Islamometer

An interesting thing happened to me. I got asked to write for a website about Saudi written by muslim expats. I was flattered and hadn’t heard of the site before so I took a visit. It is a very Islamic website and I am a muslim mother so I thought great, sounds like fun, I love to write! so we agreed I would submit pieces fortnightly and they told me the editors would go over it and send back any comments. Little did I know it would be deemed unsuitable for fear they will be punished by God for spreading the evil things I was suggesting in my piece.

I took a couple of days to think of a good first piece to introduce myself to their very large reader base (according to the numbers they gave me) and came up with the following piece:

As parents, we have an idea of how we want to raise our children. Of what values and beliefs we want to instill in them. We have a basic plan we want to follow (if not always clear or sometimes completely lost in the chaos) but we know what kind of people we want our children to become.

You will love your children, teach them all you know, cherish them and keep them safe. You will teach them to be good people. You will teach your children to pray, to fast, to give to the poor, to worship in what ever way you do. You will try to give them all the tools they will need to be good, productive people.

Now, lets say you did that. Lets say that they did learn and become good, productive human beings. Lets say your 18-year-old son came home one day in all his goodness and productivity and with his strong unwavering faith and said to you “Mother, Father, I have decided I want to be a performance artist* and to do this I will move into a small apartment in Italy with other like-minded people and study art for the next few years”.

Or let’s say your college age girl in all her goodness and productivity, your daughter who never misses a prayer and has great prospects said to you one day “I want to become a professional skier and compete worldwide”

Basically, what if your children turned around and did something you did not expect or want them to be doing. It is not something bad, it is not something illegal or ‘haram’. It might not even be something particularly fantastic. All it is, is what you never though or planned for them to do. How would you react?

Most men I know were raised to get jobs, get married and care for their families. They were expected to get certain jobs and not others. And marry certain people not others. They were also, of course, expected to do all this here in their country and nowhere else. They are expected to live as an extension of their father and mother for ever and that’s it.

There is not much expected of women in the way of work or education. If they went to college great, if they got a job fantastic. But more importantly did they visit their aunt so and so? did they drop everything and stay at home to care for their house and husband? did they make sure to always try to look pretty and have some makeup on for their husbands when they came home? if not then regardless of what they have accomplished they have failed.

Here in the Arab world, we have a familial network that is so strong it is the envy of many people. But is there a way to find a happy medium between having strong family ties like we have here and having almost no family support network like most places in the west? (meaning being able to make independent choices for your life while still being close to your family.)

I said the other day that I want to raise my daughter with the idea that she can eventually move out once she is equipped to live on her own financially. She does not have to, but I do not want a woman in her 30’s still living like a teenage girl. And I do not want her to feel her only way to gain some say in her life is to get married, and that is not always a guarantee anyway. Needless to say this statement made most people burst out laughing, the others said I was crazy and the most comments I got were “lets see what your husband says about that”.

At the same time I do not want my sons to feel that they have to follow some sort of formula that we have prescribed for them to gain our affection and win our pride. As long as they are decent, God-fearing muslims then there is nothing I should fear.

I think the objective of parents should be to not judge their children, to accept them as they are and to give praise and thanks when it is deserved and not withhold it ever. Children live their childhood looking to their parents for approval. This is something they should be expected to grow out of and look for approval from within.

I think we raise our children to a certain age and then we must let them go and put our faith in God that we have done our best and instilled a strong faith in them. “Tawakalu Ala Allah” (put your faith in God) and let go.

That, my friends, was the piece I submitted word for word. Now, to clarify something, the definition of Performance* art is art in which the actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work. It is not singing and dancing, not sure what they thought I meant by that. The second point is that by saying “I would raise her to move out” it would be better to say that I would raise her to know her life does not begin and end with marriage and that she does have choices she can make in her life. I trust that I will insha’Allah raise my children to be decent responsible muslims who would never turn their back on their family and always care for us as we care for them. I would simply trust to let them go and know they will always be there for us.

But here are parts from email from the editors that I got in reply to this piece.

“The article is advocating issues that need scholarly review and approval… And we do not want to advocate something that we are unsure of and be questioned about it by Allah.”

I thought I was talking about giving adults their independence so they can become well-rounded, educated people who could help advance their countries and interact with people of different cultures.

“A daughter who never misses prayer wants to be a “professional skier and compete worldwide”?…How many prohibitions are likely to occur if someone traverses that path? Traveling around without a mahram; socializing and being in an unrighteous company, etc.”

If you think that my religion is based upon having a mahrem around me or is only there if I am living with my family then you are wrong. Muslims! Have more faith in your religion! You act as though our faith is so weak that even the mere sight of something un-islamic will make us falter and lose all faith. Let me tell you something, I am not muslim because of my mahrem, and I am not less of a muslim because I lived away from home during college and socialized with many different people from christians to jews to atheists. Lo and behold, I am still a muslim.

“I know Muslims are beginning to think in this way.. alhamdulillah they are at least Muslims. But we don’t want to legitimize it by advocating it in our articles.”

God forbid muslims want to be artists or athletes! Or show any trust or faith in their children, The obvious result would be a huge “ridda” from Islam! I am constantly insulted by how weak you think our religion is and how that without your guidance and “protection” we would lose it. Nothing shakes my faith regardless of who is around me.

Mother Teresa regardless of what she did died as a Christian. From what is apparent, she failed in the primary duty that Allah created human beings for.”

I cannot even begin to address the arrogance that the writer has in assuming they know who did or did not fail “the primary duty that Allah created human beings for”. That same arrogance is the one that will probably call me a “kafira” when this article is published!

“It cannot be conceived that the daughter be separated to be independent without marriage. The daughter really becomes independent and adult when she gets married and takes on her responsibilities. There is a significant shift in her level of maturity. Anyone will testify that.”

Ummmm… anyone? please testify. Yes, all you muslim women out there have no right to be actual “adults” till you get married. Your husbands will make you a real person, but obviously their person not your own person. Silly little muslim girls, thinking they are worthy of any kind of independence or any say in your life, your just an extension of what ever man is around you.

So what happens to the women who don’t get married? or the ones who get divorced? or widowed? Do they revert back to being children?  This kind of thought frustrates me! and the arrogance behind the people who replied to my email to basically tell me that what I am saying is not Islamic enough. As my sister suggested, they should have an Islamometer and see if people are worthy of their praise and they can tell me if I have fulfilled “the primary duty that Allah created human beings for”.

“We encourage you to write on any topic, as far as it doesn’t contradict the essence of Islam.”

I answered back with a more polite version of the replies I have here and declined their offer to publish my work on their blog as it is obvious we have fundamental differences and I fear I will always come up on the low side of their Islamometer.

21 comments

  1. Well you are. Real person married or not, divorced or widow , and that’s inside you , I know what I am speaking about.just don t be afraid except of God.

  2. Masha Allah! I couldn’t agree more with all of your points!!!! I have 4 little girls and one “traditional” saudi husband. The more he spends time in the states, the more he begins to realize how important it is for girls to be self reliant and to be able to take care of themselves. I’m not saying i’m against marriage. Insha Allah, they will one day all have wonderful husbands. My point is, who knows what the future holds and they need to be prepared to be able to survive by themselves should they need to. They MUST be well educated to be able to support themselves if something happens to us (parents) or their spouse. Not just educated through school but to be educated in life and how to do everyday tasks. I could go on and on. I’m so glad to hear someone else is on the same page as me.

    Mashkoora for posting this!!!

    • Exactly! I am not saying girls should do things that are against their religion, I’m just saying let them do thing they want to do, breed some motivation in them and let them know they have a huge choice of answers to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

      Thank you for leaving a comment Umm Zacharia.

  3. Mom Bee,
    probably you thought that since they are expat muslims u expected them to be more tolerant and understand the picture of islam better. but believe it or not,there are certain areas on the non arab speaking islamic world,especially in asia,that muslims understand islam in a much radical,extremist kinda way.

    so they take the most fundamentalist stand point of islam,add it to the traditions and culture such as having a girl get married at a barely legal age and come up with the weirdest understanding of islamic teachings.

    alot of those expats find sanctuary in saudi arabia because alot of what they believe in is already in practice by many saudis and residents.

    differing in islam is a form of mercy,which is something i always thank Allah for,but sadly when someone believe that everything in his standpoint is right,and everything else that speaks against it is immediately contradicting the essence of islam is what make me so flabbergasted and irritated.

    take my word,the audiance that read the blog u were requested to write for is not the kind of audiance that wont fall in the same page as u are,and i think u should be glad this ended before it even started,as i strongly believe it wouldnt have gone far before you end up with alot of angry comments and disagreements.

    • Thank you for your comment, and you are right, differing in islam is a form of mercy. I was annoyed at how patronizing the response was and arrogant! I wasn’t sure how my post would be recieved but I am happy so far it’s gone well. I do not need everyone to agree with me I am just happy that the responce so far has been tolerant.
      If they had sent me an email along the lines of: ‘Thank you, but it’s not a subject matter we would like to broach now and does not suite what we usually write’ it would have been a none subject, but them implying that I was “contradicting the essence of Islam” is what made me feel I had to speak about this. I am not a religious scholar, and I do not claim to be an expert. But Islam makes sense in EVERY way and woman through the history of Islam have been strong independent women. So why do we regress now?

  4. I’m sorry that these people said what they did about your beliefs and your “Islamicness”. You seem to be one of the most dedicated Muslim women I have encountered here. Your practical approach to raising good, Muslim children is admirable. I applaud your decision to reject this writing opportunity.

    • Dear Sally, thank you so much for your comment. I strive to be a good muslim and I still have a long way to go, but I know a lot of like minded women here and this is not just me talking. All the Saudi women I know who I have shared this with or have read it agree with the basic principle of what I was saying. I learned all this from my mother! Most do not agree with the “moving out” statement and I meant it to be a talking point and did not in any way mean it to be that I want to adopt the culture of making your kids leave when they are 18. I just expect them to be self reliant, and if they did go away for college or work I would expect them to know how to do that without me and with out a man.
      Anyway, thank you for visiting and thank you for your comments :-)

  5. I see nothing with what you wrote, nothing un ‘Islamic’ about it at all. I would hope that more people raised their children, to become adults. I see too many 30 something year old unmarried ‘girls’ here that in my eyes act like 16 year old girls.

    Anyway I can go on and on, but I have a time constraint issue (kids.. lol).. and I just wanted to say Bravo for your stance Mama Bee :)

  6. Wow… where do I start here? This reminds me of my own experience within Islam… I started reading the Quran and learning about Islam and the history of the Prophet Mohammad and I became so interested in the religion and asking questions… and to me Islam seems like this religion of social justice of versatility, flexibility something really wonderful but when I started meeting Muslims I felt like the majority were like the people you describe above, really closed minded and “group think” like. I would ask questions like, “Why must women also pray behind their husbands in their own homes? Why cant she pray next to him since we are all equal before Allah?” This does not make sense to me. Where in The Quran does it say this? And the people would give me constructed answers and it started to feel like the same reason why I left Christianity, so many rules but what does it have to do with my relationship with God? I am a good person. I try my best but unless I am a robot then it is not ok.

    The Creator keeps telling us how to live our lives and He is remarkably open minded and forgiving and He made us, He knows how we act like crazy children sometimes. He keeps giving us gifts and as soon as He is done people jump in and start changing it immediately.

    I live alone I am not married and have been dependant since I was 18. Does this make Allah less happy? Why??? In my free time I help animals and volunteer for the homeless and I give money to charity. I do not lie, steal or harm anyone. I live in peace and I try to help others. Isn’t that the point? I can meet anyone from any religion and it does not change the relationship I have with God. God is not a set of rules. God is the One who created everything. It seems to me people make up so many rules and those rules keep them from knowing God. I wake up and see a beautiful sun rise and thank God for it. Everyday I grateful for this wonderful world. To me, God cares more about what is in my heart than whether I am a “good wife” following what some men tell me to do.

    • Dear Jenna, It’s good to know that my point of view is shared by others. I think Islam is more private and is between the person and Allah and not everyone else. As opposed to the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” Islam is all about a persons intentions so how can people judge me on that?!
      Thanks for commenting:-)

  7. its something i always argued with my sister with,since she was super dependent on me when i was in egypt for school,and she was mentally reliant on getting married and have mr.husband to do everything while she sit home and feed the kids.
    but i always asked her what if i one day got hit by a bus,yeah it used to shock her and she start panicking, but eventually she started to realize that being so dependent wont help her when the days get rough.

  8. I kept turning over in my mind the phrase “the essence of Islam”. I would say it is believing and doing good deeds. Recurring passages in the Qur’an speak of peace, prayer, zakat, don’t lie or cheat. Submission is to our Creator, not another human being, since we are each responsible for our soul; no one can create it for us.

    “she failed in the primary duty that Allah created human beings for.” ??? Love one another is our primary duty. Part of loving a person is to enable them to be the best they can; for our children, it is to help them develop fully all the possibilities given to us by God, choosing Good.

    One of the shortcomings in the realization of Islam is the Arabisation of what was meant to be universal. We must go beyond culture to do His Will, to recreate His Divine Image within.

  9. All I could think was “wow” while I was reading! I am not Muslim, but what you wrote….. “I think we raise our children to a certain age and then we must let them go and put our faith in God that we have done our best and instilled a strong faith in them.” really resonated with me – it’s right on, no matter what religion or part of the world one is from.

  10. I pressed that damn button :)
    This was a great read, and that website is full of extremists..They asked me to write for them too and I did once. Sent a very positive and what I thought very neutral post to them about Janadriya, of all things, and it came back edited.
    No joke.
    I changed the article and it was published but after that I haven’t bothered.

    • Lol! Thank you! I appreciate the like! It’s such a shame they’re like that though. They’re loosing valuable points of view not because they are mine or yours but because they are not all the same point of view!

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