Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A reply to an article supporting the Burqa Ban

A good piece of writing yes, but patronizing and derogatory on many counts.
In reply to the article and the comments that favour the ban on niqab, let us decide one thing first and get it out of the way. Are we Muslim? Not just a simple, inherited profession that there is only One God worthy of worship and that Prophet Mohammad (saw) is His final Messenger, but a profession of our willingness to then obey the final message that God sent and His Messenger lived out for us. Whether our logic accepts it or not, whether the majority of the civilized world agrees with it or not. Decided? Let us continue.

Contrary to popular belief today, everything in Islam is not open to debates and adaptation. What is clearly mentioned in the original unchangeable sources of law, the Quran and sunnah, is not open for discussion. We cannot simply shun a certain law because it SEEMS impractical to US in this day and age. For God to have revealed an eternal guidance for mankind, not a letter of which has changed in over 14 centuries and will never change, would become ludicrous and redundant then. Yes certain things have been deliberately left to our own understanding and changing situation and just like other fields, we have scholars who have reached a consensus and explained the legalities to us, within the boundaries of Islam.

To try to change God’s plan for us, instead of changing our own lives is a daring endeavour indeed, to claim that "God never commanded us to do this.” Either the people who do it rely on a hearsay, superficial knowledge of the Quran or they do it deliberately to justify their own actions. The fact remains that the Quran clearly states in Surah Al-Ahzab: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their Jalabib over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (verse :9)

None of us can change this verse that states that the believing women must draw their cloaks over upon themselves, a knowledge of Arabic will show you that this translation is the closest and the word ‘selves’ would obviously include what we include when we talk of our SELVES ie our whole body, with our clothes, jewellery, makeup, hair, and many say that it includes the face, which is the crown of our whole body. It cannot mean loose, modest clothing as some want to believe, because a ‘jilbab’ is mentioned which means outer robe or cloak to be worn over the clothes a woman is wearing inside the house. It cannot mean she is being told to wear loose, modest clothes OVER her other clothes, can it?

To say that “By wearing such gear in mosaic societies, the women actually draw more attention to themselves and thus defeat the initial “purpose” of wearing the burqa in the first place!” is another false argument as the Quranic verse clearly states that this commandment is so “that they should be known and not harassed (so that they will be distinct in their appearance from the women of the Jahiliyyah who went out displaying all their beauty) So you see, hijab or niqab is not taking us back to the dark ages, on the contrary not wearing this is a sign of the Days of Ignorance.

Hence jilbab is meant so that the believing women would stand out against the crowd as believing, honourable women, their hijab makes a statement that they are not available and not interested in advances. Where does it say that the purpose of the hijab is so that they should BLEND IN or rather INTEGRATE with a bare-it-all society where casual dating, ogling and flirting is not even considered undesirable.?The intent of the hijab is not to prevent men from looking (which many will out of curiosity in a different culture) but to prevent looks of lust that can cause molestation. It is interesting that in the early ‘90s, the reported incidents of rape had crossed the 100,000 mark in USA. Allah knows what the statistics are now but they are obviously a red light that something is gravely wrong in such a society.

If you say all us women who cover have been brainwashed into believing we have to, I find it a very non-feminist statement as you are implying that women are truly brainless as supposed by some men, that they have no reasoning powers of their own, that they are mere unintellectual pawns in a game. This seems very patronizing to imply that all the brains and logical thinking was portioned out only to the feminists and modernists “who know better than to cover.” Yes it is a choice many intelligent, educated and sensible women make but a choice in obedience to a Will superior to our own and we are proud to submit our whims and fancies to Allah, instead of to what the men are demanding women wear and what the glossies say we should bare this summer. By calling it indoctrination, are you challenging Divine Will?

I could say that most of the feminists are brainwashed into thinking and propagating that women are the same as men and can do everything that men can, whereas overwhelming scientific evidence proves that the brain-wiring, hormones, abilities and qualities of men and women are totally different. For the first time in the history of our species and only in the last century, a mere blip in the world’s zillion old history, there is a confusion  about the roles and job descriptions of men and women. In their international best seller “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps”, Allan and Barbara Pease write “Since the 1960s a number of pressure groups have tried to persuade us to buck our biological legacy. They claim that governments, religions and educational systems have added up to nothing more than a plot by men to suppress women.” They go on to explain that for millions of years, no one had a problem accepting that men were basically the lunch-chasers or hunters, protectors and women were the nest-defenders and nurturers of the human species. Men and women were content and happy in their natural roles, supporting and understanding each other. But due to the recent confusion, there is widespread dissatisfaction, chaos and breakups. Today science confirms that men and women are profoundly different both physically and mentally. They think, believe, behave and process information differently. They are not better or worse, just different. Naturally their rights, duties and regulations must be different too.

To quote a comment: "How is burqa NOT backward? What has a burqa-clad woman ever contributed to science, society, or humanity?”
This in itself could be blasphemous. Is the writer implying that the wives and daughters of the Prophet (saw) and the generations of Muslim women who covered themselves contributed nothing to humanity? Mother of the believers, Ayesha (RA) was widowed at a young age and spent the rest of her life spreading knowledge, not only to women but also to men. Companions of great caliber would seek her guidance in Islamic issues. She was childless but supported and raised many orphans in her lifetime. It was because of her sharp mind and thirst for knowledge that we learnt so much about the personal dealings and matters of the Prophet (saw).  But, even if a woman chooses to stay home and ‘do nothing’ outside the house, is she making no contribution to society? Sayyedina Fatima, daughter of our Prophet (saw) lead a life of hard toil with her husband, of intense physical labour at home and of bringing up her children. She was absent from the public sphere but busy with a miracle at home, that of raising and educating the two most outstanding Muslims the world has ever witnessed. Was her loving support for her father and husband and bringing up her children work of a lesser nature? Why has the media hype deluded us into thinking that the only worthy contribution a woman can make in society is in a tweed grey suit behind a desk? In surveys conducted in the West, forty four percent of career women say their work is now their greatest source of stress. Most women said that if money was no object, they would prefer to be a home maker. Only 19% were actually interested in being career women. Across the board 80%  put raising their children in traditional families at the top of their priority list showing that inspite of the media hype and feminist drive, the values and priorities of women are basically the same as they have been for centuries.

This does not mean that women should not pursue intellectual or productive pursuits. The earlier generations of Muslim women were actively studying and teaching Deen and its only in this century that along with other areas, female scholarship in Islam has also suffered a downfall. As a result Muslim women feel alienated from deen and feel as if men have monopolized and somehow twisted the Islamic dialogue against them. That may be so in some countries but the solution does not lie in simply rejecting all the Islamic injunctions that smell anti-feminist.

I myself was a head strong girl. I hated wearing even a dupatta initially, but I wanted to study for myself what the Quran said, verbatim so that I could know the truth. And when I did, I cannot understand how anyone could say that this command and many others are not THERE in Islam. I happily started doing the niqab and my confidence infact grew. I could speak my mind without males getting distacted by my looks. I have spoken on public forums including a radio show in Dubai, I have conducted an international campaign  about the Prophet Muhammad's (saw) as a mercy to the worlds, I write and do poetry, I have gone elephant riding in Sri Lanka, white water rafting and ice skating too. My niqab really hasn’t stopped me from doing anything much except perhaps those things that I should not do anyways (wink). I feel more secure and protected in it and yes I feel sorry for the ladies not covering as I would for someone exposed to danger. As first of all they are disobeying their Lord, and secondly seeing the kind of looks men are giving them examining their every inch, I wish they would know and understand.

“Science has proven that men get stimulated through their eyes and women through their ears. Men’s brains are wired to look at female shapes and this is why erotic images have so much impact on them. This is why Miss Universe contests command large audiences but Mr Universe contests appeal to almost no-one and are rarely televised. For a woman to criticize a man’s need for visual stimulation is like a man criticizing a woman for wanting to talk or go out to dinner.” (Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps) It’s just the way our biology is. We can keep denying it and suffer the consequences or we can accept it and excel in our own roles. Who else but the Creator of the human species can tell us the best way to conduct our personal and social life so as to preserve peace, dignity and harmony.

Lastly it is interesting to read about the writer’s family and how they defied tradition to find freedom and success. But blaming Islam for our society or culture’s shortcomings is not correct, Islam gave women innumerable rights but they need to be followed to reap the benefits. The criteria for truth and perfection in Islam is not what our forefathers did but what our Prophet (saw) did. He is the one we have been commanded to follow. The Quran talks again and again about how one must not blindly follow one’s ancestors. One of the greatest things that stops humans from accepting the truth even when they see it is the fact that their forefathers tread a different path. And they don’t want to defy age-old ways. They are in a comfort zone which they view as perfect. Islam is truly liberating that it frees one from so many fetters, of blindly following family, or fashion trends or society or one’s own logic and whims. Let us break free in the true sense and let Islam liberate us internally and externally.
(You can read the original article on http://changinguppakistan.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/in-support-of-the-burqa-ban-nabiha-meher-sheikh/ )

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Why people cut ties

Saeed, a self-made businessman, says: “What my brothers did deserves that I never speak to them again. After all, I’m not the Prophet (saw) – I don’t have unlimited patience.” For various reasons, he has completely boycotted his brothers and sisters for more than ten years, to the extent of refusing to talk to them, visiting them or letting his family meet them. He believes that what he has done is Islamically correct. His sons follow the same line of thought and action.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Hidden Pearls


 Have we ever wondered why pearls, the purest and whitest of natural jewels are not found floating on the surface of the ocean for all to see? Have we pondered why all beautiful things are hidden, the pomegranate seeds in their peel white coconut in a coarse shell, diamonds in a mine? And the most beautiful Being beyond our imaginations Allah Ta’ala . Among his best creation, the human being, Allah chose this honour for a woman in order to preserve, protect and purify her beauty and to make it eternal in paradise.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Women can usually never understand what men have for ball games, how they can sit for hours and watch other men fling a ball at a goal or bat or hole. Well, I recently found out that there may be a scientific reason for it. In the book ‘Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps’ the writers mention a research by Dr Camilla Benbow, Professor of psychology at Iowa State University who scanned more than a million brains of boys and girls brains to study their spatial ability.