be a man but other than that, I absolutely do not believe that men should hold any kind of superiority over women or they should dominate any and all fields. Islam does recognise patriarchy and I believe this is something Allah has sent down for us; it is one of the greatest tests and challenges of life.

The way that patriarchy currently exists in our communities, where men are completely dominant, where men pull the reins, politically or religiously, as religious teachers and authorities, or within the family, where a man’s word is law regardless of whether he is right or wrong, or that he is viewed as a religious authority even if he absolutely isn’t, all of that is wrong and needs to change. That was never how the sahaba lived. Men are not automatically given this level of privilege and authority just because they’re men.

Women questioned them, competed with them, discussed and disagreed with them. I want to go back to a model that reflects the prophetic society, where there was respect and it was okay for people to disagree. It was okay for women to disagree with men, for women to hold certain sympathies and opinions that men didn’t, for a woman to be involved and active at a public societal level, whilst having a strong role within the household.

6. Do concepts like feminism, patriarchy, misogyny and so on, exist in the Qur’an and the sunnah?
These terminologies are obviously quite recent and they cannot be projected onto the Qur’an and the sunnah. The Qur’an and sunnah speak about justice; they provide us with a guidance of how we need to live our lives in the most holistic way. That includes justice in how men and women deal with each other, what our rights and responsibilities are as individuals and as members of family and society. The guidance is there to teach us how to work together in cooperation. 

 Racism, for example, is a useful term to describe certain mentalities, processes and viewings to be easily recognised. It is simply a function of language; it’s not used as tools of an agenda unless somebody actively tries to do so. There are words that exist for a reason, they have a definition that we should be aware of and there’s nothing wrong with using them appropriately. I am uncomfortable when people say the Qur’an is a feminist book or the prophet was a feminist. Feminism is always secondary to Islam. Islam is the primary model and feminism is a field from which I can develop certain ideas, as long as it doesn’t contradict Islam in any way.

7. On female scholarship…
How women in Islamic history lived, taught and functioned in society at large is so very different from how most of us have been raised to think of pious Muslim women. Rather than being silent and invisible, they were very much active in their communities.

Unfortunately, the names and stories of these women [in Islamic history] have for a very long time, been hidden away in abandoned books. Those who have been in the position of religious leadership and teaching did not and have not seen this as a priority to discuss these women publically. Nobody thought it was important enough for us to learn about them. 

Certain areas were male-dominated because male authority was automatically taken as the default and more valid than female authority, and so the books that these women wrote disappeared. Their legacies faded away. We only know about them when they’re brought about as being important in relation to men. We don’t know about them because they were just that great, incredible and amazing on their own.   

8. How do you practice self-care and self-love?
“Self-care” and “self-love” are terms that are unfortunately reduced to very shallow things like bubble baths, eating out or retail therapy. As a Muslim, self-care and self-love is so much more than that: it is about taking care of our spiritual and emotional well-being by turning to Allah, always.

Self-care is remembering that Allah is the Most Loving, the Most Forgiving; knowing that He loves us to repent to Him for our sins, and that He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, only that we try to seek His Pleasure however we can, and avoid His wrath.

Self-love is to hold oneself to the standard that Allah has set for us while being kind to ourselves and knowing that we can turn to our Lord for comfort, love, and forgiveness.This hadith  encompasses the idea of self-care for the soul:

“How amazing is the affair of the believer! Verily all of their affairs is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls them, they are grateful and that is good for them. If something of harm befalls them, they are patient and that is good for them.” (Sahih Muslim)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Ruins of Us - short review

The Ruins of Us, by Keina Petersson, is a novel that follows the story of an American expat woman married to a Saudi man, who secretly marries a second wife, launching their entire family into a period of turmoil and tragedy.
It is, obviously, not a happy poly story - but it's not your typical angry poly nightmare story either. The villain(s) are not shallow or one-dimensional; the protagonist is not merely a spurned wife seeking revenge.

This is a story about family and complicated emotions and the experience of cultural exile and never quite belonging. Faith and religion play a large role in this story, but never in a preachy or demonized manner, even when it would have been easy to do so.

It is one of the best Muslim-y-ish novels I have read in a long time. I was shocked at how good it was, to be honest. Not only is it completely on point and relatable to those who have or are still living in the Khaleej, but the characters and storylines are beautifully written.
There are no caricatures or stereotypes, just deeply moving human experiences.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

10 Ways to be the Ideal Muslim Husband

MARITAL ADVICE LISTS are common to find in Muslim literature and lectures, yet the information is almost always targeted towards women. However, we all know that it takes two to tango – and so here is a list aimed at Muslim husbands in the hopes that they, too, will benefit and be able to improve their relationships.

1. Have taqwa and isân

Know that you are responsible for your end of the marriage, regardless of how the other party treats you. Fulfill your wife’s rights without demanding yours first, and know that you seek Allah’s Pleasure over anyone else’s. Do your job with excellence, and don’t make it conditional. Isân is not merely to worship in the ritual sense, but to conduct oneself in general with an awareness that Allah is Al-Raqîb (the Ever-Watchful), and to fulfill one’s duties in the best of manners.
Then he (Jibrîl) said, “Inform me about isân.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet (know that) He sees you. (Muslim)

2. Respect her

Remember that Allah describes marriage as a bond of love and mercy – love ebbs and flows, but mercy and respect must always be there, even – especially – in times of conflict. Unfortunately, we tend to present respect as a quality that men need (“men need respect, women need affection”). The truth is, however, that one can love someone without respecting them… and this is very, very dangerous. To have mercy and respect one’s wife is to never assume that she exists merely as an extension of you or to serve your needs. To respect her is to honor her, to defend her from harm and others’ accusations, and to have husn al-ann of her.
In cases of disagreement, this respect translates as not forcing your own opinion upon her when there is Islamically acceptable room for differences of opinion.
It should go without saying, but unfortunately it bears repeating nonetheless – respecting your wife means never, ever, abusing her, physically or otherwise.
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.  [Sûrat Al-Rûm, 30:21]
Even in times of conflict, Allah tells us to behave in the most respectful and gracious of manners:
And do not forget graciousness between you.  [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:237]
Abû Mûsa Al-Ashʿari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
I asked the Messenger of Allah: “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.”  [1]

3.  Be emotionally intelligent

Empathy, being attuned to the other person’s preferences, learning to understand their personality and responding appropriately without expecting to change them into something they’re not… supporting and respecting each other as both individuals and as a team. The Prophet ﷺ was an emotionally intelligent husband, who knew the differences in his wives’ personalities and interacted with them in a manner best suited to each woman. He comforted Ṣufiyyah when she wept; he had spirited discussions with ʿÂishah; and he encouraged Ḥafṣah’s zeal for knowledge.
In a famous narration known as the Hadith of Abu Zarʿ,[2]  ʿAishah told the Prophet ﷺ the story of eleven women who sat together and described their husbands’ qualities and behaviours. The eleventh woman, Umm Zarʿ, described Abû Zarʿas a man who was extremely generous to his wife, showering her with gifts; who went out of his way to please her; who never rebuked her or verbally abused her; who made sure that she was comfortable and satisfied. To Umm Zarʿ, there was no greater husband than Abû Zarʿ- and the Prophet ﷺ himself told ʿÂishah, I am to you as Abû Zarʿwas to Umm Zarʿ, except that I will never divorce you.

4.  Be a True Qawwâm

Know that being a qawwâm is a matter of being a good leader – not authoritarian or a dictator, but someone who inspires love and respect, who treats others with dignity and respect… The popular book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great resource for understanding what good leadership is. There are several excellent Islamic resources discussing leadership lessons from the life of the Prophet ﷺ.  [3]  [4]   Strive to embody the Sunnah in your character, not just in how many rakʿahs a day you pray.
ʿÂishah described the Prophet thus: His character was the Quran[5] Be the type of husband that a wife describes in such a manner.
Remember that as a qawwâm, you are responsible and accountable for the well-being of your household and those under your care.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amîr (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock  [6]

5.  Be friends before you become spouses

That might sound odd (or not) – but we often put so much pressure on ourselves to fulfill a role (husband/wife), that we forget to get to know each other as friends first. Every marriage will go through ups and downs, intimately and otherwise… and you’ll be surprised to realize how much having a solid, sincere friendship can pull you through the hard times.
One example of RasûlAllah’s “friendship” with his wives is his relationship with Sawdah bint Zamʿah. She was the first woman whom he married after the death of Khadijah, and although she was considered to be elderly and not as beautiful as the other women whom he would later marry, their relationship was one of camaraderie, confidence, and laughter.  [7]

6.  Don’t be embarrassed or ignorant of female biology

Learn about it – from menstruation to female sexuality to pregnancy and everything else. You need to know this stuff – it will impact your life significantly, intimately and otherwise. Don’t laugh it off or act as though it’s not worth your time and attention. Women’s health is sorely misunderstood, and having a disinterested (or worse, disgusted) husband can make things even more difficult for women.
The Prophet ﷺ did not shy away from these matters, either as a husband or as a Messenger of Allah. Instead, he constantly enjoined men to be aware of and sensitive to their wives’ needs – just as he was with his wives.
Narrated Umm Salamah:
While I was laying with the Prophet ﷺ under a single woolen sheet, I got the menses. I slipped away and put on the clothes for menses. He said, “Have you got “nifâs” (menses)?” I replied, “Yes.” He then called me and made me lie with him under the same sheet.   [8]

7.  Be responsible

Being “a good Muslim husband” doesn’t just mean fulfilling the basic rights as a husband and leaving it at that. Being a good Muslim husband means that you are on the ball as a responsible adult – whether it’s paying the bills, taking out the trash, cleaning a mess in the house, or being an engaged father (not ‘babysitting’). Doing these things is not a “kindness to the wife,” or “helping out at home.” It’s not “extra credit” and deserving of lavish praise. It is part and parcel of being a grown man responsible for his surroundings, his family, and himself. Do these things out of mindfulness that Allah will never waste your efforts for His Sake.
Narrated Al-Aswad:
I asked ʿÂishah what did the Prophet use to do at home. She replied. “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer.” (Bukhâri)
ʿÂishah reported:
I was asked, “What did the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, do in his house?” I said, “The Prophet was a man among men. He would remove fleas from his clothes, milk his sheep, and serve himself.” (Musnad Ahmad 25662, authenticated by Al-Albani)

8.  Don’t pursue your nawâfil at the expense of your wife’s farâi

One issue that many men fall into is that in their zeal to engage more in ʿibâda, they end up burdening their wives even more – to the extent that she is barely able to pray her five alawât with khushûʿ. Both spouses should encourage and facilitate opportunities for each other to strengthen as Muslims, but mothers of young children especially need their husbands to step up so that they can have the necessary time they need to reconnect with Allah and flourish spiritually. (And no, that doesn’t just mean five minutes here and there.)
Ramadan is a time when this becomes more obvious than ever – for example, many men will go to alat Al-arâwî while leaving their wives to deal with the children, in addition to having cooked ifâr beforehand. On a daily basis, though, go out of your way to facilitate your wife’s ʿibâda and spiritual connection.
Narrated Abû Juḥaifah:
The Prophet ﷺ made a bond of brotherhood between Salmân Al-Fârisi and Abû Al-Dardâ’. Salmân paid a visit to Abû Al-Dardâ’ and found Umm Al-Dardâ’ dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied, “Your brother Abû Al-Dardâ’ is not interested in (the luxuries of) this world.”
In the meantime Abû Al-Dardâ’ came and prepared a meal for Salmân. Salmân requested Abû Al-Dardâ’ to eat (with him), but Abû Al-Dardâ’ said, “I am fasting.” Salmân said, “I am not going to eat unless you eat.”
So, Abû Al-Dardâ’ ate (with Salmân). When it was night and (a part of the night had passed), Abû Al-Dardâ’ got up (to offer the night prayer), but Salmân told him to sleep and Abû Al-Dardâ’ slept.
After sometime Abû Al-Dardâ’ again got up but Salmân told him to sleep. When it was the last hours of the night, Salmân told him to get up then, and both of them offered the prayer.
Salmân told Abû Al-Dardâ’, “Your Lord has a right on you, your soul has a right on you, and your family has a right on you; so you should give the rights of all those who has a right on you.”
Abû Al-Dardâ’ came to the Prophet ﷺ and narrated the whole story. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Salmân has spoken the truth.”   [9]

9.  Learn conflict resolution skills

One big reason that couples end up going to Shuyûkh for counseling is because they simply haven’t learned how to communicate and resolve conflicts in a healthy manner. It’s not even about one specific issue or another; it’s about learning how to deal with whatever issues arise, in the most respectful and appropriate manner possible.  [10]
The Quran and Sunnah urge positive reconciliation between believers, and especially between husbands and wives.
And live with them honourably. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good. [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:19]
And if a woman fears from her husband contempt or evasion, there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement is best. And present in [human] souls is stinginess. But if you do good and fear Allah – then indeed Allah is ever with what you do, Acquainted.  [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:128]

10. Love your wife for who she is

Not because she’s the person who cooks for you or does your laundry. Not because she’s the mother of your child(ren). Not because you’ve settled into routine and you feel comfortable having her around and she knows how to work the coffee maker and where the family’s paperwork is filed. Love her for her. Her personality traits, her talents, her hobbies, the things about her that make her unique.
Notice them, appreciate them, compliment them. Let her know that you don’t just see her as wife or mother, but as an individual on her own. Know that long before she married you, indeed long before she was born to her own parents, she was created as a separate soul – a human being whose primary identity is as a slave of Allah.
And most importantly – let her know that you love her, with all the pride and openness that RasûlAllah ﷺ demonstrated when he was asked, “Who do you love most?” and he responded, simply and beautifully, “ʿÂishah.”   [11]
There are of course numerous other pieces of advice that can be dispensed on the topic – everything from giving gifts to resolving in-law issues to arranging date-nights and so on. However, more important than specific behaviours are the principles behind them – and it these principles which have been highlighted.
In short, Muslim men should strive to match the standards set by RasûlAllah ﷺ when he said:
The best of you are those who are the best to their wives, and I am the best of you to my wives.   [12]
[1] http://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/18/2
[8] http://sunnah.com/bukhari/6/5
[12] Narrated by Al-Tirmidhi, 3895; Ibn Mâjah, 1977; classed as saî by al-Albaani in Saîal-Tirmidhi