Gender is… on the a-gender

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Talking to Boys

Today, gender is on the a-gender. Writing really helps me to reflect on things, Masha Allah. Namely, for instance, on how planned this life of mine is. Qadr. Today, I had been thinking about gender interactions (again. Do I ever stop thinking about such questions?)

I grew up as a little girl who played, for the most part, perhaps, with boys. Football, insects, construction. I think I have therefore tended to find the male kind rather easy to talk to. Maybe the lines are a little blurred, in this mind of mine. Back when I had male friends (prior to knowing better) I suppose those friendships had mainly been rooted in humour. Now, I don’t know: those friendships are no longer.

But today, for example, at the DLR station, I saw a former friend of mine: one I used to play football with and such. On a day on which I had already been thinking more about how to go about interactions with men. Perhaps it is ‘nothing much’ to many, but when a +44 number appears on my phone, on WhatsApp, and it’s from an ‘old [male] friend’ of mine, I sort of struggle on what to do. I find I cannot ignore them completely, and nor can I indulge in casual conversation with them, as though they are my friends.

In this modern world, anything seems to go. Friendship is not seen as being a sacred thing: anybody can be your friend. ‘Anything can be anything’. Boundaries? What on Earth are they? You don’t talk to boys? ‘Bo-ring’! Extremist.’

This former friend of mine (whom I can be friends with again, perhaps, in Jannah, Insha Allah) did that whole ‘pretend-he-hadn’t-seen-me-at-first’ thing. And then that tense moment of ‘did he see me? Should I acknowledge him?’ I am the sort of person, I often find, who cannot do the whole ‘so what if we’ve both seen each other? Pretend neither of you have’ thing.

Conversation. I think my new thing, in this regard, will be: imagining my nanu (nan) is there with me. [My nan, the other day, when her sister asked if I’m married ‘yet’, said… “my granddaughter doesn’t like boys.” Dear Reader, LOL!] The ‘3 Ps’, according to Ustadha Kaamilah, of non-Mahram gender interactions: keep it Public, Professional, and Purposeful.

Public, tick. But not tick when it comes to WhatsApp. ‘Professional’, i.e. not very relaxed and casual. I suppose I struggle with this one because I don’t think I’m very ‘professional’ with anybody, save for… my line manager at work, maybe. Dear Reader, I call so many people, and even my Khala (maternal auntie), “bro“. And this mind of mine seems to resort, very quickly, to humour to deal with most things. Happiness, sadness. Discomfort, awkwardness.

Today Fahimul said that he’s just finished his second year as a Mechanical Engineering student (Masha Allah) and the almost-instant response my mind came up with: saying he’s a “brown parent’s dream.” [What else do I say? “Masha Allah, that’s really good.” Yes, probably better. Pretend Nanu is there with you.]

Islam is a Deen (Way of Life) of middles. Muhammad (SAW) did, for instance, speak to non-Mahram women. But when it concerned a need. He did so properly and respectfully. So, I need to find that place between extremes: blanking people completely (being too ‘cold’), and freely engaging in conversation, like how I would do with, say, my best friend (being too ‘warm’). Be lukewarm. And it’s okay if they end up thinking I’m ‘dry’ or ‘too serious’ or whatever. Not everybody should know us like how certain people know us: this is precisely what earns our personal relationships value.

We live in a modern world in which, as aforementioned, ‘anything goes’. ‘Anything can be anything’. The entire outside world, as indicated by how people dress, and act outside, these days, is confused with… private bedrooms. Where are the boundaries between… inside and outside? ‘Friendship’ and ‘more-than-friendship’?

I know for a fact that there are some non-Mahram male people I know (of) whom I think I could perhaps get along very well with. Maybe if I were a guy. Their personalities seem great, Masha Allah. And we are Muslims: the only ‘male friends’ I will have, moving forward, Insha Allah are my dad, uncle, brother, [nephews, Insha Allah. Oh I hope Saif has mini-Saifs in the future, Insha Allah! Just the thought of that…] and my (Insha Allah) husband. Everybody else: triple-P. Even if, in theory, they are able to see me as a completely de-feminised ‘just 1 of the guyz’. Nay, nay, nay. I must reassure myself that, in Islam, the sacrifices are always worth it, Alhamdulillah.

I would like to be, Insha Allah, towards non-Mahram males how I would like my future spouse (Insha Allah. Unless I end up dying alone. Sad, but I hope, God-Willing, that I’ll have nephews and nieces at least. The idea of Mini-Saifs, AWWWWWWWWWWW. I want to be ‘Cool Aunt™’) to be towards non-Mahram women. No private messaging; no private meeting; no ‘casual’ connecting. The more I learn, the more I realise that the guidelines pertaining to gender, in Islam, exist for a reason. The evidence is almost everywhere. Non-Mahram men and women can never ‘just’ be ‘just friends’ [and if they can, then, ooooooh he just lowkey said you’re ugly and that he sees you as a boy. Jk].

‘Male friends’, for example, tend to go to their ‘female friends’ for emotional/spiritual comfort and guidance; men are not with women how they are with their male friends. The closer they get, it’s like being in a sexual relationship, but simply sans… the more-physical. ‘Female friends’ tend to rely on ‘male friends’ for… attention, reassurance, and to do things for them. It’s quite interesting to observe. And it’s like the actual spousal relationship, too, has been desacralised: reduced to… a thing of mere convenience and physicality, in this world of modernity [“eh. She’s good enough. Put a ring on it. Still flirt, technically, with my ‘girl best friend’ when she’s not around though. Confide in ‘girl best friend’ whenever wifey and I get into an argument. Seek comfort in her (‘girl bestie’s’) arms. No problem!”] Hug, kiss, confide in, be comfortable with, whomever. So long as nominally, mainly, and most frequently, we are ‘each other’s’. Yikes.

Thank Allah for Islam, and for the fact that things actually mean things. Alhamdulillah.

The Public Space

Today I came across a part of a Hadīth, which I quite love: “Let your home contain you.” Excellent advice for we, who are trying to make it through this Dunya (spiritually) alive.

Home is an important thing, and Islam emphasises the soul-centric value of the home. The outside world tends to be a place of Fitna (tribulation) and dizziness and distress. Islam also teaches that, for example, we should seek to ‘desexualise’ public settings. In public: we’re human, and not reliant on sexual ‘plumage’ and resultant validations, so to speak, in order to feel we have value. Walk humbly; walk to and from places with honour, hopefully, and purpose and value.

Masha Allah: “let your home contain you.” I don’t think I am in need of ‘male friends’. I love whom my current friends are, and if I seek a man to have A1 banter with and for me to confide in, spiritually/emotionally/mentally, then… let it be my Mahrams, whom I love. [Saif, if you grow up and realise how w i s e your sister actually is (jk) and start reading my blog, then… I love you homie ❤ I ain’t ever gonn’ stop loving u homie <3]

Gender-Specific Spaces

‘The Women’s Section’. Girls’ schools. Feminine spaces: so important, Masha Allah, for our nurture and growth. I think it is very obvious that women tend to thrive in women’s-only spaces; we develop a sort of confidence that is not contingent on our sexuality. The same is probably also true for men, and men’s only spaces.

“What is sufficient is enough.” // Leave what does not concern you. [Hadith]

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

4 thoughts on “Gender is… on the a-gender

  1. Sadia! This right ‘ere is exactly what I needed, especially now as I’ve temporarily joined the corporate world and gender interactions kind of have to happen. The three P’s, what a good and helpful guideline Alhamdullillah. I can’t wait to speak to you more about it tomorrow insha’Allah!!

    Liked by 1 person

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