Good visuals excite me.
The beauty of nature mesmerizes me.
Memories of Pakistan nostalgia-te me.
Position of women worries me.
Chauvinists exasperate me.
Preachers of false dogmas enrage me.
Terrorism sickens me.
Extremists frustrate me.
Moral policing infuriates me.
The lost community baffles me.
Racism saddens me.
Political bastards need to get a life!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Vanity, Modesty and Islam

Vanity is impermissible under religious law. Taken that the hijab and burqa (or whatever it is called in different countries - I am talking of the head and body cover) is the normal clothing style approved for a woman, and that we are not allowed to wear make-up when going out (or basically when we are in the presence of other na-mehram men), it does make life rather bland. The only time we are allowed to dress up, wear make-up and perfume is when we are either only in the presence of other women, or with husbands. As soon we leave this company, the fancy clothing, the make-up, the perfume has to somehow magically disappear. With perfumes though, in case of some really stubborn ones, the fragrance can linger on even if you scrub yourself to nothingness.

The supposed rationale behind all this is that you should not try to beautify yourself any more than how Allah has already made you. Yeah, too bad if you haven't already landed a Giselle-Bundchen face! Quran is supposed to be for all times, it's theory cannot fail, and you cannot challenge it. Well for the Islamic well-being, a woman would be better off with godzilla features really.

But there is a problem. Regardless of how ill-looking and unpresentable a woman is, no matter how old or young, and how covered or uncovered she is, she still faces harassment. So how exactly a hijab and lack of cosmetic indulgence is working, I have no idea. Even more sad is how it is worse in Muslim countries. No matter how appropriately you're dressed, you can't escape harrassment. Sure they'll say they've lost Islam's way, they're under-educated. But is that what has become of Islamic countries? It's so easy to always blame the woman. Does Atefah Sahaleh ring a bell? The execution of an under-age girl in Iran, and so many other similar cases, where women end up on the execution stand, and their abusers stand amongst the public and mercilessly watch.

It is really stupid to say that there is harasment in the West as well because according to us, they are immoral as it is. But guess what, the harassment of Islamic countries far exceeds that of a non-Muslim one. So vanity or no vanity, every woman gets her fair share of it. Practically looking at it, we should just be modest, adopt the middle path. Neither overdo it, nor be too relaxed. Because as for the men, they are going to be annoying anyways.

This can be tricky though, since everyone has their own understanding of being modest. Europeans may find the Indian belly showing in their sari immodest, and the Indian may find the European mini-skirt immodest. But if I'm not mistaken, mini-skirts and uber-shorts aren't consider completely modest here in the West either. It's about how you wear it. If you pair it with high-heels or a posture that says look at my boobs, then go back to see my ass, you know what that means.

I think intuition-ally, we know when we are doing too much. We know when we are just trying to be sexy and appealing in the wrong way. That gut instinct cannot be ruled out. And that is where the understanding of modesty comes about. We should simply aim towards being graceful and pleasant. And a burqa combined with a hijab/niqab is just at one far end of the spectrum.

What pisses me off the most is how a Muslim woman's modesty (at first glance) is only judged by her outer garb. While there is no such criteria for a man. Otherwise I'd be seeing all these white caps and trousers above ankles. It doesn't matter what she is from the inside, in the strict Muslim countries, lack of adherence to the proper dress code can mean a harsh penalty. Does anyone remember that instance where a girl's school caught fire in Saudi Arabia, and the girls weren't allowed to leave the blazing building because they were not wearing the correct Islamic dress? Read here. How fucked up is that?

Muslim women suffer a lot more than any given Muslim man. The laws are harsher for her. Life is much harder for her. Inequality is screaming from every corner and crevice! Those who don't get it, don't know any better. Their reality is so well indoctrinated into them that it's really sad.

Men can have multiple wives. He can choose from a larger audience. If his spouse disobeys, he can hit her. He can take his shirt off in public and think no woman is going to feel sexually drawn to him on his flexing muscles (if he has a good body, i.e.). He can plough whenever he feels like and the woman cannot reject. He is the master and she must be submissive.

And what does a woman get? An ordained burqa? And if she behaves well, mercy of her husband? what kind of a twisted relationship is this?

The current version of Islam doesn't sit too well with me, of how our cultures bring it to us. The real Islam seems like a fine silk thread: you have to look real hard to know it's there. A woman has so much more rights than we are made to believe. Can someone please link me to a female scholar of Islam who hasn't studied her subject through other men?

Any moderate family I come across is not a result of a true religious following, but rather the lack of following. My parents believe themselves to be religious, and I am an outcast because I wasn't in sync with them. The number of times I've seen my father hit my mother is enough for me to know for a fact that Islam is the single most corrupt ideology of any given household!

I haven't disowned Islam. I have disowned those who have left me in this predicament. All of them!

Vanity may be a sin. But being a little selfish every now and then isn't. I'm not getting a second life.

p.s. I have a strong feeling that God has something else in store for women!


  1. The real Islam seems like a fine silk thread: you have to look real hard to know it's there

    Iqbal was one person i've gone through who has tried to make it a bit more easier to know it's there.
    The real Islam was supposed to be dynamic not static. Iqbal has beautifully linked the dynamism of Islam with the concept of Ijtihad.
    Ijtihad was meant to be the basis of all evolution in Islam accordingly with the evolution of society.
    Our so called scholars have deliberately ignored ijtihad throughout our history due to the very fact that it was about change and change can bring about reaction and consequently the position of these populist Ulema could have been compromised.
    As far as your father is concerned, he has done this because such behaviour has gone unnoticed for hundreds of years but not any more. This behavior needs to be exposed frequently enough.

    I have a strong feeling that God has something else in store for women!

    Well definitely He has but we need to look out for it.

  2. Something else in store for women? Please - do not take the easy way out - a cop-out in contemporary-speak.

    You have the opportunity to be the change you want to see in the world. All religious fundamentals are anti-woman. Do not give me the bit about Islam being progressive - if you wnat to bring about change, confront Islam's most anti-women doctrines and be bold to reject them. As a woman, do not accept a polygamous relationship, do not accept the Hijab and submit your marriage not to a religious but to a secular civil law that gives you equal right to divorce and custody. Reject the whole concept of male guardianship and be a brave example to other muslim and non-muslim women you know. It is easier said than done but small steps within your control will suffice.

    For starters, do not accept the convoluted justification for everything from polgamy and female circumcision to temporary marriages, male guardianships, hijabs and domestic violence. Listen to the reformers on Memri tv. The likes of wafa sultan may run counter to your moderate views but she makes sense when she rejects certain aspects of the religious texts.

    Religious texts are the works of great but flawed thinkers. Accept what is just and reject the rest. Think in terms of not just the ummah but humanity as a whole in everything you do.

    Again - be the change you want to see in the world.

  3. @drss ijtihad is non-existent since the 10th century. I think our problem is that we are an obsessive people. It is very difficult for us to welcome change. We are too scared all the time. And the fact that Islam encourages change, it stops you from getting too accustomed to anything, and it encourages you to move on. The sole fact that we love our Prophet(p.b.u.h) to such a major extent that it holds us from change, is a bit weird for me. Love isn't bad. but possessive love is.

    @Anonymous how about not posting anonymously for beginners? :)
    I respect your POV, and there are parts that I do agree with. But, I think it is wrong to say that Islam is wrong and responsible for everything that is happening. Religious fundamentalist ARE anti-female, and I like not a single one of them. Then again, these are so-called Muslims we are talking about who hold a certain interpretation. Islam gives the woman the right to reject her husband's polygamy and the right to divorce. Islam does ask men and women to be modest, but the way we see hijab today, is not a guidance i've found in the Book. Temporary marriages and female circumcision are a farce, and absolutely against Islam. Domestic violence is against the duties of a Muslim man. Child custody I haven't looked into, so I can't speak. I do reject male guardianship, but then again, the type of guardianship we are made to observe is strictly man-made. Just a while back i read in some Islamic group on facebook the 57 or something ways to keep your husband happy. It was such a load of bullshit, and 100% sexist. We focus too much on a woman's duties, and too much on a man's rights. This inequality is a man's observance and his made-up ideologies.
    I've heard Wafa Sultan. There are parts where i couldnt agree with a person more, but i dont agree with some parts as well. I am assuming you are an atheist. The thing is, all the Muslims (at least) who go atheist, are a result of some form of cultural torture. Cultural torture because while they come from Islamic backgrounds, there is a lot of culture hotch potch. Female circumcision is not a part of the entire Islamic world. Then comes domestic violence. I can argue that isn't something that happens in the Islamic world alone, so we cannoy fix this evil with it alone.
    What I am trying to achieve is not a possibility through adopting apostasy only. In fact, I am not trying to put Islam on the stand at all. I am putting the followers on the stand. The men on the stand. I am only trying to speak of what is true vs what is made to believe is true.
    This is my vision of change.

  4. Dear,
    I dont understand why anything written 1000s of years ago have to be swallowed word-for-word.Religion is for betterment of us to find a centre in difficult times etc etc.You know the eat to live & not live to eat argument.If parts of Religion are regressive discard those parts and enjoy relief with the rest of verses.Protestant Christianity took Christians out of dark ages and now they rule the world.
    In Hinduism, now Sati,caste discriminations,animal sacrifices are looked down upon by educated..and we carry all the good stuff that brings peace to mind like Yoga,Ayurveda,Pranayama etc.
    And by that I dont mean, take easy way out. The Islamists today are trying to do some masochism thingy by making people's life more&more difficult..and somehow they believe that by tightening&torturing ourselves and devoid ourselves of all pleasures somehow God will give you reservation in heaven..that is fucked up.Bottom line is we have to use our natural conscience to know what is good and what is wrong.When people say their holy book is true and others' are works of Satan there is no fucking way to know if things are not other way around.Like they say, never let your moral sense prevent you from doing the right thing.
    Right or Wrong is like judging pornography,I know when I see it. :-)

  5. Jaydev, I agree with you. But you have to read your post aloud to yourself as well. "The Islamists today are trying to do some masochism thingy by making people's life more&more difficult." This is completely true. The Islamists are a problem, and a big one at that, because they are in the position of power and control. The sad part is, this control is either gained, or you snatch it. And these Islamists have clearly not snatched it, the people themselves have put their faith in them. And how does that happen? Well, they give khutbas, they brainwash the men by infusing a great sense of patriarchy in them, and how that is what is prescribed by God.
    Tell me, would any person deny any power or control given to him? So when these men are told that you are in the higher position, and whosoever disobeys you, show them who's boss, what do you think they would do?
    What do you think will happen when the emphasis of these clerics is all on the rights of men, and duties of the women?
    I also agree the Quran says hit your wives if they disobey. But I also know that hitting is the last resort. But in this world it is the first thing man does. It is also true, that a woman must not be hit on the face, or so hard that it leaves a mark. And again, face is the first place the slap lands, and any further hitting leaves the woman more than just black and blue. So who is wrong? Who is teaching these men to behave like this? If not the clerics, why arent they being stopped. Stopped harshly enough that they would have similar fears of raising their hands as a woman would have to walk with a na-mehram. But that isn't going to happen. It's a man's world.
    I like what you said, “never let your moral sense prevent you from doing the right thing.” That is so true. But in some cases, people's morals are so distorded, they are unable to see outside of the conditioning they've gotten accustomed to.
    Texts of thousands of years ago. Yeah. I don't know what to say about that. It's too difficult and confusing.

  6. @Emaan I dont subscribe to older the ancestor, dumber they are kind of fashionable evolutionary argument.My sole beef is against putting religion as a locus of ethical debate.To analyse something/anything a subconscious criticism takes place in our mind before absorbing almost any knowledge.If you are conditioned not to play devil's advocate(i.e. suppress doubts) in the process of understanding anything,it invariably will leave confusion & blindspots in our acquired knowledge.However holy,religion is not immune to this analytical process.That's all.

    Even when we take the example of reformed Judeo-Christian western society,if we pay close attention we can see that despite the seemly endless derision & satire towards holy cows of Christianity like Jesus Christ,Mary,Pope..etc even atheists respect the core philosophy preached by Jesus like "let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone" or "thou shalt love neighbor as thyself etc.Clearly their targets are obstinate,hypocritical & monopolizing institution like Vatican/Church rather than the essence of message itself.Reformed people of the book are unwilling to make religion & messengers locus of their ethical debate and wants to expand in all directions.For example: Love thy neighbour is being expanded to include taking care of environment,vegetation & animals in nature and thus expanding on the message by one faction etc.
    What I am saying is that religious texts was written in a different cultural settings in a different age.And when people penning them stress on finer details of culture, the audience was obviously the incumbent local culture in a particular place.So, when you absorb values from religious texts you have to go into deeper meanings of verses than superficial dress code,etiquettes,do &do nots etc.Otherwise it becomes a history lesson.Religion is not history its philosophy and a bunch of ideas in a world full of ideas which will be continuously polished and chiseled.. and occasionally obliterated according to place & time continuously throughout history of time.
    Nature is ruthlessly cruel to ideas,various species,people&civilizations that are obstinate/unable/unwilling to change.Millennia and Centuries are nothing in terms of time in eyes of Nature.
    I read my earlier post couple of times before posting it and again read it on your suggestion,hope the intent was open fruitful discourse and not mere derision.



Related Posts with Thumbnails