Pen Pal Column
‘Oh Thou, Muslim Women!’
With the American troops withdrawing from the Afghan territory, the entire world is concerned about the Afghan women, and their rights. The commotion and the cry sound the same, the same tactic played again and again, the same propaganda to defame Islam and shari’ah. It is the same furor with which the many Muslim eastern colonies of the Europe were once griped under, when they got independence from the imperialistic rule.
Alluringly, Muslim women have always been the bone of contention for the west and their like-minded counterpart in the east.Among these, the most noteworthy champions of women’s rights are those men and women who in the name of Islam have either foolishly, or mischievously, claim that Islam has in all respects maintained perfect equality between men and women.
Yet another category among them, perhaps due to their ignorance about Islam and its teachings, blame it to be the enemy of woman. They hold Islam responsible for the lower status of the women in the Muslim society, and their intellectual backwardness. They blame Islam for reducing woman to a mere object, used as a means of sensual gratification for a man, and a machine for the propagation of human species. They portray Muslim woman as a subservient to man, where man dominates her and enjoys an all round superiority over her.
Of-course, both these categories of people are wrong in their judgment about Islam, and position of women in it. They are equally ignorant, and intentionally confuse the right with the wrong in order to deceive others, and sow the seeds of discord and mischief in society so as to further their own wicked plans, and facilitate the foul game they are out to play.These are the ones, whose balance is always tilted towards the western society, when they compare Muslim women. They forget the struggle of the European women to achieve the due status, they currently enjoy. While Muslim women were granted all these rights with the advent of Islam.
Islam grants women all the luxuries which their western peer enjoy, without over burdening them with responsibilities, and being within the limits set by the shari’ah. Islam obligates women to acquire knowledge, and it’s the western concept which forces them to take up job upon acquiring it.
While the west equates both men and women, irrespective of their physical nature, and capabilities. Islam draws line between the two, taking into account the subtle details of their physical and psychological composure. As a matter of fact, the west recognizes and respects women only when they contribute to the economic growth of the society. A caring mother, a loyal wife, a loving sister, and a dutiful daughter is hardly appreciated for the sacrifices they make.
Islamic society does not deny the importance of economy in the human life, but it surely is, against the claims of materialism and Marxism, where only economic conditions engender the social aspect of life. As it is also against that society where, only economic circumstances determine the mutual relations between the humans.
Shari’ah stands for justice and fruitful society, it will definitely raise its head to say, it is not just the economic factor which determines the thoughts, feelings and behavior of humans, there is much more than that in life, yes – in the form of spirituality.
What Muslim women need is not the western concept of life, but rather a shari’ah compliant society where we can flourish and reach the zenith. Thus, it is upon the seekers of Islam to establish what is due, to reach the heights.
Did You Know That…?
– More than 99.9% of all the animal species that have ever lived on earth were extinct before the coming of man.
– Nearly 50% of all bank robberies take place on Friday.
– Ten inches of snow equals one inch of rain in water content.
– The base of the Great Pyramid of Egypt is large enough to cover 10 football fields.
– The greatest snowfall ever in a single storm was 189 inches at the Mount Shasta Ski Bowl in February, 1959.
– The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582 AD, and was adopted by Great Britain and the English colonies in 1752.
– The highest point of the earth, with an elevation of 29,141 feet, is the top of Mt. Everest in Tibet.
– The highest temperature ever recorded in the world was 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit at El Azizia, Lybia, on September 13, 1922.
– The linen bandages that were used to wrap Egyptian mummies averaged 1,000 yards in length.
– The lowest temperature ever recorded in the world was 129 degrees below 0 at Vostok, Antarctica, on July 21, 1983.
– The metal instrument used in shoe stores to measure feet is called the Brannock device.
Are We Missing the Point in Islam?
To some, a Monet is only a collection of dots. To others, it is a perfect masterpiece. To some, Islam is nothing but a code of rules and regulations. But, to those who understand, it is a perfect vision of life.
As Muslims, we often focus so much on Islam’s dos and don’ts that we miss the bigger picture. Islam came to perfect our manners, and yet we are willing to scream and shout to win an argument about zabiha meat. Islam came to build our bond with our Creator, and while we wear our hijabs and kufis, we delay our prayers.
Islam came to establish a community of believers, but while we decorate our masjids with gold and silver, our prayer rows remain empty. Islam came to teach us about God, and despite wearing His words on our necklaces and decorating our houses with them, when those verses are recited to us, our hearts remain unmoved and our lives unchanged.
And Islam came to make us one brotherhood, yet we divide ourselves and alienate one another over issues like moon sighting and voting.
This is not to say, of course, that the dos and don’ts in Islam are not important. They are crucial. The problem is that we have forgotten what they stand for. For example, the wearing of Islamic dress should never be minimized. But we have forgotten that that hijab and that beard are only symbols of our greater devotion to God. For us to wear that hijab and that beard while it has no bearing on our character means we have missed the point.
If we spend extensive amount of recourses in decorating our masjids but then use that masjid only to display status and win arguments, we have lost its intended purpose. And if we have memorized every haram and halal ingredient of facial soap, but we own businesses that are based on interest and sell alcohol, have we not made a mockery of Allah’s deen?
That deen is what transforms humanity from the lowest of the low to the representatives of God on earth. The Qur’an tells us: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth…'” (Qur’an, 2:30)
As a representative of God on earth, we are given a very great responsibility. It is a trust so heavy that even the mountains rejected it. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “We did indeed offer the trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it; he was indeed unjust and foolish.” (Qur’an, 33:72)
As believers, we should never lose sight of this responsibility. It is the fulfillment of that mission that transforms us from ‘asfala safileen’ – the lowest of the low (Qur’an, 95:5), into ‘khaira ummatin ukhrijat linnaas’ – the best of people arisen for humankind. (Qur’an, 3:110)
But how can we be that “best of people”? Allah describes how in His book: “Ye are the best of peoples, risen up for mankind, commanding what is right, forbidding what is evil, and believing in Allah… ” (Qur’an, 3:110).
The essence of that struggle is to believe, to fight for Truth and to strive against evil. And as soon as we give up that noble struggle, we will become among those people who Allah describes in surat Al-Asr as being in an utter state of loss. Allah also describes the ones who will be saved from that state: “Except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy.” (Qur’an, 103:3)
And, so, if we continue to abandon this greater mission and purpose, we will have transformed the perfect vision of existence into nothing more than a collection of dots.
Rachel Naomi Remen
I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart.
When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it. Most of us don’t value ourselves or our love enough to know this. It has taken me along time to believe in the power of simple saying, “I’m so sorry,” when someone is in pain. And meaning it.
One of my patients told me that when she tried to tell her story people often interrupted to tell her that they once had something just like that happen to them. Subtly her pain became a story about themselves. Eventually she stopped talking to most people. It was just too lonely. We connect through listening. When we interrupt what someone is saying to let them know that we understand, we move the focus of attention to ourselves. When we listen, they know we care. Many people with cancer can talk about the relief of having someone just listen.
I have even learned to respond to someone crying by just listening. In the old days, I used to reach for the tissues, until I realized that passing a person a tissue may be just another way to shut them down, to take them out of their experience of sadness and grief. Now I just listen. When they have cried all they need to cry, they find me there with them.
This simple thing has not been that easy to learn. It certainly went against everything I had been taught since I was very young. I thought people listened only because they were too timid to speak or did not know the answer. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well intentioned words.
Losing My Religion: A Call for Help
Dr Jeffery Lang
To the Homegrown American Sisters and Brothers,
At present, our community in America, whether or not we are aware of it or acknowledge it, is engulfed in a decisive conflict, and we are taking heavy losses. Mass numbers of descendents of Muslims, converts, and spiritual seekers are forsaking the American Islamic community and many of these will inevitably abandon the religion. The confrontation is of course not military but rather is occurring on the intellectual plane. On one front our religion is being both subtly and overtly demeaned by the media. On another, anti-Islam websites are assaulting the faith with mostly discarded but now resurrected antiquated orientalist criticisms.
On another, an extreme, virulent and irrational interpretation of the faith has assumed, with a good deal of outside support, center stage on the world scene. On another, most mosques in this country impose in the name of Islam, traditions and beliefs of questionable necessity that obfuscate the fundamental message of God’s last revelation to humanity and that are driving individuals from the faith in droves, and that serve to confirm for too many youth of Muslim parentage and American converts the overriding negative impression of Islam that society seems to hold at large. Instead of seeing a path to spiritual growth, enlightenment and fulfillment many of these disengaged Muslims start to see a stagnant, retrogressive, patriarchal remnant of a lagging culture, mired in meaningless controversies and hollow, lifeless formalism.
If this is going to be countered, it will require an immense and courageous intellectual effort, and those upon whose shoulders this challenge and duty primarily rests are the second generation and converts who have held fast to their faith despite the many challenges this has presented. It is you, the activist American Muslim youth and converts, though your numbers are small, who have been placed in a pivotal role. Through your American upbringing, you have come to fully know and understand the surrounding society, and through your love and commitment to God and your religion, in a milieu that constantly tests it, you have by nature and necessity become the crucial bridge between your faith and its future in this country. You are in the best position to rationally respond to Islam’s detractors and to communicate and demonstrate to your fellow countrymen and women what it really means to be a Muslim. You think their think, talk their talk, and appreciate their confusions and concerns. You are also in the best position to reassess the vast tradition that has come down to us in the name of Islam. It is precisely because you have not been reared in a traditional Muslim culture and because you have been taught since your first day in school to search, question, critique, and analyze that you are the prime candidates to endeavor to separate religion from culture, to distinguish the essential to Islam from time and place bound interpretations. It is you who are best able to understand and communicate to the disaffected Muslim youth. This is your jihad (struggle), a jihad for minds and hearts, a jihad of intellect and reason.
So I encourage you to arm yourselves, my younger brothers and sisters, with books, and pens and personal computers, and all the other instruments of learning. And arm yourselves with knowledge of your religious tradition and the works and thoughts of its great minds of the past. But also arm yourselves with modern techniques of critical, analytical, investigative research, so that you can better study and critique past contributions in the Islamic sciences. Learn all you can in your coursework, and especially in such fields as religious studies, history, anthropology, and linguistics.
Arm yourselves also, if you have the inclination and aptitude, with advanced degrees in these areas of research so critical to the project of reappraising our community’s traditions. And arm yourselves with humility, because it is vital to objectivity, and with courage and perseverance, brothers and sisters, because you will be opposed from without and within the Muslim community.
And remember to always pursue the truth, for God is the Truth, and always pray for and trust in His guidance. And so arm yourselves also with steadfast devotion to your Lord, never forgetting that to Him, and Him only, you have surrendered-not to a tradition, or a school of thought, or a local community or culture, or scholarly legacy-and that your living, striving, sacrifice and dying, all is for Allah.
The article was excerpted from Dr. Jeffrey Lang’s book entitled Losing My Religion, an in depth analysis of the current acculturation of the Muslim American identity. Dr. Jeffrey Lang is Professor of Mathematics at The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. He is the author of two best selling works: Struggling to Surrender and Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America.