Assalamu alaikum, an adendum to my previous post and I guess another addition to the convert blog carnival. That is if she’ll accept it lol. But when I woke up this morning, I had some more thoughts that I wanted to add.
I’ve mentioned many times that I kinda feel like Islam was “sold” to me, and that what I was told about Islam and Muslims pre-conversion wasn’t necessarily “the truth” after conversion.
Women given a high status? For example. Well, uh, no not really. Unless of course inadequate or no accommodations at the masjid is supposed to be a “high status”. And I know this issue has been dwelled on and talked about ad nausium, however, it’s really a let down to read in the “dawa materials” how Islam gives such a high status to women”, yet we’re either discouraged or outright prevented from going to the masjid. Or that all of the “rules and regulations” in Islam, seem to be about “keeping women in their place”. Everything from hijab to niqab to whether or not a woman can travel alone without a male family member. Perhaps at one time these were meant as protections for a woman, but oftentimes in today’s time, they are used more like battering rams, and ways for men to keep control over their women and “make them feel like men”.
Hijab I never had a problem with. But frankly, I found it to be quite liberating and no not in the religious sense either. It was nice that I didn’t have to fuss with hair and make-up and all of that stuff that I really didn’t care much about anyway. This is not to say that I didn’t care about my appearance. I just had no interest in spending hours in front of the mirror fixing up my hair or putting on make-up or making myself presentable and why? For other people’s benefit. with hijab, I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Just get up, shower, wash my hair, get dressed, put on my scarf, and am out the door. No fuss no muss as they say. So while I felt hijab was obligatory, adopting hijab for me wasn’t entirely a religious thing. It was also a convenience thing too.
But what I do have a problem with is the ruling that women can’t travel alone. That women are dificient in intelligence (and no I mean it as it says and not as said by some that it’s a mistranslation or that “difficent in intelligence” means that women are just different, because there are actually Muslims who will tell you this to justify the men’s right to “rule over” women, because we are just not smart enough to take care of ourselves”. That we need our husband’s permission to do everything and anything.
Again, many of these “rules” I think have many good reasons behind them, and if implemented with the right mercy, and spirit and compassion, women can actually benefit from them. However, in today’s time, when many Muslims are only concerned with the outward rules and the do’s and dont’s of the religion, instead of any kind of inward spiritual state, or any mercy or anything like that, what you have in the end is women who are stifled, not allowed to express themselves and are stuck at home or are isolated.
And “the rules” regarding women become more about “keeping the men from doing wrong” then about protecting women. You gotta wear hijab, for example, not because you should be modest, not because of any spiritual demensions, but because if you don’t some man might look at you and develop some kinda desire for you and then it’s your fault. No matter that he might have done this anyway, no matter that it’s also his duty to lower his gaze. Oh no, it’s almost always the woman’s duty to not only protect her own morality but the men’s too.
This also comes up in the “free mixing” stuff. You can’t talk to men,not becuase it could lead to something haram, for both of you, but again, becuas he might develop a desire for you, and then it’d be your fault for talking to him. No matter that many of these men have dealings outside of the Muslim community where they talk to women on a frequent basis. When it comes to Muslim women, all of a sudden it’s, oh no I can’t talk to you, not even to ask you for the sugar out of the kitchen, because God forbid we go from sugar one minute to zina the next.
I think some of the problem within our community as regards how men and women relate is the fact that the gender segregation is so rigid for some of us that we just don’t know how to relate to each other, especially when even asking for the sugar is viewed as a potentially sexualized event. I don’t make it a habit to speak to anyone, be they men or owmen, that I don’t know very well. I might say hi or hello and otherwise be polite. But I generally don’t just walk up to someone and begin talking to them. However, if I happen to be in a public place, and a conversation comes up that I find interesting that involves a man or a group of men, I see no problem in engaging them in conversation. I just don’t, because I know the difference between a conversation on sports or politics or something else, and flirting or more suggestive talk. And I know how to put astop to it. Again, it’s all in how you carry yourself. Whether or not you wear hijab, if you carry yourself with dignity and respect that’s usually how you will get treated.
Again I understand the rules behind the prohibition of gender mixing. But I also think it’s taken to far and it’s women who pay the price, because it’s women who get shut out of the community, the masjid, etc. And it’s the men who benefit.
Again, I’m going back to the “ideal vs. the reality” concept here. Because many times there is a lot of wisdom behind many of the rules that many Muslims follow. But the problem is the spirit is gone and it’s all “rules and regulations” and “do’s and dont’s” and if you don’t follow said rules then you’re not considered Muslim enough, and doubly so if you’re a woman and a convert.
And I’ve already mentioned the dog guide thing. I remember right before I said my shahadah, a sister online asking me why I wasn’t Muslim yet, because I seemed to have all the right beliefs, and I mentioned the whole dog guide thing, because even then, I had the feeling that if I became a Muslim, if I chose to continue using a dog guide, I’d not truly be accepted by some into the community. And she said “oh yes, you can still keep your dog”. And yeah, I guess technically that’s true. But I also know that if I want to go to the masjid, I can never take my dog with me. I also have the feeling that if I ever want to attend any kind of islamic events in my city or local area, I’d be afraid to take my dog. Quite bluntly, I feel like sometimes I have to choose between my dog and the Muslims. Because I can almost predict the gasps and the people running from me because of my unclean dog, should I bring her to an Islamic lecture or some other event not including the masjid because the masjid is just plain out of the question. And I can just imagine how upset and uncomfortable I’d feel and how even more isolated I’d feel than I probably already would be, unless of course I came with someone I knew. I was faced with this dilemma last October I think it was, when Imam Zaid Shakir had a two-day event in Tampa. Now of course, I probably could have contacted the leaders of the event, and they probably would have told me that I could have brought my dog. I mean, if it was held in a public place, I don’t think they could have said no legally speaking. However, it’s the reactions from the attendees that I was worried about. And I knew I didn’t want to leave my dog alone for two days, so it was either attend the event and leave my dog at home, attend the event and take my dog and take the chance of getting some pretty negative reactions to both I and her, or not attend the event. I took the path of least stress and resistance for me anyway, and didn’t attend the event. that meant that I didn’t have to leave my dog, I could aovid the negative reactions that I felt I’d get by some, however that also meant that I missed out on an event I really wanted to attend and felt I could have benefited from. Perhaps things would have been different if I’d have just tried harder. Perhaps things would have not been so bad. But the problem is, I didn’t want to find out.
The thing is, I wish I’d have been told the truth beforehand, that yes, I could technically keep my dog but also that I might have a lot of problems from the community at large. that yes, Islam itself may give dignity and a high status to women, but there are some “rules” that are implemented that actually in some cases may lower a woman’s status.
the thing is, the “dawa materials” talk as though Islam even today is practiced ideally by most Muslims, and unfortunately in my experience I’m not sure this is the case. And I know it’s easy to say not to let others affect your faith, but it does affect one’s faith, or it can anyway, when you finally get in the door and you find that the dawa materials weren’t exactly accurate.
Does this mean that there haven’t been Muslims who’ve treated both me and my dog wonderfully, no. Does this mean that there have not been Muslims who’ve given me my full rights and status as a woman, no. But as I’ve said in some other places online before, we as a Muslim community if we want to better ourselves, we have to face the reality of our situation and not bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist or pretend that it’s just the “kuffar media talking bad about us”. Because if we don’t face our problems and find proactive solutions to combat them, someone else will do it for us.