On Muslim Women’s Day, let’s just remember they’re human too.

So apparently today is the first Muslim Women’s Day ever. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that until I clicked on the trending hashtag on Twitter, and then I was promptly disgusted. There are so many misconceptions, so many views depicting Muslim women as beaten-down creatures that are basically slaves to men, so much sarcasm about how it’s sooooo great to be a Muslim woman on this day.

As a Muslim woman, I have a few things to say. This rant bubbling inside me just won’t die.

I’ve never spoken about my religion on this blog, mainly because I like to keep my religious and political views out of my writing and “public persona”, but here goes nothing.

There was never a time when I wasn’t a Muslim. My parents are devout Muslims, and I grew up in a conservative household. I wore my hijab at the age of 9, and I’ve never taken it off for 19 years now, even when it’s boiling hot outside. I’ve never missed a daily prayer. I fast for 30 days every year during Ramadan. I also refrain from physical contact with unrelated men, alcohol and gambling.

At the same time, I have attended school, graduated from university and have been enjoying a growing career since I was 21. Currently, I work in an environment where the male to female ratio is horribly skewed, but yet enjoy a perfectly normal relationship with most of them. Nobody has forbidden me from working and earning money. Nobody has forced me to get married and play the dutiful wife, and nobody can. I can choose to remain single and child-free for the rest of my life, and nobody can make me do otherwise.

I wear whatever I want. I do not have to cover my face. I live alone in an apartment all to myself, far away from my family. I go out whenever I want, sometimes coming home at extremely late hours of the night. I travelled to Italy last year with my friends and I’m planning on hitting Europe again this year. I’m even planning on going sky-diving on my birthday. I have been involved with someone romantically and I have had my heart broken. I have male friends I go out with.

Most things a non-Muslim girl does, I can do too if I want to.

And yes, yes I am aware that not all Muslim women enjoy all these freedoms, I know that men remain dominant in several aspects of Muslim countries, but that does not mean we’re all miserable. That does not mean we’re oppressed creatures who cannot speak for ourselves. That does not mean we’re not humans who feel upset when they’re painted in a negative way on social media, when the ignorance comes in tidal waves that drown out all our voices.

It’s also worth pointing out that this treatment of women is not based in Islam (which actually places women on a pedestal), but in the culture, just as many non-Muslim cultures also mistreat women. People just conveniently decide to forget that.

Rant. Over.

If you have any questions, by the way, I would be more than happy to answer them. 

Because this is true (and cute). Source unknown

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23 thoughts on “On Muslim Women’s Day, let’s just remember they’re human too.

  1. I’d like to ask the original writer of this article, could they please explain to me where the following quotation, this quotation in particular, fits in in the grand Islamic pattern of setting women upon a pedestal: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret what Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.” (Qur’an 4:34)

    My question isn’t meant to be mocking, or insincere, or written with an intent to wound anyone, I’m truly curious as to how the writer of the above article reads and interprets simply the above material. I’d like to thank them in advance for taking time out of their day to read my question and to, if possible, reply.

    • Hi! Please don’t worry about it; your curiosity is completely valid.

      So here’s how I interpret this – “men are in charge of women” as in that a wife is the husband’s charge/ward, and it’s his responsibility to care for her, and men excel in the sense that they’re more capable of doing all the heavy work that earns bread and that women otherwise cannot do (don’t forget that the Quran was created at a time when most of the work was manual labour).

      As for obedience, I basically consider this as another word for “righteousness” and “pious”, as you can see that Allah is mentioned in the next part of the sentence. And as for rebellion, I think it refers to general disloyalty or ill-conduct, and… as any couple (Muslim or non-Muslim) may go about this, scolding might be involved, some person sleeps on the bed… and I think “scourge” is a wrong translation, because the Arabic word used also means “separate”, and since the prophet has always advised against hitting women, I doubt that the Quran would encourage this kind of abuse.

      Does this help?

      • Of course I’m very appreciative of the reply, Zen. Hopefully you don’t mind if I also ask some follow up questions, as there’s certain sections in the above which haven’t been explained (not yet anyway). When you write you understand “obedient,” in the section “So good women are the obedient,” as pious, or righteous, why not simply understand obedient as obedient? It’s not a particularly specialist word. I understand in the faith being obedient might be an aspect of a woman’s piousness, however, they’re not one and the same (piousness would house many more things), being obedient means behaving in a certain submissive way in relation to your spouse. Also, I understand how general disloyalty or ill-conduct could be harmful to both ourselves and our partner (or partners), although, in the Qur’an, it’s not actual disloyalty or ill-conduct which is getting the wife banished, admonished and the like, rather, it’s the husband’s suspicion of rebellion. The hypothetical wife doesn’t actually need to rebel to be on the receiving end of a punishment, they simply need to be suspected of rebellion. Would that be fair to write?

        May I ask if you’re an Arabic speaker, Zen? Are you a natural speaker of classical Arabic, because, insofar as my reading goes, in addition to my large Muslim friendship circle, I haven’t actually met a Muslim who wasn’t reliant upon scholars and lexicons to explain their seemingly controversial words to them. They don’t speak the language with understanding, rather they (not all, but some) recite it, much like how I myself can recite ancient Greek, Aramaic and even a little Arabic.

        May I also ask, do you support a man’s right to polyamory? Many thanks for your first reply. I hope my messages find you well.

        • So, let me answer this first by saying that I am indeed an Arabic speaker. I’m a translator in fact, so it’s kinda my job to understand the context and how each word could be up for interpretation. I would just like to say that the English translation does not do the original Arabic text justice. They are so many layers in each verse and it’s impossible for the translation to convey them properly.

          That’s why I said that obedient could be more referring to the woman’s piousness rather than her submissiveness to men, and if women are indeed treated as inferior, it’s because of people’s wrongful interpretation of the text, because Islam gave women so many rights that they didn’t have before it existed, and I strongly doubt it would include a verse that would intentionally put them in harm’s way. As for rebellion, suspicion is not enough. In Islam, suspicion without actual proof is a sin, and to condemn someone based on mere suspicions is unacceptable, and men who do this will be punished, and the women who suffer will be rewarded for their suffering.

          Aaaand no – I despise the notion of polyamory actually. I feel like it was introduced at the time when Islam was emerging because the number of men was indeed lower than women (since they often went to battle and many lives were lost), but it is no longer completely valid now. There may be some circumstanes where I could swallow it (a man who marries a second wife for the sake of having children, for example), but either way, it’s governed by several rules that need to be fulfilled before a man can marry more than one woman.

          Finally, I’m so sorry it took me so long to reply! I lead a very busy life and sometimes I barely have time to cook myself a meal, haha.

        • No apologies required, Zen. We’re often so busy and have various responsibilities that nobody can be on top of every message or each person who wants you in this place or at that time. If ever you’re allowed the time or inclination to reply I’d appreciate the effort made. Returning to my reply.

          I’d imagine what’s true for classical Arabic would be true for every ancient language, for example, although there may be an array of different uses for a single word, usually it’s only the one interpretation of a single word which would be sensible given our immediate literary context. The English text would do the Arabic text justice in certain places and perhaps an injustice in other areas. Although for an assessment of the whose who of translators offering their understanding of Qur’an 4:34, your reading of “separate”, where others have decided on “beat”, “strike”, “scourge”, doesn’t make the shortlist.

          SAHIH INTERNATIONAL

          But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.

          PICKTHALL

          As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them.

          There’s then the “beat them lightly” camp of translators, who again I can only trust are proficient and properly trained scholars in the field. They do however always insert “lightly” in brackets or italics or by some other means so to show the words don’t belong to the original translation. So it’s simply “beat them” with an ounce of modern tact added.

          MUHSIN KHAN

          As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful),

          DR. GHALI

          And the ones whom you fear their non-compliance, then admonish them and forsake them in their beds, (Literally: a madajic= reeclining) and strike them, (i.e. hit them lightly) yet in case they obey you,

          YUSUF ALI

          (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance):

          Preferring to keep my message short, or as short as is able while still asking my question thoroughly, I won’t continue by quoting the over 33 Arabic translators who have themselves decided physical violence is the absolute best rendering of Qur’an 4:34. How many translators are inclined to interpret “separate” as an accurate reading belonging to the text, and from what century might they be? In fact, in light of husbands being commanded to separate their wives/wife to beds apart, to add another separate, unless understood as in to divorce, would be a redundant command. Yet to divorce over mere suspicious minds would be very poor advice. Light beating or otherwise appears to be the absolute standard in every translation I’ve come across thus far.

          As for rebellion, you’ve kindly taken the time to share, “suspicion is not enough,” because “in Islam.” That’s to exit the immediate context however and to punt towards your reading of somewhere else. Being a translator I’d rather read your beliefs about what the English rendering of “whom ye fear” means in the original. Leaving the material to write about some traditions or otherwise may be an interesting detour, although I’ve been asking from my first message about “this quotation in particular.” Female infanticide and various bad dealings of the 7th century are of course an awful thing, they’re not explicitly involved in the above mentioned context however.

          I do appreciate how “obedient” in your words “could be” read as “righteousness.” That’s not the way in which it’s been described however by the majority of Muslim translators throughout history. Would that be fair to write?

          Polygamous relationships are despicable? You believe they were a necessary evil to continue the war effort however? Also, could you explain your point on polygamist marriages being no longer “completely valid.” Are they valid or invalid? Perhaps only valid under certain circumstances, like when in war against unbelievers. I’d write it’s an awful thing to take on more four wives (or eleven) because I’ve sent my previous children off into the meat grinder of war, doubly despicable if my intent in going off to war in the first place was to force unwilling neighbours into embracing my religion. Clarification would be awesome to read.

          A dear friend of mine, a young Muslim, about my age (so we laugh at all the same cheesy references), told me how polygamous relations had torn their family apart. They explained very adamantly how their father was a poor role model and a bad man. They pointed out their father had five wives, which of course led to my friend having many estranged half brothers and half sisters. Due to which I asked “Is your father a bad man for having many wives, or for breaking the Islamic prescription against taking more than four wives?” He paused, then answered he was a bad man for breaking an Islamic rule of good conduct (not for the way he lived with many women).

          This is again the common understanding of many Muslim friends and acquaintances of mine. Asking from a historic perspective, are they simply confused?

          Be sure to eat well, get someone to cook for you (mother’s cooking), 😛 don’t be skipping meals to reply to crazies online. I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Thank you for the rant, Zen…truly! More straight-up perspectives is what the world needs to hear. Even as our world has become smaller with the help of technology and communication, it still baffles me that there are so many misconceptions out there. xo

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