Jul 02 2012

Sisters, brothers and the only right thing to do

Tag: Extremism,Islamic values,Women IssuesMona @ 5:47 am

Brothers and Sisters

Ramadan is on the doorstep again and I’m feeling bad for leaving my readers without attention for so long. Thank you all so much for the overwhelming positive feedback (strangely I hardly get any other kind).

While reading my mails I sometimes wonder what if..?

One lady from Australia f.e. is thanking me for showing her the real Islam and is thinking about converting. “..this website – it is informative and it makes Islam a little more understandable for us non Muslims – Contrary to what we are led to believe Islam is obviously a serene and beautiful religion, which is open and welcoming to every one who desires it and one in which women are held in high esteem… Many, many thanks for helping to open my eyes and my heart!”.

I really do wish she will find the right kind of people guiding her to it.  More asking questions than giving answers here.

Why is it that people who claim to be Muslims do not act like Muslims should do?  Once in a while I hear devote Muslims say that in many ways the real Islam is found more in the modern democracies than in the Islamic world today. Why?!

In a democracy people’s rights are written in law books and there is no way twisting around them. It is their right and they get them, no one is above the other in terms of citizen rights. I am thinking of a letter I got recently from a reader. He was asking for specific quotes on inheritance matters so he could convince with them quarreling siblings.

A father had died 8 years ago leaving 2 sons and 6 daughters behind . He owned 2 houses and some agricultural land. Until this day the sisters have not got anything from their inheritance and the siblings are not even talking to each other since then. One of the brothers claims to be Islamic scholar saying that he has Proof that girls do not have any right to the two houses. Also from the agricultural land the sisters did not get any benefit till this day, not to mention any share.

Being a Muslim does just not mean growing a beard, reading the Quran daily and learning some Hadiths by heart, praying the prayers on the minute, going to Pilgrimage or even giving some Zakah. His fasting in Ramadan is void since he is not talking to his sisters and withholding their legitimate rights.

Islam is how you treat your fellow human beings, and actually all living things.  The only way to please God is to follow his advice in daily life. He forgives missed prayers and disobedience against Himself in  personal lifestyle, but for hurting your next of kin, neighbor or any innocent people is not forgiven by trying to do some extra prayers or doing a pilgrimage hoping that small sins will be washed away.

“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteousness is this that one should believe in God and the last day and the angels and the Book *, and the prophets **, and give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for (the emancipation of) the captives, and keep up prayer and pay the poorrate; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in time of conflicts these are they who are true (to themselves) and these are they who guard (against evil). (Quran 2.177)

“Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: Enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”  (a Hadith by Prof. Mohammed)

Unfortunately many believers think that some extra worshiping will wipe away smaller misdeeds. I am very skeptical about that. I have often the feeling that people do the bookkeeping of good and bad deeds themselves trusting they will balance each other with the goods ones somewhat heavier!

Here is a huge field of work and need of education from the Islamic preachers, who usually stick to routine sermons, do this, do that.. and God is merciful.

Yes, He is wise and merciful, but believers should not do the weighing themselves. There may be a huge disappointment on the final day of Judgment.

Ramadan kareem, and remember: “you should not eat your fill while your neighbor is hungry”

With greetings, Mona

………………………………………

* The Book means the Bible, the Torah and the Quran. “People of the Book” is reference for the religion of Prophet Abraham.

** The Prophets are all the Jewish and Christian Prophets with the one difference: Jesus is a Prophet to Muslims and  the last one was Mohammed. One cannot be true Muslim without believing in all of them.

 

 


Jan 22 2012

What went wrong?

 

Yesterday I stopped. There was a lighthearted discussion between friends about life in general and then talk about testimony in a disagreement. Someone said jokingly  “is it enough to have two female testimonies to prove you wrong?” Something in that direction.  We all knew the history of that ruling and it was a joke after all!

How did it come that things are in such a bad shape today in many Muslin countries especially with women rights and tolerance? And why is it that they are backward in many areas despite the immense material wealth under their feet in oil, minerals, gas etc.? One could argue that this wealth have been contributing to that fact, the reasons for it are open for discussion. Why is it that some Muslim countries with very little natural wealth have progressed better in areas of human rights and social welfare than those with riches?  This could be a very interesting research topic for a student thesis!

The birth of Islam 1400 years ago was a beacon light for humanity: no racism (all are equal before God), equal rights for all and caring for the less fortunate.  For instance the ruling that two women’s testimonies are worth of that of a man was revolutionary for the pagan Bedouin tribes of Arabian Peninsula.  At that time in Europe people were living in deep superstition despite of their Christian faith. And still 1100 years later witch-hunt and burning suspect (mostly women) alive authorized by the Church was common practice.

Christianity wrong understood by the religious elite. There were virtually no women rights at time in Europe. Only in the last couple of centuries women have reached through long campaigning equal rights, although they often still do not get the same salary for the same job done even in the most advanced countries.

Why is it that in too many Islamic countries that should be in the forefront in this battle of humanity backwardness and intolerance is dominant?  And women in the most conservative corners of societies are less fortunate in many ways than in the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh). Not necessary to mention that the first wife of Prof. Mohammed was a confident businesswoman and his employer and after his death his wife Lady Aisha was an accepted Islamic scholar and became active in politics.

How can it be that today some scholars argue that women have no right to express their opinion, no rights in many ways when it is Clearly ruled in the Quran and no believing Muslim can argue against it?  In my opinion the reason can be found in the overemphasizing of  the Hadith’s, memorized stories from the lifetime of the Prophet and the years thereafter that in some Islamic rulings overrun clear statements of the Quran.

As the late Dr. Lila Fahlman (Founder of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women ) once wrote: “Man-written Hadith’s have ruined Islam”.

Islam introduced women rights concerning her own property, inheritance and the right to choose her husband. Please read on the right panel Topic No. 8 “Women and Islam”, too. For example

Qur’an 2:228 “Women shall, in all fairness, enjoy rights equal to those exercised against them.” (This statement occurs in the context of divorce.)

Qur’an 2:282. “O you who believe! When you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and be not averse to writing it (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due; this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards), except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you barter with one another, and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witness; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things.”

Arab women gathering at the Town wall, by American Orientalist painter Frederick Arthur Bridgman  (1847-1928)

Wishing you a happy, healthy and spiritually rewarding 2012 and hoping that this little drop in the ocean could initiate some small scale awakening to the realities of the modern world!

Mona


Aug 07 2011

Islam must be rescued from extremism

Tag: Extremism,Religious tolerance,World PeaceMona @ 9:19 pm

 

Ramadan Kareem

Time of reflection, prayer and fasting.

Please meet Karen Armstrong

A British original thinker on the role of religion in the modern world.  She has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions, studying what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and how our faiths shaped world history and drive current events.

Video, Karen Armstrong makes her TED Prize wish: 

The Charter for Compassion

Another article worth reading about two American  convert clerics :   U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground by Jim Wilson/The New York Times

“.. They say that Islam must be rescued from extremists who selectively cite Islamic scripture to justify terrorism. Though Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Shakir do not denounce particular scholars or schools of thought, their students say the two are challenging the influence of Islam’s more reactionary sects, like Wahhabism and Salafism, which has been spread to American mosques and schools by clerics trained in Saudi Arabia. Where Wahhabism and Salafism are often intolerant of other religions — even of other streams within Islam — Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Shakir teach that Islam is open to a diversity of interpretations honed by centuries of scholars…”

“.. When it came time for questions, one young man stepped to the microphone and asked: “You said we have an obligation to humanity. Did you mean to Muslims, or to everyone?”

Mr. Shakir responded: “The obligation is to everyone. All of the people are the dependents of Allah.”

 

Wishing you a peaceful and rewarding month of fasting, may God show us all His wisdom!

Mona

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mar 20 2011

Old habits are hard to overcome

 

 

Saudi women’s veil versus modernity

Thousands of years old ethnic traditions felt unplaced in 21st century-

from Emirates news:

Husband has not seen wife’s face despite 10 years of marriage

By Staff , Published Sunday, December 05, 2010

After nearly 10 years of marriage that produced five children, Mufleh Mohammed of Saudi Arabia still has not seen his wife’s face.

Mohammed Hilal, another Saudi husband, could not identify his wife who was killed in a road crash until her veil was put back on her face.

Mufleh and Mohammed are among many Saudi men who have never seen the face of their wives as they insist on sticking to ancient tradition of keeping their face covered even in front of their relatives or husbands in defiance of ongoing changes brought about by the advent of oil and a massive foreign influx.

In a report on such habits, the Saudi Arabic language daily Alhayat said many women in the conservative Gulf Kingdom that controls nearly a quarter of the world’s oil still defy the winds of change and stick to their ancestors’ traditions.

Even after they get married, they never remove their burqu (face veil), leaving their husbands guessing how they look like. Mufleh is one of those husbands.

“My wife still keeps her face covered all the time even in front of her family and relatives because she has been accustomed to this since she was a child… I have to respect her wishes and not insist on seeing her face,” he said.

“I cannot deny that the woman’s habit to cover her face in front of her family and inside her house is a tradition that my tribe had inherited from our ancestors… but I have thought that social changes and openness will alter some of these habits since they have nothing to do with Islam… but they have not changed… although I have been married to my wife for nearly 10 years and have five children from her, I have not seen her face even once in my life.”

Most Muslim women in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf crude producers still wear face veils as part of long-standing traditions dating back before oil was struck more than half a century ago. But some of them, mainly the new generations, have started to unveil their faces while keeping a scarf on their heads.

In Saudi Arabia, local women taking off their face veils in public still face the wrath of the feared Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which usually deploys thousands of its members in public places to warn unveiled women. Women with “seditious” eyes must fully cover their faces.

Such practices run against recent statements by an outspoken Commission official, who said Saudi women do not have to veil their faces.

Sheikh Ahmed Al Ghamdi, head of the Commission’s Makkah branch, also said there was nothing in Islam to prevent women from driving.

Alhayat said Mohammed was another one among many Saudi husbands who are deprived from seeing the face of their wives.

“I could not identify my wife after she was killed in a road accidents…I asked security women to put the veil back on her face…after they did so, I recognized her and indentified the dead person as my wife,” he said.

The paper quoted an unnamed teacher at a literacy centre as saying she succeeded in persuading two of her female students to uncover their faces in class. But after a while, she noticed that they could no longer concentrate.

“They kept blushing and turning their faces away from their class mates although it is a female centre… after a few days, they quit the school,” she said.

Another Saudi women identified only as Ibta said she had agreed to her husband’s request to take her face veil off at home despite criticism from relatives. “My husband is an educated man so I agreed to his request… but my relatives then started to look at me with contempt and one of them later shouted in my face and said ‘shame on you… how could you do this,’….I stood their criticism with my husband’s encouragement,” she said.

But another Saudi man was not as open as Ibta’s husband. “I don’t see anything wrong if our women stick to old traditions,” said the man, identified as Saleh.

“Every society has its own traditions and habits and we have no choice but to respect them… we do not force them to do anything they don’t like, because some women in our tribe keep their face veil and some do not.”
.                                                    ……………………………………………………………….

 

From that article I remembered a Saudi woman from Riadh who saw the face of her mother the first time at her funeral, secretly she lifted the veil (as told in her life story, a book) .

 

How did it come that women in ancient times started wearing a full face veil in the vast Arabian desert? People inhabiting that huge inhospitable desert land were in the majority nomads living from their sheep flock and camels. Camel was and still is the Bedouins best friend. It is the “ship if the desert” and it is the source of meat and drink, milk and in Emergency (only*) blood from a vein on the neck when no water is available while a camel can survive for days with one drinking. Small farming communities existed in the oasis and in the coastal cities Mecca and some others flourished import-export caravan trade with spices and silk and other luxury items, badly needed vanities like pearls and perfumes by spoiled circles in Europe and elsewhere between the Mediterranean Sea and the East as far as the ancient China.

 

Photo By: Wendy Cocker,  Aslam Pilgrim caravanserai at Wadi Aslam,  northwest Saudi Arabia; 18th century

 

Let’s imagine the men going about their business looking after the animals. Tribal conflicts were every day matters, blood revenge the order. In that scenario especially the women were vulnerable and I can imagine why it became necessary to protect them, especially if they were still young and beautiful.

Bloody tribal conflicts were the menace of those times and until today tribal thinking is still strong in some areas.  In fact Prof. Mohamed was invited to Medina as arbitrator between warring tribes and was able to achieve peace between them, the main reason why people of Medina converted to the religion he was preaching, to Islam.

It was the custom in those times that after lost battles women and men were taken prisoners and often sold as slaves, sometimes the women were married legally. We can understand why women needed special protection in those days.

Small scale model of an ancient Arabian city, at Tayabat House in Jeddah

But times change. Today those countries are predominantly Muslim and it should be without thinking clear that women are safe from male harassment without covering their faces.  From religious point of view the face veil  is not required and the most powerful argument against it is the fact that when women perform the ritual pilgrimage (Omrah and Hajj, equally required from both sexes if affordable), they are not allowed to cover their faces in the Grand Mosque of Mecca. And they mix with men while doing it. In the Quran there are only two Suras, which mention in some way the veil. One of them says that the wives of the Prophet are not like other women and one should talk to them through a shade. A word that can be translated in different ways, but the root word can be any garment, a curtains or similar. The face veil comes from that, a shade, a covering, a curtain.

The other verse is in my opinion misinterpreted. While the Prophet was talking about covering bare breast (often the case while nursing, especially slave women) some are interpreting it meaning as an order to draw the head cloth (worn against the heat of the sun) over the face to the bare breast.

This is my personal view and I can see that I am not alone in this. I think that to develop a country it cannot forgo the huge potential of half of its population!  In those oil rich countries today the girls are getting an education but they find it really hard to get a  job. Only in education as teachers in girl’s schools or as women doctors were jobs open, and only if male relatives agreed. But slowly they are getting out and taking on office and administration jobs that until now were done by foreign male employees.

And they are driving cars, occasionally. Until recently foreign male drivers were hired from abroad which is actually Totally against the same old custom that women cannot be in the same room without males who are not close relatives. But it is still just a modest beginning in many areas.

Not to forget the fact that the huge number of foreign employees and workers send their savings back home for families they are supporting. That money is away from the country where it would otherwise stimulate development of the society. The good side of it is of course that poorer countries without oil reserves are profiting from it.

(* Blood and the meat of swine and some other animals are forbidden in islam, but in order to save lives in emergency allowed.)

Salaam for later

Mona


« Previous PageNext Page »


Switch to our mobile site