Friday, April 21, 2006

Stroke of brilliance

At some point today, I was struck with an excellent idea to write about on my blog. Since then, I have forgotten where I was, when it occurred, and most importantly, what it actually was!

I've been reading a book I really don't like, and I guess I should finish it before I start publicizing such harsh criticism of it because it is really quite popular. But the reasons that I don't like it are what bother me, and what have been bothering me, so I'm going to discuss it anyway, with the full intention of finishing it.

The book is called Towards Understanding Islam and was originally written in Urdu by Sayyed Abul A'la Mawdudi. The foreward states that the purpose was to explain "the fundamentals of Islam to young students and less-educated adults in a simple and straight-forward manner." Now, I am not sure if that means non-Muslims it was written for, or Muslims. Of course now it is distributed as dawah, and I have to admit to the biases I have coming from Christianity. Therein lies my problem, which is over the seemingly obsessive nature in which this book described Muhammad. In fact, it seems to describe Islam as a construct of Muhammad, and that Muhammad is the only reason to follow it! Peace be upon him.

Lately I have given a lot of thought to how I view the Prophet, salallahu alaihi wa salaam, comparing my thoughts now to what they have been in the past. When I first converted to Islam, I still viewed Jesus, as a much higher prophet in status than Muhammad, pbut. Somehow, the status of Jesus, pbuh, had to be lowered; Christians consider him God, after all. But even when I converted I didn't see Muhammad pbuh as much more than the man who delivered the Qur'an. If anyone knew me then, they'll probably remember I rejected the Sunnah, considered it largely unimportant and false. I have come past that, and now view Muhammad, pbuh, as a truly great man and Prophet of God. But I still have to draw the line on calling him the best man who ever lived--because that implies he was better than all the other Prophets and I just can't do that. I can't.

And that is what this book does. Despite that, it has given me a much better understanding about Prophethood in general, and instilled greater respect for all the prophets. However, I think the discussion in this book is adoration on par with worship, directed at Muhammad pbuh himself and not his inspiration. I wonder... did men become Prophets because they were great men, or were they great men because they were Prophets?

I think the latter. That because God had inspired them, and was working through them, they were the best of men. Unfortunately, the way this book seems to be talking about Muhammad, pbuh, is like he were the only Prophet and also that he was so great in and of himself, that he was wise enough to give us the message. That does not jive with my view of prophets at all, because it seems to me that they are great, yes, but given the Message by God--they didn't go out and discover it through their own reflection, but God gave it to them. And because of that, they had greater understanding and could teach about it.

The book just seems to be going further to say that Muhammad pbuh was such a great man, etc., and he taught this and that, and he knew this and that, but not that God had actually inspired him to do this. That conflicting viewpoint has turned me off, but I have to consider whether or not I am wrong in this. And I suppose that will take even more reflection and growth (spiritually) on my part.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The missing rights of women?

I have a dilemma this morning. Last night I heard this imam or sheikh or whatever he was talking at my masjid. His topic was 'The Role of Women in Society.' Overall, I think he did a very poor job, and he's made me question a few things. Early in his lecture he said when people ask him why women have no rights in Islam, he respond with the question, what rights do they not have? And he proceeded to address a few similarities/differences between instructions regarding women in Islam and Christianity and Judaism. I wouldn't say he was especially informed in that regard, personally. He did a brief discussion about exemplary women in the Qur'an, and provided some ahadith about how the Prophet treated his wives. In my opinion, that had absolutely nothing to do with the Role of Women, but is rather the treatment of women--and it was not directed at the mixed-gender audience present, but to male listeners only. I get the impression that many in the audience disagreed with him, I think, as much as I did.

Some of the points he made, which are common in discussions about women, were normal, but he had, in my opinion, a very poor approach. In defense of polygamy, he described a confrontation with a young woman asking about it. He described her attributes, that she was a very attractive young lady, and that no man would man would be ashamed of marrying her. He then suggested that she may, through some accident, scar her beauty (her face) and no longer be attractive. And then, he provided two options for the husband: first, that he divorce her and marry another woman, and second that he keep her and marry another one. In both situations he gravely insulted women in general, by suggesting that beauty, namely on the face, is the only reason for a man to be attracted to a woman, and that if a woman cannot boast such beauty, then she does not deserve a husband to herself. This was a particularly vile way of defending a man's right to marry more than one woman, in my opinion; not false, but vile, despicable. There is a right that a woman has lost--the right to value as a wife greater than her beauty.

In the Q&A session, he brought up another right that he has taken away from women, and that is the right to actually go anywhere. Not only is it haram for women to travel, apparently, it is actually haram to leave their homes without a mahram. For claiming he didn't want to cry haram all night, he said it awfully frequently. Why is this right absent from women in Islam, why are they denied the right to leave their homes? This is my problem with how he presented his entire lecture--women are not people, to be treated with respect or honor, but they are like children, who need constant protection and supervision. So they have gone from property in other cultures, to children in Islam. Women can't go anywhere because it isn't safe, apparently, as though this man has any idea what is safe and not for a woman in this country. Because according to him, it is necessary or a woman to shop, so it is allowed for her to shop without a mahram. However, it is not necessary for her to go to the masjid, so she must go with a mahram. Utter nonsense. How can this man say that the grocery store is safer than the masjid?? The fact of the matter is that it's not, but it seems probably too tedious for a man to have to always shop with his wife or sister or daughter or mother--yes, too tedious--so she may do it alone. But in the masjid? He then suggested that a prayer of a woman is better in her home--a hadith which I mysteriously cannot find. Nor can I find the one saying that a woman leaving her home without a mahram is haram.

Now I know that I'm not a scholar, but I know that women would go to fajr prayer without mahrams to pray with the Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wa salaam, and I know that he told men specifically to not prevent women from going to the masjids. He didn't say, don't prevent them from going, not prevent them from going alone, or go with them so they don't go alone... simply don't prevent them. How could it be haram, then? From a fatwa on islamonline, I read the following summary:

Women in the West go everywhere. They are in the markets, in malls, in restaurants, and in offices. It is ironic that some men allow them to go to all the places of temptation, but they want to stop them from coming to the places where they can pray to their Lord and learn about their faith.

It is ironic indeed that women are permitted to do those other things but not attend the masjid--absolute nonsense, if you ask me, especially in the name of safety and protection. But since all the women around me disagreed with this man, and even some of the men (the ones I could see seemed upset by it as well) I guess I shouldn't worry too much. One sister is planning to ask the imam of this masjid about it, because it seems contradictory to everything he has told them. That is nice.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


This is a rather general overview of my current situation as regarding my family... things are not bright. I emailed it to someone previously, in case any of you, my loyal readers (blush) wonder about the format.

I've recently told my parents about my Islam, and that decision was partly driven by the fact that I donned hijab a month or so ago. While they have little problems with my belief, they abhor the scarf and most of my family doesn't want me to wear it at all around them, no matter where we are.

One is afraid he will have to answer questions about why he knows a Muslim. Another reason is they are afraid the little kids will ask questions they don't want to answer--probably because they aren't able to answer questions about their own faith but that's neither here nor there.

As it is, they say my wearing it is offensive, and a cultural issue that I am adopting that is not part of the religion. How do they presume to know more about it than I, when I've been studying it far longer than they? Besides, I was opposed to it at first too...

But they are threatening to not allow me to have any contact with them if I choose to want to wear it in public. I have sort of acquiesced to their desire I not wear it in their homes, but out in public I think it is degrading that they force me to take it off.

I wish I could explain that to them, what an insult it is, how they are humiliating me!! Argh!!!

Sorry... just needed to get that out!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I want to leave

Leave what?

School? My job? My home? My family? Islam?


It was a wise decision on my part to refrain from telling my parents about my embracing Islam. But wise was not the decision to tell them a few days ago. The respect I have for my family is dwindling--in particular, my mother, my oldest sister, and my brother-in-law. Their behavior is disgusting, their ignorance profound, and their dislike of me most obvious.

Today I was most unfortunate to miss every single prayer. I tried to get up for fajr... slept through my alarm. When I came home around 12:30 I was too exhausted for anything but a nap--too tired even for a shower which I desperately needed after all the work I did this morning. And once again, slept through the prayer time, missing zhuhr. By the time I got up, I needed to take a shower but still piddled around the house for a while trying to build up energy, and really just stay awake. After my shower it was nearly time for maghrib--so I prayed zhuhr. But I really had to get ready to go.

Now, tonight we were having a party for my sister's birthday. I decided not to wear hijab, as I really did not want attention from anyone about it, and of course it would insult more than the few I mentioned above. So in trying to get ready, I didn't have time for 'asr and maghrib, which killed me inside but I missed them anyway. When I arrived at the restaurant, my neices told me that my brothers-in-law had been fighting about me. Presumably, one against and one in my defense though I don't know the story and since it was my sister's birthday, I thought it inappropriate to ask.

I guess it means that my brother-in-law (of my oldest sister Wendy) knows about my Islam, though I don't know who told him. I didn't, and I had asked my sister (Becky, the other one, the first I told) to not tell my other brother-in-law (Thom) even though her husband (Dan) knew. And I had agreed with my parents not to tell Thom, but still...

Now, it's possible the reason he didn't show up for cake and presents after dinner at my sister's house was because the baby needed to go to bed... even though it is antisocial, he frequently does such things. But I still get the impression it was because I wanted to be there. And I wonder if he knows.

I drove back to Becky's house with my mother, and she insists that Islam the religion and the culture in which it is found cannot be separated. But when she refuses to acknowledge any differences therein, I have little to say to her. I really don't want to be part of a family that acts this way, I really don't.

Unfortunately we ended up staying at her house most of the night--doing absolutely nothing! We never stay that late, and despite numerous times I asked to leave, nobody seemed interested in moving an inch from their seats. It was late when we got there--8:30 or 9. 10pm would have been a good time to leave. But we stayed a full two hours after that. I'm in such a sour mood about this. I really wanted to go home and pray, go home and sleep, go home and maybe even do one of the many items of homework I have for this weekend, which I have yet to begin because I had such a busy morning today and since I napped the afternoon. Alas, no. By the time 11:45 around, I refused to sit on the couch and watch my sister play x-box--could there possibly be a less interesting way to waste time? Ugh. I decided to make wudhu and pray. So I prayed 'asr but by the time I was finished my mom and brother were finally ready to go. And then I prayed maghrib and isha at home.

I think the only word to describe me right now is sad. I really don't want anything to do with my family; I want to blame my religion. I want to blame my troubles on Islam, and still I am afraid of things, and doubts enter my mind. I start to not just question parts of the religion but to despise them.

And you know, we lose an hour of sleep tonight... that's just going to make everything better.