Monday, July 23, 2007

Mahram-less

The Muslim world takes something for granted, I think.

They take for granted the fact that a woman will have relatives to support and maintain her.

I will repeat one of the most insulting remarks ever said to me, since becoming Muslim, "Well get a mahram!" You'd think that he wouldn't take it for granted--he was a revert like me. Get a mahram. Easier said than done.

When women convert to Islam, their fathers, their brothers, in some cases even their husbands are no longer considered "Islamically" able to represent them. A woman's non-Muslim father may not act as her wali in marriage. The permission of a non-Muslim male relative is not sufficient for a married woman in some places to travel alone. The closed-minded person (who is usually a man) would say, quite simply, that the solution is for the woman to marry, and thenceforth entrust all her rights to her husband. I call it a closed-minded solution for a few reasons: suppose that there is no man who wants to take her as a wife? Or suppose that the only men who do or who she can find she cannot trust based on their behavior.

This is a problem.

It's not a problem with Islam, exactly, at least not in my mind, because I consider Islam to be perfect. It is a problem, however, with Muslims and their faulty and closed-minded interpretation of Islam. They take for granted that a woman would have a mahram, and therefore impose all these restrictions on her--restrictions that a woman in a traditional Islamic situation would not view as restrictions at all. It's the blind application of them to all scenarios which I say makes the mindset behind them closed-minded.

Some problems that I can see are the following:

A married woman who decides to embrace Islam, while her husband does not. The prevailing view today is unfortunately that she must divorce her husband. (BTW, I'm not saying this view is "correct" just it seems to be more mainstream.)

A woman who converts to Islam without mahram is unable to make hajj, or umrah.

A woman who converts to Islam must ask for assistance from a man who might well be a stranger to her in order to act on her behalf in situations of marriage.

According to some, a Muslim woman is not even allowed to leave the home. I call that nothing but foolishness, which is clear because the mufti who says that must immediately begin making exceptions when questioned regarding the situation of a Muslim woman without a mahram. What if she has no way to support herself? What if she has dependents and nobody to support them? What if, what if, what if. All these exceptions would not be necessary, in my mind, if the restrictions on women weren't imposed in the first place.

That women can't leave their home? That they cannot work? Cannot go to the masjid? Who says this, you might ask. Men who belittle the intelligence and value of women, is my answer. When faced with the question of how women are to learn their deen if never allowed outside, they insist that women can go to schools, forgetting that there must be teachers--and they insist on women teachers for women. You see the problem? Yes, it is a problem.

The growing numbers of converts to Islam among women are highlighting these issues, and forcing some long-held opinions (which I might add are not based on clear proof) to be questioned. Islam is not the tradition of the Arabs, the tradition of the Pakistanis, the tradition of anybody at all. Islam is a complete way of life prescribed for us by Allah, exemplified by his Messenger Muhammad saws.

The men who are so weak they feel the need to imprison women physically in their homes, and intellectually in their ignorance, have no right to this deen, no right to the noble scholarship which preceded them. And it is weakness on the park of the men indeed who act this way, and it's high time that the believers stood up and demanded justice.

And it starts with justice for women--and why not justice for the convert women, who found Islam in their solitude and follow it with fortitude devoid of communal familiarity, the women who have no support from husbands, fathers, brothers, the women who can depend only on Allah. There is a lesson in that, I think.

3 comments:

brnaeem said...

Salaam Sr. Amy,

Great Post! You seem to be addressing two issues here - the mistreatment of women and the Mahrem issue.

With regards to the gross mistreatment and inequality, I admit that I'm 4 years removed from the American Muslim scene, but even when I was back in the states, I never sensed such a 'backwards' mentality in our community (Baltimore and Albany). The leaders of those communities never taught the community to restrict or imprison the sisters (the way you mentioned)...that seems like something a FOB Imam might say. :-)

With regards to the Mahrem issue, it is definitely something that needs to be addressed with urgency...moreso than faraway issues such as Palestine or Iraq. Not that those issues aren't important, but our leaders tend to focus too much on them neglecting the more local problems.

I pray that Allah give strength to the sisters who are suffering from these backward mentalities and give us the strength to fix these problems.

WA-
Naeem

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alaicum.

Please contact the real scholars ( "Haqqani" Ulema ) for your questions. If you want to understand Islam alone , the devil (Satan) might try to confuse you.

Besides, please be careful of the Imams for dollar. Those guys will try to get you addicted to a "sanitized " version of Islam which will keep the people under control.

Real Islam is always revolutionary !!It first causes spiritual revolution , then social revolution and finally causes an international revolution defeating the evil empires which might be in many forms.

For your questions, please visit the following links.
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http://islam.tc/ask-imam/index.php
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May Allah keep your feet steady and strong on the highway to heaven.

Amy said...

Walaikum as-salaam

I think you're right--two issues. But mostly it's the mahram issue. You can call it a FOB mentality, that might be right, but I think there are a lot more FOB imams here than we seem to notice. But the problem isn't a local one. The biggest issue that I personally have encountered, or perhaps the most personal of big issues, is the hajj/umrah one, the fact that a woman can't go alone.

Someone recently posted as a comment (which I have not published) on my blog a long list of fatwas from a website that seems to me of somewhat dubious credentials which maintain the "women belong inside the home" mantra, and even attempt to institute it legally. That bothers me immensely, but it's just a website.

I love the imam at my masjid here, for example, who I have never seen wear anything but a thowb, but who is clear in his understanding of Islam as a beautiful faith that seeks to make people better in character, and not by restricting them except from forbidden acts which cause harm. At the same time, we had a visiting "sheikh" a year or so ago who gave a talk about women and their role in society, and asserted that women should stay at home. He wouldn't take questions from the sisters (fancy that!) but the brothers challenged him (alhamdulillah) by offering hypothetical scenarios where a woman lacks other options. It's clear that exceptions must be made--however, there are so many exceptions to be made, I think it indicates a flaw on the part of the rule. And indeed I see it as a rule of men, and not a rule from Allah swt and His Messenger saws.

One beautiful part about Islam is that even people who know nothing about Islam can't be fooled on some aspects... the deen has been preserved in a way. Nobody can start saying there's only 3 prayers a day instead of 5 and actually be taken seriously by the vast majority of Muslims, even lay Muslims. But when it comes to the issues regarding women, what should be such basic knowledge has disappeared into the depths of ancient scholarship, and traditions are taking over.

Much to the detriment of the family unit, I should add, because it is detrimental first and foremost to the woman's spirituality. InshaaAllah I'll write more on this later. A sister I was talking to last night who lived in Saudi for a while gave me some insight into this issue as well.

Jazakallah khair for your comment.