YouTube isn’t for Muslim women

 

97F7DAA7-DB84-4194-918A-F93A2629688CRecently, I came across a YouTube video which was about Muslim female vloggers. It claimed these women, by making vlogs on make-up and clothing were directly disobeying a verse from the Quran. I have heard the same verse used many times by ‘scholars’ to propagate that a Muslim woman

 

-Must stay at home unless there is a real necessity to come out (i.e. must not have a job outside the home).

-Cannot wear make-up outside her home

-Must be completely shrouded so only her eyes are uncovered

-If she must leave the house, a male companion will accompany her

 

However, as I’m sure you’ll know, many people repeating the same mantra does not make the mantra a truth.

 

Let’s take a look at the verse. It is from Surah Al Ahzaab, verse 33:

 

وَقَرْنَ فِى بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلاَ تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَـهِلِيَّةِ الاٍّولَى وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَوةَ وَءَاتِينَ الزَّكَـوةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُـمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيــراً

 

And stay in your houses, and do not Tabarruj yourselves like the Tabarruj of the times of ignorance, and perform the Salah, and give Zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah wishes only to remove the Ar-Rijs from you, O members of the family, and to purify you with a thorough purification.

 

Above is the common translation of the verse and the English translation is a direct reflection of what the ‘scholars’, for centuries now, have been interpreting the verse to mean. An interpretation tainted with deeply embedded misogyny and a need to control women. Yet, despite the layers of distortion and misguidance, the truth remains; The Quran holds the key to true understanding.

 

Firstly, if you loot at the verse before this one in the Quran, you will clearly understand these words are directed towards the wives of the Prophet. Secondly, the word (an imperative verb)  ‘قَرْنَ’  is interpreted as ‘Stay’ when its root ‘وقر’ is in fact the same for the noun used in Surah Nuh, verse 13:

 

مَّا لَكُمْ لَا تَرْجُونَ لِلَّهِ وَقَارًا

 

What is the matter with you, that you do not hope for any majesty/dignity from Allah?

 

Hence, the true meaning of this part of the verse is ‘Dignify yourselves in your homes’.

 

Now, the meaning of ‘tabarruj’ is of paramount importance. It is often transliterated like this because many ‘scholars’ who studied the Quran did not have a definitive meaning for it but instead offered the opinions of other ‘scholars’ as possible interpretations. Yet, the answer, I believe is there if your mind is open enough.

 

In Surah An Noor, verse 60, Allah (using the same term ‘tabarruj’, in a different form) states:

 

وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَآءِ الَّلَـتِى لاَ يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحاً فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَن يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَـتِ بِزِينَةٍ وَأَن يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُنَّ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عِلِيمٌ

 

And the Qawa`id among women who do not hope for marriage, it is no sin on them if they discard their clothing in such a way as not to be those who do tabarruj/show their adornment. To refrain from tabarruj is better for them. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.

 

Interestingly, here the ‘scholars’ have defined ‘tabarruj’ as ‘showing their adornment’ and correctly so. This would also correlate with the verse in Surah An Noor (31) which clearly outlines how and when exactly a Muslim woman should cover.

 

Now, going back to our initial verse (Surah Al Ahzaab, verse 33), ‘tabarruj’ means ‘not to show what Allah has told you to cover’. So, the translation of verse should read as the following:

 

‘And dignify yourselves in your homes and do not show of yourselves what Allah commanded you to cover, like women did in the times of ignorance…’

 

In other words, be dignified, honour yourself by only uncovering/showing your body in your home and do not be immoral by doing such outside. The two statements are one command. It is like saying, ‘Don’t consume margarine and use butter instead’.

 

This is further supported by sayings of the Companions about shamelessness and nudity when people would circumbulate the ka’ba naked. The collection of Bukhari, for example, offers the following:

 

Narrated Abu Huraira: “In the year prior to the last Hajj of the Prophet when Allah’s Apostle made Abu Bakr the leader of the pilgrims, the latter (Abu Bakr) sent me in the company of a group of people to make a public announcement: ‘No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year, and no naked person is allowed to perform Tawaf of the Ka’ba.’

 

In summary, the verse in Surah Al Ahzaab, despite being quoted by many – as evidence for the many things a woman cannot do, was in fact a simple command for the wives of the Prophet to dress appropriately or morally as defined by Allah in the Quran.

 

The reality is as Albert Einstein is quoted to have said. ‘Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.’ Yet, with the light of the Quran to guide us, as Muslims, we have no excuse.

When Biology becomes destiny for Muslim women

1BCFA7EF-724D-4359-96A6-61AA3CD1A793Biology becomes destiny.

Well, almost.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with the news these past few months (i.e. Harvey Weinstein, salaries in Hollywood, and here at the BBC), you know that it is becoming glaringly obvious (if it wasn’t already) that women are deemed as lesser by the wider world (to different extents and in various ways, obviously depending upon where you live). The Muslim world takes this even further.

 

One of the ways in which this manifests itself is when Muslim men view women as a ‘trial’. This trial is one of sexual temptation, an allurement towards evil. The male Muslim clergy advise that men must be careful to lower their gaze, to marry if possible, to fast, and so on in order to curb the effects of this ‘trial’. So, women are not only lesser, they are a path to evil, the bad to the man’s good, yin to his yang.

 

This belief has led to Muslim women being forced to cover from head to toe in Persia and the Middle East. Even in the West, a Muslim woman is treated as spiritually inferior, kept separate in mosques, and even stopped from going out of the house lest she lead some poor male soul to distraction on her way to the local supermarket.

The incorrect idea that women are a ‘trial’ because of their sexual appeal comes from the misunderstanding of the hadith in Bukhari when the Prophet said,

” مَا تَرَكْتُ بَعْدِي فِتْنَةً أَضَرَّ عَلَى الرِّجَالِ مِنْ النِّسَاءِ “ 

 

The usual translation is, “I have not left behind me any fitnah (temptation) more harmful to men than women.”

 

‘Fitna’ is the key word here. It appears in the Quran many times so it is easy to check if it has been translated correctly. Here are just two examples.

 

(وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلاَدُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَأَنَّ اللّهَ عِندَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ (8:28

 

‘and know that your worldly goods and your children are but a trial, and that with God there is a tremendous reward.’

 

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انقَلَبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةَ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ

(22:11)

 

And there is, too, among men many a one who worships God on the border-line [of faith]: thus, if good befalls him, he is satisfied with Him; but if a trial assails him, he turns away utterly, losing both this world and the life to come: this, indeed, is a clear loss.

 

From these verses, you can see ‘Fitna’ does indeed mean ‘trial’ or ‘test’ but it has a generic meaning. There is no temptation or sexual connotation. It is not a case of mistranslation. Rather, the issue here is one of misunderstanding and the sexist culture within which such ahadith are interpreted.

 

What the Hadith is stating is that women are the greatest trial men have. The trial or test is in how they treat them. Is it a relationship of oppressor and oppressed or one of mutual co-operation and respect? Are Muslim men faring well in this trial when many Muslim women are amongst the most oppressed in the world? I think the evidence speaks for itself.

 

The clergy have attempted to make biology destiny for Muslim women and almost succeeded. However, when we reduce women like this to their sexuality, stripping them of what makes them human – their intellect and reason, we also at the same time reduce men to sexual predators and a sum of their desires.

 

In my opinion, that’s a lose-lose situation for us all. For how can we attain our best as individual Muslims and as a community if our opinions of each other are so lowly. The only way now is up and towards the actual evidence of the religion.

To fast or not to fast?

7705E6AB-C9E7-4758-BBB5-CAACC5E1D7EEWith Ramadan not too far, I thought I’d write about fasting for pregnant and breast feeding women. There are a variety of actions taken by Muslim women – some choose to fast, others don’t in Ramadan but make up the fasts later. Some pay the fidya (‘a small amount of money expiating for each fast missed’) while a minority do both (make up those fasts later and pay the fidya).

 

Why the different actions?

 

The answer is one word. ‘Scholars’.

 

The Muslim male dominated clergy have different opinions and for many a Muslim woman, the action she takes this Ramadan is determined by whose opinion she decides to follow.

 

The religion is clear on the matter.

 

We look first to the Qur’an for evidence. Surah Al Baqarah has verses 183 & 184.

 

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَتٍ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

 

These translate to read – ‘ Oh you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so you may increase in Taqwa.’ (183). ‘Fast for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, feed a Miskin (i.e.poor person). So whoever pays, it is good for him. And that you fast is GOOD (often translated as ‘better’) for you if only you know.’ (184).

 

According to verse 184, there are 2 groups;

 

1. Those who are sick (i.e. Whose health has changed from well to unwell) and anyone travelling makes up the fasts after Ramadhan.

 

2. Those who would fast with difficulty. The word in Arabic ‘yuteequnahu’ (in bold above) means when you can ‘bear/tolerate something’. So these people could fast but it may harm them either immediately or in the longer term. This group pays the fidya (i.e. feed a poor person for every fast they have missed).

 

So, which group do pregnant and breastfeeding women fall into?

 

Some ‘scholars’ put breastfeeding and pregnant women into the first group because they claim it is a temporary condition so the fasts should be made up after Ramadan. Others claim it is the second group and if women feel fasting will harm them or their baby, they can miss the fasts and pay the fidya. The third faction err on the side of caution and state these women are in both groups mentioned in the verse and hence must make up the fasts and pay the fidya!

 

This is puzzling as there is a hadeeth from the Prophet (sallalahu alahi wa Salam) narrated by Anas bin Malik al Ka’abi which states, ‘Allah relieved the traveller from half of the prayer and relieved the pregnant woman and the suckling woman from fasting.’

Collected by Abu Dawud & Tirmidhi (who said it’s chain is hasan/good) and Sheikh Albanee authenticated it more recently giving it Saheeh status.

 

We also have evidence from the companions;

 

Ibn Abbas upon seeing seeing his servant girl who was pregnant/suckling said, ‘you do not observe the fasting, you pay the fidya and you do not need to make up the fasts.’ (From Abu Dawud & cited by At Tabari in his tafseer).

 

Ibn Umar when asked by his wife when pregnant if it was possible not to fast, said ‘Do not fast, feed a poor person for each day and do not make up the fasts’. (Ad Daraqutni).

 

These answer the question without any doubt. Breastfeeding and pregnant women belong in the second group. They do not fast but pay the fidya instead.

 

Now, going back to the verse above, English translations usually fail to convey the complete and beautiful meaning of the words which only come through in the original Arabic. The Lord is telling us there is good in both actions. Good for those who make up the fasts (due to temporary sickness or travel) AND for those who end up paying the fidya (and not fasting). One action is not better or of more value. So pregnant and breast feeding women need not feel they are missing out or pressure to fast.

 

This is the route we must travel to find the truth of our religion. Start at the beginning with the words of Our Lord, the Quran. Then, look to the example of the Prophet followed by the Companions as opposed to taking the opinions of those who base their views on the opinions of those before them!

 

Following ‘scholars’ leads to unnecessary hardship and harm (the research is there, if you’re interested) for pregnant and breast feeding women and for their babies. It leads to innovation for us all.

 

The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Every innovation is going astray, and every going astray will be in the Fire.” Narrated by Muslim and an-Nasaa’i.

 

Let us find our way back while we still can.

 

 

 

MARRIED at GUNPOINT

7F1850B7-B12C-47CA-88D3-257A5709D6F3

Earlier today, I read an article online published by the Telegraph about an Indian groom who was forced by gunpoint into a marriage. Sadly, this did not shock me. In many cultures, both historically (even in the Western world) and in the modern era, parents decide to force their children, boys and girls, into marriages.

 

Some Muslims typically use the Prophet’s example to rationalise this vile, dehumanising practice. They believe Aisha was married to him when she was six years old and the marriage consummated when she was nine.

 

Some Muslims try to avoid discussing this issue, others feel they must be apologetic. The clergy try to explain it by stating girls matured at different ages 1400 years ago.

 

However, Islam transcends all restrictions of time or culture. For surely, if we restrict any religion to the time in which it was revealed, it means it must be forever transforming to reflect society and hence, over time, become unrecognisable from its original form. In fact, it is society and so, us as Muslims who must reflect the religion. Our understanding and practices based upon actual evidence as opposed to culture and the opinions of the clergy.

 

In fact, the aggregate evidence reveals that it is not possible for Aisha to have been this young when she married the Prophet. I cared enough to check the history. She had already been engaged to someone previously and looking at the ages of her siblings and the age gaps between her and her sister alongside the migration from Makkah to Medina, I came to realise that she was at least around 19 years of age.

 

I understand that many, both Muslims and non Muslims alike, will argue there is a statement from Aisha herself included in the books of Ahadith stating she was only six when she married the Prophet and that the marriage was consummated at nine years of age. However, analyzing ALL the evidence clearly indicates the recorded statement is in fact either completely inaccurate (ie. It was never actually said by Aisha) or the wrong numbers were passed down.

 

Going beyond this, the practice of forcing anyone, and often they are just children, has no place whatsoever in Islam. Islam, as a religion, requires no vindication. The evidence for this is in the Quran.

 

In Surah An Nisa’, verse 19, Allah states,

 

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَرِثُواْ النِّسَآءَ كَرْهاً وَلاَ تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ لِتَذْهَبُواْ بِبَعْضِ مَآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ إِلاَّ أَن يَأْتِينَ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُّبَيِّنَةٍ وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِن كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئاً وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْراً كَثِيراً

 

O you who believe! You are not permitted to inherit women against their will, nor to prevent them from marriage in order to get part of (the mahr/payment) what you have given them, unless they commit open Fahishah (adultery). And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.

 

The verse is clear. Women cannot be married against their will.

 

Subsequently, there is evidence the Prophet annulled such ‘marriages’. For instance, in the collection of Bukhari,

 

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي مَالِكٌ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ الْقَاسِمِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، وَمُجَمِّعٍ، ابْنَىْ يَزِيدَ بْنِ جَارِيَةَ عَنْ خَنْسَاءَ بِنْتِ خِذَامٍ الأَنْصَارِيَّةِ، أَنَّ أَبَاهَا، زَوَّجَهَا وَهْىَ ثَيِّبٌ، فَكَرِهَتْ ذَلِكَ فَأَتَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَرَدَّ نِكَاحَهُ.

 

Narrated Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya: that her father gave her in marriage when she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and he declared that marriage invalid.

 

So, despite the oft-portrayed connection between forced marriages and Islam, this crime is actually based upon cultural practices. This is evident as those from the Indian sub continent, regardless of religion (Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims) have reports of forced marriages. There are stories of forced marriages in Africa (in Christian communities), the Middle East and in many other parts of the globe which never make it to the media.

 

In 2014, BBC news reported around 14 million girls around the world are forced to marry every year before their 18th birthday. I have met Muslim girls in such situations, often trying to convince themselves that they are doing ‘okay’ as they see no other alternative. Broken spirits, ashamed of a reality they had no choice in. Human rights ripped away from them. A form of modern day slavery.

 

In fact, the shame belongs to the coercers, those without honour, lacking in integrity. Muslims who go against the very essence of Islam.

 

While it is clear forced marriages are NOT a part of Islam and transcend religion, Muslims are both perpetrators and victims of this serious problem. A problem caused by a plethora of deeply entrenched patriarchy, culture, religious misunderstandings of the clerics and the masses, ignorance, oppression and often misogyny.

 

It is time for us, as Muslims, to own the problem. Each and everyone of us needs to go back to the grass roots of the religion and away from biased, culture influenced interpretations. Knowledge is empowerment and thus, liberation.

 

It is time for us to join the victims to say ‘NO’. ‘No, we will not give up our God-given rights. No, we refuse to be a part of backward cultural practices which go against Islam and no, we will not turn our backs on those Muslims who need our voices for their silent suffering.’

 

 

 

Beat her lightly

woman-sitting-silhouette-clipart

Islam is not the rod with which men beat women. I have just watched yet another so-called ‘Sheikh’ on YouTube state the Quran allows men to beat their wives. Enough is enough. For generations, Muslim women around the world have suffered and continue to suffer from domestic violence and abuse because of such opinions.

Those in a position of power or authority will always present dogma so that they are not undermined. It has served the Muslim clergy well historically and to this day, feeds into a patriarchal culture whereby the husband is somehow responsible or a moral guide for the wife. Thus, she is deemed spiritually lesser, requiring discipline.

The whole argument pivots on the translation of one word – the Arabic verb ‘Dharaba’ (in Surah An Nisa’, verse 34). It is a word which has a huge array of meanings in the Quran including ‘to bring forth’, ‘to strike the ground with a stick’, ‘to deal with’ and so on. Context is all important in helping us to understand what it means in each case in the Quran.

The common misconception that Islam allows and even encourages wife beating is down to a sexist and cultural context within which, this word ‘Dharaba’ is wrongly translated as ‘beat/hit’. This translation works for those cultures where women are seen as lesser citizens, beings to be subjugated and ruled over. In other words, it is not Islam but men who legalize and normalize wife beating. Worse, they use the banner of Islam to hide what is blatantly oppression and wrongdoing.

If you study all the instances of ‘dharaba’ in the Quran and the example of the Prophet, it is clear it means ‘to go away/separate’.

The verse is very clear. If a husband sees ‘nushuz’(ie. an uprising – unreasonable demands) from his wife;

1). He admonishes/speaks to her about it
2). Forsakes her in the bed
3). Separates/goes away

This process is exactly what the Prophet did with his wives when they wanted more financially than he had to give. So my question now is, do the Fuqaha (jurists) know the religion better than the Prophet did?

What allows the same patterns to be perpetuated is that many Muslim women often do not feel able to come forward and seek help. They are afraid that they will be blamed instead of being comforted, reminded that, wife beating is a right of the husband. Terrified of what taking a stand will cost them. In unity comes strength so as Muslim women, we must stand with these women, with our hearts and minds, the correct knowledge of the religion in our hands.

I believe any change in society starts from within us. We, as Muslims, need to change our views so women can come forward and break the chains of silent suffering. We must offer comfort rather than judgement. Most important of all, our understanding and advice must be based upon actual knowledge and Scripture as opposed to deeply entrenched cultural and patriarchal injustices.

Like I said, enough is enough.

For detailed evidence, click this link.

MUSLIM WOMEN are more than ‘Hijab’.

8890505903_abd85199da_bTell a lie long enough, it becomes the ‘truth’.

The word ‘hijab’ appears in the Quran 7 times. Not one of these is in reference to women covering. Nevertheless, Muslims all around the world, whether they speak Arabic or not, talk about ‘hijab’.

‘Hijab’ is Quranic Arabic for ‘barrier’ although it is commonly used for the veil/scarf and translated as ‘covering’,  ‘concealing’ or a ‘curtain’. This is an idea which has been propagated, most likely for centuries, by the predominately Arab male Muslim clergy. A clergy, which has objectified women as much as the Western world has sexualised them. Two sides of the same coin.

After spending years of my life researching women’s issues in Islam, a journey which has taken me places both physically and psychologically, I realised that out of the Quran’s 6235 verses, only 2 are about how women in general should dress in public. That’s around 0.03% of the Holy Book. An indication of how much of a Muslim woman’s faith is about her dress.

One (33:59) tells us to cover ourselves so we are known as Muslims. The other (24:31) that the chest and legs should be covered – the legs covered in a way as not to reveal what is beneath the covering. That’s it.

God tells Muslim women to cover their bodies so that they are known as Muslim women (The culture at the time of revelation was one where people often exposed themselves). Sadly, the majority of Muslim women are unaware of this and wear a headscarf and often a cloak and a face covering (they believe) to safeguard their beauty. That is because they are basing their opinion on the commonly accepted term ‘hijab’ for how they should dress.

I chose the path of Islam, learnt Classical Arabic and am memorising and studying the Quran. I have worn a scarf, a jilbaab (cloak/robe) and even a niqaab (face veil). Based upon God’s word, I now wear modest clothing. My religion is founded upon my own research and studies. I ask all other Muslim women to do the same.

Language and thought are strongly connected. When we use the word ‘hijab’, there are obvious connotations. We are making the whole issue about sexuality. Women become a temptation needing to be tempered, with the potential to lead men astray. It is a term founded in culture. A term that serves the needs of men as it then leads to further arguments that women need to cover their bodies with cloaks (jilabib), their faces (niqaab), and even infringes on their civil liberties (e.g. working, sports, going out/travelling without a male relative). Frankly, it reduces women so that they end up not having a voice or in extreme situations, even a presence.

I believe that we need to stop using the word ‘hijab’. It is a baseless concept. Women regardless of their religion are not defined by men and the word ‘hijab’ is doing exactly that. It leads to Muslim girls as young as 5 years being ‘sexualised’ when they are shrouded in a scarf and sometimes even a cloak. It is a term intertwined with cultural expectations involving shame, honour, and purity. A means by which a woman’s piety can be judged.

Many a Muslim will argue for ‘hijab’ claiming it is not just for a woman’s body but for her character and the way she interacts with the world. I argue the exact opposite. Dressing modestly, based upon evidence, brings religion to the forefront while kicking sexualisation firmly into the background.

We are more than our bodies. It’s time to move forward and it’s up to us as Muslim women to lead the way.