Submission is Freedom

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Islam & Feminism (Part II)

When I began my search for graduate studies, I visited several universities to get a feel of each individual institution. At one of the schools I was accepted to, I sat down with several professors to begin discussing my possible educational experience there. One of the professors turned to me and said, “We will teach you how to sell yourself to make yourself more marketable- we know the skills you will need to be successful.”

Although there was nothing shocking in her statement to me, I was a little taken aback by the wording the professor used and with the ease she had just spoken using such language. It made me think about the way the West perceives success (“selling” yourself) and the way Islam has defined it for us (the best of us are the most God fearing).

It seems obvious in the West that the more one has “achieved” in their lifetime, the more respect they are given, and hence, they are treated as more valuable beings somehow. Therefore, it is no wonder to me that women are eager to join the workplace and try to “achieve success” the way that men do. I have often heard women proclaim, “If a man can do it, then so can I!” With messages being sent to women that our only real success is participation in titles and “accomplishments” and other methods of “selling” ourselves, it does not surprise me that women are now facing the “multiple role” stress, and that one in every three women in America now suffers from anxiety.

If we go back to what Islam says about the worth of human beings, and the worth of women in particular, we will find that it is in direct opposition to what materialism and consumerism has told us. More specifically, our role as women is characterized by piety, obedience, and submission to our Lord. This is perfectly exemplified by the four women of Paradise, as mentioned in my previous post. When we look to the example of these four women, what we find are unique individuals who were placed in very different situations in life. For example, one was tested by her spouse, while the others had the best spouses (who matched them in piety) or no spouse at all. Some were tested through poverty, the others through riches. Some were given a great task to carry out (such as immaculate conception, motherhood of prophets/imams), the others were given no particular task except complete submission to Allah. When I study the diversity of personality and situations in life, I realize that Allah, through His Infinite Mercy, is teaching us a lesson. The qualities of piety- patience, strength, faith, obedience, justice, submission, etc., are not limited to a certain time period or setting. We are able to fulfill our duties to Allah (swt) regardless of the time or setting- we have the ability to elevate our status, even in America, where so many mixed messages are given to us.

When we contemplate about absolute submission to Allah (swt), we reach the conclusion that submission means obedience. Whatever Allah (swt) commands of us, we accept. Allah (swt) has given us an intellectual capacity so that we may ponder His creation, and understand that truth stands clear from falsehood- and that Allah (swt) is the Ultimate Truth. Allah (swt) has not given us this intellectual capacity to become arrogant and to believe that we as individuals have all the answers.

Real knowledge and wisdom come from knowing one self- what one was created for, the purpose of this fleeting life, and tearing ourselves away from superficial distractions to contemplate Reality. The Prophet (pbuh) has told us that he who knows himself, knows Allah (swt). Once we understand who we are and what we are created for, we can begin to understand Allah (swt).

For women, that would mean that we contemplate deeply the role that Allah (swt) has set for us. We must study the role, not with arrogance or the idea that we must know better since we now live in “modern society”- but with humility and deep contemplation, the way that our examples, the women of Paradise, have done before us. To truly learn from them, we must understand the concepts taught to us in Quran and how to adhere to them on a daily basis, reject foreign ideologies that replace the examples given to us and the ideals that Allah (swt) has set for us, open our hearts and minds to Truth and Reality instead of arrogance and materialism, heed the advice of the Prophet (pbuh) about women and their role, and understanding Islamic perspectives of topics such as hijab, marital relations, family life, motherhood, modesty (haya’), and marriage.

So insha’Allah I will give my ideas about the specific role of women in Islam in my next post, and then insha’Allah about our wonderful role models in future posts. I hope to see feedback/criticism so that we can engage in meaningful dialogue- and anything I have said, is a reminder to myself first and foremost.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Islam & Feminism (Part 1)

The issue of Islam and “feminism” is something that I have been thinking about a lot, ever since I first became muslim. Although I have so much to say about the subject, I will try to focus this discussion to the main conclusions I have reached in my studies thus far.

Back when I was an undergraduate student at Penn State University, I took a class called “Women’s Health Issues.” One day, during a discussion of the stress placed on women in playing multiple roles in modern society (wife, mother, worker, house caretaker, etc), a girl in the front row raised her hand and declared, “Women are just as equal as men and should be treated as such. Why should motherhood overshadow the role of worker, and why should fatherhood not be overshadowed by the role of the worker, just like it is for women?” She slumped in her chair and looked at the professor almost with anger, that even I was afraid to raise my hand and reply to her. My first reaction was that of anger- after all, what was she thinking? Did she ever consider why women are naturally more nurturing than men, or why it is that women’s bodies are designed to conceive children and carry a child for 9 months before it is brought into this world? After a moment of consideration, however, my anger turned into pity.

Women in the west are rarely given ideals to look to- and the ideals they are given, such as, for instance, Condoleezza Rice, resemble men in thought and behavior. In order to really succeed, women here are told that they need to be “accomplished,” and that the only way to be “accomplished” is to excel in the fields that men excel in. These may not be messages that are directly told to us, but the messages can nevertheless be ignored. We are a society of labels and titles. I have learned that my ideas are more validated if I tell people, for instance, that I have an Ivy League education. Women have begun to set their standard of attainment to that of an “accomplished” man.

These ideals set for women in America are empty and lack clear focus. Yet, many Muslim women, whether subconsciously or consciously, have taken these ideals and placed them on themselves. When trying to explain the place of womanhood in Islam, we try to compare them to Western standards, as if that standard of comparison will somehow prove that women in Islam are not “oppressed.” We rarely, if ever, speak about the role models set for us in Islam, and how these women are our real ideal. We rarely say that we do not want to compare ourselves to men, for the comparison is weak- instead, we seek to understand womanhood the way that our ideals in the past have. Specifically, the four women of Paradise- Lady Fatima Al-Zahra, Lady Maryam, Lady Khadija, and Lady Asiya, peace be upon them all, are not emphasized enough in discussion of “women in Islam.” We speak about our rights, but fail to really consider how these women should be the ideal for all women.

Now, before I continue, I don’t want to make broad generalizations- when I say “we,” I do not mean every single Muslim women, nor do I mean it to sound offensive. Everything I have written is a reminder to myself first and foremost. Insha’Allah I will continue this discussion in my next post, and I will delve more deeply into how we should study these women’s lives, and what they can teach us today about feminism and living in Western societies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My plea

Bismillah

This is a poem I wrote recently- it is nothing spectacular... nor is it actually any good. I just sat down one day and wrote it, in less than an hour- which is a big deal for someone who has never written a poem before. I just had so much emotion I guess, that I wanted to write it down. Insha'Allah khair.

Depth of faith and piety is a mystery to most
I often wonder how far I can go with this heart of mine
Could I triumph by the Lord of the Kaaba like your beloved
Or be the mother of he who calls for sacrifice in Truth?

The source of these shining examples
Came from you, my Resplendent, my master
The mother, the wife, the mother of her father
Who even the angels depended upon to light the Heavens.

For you provided these men with the strength
And you provide me with hope-
That one day I too can say after a night in prayer
My child, first your neighbors and then your own!

You asked of no reward for those who were in your presence
And instead they made you bear more than the day
For had it endured your pain, my beloved, it would have turned to night,
Yet you remained unblemished, the foundation of Light Upon Light.

Oh, the purified, the chaste, how you felt the ache of hunger
When you gladly gave your sustenance after days
To the needy, the captive, and the orphan -
And your holy father told your husband to lead the way

For he wanted to see his Kauther standing in her prayers
And the sight was such hardship, more than he could bear
Such that his Lord comforted him and told him not to despair
For his daughter will soon be robed in garments of silk in His care.

I long that I may soon behold your beautiful face
On the Day that you shall stand before the entire human race
And the angels will demand that we lower our heads and drop our gaze
So that you, my master, will enter with all your splendor and grace.

You will stop and request to the Most Merciful Lord at the gates
That He may forgive your lovers so that they may join you in the gardens
I long that you will remember the love in my heart and the tears in my eyes
So that you make take my hand and lead me to eternal bliss, with the Most High.

My First Post :)

I begin in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

I tried having a blog awhile ago... it never worked out for me. Insha'Allah this will go better! I have a lot to express and need a creative outlet, even if it turns out that nobody reads this blog.

I will be posting again very shortly (tonight) a couple of poems I have written. Nobody has seen them yet except my husband, but I would like to share it in a very discreet way with the world. So here goes :)