Muslims In Love

Young Couple in Cairo
(Above is a common site in Egypt, young secondary or college age couples walking hand in hand)

Tariq wrote another timely post on Muslim marriages. I’ve read the Washington Post article and it raises a number of major issues of Muslims finding partners in the US. I’ve heard a number of the issues tossed around, often in private intimate discussions.

Contrary to some of the commenters on Tariq’s blog. Many Muslims believe in love between spouses and emotional and spiritual intimacy. Those who choose the traditional route in finding a spouse clearly don’t have Harlequin Romance versions of marriage. Muslims often have romantic views of love and their particular set of needs can vary from person to person, as much as culture to culture. And in many Muslim societies, love has lived on, as evidenced by the large body of poetry and belles lettres dating back before Islam and spanning across 1400 years. And yes, rulers loved their wives and their wives loved them back. And so did average everyday men and women experience love and heartbreak and even at times fulfilling lifelong relationships. Marriage is half of their religion. Through the joys and challenges, triumphs and tests of marriage, they become fully human. For many Muslims their love for their spouse and is a way of connecting with the Divine.

For most American Muslim women, finding that one is like a miracle. It doesn’t come easy. But with hope, moments of despair and trembling, and then a leap to faith, it happens for many of us. And unlike the guys, us sisters don’t get promises of houris al jennah. Instead, we will see our husbands in the afterlife (I am sure he will be a new and improved version of his earthly manifestation). This is why you hear many Muslim women talk about naseeb. Our choice needs to be a good one.
And Muslim men are also seeking emotional fulfillment in their relationships. Many see women as human beings, and marriage is not simply reduced to a contractual relationship that simply allows a man access to a woman’s sexual reproduction.

While a growing number of Muslims are rejecting stranger marriages, time and time again I have heard Muslim women advocate for more structures to be put into place to facilitate matchmaking while safeguarding women who are often vulnerable to predatorial or irresponsible men. Sure, we can get a Wali (guardian who looks after the interest of convert or women without male relatives). But many of the walis do not act as true guardians and protectors. And the proof in the pudding is in the treatment and care they give to their own daughters compared to the women they are supposed to look out for. Convert women are often left in a lurch when it comes to arranging the courtship and if they want chaperones, forget about it. Most walis are too busy for that. And many new converts are often married without anyone but their husband’s friend acting as their wali and signing off on the contract.
On a positive note, the search for love has sparked the creative juices of some Muslim writers and filmmakers. I’m going to leave you with this link to the work of a young Muslim director, Zerina Usman, titled Muslims in Love


Film Synopsis:

How do you find a mate when you don’t date? ‘Muslims in Love’ shows us the trials of devout Muslim youth as they practice the Islamic means of pursuing of love in modern American society.

In a culture where people choose to date, live with a significant other, and move from relationship to relationship to find the right fit, Muslim Americans often need to clarify that their alternative isn’t the stereotypical arranged marriage. In “Muslims in Love,” Mohammad and Ferdaus tie the knot with the aid of friends, family, laptops and cell phones. Yet, the issues are complex. Michelle, a convert to Islam, frets over the slim pickings of Muslim men. Jameelah, an African American, clashes with racism and double standards. And Zahra, a law student, avoids drama at all costs. She leaves Mr. Right to fate. For better or worse, this generation of Muslim Americans walks a tightrope between faith and modernity in the quest for their heart’s desire.

Collateral Damage of the Feminist Movement: One Daughter’s Story

In her autobiography, Black, White, and Jewishreviewers have noted
Rebecca Walker’s unfavorable view of her famous mother Alice Walker. Alice Walker, most famous for her novel The Color Purple and the 1985 film adaptation, is a Pulitzer prize winning author and feminist. She wrote about her parents’ Alice Walker and Mel Levanthal, who were the first interracial couple in Mississippi and the challenges of growing up as the daughter of the famed feminist. This weekend Rebecca walker wrote an article challenging her mother’s views on motherhood titled, How my Mother’s fanatical Views Tore us Apart.

Rebecca Walker writes:

Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It’s helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it’s caused for my contemporaries?

The ease with which people can get divorced these days doesn’t take into account the toll on children. That’s all part of the unfinished business of feminism.

Then there is the issue of not having children. Even now, I meet women in their 30s who are ambivalent about having a family. They say things like: ‘I’d like a child. If it happens, it happens.’ I tell them: ‘Go home and get on with it because your window of opportunity is very small.’ As I know only too well.

Then I meet women in their 40s who are devastated because they spent two decades working on a PhD or becoming a partner in a law firm, and they missed out on having a family. Thanks to the feminist movement, they discounted their biological clocks. They’ve missed the opportunity and they’re bereft.

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women’s movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them – as I have learned to my cost. I don’t want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

Here’s one of the quotes that grabbed me in her article:

But, while she has taken care of daughters all over the world and is hugely revered for her public work and service, my childhood tells a very different story. I came very low down in her priorities – after work, political integrity, self-fulfilment, friendships, spiritual life, fame and travel.

In had a brief discussion about how some of Rebecca Walker’s experiences reflected a broader trend in Black American society. My friend said that if we believe Rebecca Walker’s accounts of her mother, Alice Walker is self-absorbed person. I’m not trying to be apologetic for Alice Walker’s views on motherhood, nor can I claim to be very familiar with Alice Walker’s writings outside of the Color Purple and her work on Female Genital Mutilation. But can we blame feminism for making Alice Walker a self-absorbed, neglectful mother? I just wonder if the treatment of her daughter was really a product of feminist thought. It sure doesn’t reflect third world feminism or women of color movements. Rather it seems reflective of deeper cultural shift that I see linked to the “Me” decade. Following the great social unrest in the 60s and cultural revolution, a new focus on the self took bloom in the late 70s. It continues to this day as a culture fueled by consumerism and pop psychology.

I have seen how a number of women, single mothers, have struggled to balance their own personal fulfillment, sense of contentment and motherhood. When mothers make poor life choices, their children suffer with them. Increasingly, we see more and more cases of children who are neglected by two irresponsible parents. We have read about terrible cases, where children are beaten to death by stepdads or boyfriends. Other children experience the emotional scars of a mother who they don’t see for years on end.

The news reports about neglected children are often chilling. These stories are rare, because for the most part extended family comes in to keep things together. But still, something is wrong with this picture. How many of you know kids who call their grandmother mom, and their mom by their first name? I know a number of women who became grandmothers in their mid- to late thirties. Its not like these 30-something grandmas are imparting a lot of wisdom to young moms. Often young mothers make attempts at reclaiming their young adulthood. So, they shuffle off their young children to family (often grandma) or friends. Mom, meanwhile heads off to the grown and sexy party. Even the grandmother was young enough that she was running the streets, there are the 30+ clubs catering to those in their late 30s to 50s. I’ve seen great grandmas step in, cause grandma isn’t very motherly either.

I know it is difficult raising children on your own. I know some damn good single mothers, and even a few great single fathers. But some cases over the years bothered me. More than a few of my friends in highschool were raised by their grandparents. Often, this was the best choice the young mothers made for their children. Other times, the arrangements seem more strained and the children suffer. This is why Rebecca Walker’s quotes struck a chord. I’ve babysat for a woman who left me with her kids for four days. I had no idea where she went and everyday her kids cried for her. Me, I was not well equipped to deal with four babies. I knew a mother who worked full time, attended classes week nights at University of Phoenix, and what did she do with the little time she had left to spend with her beautiful little girl? Well, she dropped the baby off at the great grandma’s house (mind you a retirement home because grandma was over 75) over the weekend. You could tell the little girl missed her mom and wanted to spend more time with her.

Can we call the partying moms and irresponsible motherhood a bi-product of the feminist movement? I don’t see a direct connection. Rather, I see a breakdown of social norms and practices. Single mothers are, still, single and don’t have the same prerogatives as a married couple who might be more interested in family or game night. Most of the moms going on pleasure cruises and weekend escapes with their boyfriends, however, are not pulitzer award winning authors or activists. They are not touching the lives of thousands of women at the expense of the one little girl who needed them the most. This daughter is hurting and writing an open letter to her mother. And I really wish that Alice Walker just apologizes and tries to make amends. But in the end, I can see how this relationship has suffered due to Alice Walker’s commitment to her work and trail blazing as a pioneering feminist.

Support Muslim Women Artists

Sometimes we starving students and artists have to make personal appeals from our community for financial support. Your prayers and well wishes help, but sometimes chipping in $10 here or $15 can make a huge difference by bringing some ease to a struggling student/artst’s life. I’m asking you to make a difference by contributing to the artistic and cultural production of the American Muslim community.

We should invest in our youth and youth leaders who are working hard towards creating something positive. This is why it is important that we stand behind the development of our artistic and intellectual community. There are many talented people in the American Muslim community, creating music, producing films, painting, writing calligraphy, writing plays, novels, and poetry. These artists remind us that despite the strife and troubles in the world that there is still beauty and meaning. But often when these artists and thinkers who illustrate and tell our story and share our cultural heritage receive little support. Muslim women are often overlooked because they have less access to leadership and those who do invest and support worthwhile projects. Despite this, they are striving to contribute to the community in many ways.

It is often humbling to ask for support, but awhile back I learned of a sister who could really use your help for an upcoming project. Sister Kameelah is a brilliant young woman who is graduating from Stanford with an MA from the school of education. Not only is she a teacher, she also a talented writer and artist who uses photography and other media. According to her blog, she is raising funds to buy an important piece of equipment for a multi-site photography and writing project about young women. Her locations will be Detroit, India, Bangladesh and South Africa. That’s right, she will be linking women’s lives in three continents and all she needs about $600 to make it happen.

Please show that young Muslim women artists with $1, $5, $25 or whatever you can. Please check out her blog, Kameelah Writes and make a contribution .

Jazak Allah kheir.

Support Masjidul Waritheen

Flyer

I got word of this event from an ING newsletter. This look promising, since it is drawing people from various communities (Black American Muslim, White American Muslims, and Immigrants and others) to support the continued development of masjid Waritheen (a predominantly BAM community in Oakland). Over the years many Muslim student groups in and around the Bay Area have asked Imam Faheem Shuaibe to speak on numerous topics and represent Islam in interfaith dialogues. He is still eloquent and able to touch upon a number of issues that we face in American society. I encourage those in the area to attend or at least support the community by making a donation.

Please support Masjid Waritheen, a historic community in Oakland. You can go the website here to order your tickets or if you can’t attend, make an online donation .

Here’s more info from the website:

Masjid Waritheen Annual Supporters Dinner
SUNDAY, JUNE 15, 6 PM – 9 PM
CHANDNI RESTAURANT – NEWARK, CA

$25/PERSON DONATION – RESERVE YOUR SEAT NOW (click here)

We invite you to join us for a special fundraising event for Masjid Waritheen, one
of the oldest and most active masajid in the Bay Area. As immigrant communities
have grown and prospered in the U.S., it is vital that we ensure that our African
American brothers and sisters are also growing and prospering in their
communities. Following in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet (saws), who
forged an unprecedented bond between the Muhajireen and Ansar, local
immigrants and the children of immigrants are joining hands with their indigenous
brothers and sisters to help support a group that has worked tirelessly to serve
and provide programs for the greater community. Muslim immigrants and their
children have directly benefited from the struggles, sacrifices, and achievements
of the civil rights movement; it is time that all of us acknowledge this debt and
play our part in giving back and putting into practice the principal that charity
begins at home. Join us in this worthy effort by contributing any amount online at
masjidulwaritheen.org and attending our event in June to learn more about the
growing African American Muslim community in Oakland which houses both a
mosque and a full-time Islamic School, the Clara Mohammed School.

This event is sponsored by every major Islamic organization in the Bay Area and
the following individuals:

Sponsors: Hesham & Diana Alalusi Foundation & Javed & Shaheena Khan
Foundation

Organizers: Imam Anwar Tahir, Javed Ellahie, Adeel Iqbal, Uzma Husaini,
Waseem Sufi, Ayesha Mattu, Atif Qureishi, Omar Ahmed, Ifetkhar Hai, Shafi Refai,
Shafath Syed, Ameena Jandali, Imran Maskatia, Farhan Syed, Maha Elgenaidi,
Shahed Amanullah, & Irfan Rydhan

We are associated with the Leadership and Ministry of Imam Warith Deen
Mohammed.

Here is some more information from the website.

Sunday June 15, 6 pm – 9 pm
Chandni Restaurant
$25 donation – reserve your seat now at masjidulwaritheen.org

Speakers include:
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Zaytuna Institute (invited)
Shareef Abdur Raheem, NBA Star Forward, Sacramento Kings
Imam Faheem Shuaibe, Imam, Masjidul Waritheen
Saafir Raab II, Strategic Planning Consultant, Managing Opportunity, Inc.

This is a special fundraising event for Waritheen mosque, one of the oldest and most active mosques in the Bay Area. As immigrant communities have grown and prospered in the US, it is vital that our African American brothers and sisters are also growing and prospering in their communities. Immigrants and their children have directly benefited from the struggles, sacrifices, and achievements of the civil rights movement; it is time that all of us acknowledge this debt and play our part in giving back and putting into practice the principal that charity begins at home. Join us in this worthy effort by contributing any amount online at http://www.masjidulwaritheen.org and attending the dinner in June to learn more about the activities of the African American Muslim community in Oakland.

The Trouble With Muslim Pundits

Marc Manley has written a thoughtful critique of Irshad Manji’s recent talk at UPenn called The Trouble With Muslim Pundits Today. I find many of Irshad Manji’s critiques really really problematic. And like Marc pointed out, they follow the same Orientalist lines. Like many of the Progressive Muslims, she’s trying to do exactly what she criticizes classical scholars for doing, trying to interpret Islam within a her cultural framework and impose this view as a universal. He wrote:

A major portion of my critique on Manji’s arguments and positions as well as comments that Dr. Swidler gave, were that neither Manji nor Swidler are scholastically equipped to answer any such questions regarding the intellectual tradition of Islam. Manji is a journalist of questionable objectivity and Swidler’s expertise lies outside the fold of Islam. Manji often relies on crude reductionism coupled with a woefully absent basic familiarity with the Islamic Tradition. Buzz words like ijtihad, fatwah and of course, the crowd pleaser, jihad, are tossed out to lend to her some Islamic academic credibility. In fact, Swidler’s presence is somewhat questionable as Temple University could have certainly offered up someone who would have been far better suited to the task at hand. In light of access to scholars like Khaled Blankinship, it remained a curiosity as to why Manji chose a non-Muslim religious professor to engage in talks about Muslim reform.

I’m glad he wrote up this piece, after his recent entry questioning the benefits of blogging. I hope that Marc continues to blog and photography because he makes some outstanding contributions to the American Muslim intellectual and artistic community. One of the benefits of blogging is that it allows for immediate feedback and interaction between writers and readers. One of the downsides of blogging is that it allows for immediate feedback and interaction between writers and readers.

Timely Post: Fatherhood and Manhood

Inspired by a recent Newsweek article, Tariq Nelson wrote a timely piece on manhood in the Black community.

A real man is one that honors his wife, provides for and educates his children (boys and girls), pays off his debts, is considerate, compassionate, helps around the house, has self-dignity, and is engaged and feels a sense of responsibility for his community.
Manhood does NOT mean brash sexuality and promiscuity, selfishness, physically or emotionally abusing women, recklessness, sophomoric immaturity, ‘honor killings’, and being uncomfortable with women being educated. It is not about a man beating his chest and saying that ‘he is a man’. Real manhood is in doing what men do, not crude talk about being a man. Real men do not confuse manhood with misogyny and adolescent misbehavior.

I’ll let the blog speak for itself, it’s written by a brother sincerely striving to implement this deen and better his community. Only real men can teach our young brothers how to become men. I’ll let brothers like that do this important work. I stand behind them in their efforts.