Category Archives: Muslim Women

I’m Never Getting Married Again 2

It’s amazing how things change in a year. Last May I wrote this post about Muslim women who have said they’re never getting married again. I strongly urged sisters to rethink their stance and said: “I am not going to let one person or even a couple of people deprive me of my right to love again. If you truly believe in Allah and believe that Allah can do anything then I don’t see why some sisters can’t believe that Allah will provide. No matter how dismal it looks.” While I still stand by that statement, I have to say, the thought of never getting married again has crossed my mind on a regular basis. It’s not that I don’t believe Allah can provide for me- because I do- it’s just sad to see the same ole stuff from brothers. I can definitely understand why sisters get tired of trying to sort through brother after brother, hoping for the right match. And even when you think you’ve found the right match you can never be sure. The brother can turn out to be a real beast. (And we already know how many communities protect triflin’ brothers but have no problem outing triflin’ sisters).

I’m not seriously looking for anyone right now but I’ve had brothers try to holler at me. These schmucks have given me pause- FOR REAL. There’s the ex-con, the ultra aggressive chauvinist, the brother who told me “paradise lies under the foot of the husband”, the deceiver, the game player and so much more. What a sad situation!

So, let me say to the sisters I wrote about back in May of last year: I am totally feelin’ you. Last year I didn’t fully understand where you’re coming from but I do now. Am I suggesting that I’ve given up on getting married again? No. But there are times when I feel like it’s not worth it. During those times I think about resigning myself to traveling, reading, studying, cats, and enjoying the companionship of male relatives. No headache and no b.s.

As the old song goes, I can do bad by myself.

What if you don’t want kids or have serious doubts about it?

This is a rhetorical question but also a thought I’ve been having.

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Lately, I find myself in conversations with people (both Muslim and non-Muslim) about the pros and cons of having kids. I’ve spoken to people who have kids and are bidding their time until those kids are “out of the house” and I’ve spoken to people who have smaller kids who love them to death and couldn’t imagine life without them. I used to want to have a baby very badly. The feeling would come in waves. Sometimes it would manifest itself as severe desire and border on obsession. Eventually I would have a lull. At times I could think of nothing else.

Fast forward to 2009…

I don’t know exactly when or how it happened but my feelings have changed. I’m having serious doubts about having kids and more often than not, I feel like I don’t want them at all. The weird part about is that I like kids. I’m pretty fond of them. I have no problem with other people having kids or being around their kids (unless they’re bad 🙂 ). But when it comes to me…well, I feel like I should sit this one out. (If Allah allows it to remain that way, of course).

Now, if I say this around Muslims…oh just wait for the backlash! They start talking about increasing the ummah, femininity, womanhood in Islam, etc. Some have even suggested that my feelings are from shaitan. (Really?) What I want to know is why my personal decision affects other people so much. Last time I checked this body was mine. Furthermore, I don’t think everyone is cut out to have children. (Look around you, I’m sure you can spot plenty of who shouldn’t have had kids). And I wonder if I’m one of those people.

Some people say that I’m being selfish. They say I don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices that go along with having kids. The irony is every reason I can think of to have kids involves selfishness on my part; the desire to further my legacy, because I feel like I want one, because I want someone to be there for me in my old age etc. But it also has to do with other people’s reasons; societal/Muslim community pressures, being told that I’m incomplete without children, being told that I am abnormal because I don’t want what every woman is told she should want etc. If Allah willed, and I chose to have a child, shouldn’t I be doing it for reasons other than the aforementioned ones?

I’m not trying to start any mass movements here. I think deciding to have children or not is a personal choice. I just want people to take their hands and ideas off my ovaries…

On Dalia Mogahed’s appointment to Obama’s advisory council

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This afternoon, one of my Facebook friends sent me this LA Times article about President Obama’s appointment of Dalia Mogahed to his Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships advisory council. As many of my readers know, I don’t usually post on politics for a number of reasons. (One of them being my skepticism towards politicians and their double speak- but I digress). The article caught my attention because I had the pleasure of attending one of Ms. Mogahed’s presentations based on the book she co-authored along with John Esposito. She did a wonderful job of presenting her research and answering the audiences’ questions. I was able to ask her questions about her work with Gallup Poll and what she and her team plan to do in terms of highlighting the American Muslim experience.

But on to the article…I had trouble with a few of the terms and one of the phrases. For instance:

Dalia Mogahed, a veiled Egyptian American…

Why must we point out the obvious? We all see the picture of Ms. Mogahed. We can see that she is wearing hijab. Yes, it is quite the compliment that a hijab-wearing Muslimah has been appointed to the council but do we need to focus on the scarf? Maybe it’s just me…

Recently, she co-wrote the book “Who Speaks for Islam?” with John Esposito, an American political science professor who has been criticized by some as an Islamic apologist.

(emphasis mine)

Islamic apologist? Don’t really care for the term. It’s often used as a way to disparage anyone who attempts to discuss Islam, Muslims or Islamic principles in a favorable light. The person can’t be speaking from experience, research or years of Islamic education, only from the standpoint of an apologist. (Note the sarcasm). Why did El-Hennawy, the article’s author, feel it was necessary to point out that some consider John Esposito an Islamic apologist? Was it to discredit him, Dalia Mogahed, their work or all of thee above? Hmm…

Yet, Mogahed’s declaration that her loyalty goes first to the United States, published Monday in an interview with Al Masry al Youm, disappointed some people. “I wish your loyalty was to your Islam first, Egypt second and your Arabism third and then to anything else,” wrote a reader identifying himself as the Tiger of Arabs. “I am afraid that they might make a fool out of you and use you as a cover for policies that don’t serve Egypt and the Arab and Muslim world.”

Are people really serious? I would assume- and again, maybe it’s just me- that Ms. Mogahed has loyalty to Islam. She has spent much of her time conducting research, presenting her findings around the country, and writing on the subject of Islam and Muslims. Does she explicitly have to say that she has loyalty to Islam? (Or Egypt or Arabs?) C’mon people. Dalia Mogahed is one woman with a big task in front of her. She is not going to be the next Khalif or the Secretary of State. Can we give the woman a chance and see what she can do before we offer up criticisms?

Three things I’m sick of:

(1) Muslims with simplistic, myopic views of Islam and the world.

(2) Muslims trying to dictate what someone else’s priorities should be based on their simplistic, myopic view of Islam and the world.

(3) Muslims placing an extraordinary amount of pressure onto other Muslims (especially women!) to be the model of Islam (and Muslims). You must say what they want you to say, behave as they want you to behave and smile while doing it. Kinda like being Miss Muslim USA.

UGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

Ohh, I need to take a martial arts class!

When some Muslim hater or some unwanted person tries to attack me (may Allah forbid, Ameen). I’d love to be able to do this:

Personally, I think all sisters need to take self defense. We no longer have an atmosphere where Muslim women are considered hands-off. When I first took shahadah it was nothing but respect for Muslim women because people knew if they messed with us they’d have to deal with the brothers. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore…

More On “Muslimah Sexiness”

Let’s leave aside the motivations of men for a second and let’s talk about sisters. Why do you think other Muslim women push the idea that we all have to be quiet, demure, soft-spoken, dull and practically afraid of men? If a woman is stylish (in terms of her dress), friendly, assertive , and outspoken why do some Muslim women rush to give her an “Islamic” makeover?

My opinion:
For one, I think the same brand of female cattiness and competition that I witness in the dunya is present in the masjid and in the Muslim community. I have noticed how sisters size one another up in the masjid, how they will cut another woman down (under the guise of giving nasiha or advice) out of what is clearly jealousy, and, let’s be honest, the fear that their husband might “notice” a sister who is attractive. Sometimes it’s as if our minds can’t process the idea that we are different, that we are diverse in terms of personality, style of dress, and ideas about femininity. We are not a uniform group. In fact, we constantly say as much when talking to non-Muslims! We want them to accept our diversity as Muslim women, yet when we are together, it seems like we rush to whip one another into conformity.

Secondly, I feel like sisters are trying to beat one another at the piety game and the strictest sister wins! I’ll never forget the day I was at the masjid and a group of women I was sitting with started discussing thong underwear and how non-Muslim women were foolish (read:whorish) for wearing those things. Though the women didn’t quite say they were haram, you got the idea that they were unacceptable. I could not keep my mouth shut any longer. I asked them how underwear could be considered unacceptable from an Islamic perspective. Isn’t that a personal choice? And why is it any of our business what someone is wearing underneath their clothing? Boy, they looked at me like I was harlot extraordinaire.

Lastly, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that SOME SISTERS are using Islam to mask their own personal issues with self-esteem and insecurity. I say this not to be arrogant or mean but to speak the truth. We need to put this on the table. There are sisters who do not feel good about themselves and rather then address their issues they become the most aggressive, outspoken advocates of “proper” Islamic dress and “proper” Islamic behavior. If they see a sister who is attractive and confident they feel threatened by her. Some of them worry that their husbands will see the sister and desire her. And, as the story goes with insecure women, rather than say “mashallah” or admire the sister’s beauty they take her presence as condemnation of their own existence. Claws come out and the haya police are on patrol. I leave you with an example:

I attended a masjid picnic. I had already received glares from some sisters because I had shown up wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a reddish flair skirt and gold sandals (feet out) instead of an abaya and closed-toed shoes. Another sister- let’s call her Dina for clarity’s sake- who is very beautiful, mashallah, came to the picnic wearing a long shirt and pants with a matching shayla wrap. There is something very fashion-model about Dina. It might be her build (she is slim), her height (she is tall) or her facial features (which are unique, soft and alluring). She carries herself with quiet confidence. I could feel some of the women becoming uneasy. If I received glares they were feeling very threatened by her. (Keep in mind the men were not far away from us). After hanging out for some time, one of the sisters abruptly asked Dina why she was wearing pants. Didn’t she know pants were haram? She also asked why “this” was hanging out. (Dina’s shayla had moved to the side and was showing a bit of her neck). I glance around and noticed the other women with smiles on their faces or nods of approval. Clearly, Dina was taken aback. She started to explain her view on pants while simultaneously shifting her hijab. I was pissed off because I could tell jealously, not concern was the sister’s motivation. I had seen her sizing Dina up while quickly giving herself a once over. I interjected and asked what was wrong with what Dina was wearing. Her shirt was practically to her knees. Furthermore, why was she calling Dina out in front of everyone?

Later, I walked up to Dina and another sister. Dina was on the verge of tears and the sister she was standing with was assuring her that the other sisters were concerned for her, that they want for their sisters what they want for themselves, and they really didn’t mean any harm. I have never heard such a load of b.s. before in my life. I told Dina plainly, the sister was rude to you. There is no justification for what she did. Dina thanked me for coming to aid.

I wish I could’ve told her the real truth: you are beautiful and confident. That is why she the sister chose to publicly shame you. Something about your demeanor, your air, dug deep down into the well of these sisters’ insecurities and they needed to make you feel small. (It didn’t help that their husbands were not far away either). It had nothing to do with her pants, hijab, haya or concern. It was nothing more than age old jealousy, for that I apologize sister.

Let’s discuss.

Muslimah Sexiness?

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Being no stranger to controversy, it’s time for me to open up another can of worms. I want to talk about “Muslimah Sexiness.” I would like to have a very frank and honest conversation about being and feeling sexy as a Muslimah. Can we? Should we? Do we?

Let me start by confessing something to you. I am flirtatious by nature. I’ve always been that way. After I became Muslim I was fed a thousand and one lectures about the “appropriate way” to conduct myself as a Muslim woman. I was told I needed to be shy, demure, quiet, and formal- almost afraid of “strange men.” All of these things were against my nature. The fact remains that I am not shy, demure, quiet or formal (in that way at least.) Since I am not those things I tried my best to fake it. I emulated the behavior of the women I saw at the masjid. Somehow it didn’t work though. Instead of coming across as shy or demure when interacting with the opposite sex, I often came across as rude, aloof, stuck up, cold or unnecessarily formal. I just didn’t know how to make my interaction natural. I started asking myself, why is this hard? What is it that you used to do before?

I come from two cultures where the women- for better or for worse- flaunt what they have. They are not shy or demure. They are stunning and bold. They engage in playful banter with members of the opposite sex, they roll their body in a seductive manner knowing full well that men are watching, they highlight their “assets” and make men swoon from their sex appeal. All of these things are against Islam. So, how do you make the switch when you come from an environment that is completely contrary to Islam? Many of us are lying to ourselves when we say we became Muslim and it simply “changed” over night.

I had a very honest conversation with two friends of mine. Both are converts- one from Latin America and another one from the Caribbean. They admitted to feeling, at times, “frumpy” and “old” in the headscarf and modest clothing. They felt ignored, unattractive and undesirable in the eyes of Muslim and non-Muslim men alike. They felt that Muslim men often placed them on a “purity pedestal” and non-Muslim men simply looked passed them. By the same token, both women felt ashamed of their feelings since their feelings run counter to everything we have been told about Muslim women and sexuality. During the course of our conversation we realized we were trying to reconcile two very different identities and lifestyles- our old one and our new one. We were left with a few questions: How do you go from being a sexy, hot, Jamerican/West Indian/Latina to being a pious, proper, Muslimah? Can the two exist in one body? Do you have to wait for marriage in order to feel sexy and irresistible? And what if your husband (for whatever reason) doesn’t provide you with that attention? Can you be hot and a Muslimah at the same time? Should you even want to? Better yet, what if you are sexy by nature? What if you can’t hide it?

Before a chorus of “astagfirullahs” assault this post, hear me out. Let’s try to be real for once. Most women enjoy feeling loved, attractive, sexy, and wanted. Most importantly, many of us like the attention we receive from the opposite sex. I can already envision the comments suggesting if the woman is single she should get married. (Again, what if her husband does not give her that attention?) Or better yet, I can envision some of you saying, “we should not care about these things because the Akirah/Quranic teaching/Islam/Sunnah is more important.” That still does not resolve the dilemma. The question remains: Can you be a Muslimah and hot/sexy? If so, how and in what context? Is the quiet, demure, shy, Muslimah persona a universal one? What is appropriate Muslimah behavior? (Please don’t just post Quran or Ahadith, help me understand your perspective).

Let’s discuss.

Muslim women’s fun

I was reading a friend of mine’s blog (who is not Muslim) and one thing I have to say about her is that she is sure to enjoy life. She’s always exploring new interests, new hobbies and going places. I started thinking about myself and how I tend to veg out on the sofa when I come home from work. On the weekend I run errands and then come home. On occasion I get together with my friends and go out to eat. I started thinking that I need to get out and do more. Have some halal fun every once in a while.  I think it’s important to read, study, and memorize Quran. I also think it’s important to devote time to doing Dhikr. But I also think Muslimahs (given all we deal with in the society and in the Muslim community) need an opportunity to blow off some steam.  (Laser tag anyone?)

So, what will I do? What do I really enjoy? (Besides blogging or reading other people’s blogs)? What new, halal endeavor can I try? (I never did take the Capoeira class I spoke about a while back). I’m thinking about it and I’ll come back to share my ideas with you. In the meantime, What do you for fun?