Wednesday, March 15, 2006

And now about Islam

The last few days my brother has been home, and we have had some interesting conversations. For two nights we watched 'Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet' which sparked some questions on his part. One night we watched Malcolm X, or most of it.

From the documentary, he had lots of questions about comparing Jesus and Muhammad, and I can't shake in his mind that Muslims see Muhammad the way Christians see Jesus. I'm trying to explain accurate Biblical explanations, but it's mostly lost on him. A few choice issues have come up recently, one of which is pork.

Now, although I can explain how the prohibition of pork exists in Judaic texts, and legitimate reasons for it to be there, my brother has the opinion that the law was only valid for that place/time at which it was revealed. He doesn't see the law as universal--for all peoples, all times. ** Whence do Christians get this idea? ** The answer to that should be very telling, I think. Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law and the prophets, not to abolish them. The law was never abolished. I have had a similar discussion with a man a work--somehow they are insulted that they have to follow laws if they already love God!

In their mind, I think it works like this: God loves us, we love him back. Naturally we try to obey his "suggestions" (not commandments, you see) at keeping law, but if we can't we're okay. The particular laws aren't really that important anyway.

One gave me the analogy: Imagine you got married, and then wrote a post-it note on the refrigerator telling your husband "You can't date any more women!" Analogies sometimes don't hit me very well, because I'm not good with the "imagine" part, but I think his point was that it would be rude for me to actually make a "law" that he would be expected to do anyway. Does that make sense to anyone else? If not, maybe I got it wrong. But if we love God, we wouldn't want to worship other gods... so what's wrong with God telling us not to? Okay. But for more detailed things, we can't expect ourselves to always know what is best for us, others, even mankind... but of God we can expect that, right? So I don't see what is so bad about following his laws!

But if one pretends that the laws in the Old Testament were only for people in the Old Testament, I guess he can assume that those laws don't apply to him. I think it's an easy way of ignoring the laws, but I think a lot of nutty things.

The other conversation I have had with my brother is about hijab. This may come as a surprise (and maybe not) that I really don't believe deep down that hijab (as in, a headcover) is mandated specifically by the Quran. I mean, I'm wearing it, and I still haven't been able to come to that conclusion. I don't want to fuss about whether it is or not, but I'm trying hard to actually find and believe evidence that it is... and I can't, which makes me very ineffective when trying to persuade someone that it is. Of course, the chief objections of my brother are that 1) he finds the headcover more distracting than nothing at all (western haircuts or caps) and 2) he thinks that even if it is mandated, the law doesn't apply today.

Frankly, I don't have the reasons, the evidence, to convince him that covering hair is the extent to which women must be modest. Especially when men are allowed to uncover their chests, which many women find attractive. And more so when he insists that he doesn't find hair as a chief attraction in women. I guess not, since he gets to see boobs and butts and all.

But here is how I see it. You start with a naked woman, and there is no modesty. What must first be covered up? The genitals--sexual organs, so now she has underwear. Then what is the chief attraction? The chest, probably, so you give her a bra. Now we have a woman in a bikini. What is least modest? Probably the amount of skin showing... so start to cover the skin around the hips and chest. So now we have a shirt and maybe some shorts on. What is distracting? The legs. So lengthen the shorts to the knee? Then perhaps the arms and shoulders. When do you get to the hair? When everything else is covered? Because even if the hair has so little significance... it will become primary once shape and skin are mostly covered, right? But then once you cover the hair, there is the face... and there are always extremes.

Now my brother acknowledged that in looking at a woman sexually, primary attractions are first body, then face, then hair. So it's hard to explain why cover hair but not face. Except that perhaps the face loses some sexual appeal without seeing the hair. I mean, how attractive is a bald woman? Does anyone say how great her face is, or do they just notice the absence of hair?

But even if he acknowledges the headcover as a form of modesty, he will still say it is unnecessary because the law is outdated, and does not apply today. I have come to the conclusion that only God through his Messengers can say when his law applies or when it doesn't.

So if someone could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that hijab (headscarf for women) is mandated, i.e., the LAW, then I would be in a much better place to argue that point.

And I try to avoid questions, "Well are you going to go swimming? Will you wear a bathing suit if you go to the lake?" Blah, blah. I say that I'll deal with the issue when it comes--I didn't want to answer these questions when I put on hijab or before, and I don't want to now. Why? Because they are doubt, and they make me question my confidence. They and others are many questions that string out indefinitely as a list of excuses for doing something. I'm bad when it comes to excuses... there are always more excuses to avoid doing something than there are reasons to proceed. The task then is not to answer the questions or counter the excuses, but to let determination grow until it outweighs all doubt. That's how I started to pray, and how I put on hijab. Just put the excuses on the shelf for a while.

But my brother won't do that, so I get these annoying little questions like "Are you going to wear pants all summer?" I wouldn't go to the lake to sit there and cover up in hijab. Normally I would go to "relax" because sitting in the sun has the effect of draining your energy in a very pleasant sort of way... but I think I would simply avoid going, and spare my skin the trouble of freckles and sunburn likely to accompany such an outing.

But when something seems to make hijab impossible (or other aspects of Islam, for that matter), I know some people who are fond of saying...

Where there's a will, there's a way.


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