Don’t you find it frightening (and infuriating), for example,
Just how many Qur’an teachers and self-proclaimed Maulanas have abused little girls in their own homes?
The Deen. In actuality, it is meant to protect, not hurt. But, see, we seem to have all these cowardly men who hide under their thobes; what they do is they feign these unmatchable levels of piety. What they do, then, is they slander innocent women (which is one of the major sins in Islam, actually) and they try to control their wives. Some of them sexually abuse little girls. These are just misogynists trying to be Muslims.
And, when they find themselves having been exposed for things like this, swathes of men tend to flock to their defence. We are taught to see them as the bastions of this faith of ours. It seems shameful to exist before them, as women; to look them in the eye.
We seem to commonly mistake image-based expressions of piety for piety itself. What piety necessitates, actually, is a pure heart. The pure-souled do dwell among us, of course they do. Maybe they are not always the ones who sport the longest beards; maybe they do not wear black robes all the time.
Maybe they are what a Muslim ought to be: one who remembers God, and remembers that God is ever-cognisant.
“The best among [us] are the ones who have the best manners and character” [Hadith].
I refuse to trust anyone whose image-based manifestations of ‘piety’ render them arrogant. The attempted ‘holier-than-thou’ mentality: it goes against the teachings of Islam, and pushes people away from it, too.
Beating people into submission, for example. Feeling proud, thinking you are so much better than them. And I am absolutely sick of all of these double standards.
Men who recite the Qur’an in public, for example, and then quietly sanction the bombing of children as they sleep in their cots. Who preach Islamic values, but whose families are oppressed under them. Who secretly lust after and abuse women, and then proceed to blame the female kind for… existing.
Men who maintain that any woman who does not wear a Niqab, and who is not… personality-less and almost perpetually scared, before them… is not worthy of the ‘religious’ title. They call any woman who does not fit their ‘ideals’ a “feminist”.
They tell us not to speak to non-Mahram men. Don’t even look at them. If they say “Salaam” to you, walk away from them. Okay. Why are you speaking to me then? Follow your own rules. Why do you speak to women whom you are not married to, in such boundary-less ways? Who are you to think that you are better than her, because you happen to attend some class every week?
Do you find yourself so insecure in your masculine identity that you find you must now either sexualise every woman you come across, or demean and debase her?
You question all of her actions.
You make the same human mistakes as she does. Yet, in your eyes, she is the only fallible one.
You put certain other men on pedestals. Yet, for women, you erase, in your mind, all the good that they do. You expect so much of them; what do you give them, back?
You slander female Muslim scholars for… being scholars. (Wait… I thought you thought we – this monolithic ‘Modern Muslim woman’ – are not educated-in-the-Islamic-sciences enough for your liking?) You call her names, because she happens to be pretty. You say, she is despicable – attracting men by standing there, speaking.
And yet you are willing to give your fellow men chance, after chance, after chance. Hide their sins, you say, for them. But, for women: if she breathes, you say that she is blameworthy.
Misogyny – the like of which has no place in our Deen – is what pushes many Muslim women towards notions of Liberal Feminism. We should remember, though, that while women do have certain responsibilities towards men, men have certain responsibilities towards us, too. We also both have rights over one another. I think modern feminism sometimes forgets that we are, in fact, an intrinsically dimorphic kind. I think modern Muslim misogynists often forget that Allah has given us certain inalienable rights. Like the right to not be treated like worthless little objects, like misbehaving children, just as an example.
Seeing is not believing. I refuse to look at the clothes a person wears to gauge how ‘religious’ they may be. The words of many of these revered ‘Maulana’ types, I refuse to ever take as gospel. He is a human being, just like I am.
And if he ever treats me like I am somehow lesser than him, well then, I already know that he is lesser than me, at least with respect to respect — to Akhlaq and Adab. These are the words. They beautify the human being.
Maybe some of the (actual) best Muslims alive right now wear football shirts. Maybe they skateboard. Maybe they are primary school teachers, painters, boxers.
The sincerity of your soul, and its being in servitude of God — well, this is between you and your Creator, actually. The eyes and minds of the people, these are fallible. But, with regard to the people, know that it is a command of God to serve them, and not to walk with pride before them.
Justice, humility, compassion, mercy, honesty, trustworthiness. These are what make a man, a Muslim.
“إِنَّ مِنْ خِيَارِكُمْ أَحْسَنَكُمْ أَخْلَاقًا”
Verily, the best among you are those who exhibit the best character.
“أَلَا أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِخَيْرِكُمْ مِنْ شَرِّكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ مَنْ يُرْجَى خَيْرُهُ وَيُؤْمَنُ شَرُّهُ وَشَرُّكُمْ مَنْ لَا يُرْجَى خَيْرُهُ وَلَا يُؤْمَنُ شَرُّهُ”
Shall I not tell you what distinguishes the best of you from the worst of you? The best of you are those from whom goodness is expected and people are safe from their evil. The worst of you are those from whom goodness is not expected and people are not safe from their evil.
And, a Hadith that I particularly love:
خِيَارُكُمْ الَّذِينَ إِذَا رُءُوا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ
The best of you are those who, when they are seen, inspire others to remember Allah Almighty.
Whom have I come across, who have inspired me to remember the Almighty upon looking at them? I think these are the ones with radiant faces, and they have this peace about them. They are humble before fellow creatures. Their hearts gleam. Their mannerisms tend to be quite soft, their laughs hearty, their levels of emotional intelligence quite high.
I aspire to be like them. Light – Noor – radiates from them; it is hard to express such a thing through words. They smile often, and they are humble, at peace and quite integrated within themselves, it seems, and rather true.
I do try to be open to and welcoming of advice – Naseeha, sincere counsel. But I think there is a distinction to be made, between sincere and empathy-based advice, and unproductive criticisms that come from a place of clear haughtiness and/or hypocrisy.
True piety beautifies, and the truly pious remind you of Allah, almost as soon as you look at them. It is difficult to not have a strong affinity towards people like this. They walk the walk of Islam, true Islam, while others bark as they mostly talk a talk, frequently stomping all over others as they do so.
Remember that Islam is for you too. We are all imperfect; most of us are just sinners doing the best that we can. But know that if you are sincere, then Islam is for you.
Sadia Ahmed J., 2020