Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Arabia

How ABC’s “Alice in Arabia” Is Racist?

Have you seen a US film that talk nice of “Arabs” or “Moslems”?

Have you seen a US movie or TV program that talk bad of Jews , Zionism or the State of Israel?

Do you think the narratives on Jews or about Jews are done by non Jews or anyone not supporting the State of Israel?

Do you know of a narrative on “Arabs” or Moslems in the US done by an “Arab” or a Moslem?

Do you know that the “Arab World” is constituted of two dozen independent States and this Arab World has at least four major differences, such as the North African countries, the Nile region States, the Arabic peninsula and the Gulf Emirates and the Syrian Nation (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine?)

The pilot, which riffs on the Alice in Wonderland tale, reinforces old racist tropes:   an American girl (presumably a white girl) is threatened by scary “other” people of color.

American Muslims have lost control of their narratives both online and in the media.

While violent Islamic extremists have grown increasingly adept at using social media to craft their messages – as have anti-Muslim activists – more normative voices from Muslims have been drowned out.

Rabia Chaudry posted this March 19, 2014

The lack of control over self-articulated narratives was exemplified yesterday with the announcement of ABC Family’s new pilot programs, which include a show that got the attention of Arab and Muslim Americans across social media.

One such pilot, “Alice in Arabia” — a title cringe-worthy in itself — has been described as follows:

“Alice in Arabia” is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian.

Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation.

Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil.”

(Frequent regurgitated plot: no imagination when applied to the “Arab World” situation)

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Dieter Spears—Getty Images/Vetta

The Twittersphere exploded with the hashtag #AliceinArabia, as people tweeted their offense to ABC Family. The criticisms are plentiful and varied.

1. The show reinforces old racist tropes in which an American girl (presumably a white girl) is threatened by scary “other” people of color.

Considering the sordid history of Americans vilifying Native American men and then black men as dangerous to white women, it is a completely understandable objection.

2. The entire framework of the show is through the kidnap plotline, confirming the kinds of fears about Arabs, Iranians and Muslims that the movie “Not Without My Daughter” established decades ago.

3. The show certainly pits Americans against “Arabs” (tweeters pointed out “Arabia” is not actually a place), and we can assume the “independent spirit and wit” of Alice the American will prevail as triumphant over the lesser evolved Arabians. Thus the plot both bolsters the highly troublesome binary of us vs. them (Muslims being them), a factor linked to the growth of anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crimes in the US since 9/11, and confirms American superiority.

4. Not only will “Alice in Arabia” exacerbate the marginalization of Muslim and Arab men, it perfectly reflects Western attitudes towards Muslim women. Hear that sound?

It’s millions of Muslim women snorting as Alice attempts to survive “life behind the veil.”

The very idea that the veil is something to be survived strips Muslim women of their intellect and agency and makes them the subjects of this practice rather than sentient protagonists 5. of it.

5. The pilot uses the real-life difficulties faced by women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a platform for ratings, and diminishes the work of activists in and outside the country to effect meaningful reform.

An imported heroine, who is both the victim and the great white hope, not only smacks of Orientalism but frames serious issues through her narrative alone. In doing so, it reaffirms the fact that overwhelmingly the stories in the West of Muslims and Arabs are not actually being told by Muslims and Arabs.

The challenges of Muslims in the West are many, but there is no question that having control over our narratives and the messages about our faith are paramount.

These narratives shape public opinion, impact civil liberties, and even influence our foreign policy.

In failing to self-define ourselves, our culture and our faith we lose authority both to religious extremists and anti-Muslim bigots.

It can only be hoped that ABC Family and other media outlets are paying attention.

The American Muslim community is ripe with talent and voices who can actually tell these stories in relevant, meaningful, and authentic ways.

Portraying Muslims and Arabs as nuanced Americans instead of foreign caricatures would be a good first step for television.

Instead of reaching across the globe for “Alice in Arabia,” perhaps we should start here at home with “Ahmed in Austin”.

WOMEN IN ISLAM (Submission to One God)  (April 24, 2009)

 

 

Note 1:  I published 8 posts on Women in Islam and I decided to join them under a comprehensive essay.

 

Note 2: It interesting to differentiate between the original message of the Prophet Muhammad and the subsequent political applications and practises by the various Moslem sects that do not necessarily correspond to the intention of the message.  The fact remains that the official Koran issued by the third Caliphate Othman bin Affan was emasculated, tampered with, and many verses ommitied and burned  to satisfy political interests in the de facto domination of Islam to vast conquered Empires such as Byzantium and Persia by the time the Koran (of Medina) was officially transcribed.

 

Note 3: Parson Warkat bin Nawfal, the patriarch of the Christian-Jew sect of the Epyionites in Mecca and an older relative of Muhammad, taught the Prophet reading, writing, and transcribing the Arab version of  the Old and New Testaments that were written in Aramaic. Parson Warkat also chaperoned Muhammad in contemplation, meditation, and fasting one month a year.

 

Note 4:   In Mecca and for 13 years, Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad and 15 years older than the Prophet and the richest among her clan, aided the Prophet in transcribing revelations and verses during his epileptic fits. In Medina, Aicha bint Abu Bakr, the youngest, educated, and most beloved wife of the Prophet, was almost exclusively in charge of recording the revelations when the Prophet Mohammad had his bouts of seizures. She would cover him with warm blankets and write down the verses until he falls asleep.  Aicha has dedicated her life into gathering, organizing the revelations and meeting with scholars and close friends of the Prophet to keep a complete record.

 

Introduction:

 

It is still applicable that women are in permanent struggle for equal rights in laws and in daily practices.  Even in the most advanced State of Sweden, women are far behind in equal work conditions and pay; they are beaten and raped by their relative on a wide scale. In most religions, women have had to fight for their rights and dues, and their struggle is ongoing. Christian women have gone to the extreme of changing the text of the Bible to make it less “sexist” and more “acceptable” to women.

 

In a previous post “The unpublished Book” I stated that the Prophet Muhammad was crystal clear in his message: making the religion easy, light, acceptable to most sects, and readable by the language of every nation since a prophet is sent to every nation.  The Koran was focused on the value of life and uniting as many sects as possible satisfying common denominators in belief, stories, and myths.  The Prophet Muhammad did not regard with keen eyes the abstract theological concepts that were limiting and restrictive for particular religious sects (these abstract theological structures were the result of urban cultures prevalent in Byzantium and the Persian Empires that generated schisms to the benefit of the few power mongers of the various sacerdotal castes).

 

The social conditions of women in Mecca and Yathreb before Islam were different. In Mecca, a strict patriarchal structure was instituted; the powerful Christian-Jew sects in Mecca had contributed in transmitting the customs and traditions of the Hebraic laws that suited desert life style.  In Yathreb, a six-day journey north by camels, the independent minded women of Yathrib could divorce their husbands by just turning the entrance of their tents around; the husbands settled in and were attached to the wives’ clans.  Muhammad had a hell of a time submitting the women of Yathrib to what his men followers from Mecca were used to. The many wives of the Prophet (numbering 12 and not counting favorites and concubines) were frequent sources of calumnies and hot stories: situations that forced the Prophet to resume his month long of fasting and isolation until rumors calmed down; these meditation periods were used to re-read the Bibles for wisdoms and appropriate regulations. The Prophet had to issue many verses, as Islam gained strength around Medina, to reduce the women of Yathreb into submission and follow the customs of Mecca and obey their husbands and seclude themselves in their homes and wear the veil when out. In the early period of the message, 13 years in Mecca, women and men were no different in the eyes of God and they enjoyed spiritual equality of the sexes.

 

.           For example, in the sourat Al Ahzab (religious sects) it is said “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise – for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward”.   In the sourat Al Imran (dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her parents haneh and Joachim) it is read “And their Lord has accepted of them, and answered them: Never shall I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another…”   In the sourat Al Natal it is read: “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, and life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their action.”

 

1) On Infanticide 

 

In Mecca before Islam, infanticide of born girls was prevalent.  The attitude of the pagan Arabian society (Jahiliyyah as opposed to Islam for historical differentiation) buried female babies alive.  This practice is nowaday widespread in India and in China and millions of girls are aborted every year and newborn girls are left to die of hunger and neglect as boys are born. The populous States are experiencing an epidemic of enfanticide under its strict population control laws that prohibit families to procreate more than one child; as most parents want sons, so girls are abandoned and allowed to die, or are killed, so that the parents may eventually have a boy. The laws for infanticide are lenient; the legal system and the administrators turn blind eyes in cases of girl’s killing. Girls are married as early as 8 of age and they are sold as slaves. Even today, many societies view the birth of a girl as bad news and negative omen.

 

       

        The Qur’an expressively forbids killing babies, whether by infanticide or abortion, on gounds of fear of poverty or losing face in the community.  In sourat al Anaam it is read: “Say: Come, I will rehearse what Allah has (really) prohibited you from: join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want – We provide sustenance for you and for them – come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom.”  Thus, Islam gives glad tidings to a woman regardless of the gender of the foetus from the time a child is conceived,. The pregnant woman is held in the highest esteem, and her patience in bearing the discomforts of pregnancy is regarded as an act of virtue which brings her closer to Paradise. If the baby is a girl, this opens up further opportunities for the parents to attain Paradise. The Prophet gave the glad tidings of Paradise as the reward for the parents who welcomes a daughter, brings her up properly, provides a sound education and arranges a good marriage for her. In another hadith, it is stated that the fire of Hell will not be permitted to touch one who goes through trials and tribulations because of a daughter, who does not hate her for society’s prejudice but treats her well against all odds.

 

            In the sourat al Takwir it is read ” When the female (infant) is buried alive then the  question is raised- for what crime she was killed?” Consequently, the Koran says that the parents of innocent girls, who were slain for no other reason than that they were female, will be asked on the Day of Judgement for what sin they were slain.  The crime is that of the parents, not of the child. Parents should not think that they are at liberty to do whatever they like with regard to their children.

 

            Not only does the Koran protect the female infant from being murdered by ruthless parents, but it describes girls’ birth as good news, and grants her the right of inheritance from her father, husband and brother, and gives her the right to own property and conduct business transactions independently and in her own right.  In the sourat al Natal it is said: ” When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the news that he has had! Shall he retain it (and suffer contempt), or bury it in the dusts.  Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on.”

 

2) On Education 

      

Islam has given rights to women in all aspects of life. The spiritual equality of the sexes in Islam extends to equal value quality education for both sexes. The Prophet said: “Seeking knowledge is a duty for every Muslim male and female. Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”. In the sourat Fatir it is read: “Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge.”  Women had to be educated in order to shoulder their rights guaranteed by the message from consent to mariage, to setting the mariage contracts of conditions in writing, to equal inheritance, to managing her household, and to raising her offspring.

 

In sourat Al Nisaa (Women) it is said “Do not covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn: but ask Allah of His bounty. For Allah has full knowledge of all things.”  Islam bestowed upon women a legal economic entity. A woman could now own, manage, inherit, distribute and sell her own property as she wished and in her own right. Her assets remained hers, and marriage or divorce did not alter her rights. Islam brought these rights to women fourteen hundred years ago, long before equal rights were thought of or campaigned for in other lands.

 

Women’s emergence into the economic arena in the West took hold during the First World War to fill production gaps vacated by the conscripted men for the war effort.  However, it has taken much heartache and a great deal of struggle and striving to bring women anywhere near a position of equal economic status. Even today, the Western woman is economically bound to her husband, who can demand a share from her earnings for ongoing domestic expenses and, in the case of divorce, can claim a share of her savings. In general, the Muslim wife is entitled to be supported by her husband, no matter how rich she may be in her own right; whilst she is a child, she is entitled to be supported by her father and in old age she is entitled to be supported by her children. The Muslim woman is relieved of the burden of having to earn a living, and she is allowed to dispose of her earnings in whatever manner she chooses.

 

In the sourat al Nisaa it is read “From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large -a determinate share.” Islam offers a “ready-made will” that no written will or local tradition can bypass for not allotting women at least half what the males inherit.

 

The reason for men being given a portion twice as much as that given to women if no writen testiminy is left is that men are responsible for taking care of their womenfolk: A man may be required to spend on his mother, sisters or other female relatives. A woman is entitled to dispose of her share of the inheritance as she wishes, and is under no obligation to support anyone, even herself. When these facts are borne in mind, the just and equitable position of Islam becomes reasonable.

 

3) On Polygamy

 

Polygamy in Islam is restricted and may be practiced theoretically only when certain strict conditions are met. It is also the exception rather than the norm in Muslim societies throughout the World. A World Health Organisation census has shown that less than 5% of Muslim men practice polygyny. This is in contrast to other groups in countries such as India, where 15.25% of men from tribal religious groups practise polygyny; 8% of Buddhists, 6.77% of Jains and 6% of Hincus have plural marriages. The percentage of polygynous marriages in India is lowest among Muslims, at 5.7%.

 

The fact that Islam permits a man to have more than one wife has been the cause of much ridicule and misinformation. The fact is that the Mormons, “the pseudo Christian sect in Utah, USA) are still practising polygamy and the blind eye of the State of Utah is functioning though a recent Federal Law has prohibited this practice.

 

Prior to the advent of Islam, women were treated as chattels and objects for the gratification of men; it was the same prejudice of the Jews in Judea and in poor agricultural lands. In the modern world, this practice continues under the guise of frequent divorces, affairs, mistresses and prostitution. Women are left alone to fend for themselves and their children, whilst divorce is so common that there exist groups such as “Single Again”, which cater for people who have been divorced for the second (or subsequent) times.

 

Islam did not abolish polygyny, as it recognised that in some cases, polygyny would be necessary and even preferable to the alternatives of leaving unmarried widows. However, it strictly limited it, to a maximum of four wives at any one time; there are also stringent conditions to be met by a man who wishes to take a second wife.

 

The initial intention of this law was to bring some order to the people of Arabia and neighbouring societies, who had been accustomed to unlimited numbers of wives, and to inaugurate a civil system that would take care of the needs of women; it sought to solve the problem of the existence of large numbers of widows and orphans who were left to fend for themselves after the many raids and warfare among the tribes.

 

 In the sourat Al Nissa it is said: “If you fear that you will not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.”

 

Thus, any man who wishes to take a second wife has to meet the important condition of fair treatment of all his wives; he is commanded to treat wives equally, and anyone who is unable to do so should marry only one wife. Equal treatment includes all social, economical and physical needs. It is very difficult for human beings to be completely fair, a fact which is recognised by the Koran  In Al Nissa you read: “You are never able to be fair and just with even two women, even if it is your ardent desire: but turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air)” and  “A man who marries more than one woman and then does not deal justly with them will be resurrected with half his faculties paralysed”.’  In the case of men who had more than four wives when they embraced Islam, such as Ghaylan ibn Umayyah al-Thaqafi, the Prophet asked them to keep four wives and to release the others.       

      

The topic of polygyny cannot be considered complete without some discussion on the Prophet’s Id practice and the historical context in which he and his wives lived. This is a topic which has received much attention from the West, and about which many Muslims are confused.        It should be noted that in seventh-century Arabia, adultery, rape and fornication were the norm. The Prophet remained chaste from the age of 25 when he married Khadijah , who was twice a widower 40 years of age. Their marriage remained harmonious until Khadijah passed away some 25 years later. The Prophet was 50 years of age and started his exile to yathreb (Medina) in 633.

 

The Prophet’s second wife was Sawdah. She and her husband had been among the earliest converts to Islam. They suffered great hardship at the hands of Quraysh(inhabitants of Mecca), so the Prophet had instructed them to migrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia). There, her husband passed away, and Sawdah suffered much hardship as a widow in a foreign land. The Prophet He knew that he was responsible for the welfare of his followers, so he proposed marriage to Sawdah. This marriage brought relief, respect and status to her, and provided the Prophet with companionship and assistance in raising his children from his marriage to Khadijah. At the time of her marriage to the Pronhet, Sawdah was around 55 vears old.

 

In order to create blood ties and to show his love and respect to his closest Companions who had given up this world for the sake of Islam, the Prophet gave two of his daughters in marriage to Ali and ‘Uthman’; he also accepted in marriage ‘A’ishah and Hafsah , the daughters of Abu Bakr and Umar, respectively. His marriage to these two noble women not only enhanced his close ties with his Companions, but these women were later to offer deep insight into the Prophet’s life. They were responsible for narrating over half of the ahadith which now form the basis of the Islamic code of conduct. ‘A’ishah alone is known to have narrated over two thousand ahadith.

 

Zaynab was a cousin of the Prophet. She had previously been married to Zayd , the freed slave and adopted son of the Prophet Hi. This marriage had been arranged by the Prophet , but the couple were never happy in their marriage and it became apparent that they were not compatible. At the Prophet’s insistence, they had stayed together for several years, but in the end Zayd could not tolerate it any longer, and decided to set Zaynab free from the marriage contract. The fact that an enslave had divorced a woman of the noble Quraysh tribe became the subject of much gossip among the pagans and the weaker members of the Muslim community. Not surprisingly, Zaynab confined herself to her quarters and it fell to the Prophet to relieve her of her misery. He married her, and she was around 38 years of age at the time. This action achieved two ends. One was to demonstrate that Islam makes no distinction between class, race or status, as the Qur’an teaches that the noblest person in the sight of Allah is the one who is most pious. The second was to indicate that adopted sons were not to be counted as blood relatives, as had previously been the custom in Arabia.

 

             It was the custom to have blood ties with the various large tribes for unification purposes. Hence some of the Prophet’s marriages were arranged to establish inter-tribal ties and to further the cause of unity. The Prophet’s marriage to Juwayriyah led her tribe of Banu Mustaliq, who had been among the fiercest enemies of Islam, freeing all their Muslim prisoners. The whole tribe later entered into Islam. Maymunah came from the tribe of Najd, who had murdered the emissaries sent to them by the Prophet. After his marriage to Maymunah, however, their attitude changed and Najd became favourable towards Islam.

 

            All In all, the Prophet had eleven wives, of whom two – Khadijah and Zaynab – passed away in his own lifetime. After the ayah restricting the number of wives to four was revealed, he contracted no further marriages, but his nine remaining wives were regarded as “mothers of the faithful” and as no other man would be permitted to marry them if he divorced them he kept all his wives on the grounds of compassion.

 

With the exception of ‘A’ishah, all of his wives were widows or divorcees. His marriages were all for political reasons or were contracted in order to set an example of compassion, as in the cases of Zaynab and Sawdah. His polygynous marriage all took place rather late in his life, from the age of 55. The prophet Muhammad was in a position of great political power to be choosy but he marry widowers and older women – a sure indication of his upright moral character and desire to set the highest example to his followers.

 

4) On Marriage

       

Mariage is encouraged in Islam at an early age.  This tradition is widespread in underdeveloped countries regardless of religions.  Islam considers sexuality to be a natural part of life, which is to be channeled into a healthy marriage life to avoid exploitation of women through prostitution, pornography, and rape.

 

The Prophet Muhammad advised Muslims: “Whoever is able to marry should marry; that institution will help the Moslem lower his gaze and guard his modesty”. Islam regards marriage as necessary and has raised it to the level of being a positive virtue and described it as being half the faith.

 

Marriage is a consented contract between two equal parties; neither male nor female should be forced into a marriage. Islam clearly states that a marriage contracted without the free consent of the woman is null and void. The Prophet said: “No widow should be married without consulting her, and no virgin should be married without her consent.” Allah said: “When one of you seeks to marry a woman, if he is able to have a look at the one he desires to marry, let him do so”.

 

As an equal partner, the Muslim woman may stipulate conditions in the marriage. The woman may stipulate, prior to marriage, the transfer of divorce power to herself, restricting the husband to one wife only, and clearly defining the conditions of maintenance. Muslim wives have always been allowed and expected to keep their maiden names after marriage.

 

The wife is a spiritual and moral being who is brought into union with a man on the basis of a solemn pledge which Allah is called upon to witness. The Prophet said: “You have seen nothing like marriage for increasing the love of two people”. In sourat Al-Rum (Byzantium) it is read: “And among His Signs is this; that He created mates from among yourselves; that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”  In sourat al-Aaraf (customs) it is read: “It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love).

 

In Islam, there is no notion of woman being responsible for the “Fall” or of being the first sinner and therefore responsible for all of mankind’s woes. There is no idea of man being created out of superior material and woman out of base matter. Woman is made equal, both men and women are the progeny of Adam, so both have similar souls. In sourat al Shura (counsel) it is read: “(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves”.  In sourat al Nissaa (women) it is read: “Mankind! Reverence your Guardian – Lord Who created you from a single Person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women – fear Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights).”

 

Islam does not view woman as the instrument of the devil or evil creature. The Koran describes woman as muhsanah (charitable), a fortress against evil, because a good woman helps her husband maintain the path of righteousness.  Muslim men are continually admonished to treat their wives kindly. To those men who oppress their wives then the sourat al Nissaa said: “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dower you have given them – except when they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.”

 

      

 Men are commanded by Allah to consort with women amicably and honourably. They should refrain from harshness in speaking to and dealing with them. Behaviour that goes against standards of morality and common courtesy is prohibited. Such wicked and brutal conduct is the sign of ignorance (jahidyyah) which Islam came to abolish.

 

The Prophet Muhammad attended to his own personal needs; he helped his wives in the house, he stitched and mended his own clothes, and kept a cheerful climate when he entered the house.  He demonstrated that a man is never too great to clean and look after himself, and he imparted the following advice:  “The best among you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to his family”.  “The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and the best of you are those who are best to their wives. By assisting your wives in their household duties, you will receive the reward of sadaqah (charity)”   In his famous speech given during his Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet reminded the Muslims of the importance of treating women equitably: “O people, fear Allah with regard to women..”

 

            Islam regards men and women as equal partners who should cooperate in making the home, be loyal, considerate and dependent upon one another. They should work together to overcome any problems and obstacles, work together to overcome the shortcomings of each partner, and present a united front to the outside world. They should also provide companionship and comfort to one another.  Islam clearly recognises the equal potential and ability of the sexes, but Allah has created human beings in a manner whereby men and women are better suited for complementary tasks.

    

5) On Motherhood

      

The Prophet indicated that a woman’s status is further enhanced when she becomes a mother. A man once asked him, “Who deserves the best care from me?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Then your father”.

 

The Koran reads: ‘”Believer must not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he should be pleased with another.  When a woman breast feeds, for every gulp of milk she will receive a reward as if she had granted life to being, and when she weans her child, the angels pat her on the hack saying, ‘Congratulations! All your past sins have been forgiven, now start all over again”:  “O women! Remember that the pious among you will enter Jannah before the pious men”  “During pregnancy until the time of childbirth, and until the end of the suckling period, a woman earns reward similar to that of the person who is guarding the borders of Islam”

    

            The Koran orders are to be kind and just to women, as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. Muslim who seek to make their womenfolk happy may expect to earn the pleasure of Allah, and pleasing Allah is the key to Paradise.  The sourat Luqman says: “And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), ‘Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal.

 

      

Although Islam tells us to respect both parents, the mother is given precedence. For months she bears the burden in her womb, sufferings the trials of pregnancy. After the exertion of labour, she suckles the baby for up to two years. She sacrifices her own comforts for the sake of her child. So a man has to recognise, first, the rights that Allah has over him, and then the rights of his parents, especially the mother; he must worship Allah, and occupy himself in obeying and serving his parents to the best of his ability.

 

Miqdam reported that the Prophet said: “O people, listen: Allah the Most High commands you to treat your mothers well. Allah the Most High commands you to be good to your mothers, and thereafter to your fathers”. Anas reported that the Prophet said: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers”. What is meant by this is that a believer may attain the pleasure of Allah, and hence Paradise, by pleasing his mother and attending to her needs. Even if one’s mother is not a Muslim, one is obliged to treat her well and take care of her, so long as this does not entail any disobedience to Allah.

 

6) On Divorce

   

The Prophet said: “Divorce is the most hateful of all lawful things in the sight of Allah”. Divorce is allowed as a last resort.  If divorce were forbidden, then animosity and adultery may become rampant. To save individuals and society from the greater evils, divorce has been permitted. However, it is not a step to be taken lightly or hastily. Sincere attempts at reconciliation are to be made first and – as in the case of marriage – the rights and wellfare of women are to be upheld.

 

Imam al Ghazzali (b.1058 CE) who is honoured with the title of Hujjat al Islam ‘The Proof of Islam’ states, the greatest care should be taken to avoid divorce, for, though divorce is permitted, yet Allah disapproves of it. If divorce becomes essential then the woman should be divorced kindly, not through anger or contempt, and not without a valid reason. After divorce a man should give his former wife a present and not announce to others any of her shortcomings.

 

The Koran advises a couple who are facing difficulties in their marriage to appoint arbiters.  In sourat al Nissaa it is read:” If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation…But if they disagree (and must part), Allah will provide abundance for all from His All-Reaching bounty.”

 

In order to dissolve a marriage, it is essential to pronounce a declaration of “talaq”. There are three types of talaq (divorce) that are practiced among Muslims.

First, talaq ahssan – (the preferable type of divorce): After issuing one pronouncement of divorce, the couple wait for the ‘iddah (waiting period, which consists of three menstrual cycles of the wife, usually three months). During this time, all possible attempts at reconciliation should be made. The husband may take his wife back at any time during the ‘iddah period. During the period of iddah the man must oblige to either keep the woman in the same home or at least furnish her with a comfortable apartment, which is easily accessible to him. Further, the man must provide for her as if no divorce has taken place. At the end of the iddah or waiting period if reconciliation has failed then the marriage is broken. In sourat al-Talaq it is read: “And fear Allah, your Lord: and turn them not out of their houses, nor shall they (themselves) leave, except in case they are guilty of some open lewdness, those are limits set by Allah: and any who transgresses the limits of Allah, does verily wrong his (own) soul: you know not if perchance Allah will bring about thereafter some new situation.”

            Second, talaq hassan – is a divorce where a man pronounces talaq to his wife in three consecutive state of purity. Third, talaq bid’i where the husband issues three pronouncements of divorce at one time. According to the majority of jurists, this talaq is valid but it is against the spirit of the Shari’ah and so the man is an offender in the eyes of the law.  The last Talaq bid’i is considered a serious act against the Islamic teachings. The second Caliphate Umar, a close companion of the Prophet, used to whip the husband who pronounced divorce thrice at once and in the same sitting.

 

The sourat al-Baqarah (virginity) it is read: ” When you divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their (‘Iddah), either take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms; but do not take them back to injure them, (or) to take undue advantage; if any one does that, he wrongs his own soul. Do not treat Allah’s Signs as a jest, but solemnly rehearse Allah’s favours on you, and the fact that He sent down to you the Book and Wisdom, for your instruction. And fear Allah, and know that Allah is well-acquainted with all things.”

 

             Islam treads the middle ground in the divorce concept, and safeguards the rights of women. It neither prohibits divorce, thereby imprisoning women, nor does it regard divorce as an insignificant decision. The right to divorce is not restricted to the husband. The woman may also seek a dissolution of the marriage by means of a process known as faskh, whereby she applies to the Qadi (Judge) for an annulment of the marriage. The wife may seek faskh in several cases, including: apostasy (renunciation of Islam) by the husband; lack of equality of status (kafi’ah); lack of compatibility; spoiling of marriage (fasad); incurable impotence on the part of the husband and if the husband ill treats the woman (nushuz). The above cases present valid grounds for a woman to seek divorce from her husband. If the couple come to a mutual agreement for separation and get divorced then this is called khul.  In sourat al Nissaa it is read: “If the wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best…”

 

               Islam has decreed justice for both sexes in the case of divorce. Although the act of divorce is disliked, it is permitted for the sake of weak human souls who cannot always find comfort and solace in the marriage relationship. This is mainly due to lower tolerance levels, high expectations in others and needless desires.

 

7) On Modesty

 

 

Modesty, in the broadest sense, means humility, restraint in manner and conduct, avoiding excess and presenting an unpretentious appearance. In sourat al Nur (light) it is read: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments”

 

            Abdullah ibn Mass’ud reported, “I asked the Messenger of Allah , ‘What is the greatest sin?’ He replied, ‘To set up rivals with Allah by worshipping others although He alone has created you’. I asked, ‘What next?’ He said, ‘To kill your child lest it should share your food’. I asked, ‘What next?’ He said, ‘To commit adultery with the wife of your neighbour’ (zina)”  The Koran warns in sourat al Israa “Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils)”.

 

The first step on the road to zina is sight. It is only after a person has had a glance that his desire are inflamed. The believing men and women are restricted from gazing at one another, as this is the gateway to greater sin. The Prophet said: “the zina of the legs is walking towards an unlawful act, the zina of the hands is touching and patting, and the zina of the eyes is casting passionate “lances at those who are forbidden to you”

 

It is the second glance which is punishable. The Prophet advised Ali “O Ali, do not allow your first glance to be followed by a second, because the first glance is permitted for you but the second is not”.  And “Let no male stranger sit in privacy with a female stranger, for the third among them is Satan”‘. And “Do not go to the houses of women whose husbands are absent”.

 

            There are exceptions to this prohibition on looking at members of the opposite sex. In the case of medical examinations or treatment, deciding on a marriage partner, recording evidence or carrying out criminal investigations, the rulings are relaxed somewhat, but proper conduct and modesty must still be adhered to.

            Appearing modestly in public does not correspond to prudism.  Erotism has always been encouraged in Arab traditions and Islam had to frequently turn a blind eye on erotic literatures because initiation to sexuality was transmitted early on for both genders.  Moslem theologians discussed freely on erotical matters, and most open was the most sought after in religious doctrines.  Sexsuality was taught in Mosques as part of education.  You may refer to “The garden of Lovers” by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyya, or “The Perfumed Garden” by Nafzawi, or the various sexual positions by Tifachi.

In fact, Youssef Seddik claimed that Islam was a counter-revolution to the absolute independence of women in Arabia.  Women were the matriach in that tribal society and their effronteries would have surprised today’s feminists.  For example, during the yearly pilgrimage celebration in Mecca women would erect tents and receive lovers.  The next year, the woman would select one of her lovers to be her child’s father.

            A husband who realized that his wife’s passion for him waned would search for another male that might intice the desires of his mate.  During the month long fasting season sexual intercourse was prohibited then quickly rescinded.  By emulating the modesty of the wives of the Prophet the women communities learned new customs that religion could not supplant.

 

8) On Dress Codes

 

            Practically, the free mixing of men and women from the time they become sexually aware to the time they are no longer sexually active is prohibited. Muslims are required to dress modestly and conceal their private parts (awrah).  In the case of men awrah extends from the navel to the knee; in the case of women awrah includes the whole body except the face, hands and (according to some Hanafi scholars) feet. Muslims should wear clothes that are loose fitting, thick (non-transparent) and simple (not ostentatious or gaudy).

 

In sourat al Nur it is read: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O Believers! Turn all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” In sourat al Ahzab (sects) it is said: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.

 

Umm Salamah reported that she and Maymunah (who were both wives of the Prophet ) were with the Prophet when the blind son of Umm Maktumcame to speak with him. The Prophet told his wives to observe hijab in front of the visitor Umm Salamah said, “O Messenger of Allah, he is a blind man and will not see us”. The Prophet said, “He may be blind but you are not, and do you not see him”? The Prophet issued a warning: “Those women who appear naked even though they are wearing clothes, who allure and are allured by others, and who walk in a provocative manner, will never enter Paradise, or even smell its fragrance”.

 

Since antiquity, noble women wore the veil to be distinguished from the working women; the veil was a symbol of ranking because the sun did not alter the freshness of the face since whitness of the skin was very praised.  In Europe, women used to have a veil attached to their hats and they would lower the veil when outside their homes. 

In Mecca, the wives and girls of the rich traders wore the veil when out of their homes.  In Yathreb or Medina women were practically running a martriarchal system and thus, were mostly woking women.  Whe the Prophet Muhamad had to flee to Medina his folowers from Mecca were subjected to a cultural shock.  The Prophet had to be biased toward his followers because they were the backbone of his power.  Gradually but steadily the tradition and customs in Medina were altered. The Prophet took advantage of golden opportunities. After the inevitable rumors and flapps over his many wives behaviors the Prophet edicted that his wives would wear veil when on the streets and be accompanied by relatives.  The society followed the fashion of the famous.

 

The “Chador” and the dress codes of totally covering the body in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and where extra-conservative Moslem sects are predominant are not dictated by the Koran.  They are simply patriarchal political acts meant to humiliate women and relegate them to non-individual class.  The Moslem clerics would like you to understand that the main aim of hijab is to allow Muslim women to enjoy the ability to express their personality and their intellect independently of men’s whims and desires.  It would be interesting to get the opinion of the concerned women on that concept.

 

Note 5: Aicha, the most beloved wife of the Prophet, saved her copies very jealously until the third Caliphate Othman bin Affan ordered the archive to be handed over to him. Aicha didn’t trust Othman and she kept copies of all her documents.  At the time, only rich people could afford to write down documents because they were recorded on special leather in the Arab Peninsula. Thus, rich educated people had the task of transcribing the verses for better retention, memorizations, and an act of devotion.

 

Note 6: By the time Othman decided to issue an official Book for Islam (The Koran of Medina) most of the Byzantium and Sassanide Empires were conquered; Egypt was part of the Arab Moslem Empire. The formal or official Book had to take these political realities into accounts, realities of victors and vanquished.  The Caliphate Othman sorted out the verses and selected what suited the political interest of the new Islamic Empire; many verses were burned and disappeared, others were tampered with such as adding “nassara” (Christian) after Jews though the sentence would break the rime (sajaa).  Othman arranged verses by order of length and the gathered book was considered the official Koran. For example, the shortest revelations or verses are the first chronologically and represent the message of Islam in the first 13 years (The Koran of Mecca) before the relocation to Medina or Yathreb in 633.  The longest verses came afterward and dealt mostly with civil management, daily routine, penal codes, and organization of the converts to Islam.

The Unpublished Unifying Book (April 10, 2009)

 

Note: I got the theme of this essay from the manuscript of “The Parson and the Prophet” that I have reviewed and posted.

 

Historical Context

 

            Before Moses there was no such religion as Jewish.  Abraham, Isac, and Jacob worshiped El, the all encompassing God of the Land from Mesopotamis, to Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.  Abraham, Isac, and Jacob paid the tithe to Melki Sadek, the highest grand priest and King of Jerusalem.  The mother of Melki Sadek had a revelation and her son Melki was dedicated to the temple; this story is repeated exactly through the ages such as with Hanna (mother of the Virgin Mary), Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), and to the Virgin Mary; they all dedicated their sons and daughters to the temples (nazeer, and thus nazarean). The title of Virgin given to Mary is an earned sacerdotal label to virgins who served the temple from age of 3 till marriage. The Bible mentions many prophets who were dedicate to temples as revelations descended on their mothers.  It was common to the noble and sacerdotal families to dedicate sons or daughters to temples.  Thr rank of Melki Sadek was the highest and it was for life and he could transfer that rank to anyone of his choosing by anointment (mesheeh), thus Messiah.

            Moses led nomadic tribes and the scribes of the Bible in Alexandria (in the second century before Christ) mentioned that Moses received a revelation and the ten commandements from Yahweh (Jehovah); thus (Yahood or Jews).  Again, it is the same repetition of revelations and the descent of written messages and commandements through the ages to the chosen prophets.  Moses’ commandements had to be given by a supreme being for ignorant nomads who constantly needed to rely on a supreme being to alleviate their fears; these commandements and hundreds more were already included in the civil codes of laws of the Land since before King Hamourabi of Babylon.  The relatively urban towns and cities in the Levant and Mesopotamia had more sophisticated abstract concepts that could sustain diversities in belief systems.

            Invariably, religions would like the believers to understand that their Prophets were illeterate in order to prove that only God could have interceded with the prophet for the message.  These allegations are pure fabrications. Abraham was educated, Moses was highly educated and a grand priest and Muhammad aided his uncle parson Warkat bin Nawfal in translating into Arabic the Bible and the special Aramaic version of the New Testament Mathew.  All the prophets had read in the Books of their times.  Jesus was highly educated and was a “nazeer” in the Great Temple of Mount Carmen since the age of six; but Jesus didn’t need translated versions of the Books because he was Aramean and a messenger of the Land.

            Translation of Books to another language was not done literally; the meaning was retained as honestly as desired but the context and style were compatible with the cultures and customs of the targeted people for better understanding and memorization.  That is why reading in Books was done by chanting (tarteel) so that musical intonation could support the retention process.

            Jesus mission was to win over “the lost sheep among the tribes” in Judea, Benjamin, and the Hasmonides because they staunchly continued to worship Yahweh, their unspiritual God for earthly dominion by the sword. Jesus wanted to unite all the tribes of Israel (Tribes of El) and not of Yahweh.

 

The Kuran of Mecca:

 

            The purpose of the Prophet Muhammad was to gather common denominators for the belief systems among the main Christian and Jewish sects in the Arabic Peninsula: they all worshiped One God, the Creator of all things, and they believed in Heaven and Hell.  In that direction, the Prophet accepted the premise that the monotheist sects shared Abraham (who was neither Jewish not Christian) as their first prophet who had the Orthodix “haneef” belief; Muhammad acknowledged all the prophets that succeded Abraham. Muhammad accepted in their integrality all the mythical stories in the Bible of the Creation, Noah, the Deluge, Joseph in Egypt and all the rest (these stories were indeed the myths of the Land for thousands of years before Abraham).  Muhammad was apprehensive that one of those diverse sects might think that he particularly sided with one of Israel sects since they are all Moslems in God.  The prophet said “You are not believers until you value the Bible and the New Testament and what were descended on you. The Book descended on two previous religions but we were not aware of them” (because not written in Arabic)

Muhammad proclaimed Jesus as one of the latest and most spiritual prophet of all because he carried the Holy Ghost of Allah. Muhammad avoided the corny issues of the Trinity, the Virginity of Mary, the crucifiction and death of Jesus that divided the Christian sects. Muhammad venerated the Virgin Mary as the mother of the prophet who received revelations as well as John the Baptist.  In fact, Mary is the only female name mentioned in the Koran and Jesus (Issa) was mentioned as “Son of Mary”, thus Issa ibn Mariam. In the Koran Muhammad proclaimed that the Christian-Jewish sects in Arabia were Moslems before he started his message and the teaching of the Koran was initiated because they relied on a unique God and didn’t admit that anyone else is part of him (shirik) such as Jesus or the Holy Ghost. The word Koran “Kuraan” has Aramaic roots “kuru” which means reading, reciting from a book.

            During the Mecca period of proselytizing (about 13 years), what is known as the Koran of Mecca, there were Jewish sects and Muhamad never mentioned the Jews in his verses. Only the Christian-Jews three main sects (Ebyonites, Cerinthe, and Elxai, see notes) were referred to as “Nassara” (those Christian nazeers who were dedicated to monasteries to pray, read the Books and meditate) and they read in the Book of the only and unique God.  In fact, after Muhammad settled in Yathreb (Medina) the Nassara sects would pay him visit from Mecca to mediate among them. The Prophet Muhammad was taken aback and said what amount to “They read in the Book that can answer all their questions and yet they come to me for mediation” The Prophet did not face any obstacles from the Nassara sects in Arabia simply because the Koran of Mecca was almost a cabon copy of the Books they read in and had translated into Arabic. It is to be noted that these Nassara sects were considered “heretics” by the Orthodox Christian religion in Constantinople because they would not admit the divinity of Jesus and followed the Jewish daily laws and customs.

The Jews in Yathreb and in Khibar revolted against the teaching of Islam who accepted Jesus as a prophet and got apprehensive of the growing power of Moslems in their midst.  The non-Moslem tribes of Mecca asked the Jews of Yathreb to cooperate with them and the Jewish leaders descended to Mecca to plot against the Moslems. Armed struggles decided the difficulties to the advantage of the Moslems.  The prophet considered the Jewish sects as tyrannical and not behaving with charity toward the orthodox religions, complicating the belief system, and blasphemic the Virgin Mary and Jesus.  “God created man weak and He wants to make it easy on him and not complicate his life. We have sent a prophet to every nation” so that nations can read the message of One God in their own language.

 All the sects in Arabia were united around one religion that was made easy (khefat) and reductive “moktassadat” to be comprehend by nomads and desert people who lacked knowledge of abstract theological concepts and it was easy to memorize by short rimed sentences and disseminated by chants.  Thus, Muhamad warned the Christian sects (such as the Jacobites, Nestourians, and Melkites) who believed in the divinity of Jesus, of the son of God, the trinity, and the resurrection to desist in their exaggerations and overestimation in religious beliefs (ghelou fi al deen) and accept the simple fact of One God as a unifying reality that unite the tribes of the believers in One God.

 

In Mecca, Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad, and the parson Warkat bin Nawfal, the patriarch of the Christia-Jew sect of the Epyionites, transcribed Muhammad’s revelations and verses during his epileptic fits.  In Medina, Aicha bint Abu Bakr, the educated and most beloved wife of the Prophet, was almost exclusively in charge of recording the revelations when the Prophet Mohamad had his bouts of seizures. She would cover him with warm blankets and write down the verses until he falls asleep.  Aicha has dedicated her life into gathering, organizing the revelations and meeting with scholars and close friends of the Prophet to keep a complete record. Aicha saved her copies very jealously until the third Calipahte Othman bin Affan ordered the archive to be handed over to him. Aicha didn’t trust Othman and she kept copies of all her documents.  At the time, only rich people could afford to write down documents because they were recorded on special leather in the Arab Peninsula. Thus, rich educated people had the task of transcribing the verses for better retention, memorizations, and an act of devotion.

By the time Othman decided to issue an official Book for Islam (The Koran of Medina) most of the Byzantium and Sassanide Empires were conquered; Egypt was part of the Arab Moslem Empire. The formal or official Book had to take these political realities into accounts, realities of victors and vainquished.  The Caliphate Othman sorted out the verses and selected what suited the political interest of the new Islamic Empire; many verses were burned and disappeared, others were tampered with such as adding “nassara” (Christian) after Jews though the sentence would break the rime (sajaa).  Othman arranged verses by order of length and the gathered book was considered the official Koran. For example, the shortest revelations or verses are the first chronologically and represent the message of Islam in the first 13 years (The Koran of Mecca) before the relocation to Medina or Yathreb in 633.  The longest came afterward and dealt mostly with civil management, daily routine, penal codes, and organization of the converts to Islam.

It is my contention that Aicha bint Abu Bakr had hidden and distributed copies of her complete archive.  If there is the will there is a way to reconstitute the message of the Prophet Muhammad in its historical and chronological contexts taking into account the fundamental principle of working on the common denominators in the belief system among the majority of the monotheist religions; and hopefully discovering a copy of the original archive as the work is in progress.

The Prophet Muhammad was crystal clear in his message: making the religion easy, light, acceptable to most sects, and readable by the language of every nation.  It is about time we focus on the value of life and let the abstract limiting and restrictive theological conepts (ideology) to the few power monger sacerdotal castes.

 

Note 1: The Epyonite Christian-Jew sect was discussed and commented on by the early Christian scholars and Bishops like Irene, Epiphane, and Origene.  The name Epionites refers to the “poor” in Aramaic such as “Blessed be the poor”; this sect considered Jesus one of the great prophets. Jesus was not God or Son of God who received the revelations after John baptized him and thus, the messiah spirit entered him till he was crucified.  Jesus message was teaching and preaching the revelation but didn’t include saving or forgiving our sins. The Aramaic Testament of Mathew is their only book in addition to the Bible; this New Testament of Mathew used by the Epionites was revised slanted and distorted according to Epiphanous. This sect persevered on frequent washing for purification, not eating meat, and to focus on aiding and feeding the needy, widowers, and people of passage.  After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, many of the priests in Komran immigrated to Hijjaz in the Arab peninsula.

 

Note 2:  The Christian-Jew Cerinthe sect proclaimed that Heaven resembled life on earth where the body will get its fill of every passion it needed to satisfy; that the role of Jesus was to free his people from the Romans; that Jesus message was political and social.

 

Note 3:  The Christian-Jew sect Elxai was Gnostic (knowledge).  It preached that Jesus is another human and the Mesiah in him vacated his body before martyridom.  The Holy Ghost is the mother of Jesus and the Angel Gabriel depending on events. Jesus received the Bible from the angel and Gabriel taught Jesus wisdom and the ability to foreseeing the future.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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