Saturday, November 20, 2010

Second Paper: The Prophet's Wives

I promised to share my assignments here -- no, not my responses but the actual prompts. The Fatwa one was the third paper we had to write, but it was just so exciting I couldn't resist sharing it with y'all. In this blog entry, I'm gonna talk about assignments 1 and 2; in the next entry, ka khairee (InshaAllah), I'll talk about what we've been discussing these days -- and that has to do with homosexuality, Quranic verses on homosexuality, and classical jurists' interpretations. Do come back 'cause I've got lots of surprises to share.

Assignment 1 -- Your sexuality. What do you consider yourself? Who are you? How do you know what you are? When did you discover or realize what you are?

And other questions like this. Initially, I was like, what the heck - I'm a female, duh. I know I'm female, end of story. But as I discussed it with my sister (she's also in the class with me), we both realized how thought-provoking and important these questions are.

Assignment 2 -- the Prophet's Wives. I need my teacher's permission to paste exactly what he wrote, but I'm gonna paraphrase it. The prompt starts off with how important the wives of the Prophet (Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) were in the establishment of Islam. Author Barbara Stowasser in her book Women in the Qur'an, Traditions, and Interpretations elucidates their importance very well. Quoting her from pp. 85-86:  "Just as God’s last prophet Muhammad begins a new chapter of sacred history so do his consorts signify a new beginning of the female example in Islam.  AS historical figures who lives yield examples for the righteous, their Islamic importance eclipses that of even the most unblemished women of the Qur’an-recorded past, and it was their precedent that serves as a foundation of later shari`a legal structures."

Our teacher gave us four of the Prophet's wives, and we had to write on ONE of them, whoever we found most interesting. We had to write a four-page essay describing who this wife is, why she's important, and what position she held/holds in Islamic scriptures (Quran and hadiths).  
End of prompt.
Me, I chose Zaynab bint Jahsh. She was formerly Zayd's wife (Zayd was the Prophet's cousin), and hadiths give some very interesting anecdotes of the Prophet's encounter with her, especially when he saw her in a particular state for the first time and had to turn his head and praise God for the beauty He had bestowed on her. 

In a future entry, I will explain why exactly Zaynab interests me. I love her! I really do. A very bold woman she was, like Umm Salama. (Umm Salama one day told Umar to mind his business when he came to each of the Prophet's wives, advising them on HOW to treat the Prophet of God and how never to disobey him, etc., etc. Umm Salama was basically like, "What the hell. If our husband had a problem with us, he'd tell us himself. Don't mind our business." All of the wives applauded her for her boldness. Some hadith reports say that the Prophet loved her for her intelligence and beauty.) Aisha is also very interesting ... especially for the kinds of things she is reported to have said to Abu Hurairah

Anyway, more on this another time, along with specific references to hadiths. The next blog entry is gonna be on homosexuality and the Quran.


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Misunderstood Role of the Hijab

A conversation with a professo recently made me realize something that I'd always known and believed but hadn't yet discovered for myself: When you wear a hijab, you are expected to be abnormal.

A hijabi girl is not allowed to smoke, drink, talk to non-related males; she must walk properly, dress properly, and be perfect and "modest" (whatever this term means) in every other way. But why? Why does she have to be burdened with all of this? If she would do these things without the hijab on, why can't she do them with the hijab on, too? People often say, "What's worse is when a hijabi smokes -- or wears tight jeans or hugs males or laughs loudly in public," etc. But why deny her these things just because her hair is covered? And why are we even assuming that she is wearing the hijab out of personal choice? Why are we ever shocked when we see a hijabi girl holding a boy's hand (a boy who's not her husband)? If she smokes, why is she not expected to smoke if she has the hijab on, for example? Or if she holds her partner's hand in public, why should she be forbidden from holding it in public with the hijab on? 

Of  course, like everything else, this can be viewed in different ways, both negative and positive. One way could be that when a female wears the hijab, she starts to represent not only Islam but all Muslims. Hence, she must behave like an ideal Muslim female -- or else. Another way could be that wearing the hijab, deemed a symbol of modesty and virtue, means that she is striving to become a better Muslim, which implies that she must avoid everything that she is expected to avoid. As a result, since smoking is not something that "good girls" do, hijabi girls, who are normally seen as "good girls," should not smoke. If a female does not wear the hijab, however, then she may do so, since she is not laden with the burden of representing an entire faith, or over a billion people worldwide.

None of this is to suggest that I am calling for hijabi women to start drinking, smoking, dating, wearing indecent clothing, misbehaving, etc. But why such serious expectations with one choice?
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