Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Muslim Woman

Praise be to God, The Most High, The Most Exalted, Lord of All the Worlds, Who Sent the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) as a mercy to the whole of humanity. He, Glorified and Exalted Sent down The Noble Qur’an through him (SAAW) as a Light and a Guidance so that, we, His creations could learn of, respect, love, honor; not only Him (SWT), but also ourselves individually and collectively as one people. He Commanded the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) to clarify what He, The Lord, had Revealed so that we would reflect upon our condition as individuals and a people. The words and actions of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) have provided clarity as to the knowledge and proper methods by which one should conduct their life. He (SAAW) instructed his companions (RAA) to convey Islam to those of us who were not among them. May the Peace and Blessings be upon him, upon his family, and his righteous companions who expended their property, and indeed their lives, to propagate The Way and Path of Islam. It is due to the efforts of the Companions of the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and subsequent countless generations of Muslims, that this American author-a descendant of West African slaves and Scotch-Irish pig farmers-gained the capacity to state the sublime Testification of Faith that binds all Muslims to one another: I declare and testify that there is nothing worthy of worship or service except The One True and Living God, Alone, and without partner; and I declare and testify that Muhammad is the servant and messenger of God (SAAW).
Wallahi Al Theem, it is certainly impossible to be a believer and remain too proud to soil one’s hands in the troubling, complex evils, and suffering of this world. We only deceive ourselves into an existential hypocrisy if we hold sacred the Five Pillars of Islam, but remain silent and inactive when situations demand we institute revolutionary change. For any Muslim to deem him, or herself, righteous merely because he or she is Muslim, is the worst kind of self-delusion and lie. For the individual Muslim and the Ummah collectively to cite the West as the primary contagion for the diseases that plague our Community is yet another mere feverish delusion-a disease in itself. The Muslim is the primary cause of the crippling condition in which the Ummah currently exists. It is our abandonment of The Comprehensive Teachings of Islam, our disunion of purpose in relation to our politics, our economics, our society, and culture that has led to the reality in which we no longer lead mankind. One of our greatest failures as a people is the treatment we subject, or tacitly permit, the Muslim to endure. Consider the words of Haifaa A. Jawad, connecting them to our contemporary times:

The history of human civilization testifies that the woman, who gives birth to man as a mother, was humiliated, treated harshly and reduced to the position of being ‘a maid’ rather than a dignified woman…Women were viewed as the embodiment of sin, misfortune, disgrace and shame, and they had no rights or position in society whatsoever. Indeed, society was confused about the very nature of women and even questioned whether God had granted them a soul. Hence, they were deprived of all opportunities to develop their personalities and their individualities, and make full use of their abilities to the benefit of their society…A woman was classed not as a person but as a thing, divisible like property; she was an object of scorn and contempt. These inhuman practices were prevalent at the time in most ancient societies…in the Arabian peninsula…the situation of women prior to Islam was markedly worse. Women in this time of ignorance before Islam (Jahiliyya) were in subjugation either to their kinsmen or their husbands. They were considered a chattel to be possessed, to be bought, to be sold, or to be inherited. Men had absolute domination over them, they were not individuals themselves, they either belonged to their father or to their husband…Women has no independence or power over issues relating to their well-being and they were excluded from any active role in the social and political affairs of their society. It has been stated that ‘at annual gatherings and fairs women were made to dance naked and poets sat around composing poems on various parts of their body and movements’. In other words, they were treated as sex objects with no respect at all for their dignity. 

I am a Muslim, a divorced father of three daughters, and obviously a man. As a man there are things about women that I absolutely love, indeed crave; shapes, sizes, silhouettes, memories of past experiences, imaginations of past encounters with the unknown sister in hijab, the classmate in graduate school, the cashier at Wal-Mart. The sexual instinct is natural. Yet for the believer there is a tension between his natural appetite and his duty to his Lord (SWT). This tension, this mujahada, is one of many that define our being human. There is nothing more beautiful within humanity than a woman. For me personally, the women of the Middle East and, especially those of the Indian subcontinent and its Diaspora, receive my greatest interest and attention. Although admittedly, whether the darkest complexioned woman of Africa, the blonde and blue-eyed, the East Asian; so long as the sister is shapely, voluptuous-in particular on the lower half of her body-she is a flower within the garden of humanity that I struggle to avert in an attempt to lower my gaze. Yesterday I received good news about my future having been accepted as a graduate student to Brooklyn College, City University of New York. Alhamduilillah. Yet as a Muslim and a man, I cannot deny that there is such a void in my life, in my heart, which can only be filled by a woman. Yes, Wallahi Al Theem, there is definitely the powerful sexual craving that needs to be satiated. Yes, when I see a beautiful sister-no matter her religion-of the Indian subcontinent and its Diaspora, there is such an intense attraction and desire. For me, this is natural. It is unavoidable. It is as it should be. However, in order for me to remain faithful to The Command of my Lord (SWT), to The Comprehensive Teachings of Islam, I must struggle to avoid the sister. I must walk in the opposite direction. I must commit myself, sometimes several times a day, to refrain from even the attempt of Zina, let alone the act itself. This is a Test from God (SWT).
However, I will not deny at all, for that which I pray: a gorgeous Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Indian Muslimah, cinnamon in complexion, size 8-13, with a lovely backside that looks awesome in a pair of pink, lace thongs. I am a man and this is a natural desire for me in the most private sphere. Yet, no couple can, nor should, engage in a constant state of copulation. There most certainly must be more to the individual than her underwear, in spite of the beauty she may possess when wearing them. A true man, a sincere believer, will never satiate his needs only to leave his lover and wife to cook, clean, serve, nurse, and remain a silent fixture in a domicile that is nothing more than a prison. It is here, no matter the frankness with which I speak about the woman I pray God (SWT) Provides and Sends me, that any notion of sexual objectification dies. For I desire a Muslimah who is full recognition of her rights as a human being-rights Endowed by The Creator of All (SWT). Jawad identifies a woman’s rights under Islamic Law as: (1) the right to independent ownership; (2) the right to marry whom she likes and to end an unsuccessful marriage; (3) the right to education; (4) the right to keep her own identity, i.e. not being compelled to take the husband’s family name, et cetera; (5) the right to sexual pleasure, of which she cites a hadith of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), who said when a husband and wife look at each other lovingly, God Will Look at them with His Merciful Eye.. When they hold hands their sins will fall away from between their fingers. When they engage in coitus they will be surrounded by prayerful angels. For every sensation of their delight there is a counterpart of reward for them in Paradise as huge as a mountain. If the wife conceives, she will have the rewards of a worshipper who is constantly engaged in prayers, fasting, and in the struggle in the Way of God (jihad). When she delivers a child only God Knows the magnitude of the rewards stored for the parents in Paradise. Indeed the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) cautioned the men of his Companions (RAA), Let not any of you fall upon his wife in the manner of a male animal suddenly jumps upon his female partner…When one of you copulates with his wife, let him not rush away from her, having attained his own climax, until she is satisfied…Wash your clothes, brush your teeth, trim your hair, keep always clean and tidy. A nation before you neglected themselves, thereby driving their women into adultery… {it is a vice for a man} to assault his unprepared wife, seeking to satisfy his own lust and leaving her before she could achieve her own fulfillment. Jawad writes:

Contrary to the present situation in which talk about legitimate sex has disappeared from religious thinking and writing and has become a matter of shame and stigma which ought to be suppressed, early Muslim scholars were fascinated by the idea and were quite open about it. They wrote chapters on the subject in which they elaborated on issues such as the anatomy of sex, the religious merits of lawful sexual activities, the intimate theme of coitus, its initial foreplay, and its proper conclusion. They cautioned against an abrupt coitus and crude departure at the end of the act. Instead they advised an initial gentle approach and a slow courteous departure…they emphasized the fact that the husband should be considerate and gentle, never too rough and that he should prolong sufficiently for his wife to attain climax. A wife is encouraged to take the initiative and not be content with the role of being submissive.

This is the Islamic view of sex and sexuality, where a woman’s thoughts, feelings, and pleasure must be in the forefront of the husband’s mind.

The Muslim woman’s (6) right is that of inheritance; (7) the right to election and nomination to political offices and participation in public affairs; and finally (8), the right to respect. Jawad cites the words of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), who said, the more civil and kind a Muslim is to his woman whether wife, daughter, or sister the more perfect in faith he is. This is Islam and its Comprehensive Teachings. Yet, mankind, in the words of Sayyid Qutb, has a dual ability in the recognition of God’s Sovereignty. Qutb writes:

Man is a creature of dual nature, of dual ability, and of dual dimensions. He is able to follow Divine Guidance and to go astray. He is just as capable of recognizing good, as he is of recognizing evil. He is equally capable of directing himself one way or the other. This dual ability is deeply ingrained in his being. Divine messages and external factors do not create this natural potential but serve to awaken it and help it to go one way or the other.

Our beloved prophet (SAAW) said, all people are equal, as equal as the teeth of a comb. There is no claim of merit of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a white over a black person, or of a male over a female. Only God-fearing people merit a preference with God. In relation to women, Jawad confirms that in the early days of the Ummah women contributed in a wide-range of activities within the public sphere. Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the wife of the prophet (SAAW), was regarded as a renowned scholar and transmitted thousands of hadith that have been essential to Islamic Law and Jurisprudence. Nafisah, a descendant of Ali (RA), was a prominent jurist, theologian, and a teacher of Imam al Shafi’i, who attended her lessons and public lectures. Shuhda was a woman who was a master in the collection and science of hadith, and most importantly, she was a predecessor of both Bukhari and Muslim. Umayyah bint Qays al Ghaffariyyah and Umm al Hasan bint Qadi Abi Jafar al Tanjali were both renowned physicians. Even in the fields of warfare, we have the examples of Nusaiba bint Kab al Mazinia and hind bint Utbah. The prophet Muhammad (SAAW) said of Nusaiba, wherever I looked (on the battlefield) I saw her fighting before me. In relation to employment and positions of authority, we find that during his Caliphate, Umar ibn al Khattab appointed al Shafa bint Abdullah Superintendent of Markets, which is akin to a compliance position in our contemporary times. Both Abu Hanifa and Jarir al Tabari have concluded that women are quite capable of becoming judges within the courtrooms under Islamic Law.

Haifaa Jawad goes on to state:

Muslim women also proved their ability to play a constructive role in other activities of the community. For example, they were involved in the political issues of the time and their opinions in political affairs were highly respected. They often took part in the process of choosing the Caliph. They also enjoyed full freedom to express their ideas and were encouraged to participate in the social life of the community. Public life was like a stage where both men and women used to discuss and debate with the prophet and his companions and even protect their rights if they were breached….during the time of the second Caliph Umar, a woman expressed her disagreement with him publicly in matters relating to the women’s dowry and managed to correct him. The Qur’an encourages women to speak their minds and not be silent; nonetheless we see today some fundamentalists propagating the unfounded slogan that ‘the voice of woman is A’wrah (private parts to be covered up) and therefore arguing that it is in her best interest to keep quiet…how can a woman learn and grow intellectually if she is not allowed to speak and communicate with others? How can she widen her understanding of things around her and speak forcefully and impressively if she is prevented from debating with others publicly?

Have Muslims returned to Jahiliya notions in relation to women? The answer is certainly in the affirmative, the patriarchal-dominated cultures of Muslim peoples no longer hold the rights of women Sacred, as is The Command of The One True and Living God. When Pakistani women are dressed in bikinis during beauty pageants, when brothels in Islamabad and Dhaka are filled with girls who have been sold by their families into lives of prostitution, when Saudi women cannot drive cars or file for divorce, when during International Women’s Day the radical elements of our Muslim brothers shout in Tahir Square for women to go home, when the Western convert is forced into a life of servitude, erroneously being told that it is servitude and sex that God Demands of her, when schools in Afghanistan are destroyed because they were built to educate girls, when girls are trafficked from Bangladesh, India, the Sudan, Nigeria, and all over the globe to please men in the wealthy Gulf nations for payment, when Sudanese girls-babies-have their clitoris removed because ‘women are not supposed to enjoy sexual gratification’: we, as Muslims, must simply understand that we as individuals and as an Ummah are in full possession of Qutb’s dual ability, and that we are rejecting Faith, rejecting the Deen of Islam as it was taught, understood, and propagated by our beloved prophet (SAAW) and his righteous companions (RAA). It is not the West that has caused this, nor can it be blamed for our rejection of The Comprehensive Teachings of Islam. It is only the Muslim who is to blame.

Consider the words of Sabria Jawhar:

Many Saudi women from birth are trained to put their personal aspirations aside to serve their families. Their opinions, wants and needs are often ignored for the greater good of the family. There’s an aspect of servitude, but to be more accurate many Saudi girls I know are placed in a lifetime role of caregiver. They provide the emotional support for their sisters, brothers and parents. The men of the family readily acknowledge that the women are the glue that keeps the familial bond strong. The warmth of the family’s embrace is strongly desired by all Saudi women, but in all too many cases that embraces never loosens. Rather it becomes restrictive and suffocating to the point that unmarried Saudi women are still living at home well into their 30s. Perhaps worse, they have traded one gilded cage for another by marrying men who see her as a source of income and their concubine…one of my friends has a brother who demanded that his family find him a wife. His requirements for a Saudi wife were simple: she must be beautiful and dumb. The brother wanted beauty but the brains had to be left behind because she would pose too much of a challenge for him. The family obliged the brother and found him a wife with fair skin and hair that would make Rapunzel envious. A couple of years and kids later, the brother had enough. Like a 12-year-old who discovers that the graphics of his X-Box are not as cool as the Playstation model, he was ready for a trade-in…These scenarios are all too familiar to Saudi women. Self-expression is stifled not only by insecure male family members who haven’t quite outgrown adolescence but by Saudi women who have yet to discover their voice to express their emotions.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has cited that there was a 13% rise in cases of violence against women in that nation. Rabeea Hadi of the Aurat Foundation, which collects these statistics stated:

The state, honourable judiciary, free media, the women’s rights, and human rights organizations and common citizens must know 1384 daughters of Pakistan were murdered, 928 were raped, 683 committed suicide, and 604 were killed in the name of ‘honour’ in year 2009…with extreme pain and anguish, we express our outrage and resentment over this state of affairs where women and girls are being murdered, kidnapped, and subjected to various forms of violence, including killings in the name of ‘honour’, suicides, acid throwing, and stove-burning with shameless impunity and the state functionaries are doing nothing except lip-service before TV cameras and that too only in some high-profile cases.

There is a stark difference between the Islamic culture and the cultures of the Muslim peoples. Culture, defined as a pattern of human knowledge that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations often held customary to a particular social group which includes collective attitudes, values, goals; all within institutional frameworks of either family, tribe, government, et cetera. For the believer, his human knowledge begins with The Immutable Truth that God is Sovereign, with the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) as His conduit, thereby identifying what is the Desired attitudes, values, and goals for human beings. Over the last three hundred years in Muslim history there has been a MOST HEINOUS, UNNATURAL trend in which men have privileged and given primacy to their rights within what is left of the Islamic institutional frameworks, while simultaneously denying the rights He(SWT) Has Provided and Endowed to women. The governments of historically Muslim homelands have instituted bid’a into law!! Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, the Sudan, among others, serve as prime examples. There can be no doubt that within the Ummah of Muhammad (SAAW), Muslim men have made their respective tribal notions, idols, or partners they ascribe to The One True and Living God, Who is Far Above anything likened unto Him(SWT). Tribalism, the caste system, notions of ‘honor’, the simple belief that men are superior to women: all are direct challenges to The Sovereignty of God, The Lord of All the Worlds.  

As Ira Lapidus writes:

The critical debates have been between traditionalist interpreters of the Qur’an, modernist interpreters of the Qur’an, and more radical feminist critics, who all differ on questions of polygamy, veiling, the economic rights of women, inheritance, and employment. The traditionalists argue that the Quranic texts are normative and specif eternally valid rules, but even they differ in their judgments about the social roles of women.

Let there be no mistake: the traditional, classical, interpretation of The Holy Qur’an and the Sunna of the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) is the Sirat Al-Mustaqueem. The interpretations of all others are bid’a, innovations, which our beloved prophet (SAAW) has assured us leads to the Hellfire. However and again, Lapidus identifies some of the ‘traditionalists’ views that are bid’a, and mere reactions to the ascendancy of the West as the dominant world powers. He continues:

Some believe the Quran requires that women be lodged in the home and have no public role; they should be subordinate to men in order to protect their modesty. Islamist movements generally espouse these values. Radical Islamists in Algeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Morocco, Nigeria, and elsewhere have tried to ensure separateness by restricting the freedom of movement in public spaces unless they are fully covered. They condemn the employment of women outside the home, oppose political participation, and denounce contrary values as a sign of Westernization.

Notice that these radical innovators-May God Guide them and protect the women amongst them-are using a cultural basis for their actions and not one based on Islam as practiced by the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and his righteous companions (RAA). Lapidus continues, writing of the Muslims who intellectually, struggle in The Way of God (SWT):

Other traditionalists, equally committed to the Quran and hadith, accept public roles for women. More nuanced views are expressed in Egypt. While the association of feminism with capitalism, colonialism, and Western influence has made it suspect…a more conservative version of this sort of ‘feminism’ holds that Islam inculcates a high standard of sexual and marital morality, provides for the protection and security of women, and guarantees many legal and property rights. In its historical context, and in the present, Islam has had an uplifting and civilizing effect upon the actual relations between men and women…such feminists call for education and work roles for women, but are not interested in unveiling.

The believer is uninterested in calling for women to remove the hijab, abaya, and jilbab when in public because it is a Command of God (SWT), and their faith is incomplete without it. So, for me personally, yes I long for a beautiful wife, it is just as important, is that she has an educated, intellectual mind. That she is unafraid to challenge me, to demand that I help with housework, change diapers, and if she will allow me, to be her sous-chef in the kitchen. I want a wife who will kick me out of bed at Fajr, even when she is on her menstrual cycle. I want a wife that demands that I fulfill my promise to her and strive each day of my life to be a great husband, an even greater father, and the best Muslim I can be. Men are the maintainers and sustainers of women, meaning that I am to provide for her, should she decide not to work. Yet, the greatest maintainence and sustenance I can provide is her rights Endowed by The One True and Living God (SWT).

Isma’il ibn Bilal


  1. A new world will sow a new society of women. It is not bad to accept the condition of women in different world and it is good to accept their situations on a liberated environment. However, it is necessary for all Muslims to go for moderation.

  2. To my critics: I am existentially weary of Muslims speaking of the smell of roses, while the Ummah is atop a mountain of garbage. The pictures I place on the Voice of the Ummah blog are of the reality of the life in which we exist. Do not get mad at me because I am showing the truth-the ugly truth, about ourselves...instead do something to institute change in a positive and constructive manner. You say you believe: so show and prove!

  3. This was a great entry. May Allah (SWT) grant you your heart's desire.

  4. Whoever you people are... stop this garbage. if you have negative views about the burqa then keep it to YOURSELF. This is the worst entry I have ever read and I hope i don't have to read another one like this EVER again.