Womanhood, Femininity & Faith: Monthly Reflections

October 9, 2017

Our monthly reflections will serve as a continuation of our 3-day workshop: Womanhood, Femininity & Faith (Nooralshadhili.com): “In modern society, much of what was once sacred about womanhood has been lost in the constant urge to be “equal” to men. This workshop is meant to explore what it means and has meant to be a woman outside of superficial rhetoric that we can “do everything men can do”. We want to explore the distant feelings, voices, contributions and even relationship to God that women have.”

Here are some of the topics we plan to discuss:

Each month we will present a different topic from a social science perspective, Islamic foundation, and societal framework followed by discussion. Each session will run about 2 hours. Here are some of the topics we plan to discuss:

+Seeking Knowledge

+Modesty

+Femininity

+Inspiring Men

+Faith

$100 for the entire year (2018) pay here: http://bit.ly/2yrLGHD

More women are asking: Why should I suffer?

October 31, 2017

Marriage is an institution that forms the foundation of society. Marriage provides order, security, and protection through stable relationships and deep ties to other human beings. Ideally, it also provides love and companionship. But I would never suggest —along with the author of the Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (who painted a grim picture of life after divorce for the products of those broken unions), that anyone should sacrifice their personal happiness in marriage for the greater good of upholding the institution. No one wants to go back in time to a place where women stayed in bad marriages primarily because of the social stigma attached to divorce, this is part of the reason the divorce epidemic becomes a difficult problem to address. On a societal level, divorce is bad (One reason among many, it increases the number of children living in poverty who will then need to rely on government assistance —our tax dollars, see how personal decisions affect the whole?), and we need to address how we can decrease its occurrence, but on an individual level, no one can tell a woman or man who wants to divorce that they shouldn’t. No one knows the individual pain that both parties have suffered and so the decision is theirs alone.

It’s ironic that many magazines, publications, and speakers focus on how a woman can “keep a man,” in reality, there should be more of a focus on men “keeping their women,” since 70% of divorces are initiated by women. Women are often the ones to identify issues in the marriage, initiate resolution and initiate divorce when they feel the time is right. In reflecting on why this might be the case I came to the conclusion that many women may come to a point where they simply ask, Why should I suffer?

Despite the popular depiction of men having to be dragged to the altar, it’s actually men and not women who benefit most from marriage. Married men make more money than their unmarried peers (An average of $16,000 more), “In general, marriage seems to increase the earning power of men on the order of 10 to 24 percent,” as cited in the National Review (1). They also have more and better quality sex than their unmarried peers (51>39). Lastly, they’re healthier than their single male counterparts. Strange enough, the comment section of this National Review article is filled with men regurgitating negative stereotypes about marriage despite having just been given evidence that marriage benefits men… I guess ignorance really is bliss?

But what about women? Well, their health doesn’t seem to benefit, they make less, not more money —not due to a “pay gap” but to the fact that, “women, more so than men, subordinate themselves and their careers to their relationship, their children, and the careers of their husbands.” Along with this, “Women on average do more of the unpaid and undervalued work of households, they work more each day, and they are more aware of this inequality than their husbands. They are more likely to sacrifice their individual leisure and career goals for marriage.” (2)

This is part of the reason why I focus so much on the value of housewifery if you’re a woman who’s not only working but also contributing far more to housework and childcare (while also stalling your own career success to do so), eventually, you may not see much value in marriage. And statistics reaffirm my gut feeling, “Compared to non-working women, those with a full-time job have a 29 percent higher odds of divorce. Women who work more hours are found to have a higher divorce risk.” (3)

Marriage no longer has a unique benefit to women —most men are no longer primary breadwinners while simultaneously not doing an even share of housework and childcare, is it any wonder that once the love is gone, women ask themselves why they should suffer, and find no reason why they ought to? And while children are still a good reason to suffer through a less than satisfying marriage, the social stigma of divorce —even when children are involved, has largely been removed, as Eleanor Holmes Norton puts it quite plainly, “With children no longer the universally accepted reason for marriage, marriages are going to have to exist on their own merits.” If we want to keep this institution alive, maybe there need to be more national conversations on how men can “keep your women,” otherwise women who don’t seem to reap many benefits from marriage will continue to walk away, and that’s bad news for all of us.

Sources:

1— Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It, bit.ly/2lupgha

2— Women are less happy than men in marriage, but society pretends it isn’t true, read.bi/2gVQWyC

3— Working women more likely to seek divorce, ind.pn/2zkoEFD

4— 1 in 5 Women Experience Post-Divorce Poverty, bit.ly/2z1sVuU

Freedom to choose

October 16, 2017

Art by Bobbie Burgers

There’s an old saying that behind every great man is a great woman, I think most of us still believe that but we nevertheless would rather the woman stand for herself instead of behind her man. A lot of what feminists —Muslim feminists included, complain about and fight against are legitimate concerns, but in reality, within an Islamic framework, that fight would cease to exist. In American society, there was a time when women were told they ought to stand behind their man. That the only appropriate role for a woman was that of housewife and mother. That is a deeply limiting view of women and one that should have been —and successfully was, fought against. But it’s a fight that has no relevance in Islam.

In Islam, women are told that within their marriage they must make their bodies available to their husbands, that is the most explicit command. Cleaning the house and cooking are not explicit duties of the wife. As one Islamic teacher explained, “At least in the Shafi’i school… the wife’s primary obligation and role is not taking care of the house, but taking care of herself for her husband to enjoy being with her physically”. While I’m sure there will still be women and non-Muslims who find that responsibility “oppressive,” it is still a lot less restrictive than what was expected of the ideal 1950s American housewife (and less overwhelming than what is expected of the modern wife —that she works full time outside the home, be sexually available to her husband —and still end up taking care of most of the housework and childcare). One cannot simply take the feminist fight to any and every community, sometimes it simply doesn’t apply (Hence my issue with “patriarchy” being seen as a worldwide system that oppresses women and uplifts men). But, it is important to make the point that some Muslim men, some Muslim communities and some Muslim-majority countries will reinforce these narratives of the ideal housewife as if it is part of Islam —some also think wives have to serve the husband’s mothers or that having a daughter is shameful, these are unfortunate cultural attitudes that persist in some Muslim-majority countries despite Islam, not because of it.

As Muslim women we have to realize that our framework is completely different, outside of “conjugal rights” to our spouses, we have a great deal of freedom in choosing our life’s path —in some ways we have more freedom than the men who are charged with making a living to take care of us. This freedom opens a world of possibilities that neither chains us to a particular narrative nor forces us to fight against one. That allows us the freedom to work outside the home, yes —but it also gives us the freedom to be homemakers, to fully embrace either role without force or embarrassment.

And a lot of women would choose to be homemakers if they felt free to do so:

“Working mothers with small children now say they work, “Because I have to.” Why do so many women say that? If we have been freed from oppression and are supposed to be liberated, then how has it come to pass that so many women are forced to do what they do not want.” — Wendy Shalit, Return to Modesty

Islam gave women the perfect framework —freedom to choose homemaking, working outside the home, or something else entirely. We have to stop fighting a fight that isn’t ours. In fact, we have a way out for all women through the lens of Islam.

____

Related: Daniel Haqiqatjou’s (pronounced: Ha-qee-qat-joo) article on feminism, here and my video response, here.

Join our monthly reflections on womanhood, femininity, and faith (starting this November): bythefigandtheolive.com/reflections and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Family Ties

October 2, 2017

A week or so ago my dad, sister and I were talking about the family, not simply our immediate or extended family but our entire lineage as far back as we knew it. My dad held a lot of people in his memory, my sister had done some extensive research. Family trees go something like this, first you pick a parent, then you look at their parents, their parents’ siblings and their parents’ parents, once you look at their parents’ parents and their parent’s siblings you can either briefly avert the ascending order to go down and discuss your parent’s cousins or continue up. We could also simply start with my sister and me’s generation including all siblings and cousins they proceed upward to our parent generation continuously until we get as far as we can, or we can start from my niece’s generation —which would be the youngest generation, explore cousins then move up to parents —essentially start with the youngest, move one up through parents note all peoples (cousins and siblings) of that generation then endlessly move upward in the same manner until memory and research wanes. So there are two things we use when exploring lineage: Relation through marriage and relationship through blood. But what about when the first begins to fall apart?

Looking back at our lineage there were two categories of people that didn’t quite fit, “Outside children” and adopted children. These are only a few instances but they stood out —the first had blood relations but were produced outside of marriage, the second had neither blood nor marriage relations but was chosen to be part of the family for one reason or another. Adopted children, though notable, aren’t alarming. Adopting a child is a noble act whose good deed will always be remembered, however simultaneously it’s understood that though this person is a chosen part of our family they technically aren’t part of our family, they have their own parents, their own siblings and their own roots. But “outside children,” feel like a stain on the family name —a permanent reminder of one person’s misstep, disloyalty, and sin. The mother or father of the child born out of wedlock and not related by blood will more than likely be remembered as a ghostly figure from an incident everyone wants to forget —they conjure up images of a sneaky, deceitful, lying family member whose sin was brought to light through the birth of a child. One incident disrupts the entire family tree.

But “outside children” were an anomaly as far as we know —one or two names could be recalled as ancestors born outside of wedlock. And despite its mark on the family tree, the lineage continues since there was at least still a legitimate family, the “outside child” stands outside of the legitimate family. But what about now? Again, lineage is through two things: Marriage or blood relations. It started in my parent’s generation and to a greater extent in my own generation, blood relations continue i.e. people continue to have children, but creating relations through marriage is nearly disappearing.

One parent’s parent has children out of wedlock, that we still haven’t met. We don’t know who these people are and they remain shadowy figures. On that same parent’s side, all siblings are married, though most had children before wedlock and later married the parent of their children, there is no divorce in that generation, in the following generation (mine) only one has a child out of wedlock with plans to later marry the parent of that child, everyone else is either married with children, married without children, or still single —and two were previously married before their current marriage —one with children from that marriage one without children from the previous marriage. In my other parent’s generation (siblings and cousins), most are divorced or never married, those who are still married with kids are in the minority. In the following generation (mine), of people with children there is an even split between those who are married with children and those who are not married with children (and have never been married, i.e. had children out of wedlock), people divorced with children and people who are single with no children are in the minority.

As I thought about all this I began to conjure up an image in my mind of all these newly nonexistent horizontal relationships, all we have left is vertical. This is how my mind saw it, horizontal is marriage, two people choosing to come together, two people choosing to continue their family lineage together. Two people making a choice to choose each other in the union of marriage that will produce a new generation of children (that is the vertical relationship). Think of how powerful that is? The horizontal (marriage) is the only relationship in our family we get to choose, we don’t get to choose our children, our siblings, our parents, our cousins, Aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. but we get to choose our spouse (which also means actively choosing the person we have children with since many will consider whether or not someone will be a good parent before committing to them in marriage whereas that consideration doesn’t often take place when people have children out of wedlock). And that spouse leads to a connection with an entire lineage of their own. And even more powerful than the individual choice, we bring this person into our entire family, this person becomes —simply through marriage, they become someone’s Aunt/Uncle, Cousin, Granduncle/GreatAunt, Son (in law), Brother (in law), and Nephew (in law). But what about when you simply have a child with someone? That person becomes nothing to no one, s/he is simply the mother/father of that child. More than likely we won’t even remember their names. Admittedly I didn’t have a big wedding myself but I do appreciate what big weddings do, they explicitly bring two families together through the union of two individuals. But even without the big wedding, marriage still holds the same weight, when you get married people rightfully want to know who is this person that you’ve brought into the family —what’s their name and when can we meet them? We don’t take the same interest in the parent of someone’s child not linked through marriage. We take some interest if the family member is in some kind of relationship with that person, but without marriage, we unconsciously note that this relationship isn’t serious enough to take a real interest in —one year they’re at the family gathering, next year they’re not and no one will think much of it. That person was never a part of our family, only the product of their union is. Blood or marriage, nothing else.

In the conversation of marriage, divorce, children out of wedlock, and “outside children” we can’t fail to include the larger picture of ours ascending and descending familial connections, people who never marry or produce children don’t add to our family, people who have children out of wedlock passively add to our family, those who divorce with children break family ties and those who have “outside children” create a black spot on the family name that people would rather ignore. Only the people who marry and produce children through that marriage actively shape the fate of our family.

Is it any surprise then that in many other cultures families involve themselves in choosing the spouses of younger generations —that they want a say in the shaping of their family? It’s also why divorce, out of wedlock births and “outside children” are taken so deeply personal by every family member (dishonor, disgrace, shameful), in reality, they’re not the ones in err, we are for not realizing how impactful marriage is for the entire family.

One of my uncle’s recently remarked at a family gathering how important education was to our family. His parents were educated, instilled education in him and his siblings and they instilled education in us. Looking around the room at our family we could all feel proud of our educational backgrounds, some with college degrees and others in the process. For at least three generations the importance of education was actively instilled in our family, we already know the importance of having intergenerational values yet somehow forgot to pass on the importance of creating a family in and of itself.

There have been black families in the U.S. that actively decided —generation after generation, only to marry light skin people. This wasn’t internalized racism, this was a matter of survival. Back then and there are still remnants of it now, having lighter skin could not only give you better opportunities, it could save your life. And so they preserved their light skin, in order to protect their family.

Kings and Queens have, for time immemorial, only married other people of royalty. Not because there weren’t beautiful kind people among non-Royalty but because they wanted to continue the legacy of royalty for their entire family lineage.

Many of the prophet’s marriages, peace and blessing to him, actively linked together warring tribes —in one such marriage immediately after his marriage every single bondsman from the tribe of his new wife was freed. His cooled tensioned between the tribes and linked them together for all time to come.

Black Muslims often view the Pakistani imperative for their children to become doctors and lawyers and only marry Pakistani doctors and lawyers with disgust. Yet, however racist or elitist it may be, at least they understand what exactly the point of marriage is —actively choosing who becomes a part of your family and making an effort to shape their family as they choose.

Black people in particular and slowly American society at large, have forgotten what marriage is for and what it can do. Marriage creates a family, people who are a part of your family through marriage are the only members you get to choose. So why are we so mum on this issue? Why are we passing up the opportunity to create the family we want? Why don’t we have a vision for the kind of family we’d like to create? That doesn’t mean adopting the ways of Kings or discriminating cultures, but it does mean taking family very seriously. That starts with ourselves, we can continue to talk about how “unrealistic” abstinence before marriage is -for instance, or we can begin to understand how damaging having children out of wedlock is, not merely to the products of that union but to our entire family lineage. We need to understand how grave a mistake it is to not actively establish a family instead of passively having one (having children out of wedlock), and we need to think about what exactly our contribution to the families going to be.

When we discuss the breakdown of the family in the Black community and society at large we can’t forget the magnitude of what that means. We are failing to actively create our families we are failing to shape our future —we’re failing to even have a vision for what we might want it to be. Passively adding to the family instead of actively establishing a family is a dishonor on the entire family —immediate and intergenerational, precisely because the one who does so passes up a powerful opportunity to shape our legacy. We need to instill intergenerational values in our families —like education, honesty, and hard work, but the most important thing we can instill is the value of family itself. We should tell future generations to find someone out there in the world that will add value to their lives, a positive contribution to your entire family, and someone whose family would greatly benefit our own.

When we talk about what we want in a spouse we should be focused primarily on the things that will have a positive lasting impact on generations to come. If we considered the reality of our interconnectedness as a family we’d think twice before stepping out on our spouse or engaging in pre-marital sex, really wouldn’t seem worth it. The reason so many people are divorced, having children out of wedlock or outside of one’s marriage is that we’ve made marriage into a selfish act that is solely concerned with the happiness of two people but that was and never will be the reality. It’s no wonder God calls divorce the most hated of allowed things —there is a need for it, sometimes things just don’t work out but the destruction it causes becomes perfectly plain when you consider the consequences on the entire immediate family, extended family, and generations to come. And it’s no wonder one of my shuyukh compared a child being born out of wedlock to death itself if we could see long-term fruits of its destruction we’d run away from it quicker than we’d run from a blazing fire.

We don’t have to refine our marriage choices as much as Kings and Queens do, nor do we have to engage in honor killings to understand the grave importance of marriage selection and reserving one’s virginity until after marriage. All we have to do is think about the family tree, what would we like it to look like? Do we want our lineage filled with vertical lines of child to parent but missing the horizontal lines that should go from husband to wife? Do we want our descendants to have second-hand shame because distant relatives didn’t honor their marriage? Do we want there to be a ton of blurry parental figure whose names we don’t know because they and our relatives never married? And do we want broken horizontal lines from failed marriages? And though it is no sin to remain unmarried and childless, do we really want no part in shaping the family lineage? Our lineage, these vertical and horizontal relationships, are the very core of who we are. We have complete control over the latter —so why aren’t we using it?

A walk down honesty lane: Consensual illicit relationships in the Muslim community

September 26, 2017

I’ve discussed the issue of shaykhy crush/fangirling from both the student and teacher’s perspective before and as much as many seem to enjoy creating villains and victims I don’t think most of these cases are as clear-cut as people would like to pretend they are. A victim is someone who is preyed upon, a villain (predator) is someone who preys upon others. The problem is most of these relationships are quite murky and don’t fit into this clear-cut victim-villain/prey-predator dynamic. In some ways I think people already know this. But newer definitions of what exactly a victim (prey) is, causes us to view even consensual relationships through the prey-predator prism.

It should be clear that a relationship merely being consensual doesn’t make it halal. At the same time, a relationship being haram doesn’t equal it being predatory. Nevertheless, many still categorize shuyookh as predators and their behavior as predatory in consensual illicit relationships. This is because they believe the uneven power dynamics in these relationships to be inherently harmful. The activist wing in and outside of the Muslim community believe that women can be victims even in a consensual relationship especially if the man is in a position of power. If a consensual haram act takes place between a sheikh, imam, or celebrity scholar and his female student he becomes the predator and she the prey. He used his power to tantalize her into a secret marriage, emotional relationship, degrading social (media) exchanges, and the like. I understand this narrative and for the most part, I geared towards until very recently. I understand the comfort a woman can take in portraying herself —both to herself and to the public, as a victim and the man as the evil sheikh. The problem is, it very often isn’t the whole truth. If women were completely transparent about these situations, they would admit to often being just as culpable as the men.

While it’s fair to say the one with more knowledge deserves more blame, it doesn’t take years of Islamic studies to know the basics of right and wrong. But what’s also problematic is the fact that quite often these relationships enter into a “grey area” without ever crossing any technically haram boundaries. For instance, what are we to think when a leader is accused of “spiritual/emotional abuse”? What does that mean and how do we deal with that as a community? Is a shuyookh “predatory” if he entertains marriage proposals from his students? Is it problematic for a female student to “offer herself” in marriage to her teacher? Is it an abuse of power if he accepts? I don’t know that there are explicit answers to these questions and I don’t know that its fair for our shuyookh to be labeled as predatory in any of these scenarios.

Yes, it may be true that a woman leaves one of these relationships feeling used and abused but it’s probably also true that the relationship was not one-sided, while it lasted it’s doubtful that the women in these scenarios didn’t enjoy the attention and special treatment that being around the sheikh permitted. The problem with seeing one’s self as solely a victim is that it alleviates one from responsibility, it creates a false picture whereby the woman is just an innocent party something happened to and not an adult with agency fully able to choose to engage or disengage in that relationship. It important to understand how difficult it is to get out of a relationship with a “power” man, but difficult doesn’t equal impossible and it’s in the difficult situations that we get to test our moral character. Even if you put most of the moral obligation on the man, the woman still has her part to play.

I also question the categorization of these relationships as predatory because I question whether or not an uneven power dynamic is an inherently negative thing. In some ways I agree with this stance because those in power over others naturally have an opportunity to oppress them through that power —if the man is more knowledgeable than she can be manipulated by him because of her lack of knowledge, if he is wealthier than her she can be oppressed through her dependence on his wealth, if he is her teacher she may fear bad grades if she doesn’t cave to his will, if he’s her boss she may fear being fired if she doesn’t do what he wants, if he is the community leader she may fear isolation if she doesn’t give in to his demands, and on and on. As real and as dire as this power dynamic is, it bypasses something more fundamental that we all intuitively know —women (often) desire to be with men who have a higher status (greater power) than themselves.

When things go bad it’s easy to blame the power dynamic and to categorize the more powerful person (the man) as a predator and the less powerful (woman) as a victim —for instance, once the secret marriage is in shambles it’s easy to say the sheikh forced her into such a union but the reality may be that she was willing to bypass her wali and agree to the marriage because she desperately wanted a part of the perceived power this sheikh possessed. If we’re honest with ourselves as women —despite society deeply desiring our dishonesty, we sometimes do crazy things to be with powerful men. Whether it’s the fangirls sneaking backstage to be close to their favorite musician or the fangirls sending secret messages to their favorite shuyokh “offering themselves” for marriage, many of us have a thing for powerful men and will do a lot of crazy nonsense to be around them. To pretend as if we don’t actively participate in pursuing these relationships is disingenuous and frankly, infantilizing.

None of this means men in power don’t bear the brunt of responsibility —they do (with great power comes great responsibility), and no man who engages in unIslamic characteristics should be put forth as a leader —we can do better than to have leaders who engage in blatantly haram or questionable activity especially involving the opposite sex, but it doesn’t do us any favors if we as women continue to play the victim game. Your Islamic knowledge is your responsibility and Allah gives us all an inner conscious to guide us in questionable situations. To pretend as if the women who get involved in these relationships don’t know —for instance, that zina is haram, secret marriages are questionable, sending illicit picture is a bad idea, etc. is to say that women are somehow desperately ignorant of the religion and should be treated like children who don’t know even the basics, that’s insulting and I have a hard time believing it’s anywhere near the truth.

This essay isn’t meant to overlook the actions of the shuyookh, men who behave like that or who constantly draw suspicious attention to themselves through questionable actions don’t deserve to be our leaders. But can we stop treating women like damsels in distress? Even if we put 90% of the onus on men when these relationships are consensual there are no victims and villains, just a lot of sinful folks in need of repentance.

May Allah restore our adab and give us guidance in this increasingly “grey” world.
______

What is lawful is evident and what is unlawful is evident, and in between them are the things doubtful which many people do not know. So he who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honor blameless, and he who indulges in doubtful things indulges in fact in unlawful things, just as a shepherd who pastures his animals round a preserve will soon pasture them in it. Beware, every king has a preserve, and the things God has declared unlawful are His preserves. Beware, in the body there is a piece of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt, and hearken it is the heart.” (Muslim, 1599)

[To note: I hope it’s completely obvious to any Muslim that in the case of non-consensual relationships we get the secular law involved. If anyone (especially among our leaders) is known to be involved in or in serious suspicion of committing domestic violence, molestation, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, etc., they should be prosecuted and punished in a court of law, as one sheikh said, “If someone acts like a kafir, treat them like one”.]

Q & A: Is African American style unIslamic?

September 4, 2017

Assalam Alaykum Dear Sister,

I pray this email finds you in the best of Iman and health.

I wanted to have your opinion on how can we reconcile the African American experience and the one of the Traditional Black Muslim experience?

The reason why I say this is because I find that whenever African American Muslims talk about their culture and how they wear hijab as African American Muslims, I see a lot of makeup and tight clothes: (I understand that this is an issue in all communities, as Muslim women we struggle with modesty. However, I was asking myself how can we work together to have more Ustadha and Black Muslim female scholars with the proper understanding of modesty and Islam.*

Jazakala Khair

E.M.

__________

Waalaykum Asalam Dear Sister,

I pray this response reaches you in the best of states. Thank you for such an important question and I pray Allah (SWT) blesses me to advise you and myself in the correct manner. First let me say, I know what you mean. Wanting to be a good Muslim and not wanting to lose one’s culture is something many of us face. And surprisingly it’s not only a convert issue, even Muslims born into Muslim families in Muslim majority countries can struggle to wean out some unIslamic aspects of their culture from purely Islamic practices. But since your question is about the black Muslim community specifically, let’s talk about us.

What is clothing typical of black culture? My mind conjures up images of hoop earrings, bomber jackets, gold teeth, perms, fitted hats, baggy jeans, timberlands, and Nike sneakers —I assume it’s the same for you? I’d also include dashikis, gold chains, head wraps, long weaves, fake nails, braids and more recently —natural hair in a myriad of forms. A few days ago on my commute; I smiled observing the various hairstyles of the black women around me, you’d be hard pressed to find a community that takes more pride in their hair and is so imaginative with style than our community. I’ll also admit that there were times I felt I was missing out on the black experience by covering my hair —with my hair covered, I wasn’t able to be culturally in sync with the women of my community. It’s true that in some significant ways we as African American Muslims have to leave bits of our culture behind if we hope to properly practice our Deen.

But again, that is not exclusive to us, any honest Turkish, Saudi or Pakistani Muslim will tell you there are parts of their culture that are unIslamic and the more devoted to God they are the more they steer clear of those conflicting aspects of their culture. But what unfortunately happens far more often is African Americans being told that our culture is uniquely blasphemous and we must leave it behind. We are told —for example, that rap music is haram in totality by the same people who have no problem listening to the music of their own culture no matter the content. I don’t believe that to be true or fair.

In order to remove ourselves from aspects of our culture that may be in conflict with our faith, we have to first learn something about our faith -let’s look at the example of music for a moment. It’s true that music is considered completely haram in some schools of thought and not so in others, nevertheless listening to “pull the trigger shoot the nigger” music, as my dad would characterize (some) rap music, should obviously not be the theme song of any believer’s life. The same formula applies to clothes –what specifically does God ask of us? Does He ask us to dress like an Arab or say that their clothes are superior? No, not at all. The cultural dress we choose is up to us but the guidelines are clear as to what that dress should be. The prophet (peace to him) tells us to cover everything but our hands and face (and feet according to some), Fiqh further clarifies by telling us this clothing should be loose and opaque. With that being clear in our minds it should be easy for us to figure out how we can fit our style and culture into the confines of God’s law. On the issue of makeup, all I can say is that I’ve been given different opinions (here’s one) on the issue -most of which have not looked upon it favorably. Common sense should tell us there’s a huge difference between a cat eye and red lipstick and more neutral makeup that hides flaws and slightly enhances features.

It’s apparent that nevertheless staying within the confines of God’s law won’t be easy for many —and we all suffer moments of discomfort especially in a society (and within our specific culture) that does not often support or promote modesty. For some covering their hair will be the biggest issue for others covering their chest or their arms or their necks, etc. I’d say to all of us what I said to my Muslim convert students over three years ago; do the best you can. Too many of us see modesty as a zero sum game. Over the years I’ve seen so many women go from being completely modest (covered from head to toe) to being completely immodest (cleavage bearing, arms, and legs showing, etc.) and I’ve thought, maybe if they understood the ruling on modesty more clearly they’d try their best and not give up completely when things get difficult. If a woman feels more comfortable wearing a head wrap than a scarf that drapes over her head and covers her neck and chest, it’s better she do than take off the scarf completely.

I don’t believe we need to abandon our culture, there are beautiful aspects of African American culture including the way we dress that we can and should keep if we choose. But we should remember that Islam overrides any aspect of culture, so when the choice is between the two we should always choose the former.

And God knows best,

Nuriddeen Knight

E.M.’s question was edited slightly for clarity*

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[If you’d like to ask me a question or hear my opinion on a particular issue feel free to inbox: m.me/Knight.Nuriddeen]

Tuning out the kids

August 21, 2017

In 1965, mothers spent a daily average of 54 minutes on childcare activities, while moms in 2012 averaged almost twice that at 104 minutes per day. Fathers’ time with children nearly quadrupled — 1965 dads spent a daily average of just 16 minutes with their kids, while today’s fathers spend about 59 minutes a day caring for them.

Parents fifty years ago spent less time with their kids than parents today. That’s a bit surprising since it was more likely for a mom to stay at home back then and people, in general, worked fewer hours, yet somehow parents didn’t use their extra time back in the day to spend with their kids.

How is it that parents spend more time with their kids today than in the past? And how is it that increased parental involvement -which usually means better outcomes for kids, has occurred in the same time period in which childhood psychopathology has increased? From a basic human point of view, the more scarce time is the more you’ll try to jam pack into it. So maybe precisely because parents have less time, in general, they attempt to spend that extra time with their children.

Then there’s the fact that these days a lot of marriages end in divorce. The time that you might have allotted to your spouse now gets allocated to kids. But there’s also something else -people are quite afraid to let their kids be kids.

In today’s world, the idea that you’d simply let your child go outside and play is losing traction. Going outside to play has been replaced with organized activities and accompanying parents, hanging out with neighborhood kids has been replaced with organized play dates and accompanying parents.

And this may also answer my secondary inquiry -could it be that in our modern environment children are increasingly being treated like adults and therefore once innocent childlike behaviors are seen as serious cause for concern? Maybe a part of preserving childhood is the adult’s ability to tune out children. Kids are noisy, weird, a bit too talkative and a myriad of other characteristics that aren’t acceptable for adults. But if we give them a bit of space the kinks will probably work themselves out.

Bipolar disorder -a mood disorder in which you move between euphoria and depression, changed is diagnostic qualifications for kids in the 1990s to include children who had highs and lows in a matter of minutes -instead of weeks at a time as diagnosed for adults. Unsurprisingly this led to an increase in the disorder being diagnosed in children and them subsequently being prescribed medication for it, yet the behavior -going from crying one minute to being elated the next, isn’t new in children -but the way we view it is.

ADHD is another questionable disorder that has had a dramatic rise in children -kids not being able to pay attention for very long is nothing new. The adults viewing the children and their environment is what’s new, kids are still just kids. Maybe -and this feels ironic to say as someone who undoubtedly supports stay at home moms, especially in the early days of childhood, it might be said that one skill needed in in all caregivers is the ability to tune kids out. Maybe we need to spend less one on one time with them -while still being available, so we’re not so stressed out by their mood swings that we go to the nearest doctor to medicate them.

And it’s also true -though I won’t expand on it much now, that our environments have changed too dramatically and become far too unfriendly for children. Maybe we ought to forget spending more money on computers in the classroom and instead invest that money into playgrounds. It’s not normal for children to have the pressure of adults hovering over them so often and increasingly have little time to just be kids, use their imagination, explore their surroundings and have some screen free fun.

 

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Want to learn more about childhood and society? See my upcoming course, here: nooralshadhili.com/childhoodandsociety

Thought crimes of a concerned citizen

August 15, 2017

Unsurprisingly the word “bigot” was thrown my way after writing last week’s post about liberal attitudes towards transgender people. In one sense it’d be fair if I assumed the person who thought that insult appropriate couldn’t have possibly read my entire essay –but I’m not that naive. If homosexuality or transgender(ism?) is questioned in even the most thoughtful of manners people will assume that you are only dressing up your hatred. As I heard someone say, some time ago, “Why don’t you just admit it, you think homosexuality is gross”. Who knows, maybe that’s true, but even if it were true, arguments deserve to be defeated by counter arguments not merely by accusations concerning the beliefs and character of the arguer.

Yet something more than that concerns me when even an inquiry into the LGBTQ movement or why someone might choose that lifestyle is shunned the shunners are also doing some dressing up of their own. Their acceptance is only a dress up for their apathy, it’s to say I’m not interested in why you are the way you are because I don’t care so let me instead pretend as I “accept” you. When in reality, I couldn’t’ care less about you –which is why I’m not interested in hearing your story.

I recall sitting in a class in grad school where we were discussing the case of a promiscuous homosexual man. I brought up what I thought was an obvious point but had thus far been ignored in the conversation, which was to inquire as to whether or not this man being abused as a boy –by an older man, and his father being promiscuous (with women) might not have led to his current behavior.

The professor began to agree with me before quickly stopping himself and saying we shouldn’t “pathologize homosexuality”, discussion over -I’d committed the thought crime of going against the “born this way” ideology by suggesting that past events could affect current behavior-which would have been an acceptable line of thought on almost every other topic except sexuality.

So whether a man has become homosexual in connection with being abused as a child or a woman is promiscuous in connection with being raped as a teenager, we’ll never know –and no I’m not suggesting a simplistic  if x, then y explanation for all sexual behaviour –human being is far more complicated than that, but if we’re not even allowed to ask those questions -who does that serve? And how accepting we you really if we don’t even care to know.

Commentary: If “Transwomen are women” what do they have to “reveal”?

August 8, 2017

Liberals have been pushing the idea that, “transwomen are women” anyone who —daringly or mistakenly, “misgenders” them ought to be ready for the wrath that will ensue. Transwomen are women (they say). Youtube channels like Queer Kids, in fact, encourage us to ask strangers what pronoun they’d like to be called in the same way we’d ask someone what their name is. Gender is no longer an obvious link to biological sex, it is whatever anyone feels themselves to be. They’ve so beaten this idea into us that even conservatives politely refer to Caitlyn Jenner as “she”.

So those of us on the outside of their movement are particularly baffled by the score of articles and arguments from liberals that a transperson not “revealing” their trans identity would be deception. The heart of the backlash came after an article entitled, No, I Don’t Have To Tell You I’m Trans Before Dating You by Tiffany Berruti. In the article Berruti explains that many cis people (their term for men and women who align their gender with the sex they’re born in to, i.e. us regular folk) believe a transperson to be “lying” (her quotes) or deceptive when a transperson does not reveal that information. She states:

“Their argument is that they aren’t not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren’t attracted to. The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn’t be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren’t attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren’t attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.”

According to liberal logic, she’s right. If Caitlyn Jenner is a woman just like any other woman —as liberals insist, if trans women are women, then what exactly is a transperson to “reveal”. According to liberal logic a trans woman is just as legitimately a woman as I am. Now the same liberals who chant “transwomen are women” simultaneously purport that a transwoman who doesn’t tell her date that she is trans is deceptive? That’s mind numbing. They either are a real woman or they’re not. If they are, then straight liberal men should have no problem dating them. If they aren’t, well deception would be an accurate description of their behavior when they don’t reveal their identity. Not just in dating but when they use bathrooms, go in to dressing rooms or attend “women only” events. You can’t have it both ways, they’re either real women and should be treated as such in every aspect of their life or they’re men playing dress up and consciously deceiving everyone they do not reveal their identity to.

As I wrote in my article on transgender people some time ago:  

“I will concede that I find something quite insulting about the entire phenomenon. It is an insult to the other sex to think that by “dressing like them,” “talking like them,” or claiming to “feel like them,” you can therefore be them. Being a man is about more than wearing a suit, and being a woman is about more than putting on makeup.”

A trans woman dating a man without revealing her full identity is deceptive precisely because transwomen are not women, it’s unfortunate liberals are too busy deceiving themselves to admit it.

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“Let him make the living, and you make life worth living”

August 1, 2017

Decided to make a video today discussing one of my favorite books, Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. I read this book quite a few years ago -before getting married and now I’m rereading it. The book is such a powerful reminder in a society that urges us to be “gender neutral”, that there are values that solely woman can add to a marriage if they so choose. I’m excited to read this book and inshAllah put a lot of what she says in practice in my own marriage. If you haven’t read the book yet, purchase below and take a listen to my reflection (Watch in HD for better quality). And maybe reflect on this, are there different and even better ways women can add to their marriages besides an extra income?

Purchase the book here: Fascinating Womanhood Publisher: Bantam; Updated edition

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